Characters Welcome: A Profile of David Wellington

Written by Jess Peacock

The journey of David Wellington from aspirant published author to horror genre literary powerhouse is well documented, and the source of infinite envy for those attempting to photocopy his success. “I couldn’t get published to save my life,” Wellington explains. “A friend suggested I could put some of my work on his blog. The first day I got seventeen hits. By the time I was finishing up my first serialized novel, it was something like forty thousand hits per update. That was when the publishers came calling.”

Since 2006, Wellington has unleashed a consistent barrage of creature features, starting with his three-book zombie epic Monster Island, Monster Nation and Monster Planet, the riveting Laura Caxton centered vampire series that spans four books (soon to be five) beginning with 13 Bullets, and most recently his spin on the werewolf mythos Frostbite, with the sequel Overwinter due out in September. “I grew up reading genre novels when I was a kid. They were meant for…fans of those genres. I was one of those fans. Still am. I love horror because I like old monster movies and all the gothic trappings.”

Wellington’s greatest success thus far has undoubtedly come through the aforementioned Laura Caxton, heroine of the author’s vampire tales. Undeniably stalwart and intelligent, Caxton also bears the distinction of being one of the only lesbian leading ladies in modern horror literature. “She's based on my sister, who is in fact gay. She used to tell me these horror stories of what she went through before she came out. A lot of that went into the character.”

Wellington was determined, however, not to make Caxton’s sexual orientation a hollow gimmick. “Caxton being gay has very little to do with her character. I didn't even know she was gay until I wrote the scene near the beginning of 13 Bullets when she comes home from work and climbs into bed. I said, okay, there's somebody in the bed already waiting for her. It turned out to be another woman, which surprised me as much as anybody.”

“I’ve gotten a lot of very nice comments from individuals saying that they appreciate the fact that Caxton is gay,” Wellington continues. “But that doesn't define who she is. I fully expected some kind of backlash, but it turns out that the kinds of people who read books are also the kind of people who live in the 21st century.”

This type of deep, nuanced characterization is one of the hallmarks of Wellington’s work. From the adolescent girl soldiers in Monster Island, to an incarcerated baby killer in 23 Hours, to a conflicted lycanthrope in Frostbite, the author fills his novels with consistently well-rounded and motivated cast members. “I'm the kind of guy who, if I see somebody on the subway train wearing a bizarre hat, I need to know why he put that hat on. And because you can't just ask people, I end up making up my own story.”
“I do a fair amount of outlining beforehand, and a lot of research, but mostly it's about the characters,” Wellington explains. “The idea is usually a scene, or even just an image. Typically it will be the climax of the book, the last big scene. Then I work backwards thinking: How did those characters get into such a preposterous mess? When I reach the beginning, the moment when destiny conspired to put them in that scene or image, then I start typing.”

For Laura Caxton, destiny, in the form of Wellington’s rich imagination, will continue to push her into the fray with 32 Fangs, due out in 2011. “I'm working on it right now,” he reveals.” Readers will recall that, at the conclusion of 23 Hours (see my review here), Caxton was a fugitive from justice, breaking out of prison while also avoiding the clutches of the malevolent vampire Justina Malvern. “I don't want to give anything away, but there are plenty of other people involved in the plot now, and some of them are up to some surprising things.”

In addition to his ongoing vampire marathon, the author has provided a free new online serial novel entitled Plague Zone, an original zombie adventure featuring a hero Wellington describes as “the toughest librarian in post-apocalyptic Seattle,” something the former Library Science major might know a little something about. Decidedly different from his Monster series zombies, these flesh eaters are more akin to victims of mad cow disease than anything supernatural.

Beyond the releases of Overwinter and 32 Fangs, Wellington is decidedly non-committal about his future plans (“How about a vacation?"). While a break would be well deserved after redefining the zombie, vampire and werewolf subgenres, one can only wonder what comes next for the prolific writer. “I try never to predict the future,” he muses. “That way I'm never wrong.”