Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro writes for two hours a day. "In order to get 10 good pages, you have to write 70, 80 that you're going to toss into the trash," he says.
Del Toro is best known for his magical-fantasy films like Pan's Labryinth and the Hellboy series. He has now relocated to New Zealand for the next two years to direct the Hobbit films.
But the prolific del Toro, who writes screenplays and short stories, has just released his first novel. The Strain merges the folklore of vampire tales with the very modern paranoia over pandemics.
The story begins on a runway at JFK airport in New York. A 777 has just landed and taxis to a halt. Once stopped, the plane stays put. All the window shades are drawn. And a mysterious black color appears on the fuselage.
Soon, airport authorities board the plane to find all but four passengers dead. And thus begins a vampire awakening that unleashes terror in Manhattan.
Though he is best known as a filmmaker, del Toro says it was always his intention to update classic vampire novels like Bram Stoker's Dracula and Richard Matheson's I Am Legend.
"I was a very strange kid," del Toro says. At the age of 7, he says, he started collecting minute details of vampire biology and anatomy in a notebook. The vampires he was interested in were monsters. "They were not these romantic, decadent, existential bad boys."
And in The Strain, co-authored with mystery-horror writer Chuck Hogan, the vampires are anything but decadent. They are cruel and evil killers.
Del Toro, who is considered among the vanguard of the so-called "New Mexican cinema" movement, says no matter the subject matter he tackles, there is always something distinctively Mexican about his work.
"My culture allows me to sort of believe and accept the supernatural," he says. "I accept the monsters and the creatures and the fact that they exist in a completely more natural way than I would say an Anglo-Saxon narrator or storyteller would."
"And that's why I can portray creatures with loving detail — but unaffected detail, the way I do with Hellboy's Abe Sapien, the faun in Pan's Labyrinth or the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth," del Toro says.
"There is a certain animistic acceptance of the supernatural as daily life that I think I bring into that," he says. "And a certain perversity and fascination with death that is perhaps morbid in a different way."