How David Koepp’s New Horror Novella Yard Work Became a Terrifying Audiobook

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Koepp revealed that the idea for Yard Work first came to him last summer. “At this house we live at in Amagansett, we sort of abut this agricultural preserve,” he explained. “There are these invasive vines that really did grow on the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy seven or eight years ago. They were taking over trees in the preserve and over the course of a couple of years, they pulled a tree down.”

He continued, “They were creeping into our trees, so I thought, well, I’ll handle this myself. So I started cutting these vines at their bases and pulling them out of the tree. It quickly turned into a very consuming project. I couldn’t stop because I wanted the trees to not die, but also I just get obsessive about things sometimes. Plus the vines were really nasty, quite thorny, and were scratching the hell on me. My storytelling mind started going, what if they’re fighting back? And what if one of these times when I pull this out of a tree, there’s a mouth at the end of it?”

As with many of the films he’s written, Koepp found himself writing about a conflict that we seem to constantly find ourselves in: human vs. nature. “It just gets more and more timely in an unpleasant way, I’m afraid,” he said. “Our place in nature and our constant battle with nature, which we are certainly going to lose, is ever present. There’s also just blind terror because I know we’re not going to win. Isn’t that just horrible? We’re going to lose someday. Every single one of us. Coming to some sort of peace with that, I think, is important.”

Koepp explained that he couldn’t stop thinking about the idea, and finally found the opportunity to start writing it once the pandemic lockdown went into effect last spring. “I wanted to do some more prose and I just started writing that [story],” he said. “It was great because I knew I wanted the lead to be an old man, and movies have so many restrictions, not only about how you tell the story, but who can be in it if you want to get your tens of millions of dollars. But books and Audible Originals and stories like this have no such restrictions.”

By the time he was finished, Koepp knew that Yard Work was too long to be a traditional short story but not quite lengthy enough to be a novel, falling into that strange gray category known as the novella. But once he knew that, he also realized where he could place it. “I naturally thought of Audible Originals, which again, have this freedom of how you can tell your story,” he said. “And they’re meant to be a listening experience, which suggests a certain amount of performance. So I sent it to them. Happily, they liked it.”

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