By Clark Collis
April 07, 2017 at 04:14 PM EDT
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Credit: BlumHouse

When filmmaker James DeMonaco’s daughter was born, his head was not filled with thoughts of sugar and spice and all things nice — or not just those things, anyway.

“When you have a kid, there’s this new worry in life about their well-being,” says DeMonaco, who wrote and directed all three movies in The Purge series of horror films. “She’s a young girl, obviously, and I just was thinking one day about viruses — I’m a big germophobe — and I started thinking of one that would affect one gender and not the other.”

The result is the novel Feral, a just-published collaboration between DeMonaco and author Brian “B.K.” Evenson, about a disease which turns men into rage-crazed beasts. “Some people who hear the idea are like, ‘Oh, is it a zombie?'” says DeMonaco. “No, it’s not zombies at all, this is not the undead. We’re creating a new monster called the Feral — not zombies, not wolfmen.”

Feral focuses on a group of women who, several years after the outbreak of the epidemic, are attempting to survive in an isolated encampment. DeMonaco admits to being unnerved by writing a book with an overwhelmingly female cast of characters. “I gave early drafts to the women in my life saying, ‘Are we on point?'” he says. “It’s a scary thing to write for the other gender. I’ve done it in movies but [in a novel] you can really dive inside someone’s head. I was a little frightened. I was like, If we’re going to do this — two guys trying to depict a bunch of women — let’s at least get the proper input from the gender. And the women who read the early drafts were giving us great pointers.”

Such as?

“I’ll say this — there’s a couple of sex scenes between women and I think we were being a little too timid,” he explains. “A couple of women we gave it to were like, ‘You’ve got to go all in, here! Why are you guys holding back?’ It’s not an overly sexual book, but they definitely helped us push it a little further.”

Credit: Justin Lubin/Universal Pictures

DeMonaco is writing the fourth Purge film, which opens summer 2018, and is also overseeing a small screen version of the hugely successful franchise. He hopes to expand the world of Feral in similar fashion.

“Brian and I have already been talking about what the second book would be,” he says. “We’re hoping to get a trilogy going. It [would be] nice to explore where the world would go. Hopefully one day, I’ll get to make the movie of it. That would be a dream if I can put it on the big screen. But you never know. Who the hell knows what’s going to happen? I don’t!”