Continuing with my series of interviews with writers whose novels were featured in the Guadian’s Self-Publishing Showcase, I’d like to welcome John O’Brien.
John is a former Air Force fighter instructor pilot who transitioned to Special Operations for the latter part of his career gathering his campaign ribbon for Desert Storm. Immediately following his military service, John became a fire fighter/EMT with a local department. Along with becoming a fire fighter, he fell into the Information Technology industry in corporate management. Currently, John is writing full-time on the series, A New World.
As a former marathon runner, John lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and can now be found kayaking out in the waters of Puget Sound, mountain biking in the Capital Forest, hiking in the Olympic Peninsula, or pedalling his road bike along the many scenic roads.
Jane: John, You describe your series as survival horror/thriller. What can people expect?
John: Over two billion people dead within a matter of days. Thirty percent of the world’s population lying lifeless, strewn across parking lots, slumped in cars, fallen in their homes, and streets littered with corpses. The Cape Town Flu was deadly but not as much as was the vaccine that was rushed through the approval process.
The vaccine didn’t stem the tide of the pandemic, it was the very reason that civilization came to a standstill, and then fell. Almost a third of humankind felled. That was just the beginning. The vaccine distribution was halted but it was too late. The remaining populace underwent genetic mutations from which emerged a new species – the night runners.
Ferocious, cunning, and unrelenting, the night runners controlled the night. They became more agile, developed canine-like hearing and smell, and could see in the dark. Sweeping through the nighttime streets, they hunted for the one percent of humankind which proved to be immune to the effects of the vaccine. Only one aspect allowed any survivors a meager chance at survival, the night runners could not operate in the daylight. They spent the daytime hours holed up in lairs they created deep within darkened buildings. When the sun set, they emerged and, with a pack-like mentality, hunted the streets seeking prey.
The downfall of humanity was lightning fast and didn’t allow for any intervention. The infrastructure of humankind fell within hours. The scant survivors had to quickly band together in order to withstand the onslaught of the night runners.
Jack Walker, an ex-special operations soldier and pilot, was thrust into this new world. Saving his teenage son and daughter, he struggles to survive in this new environment – to provide safety for his children.
Jane: It’s obviously a world that seems very real to you. There are already eight books in the New World Series. Do you plan more?
John: There are at least a couple more that will be in the series in order for the story to be told. I’m not sure just how many this is as the story writes itself and the characters tell me what is happening. I merely write it down as they tell me.
Jane: Home for you is the Pacific Northwest. How does your environment influence your writing?
John: The books centre around the Pacific Northwest. I chose that, not just because I live here and hold the philosophy of writing what I know, but because it is a good place to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
Jane: With the number of self-published books increasing by 59% last year alone, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this? (I see that you have developed a whole merchandise range.)
John: It’s my feeling that the readers will get around to reading all of the books written within the genre. I really don’t do much marketing other than interviews, although I will be going to World Horror Con 2014 in Portland, OR. There are a lot of good authors out there who tell amazing stories. My opinion is that, if the story is good, it will become known. I did develop merchandise to go along with the books for the readers than wanted t-shirts and the like.
Jane: Do you think the media gives enough coverage to books?
John: I think that one of the joys of self-publishing is that you get to decide how to present your work to the world.
Jane: Have you ever seen a member of the public reading your book… in any unusual locations, perhaps?
I haven’t run across that as yet, however, I was in a local store the other day picking up some milk. The cashier, who doesn’t know that I write the series, told a story about a customer who had come in the other day telling her that the store had been written about in a book. The customer had her look up the book and the author. “Hey, I know that guy,” she told the customer. She finished her story, smiled, and rang up my milk.
Jane: So you’re a local myth. What were the key factors that influenced your decision to become an indie author?
John: Well, I guess the single largest factor was being turned down numerous times by publishing houses and agents. I wanted to get the story out so I researched how to do it on my own. I found KDP, which is the Kindle Direct Publishing, and went from there. Since that point, I have opted to remain an Indie author because of the flexibility it gives me and, well, these are my babies so I like to keep them.
Jane: What are you working on at the moment / next?
John: At the moment, I’m working on the ninth book in the series and nearing the end of the first draft. After that, I will be writing a series of short stories that will be a companion book to the series. I am thinking to write the stories of the various bodies that Jack and the group of survivors come across.
Jane: What is your ‘writing routine’? Do you work to a set word-count?
John: I really don’t have much of a routine really. I rise rather late having usually written into the early hours of the morning, make my espresso, take the four-legged one out for a while, and then camp at the keyboard. I try to answer my emails with the coffee and then set to the story. It takes a little while to immerse myself into it and I don’t write anything until my mind is lost in the characters and story. Sometimes, this proves to be a little difficult but then, it starts flowing.
With regards to word count, I use to be able to get in 5,000 words per day with my highest ever being around 11,000. However, these days I get in around 3,000 or so depending on the day.
Jane: Where do you get your inspiration from?
John: Well, mostly from the story playing in my mind. It’s when I lie down at night that ideas start pouring forth. I make sure to get them down as I’ll forget them when morning arrives. Then, taking those notes, I transcribe them into the story.
Jane: Do you plot your stories in detail or do you just get an idea and run with it?
John: Most of the time, it’s getting an idea and then running with it. I do have the story line plotted out for the most part before starting a book but that seldom last farther than the first few pages. An idea will surface, literally as it’s being typed out, and it just runs from there. Several of the books have been written this way. A story that was to only encompass part of the book ended up being the entire one.
Jane: Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
John: That’s an easy one – my mother.
Jane: Do you write your first draft on paper or do you prefer a computer?
John: I type solely on the computer. I’m afraid I wouldn’t get nearly as far were I to write it down. I can type much faster than I can write and it’s much easier to correct mistakes, of which I make quite a few.
Jane: Some writers like quiet, others the bustle of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or (like me) do you need silence?
John: I have music playing in the background. I have written in coffee shops and breweries and enjoy getting out to different places. That’s usually in the summer though.
Jane: What point of view do you prefer when writing: first person or third person?
John: For this series, I use first person. I wanted to have the reader be able to get inside the heads of the characters so they can see what the thought process is, how they arrived and made the decisions they do. I wanted them to understand the characters better and to place the reader directly in the scene.
Jane: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
John: I really enjoy telling the story and getting it down on paper, so to speak. And, interacting with readers. To me, we are just one extended family. My least favourite is easy; editing. Ugh. I won’t say anything else about that.
Jane: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
John: Write your story first of all. Immerse yourself in it and the story will come out on its own. As you write, ideas will form and become part of the tale. Make sure you have something to jot notes down at night. I can’t tell you how many great ideas were forgotten when morning arrived. Another thing I’d highly recommend is hiring a good editor. I learned that the hard way and they are worth their weight in gold. Lastly, hire a good cover artist. Whereas the saying goes, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, many do.
Jane: What do you like to read? Any authors you could recommend?
John: I try to stay out of the genre I write in so I don’t inadvertently use someone else’s ideas. Mostly, I read in the fantasy genre.
Jane: My favourite books when I was growing up were The Owl Service by Alan Garner, Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery and The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay. What were yours?
John: Lord of the Rings the first series I read and really kicked off my love of reading. It was those books that I first found myself immersed in the story and I couldn’t get enough. Later in life, I found The Dark Tower series by Stephen King and The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.
Jane: Regardless of genre, what are the elements that you think make a great novel?
John: For me, it’s the characters. I have to care about them, or perhaps understand them. They have to have depth and evoke an emotion, whether I like the character or not.
Jane: You can find out more about John and his writing
Web Site: http://anewworldseries.com/
Facebook Profile: http://www.facebook.com/JohnWBOBrien
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/John-OBrien/e/B005IDEPP0
Jane: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I would really like to thank my readers. Your support, messages, and reviews are both humbling and inspiring. Thank you so much! You are truly the best.
Jane: That’s great note to end on. Thank you again for taking part in this blog interview. I’m very grateful that you took time out from your writing to answer these questions and wish you all the best with your future projects.
Thank you for having me on your blog, Jane.