For the benefit of those not yet familiar with your work, give me the one sentence pitch for A Darkness Shattered.
Two teenagers meet at the dawn of the zombie Armageddon, and leaning on one another for support, learn to cope not only with horrific creatures and the worst remnants of humanity, but to accept and understand the changes that have begun to occur within themselves as well.
This is book one of The Darkmind Saga. Can you tell me what’s forthcoming in the series?
The next book chronicles the struggles faced by the survivors at the encampment and sheds light on several of the mysterious events hinted at in the first book. Michael and Abby make discoveries about the special “gifts” they have and must learn to control and use them wisely. Meanwhile, the terrifying world outside the safety of the camp continues to evolve, bringing some of that change to the refugees.
The description on Amazon calls A Darkness Shattered a “gripping story of the zombie apocalypse”. Cool premise, and it seems to appeal to readers of today. Paranormal/werewolf/steampunk/zombie/end-of-the-world et al seem to be wildly popular nowadays. To what do you attribute this popularity? Do you think this genre (admittedly a wide umbrella term!) is being flooded? How does one stand out among so much competition?
I’m no psychologist, but my suspicion is that our 24 hour news society depresses people. I think we all want an opportunity to escape for a time and explore a life or world different than what we now have, but not so vastly different that we have difficulty relating to the characters or land. There is a certain comfort-level to be had when reading about events that could be taking place in a city like your own by people that could be your neighbors.
As far as the explosion of the genre, these books have been around as long as there’ve been books, but with the advent of e-readers, the stories are literally at your fingertips, day and night. Anybody (myself included) can decide to write and self-publish a book which, of course, increases the selection we have to choose from.
How to stand out from the crowd? When I’ve sold a million books, or Mr. Spielberg decides to make a film of my story (I’m still waiting patiently for his call by the way), I’ll feel better qualified to answer that question! I can tell you that my hope was to separate myself by writing something believable (in a most decidedly unbelievable setting) by letting my characters behave in a fairly normal manner. Let’s face it, very few of us among the billions who inhabit this planet could wake up one day to find everything changed and gone to hell, go pick up a weapon and survive longer than a day or two. Just having a gun doesn’t make you think or behave more intelligently – quite likely the opposite would be true. Consider that in the first few weeks of a total societal breakdown, those that stand the best chance of survival would be those that lived a fairly violent existence, constantly on guard and having to defend themselves by force in the past – they would know what to expect, the actions necessary for survival would most likely not sicken or discourage them, and they most certainly wouldn’t sit around waiting for the authorities to take care of them. Much of our population would become instant fodder for both the monsters and this dangerous caste of people who suddenly find themselves with no restrictions to rein them in.
My characters strive to make logical choices, worry sometimes about those decisions and their own abilities, and yes, feel remorse when forced to take the life of another. This is not to say that they are wimps by any stretch, but it takes time for a person to adapt, and possibly even flourish, within the rules and framework of a new world and lifestyle. For the aforementioned reasons, I think this is important (and judging by feedback received and reviews of the book, others agree with me).
Name two authors who influence and inspire you, and tell me why.
ONLY 2 AUTHORS?!? Whom to exclude then…
I will have to say Stephen King and Raymond E. Feist are two I enjoy reading as much as anybody. Both are extremely gifted men that have the ability to paint a picture in my mind like no other. The details they provide in their narratives always seems to be exactly enough – any less and I might not see what they’re telling me and any more, I find myself bored.
Your author profile on Amazon lists a number of hobbies, including golf, hockey, astronomy and drums. How in Pete’s name do you find time to write?
I won’t bore you with the (lengthy) list of hobbies and activities I chose to exclude…
When my expiration date arrives, I prefer my bucket list to have many, many items crossed off.
What is the worst bit of writing advice you’ve ever heard? What’s the best?
Worst: You stupid ass – save the money and self-edit.
Best: You stupid ass – spend the money, you can’t self-edit.
The Internet has wrought a sea change in how readers and writers interact. What are some of the weirdest or funniest or most satisfying experiences you’ve had online with readers?
Feedback has been fantastic from all age groups and genders which is really encouraging. A Darkness Shattered contains a great deal of character emotion, a budding (and at times awkward and funny) love story and a paranormal twist at the end. These three items depart from what is normally considered the “zombie apocalypse genre” and in truth I had vast sections of the book on the chopping block right up to the time I submitted it to Amazon.com to be published. I was afraid the book wouldn’t be accepted with those topics included: I feared the macho readers would balk at the emotion and love story, and that the zombie purists would dislike the paranormal angle. I finally decided to leave them in because that’s what I had written, and that’s what I felt made it different. I am very happy to say that almost without fail, those three items are what my readers tell me they enjoyed the most – and in many cases, exuberantly so!
Talk to me about writing the character Abigail Martin. What inspired her? What challenges did you have in getting into her head?
Abby has been the most fun and challenging of all my characters. She came about by accident when I decided Michael should have a companion in his life (after all, don’t all heroes get to have one?). She started out simply enough, but somewhere along the way, I realized there was a wonderful opportunity to expand her role and I gave both of them a purpose in the new world. I asked my daughters and nieces to read the book and give me hard feedback on Abby’s personality because again, even though this is a work of fiction, I want it to be as believable as possible.
Stephen King once said: “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time - or the tools - to write.” What are your thoughts on this quote?
Mr. King knows of what he speaks. I offer this by way of proof:
“The telephone wires make and odd humming on clear, cool days, almost as if vibrating with the gossip that is transmitted through them, and it is a sound like no other – the lonely sound of voices flying over space. The telephone poles are gray and splintery, and the freezes and thaws of winter have heaved them into leaning postures that are casual. They are not businesslike and military, like phone poles anchored in concrete. Their bases are black with tar if they are beside paved roads, and floured with dust if beside the back roads. Old weathered cleat marks show on their surfaces where linemen have climbed to fix something in 1946 or 1952 or 1969. Birds—crows, sparrows, robins, starlings—roost on the humming wires and sit in hunched silence, and perhaps they hear the foreign human sounds through their taloned feet. If so, their beady eyes give no sign. The town has a sense, not of history, but of time, and the telephone poles seem to know this. If you lay your hand against one, you can feel the vibration from the wires deep in the wood, as if souls had been imprisoned in there and were struggling to get out.”
This excerpt is from ‘Salem’s Lot, a worthy book I read many years ago and this particular passage has always stayed with me. On my best day, I doubt I could create anything near its equal, but I am a much better writer for having read it.
Do you have any future projects in mind?
When I finish The Darkmind Saga, I plan to write either an historical fiction book or a vampire book. I also have ideas for a couple of children’s books that I think my grandson will enjoy reading. Whatever I write, it will almost certainly be fiction because with few exceptions, that’s all I read. In my mind, reading is an escape from the everyday. It’s an opportunity to immerse oneself into another world or life and that’s difficult to do if you’re reading non-fiction material.
Get A Darkness Shattered on Amazon - click HERE
Check out Bruce's website - click HERE
Follow Bruce on Twitter @brucloth