5 Questions: For Author Nathan Barnes
Posted Mar 5th. 2014, ZWN (AP)
When we are not covering the spread (and hopeful containment) of the necro-mortosis, Zombie World News likes to look into the other aspects of the Zombie Apocalypse, including entertainment. “5 Questions” is our way to introduce you to new writers and artists in the genre.
Nathan Barnes is the author of 'The Reaper Viru's and it’s sequel 'What Remains', as well as the humorous and dark novella, 'My Friend Asmodeus'. You can also find his short stories in a number of different anthologies.
In The Reaper Virus, you write about what you know best, basing the story on your real life and in the city you live. You even go as far as to provide enough detail in your telling that a reader could assemble a map and follow the protagonist on his journey through Richmond, Virginia. The meticulous detail in your writing allows for a relatable adventure to the reader and is also one where the fears and experiences of your characters are felt beyond the pages of your book. What kind of obstacles and challenges have you faced with writing such real people and locations in your stories?
NB: People were easy. I had a few in mind for the first book who happily gave their blessing to have their likeness used. After the blog became popular globally and around my workplace I received lots of requests from people who wanted to be written in. Almost every request came with a deathwish…. turns out everyone wants to die horribly from a literary zombie. Aside from the main characters being based on my family, the vast majority of supporting characters were based on a real person in some way.
Locations were my largest speed bump in the creative process. I often found myself getting too hung up on details in regards to distance and the scenery. Basing it off of a real place also makes it so there is a pretty defined standard to meet; that can be daunting, at times.
When the story first formulated in my tired brain it did so around what I was seeing: my night time drive to work, my parking deck, my office, etc. As things progressed the character escaped those scenes and began to travel. One morning I got off work at 7 am on a Sunday after arriving there at 7 pm the previous Saturday. Along with my camera I traveled as much of the planned route as I could access while taking pictures. However, many of the areas were private or restricted so I had to rely on satellite imagery. Google Maps/Street View became a saving grace around the halfway point in the first book.
A majority of the second book (which won’t be out until probably January ‘15) involved an area that I’d never been. I made a detailed custom map through Google marking key points. My goal was to remain as consistent with real landmarks by traveling the story route with Google Street View.
Since you originally began The Reaper Virus in 2009, the Zombie genre has seen a massive increase in popularity, generating billions of dollars a year. With massive success and exposure abounding, how have shows like The Walking Dead impacted your writing?
NB: It’s a good thing as much as it is a bad thing. While it’s incredible to have mass support for a topic you’ve invested so much of yourself into, it also makes originality nearly impossible. The ultimate truth about zombies, other than the fact that fast zombies suck, any idea you come up with has been done before. There is always a fine line between copying and tribute.
There have been multiple times in The Walking Dead where I see a scene or read a page that has something similar to what I wrote. It’s inevitable! Afterwards I kick myself for getting that extension on my deadline (as if I would have put it out there first if I hadn’t asked for that manuscript extension) then I keep reading/watching.
Overall, it gives me hope that one day my story of a regular guy coping with the unthinkable might gain enough attention that the undead-accepting public would like to see it come to life.
Your character Nathan has a very detailed escape plan and keeps a kukri with him in his bug-out bag wherever he goes. He also decides the safest way to travel by foot out of the city is by following the railroad tracks. How do you feel your own plan would differ (if at all) and do you share in your characters need to overly prepare?
NB: Novel version of Nathan is remarkably similar to real life Nathan! My plan is close to the same thing - the kukri would be at my side and I’d have a backpack over my shoulders while I’d be racing back to the family. Railroad tracks always made sense for traveling long distances because of how they cut a straight line through large areas where a roadway might not.
In real life I’m more of a mental prepper than an actual prepper. With two little kids in the house I don’t know if its possible to stock up on enough supplies before an apocalypse comes!
Since the conception of TRV, you have shared it and other short stories in a blog on your site reapervirus.com. This site in conjunction with your Facebook page has helped to share your stories with an ever-growing fan base. Do you think your story would have turned out the same if not for the impact of social media while you were writing it?
NB: I think the story itself would have been mostly the same. An outline formed pretty independently in my mind. What would have changed was the fact that I finished the damn thing at all! The combined support of the blog site and the Facebook page pushed my lazy ass to get the story written. Nothing pressures you to get something done like public opinion!
The support of fans from the blog helped me gain the notoriety that enabled it to be published the first time. Although I have a bitter taste left over from that first printing, it was that edition that helped me earn a home with Permuted Press. In the end, I’m very content with the social media-spurred evolution.
I wish Facebook had kept things as they were when I first started things. Back then it was easier to get noticed. If someone ‘liked’ your page then they saw what you posted. Now it’s like pulling teeth to get any life out of it. You have to spend thousands of dollars just to be seen by a fraction of the people who would have seen it a few years ago. I’m fortunate to have exploited the winning formula before they poisoned it. Hopefully other new authors can find ways around the selfish blocks that have been implemented.
What do we have to look forward to from you next? More zombies and demons? Or will you try your hand at something new… like romance?
NB: I love zombies but I’m also ready to hang up the undead hat. There are a couple side stories for The Reaper Virus that I’ve already started. Aside from finishing those and editing TRV: WHAT REMAINS, I’m planning on leaving the zombie genre behind for as long as it feels right.
There is a novella/short I’m planning next about a serial killer which should be fun. An underlying trend/goal in my work is to usually to write things my mom wouldn’t ever read. Then I have another blog that I’m plotting. It’s hard to describe because its a mix of a whole lot of things… the only thing I’m willing to divulge at the moment is that it will be titled LUCKY BASTARD. Beyond the title everyone will have to wait until it’s closer to being out of my head!
We just gave away a free signed copy of this book to : Kelly James of Eureka, CA
We asked "Why do you read ZWN"?
Kelly wrote "I don't watch CNN or Fox. I don't listen to NPR. I read ZWN. Thats how I stay informed on the zombie apocalypse!!!"
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