Hi Shawn, thank you for taking some time out for your busy day to talk to me about the trials and tribulations of an independent author and your new book!
So Shawn, what made you decide to write a book?
I’ve always loved the zombie genre and often thought of ideas for stories that I would like to see told. I figured I would give it a shot for the fun of it and see how it worked out. One thing that always bothered me about the zombie genre seemed to be the proliferation of profanity, vulgarity, excessive gore, etc. I decided to write stories that I would not be ashamed for my kids to read. A good friend of mine set up a Kindle Direct Publishing account for me and got my first two books published, with several good reviews and hundreds of downloads. Due to some circumstances, I wound up taking possession of the account this week, and had to republish my stories, resulting in starting back at square one. I am anxious to build another good review base to help continue establishing myself as an author.
How long have you been writing for?
I’ve been writing off and on for about a year and a half now. Mostly collaborating on some stories with a good friend of mine.
How long did it take you to write this book?
All told, it takes me several weeks to put together a short story. I write on lunch break and in the evenings and constantly revise until I am happy with the finished product.
What do you use to write your books?
I exclusively use a PC. Much easier to email a work in progress to friends to gauge their reactions.
Did you find you struggle when writing new books?
Being a perfectionist by nature, I sometimes get stuck on a particular scene or section of a story. On these occasions, I simply walk away from it for a while and then come back when I have a fresh perspective.
How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer since you’ve started?
I’ve learned to be patient with the process. Instead of writing the whole story at once, I am now content with breaking it up into more manageable chunks. I never want my writing to take the place of family time or work.
Is there anything you wished you’d known when you started writing?
I wish that I had started jotting down ideas during the process. Sometimes I would have random thoughts of things to plug plot holes and by the time I got back to the computer, they would have left me. I started keeping notes and ideas for future stories on my iPhone so that they are always close at hand.
Are you quite structured when it comes to writing the plot?
It depends. If I get on a roll, I might start a story from an idea and write half of it in one sitting. Other times, I will jot down and outline and go point by point.
Do you work on a set amount of words per day?
I definitely have learned just to write what flows for most days. When I start stressing over hitting a certain word count, I find that my writing flow suffers.
Do you do a lot of research when writing a book?
Since I write mainly fiction stories, there is a lot of latitude when it comes to accuracy. However, for locations, weaponry, tactics, etc., I will do the appropriate amount of research to ensure as much accuracy as possible. I’m the guy who watches movies and annoys his wife by pointing out all the technical errors (that’s a Glock and they just called it a Smith and Wesson, etc.) so I want to ensure that my readers are not doing the same thing.
Do you have a specific writing process?
It varies from day to day. Sometimes I can spend an entire lunch hour writing, whereas on other days I do good to complete a paragraph.
What time of the day do you prefer to write?
I typically find that lunch time and late in the evening when it’s quiet are the best times for the creativity to really flow.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I like to write stories that I want to hear about. Sometimes I see zombie stories, shows, movies, etc., and think to myself about how I would handle it. I also try to think about stories that haven’t been told yet. In a genre such as this, sometimes it seems difficult to come up with a new and fresh idea. The challenge of that is one thing that keeps me going.
What draws you to this genre?
Ever since I saw George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead at the age of 11, I was hooked on the genre. It is so much more than mindless creatures chasing and eating people. It is a genre rife with political and social commentary, if people will only take the time to look.
Have you ever tried to write other genres?
To date, the zombie genre is all I have tackled so far. However, I do have a few short stories in the works that deal with other horror subject matter.
Which author/book would compare yours too?
I would have to say that I draw inspiration from J.L. Bourne and his wonderful Day by Day Armageddon series. The visceral, journal style of his writing is very intriguing. I certainly cannot compare myself to him, but I try to follow his lead of telling a compelling story with characters that the reader can really identify with and root for.
Can you relate to any of your own stories?
Not really, but the zombie apocalypse could always be right around the corner, so all the “what would I do” questions and my process of writing this survival guide may really come in handy some day!
How many books have you written in total?
This marks my third book / short story. There are several more in the works, along with a full length novel or two.
Have you ever written in collaboration with another author?
Yes, I have written with my good friend RJ Harker on a few projects and really enjoyed it.
Who designed your front cover?
The cover for my survival guide was the result of a late night, meme-generation learning session, lol. The covers for my first two short stories came courtesy of RJ Harker.
Who was the first person you showed your novel too?
Normally my wife is the first recipient of my works.
How do you market your books?
I like to use Facebook, Twitter, and word of mouth.
How do you deal with bad reviews?
I try not to let them bother me. It’s an opinion and everyone is entitled to their own.
Do you use an agent?
I currently do not, but am certainly open to the idea.
How much time do you devote to marketing your books?
I try to allot enough time to put together some twitter and Facebook campaigns along with sending links to the books to all my friends who are fans of this genre.
How do you get your book reviews/reviewed?
Any reviews I get are through Amazon, where I market my work.
Do you ever run free book promotions?
I have on occasion. It did lead to an increase in downloads.
Do you do all your own proof reading and editing?
Being the son of a school teacher, I feel that I have a pretty good grasp on editing. However, I always try to have two more sets of eyes look over everything before publishing.
How and where are you publishing this book?
For the time being, I am publishing exclusively on Amazon and in e-book format.
What are the main benefits you’ve found of being an independent author?
No deadlines. I can take all the time I want to make my work the best that it can be.
What are you reading at the moment?
I recently finished J.L. Bourne’s Tomorrow War, a true “ripped from the headlines” story that details the rise of a totalitarian government and the citizens who rise up to fight against it. Next on the list is One Year After, the follow up to William R. Forstchen’s excellent One Second After.
Who is your favourite author
J.L. Bourne and his Day by Day Armageddon series.
What is your favourite book to film adaptation?
While it’s more along the lines of a comic to TV adaptation, The Walking Dead is definitely my current favorite. There is enough differing from the comic to keep the viewer on edge, but not so much that it’s a completely different story.
Where are your favourite places to read?
At my desk at lunch. It’s the only quiet time I get during the day.
What books do you read to your children?
While mine are past the bedtime story age, they were huge fans of the Charlie the Ranch Dog series by Ree Drummond and “Chugga Chugga Choo Choo” by Kevin Lewis as well. They loved the parts where they could make the train noises. My wife and I also incorporated kid’s versions of major bible stories as well.
When you read do you prefer a book or a tablet?
I’m a traditionalist. Give me paper pages any day.
Any tips for aspiring authors?
Keep it fun. Once it becomes work, that spark can die out quickly. Don’t rely on gimmicks or saturation of any particular one thing (gore, profanity, etc.). Let your story tell itself.
So Shawn, What can we expect from you next?
I’ve got several short story ideas to put into print and I am planning a full length novel for each of my first two short stories (Firsthand Witness to the Fall and Humanity’s Last Full Measure.)
Great! Thank you for time today Shawn!
Where can my readers find out more about you!?
Links to all my books:
When The Zombie Apocalypse Comes, You’re Toast: A practical guide on how not to become “that guy” when it all goes south
UK readers can find their copy here!
The dead have risen, they are coming for you. Will you keep your wits about you, or will you be like every other panic-stricken moron who won’t make it long enough to see the next sunrise? This handy guide will equip you with the knowledge to turn the odds in your favor, in a humorous and easy to read format.
A group of scientists taking part in a multi-national study on sustainability suddenly find that they have a front row seat to the fall of mankind.
It’s been two years since a mysterious outbreak led to the zombie apocalypse going from the pages of graphic novels to the front headlines of every world media outlet. On a military base in rural Georgia, an initiative is underway to bring humanity back from the brink of annihilation. The question is, will it be successful or has the era of mankind as the planet’s alpha predator come to an end?