Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aspiring Writers Series #10: A.S. Thompson

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a southern California native who loves living. And I don’t mean that in the hippie sense, I mean that I try to make the most of every day. I've had the opportunity to test many different career paths and even live out of state but eventually I landed on the right career and made my way back to California- at least for the foreseeable future. 

I love traveling and being active: trying new sports, testing my fears, watching new movies, seeing new bands- anything. Honestly, if it sounds remotely fun, I’m in. I always seem to have my hands full with different projects, throw in writing, and I wonder where all my time goes and how I still manage to be as active as I am. 

That’s probably good for now.

What type of books do you like to read? What type if books do you like to write?
Is it bad to admit that I spend more time watching movies than I do reading? Well, when I do read, the topics are across the board. Of course I check out other horror authors, I like to see what the latest zombie developments are, action is always a safe bet, but I also dabble in how-to stuff, well-being material, old school literature and some other random topics. 

I enjoy writing about an array of subjects and genres. I have two horror/zombie books out right now called “The Longest Road” and sequel “The Change” with a third in the works. I’m definitely not restricted to zombies or survival horror, though. I have side stories I’m building plots for right now, some involving apocalyptic themes, a few comedies and sci-fi, others just action hero-type stories. Most of these involve elements of physical struggle, psychological challenges, and tend to be dark in nature...maybe I’m trying to bring back the tragedy, maybe I have a dark mind, maybe it’s just a phase or maybe it’s something else- I’m not sure. If I find out, I’ll let you know. 

What are your top 3 books? What are your top 3 authors?
Top three books?! And authors?! Eesh. If I have to choose, I’d say Paradise Lost, The Iliad/Odyssey and Sherlock Holmes are some of my favorite books. I realize those are across the board, but there is something about each of those that I enjoy reading and find myself coming back to. The mystery, in-depth plots and originality are unreal.

I won’t be lame and say that my favorite authors are the authors of the aforementioned. So, in an effort to divulge something new, I’d say some favorite authors of mine are Brian Keene, Z.A. Recht and Dean Koontz. They are all horror authors, but I appreciate their individual fortes in story-telling.

What inspires you to write?
A combination of my dreams and life life events. I might wake up from an intense dream and be like “that would make for a kick-ass story!” then jot some notes down and build it up over time. Or I might be driving down the coast or in the mountains snowboarding and a thought will come to me out of nowhere and I’ll see where the story takes me. There are, on occasion, times where I’m just tired of seeing the same stuff in Hollywood and I want to create something unique. Conversely, I might go see an original film that is truly inspiring. Just depends. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?
I have never thought about this, but I would probably say I am both. For the most part, I’ll write down a very generic plot to give myself some structure, then sit at the computer and let the creative juices flow. I never had any formal education in writing (beyond college papers) so I just let it happen naturally. Similarly to when I write music, I like some structure, but I don't like to feel restricted by norms or "standards." I like having the freedom to test the waters and make something new. So, by nature, my stuff might not be for everyone and I'm cool with that.

What time of day do you write?
Anytime. I might wake up in the middle of the night after a thought hits me and make my way to the computer to write down a particular sequence. Or I will make some breakfast and get ready for a long day of typing. Generally, I’ll just write until I feel burned out. I seem to always hit a point where I can tell when it’s time to call it quits.

What tool do you normally write with? (A pen, computer, phone, etc.)
Most of my writing takes place on the computer- let's be honest it's just easier. But there are many occasions when I bust out a pen and paper and jot down thoughts. I do a lot of traveling, so often times it's easier to make notes or write out a particular plot/action sequence on some scratch paper. Having records and files stored on a hard drive, accessible whenever I want it, makes life and writing so much easier. But I will say that staring at a computer screen for hours on end, sucks.

This is semi-off topic, but how did writer's do it back in the day? No auto-saving, no backspace, no white out. They had to make it count when the pen hit the paper. That's commendable.

Have you ever dealt with writer's block? If so, how did you combat it?
I think there are degrees of writer's block. Have I ever been completely stuck on trying make a new story or outline? No, not really (knock on wood). But I have gotten stuck sometimes when, say, I write an action sequence and it just seems dull. When that happens, I'll leave it for the time being and move on to a different part of the story or go work out and get my mind off it. Eventually, I work through it, get the right idea and write it down. 

*Throwing things or threatening your computer don't seem to be effective.

Please tell us a little bit about your work.
As I mentioned above, I have two books out right now. The first is called "The Longest Road" and the sequel is entitled "The Change." I am in the process of writing the third book in the series, that I am hoping to have released by the end of the year. At its base genre these are zombie books, but they are about so much more than that. 

The story follows five cousins surviving after the outbreak of an unknown disease (I know, I know, the premise of almost every zombie book, but trust me it's not the same). Picking up a few months after their own forced departure, the cousins travel from the east coast to California where there is a rumored safe haven. But the story is about more than just battles with the dead. I try to focus on elements of hope, humanity, love and the strength we get from our close friends and family. Furthermore, the fact that survival is a mental game, meaning brawn and preparedness don't always beat out the ability to make quick, calculated decisions. Also, I attempt to convey how much we rely on others even when we might think we are better off alone. Last, I wanted to show the lengths at which a person will go to protect his or her own and the grey area in moral decisions people make when living in a world ruled by anarchy. 

As the story continues into the second and subsequent novels, the reader learns more about the infection that caused the pandemic. New characters are introduced, some good, some straight up despicable, and some who have yet to reveal their true nature. The cousins are tested at every turn, and their deep-rooted familial bond and love for one another might not be strong enough as their lives are ripped apart again and again. 

Life is no longer about surviving, though. With new information and allies, the cousins find themselves in the middle of a global conspiracy. Their actions, and in some instances inaction, could prove detrimental on a global scale. 

I'll leave it at that for now. Feel free to follow this link to my amazon page, where you can see full synopses and view other reader's thoughts.

Where did you get your idea for this story?
How this story came to be is pretty interesting and never at all anticipated. The concept started when I was in a film class in college. We were tasked to write a treatment (kind of like a screenplay) about anything we wanted. Some people chose rom-coms, others action stuff, but me, I wanted to do zombies. As if it hasn't been suggested enough, I'm a HUGE zombie fan. 

Anyway, the story elements were created then and there- at least the main premise of cousins surviving through a zombie apocalypse. Over the years I took that treatment and went with it. I added things, took away certain sequences, ultimately designing a story that I thought would be interesting and new. Eventually, the A+ treatment (I don't remember what grade I really got) was converted into a novel that became "The Longest Road." 

What challenges have you faced with writing this story?
Staring at a computer screen for hours on end. I really don't like that. At all.

But to give a better answer and probably geared more toward the question being asked, my biggest challenge has been the characters. By nature, zombie novels and movies don't have a lot of people who "make it". Like any horror story, people die. So, when making mine it is about maintaining a healthy story line but incorporating surprises that the reader won't see coming. More than that, about making these surprises original, well-timed and stunning. I took a similar approach to Game of Thrones, where just because someone is a lead character doesn't mean he/she is safe and won't be killed off.

Who is your favorite character to write?
Taking away the mains, I really enjoy writing about the character Nick Stronghead. He isn't introduced until the second book, but his presence is something that stands out and his character traits will continue to resonate throughout the story. Nick is a Native American man, who before the outbreak and leading into it, was a Sheriff whose life was always centered around helping people. He does come from a troubled past, and throughout the story much is revealed about his life and motivations. But what is known upfront is that Nick is all about serving his fellow man; from search and rescue operations to creating a safe haven in upstate Washington. He is a man filled with invaluable wisdom and at his core, a good man. He is the manifestation of hope and determination to the people who call him leader. His spirituality, never forced, is inspiring and grounding. Finally, his Sioux background has been incredibly beneficial in terms of survival practices. Like everyone, Nick has his flaws, but despite them, Nick is the guy you would want on your side- in battle or times of peace.

What are you currently reading?
I am not currently reading anything because I just finished the novel "Jordan's Brains" by a friend and fellow zombie lover J. Cornell Michel. Michel's story is incredibly unique and takes place from inside the mind of a mental patient. Jordan has been waiting for the zombie apocalypse to come and is so excited when it does. But the costs and everything Jordan knows about zombies might be too much or radically different. 

Jordan's Brains is tough to write about it without giving away major plot points, but if anyone is even remotely interested in zombies, check it out. I recently posted my review of it on amazon, so you can hear my full thoughts there. 

Why zombies?  What about the horror genre inspires you to write?
Why zombies? That is a good question. I love all things horror, but when it comes to zombies there are way more frightening elements that a character has to worry about. First is survival, obviously, but it is more than just staying away from un-dead mouths. A person living in a zombie infested world has to be weary of the basics: food, water and shelter. Often times there are no services left, no power, no going to a grocery store to get food for the week. You are on your own. Life is brought back to a more primal state of being and you have to fend for your yourself. Then throw in zombies on top of scavenging for those basics and life gets exponentially tougher. 

There is something to be said about the ability to survive, to make decisions that could affect the safety of both yourself and loved ones. Do we stay put and ride it out? Do we hit the road and stay moving? Each choice has long term ramifications that could ultimately lead toward your demise or success. On top of making those decisions, most people have never taken a life, but when dealing with zombies, could you imagine having to gun down your friends and family after they have been infected? Or how about a child who the misfortune of being bitten? What about turning away a hungry mouth?

The worst of it might just being living with yourself after surviving it all; dealing with the psychological torment of life during and after. In other words, survivor's guilt.

I get inspired by the people who have the fortitude to move forward despite terrible loss and grief- the mentally strong. The people who want to live, but, and this is a big point, the ones who aren't willing to sacrifice their good human nature to do so. The ones who are still willing to help others in need; to see the good in others. I understand that in these particular survival situations tough choices need to be made, and you can't save everyone, but I love reading books and watching movies about characters who are driven by a general good and aren't willing to let their lives be dictated by self desires or self-serving needs.

If you don't mind, what is Severed Press and what have you learned from posting your work there?
Severed Press is an Australian publishing company who specializes in horror. "The Longest Road" was originally published by a smaller independent publishing company, but due to unfortunate circumstances that company closed. Not long after, I sent my work to Severed Press and signed with them. I have had a great experience with them and their ability to promote my works has been incredibly beneficial. My only qualm is that they are based out of Australia so they aren't exactly a quick phone call or drive away. That being said our communication, though delayed by time zones, has been generally efficient and fluid. We are able to contact one another via email and get answers/updates. 

Since I'm still relatively new with them I'm still learning the tricks and ways of the published world and don't have any "wisdom" to divulge. When it comes to writing in general, I have learned that I have to be involved on social media, I have to do events, and be available to fans and critics. 

All in all, it's been a fun ride! 

Finally, what are the ingredients to your favorite book? (A dose of action, a splash of romance, etc.)
Hmm, the ingredients to my favorite book…I would have to say, and simply put, action, comedy of situations and dialogue, surprises in plot, and an ending that I didn't see coming. Romance is fun to have and makes for an excellent motivator. Suspesion of disbelief is almost standard when writing about zombies but for my favorite books realism is key.



1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together! I really appreciate it, Heather!