1. John it sounds like you done things that most of us only write about. What brought you to writing about the undead from fighter pilot instructor? How has your previous service to your country played a part in shaping who you are and how you write?
I don’t know that I would go that far but I feel like I have led a very fortunate life and feel privileged to have been able to have the experiences I’ve had. That has been quite the process. I’ve always been into survival aspects and would envision scenarios in order to come up with solutions. That was part of the service life it seems – always thinking of scenarios and solutions; acting them out in my head so that reactions became instinctual rather than having to think about them. At any rate, the writing is a culmination of experiences and these scenarios. I just felt there was a story to tell that wanted to be written to share with others. My previous service directly affects the writing in regards to the various actions as well as shaping who I am as a person. It has led me to think outside of the box per se and see situations in a different light.
2. How did you launch your "A New World" series? What set the desire to lay pen to paper in the "Zombie" genre? When you got the idea did it always involve "zombies in a post apocalyptic setting?"
I actually just started writing the story. I sat down one day at the keyboard and began pecking away. The story has always been inside of me and was itching to get out. With regards to including “zombies”, they added a greater dimension to a post-apocalyptic survival setting. I wanted them fast, agile, and cunning. That would really put any survival setting to its extreme. My son introduced me to the zombie genre and so I included them in the survival situations that I either experienced or were running through my head for years.
3. When you see zombies in the media how does it influence your writing? It seems the answer to the question of how you take your "living dead" is obvious. Tell us about the creatures that inhabit the "A New World" universe. What makes them different and what traits do they share with "Romero-esque" Zombie? Do you consider you creations to be "zombies or infected?"
I try not to let any media or other books interfere with the story as I have it running. I try to keep the story line pure in its own essence. I do admit that I watch shows, the news, and read books in a different manner since writing though.
The creatures in “A New World” are not actually zombies as they didn’t die and come back to life. They are a genetically altered species that enables them to see better in the dark, hear better, run faster, are stronger and more agile. Their limitation is that they can’t access their previous memories and are relegated to the level of a cunning animal. In addition, they are restricted to being able to operate outside only at night. I had to give humanity some chance. However, as you read on in the series, you will see some advancements in their abilities. I won’t spoil the plot here but there are some changes that are taking place.
The creatures are definitely more on the order of infected or rage type.
4. Jack Walker is the lead character in "A New World" universe. He seems to be a military man at heart who uses his training to help him survive this new threat to humanity. Did you base the character of Jack Walker on you or your experiences? What drives Jack Walker family, duty or survival? What are the pros and cons of developing a lead character over several books versus the one and done short story?
I have to admit I’ve thrown in some of my experiences and personality into the creation of Jack. But this story and the characters within it form themselves during the writing and I’m just as surprised by anyone else how they turn out or how they develop. I’m merely a conduit for the story. Jack is driven by protecting his family and those he considers his family. He considers those around him extensions of his family and will do anything to protect him. That’s why he feels he needs and wants to be in the forefront doing things. Plus, the way the story is written in first person, he really needs to be in order for the story to happen.
The hardest part about writing a series is keeping the storyline interesting and fresh. It’s too easy to fall into doing the same thing over and over again and the reader will become bored reading about basically the same event. Over a longer stretch of books, the story needs to dive into more in-depth perspective of the lead character(s). However, this also leads the reader to become more attached to the character(s).
5. Take us inside book one "A New World: Chaos." When did you initially come up with the idea that became "A New World?" How does it start and where does our lead character first encounter "the dead?" Give us a glimpse into your version of the apocalypse.
I’ve had the story playing in my head for years and the books are a culmination of the various stories. So you might say that “A New World” has been years and years in the making.
It starts with Jack realizing something isn’t right and heading off to gather his kids. A flu virus pandemic has taken place and he needs to get his kids to safety. It’s a slow start as Jack lives out in the country and so doesn’t witness things going wrong first hand. He gradually becomes aware that things are not normal but doesn’t meet the first creature until about a third of the way in. He doesn’t know what’s going on and eventually comes around to meeting others as he tries to figure it out. Without giving too much away to any first readers, the apocalypse is brought about by a live virus flu vaccine that is hurried into production. This leads to a 70% mortality rate worldwide with another almost 30% becoming genetically altered leaving a scant 1% with immunity. The world doesn’t burn or explode but is left basically empty overnight. There aren’t traffic jams or burning buildings. The infrastructure is intact but with barely no one around except for a few survivors and a horde of night runners.
6. Take me and the readers John on a journey from book two "A New World: Return" to book five "A New World: Awakening." What amount of time in generally passes from the end of a book to the beginning of the next in the story? Did you always have a goal of a multiple book series or was it an ongoing development or was it driven by reader demand?
Book two covers the return of Jack and his kids with a small group of survivors from Kuwait. They have to build a sanctuary against the night runners hunting at night and plan for their long-term survival. The group searches for other survivors and scrounges for supplies having to go within night runner lairs in order to do so. They also come up against bandits and marauders who are only out for themselves.
The timeline so far from Book one to book five covers about four months of their survival. Each book picks up exactly where the last left off with regards to the timeline. I initially thought the story would be told in three books but the storyline took off once I started writing. It now looks like it will take nine or ten books to tell the story completely. That may change as I continue to write on this series.
7. What was different about book one and book six as it relates to publishing ? Did you use createspace exclusively to bring "A New World" to market? Would you say "self publication" is your preferred method of publication? What advice can you offer prospective "authors" on "self publication?"
There actually hasn’t been any difference in the publication of any of the books. I use Kindle Direct Publishing for the Amazon eBook market, CreateSpace for the print publishing, and Smashwords for the other eBook markets (i.e. Kobo, Sony, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, etc.). So far I prefer self-publication. I enjoy having my own rights, the royalties are better, and I edit and can republish if I want. The deadlines are the ones I make and have complete creative control. But that is the best for me and others may feel differently. The traditional route does offer other advantages. Being a self-published author means I do everything including marketing. It’s quite the full-time job but one I absolutely enjoy.
The best advice I can give others is to write your story and get it out there. Make sure the cover and editing are done professionally. That will definitely go a long ways towards readership.
8. What is on the deck for John O'Brien and the "A New World" series? Any plans to branch out to other genres? What does the future hold for your fans.
Well, I’m about to start on the sixth book. The series itself will stretch into nine or ten depending on where the story goes. I’m hoping to complete the series by the end of next year and have several others in mind for afterwards. I’m not sure I’ll branch into other genres at the moment but do have a couple of stories in mind for outside of the horror genre.
9. Where can readers get in touch and keep up with John O'Brien?! What social media networks can we find you on? Can you give my readers links to your Amazon and Createspace works or pages?
I’m usually on Facebook for the most part. I have a twitter account as well but I have found most of my time is spent on Facebook.
Amazon author page:
10. When you’re not enjoying leisure activities, publishing works or earning your keep. Who are you a fan of in the zombie and horror genres? What was your most recent reader, who was it by and give us your thoughts on where the "zombie genre" is headed.
I have to say that I’m a big fan of Mark Tufo’s Zombie Fallout series. I also enjoyed the “Yesterday’s Gone” series. Right now I’m reading “The Redaction” series by Linda Andrews. All great reads as are so many more. The realm of self-publishing has brought about many great authors – Armand Rosamilia for one.
I think the Zombie genre has barely scratched at the potential. Where before it was basically a niche genre, the popularity of it has exploded across the world bringing even more talent into the genre. I think it is one of the quickest rising genres around and will continue to do so.