Bricksofthedead -The R33PR Virus started as a blog so you were able to take your time and methodically layout the story for the reader. How much research and planning went into each entry? Are you approaching the sequel the same way?
Nathan Barnes –Research has always been a larger priority for me than planning. 99% of the words in the book came easily because I wrote the tale that as it was in my mind. However, the other 1% occupied much more time in the writing for the book/blog entries. Technical aspects or tiny details make a story shine. While writing that 1% I agonized over little details like describing the feel of picking up a pistol grip shotgun or the shock your muscles get when a blade slices through something ‘unorthodox’. Those things may have only been a sentence but I still I wanted to get right. If I didn’t then I knew there would be that one person out there that would think, “I liked it but he got ____ wrong.” I walked the course from the book a few times in the parts I was legally able, otherwise, Google Maps is the Holy Grail for someone writing a geographically detailed story. The book is set in places I see daily but I never trusted memory enough without following the protagonist’s path on the map. For example, the house that the character comes across in Chapter 22-23 is one I picked from the satellite pictures – I’ve never met the people that live there. It would probably be creepy to go introduce myself, eh?
Planning usually remains in the mental state for me. If there is a story idea that comes to me then I’ll create a word document with a few sentences explaining it so I don’t forget it. I’ve tried to write outlines but they never go anywhere. As a kid (and an adult) I loved taking things apart to figure out what made them the final product. Whenever I start a story I have an idea of what it’ll be about and maybe where it ends. If I know where it’ll end then I get to spin the tale around how to get to that end point.
When I started posting the book as a blog I was already about 20-30 thousand words into the story. My personal rule was to never post a segment as an entry unless I had a couple thousand words as a buffer so that I had some personal reassurance that what I posted would actually go somewhere. There were long periods where I wouldn’t update the blog because that buffer didn’t exist. I’m trying to treat the sequel the same way but it’s much harder when you know people are out there waiting for it. Right now I’m working on the second book as well as a few other projects with the same scrutiny I used on THE R33PR VIRUS. The first time around I didn’t have any other works in progress and the book only had a few characters; now I’m W.I.P.-ed to death and have several more voices to include in the sequel. It’s as overwhelming as it is rewarding…. sort of like being a dad.
The character is obviously named after you. Do you share any other qualities with Nathan?
All of them, actually! I based the story on my life five years in the future from when I started writing it and with a hint of apocalypse, of course. Writing this book was the fulfillment of a dream. Since it meant so much to me I wrote it based on the people I love most. Throughout the novel readers will sense the drive Nathan (the character) has to fight against anything to just to reach his wife and children – I feel the same way when I have to be away from them overnight at work. Once I tried to change the characters names and but afterwards I didn’t feel the connection to it as I did when it was real people. In hindsight I know another factor in using myself as a character is that I simply wasn’t good enough at writing to think up something original!
What is your proudest moment for Nathan?
Without story spoilers I’ll say it was the moment he realized he couldn’t accept defeat. It’s a dark moment but it was also when the character was first willing to forsake others and even himself in order to see his family again.
Where do you draw inspiration from in general?
My parents. This book is a testament to the power of a father’s love for his wife and children. Growing up I was very fortunate to have parents that put my brother and I above all else. I want my kids to always know that I’ll be there no matter what horrors are try to get in the way.
There are more than a few gut wrenching moments. Was anything difficult for you to write? Is your wife able to read it?
“You gave me nightmares” is a compliment I long to receive. Writing those gut wrenching moments are disturbingly easy – the hard part is making them haunting as well.
My wife is the perfect woman for me. Our marriage has a solid foundation aided by a shared love for both heckling and horror. I don’t think I’d be able to write something she wouldn’t read!
What draws you to zombies?
The zombie genre is unparalleled in its ability to be related to. Zombies in general represent a shattering of trust in your surroundings, trust of the people around you and even trust of yourself. It doesn’t matter how good a story is when it’s about something that seems unlikely or distant; the reader will never connect with it. After I first read Max Brooks’ WORLD WAR Z I began to see zombies everywhere. That’s when I knew the power of this genre; the power to infect your life to the point of seeing it in anything.
What do you read in your personal time?
Chuck Palahniuk has been my favorite author for a long time. I’m behind on his recent books but before my kids were born I had read everything of his. He made me laugh out loud while making me feel filthy at the same time – I respect that talent!
Horror is part of me so of course I read plenty of it. Writing my book has given me the opportunity to get to know some great authors like David Moody, Timothy Long and Peter Clines. These three and many others continuously kick something off my shelf to make room for one of their titles.
Lastly, I love comics/ graphic novels! My preference growing up was always DC Comics. Superman has been my #1 favorite since I was very young. My wife is obsessed with Batman so there is a constant battle in my house. She doesn’t care that Batman is my close #2 favorite followed by Spawn. Before The Walking Dead show started I read every issue. This year I missed a few around #94 then picked up all eight covers of #100… now to find the ones I missed!
What other artistic talents do you have?
I love my camera – photography has been a hobby longer than writing. Recently I’ve played around with some graphic design. It’s an enjoyable outlet for my severe O.C.D. tendencies.
Do you think zombies are evil?
In my opinion they represent evil but cannot actually be evil themselves. With the modern take being a viral outbreak which is usually the result of someone playing God with things we shouldn’t; such meddling can easily be seen as evil. Survivors tend to walk the line with darkness more than the zombies.
How much input did you have working with Robert Elrod?
Tons! Working with Robert was a delight. He read the book first then we bounced ideas back and forth for a while. Since my story was grounded in a real setting I sent him a bunch of pictures some of the real locations. It was important to him that the cover reflected the story as well as the scenery. I’m thrilled with the end result! Hopefully I’ll get the chance to work with Robert again in the future.
Since you had everything online, we’re you concerned about someone “borrowing” an idea?
A few people tried to warn me that it was a risk but I wasn’t ever concerned about it. When I started writing it I was hell bent on simply finishing. Selling the book as a finished product was so far removed from my thought process at the time that worrying about someone “borrowing” an idea never occurred to me.
After R33PR was published my brother-in-law called me to say he’d bootlegged a copy. He did this with my novella, My Friend Asmodeus, too. I told him I would have happily given him a copy. His reply was, “I know you would have. But you’re not really famous until someone else steals your work.”
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