Jerome Andries of ApocalypseGuys.com spoke with Indie-Author J.J. Shurte to discuss his involvement with the post-apocalyptic genre, his writing career, his future plans and which end-of-the-world scenario he thinks is more likely to happen. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about yourself.
I’m an Australian Indie-Author and I’m currently teaching English in Taiwan. I have vague aspirations of travelling and writing and so I’m starting slow with a day job before (hopefully) switching to being a full-time author.
If you want the dirtier details of my past, go read Days Too Dark.
What is your favorite genre to write?
Post-Apocalyptic, obviously. I’m willing to write a few tangential narratives, like a pre-apocalypse story or a Dystopian world that’s about to collapse, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to stray. If the world’s not ending, what’s the point?
What are some of your favorite post-apocalyptic film/books/TV series?
The Road (both the novel and the film), The Book of Eli, all of Mad Max (the films and the 2015 game), the Metro series (games and novels), The Rover, Battlestar Galactica, Gears of War (the games, comics and novels), Revolution, Jeremiah and Jericho, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, most of the Fallout series, The Last of Us & Horizon: Zero Dawn.
The Post-Apocalyptic genre was very much a niche genre for the longest time, and so fans sort of had to take what we could get. It’s become more mainstream in recent years though and so while we’ve got some great content we’ve also got some really cheesy and sub-par content. I guess that’s the price you pay, when the flood gates open you need to sift through the turds to find the gold.
When did you first begin writing? Publishing?
I’d written the odd story every now and again while I was growing up, but the first real story I wrote was this shockingly bad zombie story set in my home town back in 2005. The writing continued to evolve from that point, but I didn’t get anything published until 2011, and then the next thing was in late 2017.
I’ve gone through a few different stages of life already, and so I’m hoping that in this latest one I can pull my finger out and be a bit more productively prolific.
Tell us about your writing process- do you have a routine that you stick to?
I’m woefully inefficient, I think I went through fifteen drafts of Days Too Dark before it was finally published. I’m one of those Perfectionist/Slob types – if I can’t make it the perfect literary manifestation of my artistic vision then I don’t even bother. Which is not a great approach to the indie publishing market, and so I need to change that.
I’ll often use music to aid in my writing, specifically soundtracks and trailer music. I usually try and feel whatever I’m attempting to convey in the scene, because if I’m not feeling it then the readers sure as hell wont either. Mind you, there’s some trauma there so my bar for becoming emotionally triggered may be a bit skewed. I’ve had a few people send me teary messages asking “wtf mate?!”
As for a schedule, pretty much nonexistent, I can go weeks without writing a word and then I’ll spend all weekend with nothing but coffee in front of the computer. Again, not a real good approach to this gig so I’m looking at improving that.
Where can readers find your books?
Tell us about your post-apocalyptic novel, Days Too Dark.
Days Too Dark is set in Brisbane, Australia, in early 2029. It’s about a guy who was shot in the leg and is confined to a bed while he heals. The only way he can stave off bored, and insanity, is to write in a journal – which is the book Days Too Dark.
He starts off writing about the world ending in 2011, but then begins exploring different parts of his life from before and after the apocalypse. The reader is taken on a journey through the choices and circumstances that shaped him into the miserably maladapted individual that is strangely suited to a Post-Apocalyptic world.
Weirdly enough, the story started off as a dream that I had one night, but then grew and morphed as the years went on. It’s common knowledge amongst the Twitter PA Tribe that it’s based on my life, and that most of what happened to him also happened to me. I had to make sure that it didn’t turn into a vanity press style Mary Sue saga, so I didn’t exactly cast him in the most flattering light. Psychologist-prompted self-exploration aside, I wanted to craft a compelling and complete narrative first and foremost.
I see it’s written as an in-world journal. That sounds like an interesting way to tell a post-apocalyptic story! Can you tell us a little about how that type of format reads for those who have never experienced it?
Think of it as the Blair Witch Project, except in book form… and not shit.
The narrator is actually in the world and the journal he’s writing is the journal that you’re reading. Because he’s not just some omnipotent narrator, he’s got his own skewed perception of events and he might be uninformed, lying or outright delusional. Because of all this, the reader is going to get a very subjective view of events which allows for a pretty thorough exploration of his character.
The book is designed to be read as a print book, it’s the sort of artifact that you’ll want to hold and flick through. The pages are made to look like old and worn journal pages and the text has this handwritten font to it. Along with this, there’s heaps of hand drawn artwork and newspaper clippings or photos that the narrator has stuck in there. It is in eBook form, and it’s certainly cheaper to get it that way, but it’s definitely designed to be read as a print book.
tell us about the Post-Apocalyptic Writing Guide. It looks like it is jam packed with useful information for those writing in the genre.
I wrote that because I searched long and hard and I couldn’t find anything like it, and I’ve always wanted a single source that I could open to read up on the Post-Apocalyptic genre. There were a few online listicles about things to include in a Post-Apocalyptic novel, and someone had written a short guide about zombies but that was it. I thought it weird that the genre has become so popular recently but nobody had written a guide yet. So yeah, I sort of got tired of waiting and just wrote it myself.
If a Post-Apocalyptic newbie decides to read this then it’s going to be an information overload, because I’ve thrown everything I know about the genre into the guide. Post-Apocalyptic veterans will see tropes and scenarios that they’re familiar with, and they’ll know some, if not most, of the examples of such that are given. Whoever you are, whatever level you’re at, as long as you’re a fan of the genre then you’re going to get something out of the Post-Apocalyptic Writing Guide.
The guide will help people craft a compelling Post-Apocalyptic world, but it’s not a book on how to write. I don’t go into the use of adjectives, passive voice, how to structure a plot or the benefits of first person versus third person narration. If you need to learn that stuff then go do a writing course, or just google it. Grab a copy of this guide when you want to take all that and learn how to apply it to a Post-Apocalyptic story.
What are you currently working on?
I stupidly decided to do a Twitter poll while drunk and now I have to write a short story based on the results, because Hemmingway was right. “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
After that, I’ve got a one-off Dystopian story I want to write. And after that I’ve got a series I want to write that’s set in the same world as Days Too Dark. I’ve been getting a lot of requests for a non-subjective, third person account of events in that world and I’m more than happy to explore it some more.
What is your favorite post-apocalyptic scenario?
I like the Nuclear Apocalypse scenario the most, because it can only happen if humanity fails to get its collective shit together and it’s so damn hard to survive. Realistically it’s so damn hard to survive that most authors fudge the rules a little, just so their characters don’t melt on the spot.
Which post-apocalyptic scenario do you think is more likely to happen and why?
As for what scenario I think will happen, I’d say an Economic Collapse. Technically an Economic Collapse also happens alongside whatever other scenario you’ve got going on, it’s just that people tend not to worry about the price of oil when zombies are trying to eat them. A global Economic Collapse seems the most likely to happen in the real world, to me at least. Patriotism is great and all, but once all the money dries up then nations tend to fall apart as people stop going to work and the gears of industry grind to a halt.
Would you be prepared if this type of end-of-the-world scenario actually happened?
Hell no, I’m a white guy in Taiwan who doesn’t speak the language. I’d be lucky if I was lynched the second the shit hits the fan, because otherwise it’d be a slow death from starvation.
Would you like to one day see your work on the big screen? Is that a goal of yours?
Maybe? Depends on what story and if they adapted it correctly. I hate what happened to The Walking Dead when it was turned into a TV series, but that’s just the reality of letting someone else adapt your work to their vision.
I’m sure if they threw a certain amount of money at me I’d be more than happy to sign away my dignity. I could always choose to wash my hands of the film and never watch it if it turned out bad.
What is your favorite part about being a writer?
There’s a certain amount of leeway you get when you’re a writer, we’ve got a license to be weird. The running joke in the writing community is that the government is fully aware of our highly suspicious internet search histories, but they don’t act on it because they know we’re authors.
The same is true in real life, you can ask people the most insane or personal questions as long as you tell them it’s for a book you’re working on.
What’s next for your writing career?
I need to get on top of this marketing thing. Indie Publishing is the new age of pulp fiction, but it’s all self-propelled. I’d like to be one of those writers who focuses on the art and leaves the business to others, but I also like to buy food – and since I’m indie I need to do it all myself.