This month’s indie book-of-the-month was written by the well-traveled writer, Dylan J. Morgan. Dylan is the author of five novels, three novellas, and a short story collection, all in the field of horror and post-apocalyptic fiction.
Now living and working in Norway, he was born in New Zealand and raised in the United Kingdom. He writes during those rare quiet moments amid a hectic family life: after dark, with limited sustenance, and when his creative essence is plagued the most by tormented visions.
It was an absolute pleasure to read his novel, The Dead Lands, in preparation for this book-of-the-month author interview. (Click that link to get it for just 99¢ this week!) I found the book to be an exquisitely detailed page-turner that kept me riveted until the end. Dylan’s unusual treatment of his protagonist was a pleasant surprise and his post-apocalyptic world, writ large in horrifying, bloody letters, has a tendency to pull you in and refuse to let go. Highly recommended to all my horror and dystopian universe fans!
1. When did you first start writing fiction, and is The Dead Lands your first novel?
I first started writing fiction back in 2003, after having written some short stories just for myself. I found out that I enjoyed creating stories and decided to see if they were good enough to get published. I started off with short stories, and got a few published in some online venues, before my ideas started to grow and novels began to stake shape. The Dead Lands isn’t my first novel at all. I’d actually published three novels prior to this one, but one of those novels, Blood War, I decided to re-release as a novella trilogy. Since The Dead Lands came out I have released another novel length work, in addition to already having published a sci-fi novella and a collection of my short stories.
2. You mention that a video game inspired your story — how?
The video game in question is Rage, by Bethesda Softworks. It’s a first person shooter set on Earth after the planet has been destroyed by an asteroid. You play the game as a man from the past, cryogenically frozen and set to wake in the future to resurrect the world, but it’s been taken over by an evil regime. You have to fight your way through different missions, creating weaponry to survive, driving buggies through apocalyptic wastelands, and killing bandits and mutant humans. Sound familiar? Ha ha. There’s one mission in the game that I particularly like, called the Defibrillator Upgrade, where you have to enter the main city through the sewers and battle swarms of mutants through apocalyptic streets in order to reach the hospital and get the upgrade. It’s an awesome mission; violent, with beautiful post-apocalyptic cityscapes and I just thought to myself that it would make a great book. Dump a bunch of soldiers in this kind of scenario and watch them fight for their lives. The Dead Lands starts out in the wasteland and moves into the city, which seemed a natural progression given that the game is played that way. It is totally and 100% my inspiration for writing The Dead Lands.
3. The weaponry used by the characters in The Dead Lands is wonderfully detailed in your writing. Where did you get your understanding of the mechanics—careful research, experience, or something more?
Thank you, Nikki, I’m glad you find the weaponry detailed, that means I did my job as a writer. I’ve had no experience with guns, never fired one, so the information and details of the weapons in this book started as basic ideas and developed through researching modern guns online and reading some exceptional military science-fiction. In particular, I read Embedded, by Dan Abnett, which is a tremendous book, and the warfare and actions scenes within are incredibly detailed and graphic. The way Abnett described his weaponry and unfolding action inspired me a lot when I had to do the same in The Dead Lands.
4. ***Mini Spoiler Alert*** I was surprised by your treatment of your protagonist at the end and perhaps even more surprised by your elevation of a secondary character in the final scenes, but I found myself loving the change from what could have been a very traditional ending. What made you decide to end the story this way?
Without giving too much away I felt the predicament these soldiers faced in the final few chapters could only really end one way. I think I knew quite early into writing this what the ultimate fate would be for my characters, and I stuck to my guns with regards to their destinies because it felt like the right thing to do. As for the elevation of my secondary character, that was just a case of me liking this guy the more I got to know him and deciding that he needed to be the more fortunate one. But his fate is undecided, where this book currently stands, and he still has a lot of perils to face off the page. And another thing which is often prevalent in my stories is that there’s little room for a happy ending in the worlds I create. Heroes beyond the normal capabilities of mortal heroes, who always get the girl, or who save mankind no matter the odds, don’t sit well with me. We’re all vulnerable, and we don’t always win.
5. This tale would be very well-served with a sequel. Do you have one in the works?
I’m glad you ask, Nikki, because The Dead City will be released in September of this year. It has already been written and gone through two initial proof readers, and now I’ve passed it over to a few very reliable beta readers who are currently picking through its bones. I aim to supply Advance Reader Copies in August (if you’re interested), and I’m hoping the reception of The Dead City will be just as positive as the first book. And there is the possibility of a third book in this series, but only time will tell if I’m to write that one.
6. I found The Dead Lands to be a fantastic fusion of action/adventure, sci-fi, horror, and thriller. It almost deserves its own genre! How would you define it?
Well, I’m listing it on Amazon as a post-apocalyptic thriller, as it’s a genre into which this book fits perfectly, but you’re certainly not the first person to comment on the mixture of potential genres within its pages. I’m a horror writer at heart, so there are definite horror tones throughout the book; some people have even commented on the underlying love story that drives two of the characters, so there is a touch of romance sprinkled lightly here too. A few people have defined it as a great read, and I think that’s the definition that makes me happiest.
7. What was your greatest hurdle while writing The Dead Lands?
Nothing that relates directly to the book itself, but something that I have to face every time I sit down to write is my self-doubt. I think a lot of writers have it, and it’s a good thing even if it can be annoying and sometimes debilitating. Each time I stare at the page with a desire to write, I wonder if I’ll be able to find the words for that session; will anything I write be any good; will it even be liked by anyone who decides to buy it. This self-doubt is not a nice feeling, but I think it’s an important obstacle to overcome, word by word.
8. What’s your best advice for writers tackling stories that contain elements of several genres?
Be true to your story. Don’t try and make your story a horror story if you’ve listed yourself as a horror author–let your story be what it wants to be. If you find that it meshes different genres together to form a whole, complete story (providing that story is good enough, with a great plot and driven by believable characters) then let the book take on whatever form it needs to take in order to tell your story.
9. What’s your next writing project?
What I’m working on now is currently untitled, but it’s another story that mixes genres. Society has collapsed, and due to man’s greed and hatred the world has become a dystopian wasteland. Monsters have crawled from the darkness, and demons have unleashed a plague of dead from the depths of Hades’ realm upon the Earth. A small group of survivors are battling back: monster hunters, trying to reclaim the world for mankind. As always, the conflicts they face against each other are more deadly than the horrors that this world has become. It’ll hopefully be a delicious sprinkling of horror and post-apocalyptic mayhem. I aim to have this book completed by the end of the summer, with a view to releasing it in early 2017.
Thanks, Dylan, for allowing me to profile The Dead Lands as a book of the month and for sharing your writing process. I’d like to encourage everyone to support this talented author by downloading a copy of The Dead Lands NOW by clicking on the cover:
Connect with Dylan to keep on top of his latest releases:
Get your copy of The Dead Lands for just 99¢ for this week only at: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00MARLWQ2
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If you’d like your novel to be featured in the Indie Book-of-the-Month author series, please contact me at email@example.com. Just give me a brief summary of your novel and the genre, point me to where it “lives” (Amazon, a personal website, brick-and-mortar bookseller) so I can pick up a copy. Also, include a short bio. Please DO NOT offer me a free copy (unless you are currently running a special on your novel). I like to support my fellow indies and I also prefer to operate free of perceived bias!
Please give me two weeks to answer all queries — I don’t have “people” to help me out yet, so things can move slowly at times!
Thanks so much for you interest and for your support of other indie book authors!