Welcome to the 3rd annual zOctober event hosted here on My Book Addiction! I’m super thrilled to have so many fabulous authors on the blog, as well as so many incredible fans stopping by to see what’s new in the zombie world. Thank you to everyone for being here!! Let’s welcome our next author….
Origins of the Outbreak
by Brian Parker
Publication date: August 11th 2014
Genre: Post-apocalypse, Zombies
Every epidemic begins with a relatively small group of people who’ve been exposed to an illness. The Centers for Disease Control believes that it is imperative to reach the site of an initial outbreak as quickly as possible in order to prevent further spread of the disease. Sometimes that isn’t always possible and events reach a catastrophic tipping point before the government can organize a response.
Origins of the Outbreak follows the chain of infection from one person to another after a university researcher in a small Texas town unwittingly develops a virus that threatens to destroy the world as we know it.
Told from the perspective of each victim as they experience their own version of hell while struggling to survive, Origins will leave you gasping in fear and wondering, “What if?”
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an Active Duty Army soldier and multi-genre author; I’ve written zombie books, post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels, urban fantasy/paranormal, military fiction and even a children’s picture book! I’ve currently got seven books available and another four coming soon (yes, they’re already written, just waiting on the release!).
I started out as a self-published author, releasing my first book GNASH in May 2013. Since then, everything has happened crazy-fast for me. GNASH was picked for publication by Permuted Press along with three other books and will be re-released in February 2016!
Enduring Armageddon was my first traditionally-published book to be released from Permuted Press in June and I released A Path of Ashes, Book 1 just a month prior in May. They’re both post-apocalyptic fiction and everyone loves the scenarios that I write about.
What are you working on now? What is your next project?
I’m working on Dark Embers, Book 3 of the Path of Ashes. In about a month—on November 11th, Veterans’ Day—my book Fireside, Book 2 of the Path of Ashes will be released. The Path of Ashes is a post-apocalyptic series that follows one family as they struggle to survive. The first book is centered around the actual events leading up to the cataclysmic end of life as we know it and follows the patriarch of the family, Aeric Traxx. Fireside picks up where book one left off initially, then moves thirty years into the future and focuses on the Traxx family as they’ve carved out a life in the wasteland. The family’s relative safety is thrown into chaos once again as their old enemy seeks revenge. Book three fast forwards to follow Aeric’s grandchildren as they try to recover their kidnapped children. Throughout the series, the technology that is available to the survivors slowly degrades and by seventy-five years after “the event” there’s little left that works and people are once again using technology that was common around the time of the discovery of America.
Where does the inspiration come from when writing your novels?
I was an avid reader long before I was a struggling author, so I tend to write the stories for me and what I would want to read. I think that’s the key to telling a good story. Do I want to have good sales figures and make a little extra spending cash? of course, but I don’t want this to ever feel like a job. I want to continue having fun, so I have to be interested in the story. If I’m interested in it and I like how the story ebbs and flows, readers will pick up on that and see that my books weren’t just churned out by some writer trying to reach a deadline, regardless of what drivel they slapped onto a page.
Can you tell us where your inspirations and ideas came from for Zombie in the Basement?
I’d just received the paperback proof copy of my first book GNASH and my family and I went out to dinner to celebrate. I’m not sure if it was my son or daughter (four and five at the time, respectively) who said that they wanted me to write a book for them. I asked them what they wanted the book to be about and of course it was zombies, so I had to think of a way to write about a zombie that wouldn’t be scary. I didn’t mean to write a book about acceptance of others, it just sort of happened and the response has been overwhelming. Each convention that I’ve taken Zombie in the Basement to, I’ve sold out. Once people pick up the book and flip through the pages, they realize how powerful the message is and want to share it with their kids or grandchildren.
What are the challenges in bringing a book to life?
One of the biggest challenges for me is writing in a style conducive to reading. I’d been writing in the Army Writing Style of active voice, eliminate pronouns and adjectives, no nonsense-type stuff for over twelve years when I started writing for fun; it’s a totally different way of structuring sentences that is a very hard habit to break, especially since I still have to write that way at work. Also, dredging up those old high school English lessons has been key. I didn’t learn much in my creative writing classes in college; it was primarily write a story, get a grade and write another story, so high school was very important in my English language foundation.
I almost always have Google open when I write. I swear the NSA has me on some type of watch list for the things I’ve researched. Nuclear bombs, fighter jets, the US President’s bodyguards, viruses, bacteria, CDC response to outbreaks, the layout of the National Archives, locations of “secret” government bunkers… All sorts of stuff that is innocent enough if you know why I’m looking it up, but all together, it might look bad to some dude in Maryland monitoring the internet.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always been a creative person. I wrote and drew as a kid but as I got older I realized that my talents really didn’t lie with drawing! When I turned eighteen, I joined the Army and stopped writing. I fell into the mental trap that I had a career and didn’t have time to dedicate to writing. Then, I read Day by Day Armageddon by fellow Permuted author J.L. Bourne and learned that he was also a full-time military officer in the Navy. I decided that if he could carve out the time, I could as well. Instead of relaxing at the end of a stressful day by watching some crappy television show, now I write and actually get more relaxed as I lose myself in the storyline.
Is there a subject you would never write about as an author? If so, what is it?
Yes, there are definitely subjects that I refuse to write about, but the biggest one that comes to mind is the death of children. Too many authors seem to use the death of children as a shock value just to add extra gore, it’s not pleasant. Even though I write mainly in the horror and post-apocalyptic genres, I simply won’t do that. I acknowledge that in the hypothetical situations that I write about, most of the children would be the first to go, but as a reader, I don’t want to read about that so I’d never put it in writing. Maybe it’s because I have children, maybe it’s because of some of the things that I’ve seen in the Army, I don’t know. It’s just a line that I’ve chosen not to cross. So if a child gets introduced in one of my books, you can bet that they’ll either stay alive throughout or simply exit stage right and we don’t hear about them anymore.
What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
Editing. Editing. And, um let’s see, editing! I can’t stand the self-editing that I have to do before I send one of my books to my editor. It’s extremely important to catch things and clean stuff up before sending it to her, it’s just so tedious, I’d rather keep making up stories and have someone else correct it, but to ensure the book is the most complete that it can be, an author has to go in and self-edit before others see it. You catch plot holes, errors in your line of thought, even switching of names and locations by self-editing first. My editor still corrects gobs of errors, but she has no idea how many are in the first draft!
Is there a message in any of your novels that you want readers to grasp?
I didn’t really get my own message until I finished Battle Damage Assessment, my seventh book, and then it hit me. I think an underlying theme of my work is that regardless of who you are, there is someone out there for you to love. I know, it’s strange coming from a big, tough Army guy, but every one of my books have some element of romance. Maybe I’m a closet romantic at heart, I don’t know, but it definitely comes out in my writing without overpowering the rest of the story.
Another theme that comes out time and again is the strength of the human character. The situations that I put my protagonists in are, quite frankly, ludicrous. Nuclear wastes, zombies, telekinesis, mutated animals, etc. Each and every time, they find a way to overcome obstacles and grow from their experiences, much like real-life survivors do. As a species, we are extremely adaptable and that comes out in my writing.
Is horror the only genre you have written? Is it your favorite?
I’m all over the place. My publishing contract is with Permuted Press, so through them I’m contracted for Enduring Armageddon, a post-apocalyptic novel and three zombie books as part of my Washington, Dead City series. Then I’ve got The Path of Ashes series, which is post-apocalyptic as mentioned earlier, Origins of the Outbreak, which is zombie/horror and The Collective Protocol is a paranormal thriller. Battle Damage Assessment is a military fiction about a soldier’s experience in Afghanistan. And, of course, there’s my children’s book Zombie in the Basement, which is about acceptance and anti-bullying. I couldn’t even tell you what my favorite genre to write in since I write across several genres. I love telling a good story, regardless of where it gets categorized.
What is the first book you read that made you fall in love with literature?
I was a voracious reader as a child, so I’m not entirely sure which books that made me love literature, but some certainly stand out in my mind: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Shannara series, and 1984 to name a few. However, the books that made me fall in love with the idea of writing my own novels are the ones by Victor Gischler: Gun Monkeys, Shotgun Opera and Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse. I just really like his style and the way he lets the reader fill in the blanks instead of spoon-feeding them every little detail.
What do you think are the most common misconceptions about writers?
A big misconception is that we’re all recluses, hiding in an attic banging away on a dilapidated typewriter. We’re just a cross-section of society, some people like to keep to themselves and some are gregarious. We’re all individuals, please don’t lump us together!
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Not really… I know that’s a cop-out, but I can – and have – write anywhere. I’ve pulled out my cell phone and typed a chapter in the notes section during my kids’ gymnastics practice, written a couple chapters on both C17s and C130s while traveling around for the Army, I’ve sat in the field and written notes on a notepad… So maybe that’s a little outside the normal way folks write, but I’m most productive sitting behind my laptop with a drink (coffee or alcohol, depending on the time of day).
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Keep writing! Your stuff will probably not be very good at first, but with practice, it gets better. It’s true, look at the Dresden Files, the first book’s substance was good, but the writing gets more refined and clearer with each book. My editor comments on my books that with each one, the writing is better than the last and I can see it myself as well. Luckily, for me, I’ve been given the opportunity to polish my first two books with Permuted re-releasing them, so I’ll be able to go through line by line with their editor and clean things up even more.
Also, keep at it and don’t obsess about turning the perfect phrase. I’m a member of a lot of writing pages and try to get to them as much as I can, but so often I see people talking about editing and re-editing and going crazy over their first chapter and never advancing beyond that. They get frustrated because they put so much effort into making it perfect without actually doing any writing. Here’s what I do: I write the entire book, only making minor changes as things develop that need adjusting and then go back and edit once I’m done. It’s that simple. My first book GNASH took me 2.5 years to complete, in part because I hadn’t learned that trick yet. I mostly incorporated it into my writing when I wrote Enduring Armageddon and that took me eight months. For my third book REND I didn’t edit anything until I was done with the story. It took four months. I’m averaging about four months per book now. It works for me; I hope that it’ll help other writers out.
Oh yeah, here’s my final piece of unsolicited advice and pardon my French, but don’t be a dick. Yes, you’re a writer and you’ve accomplished a huge feat by finishing a book; now be nice, be courteous, help advance our craft and don’t bash other writers. We’re not competing with each other. It’s not like we’re selling a car; a reader will not only buy one book and read that book exclusively for the next five years. Most readers buy ten or twelve books a year, some buy a whole lot more, let’s help each other out.
We’re all so busy, how do you find time to write?
I’m extremely lucky because I only need about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. I typically write after my family goes to bed and I still wake up at 5:30 on the weekends just like I was going to work, but I write instead. But the biggest time-sucking waste of our current existence is watching television. Think about how much time you sit in front of the TV not doing anything and not even watching the show that you want to see. I only watch one television show (The Walking Dead) nowadays and I never watch it live. I always DVR it and then fast forward through the commercials. The one hour is cut down to about thirty-five or forty minutes. Think about that, twenty minutes of your life back to you just because you don’t sit around during the commercials!
If one of your books was turned into a movie, which book would it be and what actor do you see playing your lead roles?
Out of the books that I’ve written so far, the one that I absolutely believe could be made into a movie would be GNASH, Book One of my Washington, Dead City series. Readers of that book and the three readers that I’ve allowed to see the sequels REND and SEVER have said it seems just like a movie by the way it focuses on multiple characters and doesn’t bog down on following only one storyline. The book could be a stand-alone political thriller without the zombie aspect, but the two together make a great combination.
Let’s see, lead characters… I see Grayson Donnelly as a Mark Walburg type of guy, quiet, unassuming and compassionate but his former military training lets him kick butt when needed. Emory Perry, is pretty, strong and smart; I see her as a more of a Jessica Biel character. Jessica Spellman was a pretty high school cheerleader, but years of the wrong type of men have turned her into the shell of her former self but she shines after Grayson saves her life. Definitely Elisha Cuthburt. Hank Dawson is an Army Delta operator who doesn’t take any lip from anyone, so I see Cam Gigandet. Finally, the CIA operative Kestrel, Asher Hawke, is only in GNASH for about twenty pages, but he’s the main character in REND. I see Karl Urban playing him; he’d be perfect.
Finally how can we find you?
I’m all over! My primary interaction with readers is on my Facebook page although I’m trying to increase my Twitter usage. I also have a website that I’m horrible about updating, but it is available and I usually post unedited portions of my works in progress on there. I have a Goodreads account and continually tell myself that I need to interact more on that site, but I just haven’t been able to carve out the time. Social media links below…
Thank you for participating in zOctober again, Brian! I’m so glad you’re not on the other side of the world this time. I also want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service. Happy zOctober!! ~ Toni
~About the Author~
A veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan war, Brian Parker was born and raised as an Army brat. He moved all over the country as a child before his father retired from the service and they settled in a small Missouri town where the family purchased a farm. It was on the farm that he learned the rewards of a hard day’s work and enjoyed the escapism that books could provide.
He’s currently an Active Duty Army soldier who enjoys spending time with his family in Texas, hiking, obstacle course racing, writing and Texas Longhorns football. His wife is also an Active Duty soldier and the pairing brings its own unique set of circumstances that keep both of them on their toes. He’s an unashamed Star Wars fan, but prefers to disregard the entire Episode I and II debacle.
Brian self-published four books before signing a 4-book contract with Permuted Press. His novels Enduring Armageddon and GNASH were previously self-published and will be re-released by Permuted beginning in May 2015 along with two previously unpublished works, REND and SEVER.
He is also the author of The Collective Protocol, a paranormal thriller that shows how far people will go to gain power; Zombie in the Basement is a children’s picture book written to help children overcome the perceived stigma of being different than others; and his how-to guide Self-Publishing the Hard Way is for writers looking for pointers to self-publish their manuscript.
Brian’s Website | Twitter | Facebook | Muddy Boots Press | Goodreads
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