GJ: Can you describe your journey to publishing your first novel?
AR: It started with discovering that my mother had cancer. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but never got around to it because I got roped into the regular-job-rat-race. All throughout my life, when I would speak with my mother, she would ask how my writing was going. I always had an excuse for why I wasn’t writing – too busy, work stress, children, etc. When I found out she had stage three breast cancer, I was struck by the possibility that she might die without ever seeing me accomplish my dream. That’s what led me to buckle down and get to work.
GJ: What was the most difficult challenge in your journey?
AR: The crippling belief that I’m a hack author and that everything I’ve ever produced is pure garbage that any truly gifted author could sniff out a mile away. I suspect a lot of authors have that same sort of suspicion about themselves, no matter how many times other people praise their work. One of my favourite things to do when I’m feeling down about my own talent is to go read some of the negative reviews some of my favourite books of all time have gotten. You’d be amazed to read what some people think of To Kill a Mocking Bird, or Of Mice and Men. If people can hate those treasures, then surely it’s no surprise some people hate what I do as well!
GJ: Can you put your finger on why you have a post-apocalyptic / zombie obsession, like so many?
AR: I’ll be quite blunt here, because you caught me on one of those days where I feel like being honest. I don’t have a post-apoc or zombie obsession. In fact, the only reason I ever started writing in that genre was because a friend of mine said that they were sick and tired of zombie stuff, and I said that I thought I could do something in that genre he’d appreciate. I was a fan of Romero’s zombie films, and I enjoyed other zombie-related media, but I never expected to jump into that field with the gusto that I did. It just so happened that the first series I put out (Deadlocked) garnered a massive response. There was a time during the run of that series where if you typed ‘Zombie’ into Amazon, my books were the second or third item that came up. It was insane.
In my perspective, the zombie craze just happened to precede and tie in with the rise of the Post-Apoc genre. As it turned out, there were an awful lot of people out there who wanted to read about what life would be like after the world blew up. Perhaps that came from the general public’s disgust with current events, or maybe it had been simmering for decades, either way it was a powerful force in the world of literature – especially with independent authors.
Post-Apocalypse has become a powerful genre, and I don’t dare attempt to predict how long it’s going to maintain its strength. I was one of those dummies who predicted that Super-Hero movies would go the way of the Western, and that sure the heck hasn’t panned out. As long as there’s interest, there’s going to be more and more Post-Apocalyptic novels for people to devour. I enjoyed my time writing about zombies and the post-apocalyptic world, but I doubt I’ll be returning any time soon after I tie up my Among the Masses series.
GJ: What is the most rewarding part of the writing process for you?
AR: When I return to something I wrote quite a while ago, and appreciate it with fresh eyes. I’m one of the most self-critical writers out there (I’m sure this is hyperbole. Writers as a group tend to be ruthlessly self-critical!) 80% of the way through writing a novel I’m convinced I’m writing absolute tripe. It’s not until I look at my own work with fresh eyes that I can sometimes accept that I might be sorta good at this whole ‘writing’ thing. And those moments make me swoon.
GJ: Do you have much contact with your fans? If so what is the weirdest question you have been asked and what is the most frequent question you have been asked?
AR: I try to stay very open with my fans, although the only way I do it these days is through my Facebook fan page. I’m on there every day, and I do my best to respond to everyone’s messages. As for the most frequently asked question, that one’s easy: When’s the next book coming out? I’ve got a few series hanging out there that fans are desperate for me to finish. And as for the weirdest question, I’m not sure I can say. I invite all sorts of oddball conversations, and enjoy them all. I guess the oddest for me might be when I get asked what my Apocalypse Plans are. Sometimes people assume that since I’ve written post-apoc novels that I must be a prepper. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
GJ: What can we expect from you in 2019/20?
AR: I want to tie up some loose ends in my oeuvre. I need to finish up my Among the Masses series, as well as Survive. After that, I’d like to get another book out in my Dave series. My biggest challenge is that I’ve always got ideas for brand new novels popping up in my head, and I want to go dive into them instead of finishing what I started with other series.
GJ: What genre of books do you generally read and can you name a favourite in each, or at least a book that stood out for you?
AR: This is going to sound pretty nerdy, but I really love going back and reading classic literature that I should’ve read when I was in school. I was a terrible student, so there were a ton of great books that I faked my way through by cheating on tests or copying off of other students. As an adult, I’ve cherished going back and reading those. I also voraciously devour biographies of pop culture icons. I have no idea why that’s something that hooks me, but it does. Whether it’s Chris Farley or Bruce Campbell, put a biography in my hands and I’ll keep reading until I’ve blazed my way to the last page.
GJ: What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?
AR: My mother attended a cancer support group during her battle with breast cancer, and she made great friends there. During one of their meetings, she mentioned that her son was an author, and another member of the group got excited and asked what my name was. When she told him, he exploded with joy. He told her that I was one of his favourite authors!
About a year later, I flew out to see her and had the honour of meeting him. He was affectionately known as The Miracle Man because he’d managed to survive for several years with a severe form of small cell lung cancer. I signed some things for him, and had a great time getting to know him. Sadly, he passed less than a year after, and to my absolute shock and honour, he had some of the things I signed for him buried with him. I’m still stunned and honoured by this.
GJ: What advice would you give to new writers looking to writing to publish?
AR: Do it. Do it. Do it. There’s never been a better time to be a writer. In the past the power was in the hands of the publishers. Today, the only thing stopping you from becoming a writer is yourself. Get out there and GET IT DONE! Finish that book and put it out there. You no longer have any excuse not to do it.
GJ: How prepared are you for the apocalypse?
AR: What a weird question. lol! As I mentioned above, I’m about as far from a prepper as possible. I’m not prepared for the apocalypse in any way shape or form. I don’t look down on anyone who is a prepper. More power to you. It’s just not something I spend much time worrying about.
If you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction then why not get your free copy of my novella SURVIVOR – Your Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse.