The latest interview from the archive.
Ryan Casey is the author of over a dozen novels and a highly successful serial. He writes gritty post-apocalyptic fiction, studying how normal people react and adapt when the world collapses around them. He has also written several detective mysteries and thrillers. Across all genres, Casey’s work is renowned for its rapid pacing, unforgettably complex characters, and knockout twists.
Casey lives in the United Kingdom. He has a BA degree in English with Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham, and has been writing stories for as long as he can remember. In his spare time, he can be spotted walking his West Highland White Terrier, has a passion for cinema and television, and probably spends a little bit too much time in the pub.
GJ: Why did you choose to write post-apocalyptic fiction?
RC: Good question. A combination of factors, really. I’ve always been a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, as a consumer. I’ll never forget reading I Am Legend on a hot summer’s day in France when I was about twelve and just thinking, “yeah, this is it!”
Some of my favourite works across all platforms are post apocalyptic. 28 Days Later is one of my favourite movies of all time. There’s just a grittiness about it that got under my skin and stuck with me to this day.
I think there’s an interesting opportunity for post apocalyptic fiction to really explore very personal, character driven stories. Ultimately, the very idea of an apocalyptic event is married to the fact that we as individuals and a society are torn away from our luxuries, and our true colours are left to flourish—for better or worse. I love that I can essentially throw the most different bunch of people into a world defined by different rules and see how they float.
Often, they don’t.
GJ: You write in more than one genre, but which came first, the Post-Apocalyptic or crime fiction?
RC: Crime fiction. Dying Eyes—a gritty detective mystery—was the third book I wrote, and it followed a coming-of-age type mystery and a straight-up thriller.
I haven’t written a crime novel for a while, but I had a lot of fun on that journey. I’d love to go back and write something else in that genre again someday.
I’ve just got to make sure I’m refreshed and focused, because writing a twisting mystery and keeping things consistent is a whole different kind of mental arithmetic!
GJ: Where do you get your inspiration from?
RC: I know it’s the old cliché, but life.
You only have to read the news or walk outside to get some kind of inspiration. And of course we’re fortunate to live in an age where there is such an abundance of great fiction that it’s hard not to be inspired by what we consume.
There’s a more passive kind of inspiration, too. Sometimes you aren’t always looking for inspiration for it to strike. You’ll be sitting there writing a scene and suddenly start thinking, “hang on, I recognise this personality trait in someone…” That’s where you’ve really got to be careful!
When humanity faces an undead nightmare, one man’s party turns into a race to survive.
Logan has always taken things a little too seriously. So when his New Year’s Eve attempt to unwind descends into chaos, he’s the first to realize it’s no joke. After Logan and his friends miss the evacuation transport, he’s given a choice: lead the group to safety or watch all of his friends come back from the dead…
When Logan discovers the military and government have no interest in saving them, making it to sanctuary alive may be their only hope. And after he learns his party of survivors might hold the key to a cure, the fate of humanity rests on his shoulders. But saving his species could mean sacrificing himself…
Can Logan stave off the end of the world or will one wrong decision doom humankind?
In The End is a fast-paced post-apocalyptic zombie thriller. If you like nightmarish settings, reluctant heroes, and action-packed adventures, then you’ll love GJ Stevens’ spine-chilling novel.
GJ: Does your interest in the genre only come out in your writing or does it manifest in your life in other ways?
RC: If that’s a way of asking whether I’m a “prepper,” then the answer is an emphatic “no”.
I’ve got masses of inspiration for the people who are, but I’d be a rubbish prepper. That’s why my fiction is often about people thrown into these situations with limited knowledge of how to survive a cataclysmic event: because that’s me!
The research is all part of the fun though. And I’d like to think I’d have a slightly better shot than most at surviving the end-times.
But really I’d probably just bottle it the second it came to gutting an animal for food. I’d die in a ditch after getting poisoned by some berries. It wouldn’t make for a very entertaining or heroic novel.
GJ: If an apocalyptic event was going to happen, which would you prefer and why?
RC: Alien invasion. Because at least it would be cool to say we’d made contact before being blown to smithereens, right?
GJ: What would be your essential item of kit in the event of an apocalypse?
RC: Oh wow, this is really putting me on the spot now. I should know this.
Some kind of water bottle that filters out the muck for me. That way I don’t have to worry about having to steal water from the shops when I raid them on day one.
Oh. And peanut butter. Good protein source. Lasts a long time. And if I’m going to die in the apocalypse, buried in a mass of peanut butter is the way to go.
GJ: Can you tell me about your journey to publishing your first novel?
RC: I started writing my debut novel, What We Saw, when I was in the middle of an English with Creative Writing course at university. My time was basically split between writing the novel, partying, and… well. Finding ways to avoid studying.
It was a really fun experience, more fun than it had any right to be—even though the whole process was exhausting. It was also enlightening, too. I learned a lot about creative control. There’s a version of What We Saw that I wrote that didn’t really see the light of day… but I’m still very proud of the final product.
I’ll never forget the day I received those proof copies in the post, and the pride I felt. And also the fear, too. “Shit. I’m going to have to do all that over again, right?”
GJ: Are you a full time writer?
RC: Yes. I’ve been full time properly since 2015 now.
GJ: Can you describe a typical writing day?
RC: I get up around the same time every day, meditate, grab breakfast, take my dog for a walk, then do a little writing. Usually at that point, I’ll head down to my local coffee shop and write through til mid-afternoon.
I’ll do any business tasks that need doing later in the afternoon, then keep evenings free to chill with my friends, laze around, and decompress.
GJ: What do you see as your main challenge in your writing life?
RC: The existential fear that one day, people are going to stop buying my books, and I’ll be forced into a career change.
GJ: What do you see as your main challenge in getting your fiction read?
RC: The ever-changing world of publishing and all there is to learn and re-learn about it. You can be sailing, then one day, a retailer changes its algorithms and you have to address things all over again.
It’s a rollercoaster, but we’re on it, so all we can do is keep on riding and see where it takes us.
GJ: What would your advice be to any new or aspiring writer?
RC: My advice would depend on their goals. If they want to write for a hobby, then just go for it and write whatever comes naturally to them. If they want to really make a career out of it, then there’s a lot of market research and that sort of thing to be done. I’d argue that to make it in this day and age, you need to be almost as good a business-person than you are a writer. It’s not always the advice people want to hear, but it’s what I’ve found so far.
Other than that, writing is the most beautiful and expressive career. So just go for it! There really has never been a better time in history with more opportunity to make a living out of it than now.
GJ: Thank you Ryan for taking the time to talk with me. I wish you the best of luck with your continuing career.
Ryan’s latest Post-Apocalyptic EMP Thriller, A Powerless Future, is available to buy from Amazon now, as are all of his books. If you want to connect with Ryan you can do so through his website http://ryancaseybooks.com, Twitter or Facebook.