Thursday, June 21, 2018

It's the End of the World! Interview with Ryan Casey

Grab your freeze-dried food and settle into your bunker and let's give a warm welcome to Ryan Casey, indie author of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. He stopped by ATB to discuss his work, offer advice on how to survive Armageddon, and recommend excellent film and television shows in case we can still get Netflix when the world ends. 

Welcome Ryan!

I'll go first.

What do you think it is about dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction that engages readers so much? Because I’ve got to be honest, it’s feeling awfully close to reality these days. Is it still escapism?

Good question. It’s something I think about a lot. I’ve always enjoyed apocalyptic fiction myself in varying forms. 28 Days Later was a life-changing movie when I was younger, and I Am Legend is a book that has always resonated with me.

There’s an argument that deep down, a lot of people kind of crave an apocalypse—without that sounding too weird. Apocalyptic fiction, I feel, allows them to experience that world vicariously and in a safe environment. Just like horror allows people to scare themselves to death in a safe environment, and likewise with other genres.

Or maybe that’s totally wrong. But there’s definitely something to the uncanny of an apocalyptic world that I think draws readers in, because it lets them ask all kind of moral questions that are very much present in their lives today without having to actually face up to the answers.

I’ve done a lot of research on how people would react to an event like some of the ones described in my books. The answers aren’t always as uplifting as you’d like to believe.

But again, we’ll never know for definite.

Ryan Casey

What skill(s) should we learn in order to survive an apocalypse? Or should we simply be hoarding items and buying a 12-month supply of freeze dried food that’s advertised at Costco (do you have Costco in the UK)? 

You’ve put me on the spot now! It’s in the books, honest!

I went into writing Blackout, my first EMP survival book, back in 2016, with actual limited knowledge about how to survive an apocalyptic event. I had to bury myself in a lot of research. Honestly, it’s fascinating. There’s so many people way more qualified than me that spend their lives dedicated to thinking about this kind of thing, and it’s honestly very admirable.

I know a lot more now than I did in 2016. There’s a few essentials I’d start with. Making sure you’re stocked up is important, however if you live in a suburban area, you want to get away from there and into the countryside as soon as possible.

So knowing things like how to collect water and make sure it’s safe to drink, how to cook in the wild, how to stay warm and clean, how to hunt and trap… those things are the most important things, actually.
Which hurts me ethically, as a vegetarian of three years.

And yeah, we have Costco too. There’s been a few of those places in my books. Tl;dr: things usually get messy.

You pride your work on its rapid pacing. How you balance the story action with the emotional stakes? Do you find that you need to slow it down at certain points so readers can catch their breath?

Yeah, it’s a fine line to walk. Pacing is something I’ve always been conscious of. That said, like you point out, it can’t be constant action every scene.

I actually prefer writing the quieter scenes, believe it or not. I just find the introspective stuff and character building flows a lot more easily for me than the mechanics of action scenes.

I try to have a rule of thumb that works for me that’s kind of a cause and effect sort of thing. If there’s an action scene, there has to be a reaction to it. Even if it’s pretty full-on on the action front, reaction is just as important.

Otherwise it’s just one long slog of action scenes and no emotional investment, which isn’t fun for anyone—as much as it might sound fun.

What’s currently the biggest challenge to your writing? 

The fear that one day this amazing publishing journey is going to come to an end.

I’ve had ups and downs since I started publishing in 2012. I’ve learned things the hard way. I’ve followed false prophets and hampered my own progress, only to fall in with some great, inspirational communities and make some really good friends.

The fear is that one day, Amazon or someone is just going to turn around and close the door, or change the publishing landscape all over again.

I’d have to learn to adapt… much like one of my novels. I guess it’d be my own autobiographical, real-life post apocalypse event.

What are three tips you can give fledgling indie authors writing in your genre?

Just three? :(

Firstly, do your research. I know, I know, it sounds boring, but fans of this genre are wonderful and when you get things right, they love you for it. So it pays to just know a bit about the genre you’re writing in before you throw yourself into it headfirst. Same applies for any genre, I’m sure. Do that and people will love you for it.

Secondly, get yourself an amazing cover. Seriously, I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but we do, and that’s always going to be the case. You want a cover that absolutely screams of your genre. You can be original in your prose. Make sure that cover looks like your genre.

Thirdly, maybe most importantly, don’t be afraid to get creative. I know, by its nature, writing is creative. But there’s a myth that you have to write cookie-cutter fiction in order to make it in the indie publishing world. It’s not true. You hit some genre tropes, sure. You give yourself a well-defined cover, absolutely. But follow your instincts. Don’t be afraid to do something daring. This is what gives you personality. This is what keeps people coming back.

Just don’t kill the dog.

What actor would you want to play your main protagonist(s)?

Weirdly, I’ve never done this before on any of my books. I’ve had side characters that look like actors in my imagination, but never for the protagonists.

But hey, I’ll take anyone. I’ll do it myself if they make a movie out of my stuff, if budget’s an issue. Get Netflix on the phone ASAP.

Who are you currently reading?

I’m reading Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I saw the film by Alex Garland and found it absolutely spine-tinglingly haunting and original, and the book is just as good. It’s so mysterious, leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever read.

I’m also reading Siddhartha’s Brian by James Kingland, which is all about the neuroscientific studies into ancient Buddhist practices. Secular Buddhism is an area I’m really interested in, so this is right up my street.

Recommend a movie or TV show for fans of post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction. Or throw out any recommendation. (I, for one, love British crime dramas.)

TV-wise, I would say The Walking Dead but I feel like it’s gone off ever since that cliffhanger at the end of Season Six. Westworld is really good, and I’m a fan of an older British show by the Black Mirror creator called Dead Set. Give it a try if you fancy a different take on the zombie genre.

Movie-wise, other than Annihilation, I really really loved A Quiet Place. I found it absolutely visceral experience in the cinema. There was a guy crunching popcorn in the seat in front of me and driving everyone mad. I went out of it whispering. Really tense cinema.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter. Or check out his website here and there's an offer for a free book.
Thanks for stopping by!


Cheryl Oreglia said...

Wow! Excellent interview Kimberly. Ryan sounds like an interesting author with lots of practical advice ~ make sure you have an amazing cover! I'm inspired to add his work to my summer reading list. Thanks for sharing Ryan's work with us along with some publishing tips!

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

You're so welcome!

Carrie Beckort said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ryan! Great advice - for writing and surviving the end of the world :) I look forward to checking out some of your work.

Brenda St John Brown said...

Great tips for writing and for surviving the apocalypse. Now do you have tips for surviving the UK heat wave? Fellow UK writer here. Lovely to have you at ATB! Look forward to checking out your work.

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