Author Merril David’s new book Wicked Awake is available for pre-order on ebook Amazon.com now and following shortly after in real-life print. Here is the kicker, it’s about an outbreak! We had a chance to chat with him about his forthcoming novel.
PB: So this is a virus outbreak story, have you had any new thoughts after what has been going on with Corona Virus?
MD: I’m starting to think I should have addressed the whole issue of a world without toilet paper. That in itself might make for a scarier read than the infected zombies I write about. In my story, I mention how as the ‘Infection Armageddon’ goes on, the affected areas begin to experience the loss of utility services, cell towers go down and streets become impassable. Gasoline and fuel shortages occur, and the media as we know it today no longer exists. Newspapers become a thing of the past, as do the major outlets who broadcast across the TV and internet. Information is dispersed through You Tubers and then disseminated over short wave radio to the many who have no internet service. So, I’m already working on book two. I’m considering having my main character, Jake Hathaway, living off the grid and incapacitated by the paper cuts on his ass from having to wipe with copy paper.
PB: You worked in Law enforcement for over 20 years. How has that influenced the story and your writing?
MD: My protagonist, Jake Hathaway, was a Marine and then goes on to become a Dallas Police Officer. He promotes to be a Sergeant and is also a training officer, then a K9 handler. Another of the featured characters is a rookie officer, Kelvin “Mack” McElroy, who was trained by Jake.
I include several scenes in the novel based upon things I or my co-workers actually experienced. I also touch a little bit upon how being a police officer has changed over the years. Right after the 9/11 tragedy, cops and firemen were considered to be heroes. Parents encouraged their kids to wave at us and be friendly with us. Nowadays cops are hated and targeted. Firemen are still loved (apparently I chose the wrong career), but not the police. Kids are told to question all authority, especially Law Enforcement.
And I get it, I think politics and some of our past leaders are partly to blame, although I’m not going to act like I don’t realize there are some very bad officers out there who have done some really fucked up things. In my book, I mention one seasoned training officer in particular who acts as if he is untouchable, above the law. But for every bad cop like that exists, I would say there’s another nine who are honest and professional.
Also, keep in mind that even the cop haters are the first to call 9-1-1 for help when their house is being burglarized or their car is getting jacked. That being said, I don’t want readers to think that my whole book is all just zombies and cop talk. I believe I injected a good amount of humor into the story as well. So much so, that one person who read my book so far commented that it is “extremely clever and brisk-paced. The narrative is witty, even when horrifying.” I like that he chose those two words WITTY and HORRIFYING to describe my work, as this is exactly what I was aiming for.
If I was a rock group instead of an author, I might be compared to the band Tragedy, a metal band that put their own spin on Bee Gees songs. Or better yet, I might be more like that Death Metal Band that plays Weird Al Yankovic tunes. Is there such a band? There should be! But I also attempted to make WICKED AWAKE smarter than the average zombie book by applying a great level of detail, science, and research into it. Hopefully, I have succeeded!
PB: What inspired you to write this story?
MD: I have always loved horror shows and movies, but my favorite genre has been zombies. I would load up on Walking Dead and the movies, always telling my wife and kids how those stories could have been better (like the zombies in World War Z were way too fast, everyone knows the real DEAD are slow! Ask George Romero). So my wife suggested that since I was such an expert, I should write my own novel. At first, I thought she was joking, but she wasn’t- so I did it!
PB: What has been the biggest challenge in getting the book done?
MD: The biggest challenge was not in writing the story itself, but it has been all of the related things I have had to do since its completion. I was clueless when it came to editing and formatting and such. I never took typing in school (I just showed my age there, I think now they call it keyboarding, right?). So I type like a cop, driving down the road, left hand on the steering wheel and right hand holding a coffee (doughnut in my mouth) while using my right pinky finger to type license plate numbers into the mobile data terminal.
But even more difficult has been this whole querying process; contacting literary agents and book publishers day and night, sending them query letters and synopsis’. Some ask for a small sample of the book while some like to see the entire manuscript. And many of them want to see that you have some sort of social media presence and even a marketing plan. I wasn’t prepared for this; I had a Facebook account just to spy on my teen-aged daughters but I wasn’t actively posting my meals on there or anything like that. So now I am doing Instagram and Twitter, taking lessons from my kids on how to use them. I already got blocked by the Facebook police after I made 700 friends in a matter of six hours (they said I broke some FB rule!? I was just being overly friendly. Isn’t that the objective?) Anyways, this is all new to me but it’s all good, I’m learning a lot as I go along.
PB: You must be a horror fan! What are a few of your favorite horror movies and books?
MD: Growing up, I loved watching horror and Sci-Fi type programs on TV and going to the theater or renting movies (again aging myself! For those who remember Blockbuster). I was also very into Marvel Comics (never got into DC for some reason) and horror novels. Some of my favorite television programs were the Incredible Hulk (with Bill Bixby and, of course, Ferrigno) and the Twilight Zone, as well as reruns of the original Planet of the Apes movies (not really feeling the re-makes). Some of my favorite movies were the Friday the 13th series (until Jason went into outer space, then they lost me), Halloween, Freddy vs Jason was greatness! I also loved Nightmare on Elm Street, The Fly with Jeff Goldblum, Fire in the Sky (an alien abduction film that was supposedly based on true events), those bizarre Faces of Death films.
I also dug the People Under the Stairs, the Ring, the Strangers, the Saw movies, Hellraisers, The Exorcist, Jeepers Creepers, Joyride, and of course everything zombie; Evil Dead, World War Z, Zombie Land, Shaun of the Dead, I Am Legend, Army of Darkness. Some of the novels I have enjoyed the most are The Strand, Andromeda Strain, Max Brooks’ World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide, Bird Box, The Amityville Horror, The Shining. I just started to read Mark Tufo’s Zombie Fallout and enjoying it greatly!
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