Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Exclusive interview with Thomas Wolfenden

 Hey readers,

An extra-special treat for you today! Thomas Wolfenden, author of One Man's Island, has decided to sit down for an interview with us. A devoted fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I was very eager to get his insights into the book and his process.

One Man's Island is the story of how a massive radiation wave hits the Earth and kills almost the entirety of humanity. A seeming single survivor struggles to come to grips with this situation and what he's going to do now that everything he knows is gone. As always, though, the ugly face of humanity emerges in the aftermath of disaster and our hero finds out he's not quite as alone as he thinks he is--much to his detriment.

I hope the United Federation of Charles' readers will enjoy reading his insights as much as I have. Okay, Thomas, let's get started.

1. What separates One Man's Island from other post-apocalyptic/disaster stories?

Well, there’s no massive earth-shattering disaster, it’s almost as if humanity goes out with a whimper. No zombies, plagues, earthquakes, meteorites, but it’s definitely the end. But as with all of human history, evil will always exist. 

2. Why choose to go with a radiation wave over other methods of destroying the  world?

That one was an easy decision to make. I wanted to be a little different. To me, and this is just my personal opinion, that the zombie storyline is getting to the point of saturation. Not saying zombie stories are bad, I love them, I just didn’t want to go with what everyone else was writing. So I chose something while not totally likely, something that could very well actually happen. 

I did stretch science to almost the breaking point with literary license, but that was my prerogative. I did research the hell out of my theory when I was writing, and literary license aside, I did want to be as technically accurate as I could be, and still tell a compelling, believable story.

3. There's many references to Robinson Crusoe in your story. What do you think the similarities are there?

At the very start of Robinson Crusoe, the hero finds himself marooned on a deserted isle, totally alone. He’s able to make life more livable by scavenging what he needs in order to survive from the wreck of the ship he was sailing on, as the protagonist; Tim Flannery does with what’s left over. But, as I describe in the novel, the stuff just lying around won’t last long, because of nature taking back the planet with a vengeance. 

Tim has to survive in a rapidly decaying world, and like Robinson, his treasure trove that is the hulk of the wrecked ship, won’t last forever. Food, medicine, every-day items we all take for granted all have a use-by date, and Tim has to increasingly look elsewhere in order to survive, alone on a planet that is strewn with millions of corpses. Tim also has to deal with pure evil later on, just as Robinson did, when dealing with the tribe of cannibalistic natives from another island, but in Tim’s story, it’s human nature rising it’s ugly other side, where somewhere, someone else will covet what you’ve got, want to take it away from you, and have all the power.

4. Why do you think the apocalypse remains such a fertile ground for storytellers?

That I’m not sure of. I know in my situation, what drew me to the concept years ago, was growing up in the middle of the Cold War, and that so many stories were written about the end of the world, and in reality, we lived and breathed everyday with the very real possibility of total nuclear annihilation. It just sucked me in, and I always put myself into the situation, whereas, I’d read a story, or watch a film, and wonder to myself “what would I do in this situation?” and I think a lot of people are exactly the same. They, like me, see a horrible situation, and wonder to themselves, would I survive? Whether it was zombies, meteorites, volcanoes, a great flood or gamma ray bursts.

5. The character of Friday is a very fun one. How did you come up with her?

Robyn Fritag was fun to write. In my first draft, she was a boy, and I thought that was just a tad bit too vanilla, so on writing the second draft, I changed him to a girl and threw a huge monkey wrench into my protagonists life, as if things couldn’t get worse. Here’s a mid-40’s US Army reserve Sergeant Major, big city police officer, who’s never had kids of his own, thrust into a situation where now he’s got to take care of a precocious 13 year old girl. He’s completely clueless, and the dynamic of both of them is quite entertaining. A boy would be a much simpler character for him to deal with, and girl, well, he’s completely dumbfounded, and I think that makes a more enjoyable read.

6.  What would you say is the theme of One Man's Island?

Theme? I’m not sure… At the very base, it’s a story of good and evil, and how no matter what will happen, some humans will only want to take what others have got to gain power. Just a brief skimming of human history shows that. Wars have been fought, and millions of innocent people have died over whose god is better, or theft, Writ Large in land grabs, and megalomaniacs wanting to rule the world. 

Its human nature, and I believe even an Apocalypse won’t change that. The few remaining survivors of any Apocalypse won’t be sitting around in the debris of a destroyed civilization, holding hands and singing Kumbaya. They’ll still be at each others' throats fighting over what scraps that are left over.

7. What was the hardest part writing One Man's Island?

That’s a good question, and you’ll probably laugh. I’m terrible with not only remembering people’s names in real life, but coming up with fresh names and keeping track of them was the hardest part. I had to have a notebook by my side, listing all of the characters, and even then I lost track. It took my wonderful editor, Felicia Sullivan, to point out I had three minor characters with the same name! So I had to scramble to come up with different names for these minor characters at the last minute. It was, and still is a struggle for me.

8. Who is your favorite character in One Man's Island after the lead?

After Tim, I think my favorite character is Petty Officer Harry Suplee. He’s a lot like “Chef” in Apocalypse Now, head screwed on just a little too tightly, and always just a hair away from completely losing his mind. He’s thrust into a nightmare situation, with no possible escape, and he’s surrounded by pure evil, and he still holds it together.

9. What's the most interesting reaction you've gotten to your story so far?

Three things I’m told constantly, that even now, I’m extremely blown away by, humbled and elated. The first thing is that most people who’ve read my novel can’t believe it’s my first. I even had one fan email me, begging to know who I really was. He thought I was someone really famous, and I just put the novel out there under a pseudonym, like Stephen King did with the Bachmann Books. 

The second was that I was told by several people I was the best dialog writer some have ever read. That my characters don’t talk like some made-up person, they talk like they’re real, and speak like real people would speak. And lastly, almost to a man, all that have read it ask me when it was going to be made into a movie. And what author doesn’t want that? 

Who wouldn’t want some Hollywood producer tossing them bucket loads of cash? But, that being said, I also live in abject terror that if that actually does come to fruition, they’ll cast Ben Affleck as Tim Flannery, and if that happens, by head would spontaneously implode.

10. What can we expect to see from you in the future?

There is a sequel to One Man’s Island written. It’s titled One Man’s War, and has a tentative release date of mid-January, 2015, so keep an eye out for that. It picks up right where the first novel leaves off, and brings back most, if not all of the old characters, as well as some new ones. It’s also a lot darker than the first book, more dystopian. 

Right now I’ve got a lot going on, but I am working on a black/gallows humor police story for Permuted Press’ sister publishing house, Post Hill Press, and a straight Action/Military Adventure for Permuted. I also have some ideas from a few more stories, a horror story, and another police humor story, but I’m keeping them on the back burner until I finish the projects I have got going right now.

Thanks, Thomas! We appreciate you showing up!

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