Welcome back to the Indie Author Spotlight! With Halloween quickly approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to showcase a zombie horror author! In this edition, you’ll get to know Keith C. Blackmore, hear about his frighteningly undead writing exploits, and hopefully be encouraged to take a fleshy bite out of his writing.
I’ve actually owned the first two books in Keith C. Blackmore’s Mountain Man series (Mountain Man, Safari) for a few months now, but I’ve been holding off on featuring him until Halloween. I was pleased to find out that he’s always up for an interview and was a pleasure to speak with via email. Check out the synopsis of Mountain Man below:
And the will to live amongst the unliving.
Augustus Berry lives a day-to-day existence comprised of waking up, getting drunk, and preparing for the inevitable day when “they” will come up the side of his mountain and penetrate his fortress. Living on the outskirts of a city and scavenging for whatever supplies remain after civilization died two years ago, Gus knows that every time he goes down into undead suburbia could be his last.
This blurb along with excellent reviews sold me on the book. After finishing Mountain Man in just a few days, I immediately began on Safari and breezed through it as well. Talk about character-driven writing! This is what it’s all about. Now, I’m looking forward to reading the third book in the series, Hellifax, as well as the rest of his works. In the meantime, I’ll stop babbling on and we’ll get to what we all want: to hear from the man himself, Keith C. Blackmore!
Keith C. Blackmore is a Canadian writer of Heroic Fantasy and Horror. He still doesn’t believe many folks would really want to know about him. So, he shall remain a mystery.
Keith’s novel Mountain Man has been optioned for film.
Max Pfeffer: First off, I’d just like to say how thrilled I am to have you here for SF Signal’s Indie Author Spotlight!
Keith C. Blackmore: Thanks for having me =).
MP: Keith, how long have you been in the writing business and what exactly made you go the self-publishing route?
KB: Ah, a while now. I had been fishing for a publisher for at least 20 years or so. An agent maybe about 10. Really hard to do either. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready. Regardless, prior to 2010 I was getting some interest in a few titles, but by that time, I happened upon Joe Konrath’s ongoing website and his adventures in self-publishing. It was pretty enlightening: reading about this self-proclaimed mid-tier writer go from deciding to “give it a shot,” to damn near shouting “do it!”
After doing this now for two years, I don’t think I’ll approach another publisher or agent even again. I don’t see the need.
MP: Wow, what a great testament to never giving up! As this column is about showcasing success in the self-publishing field and hopefully garnering some new attention for the author, can you give us an idea of the success you’ve found thus far as an indie author?
KB: I’m surviving, doing the job I’ve always wanted and worked towards while employed at something else. Can’t tell you how many hours I stayed home on the weekends working on stories. It’s wonderful to be able to make a living at this. Don’t know how long it’ll all last, but (shrugs) I’m here for now and every day brings a few new readers.
MP: What does a typical day of writing look like for you? Do accompany your writing time with a glass of whiskey like some of your characters might?
KB: Haha, no, not for me. These days I’m trying to complete a book in about 6 weeks. I strive for 3,000 words a day. Sometimes I hit that number and more, sometimes less, but at the end of the week, I usually have around 15K. And at the end of the 6 week block, hopefully I have the first draft of a book.
MP: I always find it’s good to set a goal for yourself. A book in six weeks sounds like an excellent goal to me! Now, I shared your brief synopsis of Mountain Man above, can you tell us a little about the series as a whole?
KB: Mountain Man is a story about an average guy called Augustus Berry who gets caught up in the day-to-day routine of surviving in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. The zombies are Romeo type shamblers (freshly killed folks can run however) and can be killed by a bullet to the brain or some other blunt trauma. After two years of getting by on his own, playing it safe, and not taking any chances while looting supplies in a nearby city, he starts to unravel at the edges and becomes increasing callous. In addition to his fraying mind, he realizes that the zombies he’s killing are disappearing without a trace.
Originally supposed to be one book, I released the first half of the story in Dec.2011, to take advantage of the Christmas season, and then the second part in April of 2012. The third book was actually unplanned as sometimes, characters will do things you least expect. That story centers on Scott, a guy Gus rescues in the first book, who goes off searching for a killer.
The fourth book will focus on Gus once more, as there’s one more story to tell with him in it.
MP: Hearing that there is one more Gus story to tell is like music to my ears! Before reading Mountain Man, I read a good portion of the reviews on Amazon. What really intrigued me about this zombie story and kept me invested to the end — as well as through its sequel, Safari — is that the main character, Gus, is not an ex-marine; he’s not a survivalist in nature; he’s just an every day guy who happens to fair well because he’s a smart thinker who relies on common sense. He gives hope to the rest of us ordinary citizens! What made you shape Gus into an average Joe rather than a super-soldier and did any other works influence Gus and his story?
KB: Before writing the books, I sat down and looked at what was out there, what I liked about the genre, and what I didn’t like about it. Mountain Man is essentially Robinson Crusoe in a zombie context, but with a slow dehumanizing twist going on, as well as a mystery with regards to the disappearing zombies.
I couldn’t write a military vs zombie story because I felt I wouldn’t do it justice. I’d read Stephen Knight’s The Gathering Dead and was pretty much blown away by the concept of a well-prepared, battle-forged team of operatives going up against a zombie horde. So, the extreme opposite of that was Mountain Man.
Gus is no special forces guy. No special training. Yet… he’s managed to keep things together for a very long time just by common sense, luck, and um, liberal medicinal consumption of alcohol.
I also wanted to bring horror back into the zombie genre. I’m a work in progress, so it really is up to the reader to decide if I got that part right.
MP: I’ll say this: there were many instances while reading in which I cringed and closed my eyes, hoping to avoid the scene, only to realize I wasn’t actually watching anything. So, I think it is fair to say you brought the horror back! Aside from the Mountain Man series, you also happen to be a prolific fantasy author. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but your four fantasy novels (131 Days; 131 Days: Ten; White Sands, Red Steel; The Troll Hunter) are all set in the same city of Sunja. Can you tell us a bit about your fantasy world and the stories within them?
KB: Well, I have more fantasy stories to tell than horror. Most of them are based in the fantasy world I’m slowly developing. White Sands, Red Steel actually takes place away from Sunja, on a different continent of the yet-to-be-named world (all the good names have been taken) and it’s more like a Conan story in tone than the others. Lots of action.
131 Days is more character oriented, with more intrigue (or so I hope), and based in the city state of Sunja and the lands surrounding it. It focuses on a gladiator tournament which happens every year, but usually for only two months. I think 131 will be a 5 or 6 book series, while He-Dog (the main character introduced in White Sands) will be kinda like Robert E Howard’s “Conan” and the adventures that character goes on. Sorta.
People have been asking if there’s going to be a sequel to Troll Hunter. That book was meant to be a stand-alone novel, but after thinking on it, there is another story I could write with Bloor and Alwan. So we’ll see.
Content wise, my fantasy stories contain hardly any magic, with perhaps some beasties. Check the reviews of the titles out there and sample.
MP: Oh, you can bet I will! What’s next for you? More Mountain Man stories? More tales from Sunja? Will you be exploring any new worlds, and if so, can you share any details?
Starting on Mountain Man 4 very soon. I have the first draft of the sequel to White Sands, Red Steel here, and I’ll be working on getting that ready for market. Also, a first draft of the next 131 Days book is sitting here. After I get Mountain Man 4 done, I’ll look at my notebook where I keep my ideas and see what’s next. All in all, I have ideas for a lot of books, and if I can write them, that would be wonderful.
Also, if your readers haven’t heard, Mountain Man was just recently optioned for film by Matt Deller, who wrote the script for Manhattan Undying. It’s only an option, and I hear from other writers that the chances of it ever actually becoming a movie is slim, but (shrugs) I’m hopeful.
MP: How can the SF Signal community help support you?
KB: Sample the books that are out there and if you like what you read, buy ‘em. If you like the books, tell your friends. I don’t really do much advertising, preferring the usual way (you read, you like, you tell your buddies).