American Revenant: Hometown Exodus and American Revenant: Settlers and Sorrow author John L. Davis agreed to chat with me regarding the American Revenant series, and offered to give us some insight into himself, his process, and what we can expect from this shining new author in the future. If you are unfamiliar with Davis’ work, you can find a review of his debut novel American Revenant: Hometown Exodus on Zombie Apocalypse Defense Force (written by yours truly.) The series is set in Hannibal, MO and features a community of people who band together to survive a zombie apocalypse. It is honestly one of the best zombie series I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a long time, and I would encourage you to check it out if you haven’t. American Revenant: Hometown Exodus and American Revenant: Settlers and Sorrow are both available for Kindle download. (Hometown Exodus is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!)
F: So I have to ask, is the Hannibal you wrote about in American Revenant: Hometown Exodus based on where you live?
D: Yes, it is, actually. If you were to read American Revenant: Hometown Exodus then walk through downtown Hannibal, you could see every place I wrote about in the book. Writing about it that way made it far more real in my mind, and I hope added realism for the reader, even if they never set foot in Hannibal.
F: Do you and your family have a zombie contingency plan?
D: We do have a contingency plan. Two years ago we were without power for three days, due to a bad storm that hit the area. There were places that had no power for up to two weeks, which is why being prepared just makes sense to me. I operate under the idea that if we’re prepared for the zombie apocalypse, then we’re ready for anything.
F: What sparked your interest in zombies? – Is this something new/recently sparked, or have you always been interested in the undead?
D: I’ve had a fascination with zombies since I first watched Return of the Living Dead. From there I found Romero’s Dead movies and I’ve been hooked ever since.
F: If you could give a piece of advice to aspiring authors – what would it be?
D: Write. Write. Write. Then write some more. Strive to write something every day. Even on a bad day, where writing just seems like the last thing you want to do, write “I don’t feel like writing today, because…” and describe why you don’t want to write. Self-promotion, marketing, social-media engagement, you’ll have to do all those things, but it means little if your writing is weak, or you haven’t developed your voice and style.
F: As an author, would you say that you have had authors or media which have influenced your work?
D: Absolutely. I don’t think an author can avoid being influenced, especially if that person is an avid reader, or someone who is into movies or television. For me, I would say Dean Koontz and Stephen King are the greatest influences on my writing, as well as my desire to write. My love of horror and zombies stems from 80’s horror movies. I love that stuff!
F: Your Go Fund Me Page indicates that both you and your wife work and are raising two daughters. How do you find time to write? In that same vein, how long would you say it took you to write each book?
D: We have a routine set around homework and dinner. It’s after those two things that I usually disappear into the “writing cave” when working on a book. There’s a lot of family sacrifice involved, as I’m sure many indie authors can attest to.
Hometown Exodus is a short novel, and it took me about a month and a half to write. Settlers and Sorrow, being a longer novel, took about two and half months to write the first draft. I set a daily word count throughout the week, and a much higher word count for the weekends, usually 1000 on a weekday, and 4-5000 per day on weekends. I don’t always hit those marks, but I try for them.
F:What was the most difficult part of writing the books in the American Revenant series?
D: Denying my family quality time was very difficult, and would often leave me with strong feelings of guilt, as if I were abandoning them.
As for the actual writing, the most difficult part was letting the story go where it needs, or wants, to go without forcing it. I remember deleting 2,500 words all at once, because it felt false. That was painful, but it had to be done.
F: Without giving away too much of the impending plot, if you could give your characters advice – what would it be? (Or, if the ideas you have are too spoiler-ridden, – what advice would you give someone faced with a zombie apocalypse?)
D: I would tell them to avoid going back to Hannibal. It’s bad there. Please don’t go back there…
I would tell anyone in a zombie apocalypse to use their head. Always go places with a group of three or four people, and NEVER separate that group.
“Live to scavenge another day, in the group is where you stay!”
F: Aside from American Revenant, obviously, what is your favorite zombie-based series? (TV, books, comics, whatever)
D: I have a love/hate relationship with The Walking Dead, but it is often a great show. (Except when it isn’t.) Romero’s early Dead movies are wonderful. Bobby Adair’s Slow Burn series is excellent, and I recommend it to any fan of zombie fiction.
F: In general, what is your favorite horror movie?
D: Hellraiser, no, Evil Dead, wait . . . Night of the Living Dead, ummm The Hills Have Eyes, or maybe Phantasm, yeah . . . no, The People Under the Stairs . . . Night of the Comet . . . Tucker and Dale vs Evil . . . Cabin in the Woods . . .
Ummm, I think I have a headache now. There have been so many seminal films in the horror genre, movies that have deeply affected me in one way or another, that I find it nearly impossible to choose a favorite.
F: What can we expect from you in the future?
D: There will be another American Revenant book this year for sure. I’m shooting for late summer, or early fall for that release. I have several ideas I’m chewing on; zombie related, pure horror, and apocalyptic survival.
How does Zombies in Space sound? Moon Zombies from the . . . Moon! maybe?
Although I’m not sure how soon we can expect to read about zombies from the moon, I’d like to thank Mr. Davis for his time. It was a pleasure to get to chat with him and learn more about his influences. If you’d like to learn more about the American Revenant series, check out http://americanrevenantseries.com/. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re interested in supporting this independent author you can check out his Go Fund Me Page for marketing of the second book or find both American Revenant: Hometown Exodus and American Revenant: Settlers and Sorrow on Amazon.