Two years have passed since mankind faced extinction. Brian Rhodes and his cousin, Steven, are leaving the protection of their underground bunker for the first time, after a cataclysmic war and unrelenting disease ravaged the earth.
On the other side of the North American continent, young Simon Kalispell is leaving the safety and seclusion of his cabin deep in the woods, traveling with his aging canine companion, Winston.
For individual reasons, these men are traveling east, where the fragmented lives of a small number of survivors will soon be decided by the choices of a corrupt few.
Simon Kalispell and Brian Rhodes are not yet aware, but the strength that resides inside them will soon be tested, and destiny will call for their fates to be forever intertwined.
The After War will be $0.99 during the tour.
Brian lowered his gun. “It’s okay, Steve. He’s dead.” He looked around. “There’s no one here.”
Steven lowered his rifle, wiping his palms on his thighs and brushing the sweat from his eyes.
“I said he’s dead, Steve—”
“I reckon he’s dead, Brian. I see he’s dead.”
“Come on now. We’re right at town.”
They sidestepped the corpse until it was well behind them. If the body was someone they had once known, it was now impossible to determine who that person might have been.
“That won’t be the last of them,” Brian said. “You better get your head on straight.”
Steven opened his mouth to speak, but then shut it again.
They stepped onto the road as the first house emerged from the woods. They walked past it, taking careful notice of the blank windows—as black as the eye sockets of the corpse—and scanned for any sign of movement, like the fluttering of drapes, or the partially covered face of a person peering out from the darkness with a shotgun clenched tight in their hands. Anything.
But there was no movement.
“Think anyone’s left?” Steven said, with a crack in his voice.
Brian shrugged. “I know as much as you do.”
The yards around the homes, and Pearl Street itself, were spotted with litter and debris of every kind blowing in the gentle breeze. Overgrown tree roots buckled sections of the sidewalk and emerged from cracks in the pavement. They passed the police station bordering the center of town. The cruisers were vacant in the parking lot, and the building was cold and silent.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’m not sure if there is any one thing that inspired me. Giving a full explanation of all my inspirations would go into depth over ever character and event, scene by scene, and would probably be about as long as the novel itself. So I’ll try to keep this simple. The first concept of the novel came to me when I was young, sixteen or so, walking through a nearby park. Over the course of the next few years, I spent many afternoons at that park, and for reasons that I can’t explain, the story just came to me. I attempted to write the book back in my early twenties, but the story wasn’t there yet. It took years for the storyline to mature in my mind, and become what it is today. A finished novel that I am proud of.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
There are many. I’ll share one, and try not to give any spoilers away. A few chapters in, two of my characters, Brian and Steven, have already spent many nights wandering the barren, decimated land of a post apocalyptic world. They are terrified and beaten up by the harsh weather conditions as they traverse a portion of the woods, somewhere in the Smoky Mountains. They get to a town and decide to find a house to seek shelter, when they hear a noise, an engine. They run for a window overlooking the valley, and see for the first time a large portion of survivors marching through the center of town. It’s a bleak, dark scene, and it leads to a whole host of trouble. I’ll share with you a clip, but be advised, this is a mature scene:
They crouched behind the double window and Brian found his binoculars under his poncho. His fingers trembled on the focusing wheel.
“Dear mother of God …”
A procession was heading down the main street of town. Two columns of savages marched in near unison. But these men were no soldiers. They were ragged and filthy, and carried with them a wide assortment of weaponry—rifles, machine guns, pistols. Many held sledgehammers, machetes, various swords, and large and small pry-bars, some the size of walking sticks. These improvised weapons were scoured at the ends to reveal the steel of which they were made, gleaming like silver, and were muddied with earth and gore. The men looked as if they had marched out of some dismal pit of hell that had vomited them forth, seeming to defile the earth of which they trod. They wore a vast array of military clothing of no particular origin and had adorned themselves and their weapons with torn pieces of red cloth, like flags, along with garnished trophies of war—what looked like dried, brown human ears and tanned hides. They cast about them a red and brown hue, as if they wore these shades as part of a collective uniform.
Pickup trucks rumbled along with the procession, their flatbeds full and covered with sheets. Long ropes trailed from the bumpers, extending to latch around the necks of several pink, naked human beings, both male and female, all with their hands and wrists bound. A body dragged along the ground, bumping over the pavement, lifeless and ground raw. The naked humans who were still alive were prodded forward by whips and crudely made spears with strips of red material tied under the points, so that they blew in the wind like macabre flags of the damned.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I have several stories in the works, but I’m not sure which will be next. I have to decide soon, since I want to start early November. One is a thriller, broken down into several subgenres: psychological, medical, and techno thriller. There are some characters in The After War that I would like to develop into novels of their own, and I’m debating doing that next. It would be fun, and the story is still fresh in my mind. Actually, that thriller I mentioned above would feature a character from The After War, taking place before the war and disease, when he was a private investigator. I didn’t spend too much time with him in novel, and I think his secretive past could make a great book on its own.
Favorite place to read?
My couch in the morning, with my first cup of coffee.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
If by aspiring we’re referring to someone who hasn’t yet done any writing, I offer the simplest yet hardest advice that there is: force yourself to sit and write out your idea. It sounds easy, stupid even, but for many people, those first few pages can be so daunting that it keeps a person away from their ambition for years, or possibly forever. I’ve talked to countless people who have ideas for books; they say it’s always been a dream of theirs to write it out. Nothing is stopping those people other than themselves. They’re afraid they won’t be able to do it, or maybe they have tried, but the first few pages don’t turn out the way they like, so they stop. You have to get passed that. Sentences, paragraphs, whole chapters, they’ll all be changed before the final product. Don’t stress about how the words are coming out, just get them out there.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My ideal goal is to be a hybrid author. That is to say, I would like to be published both independently and traditionally. Aside from that, I think the most important thing that I can be doing at the moment to help my career is to continue writing. Put more material out there. I have no desire to quit anytime soon.
Anything else you might want to add?
Just that I would like to thank my fans out there, and that their kind words really are appreciated. I read every review that my books receive, and I’m always humbled when a new one rolls in. I can’t express my appreciation enough.
Brandon Zenner is an American fiction writer and an Amazon best selling author. His short fiction has been published in both print and online publications, the first being submitted when he was 19 years old. THE EXPERIMENT OF DREAMS, his debut eBook thriller, has reached Amazon's best seller list many times. His second novel, WHISKEY DEVILS, was released in early 2016. THE AFTER WAR, a dystopian thriller, is available now as a pre-order, at 80% off the final sale price. You can follow the author on his Amazon page, or through his email list on his website. All email subscribers will receive his futuristic short story, HELIX ILLUMINATED, for free as a thank you. His genres of choice are thrillers, crime, dystopian, and science fiction.
Brandon Zenner will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.