The Perseid Collapse Kindle World Interview Series
Post-apocalyptic novelist and commercial airline pilot: Steven Bird
I have been looking forward to this interview, given Steve’s choice of storyline for Edge of Civility, his novella for The Perseid Collapse Kindle World. On top of that, Steve’s an interesting guy, having served in the Navy for two decades before taking a job as a commercial airline pilot. Like me, you’ve probably assumed that he was a pilot in the Navy—and you’d be wrong. Steve learned how to fly on his own time and dime, which makes his background even more impressive.
Steve is the third member of the Tennessee Triad, a group of writers and friends that I’ve come to know over the past few years, who reside in…you guessed it, Tennessee. I told you the quiz would be easy. Can you guess what each member of the Triad has in common, outside of writing? Sorry, the quiz just got harder. Answer? They have all embraced a homesteading/readiness equipped lifestyle, well out of the social and public fray many of us consider home. If the SHTF, I know where I’ll be headed—assuming I’m invited. ;)
Given Steve’s interest in self-reliant living, it should come as no surprise that he’s written a bestselling series of books exploring life after a “collapse.” With his New Homefront Series taking the prepper-themed, post-apocalyptic genre by storm, I was very excited to learn that he would contribute to The Perseid Collapse Series Kindle World. I expected a prepper based story, in the same vein as the New Homefront books, but Steve took a different approach—and I couldn’t be happier or more impressed with his vision and originality. I don’t want to steal too much of his thunder, but let me say this ahead of the interview. If you’re a fan of The Jakarta Pandemic, you’re going to love Edge of Civility. All right. I should shut up and let Steve do the talking.
Steve, can you tell everyone why I’m so excited about your story?
I’m really glad you’re excited, Steve. Edge of Civility is a prequel, or an introduction to the character “Manson,” as Alex Fletcher called him, in The Jakarta Pandemic, as well as his family members and the other occupants of the infamous Volvo wagon. The setting and timeline follow the development of the Jakarta Flu, just as it affects the Fletchers.
The infamous Volvo station wagon. I remember the scene bringing the Volvo to Durham Road very vividly. Alex Fletcher and his friends knew it spelled trouble immediately. Unlike the rest of the “refugees” fleeing the Boston area seeking food and refuge, Manson and his crew didn’t take NO for an answer.
I mentioned that you took an unexpected path with this story. You explored the prepper-themed genre from a different perspective.
Unlike most prepper fiction, where highly prepared individuals face an event that calls upon their knowledge and preparations in order to survive, this story shows how the unprepared and ill-equipped may face such a scenario, and how it may challenge their notions of civility and humanity.
This is one of the primary reasons I think readers of The Jakarta Pandemic will REALLY enjoy this story. It’s the “path less chosen” when it comes to prepper-themed fiction, and it perfectly complements the other perspective. In fact, readers naïve to my novels could easily start with Edge of Civility, reading The Jakarta Pandemic second. I’d really be interested in hearing what they think after reading about Manson’s plight first, then Alex Fletcher’s view of events. I seriously wonder how their view of my novel’s characters might change.
The main character in your story is most definitely an underdog. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. He’s the kind of person many of us would cross the street to avoid—without knowing a thing about him. What can you tell us about him?
It all started early on in life, when a bully had stolen Manson’s toy panda, refusing to give it back.
Manson, which is how Alex Fletcher referred to Jake Turner, started life off on the wrong path, surrounded by neglect, abuse, drugs, and violence. After almost destroying his life early on, he was attempting to set himself straight for the sake of his family, when the pandemic swept across the United States and the world.
In the Jakarta Pandemic, Manson was a cold-blooded thug of a character that was easy to hate. This story however paints the complete picture and fills the reader in on how exactly he found himself in a bloodthirsty competition for the critical resources of Durham Road.
I swore I wouldn’t feel sorry for Manson when I read your story. I knew what he did on Durham Road, and Alex Fletcher’s black and white mind, nothing could excuse Manson’s actions—but you succeeded in garnering “sympathy for the devil.” Succeeded brilliantly.
Is this a theme you explore in The New Homefront Series? Competition for critical resources forcing people to take drastic, if not terrible steps to survive?
Not everyone comes from an ideal background to prepare them to face a cataclysmic event. We aren’t all ex-special forces operators with hardened and equipped underground bunkers, stocked with a year’s supply of food and water. In fact, many people live a life molded and shaped by unfortunate events and less than desirable circumstances, leading them to poor choices when times are the good, much less when facing what appears to be insurmountable odds. Desperation can motivate people to abandon civility, especially when that desperation is driven by hunger and the inability to feed one’s own children.
As the main characters in The New Homefront come to terms with their new world, and begin to carve a new niche for themselves, they begin to see even in those who would attempt to loot and rob them as people who could have been a good neighbor in a world without hunger. Unfortunately, many people became much to dependent on the safety net of society always being there for them, and were unable to provide for themselves without resorting to desperate measures, setting their civility aside.
Many readers thought Alex Fletcher had abandoned his civility by refusing to help many of his unprepared neighbors. I think this theme can surface in many ways, and always yields a fascinating, controversial moral dilemma. How far would you go to protect your loved ones? The possibilities are unlimited, along with the answers.
Your experience writing Edge of Civility was different than most writers in The Perseid Collapse Kindle World. While others reported doubling their writing productivity, I get the sense that this wasn’t your experience.
Actually, I found the opposite to be true, at least for my scenario. I believe most writers were going off in a direction of their own, using the Perseid World as a launching point. I however had to reverse engineer a story, starting with the ending that already existed in The Jakarta Pandemic, matching it to an existing rigid timeline and set of characters that had many aspects undefined.
If I was just blasting off on my own tangent of the story without a rigid structure to follow, I would have probably had a pretty high output. But then again, with two toddlers and a ridiculous ‘day job,’ I’ve pretty much already mastered the art of doing a lot with just a little time.
I don’t suggest typing and flying with toddlers. ;)
Beyond the theme we mentioned above, how are your other books similar to your novella.
Humanity is both beautiful, and ugly. My three other books that encompass The New Homefront series: The Last Layover, The Guardians, and The Blue Ridge Resistance are just that. There are ugly and gritty parts, just like in the real world, but there are also moments of beauty, love, kindness, and compassion. The good guys in the real world don’t always win, and they don’t always make the right decisions, and that’s how I like to portray things in my books. I want to paint a picture where the reader can see themselves as an average person, struggling along side our friends in the book, in a realistic and human way.
The dichotomy between humanity’s best and worst behavior can be quite stark. It’s even more interesting when explored in the same character, instead of painting black and white battle lines. This was brilliantly portrayed in Edge of Civility with Manson-Jake Turner’s character.
You’ve very recently started writing in the grand scheme of Indie publishing, publishing your first novel in March 2014. What got you started?
I was flying over New York City, looking down and the intense concentration of people and the vast urban sprawl, when I looked over to my co-pilot and said, “That’s the last place I would want to be when S Hits The Fan. Especially to be in our situation where we travel with very limited resources, everything being confined to a carry on bag.” I then said, “Hey, that would make a good book.”
Being a like-minded individual, he replied, “Yes it would… You should write it.”
With that, I pulled out my Android phone, opened my word processor app, and The Last Layover was born. I literally wrote a majority of the book with my phone.
That’s incredible. I’m trying to juxtapose the picture of you typing on your phone in the cockpit of an airliner, with Stephen King sitting perched on a stool in his laundry room pecking away at an old fashioned typewriter. It all starts somewhere.
Speaking of NYC, I have the same feeling every time I fly into La Guardia. Looking down, I can honestly say that’s the last place I’d want to be in ANY kind of crisis. Don’t get me wrong, I find big cities alluring on many levels. The energy, diversity and the sheer defiance that keeps them together against all odds. Unfortunately, those same forces will be their undoing in a SHTF scenario, and it won’t take much of a disruption to initiate a serious problem. I’ll take the suburbs, or better yet, something a little more rural. I’m not ready to join the Tennessee Triad, but the concept is sounding better and better.
This might be a silly question, but are you more of a homesteader than a prepper? Worrier?
Yes, yes, and yes. More of a hobby farmer than a homesteader. I guess you could say a wanna be off the grid homesteader who’s still on the grid. I’m also a firearms enthusiast to an extreme level. I’m pretty sure that’s evident in my writing.
Never met a firearm you didn’t like? I might know a few other people that fall into this category. ;)
Does The New Homefront Series reflect your greatest fears about a potential crisis?
Yes. I’m worried about the potential for social upheaval due to an economic collapse, either engineered or due to dereliction of governmental duties for personal political gain.
I wish I could say that your outlook is unrealistic. Let’s hope it remains fiction long enough to finish plans on the homestead. What are you working on next?
There is a high demand for The New Homefront, Volume 4, so that’s on the way. Also, a dystopian book with a different twist tentatively titled Erebus.
Indeed there is a demand for book 4, so don’t let me stand in your way. A dystopian book? Excellent. I’m in the midst of writing my next series, which is more dystopian than post-apocalyptic, so we should definitely compare notes over beers…if the weather cooperates.
Check out Steven’s novella, Edge of Civility, and head over to his website to take a look at his New Homefront Series.