The Dames welcome author Dylan J. Morgan to the blog. Dylan, tell us about your latest book.
My newest release, coming out on August 1st, is called The Dead Lands, and is a post apocalyptic novel set in mankind’s distant future in a solar system that is not our own. It tells the story of two planets circling the same sun and both are in the habitable zone; but one planet has been ravaged by nuclear war a hundred years previous and its president (who had himself, family, and closest aides cryogenically frozen) wakes from that state and sends an SOS signal to its sister planet. Lane—the main protagonist in the novel—and a squadron of twenty other soldiers are dispatched to the planet to rescue the president and help rebuild his nation.
Only, the soldiers find a lawless land, a barren wasteland, and they must fight their way into the city where the president’s signal came from. Once inside, they find out that the real horror on this desolate long-forgotten planet is what the nuclear devastation did to the city’s former population. Complete with military gunfights, a cast of both likeable and loathsome characters, a hint of romance, a ton of betrayal, and a hostile apocalyptic world, The Dead Lands is a novel that should appeal to everyone who likes post-apocalyptic fiction.
Sounds great! I really love the post-apocalyptic genre. You’ve previously written horror stories, your collection Dominio della Morte and Blood War Trilogy of werewolf-vampire books having both been featured here before, so why have you shifted genre slightly to write a post apocalyptic novel?
Honestly, this didn’t start out to be a post apocalyptic novel, but that’s how it turned out. I was thinking horror when I started it, but the world I created to base this novel in was totally apocalyptic so that’s why I’m labeling the book as post apocalyptic. There are horror elements to the story, though: it’s no secret that the squadron encounters deformed mutations inside the city, survivors of the nuclear war that are intent on ripping the soldiers to pieces and devouring them. So the horror is there, and there’re elements of science fiction too. It’s a bit of a hybrid novel, containing many elements.
What was your inspiration for The Dead Lands?
Believe it or not it’s totally inspired by a first person shooter game. I’ve spent many hours playing the game Rage, by Bethesda Softworks, which is set on planet Earth after the asteroid Apophis hits and turns the world into a post apocalyptic wasteland. As with these types of shooter games you get given missions to complete, which often involves shooting people and blowing things up. It’s all good fun.
One mission in particular in the game is to trek into the Dead City to acquire a defibrillator from a hospital. The city is a destroyed wilderness inhabited by mutants that are hard to kill and come at you from all angles, and it’s by far the best mission in the game. It got me thinking that a story such as this, soldiers on a mission in a devastated city with monstrous abominations attacking them would make for a great novel, and the idea for The Dead Lands was born.
Would it be too inconvenient to ask for an excerpt of the book?
Sure, here you go:
Approaching the ladder, Lane released the safety on his Berserker and it hummed to life. The drain vibrated once more as whatever was ahead moved forward. Its breathing echoed again, not as a snort this time but a sniff—three in quick succession. The following grunt, rumbling down the drain like a fast-moving wave, told Lane the thing had detected their scent.
His fingers gripped a rung on the ladder, the PBU’s glove allowing him to detect the metal’s coldness and disfigured rust patches. He looked up the maintenance shaft. The night-vision lenses highlighted the entrance hatch’s outline at the surface. Relief edged into his emotions but mounting apprehension kept it in check.
Johan reached the ladder and grabbed a rung. “Lane, Braeden, Ludger, give cover fire if the need arises. I’ll get up there and see if I can open the hatch. Everyone else, prepare to follow.”
Johan pushed him aside, but Lane didn’t bother looking at how fast the lieutenant clambered up the ladder. Thrown off balance, Lane took a step away from the ladder, squad members filing in behind Johan’s departure, forcing him further from the drain’s wall. Before he knew it, Lane found himself opposite the ladder, furthest from the maintenance shaft. How the hell did that happen? A quick glance to his left told him Ludger stood guard nearest the steps, and that surprised him less than Johan’s eagerness to be the first out of the drainage system. The tunnel filled with the sound of movement: Johan’s harsh breathing as he scaled the ladder, the squadron’s shuffled movements as they prepared to ascend to the surface, and the rumbled growl of something huge approaching through the darkness.
He stared up the pipe, his gut twisting with fear as his visor detected movement and raised the yellow flag of a potential hostile.
The shaded hue of his infrared glares made the creature’s skin appear white. Bipedal, with a distended stomach and muscular arms, it stood at a bend in the pipe, head raised as it sniffed their scent on the air. Something hung limply from one of its hands—it resembled the upper torso of a torn body, one arm dangling to scrape along the drain’s curved base. The creature manipulated what looked like a leg bone with its other hand, as if using the limb to pry stubborn flesh from between its teeth.
Chilling stuff that’s exciting. Having browsed some of the early reviews this book has already received, there are a few expressing a wish for a sequel. Is there any chance of that happening?
Most probably. I didn’t actually finish the book with the intention of revisiting this world but lately a few images have been circling in my head, giving me possible scenes for a second book and already I’m excited about it. I usually do nothing to these ideas at first, and leave them to develop—if they hang around, grow, and take over my mind, then it’s time to exorcise them and get them out in the form of a novel.
If many more readers express an interest in a second installment from the Dead Lands universe then I’m almost certain they’ll be rewarded.
My debut novel, Hosts, tells the story of an isolated skiing community in Canada, cut off by a violent snowstorm as a prehistoric form of deadly parasite is swarming through town, infecting the residents. It’s reminiscent of the old-school horror situations of people stranded under dire situations and unable to contact help while faced with an insurmountable danger. There’s a love story in there too, for anyone who likes that kind of thing. It’s currently my biggest selling book on Kindle, especially in the UK.
My second novel, released in January of this year, Flesh, is a cannibalistic, ancient Indian mythology supernatural thrill-ride set in Wisconsin. An ancient evil stalks out of the woods to feast on the population of Vacant and the town’s police force resort to desperate measure to keep the beast sated and its residents safe. Sheriff Andrew Keller is a drunk with a haunting past that comes back to derail him at the worst possible time, putting everyone in danger.
I believe you may just be the next Dean Koontz! I love these kinds of books. What other books do you have available?
I have a trilogy of novellas; The Blood War Trilogy, which is a series detailing a centuries-old supernatural war between vampires, werewolves, and a hybrid race of the two species combined. The books themselves are entitled Bloodlines, Monsters and Mortals, and The Last Stand, and are available on Kindle and other eBook platforms.
A standalone novella, October Rain, is the story of Steele, a bounty hunter on Mars during the end of mankind’s existence as the human race tries to find new worlds to inhabit as the sun turns in to a Red Giant.
I also have a collection of short stories available, Dominio della Morte, featuring 19 of my best short fiction. The cover of the book, designed by Kari Klawiter, recently won an award for best eBook cover in the horror section.
Congratulations! How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing seriously now for about ten years or so. I started off creating silly short stories at first, just to see if I could actually write anything decent and when I discovered that my stories weren’t completely awful I decided to try and get myself published. That was a long and rocky road but eventually I managed to get my first short story published in an anthology and that gave me such a kick that I decided to go for it and write more.
I wrote only short stories at the start, for the first few years, and got a few good acceptances for my work. But the more ideas that came, the more they began to grow, and before long I couldn’t hold them back any more and the novels needed to be written. I seldom write short fiction anymore, it’s usually all long works and novel-length fiction, but it’s still nice once in a while to go back and create something under 6,000 words—it’s a much bigger challenge.
Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
Actually, I have a few different projects I’m tinkering with at the moment. I’m re-editing an apocalyptic novel with a difference that I wrote a few years ago; which will then go to proofreaders before I decide whether to actually go ahead and publish. I’ll be working on some short stories and flash fiction that I plan to give away free on my blog during the month of October in celebration of Halloween. And then there’ll be work on another novel, but I’m still unsure of which novel I will focus on first: I have a straight-out horror idea, plus two post apocalyptic ideas, one of which could be the sequel to The Dead Lands.
So there’ll plenty to come from me in the future, and together with my full-time job and family there’s a lot to keep me busy.
They all sound intriguing. Are you in a critique or writing group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
No, I’m not in a critique or writing group but I wanted to add that it’s very important to get critiques of your work, and have proof readers go over your manuscript, before sending it to a publisher, or indeed before self publishing yourself. You might think it’s the best piece of fiction ever written but it really isn’t. It’ll take a lot of revisions to get it ready for publication, a lot of other readers pulling it to pieces before you should even get close to being satisfied with what you’ve produced. And the chances are when you do publish your story there’ll still be faults in it. Just get it as good as it can be, and do so with all the help you can get.
I certainly agree with that. How do you unwind?
Being a family man spending time with my two teenage daughters helps me relax—which actually sounds strange, thinking about it. We watch movies together, go hiking, and play video games. It’s a great way to bond with your children. Plus I do all those things on my own as a way to relax and unwind. I love music, so just chilling with a book while listening to songs, or finding new artists on YouTube is a relaxing way to spend an evening. I don’t watch much television, but do enjoy “Game of Thrones”, “Vikings”, and “The Walking Dead”, and watch them every week when they’re running.
I’m a huge fan of “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead”. Can’t get enough of either one! Why do you write?
Because these tortured images and scenarios would plague my waking hours if I didn’t get them out of my head in the form of stories. I write because I want to; because I need to; because I have to.
Great answer. Thanks for joining us today, Dylan. For more information about Dylan: www.dylanjmorgan.com