FIND THIS ZOMBIE AUTHOR ON:
My guest today is soldier/writer W.J. Lundy.
A veteran of the U.S. Military with service in Afghanistan, W.J. has over fourteen years of combined service with the Army and Navy in Europe, the Balkans, and Southwest Asia. W.J. is an avid athlete, backpacker and shooting enthusiast.
After being asked in jest about how it would be possible to defend against a zombie attack, W.J. began taking notes about his ideas and sure enough the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series was born. In fact, W.J. wrote the first book of the series, Escaping the Dead in a small, spiral bound note book and later tapped it out on a keyboard once he got back home.
So it just goes to show you, 3.5 readers. You never know where or when inspiration might strike.
NOTE: BOLD=BQB; ITALICS = WJ
Q. W.J., welcome. Thanks for talking to me today and thank you for your service. Obviously, I’m not a military man but I’m going to wager that “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” translates into “WTF” or in other words, a phrase I might yell if I see a zombie, correct?
A. Absolutely, it is a bit of military vernacular. There are so many common phrases like this, and when I came up with the story line WTF fit the tale best, it really punctuates that first flash message to your brain when the target refuses to go down. It also translates nicely into civilian speak.
Q. I’m just going to throw it out there. I’m envious of your multi-tasking skills. I’m always whining that I’m never able to find the time to write and yet here you are, serving in the military, fighting evil, being an all around bad ass and such, and you still find time to write and publish. Meanwhile, if I feel a little cranky, or tired, or if there’s a good movie on HBO then I call it quits on writing for the rest of the day, so my hat goes off to you, sir. How do you do it? For aspiring scribes like myself, what advice do you have to balance work and writing?
A. I have to admit I find it very difficult. When I first started writing it was to fill the voids and occupy the down time while overseas, I could pour words on the page. As I returned from Afghanistan, my downtime was replaced with family time and many, many, other things. Now that the series and demand for more books has taken off, I typically find myself writing in the midnight hours of the day. I have pushed a lot of TV viewing and pleasure reading to the back for a while.
Breaks tend to help me and motivate my writing. Recently I was out on a 12 week training stint, it pulled me completely out of my creative zone, those reboots slow down my production, but I also come back with fresh ideas and a stronger drive to tackle a project. I like opening a document back up after one of those extended breaks, it’s like seeing something from a different POV and the characters really begin to take off again.
Q. There’s an old adage that goes, “Write what you know.” Obviously, you’re doing that here. How does your military experience inform the journey of your protagonist, Staff Sergeant Brad Thompson as he and his brothers and arms fight the zombie hordes?
A. The biggest connection to my experience is with the character development and the character interactions, I also like to take readers to different parts of the world, places the average civilian will never experience. At the heart of the story, I like to stay true to my service background, and the military’s core values. Even if it at times it makes the story line feel stiff, I will choose realism over fantasy action scenes. In a civil breakdown like in WTF, it would all fall down to discipline and small unit leadership. Most of my real world missions have all been Joint service and I like to describe the “one team-one fight” relationship that the different branches of the service have. As long as those things remain after the balloons go up, I think we have a chance. If people stop working together and the military and law enforcement fall into anarchy and chaos we are all F’d….
Q. Divided We Fall, which is Book Six of the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series, has currently sold 150,000 copies and has 1,000 five star reviews by Amazon customers. Admittedly, I’m no publishing expert, but I am a book nerd and in my experience, that’s pretty amazing. The average of all your customer reviews is 4.8 and to put things in perspective, George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones has a 4.5 average. I’m not putting down Game of Thrones, but it just goes to show even the likes of the great George R.R. will have the occasional crabby reviewer throw a monkey wrench in the works. Can you take my 3.5 readers and I under your wing, oh wise one, and put us on the path to greatness with a few writing tips? How are you able to acquire such a high level of customer satisfaction?
A. Honestly I am amazed at my readers and the kind reviews I have received. The best thing I can say is write in your own voice, and don’t try to paint a picture in someone else’s vision … If that makes sense. I’ve helped a few aspiring writers and some of the worst things I’ve read is when a writer is trying to mimic another work, or write in someone else’s voice. Just tell the story the way you’d tell it to a friend, describe the scenes the way you see them. And of course find a quality trusted editor that you like and enjoy talking to. If you don’t like your editor, or have a bond with them it will show in the end result.
Q. Do you have any plans to branch out and possibly have the military fight other types of monsters? Just spitballing here, but Army Dudes vs. Cthulhu would be pretty sweet.
A. The Darkness Series is an Alien\Zombie hybrid tale, I have big things in mind for that series. The tone really hardens in the second book of the series The Shadows. If you like Body Snatchers with a mix of Battle of Los Angeles I think you will dig The Darkness. It is a fast developing Science fiction horror tale with some hard hitting guerrilla warfare dropped on top. The setup has been laid down with TD and I am really letting things go wild in TS.
Q. W.J. thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. Before I go, do you have any last minute advice that might help my friends and I brave the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?
A. Zombies are synonymous with any threat (hurricane, terror attack, random violence). Stay vigilant, stay alert and stay alive. Whenever possible travel in pairs, know when to fight and when to run, and when you must fight, then fight as a team. Know your terrain and most importantly, always have a plan and a place to regroup with family if you lose comms.