Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels, His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon and recognised as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists. As our Author of the Day, he talks about his latest book, Resurrection America, reveals some secret skills, what it feels like to let a character die and tells us all about his writing routine.
Please give us a short introduction to what Resurrection America is about
Resurrection America is about a small Colorado town placed under martial law when a biological weapon is accidentally released in the air. The local sheriff senses something isn’t quite right and he sets out to investigate whether the story the government is telling them is true. What he discovers is more terrifying than he imagined.
What inspired you to write about a small Colorado town that has been placed under martial law
I wanted to set up a microcosm of society at large but still, dissect the workings of small-town America. Thematically, the novel looks at middle-class desperation and how nationalism, taken to the extreme, can result in the end of society.
You wrote your first book in an effort to get your reluctant son to start reading. Tell us more about it
My son was a reluctant reader and also struggled with writing and self-expression. The more I read on the subject the more clear it was that these things were all linked. I started waking up an hour before school to read aloud to each other, but soon realized I needed something that would keep his attention more than the available books, so I wrote my own with him as the main character. It worked. He’s now an avid reader and a six-book series was born.
Resurrection America explores a scenario where everything is not as it seems. Why did you take this approach?
I write the types of books I personally enjoy reading. I love books that keep you guessing and that deliver satisfying twists along the way. Also, I feel that good genre fiction should still attempt to make a commentary on society or the human condition. The country today feels more and more disconnected from its institutions and the “truth” of what’s happening around us is hard to grasp. I wanted to impart a sense of that on this small stage of the town of Resurrection, but it’s really about America.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
As the father of five, I have an extensive knowledge of every animated movie released since 2001 and can build some mean Lego structures.
How did you manage to make the plot so chillingly plausible?
Modern day politics and current events prove challenging for fiction writers as the strangeness of our world can outpace our imaginations. The science in the book is really out there, but so is the reality of that science taking place in labs around the world. I added a science note at the end because so many reviews talked about how it was too far-fetched. Interestingly, the parts they thought went too far where the parts that are actual science.
Say this ever gets a movie adaptation - which actor would you like to see starring as Rick?
Henry Cavill (Superman) would be great. He had that hero look about him, but he has the range as an actor to show Rick’s demons and his uncertainty.
In Resurrection America it feels like none of the characters are safe - did you struggle with the decision to let some of them die?
Yes, I rarely plan ahead for one of my characters to die. It usually happens in the moment when I’m in a scene and then my fingers send up typing that someone dies. Sometimes I backspace, delete it, and resurrect them from the dead. But often it’s the right choice. Readers of my books know that no-one is safe and, I hope, they appreciate the truth in those moments.
Do you stick to a working routine?
When I’m really into something, I like to wake up before 5 AM and write to 8 AM. This clears the day to be a dad, edits, etc. The early morning grogginess is good for my creative muse.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? And, if so, how do you deal with it?
The only block I get it which idea to work on next. There is no shortage of ideas that intrigue me, but I know once I embark on the journey, I’ll be on it for a year. Picking the right idea out of the pile can be daunting. But once I get going, I don’t find it hard to keep rocking and rolling. Even the hardest parts are just fun puzzles to solve and I just write options until I figure it out.
Tell us about the cover and how it came about
I work on my covers with Carl Grave from Extended Imagery. He takes my chicken scratch and turns it into art. I think he really nailed this one.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
- Write every day because writers write.
- First draft work is the fertilizer draft — the pile of manure out of which good things will grow.
- Read Stephen King’s book On Writing. Then read it every six months after that.
What are you working on right now?
I'm returning to the horror genre with a book called Gypsy Blood.