Dirk Patton - Drawn to Apocalyptic Themes
Dirk Patton is the best selling author of the V Plague and 36 series. He credits the Matt Helm series by Donald Hamilton and the outstanding Jane Whitefield series by Thomas Perry as the biggest influences on his writing style. As our Author of the Day, Patton tells us all about his V Plague series.
Please give us a short introduction to what Unleashed is about.
Unleashed is the story of a man who wakes up to find that the country has been attacked in a horrific manner, and he suddenly has only himself to rely on for survival. It is the result of me musing about what I’d do if the unthinkable happened. It came more from boredom while traveling for business. Sitting in a hotel room in Atlanta, I started thinking about what I’d do and how I’d get home to my wife if the world was suddenly plunged into an apocalyptic nightmare. So, the story begins with that very event and I’ve always approached it with the thought “what could possibly go wrong, next?”
Tell us more about John Chase. What makes him tick?
John Chase is me. He thinks what I think and cares about the things I care about. He is the culmination of my life experiences, good and bad, and he’s by far the easiest character to write. All I have to do I ask, “what would I do or say?"
Many of your books are apocalyptic horrors. What draws you to this genre?
I’ve always been drawn to apocalyptic themes. Probably my earliest exposure to the genre was movies such as The Omega Man and Planet of the Apes, both of which I remember loving at the time. I think it’s the concept of someone who is accustomed to our modern world having to figure out how to survive when everything they know is suddenly stripped away. The dangers and fear just seem so more plausible than a supernatural horror story. Perhaps much of this fascination with the end of the world stems from being a child of the cold war and growing up with the very real possibility that the US and the Soviet Union could destroy everything in only a few hours.
Your stories are very fast paced, yet detailed - how do you pull this off?
I wish I could tell you. It’s not a conscious effort on my part, for which I feel very fortunate. It’s simply how my mind works as I’m writing. The best way I can describe it is to say that when I’m writing, I’m just putting down on the computer what I’m seeing in my head. I actually visualize everything. Kind of like I’m watching a movie and all I have to do is write what I see. Probably sounds funny, but that’s how it works.
What makes your infected different than the run-of-the-mill zombies one usually finds in the genre?
The infected aren’t reanimated corpses. Again, that whole supernatural horror story thing. Sure, zombies are spooky. But what’s really frightening? Something that could actually happen. Millions of people infected by a bio-weapon which sends them into an uncontrollable, mindless rage. And all they want to do is kill you. They aren’t slow and shambling. Well, my infected males are, but the really scary ones in my books are the females. Fast, strong, smart and deadly. You can’t outrun them. And the whole time you’re reading about them, just keep in mind that somewhere in the world, someone may be working on weaponizing a virus that would do just that. Can you imagine waking up in that world one morning?
Do you ever have days when writing is a struggle?
Most definitely. These are usually because I haven’t come up with a clear direction for the storyline or character arc. I’ve learned the hard way that staring at the computer screen is most definitely not the way to come up with ideas. I have to get away, even if it’s just going outside and mowing the lawn or trimming some bushes. Let my mind work on the problem while I’m focusing on something completely mundane. Fortunately, that works well for me. I’ve had some of my best story ideas driving to the grocery store!
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m in the process of wrapping up the eighteenth book in the V Plague series, titled Cataclysm. It releases on December 28th and I think it’s one of the best books in the series. Lots of story lines are coming together and being wrapped up, so there’s been a lot of rereading my earlier work to ensure I didn’t create a conflict.