Back when I was sixteen, and some of my older friends were getting their driver’s licenses, we used to drive out to a nearby park to spend our afternoons walking miles of trails and gazing at the large, calm reservoir smack in the center of the woods. Perhaps my teenage mind still clung to a portion of childhood creativity, but I soon began to envision the creations of a story that would take over a decade to develop into this novel. The distant hills were swarming with soldiers and the open fields were places of war. I knew back then that I wanted to be a writer, with much thanks to authors like Kurt Vonnegut, who showed me at a young age that fiction could truly be anything that the writer wanted it to be.
A year later, when I was seventeen and had a driver’s license of my own, I went to the park by myself day after day, walking the same trails and plotting out the story and characters. Originally, this novel was titled Chaos, but that name didn’t seem to fit as the years went by. I did try to sit and write the novel in my early twenties, but two things happened: 1) I wasn’t a good enough writer at twenty years of age. 2) The story wasn’t there yet. Years passed, and when I was twenty-eight, I forced myself to hammer out the words. I didn’t care how they came out; I just couldn’t put it off any longer. So I finished the manuscript, and low and behold … it stunk. It was hard for me to swallow that it would have to be rewritten from scratch. To ease my mind, I started writing longhand, an idea that had only come to me a few days previous.
That idea would develop into my first novel, The Experiment of Dreams. Months passed, and when I had sent The Experiment of Dreams out to be edited, I decided to sit and give The After War another shot. I had dreaded the thought of having to start the novel all over again, thinking the task would be impossible. But once I began to type, and the words started flowing, I realized how much I missed the characters, and wanted to live in their shoes once more. I wanted to get Simon out of the cabin safely, and I wanted to witness again the struggle between Brian and Steven as it developed. I also included a new main character, and it seemed impossible that he wasn’t there from the beginning: Winston. This time, the manuscript came out the way I had intended, and my writing was much more polished. It still took years to finish, and in the interim, as the manuscript was being edited and proofread, I finished another shorter novel, Whiskey Devils. It is strange to still be working on my first novel, despite having published two others. It brings me immense happiness to be done with The After War, but I’m also terribly sad to see these characters go. They came to be when I was sixteen, and now, twenty years later, it is like losing my best friends. I grew up and aged with them, and their characters developed much as my adolescent mind matured into adulthood. Goodbye Simon and Brian, you will always be with me. Winston, you’re such a good boy.
About the novel:
Two years have passed since mankind faced extinction. Brian Rhodes and his cousin, Steven, are leaving the protection of their underground bunker for the first time, after a cataclysmic war and unrelenting disease ravaged the earth.
On the other side of the North American continent, young Simon Kalispell is leaving the safety and seclusion of his cabin deep in the woods, traveling with his aging canine companion, Winston.
For individual reasons, these men are traveling east, where the fragmented lives of a small number of survivors will soon be decided by the choices of a corrupt few.
Simon Kalispell and Brian Rhodes are not yet aware, but the strength that resides inside them will soon be tested, and destiny will call for their fates to be forever intertwined.
A procession was heading down the main street of town. Two columns of savages marched in near unison. But these men were no soldiers. They were ragged and filthy, and carried with them a wide array of weaponry—rifles, machine guns, pistols. Many held sledgehammers, machetes, various swords, and large and small pry-bars, some the size of walking sticks. These improvised weapons were scoured at the ends to reveal the steel of which they were made, gleaming like silver, and were muddied with earth and gore. The men looked as if they had marched out of some dismal pit of hell that had vomited them forth, seeming to defile the very earth of which they trod. They wore a vast array of military clothing of no particular origin and had adorned themselves and their weapons with torn pieces of red cloth, like flags, along with garnished trophies of war—what looked like dried, brown human ears and tanned hides. They cast about them a red and brown hue, as if they wore these shades as part of a collective uniform.
Brandon Zenner is an American fiction writer and an Amazon bestselling author. His short fiction has been published in both print and online publications, the first being submitted when he was 19 years old. The Experiment of Dreams, his debut eBook thriller, has reached Amazon's best seller list many times. His second novel, Whiskey Devils, was released in early 2016. The After War, a dystopian thriller, is available now as a pre-order, at 80% off the final sale price. You can follow the author on his Amazon page, or through his email list on his website. All email subscribers will receive his futuristic short story, "Helix Illuminated," for free as a thank you. His genres of choice are thrillers, crime, dystopian, and science fiction.
You can find Brandon on Facebook and Twitter. The After War will remain $0.99 throughout the blog tour. You can pre-order your copy now on Amazon.