Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Windigo Soul by Robert Brumm: Interview & Excerpt

Paper and elements by JasO (Forest Walk Kit).

It's Hank Reed's birthday. As a citizen of the United Federation of Nations that means a mandatory death sentence simply because he turned sixty years old. Referred to as "retirement," it's one of the desperate steps the government has taken to curb overpopulation. Retirement is a widely accepted fact of life on a dying planet ruled by a tyrannical government. Hank's execution goes ahead as planned but state sponsored euthanasia isn't what it seems. The Reed family learns what really happens to retirees when secrets the UFN keep from the public start to unravel.

Hank was instructed to disrobe and put on a hospital gown. He folded up his clothes and put them in a plastic bag with his name written on the outside. He was led into an adjacent room where he saw the chair he had been dreading his whole life. It would have been an ordinary dentist-type chair if not for the restraints. There were two for the feet, two for the arms, and one for the head.
By now Hank was trembling. His jaw was clamped shut, his mouth was bone dry, and his stomach was churning. He thought he was prepared for this. He had gone over this in his head a thousand times.
You sit down. They stick you. Lights out. You close your eyes, and it's dark. Nothing but darkness. There isn't anything to be afraid of. Millions of people have done it before me, and millions of people will follow.
All that logic disappeared when he saw the chair, and he barely noticed the man who was standing next to it. "Brother Reed, I'm Dr. Allen. Please have a seat and make yourself comfortable." Hank wasn't too surprised to see another armed guard standing in the corner. Wouldn't want the old man to try and make a break for it, not when they had him so close. What a shame it would be to mess up the schedule. He slowly moved to the chair and sat down.
"How is the sedative working?" Dr. What's-His-Name asked. Actually, Hank could feel it working quite well now. His arms and legs were getting heavy, and his head was starting to feel numb. He didn't reply, and the doctor didn't wait for the answer. He was busy fastening the restraints to Hank's legs while Jennifer worked on the arms. After they strapped his head to the back of the chair, Jennifer walked into Hank's field of vision and made her speech.
"Henry Reed. By order of the Mandatory Retirement Act, you are to be euthanized by lethal injection under the statutes of the Population Density Control Clause. The United Federation of Nations wishes to thank you for your contributions to the State and for the sacrifice you are making for all of mankind." Jennifer stepped aside, and Dr. Allen took her place.
"Now then, Brother, don't worry about a thing. This will be totally painless."
Hank was near total panic. His heart hammered away and he was gripping the armrests so hard his fingernails were practically piercing the vinyl covering.
"Wait," Hank gasped. The tip of the needle stopped inches from his arm. A single drop of the deadly payload hit Hank's arm. There was just a thin layer of skin keeping it from its destination.
"Brother," the doctor started.
"No. Please. I'm not ready." Hank's eyes shifted wildly from Dr. Allen, to Jennifer, to the always-silent guard. "Just give me another minute. Just until the sedative kicks in a little more, that's all."
"Henry, there's nothing to fear," Dr. Allen said in a soothing voice. "It will all be over in just a moment. You'll go to sleep, and it'll all be over."
Hank looked at Jennifer who gave him a little nod. With no further objections, the needle pierced his skin, and the clear liquid traveled to the other side. He looked up at the clock and watched the second hand slowly make its endless journey. Every second that ticked by brought him closer to the great unknown. Never a religious man, Hank didn't believe in any sort of afterlife, but now that he was seconds from death, doubt started to creep in. What was waiting for him on the other side? Unconscious darkness? Judgment from his maker? Paradise or an eternal damnation? His heart pounded like a hammer, the deadly substance making its way through his body with every pump.
Hank and Jennifer's eyes met, and he opened his mouth to say something. He wanted to say something profound and enlightening. He wanted to say something that would make everyone in the room question what it was they were doing. All he could manage was his wife's name.
Hank closed his eyes.

Also, Read my Review of this book on:
My Blog (April 30th)

How did you start your writing career?

It's not so much a career, more like a hobby. I'm one of those annoying people who love their day job and I write in my free time. I started writing years ago, but gradually got discouraged and lost interest. When it dawned on me about a year ago I could self-publish ebooks, I got into it again and haven't looked back since.

It's a really exciting time to be a writer and there is so much opportunity out there that didn't exist years ago. Instead of receiving rejection letters every day in the mail, unknown authors like me can publish on their own, and actually make a little money. My success or failure as a writer is 100% on me and nobody else. I love that! It's been a very rewarding experience and I've met a lot of great people along the way. 

Tell us about your current release.

Windigo Soul is set in the not-so-great future where pollution and overpopulation are killing the earth. A single totalitarian government, know as the United Federation of Nations, rules most of the planet. After decades of trying to keep overpopulation under control, the State passes a law where every citizen retires at the age of 60. That's a nice way of saying put to death.

The story revolves around Hank Reed and his family. He just turned 60 and it's his time to go. Hank is put to death as planned, but the Reed family learns a few things about what the government really does with retirees after they die. Again, not-so-great!

It's sci-fi mixed with some suspense, plenty of action, and a little horror. I've had a few readers tell me they found some parts disturbing and I take that as a compliment. What can I say? Writing brings out my dark side. 

Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?

One of my great illogical fears in life is spending time in prison. I don't plan on breaking the law anytime soon, but you never know when you could be the victim of an elaborate set-up and get sent to jail for a crime you didn't commit. It happened to the A-Team. It could happen to me. I'm a wimp, and I know I would get destroyed in the big house. When I created my character Howard Bell, from Desolate, I put myself in Howard's shoes when he was sentenced to life in prison. Like me, Howard is a skinny twerp who's never been in a fight in his whole life and hates confrontations. He's a beta male all the way and serving time in a maximum security prison camp scares him as much as it does me. In that way, I put a little bit of myself in Howard. He's no saint, and deserved to get put away for the crime he committed. But at the core, he's a good guy trying to make up for his mistakes and do the right thing when the opportunity arrives. I like to think that describes most of us. 

What do you find most rewarding about writing?

One of my absolutely favorite things about writing is creating worlds and the people that inhabit them. The island in Desolate is loosely based on a real island off the coast of Antarctica, named Deception Island. I wiped that island off the globe and replaced it with my own creation.

Windigo Soul was a bit more challenging. Unlike Desolate, which is set in our modern day world, W.S. is set in a dystopian future. Instead of a single island, I had to imagine an entire society built around a tyrannical government and a polluted Earth. Although the story is set in the distant future, I kept the technology similar to what we have today. Think North Korea. In many ways, that nation is still stuck in the past. When control over your citizens is priority one, technological innovation falls to the wayside.

I also enjoy developing characters and watching them almost take on a life of their own by the time the story is over. Writing dialog between characters is one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes I feel like I'm listening in on an actual conversation as I frantically dictate it to my computer. Then again, I just might be crazy. Either way, it can be very satisfying. 

Tell us about your family

My wife Tammy is the girl of my dreams and my daily inspiration. Once our kids were older, she earned her undergrad and masters degrees. After only a few short years, she had to give up her career in social work as her health problems got worse. She suffers from pustular psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, and a handful of other autoimmune disorders I either can't spell or can't remember. Last year, she developed end-stage kidney disease and her full time job these days is going to dialysis. She's currently waiting for a kidney transplant. If you have any lying around, toss one our way! Tammy was at the hospital over 14 times last year.

Despite all that, she refuses to let her health problems define who she is and she isn't giving up. Every single day of the week, she deals with constant pain, and the fear she won't live to see her boys get married. Tammy is the strongest person I know and the world is a better place with her in it.

Tammy also is a very talented writer, but I can't convince her to write about herself. She has one heck of a life story and I know if she ever got it down on paper it would be a best seller. Guaranteed.

We have two teenage boys. It's interesting how the challenges of raising kids change along with their age. These days, we are knee-deep in dealing with driving, girlfriends, drugs and alcohol, college prep, part-time jobs, and puberty. Sometimes, I long for the simple days of terrible-two temper tantrums and potty training. That being said, they are both great kids. I love them and I'm very proud of the young men they are turning into. As a typical male, I don't tell them mushy stuff like that to their faces. I guess they'll have to read this wonderful blog to learn my true feelings. 

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?

I read Stephen King's "On Writing" years ago, and the one thing that really stuck with me is his main rule: write a lot and read a lot. I struggle with both, but I agree wholeheartedly. Reading as many books as possible, by as many different authors as possible, can really teach you a lot. Reading a good book can help you recognize what makes great writing, just as what not do to when you read a stinker. Books can also provide plenty of fuel for your imagination.

Practice makes perfect. The only way to get better at writing is to write! Remember, not everything you write needs to be a masterpiece, just as everything doesn't need to be read by others. Keep a journal. Write out random thoughts. Develop a thick skin. Don’t give up.

Robert lives in southeastern Wisconsin with his wife, two sons, two cats, and a puggle. His day job is in IT and he writes fiction in his spare time.
Website  |   Email  |  Twitter


Anonymous said...

Great interview with a great up-n-coming writer!

CM Saunders

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview. I love the small glimpse into the authors personal life.