The Joys of Crack and Dust
Why I went Apocalyptic
I did something no one else has ever done.
I wrote a book set in a post-apocalyptic future.
I know, I know.
You’re in awe.
Tj! you’re thinking. How did you come up with such a novel idea?
And therein lies the problem.
Post-apocalyptic, dystopian futures, all of this has been done before. It’s like that saying goes, that there’s nothing new under the sun. Tropes are tropes for a reason. Look at The Hunger Games. Look at the video game series Fallout. Look at Mad Max. Or I Am Legend. Or The 100. Or Book of Eli. Dawn of the Dead. Battle Royale. The Road (which, if you haven’t read this book by Cormac McCarthy, do it. It’s one of the best things ever). 28 Days Later. The Stand (Stephen King’s best work, in my opinion). Resident Evil. The Last of Us.
Whether it be nuclear bombs, or disease, or zombies, or humanity’s rage, the world falls, civilization crumbles, and we are left with little pockets of humanity across a scarred landscape who are usually embroiled in a battle against Forces of Evil (i.e. new government, old government, crazy motherfuckers, zombies, crazy motherfucking zombies).
So it’s all be done before. It really, really has.
And here I was, a writer of cracky man love who sometimes who could write angst, comedy, drama, and who occasionally dabbled into something darker. Here I was, thinking, okay, but if it’s all been done before, could I actually do something that was any different?
I knew, going into writing Withered + Sere, that it was going to be a massive undertaking. This world I created would be large, and would be populated by good people and evil people, and people whose moral compasses were firmly planted in the gray. I also knew going into it, that the only way I’d actually be able to do this post-apocalyptic story would be if I could put my own unique spin on it.
Let’s be real. There are people out there who’ve written stories about the end of the world that are far better writers than I could ever hope to be. I know this. I understand this. I don’t know if I could ever even be even remotely close to their level. But it didn’t stop me from trying.
I wanted to see what happened if I ended the world. If civilization did crumble, if billions of people did die, what would I do with what remained? Would I have anything new to add?
I think I did. I hoped I did. I don’t mean that to sound conceited or self-involved, either. Honestly. Given that this was so far from anything I’d ever done before, I knew that I needed to end the world in a way that was distinctly Klune but not devolving into the crack that I’m known to write. The dialogue here is sparse because the main character, Cavalo, doesn’t like to talk much. He doesn’t want to talk much. The other main character, Lucas, can’t talk, given some mysterious injury he’d sustained sometime in the past.
I love dialogue. I love writing people talking and snarking back and forth.
I love it so much, that to make this story different than anything I’d done before, I didn’t allow myself to fall back into the slinging of words. By taking away one character’s ability to speak at all, it forced me to find other ways to communicate, to relay the story without the crutch of vocalizing my point. And I did, though it was in ways I wasn’t expecting when I first started, and I like to think it adds another layer to the story, that it leaves it up to the reader to decide if Cavalo is actually having the conversations he thinks he’s having, or if it’s just a product of his imagination, that he’s getting response he’s thinking he should get.
And, of course, there’s the end of the world. The landscape, the remains of what once was. When you have a post-apocalyptic story, one of the most important characters you can have is the landscape. Is there the futuristic sheen of a dystopian society? Or is there the grunge and grime of a ravaged society?
I wanted to go with the grunge and the grime. I wanted to get motherfucking dirty in this book. By the time the W+S and its sequel, Crisped + Sere, are finished, I wanted the reader to feel the dirt under their fingernails, the dust in their throat. The setting is as important as the main characters, because if the setting isn’t believable, then it runs the risk of ruining the story as a whole.
I had fun with this, creating this dirty, dirty world. The landscape is dotted with hints of the past, from burn out husks of cars and billboards for personal injury attorneys, to the way the people who remain live their lives.
And that, to me, is the crux of these two books. The reader is told at the beginning that a hundred years have passed since the world ended. The idea that I couldn’t shake while writing this would be how would those people live their lives? Would they act completely different than we do today? Or would they still cling to what they’d been taught by those who came before them? We are ingrained with years on how a human being should act. I find it fascinating to think about how people would attempt to go on with business as usual, even if they don’t necessarily understand why they think that. It’s what they were taught by those who came before them. Those people were taught by those who came before them, and those are the ones that lived and loved in a bright and shiny world, and they passed down their traditions and mannerisms, and I think that those things would continue, even after the world ended. We act as we were taught. Yes, we learn from new experiences, but we are still human, and there are centuries of life before us that we draw from. We do the things we do because we were taught how to do them, even if we don’t realize it.
So. I hope you’re ready to get down and dirty with me. Because we’re about to crawl through the mud.
Withered + Sere Blurb:
Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.
One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the North Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.
It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.
The world has died.
This is the story of its remains.
Dreamspinner Press Publications: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/withered-sere-by-tj-klune-240-b
Withered + Sere Blog Tour:
April 12 – MM Good Book Reviews
April 13- My Fiction Nook
April 18 – Just Love Romance
April 19 – Divine Magazine
April 19 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
April 19 – The Novel Approach
April 20 – Kimi-chan Experience
April 21 – It’s About the Book
April 21 – Love Bytes
April 22 – Prism Book Alliance
When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay, because he’s recently become a full-time writer, and can give them the time they deserve.
Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.
And one of those things isn’t true.
(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)
Facebook: TJ Klune