Monday, May 24, 2021

Gene Doucette Interview - The Apocalypse Seven

Photo Credit: Leanne's Studio of Photography

GENE DOUCETTE is the author of more than twenty sci-fi and fantasy titles, including The Spaceship Next Door and The Frequency of Aliens, the Immortal series, Fixer and Fixer Redux, Unfiction, and the Tandemstar books. Gene lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Publisher : John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 25, 2021)
Publication date : May 25, 2021
Language : English
File size : 6971 KB


“Doucette’s ’seven’ aren’t just 'magnificent'—they're also entertaining as hell.” —Scott Sigler, New York Times bestselling author of the Infected Trilogy

"The adventure I've been looking for! Never once did I know what to expect, and I loved being proved wrong at every turn. Far more mind-bending than a book this fun has any right to be." —Zack Jordan, author of The Last Human

“[A] riveting postapocalyptic outing… Doucette’s vibrant prose and unique premise make for an enticing adventure.” —Publishers Weekly

“A cinematic, speculative exercise in which a ragtag band saves the world, kind of.” —Kirkus Reviews

Greatest thing you learned in school?
I think my favorite class was a college course in playwriting. I remember seeing it available when I was a freshman, but it was only supposed to be offered to juniors and seniors without the professor’s sign-off, so I went to the professor and asked. He said, I’ll sign it if you can tell me how to spell “playwright”. I spelled it correctly, and when he asked why it was spelled that way I said, because it’s a craft.

He signed off, I took the class, had a great time, and learned that I was a natural when it came to writing dialogue.

But what did I learn? Well, based on that story I evidently learned that I already knew the answer so maybe that’s not the best example. Honestly, outside of the things I was deeply passionate about I wasn’t a very good student. I think what I learned was that it was up to me to go find those things about which I was passionate, and learn about them on my own, which is what I started doing as soon as I graduated college.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’ve been doing this for a little while, but up until a few years ago all my titles were either with a small publisher (briefly) or self-published. Both of those avenues can get you almost everything a large market publisher can get you, but it’s really hard to break into bookstores that way. The reprint for The Spaceship Next Door was the first time I was able to walk into just about any bookstore in the country and find my title on the shelf and that was pretty fantastic.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
Oh gosh, that depends on what “first” means. My first attempt to write a novel was in eighth grade and it was essentially Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fan-fic. My first completed novel was a monstrosity called Cycle of the Assassin. That began as a project on a writer’s board on a BBS my friend ran back in the late 1980’s and was originally intended as a 12 issue comic book plot that I just kept writing. That’s never seen the light of day, and rightfully so. The first completed novel that I properly shopped was a serial killer story called Charlatan, which I wrote after reading a Dean Koontz novel and thinking, “Well hell, I can do THIS.” I got my first agent with that novel, which he never sold. I turned it into a screenplay that won a couple of awards but also never sold.

The first novel that I wrote and that I published was Immortal. It had a checkered history on its way to publication too—a second agent who didn’t sell it, a few years in a drawer, a publisher, a second publisher, a third publisher, and now self-published—but it is a novel I finished that can be obtained today. My inspiration for that book was that I had by then (2003) figured out that I’m a decently entertaining blogger when I put my mind to it, so maybe I can figure out how to turn my blogger voice into a work of fiction. So I invented Adam the immortal man, a first-person narrator who talked a lot like how I wrote blog posts.

Tell us your latest news.
I have a lot going on! I’m about 2/3 of the way through the third book in my Tandemstar series; it’s called The Ocean in the Sky and it’s expected out by the end of October. I’ve also begun a serial story on Amazon Vella (‘Zon is rolling this out later in the summer) called Invasion Nation; I have ten episodes completed and ready to go, and hope to have ten more before the platform launches. I’m doing the groundwork on a new standalone sci-fi that is either going to be a lot like The Apocalypse Seven and The Spaceship Next Door in tone or it’s going to be a horror story. I haven’t decided yet. Finally, I’ve got something going on with a screenplay that I can’t disclose in detail yet but about which I’m very excited.

Can you tell us when you started THE APOCALYPSE SEVEN, how that came about?
I started writing The Apocalypse Seven in April of 2019 and finished at the end of May 2019, which sounds fast but it had been percolating for a while—I just had other projects to finish first.

I think I got the idea back in 2018, around the time of the release of the Spaceship Next Door, and my train of thought was, “what do I show the publisher next?” Because Spaceship was a reprint—I self-published it first in late 2016 before HMH picked it up—and I wanted to try giving them something entirely new. I went from there to, “well, apocalypse stories are always fun”, and I’d never written one before which is a big plus for me. (You’ll find, in riffling through my catalogue, that I rarely dwell in one place for long.) Sometime after that I had my premise, which was, “wouldn’t it be funny if the main characters slept through the apocalypse?” And I was on my way.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
If they’re thinking of anything other than (hopefully) how entertained they are, I hope they go down the same path I did when writing it. I began by saying, “what do I personally rely upon in order to survive from one day to the next, and what happens if that goes away?” The sudden privation the characters experience when they have no societal infrastructure to fall back on—no electrical power, no battery power, even antibiotics don’t work any longer—is jarring for them. I’m hoping readers develop an appreciation of the value of our collective interdependence.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
Every character got their own chapter to wake up, look around, and realize something was horribly wrong. Those early chapters were a lot of fun, because everyone’s reaction was different, and those reactions said a lot about who they were as a person. I enjoyed exploring the varied perspectives and delving into the distinctive points-of-view.

What chapter was the most memorable to write and why?
The last one. The Apocalypse Seven is very much a mystery box story, and I got to open the box in the last chapter. This meant that during every moment leading up to that chapter, I was mentally writing it. I’m thinking of one moment in particular, or rather, one line of dialogue in particular. I can’t tell you what it is because that would be a massive spoiler. I think readers can probably figure it out though.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
It’d be a cross-genre affair, but I think Adam, my narrator from the Immortal series, would fit right in with the apocalypse seven. If there’s anyone who has good advice on how to survive without any of the advantages of modern society, it’s a guy who’s been alive for 60,000 years.

Either that or Annie Collins from The Spaceship Next Door. She might not bring as much experience as Adam to a post-apocalypse, but she knows her way around aliens and has enough snark to fit right in.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Way back in the mid-2000’s, I was having trouble pinning down Immortal to a genre category. The book is ostensibly fantasy—there are vampires and demons and what-not—but I have no magic in it and I do have sci-fi concepts. So it either fit in both or neither.

Now this was back when it was possible to find someone’s email, send them something, and expect for them to actually read it, which is to say that I managed to figure out how to contact Christopher Moore and get an actual response from him. His books are very much “a little bit of everything” in nature too, so I asked him what to call the genre he and I were both writing in. His answer was, write what you want and let someone else worry about what genre it is.

  • 10: I am very bad at not saying the first thing that pops into my head if the first thing that pops into my head happens to be funny.
  • 9: Yes, I have indeed had conversations with HR departments because of this.
  • 8: When I was a child and an adult said, “Listen carefully” I would strain to do this. Now I can wiggle my ears.
  • 7: I have a split uvula. (It’s not what you think it is; look it up.)
  • 6: I have a voice that carries very well, which is great if I’m speaking in public and not always as great if what I’m saying is the first thing that pops into my head.
  • 5: My longest-running character is the very outgoing, very funny, and often very drunk immortal man named Adam, and since Adam’s stories are written in first-person, I think a lot of people assume he and I are similar. We are but we’re not. I’m far more introverted.
  • 4: Also, if I acted too much like Adam I think my wife would divorce me.
  • 3: Actually I think the term is Outgoing Introvert. I am way more comfortable on a stage in front of a crowd than I am face-to-face in an informal setting. I suck at parties.
  • 2: When I was a child I was super self-conscious of my ears, which wiggled but more importantly which I thought were too large. To deal with the ears I grew my hair long enough to cover them. But my hair is curly so it just floofs all over the place when it’s long enough to cover the ears. To compensate for that I wore a baseball cap everywhere. But you can’t wear a baseball cap in formal photographs so I’d have to take it off, and the hair would retain the shape of the hat. As a consequence, in every photo of me as a child it looks like I have Princess Leia buns on the sides of my head.
  • 1: When I was very young a diner waitress asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, “bookmaker”. I meant “writer” and not “professional bookie”, a point my parents were quick to make. All the same, I’ve wanted to be a writer since at least that day.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Oh God, I don’t know. I don’t go places and do things. I’ll say, write a novel, because it’s difficult but rewarding.

Best date you've ever had?
I’m probably the least-romantic functioning adult you’ll ever meet, on top of which I’ve been married for over 30 years now so I have to be honest: this one’s a reach. Every answer I give is going to revolve around dining out somewhere, so…I remember we went to dinner at this restaurant in the area that no longer exists, called the Pillar House. It was memorable, because they had lion on the menu and we ordered it. I wouldn’t say that was the best or the worst, but I get to say I’ve tasted lion.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
Back to the Pillar house: the only problem with that story is when people ask me what lion tasted like, I can’t remember.

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
I had a play of mine produced when I was in college. This was a little unusual because usually the group that produced the play—a student-run, faculty-overseen group—didn’t do anything but established scripts. I wasn’t involved in the production in any capacity, and in fact I stage-managed a different play that was being produced at the same time in order to stay as far from the production as possible.

The play was called Habeas Corpus. It was an exploration of death. (I know: fun! In my defense I was in college.) The conceit was that there was a body in a park; various characters came across the body and reacted in ways that made it clear they were way more involved in their own mortality than in that of this dead man’s. At the end, we find out the man isn’t even dead, but none of them ever bothered to call an ambulance because they were so preoccupied with themselves. The climax was kind of hard-hitting—literally, someone hit the body, it started bleeding, and someone shouted “dead bodies don’t bleed”—and I was really proud of the twist at the end.

What I did not expect was how profoundly hard this hit the audience. After the show I was like, hey what did you think wasn’t that great? And basically, everyone was too upset to talk to me. I even had a professor say he’d have to give me notes later: he had to go on a long walk alone first.

I didn’t really appreciate the impact of what I wrote; I was looking at it as a series of plot points, buttons and switches and what-not. I’m still this way, but now I better understand the potential power of what I’m working with.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Europe. Anywhere in Europe, basically. I’ve never been there, and yet I’ve set stories in England, France and Germany, not to mention Greece, Turkey and India. I have plenty of characters who are world travelers, but I am not one.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
If I’m thinking right before I fall asleep I’m not falling asleep so you see my problem. I am inevitably working out plot points on one of my projects. If I get too involved in this I just don’t sleep.

First Heartbreak?
Well, I’ve already described myself as the least romantic functioning adult you’ll ever meet, so you know my answer to this isn’t going to be precisely what you’re looking for. Every answer I can think of—like, my first novel didn’t sell, my second novel didn’t sell, my first screenplay didn’t sell, Firefly got canceled—are examples of disappointment and not heartbreak. I’ve been married 30+ years; it’s possible I haven’t had my heart broken.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I’m going to Kobayashi Maru this one and say the premise is flawed and I choose the third option: hacking into the program and make true-love-that-without-heartbreak a valid choice.

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a whatever.

The whateverpocalypse. That’s what TourĂ©, a twenty-something Cambridge coder, calls it after waking up one morning to find himself seemingly the only person left in the city. Once he finds Robbie and Carol, two equally disoriented Harvard freshmen, he realizes he isn’t alone, but the name sticks: Whateverpocalypse. But it doesn’t explain where everyone went. It doesn’t explain how the city became overgrown with vegetation in the space of a night. Or how wild animals with no fear of humans came to roam the streets.

Add freakish weather to the mix, swings of temperature that spawn tornadoes one minute and snowstorms the next, and it seems things can’t get much weirder. Yet even as a handful of new survivors appear—Paul, a preacher as quick with a gun as a Bible verse; Win, a young professional with a horse; Bethany, a thirteen-year-old juvenile delinquent; and Ananda, an MIT astrophysics adjunct—life in Cambridge, Massachusetts gets stranger and stranger.

The self-styled Apocalypse Seven are tired of questions with no answers. Tired of being hunted by things seen and unseen. Now, armed with curiosity, desperation, a shotgun, and a bow, they become the hunters. And that’s when things truly get weird.

You can purchase The Apocalypse Seven at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you GENE DOUCETTE for making this giveaway possible.
7 Winners will receive a Copy of APOCALYPSE SEVEN by Gene Doucette.
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