Books, Featured

Tell Us What Got You Hooked on the Post Apocalypse & Win ‘Days Too Dark’!

Want to win a copy of an AMAZING post-apocalyptic book? Read on for details! 

We’re giving away three free copies of J.J. Shurte’s post-apocalyptic book, Days Too Dark! For a chance to win a copy, all you have to do is share with us on Twitter what book, movie, TV show, or game first got you interested in the post-apocalyptic genre and be sure to include the hashtag #TheOneThatGotMeHooked. The winners will be selected at random among participants, and receive the post-apocalyptic book by J.J. Shurte in the mail or something. We will also be publishing a story after the winners are announced, sharing all the best stories about #TheOneThatGotMeHooked. (Deadline to enter is in a week, next Thursday at 11:59 p.m., as we will be announcing the winner on Friday morning!)

Here’s a short-ish description of Days Too Dark: “Mars watches over the camp and guards the caravans as they make their way through the ruins of Brisbane, the last city in Australia to fall. The pay is terrible and the threat of death hangs over him constantly, but it’s basically what he did before the world ended. Despite his best efforts to bury himself in solitude and his work, all too often Mars finds himself in the eye of the storm. He doesn’t mind though; anything to stay busy and keep his mind off things. But when he’s wounded and left bedridden, there’s nothing else for Mars to do but stop and confront himself and the things he’s done. Years of facing off against sickness, misery, violence and death have done nothing to prepare him for his toughest fight yet — being helpless and trapped with his own thoughts. Designed as an in-world journal, ‘Days Too Dark’ is a first-hand account of the fall of the old world and the events that transpired after. With beautiful illustrations and a collection of artifacts from before and after the world ended, ‘Days Too Dark’ takes readers through the collapse of Brisbane city while exploring the shattered psyche of a broken man. If you like post-apocalyptic stories like ‘Mad Max’, ‘The Book of Eli’, ‘The Road’ or ‘The Last of Us’ then you’ll love the grim desperation of ‘Days Too Dark’.” 

All you have to do to enter is tweet your story about what got you interested in the post-apocalyptic genre and include the hashtag #TheOneThatGotMeHooked. 

Want to know more about the book? Read our Q&A below with author J.J. Shurte, as he discusses the book, Van Helsing, and Becho on The 100.

1.) Tell me a little about yourself, background-wise. 🙂 You mentioned in another interview that the only character you can really relate to is the brooding protagonist. Can you tell me more about that and how this inspired the protagonist of Days Too Dark, Mars?

Hi, I’m Josh but everyone just calls me JJ. I’m an Indie-Author from Australia, I studied Creative Writing at the University of the Sunshine Coast and I’ve worked a multitude of deadend jobs over the years. I just finished a TESOL course though, so in a few weeks I’ll be moving to Taiwan to teach English. I focus on Post-Apocalyptic stories because of the creative freedom it gives me, but also because sometimes life is just hard and we need stories about overcoming hardships to show us that it’s possible. The whole world ending would suck for pretty much everyone, so the Post-Apocalyptic genre is a good vehicle for any sort of message about perseverance and hope in the face of adversity.

Sometimes life is just hard and we need stories about overcoming hardships to show us that it's possible. -- J.J. Shurte Click to Tweet

As for why I like the brooding protagonists, someone who is “brooding” is obviously thinking about something and I want to know what that something is. If it’s occupying their mind, more-so than the events currently transpiring in the story, then you know it’s got to be something juicy. It’s a hint that the character has an interesting back story and that you’re going to have to work to find out what it is.

As for why this inspired me to write Mars, it’s because the character archetype was getting a bad rap a few years ago. I get that people would get sick of the archetype, or any archetype, if they’re overrepresented in the market, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. If the brooding protagonist is done well then there’s a very good reason for them being the way they are, and that reason will tie in with the story you’re reading. I wanted to write a story where we got a look inside the mind of a brooding protagonist, to see how and why they ended up the way they are.

2.) What is your favorite scene or (scenes) in Days Too Dark? What about the book makes you most proud?

I like the scenes that showcase just how flawed Mars is, and I love scenes where he does something wrong for the right reasons. Mars is a complex character and he’s on a dark path, it’s going to be a very interesting journey to get him where he needs to be.

As for what I’m most proud of, that would have to be all the little details that nobody is ever going to notice. There are secret messages written in Morse code and Russian, homages to other Post-Apocalyptic works, the roses, the birds and the nines. I’ve crammed a lot in there, and anyone who likes to dig deep into stories won’t be disappointed.

There are secret messages written in Morse code and Russian... Anyone who likes to dig deep into stories won't be disappointed. Click to Tweet

3.) Tell me a little about your run-in with the Van Helsing folks (I’m sorry, I can’t resist this, haha.) Did you ever send them a copy of the book? Will the person in charge of Van Helsing’s Twitter make an appearance in a future book, lol?

(Syfy)

Okay, I have to preface this by stating that I’ve finished watching the first two seasons of Van Helsing and it got a lot better. It’s nothing that great, but it’s certainly watchable television.

I took issue with how they chose to portray Vanessa in the first episode of Van Helsing. They needed to establish that she was a tough-as-nails badass before the world ended, which is fine, but they did it in a questionable way. This doctor asks her out while she’s at a clinic and she rebuffs his advances, which is fine. Then she goes home and her neighbour is being beaten by her boyfriend/partner and so Vanessa proceeds to beat the crap out him. So men are a nuisance at best and a threat to be defeated at worst and Vanessa Van Helsing is here to take out the trash! This was only in the first episode mind you, it got a lot better about this sort of stuff pretty quickly.

It bugged me at the time though, and I was talking about it with a mate on Twitter. Just randomly, because the people who run the show obviously monitor mentions of it on Twitter, the showrunner and one of the writers jumped into the conversation. I got accused of mansplaining and sexism. I said it wasn’t sexist to want better writing and they told me to give them a break because it was “TV, not Tolstoy.” Things pretty much spiraled from there.

Like I tried to tell them, and reiterated on my blog, I’m not against their female lead but against how poorly they established her. Look at a show like The Expanse, that’s got a great cast of female characters who all hold their own amongst their male counterparts. The toughest character on the show is a chick who is referred to as the “Martian Tank.” They’re all badasses and they don’t need to punch a misogynist or tear down the patriarchy to establish that, they just are.

It just struck me as really on the nose and it took me out of the story, which is something you don’t want to do when you’re trying to captivate people. Like I said though, the show got a lot better with this sort of thing and I actually started to get into it. I agree with some of their creative choices, disagree with others but it’s usually good enough to keep me interested. Besides, the issue was no way near as atrocious as the faux pas from Wynonna Earp so it’s not that big of a deal.

4.) What was the toughest part about writing Days Too Dark? I know that the loss of your dad inspired parts of this book. Would you like to share more about that?

Yeah, the day the world ends in the story is the day my dad passed away in real life.

I’d been climbing Mount Tibrogargan one morning (it’s this mountain that looks like a gorilla) and the mountain tends to block phone reception until you reach the top.

I get up there and my phone blows up with all these texts and missed calls, and so I call my sister and she’s crying and she tells me about our dad. People have to get rescued from Mount Tibrogargan via helicopter all the time, it’s pretty damn steep, but that morning my mate and I ran down the bloody thing at full pelt.

After that I lost two grandparents in the following nine months, so yeah… 2011 was a pretty rough year. You hear people say things like “my whole world was turned upside down” and you can’t really appreciate it until someone in your family has died. Without straying too much into hyperbole, it really is the end of the world as you know it. If that person has been present for every day of your existence and then suddenly they’re just gone, then your world is irrevocably changed.

(A parent dying) really is the end of the world as you know it. If that person has been present for every day of your existence and then suddenly they're just gone, then your world is irrevocably… Click to Tweet

So I went through that a few times and the thing that annoyed me the most, besides losing them, was the fact that the world kept spinning. You can be having the worst day of your life, and it’s just another day to everyone else. You’re weeping uncontrollably and some dude is complaining that his coffee is cold. So, while I’d originally started the story a few months before my father passed away, after his death I decided that I’d make the whole world stop the only way I could. I changed a few things and wrote it in, and then the project continued to grow from there.

While I'd originally started the story a few months before my father passed away, after his death I decided that I'd make the whole world stop the only way I could. Click to Tweet

5.) What inspired you to include the drawings and the journal-like entries? I LOVED how you presented Days Too Dark in this way and felt like the drawings really added to the story.

I saw the Blair Witch Project when I was in grade 9 and I hated it because it was boring as all hell, but I loved the “Found Footage” style that it was filmed in. The idea of an in-world artifact removes a step of separation from between the story and the audience. There’s no omnipotent narrator with a disembodied voice that’s telling you a story they have no stakes in, the narrator is someone present in the story and you’re reading their version of events.

There’s a lot of restrictions with this style of storytelling, it can undoubtedly become myopically focused at times, but it opens up a lot of other possibilities too. For instance, Mars is blatantly an unreliable narrator. He’s constantly giving us stories that have been passed on to him from others and sometimes he’s either out of the loop or just plain wrong. Even if he says something that’s wrong, or just outright lying, it all adds to the character. As Days Too Dark is primarily an exploration of Mars’ character, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

As for the art, who doesn’t love art? There are some fantastic artists out there and they’re just dying to work on passion projects. I wanted a lot of artwork that I could use to enhance the story, to not only break up the walls of text but also to tell the parts of the story that Mars might not be able to put into words. There are bits of information present in the art that you’d miss out on if you only had the text.

6.) The world-building you did for Days Too Dark was incredible. (And those mushrooms that grow out of people, and the sickness, and… I just can’t stop being impressed with the background to this world!) How long did it take you to flesh out all those details?

I can’t rightly say how long it took, this didn’t start out as a primary project. Originally it was something that I was doing for a bit of fun, it was a short story based on a nightmare I’d had, and it grew and changed over the years. I’d been working on it since late 2010, but I hadn’t actually wanted to publish it until years later.

There’s a lot of stuff that seems random, but it will be something that becomes relevant in book 2 or 3. I’m all about planting seeds early on and harvesting them down the line, so just stick with me and trust that anything random will bear fruit.

A lot of the little details actually came from making Mars a bit blind to how good he’s got it compared to everyone else. He’s so focused on all the bad stuff in his life that he’s totally missing all the good. A lot of the world building came from creating circumstances for other characters that mirror his own, all of which he misses because his head is so far up his own arse.

7.) What works inspired Days Too Dark? How long did this take you to write?

Does the ever continuing work of my own life count?

No? Okay, the Mad Max series as well as both the Jeremiah and Jericho television shows. I took a lot of inspiration from various mythologies but the full extent of that won’t be apparent until subsequent books.

A lot of people seem to think it was heavily inspired by The Last of Us, but I think that’s just because it’s a Post-Apocalyptic title that garnered a lot of mainstream attention and therefore everything must be a derivative of it. I actually poked fun of The Last of Us in the book, but the joke seems to have gone over everyone’s heads. I took a few pot shots at a lot of different Post-Apocalyptic tropes actually, but I’ve had no complaints so I can’t have upset too many people.

As for how long it took to write, it was seven years of very inconsistent writing. I’d be working too much, gaming or writing other things and the draft would sit there for months at a time without being altered. It’s woefully inefficient and not at all professional but it did allow the story to percolate. I’m really hoping that future projects will go a lot smoother and a lot quicker.

8.) What do you hope people take away after reading Days Too Dark?

For people who don’t know me, for those of whom it’s just a story, I simply hope that they enjoy it. Yes, there’s a lot of personal stuff in there but it’s all tied into the narrative. I wanted to make a character that felt as real as any person, so Mars does some things you’ll agree with and some things that you’ll vehemently disagree with. If I can make an audience of strangers feel something, then I’m happy.

For the people who know me, and who know that it’s not just a story, I hope they get a better understanding of who I am. Misunderstandings are abound when your version of normal is a little different to that of those around you, and even the tightest of relationships can become a little strained at times I hope people around me can read this and get a better look at both where I’ve come from and how far I’ve come.

If I can add what I’ve taken away from writing this. I worked with a team from all across the globe to produce this book, and I’ve come into contact with some fantastic people who have shared their own personal stories with me. I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting this when I first started out, you can’t exactly reach out and try to connect with others and not expect to learn a thing or two about them as well. Mars may have his head up his own arse but by the mere fact of writing him I’ve been forced to remove my own from… my own? Ugh, that was clunky.

Anyway, yes. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but by exploring my own life and putting it out there I was able to find people who can relate to the story and who’ve been through something similar. I guess it just goes to show that no matter how abnormal your situation gets, you’re never actually alone.

9.) I saw in another interview that some of the other characters were based off people you know IRL. Have you gotten feedback from any of them about this yet? 😀

Yeah, that’s been an interesting situation. Most of the characters in this story are based on real people, and if Mars is talking about something that happened before the world ended then it’s something that’s actually happened. Most of the feedback has been pretty positive. There are a few tough points for various family members, and there’s going to be a few more in book 2, but overall it’s been good.

A few people have made complaints, but I’ve always got the same answer for them. “If you don’t like how you were portrayed in the book, maybe you shouldn’t have been such a dick in the real world?”

If you don't like how you were portrayed in the book, maybe you shouldn't have been such a dick in the real world? -- J.J. Shurte Click to Tweet

10.) Tell me about your next project! You have another book coming out soon?

Book 2 is planned out, but it will be a while before it’s even close to being published. As this isn’t a simple text-on-paper trilogy, there are some serious graphic design and artwork costs involved. I’m passionate and I’m dedicated to getting this trilogy done, but it’s going to take a while.

In the meantime though, one thing people have been asking for is an external view of what happened in the world. See, Mars is sort of a self-absorbed arse who mopes about a lot and he tends to gloss over events that don’t involve him. This new series will seek to explore the greater events of the setting, it’ll be third person with a bunch of new characters. I am very excited to work on something a little easier to manage while also expanding the world of Days Too Dark.

As for right now though, I’ve written a writing guide that focuses on Post-Apocalyptic stories. I’ve gained the input of some key members of the online Post-Apocalyptic community and I’m excited to publish this guide. It’s at the editors at the time of writing this and I’m currently trying very hard to get some suitably Post-Apocalyptic talent for the front cover. It should be released in a few weeks, I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted.

11.) Are you still Team Becho?

Hell yes!

Look, I know you Shippers have been keen on Bellarke happening from the beginning but you’re just going to have to accept that Becho is life now. Bellamy and Echo were on that space station for 5 years, how they managed to avoid having any kids I’ll never know but nothing is going to change now that they’re back down on Earth.

#Becho is life now. They were on that space station for 5 years ...nothing is going to change now that they're back down on Earth. -- J.J. Shurte Click to Tweet

The only way I can see Bellarke happening is if Echo is killed, and that would only happen to facilitate Bellarke… which is a terrible reason to kill off a character. Bellamy is in a committed relationship and no matter how much you may think you want it, you know that you don’t want a man that can be lured away from something that serious.

Becho is here. Becho is strong. Becho is life!

Remember: to enter the contest, just tweet your story about what got you interested in the post-apocalyptic genre, and include the hashtag #TheOneThatGotMeHooked. 

 

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Derek Dwilson started Post Apocalyptic Media with his wife Stephanie. He is a licensed attorney in the state of Texas. Derek currently builds websites at Team Dwilson and writes about prepping and Post Apocalyptic shows whenever he gets excited about something. Team Dwilson

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