An Interview With Colin M. Drysdale, Author Of The Outbreak
Alex Grant: Firstly, thanks for making the time to speak to me again. I think it was about 18 months ago that we last spoke, just before your first book, For Those In Peril On The Sea, was published. Before we speak about your new book, can I just ask about whether you've been happy with how the previous one was received?
Colin M. Drysdale: It's good to see you again, too. I'm very happy with how For Those In Peril On The Sea was received, it got some great reviews from critics, and also from those who brought it. There have certainly been a lot of 5 star reviews on Amazon.
AG: And I believe it's done well in some book awards, too?
CMD: Yes. It was selected as a finalist in the horror genre category of Foreword Review's Book of the Year Award, and it also won the old medal in the First Novel (>80,000 words) category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, which pretty cool really.
AG: That's quite impressive, especially for your first novel.
CMD: I was certainly very pleased with it.
AG: So, your second novel is coming out in July, tell me about it? Is it a sequel to For Those In Peril On The Sea? Do we get to find out what happens to Rob and his crewmates?
CMD: No, not yet. The Outbreak, that's what it's called, isn't really a sequel as such, it's more another book set in the same world, and it follows a new set of characters as they try to get out of a city as it is being over-run by the infected.
AG: Will we ever find out what happens to Rob and the others from the first book?
CMD: Yes, most definitely. I've just started the third book in the For Those In Peril series, and in that book, the two sets of characters will come together as their respective storylines finally collide. However, I felt I needed t tell the story of this second group of characters before that could happen.
AG: So, tell me about The Outbreak. You mentioned it was about a group of people trying to get out of a city, does that mean it doesn't feature boats and the sea? Because that was one of the unique things about For Those In Peril On The Sea, and it's what a lot of people seem to have liked about it.
CMD: Even though it starts in a city, there is still a lot of elements which are set on boats and at sea, and specifically the seascapes of western Scotland. This is something which I think is a bit different about the world I created in For Those In Peril On the Sea, and is something not found in many other post-apocalyptic or zombie novels. This meant I was keen to retain these elements in the second book.
AG: Can you say how you do this?
CMD: I'm afraid that would be giving too much away. You'll have to read the book to find that out.
AG: That's what I thought you might say. So, tell me about where the book is set, you mentioned western Scotland, that's where you grew up, isn't it?
CMD: Yes. As with the first book, all the locations in this one are real places, and they are ones I know very well. The book starts off in Glasgow, which is where I live, and then moves of to the west coast of Scotland. There's a lot of islands out there, and while it's really beautiful, it's pretty wild and remote, too, and this makes it a nice, interesting location for setting a post-apocalyptic survival story.
AG: That sounds pretty interesting, but I guess it's not a part of the world many people are familiar with. For the first book, you provided interactive maps which could be opened in Google Earth so that people could explore the places where the story was set. Are you going to do the same for this book?
CMD: Yes, in fact I'm working on them right now, and I should have them finished pretty soon.
AG: Tell me about the new characters. Are the readers going to like them as much as they liked Rob and the others?
CMD: I hope so. There all quite different from the characters in the first book, and they allow me to explore different types of relationships than I did in For Those In Peril On The Sea. In that book, they were all strangers, and they had to learn to work together in order to survive, despite their differences. In The Outbreak, there's more pre-existing relationships between the characters, and that let me explore how such relationships affect how people feel and act as their world is falling apart around them. In particular, there's some nice dynamics between Ben, the narrator, and his friend Tom, and also between a character called Claire, and her two children. It explores the impossible situations which people can sometimes find themselves in through no fault of their own, and I think this is something which also happens in real life, not necessarily as disease outbreak, but when people get caught up in events which are beyond their control.
AG: You mentioned in our last interview that you struggled to get some of the characters in your last book just right. Did you have any similar problems with the new characters?
CMD: Yes. There was one character in particular, Sophie, who's a fourteen year old girl, and she was a difficult to get right. In particular, I had to get the right balance between her being quite grown up some times and still being a petulant child at others. However, she was a fun character to write, and in many ways she became one of the break-out characters of the book.
AG: A break-out character, what do you mean by that?
CMD: Well, sometimes when you start writing a story, you have a pretty good idea where a character will go, and what their role will be in the story, but for others, you suddenly find them going in completely unplanned direction. In Sophie's case, she was meant to be a relatively minor character, which could be used to explore the problems a mother would face in having to protect her children during an apocalyptic event. However, as I worked on the story, Sophie seemed to gradually muscle her way into the foreground, until she became one of the main characters, and became integral to the whole story.
AG: That's interesting. So you're saying that even as you write a book, sometimes you don't know where it will end up, and that sometimes it's the characters themselves which drive the storyline
CMD: I know this sounds strange since I'm the one making them up, but yes. As you get to know the characters you're creating, you suddenly realise that they'd react in a different way to how you'd originally planned, or just wouldn't do something you were having them do, and you need to go back and change things so that they fit more with the character you've created. This can then lead to changes in the direction of the story itself. While I can't really go into details, there's a very moving and shocking scene towards the end, which only exists because of the way Sophie gradually worked her way more and more into the foreground as the book developed through the writing and editing process.
AG: So, Sophie seems to be quite an important character in your new book, but you say you struggled to get her right.
CMD: Yes. As a teenage boy, I don't think I ever really understood teenage girls, and I have to say I'm not too sure that I'm much better at understanding them now. This meant I was very reliant on getting feedback from of various female friends to make sure that I got her just right, and, thanks to them, I think in the end I did.
AG: The Outbreak is due out in July, and you mentioned that you're already working on a third book which will bring the characters from the first two books together. What can you tell me about it?
CMD: It's going to be called The Island At The End Of The World, but while I've got a rough outline of the plot and where its going to end up, I'm still not clear exactly what is going to happen in it. I'm not even too sure whose point of view it will be told from. I'd originally thought it would be written from Rob's point of view, just like For Those In Peril On The Sea, but I've been toying with the idea of it being narrated by CJ. This would allow me to explore a different perspective on the events, but I probably won't decide on this until I've worked out the plot and the storyline in a bit more detail.
AG: Well, I'll certainly be interested to see where you take these characters next, and to reading The Outbreak once it's released. When is the release date again?
CMD: The 21st of July 2014.
AG: I can't wait. Well, I think that just about all we have time for today. Thanks again for making the time, and can do this again once you've finished the next book in the series?
CMD: Thank you, and I'm always happy to make time for anyone who's interested in my book. So, yes. Shall we say the same time next year?
AG: That would work for me.
If you would like to read Alex Grant's first interview with Colin M. Drysdale, conducted just after the publication of his first novel, For Those In Perl On The Sea, you can find this here.
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