Daniel Cotton is the author of the ‘Life Among the Dead’ series from Permuted Press. He recently had time to sit down and shoot the shit with me to share details about his work and writing style!
Stuart Conover (SC): First off I’d love if you could share with my readers a little about ‘Life Among the Dead 3: A Bittersweet Victory’ and the world that you’ve created in the series?
Daniel Cotton (DC): In my world, after the zombies arose, folks started to band together to make it through the ordeal. There are some out there that relish the lawlessness. Life Among the Dead 3 starts just before the onset of the plague with a new story, these are characters that were briefly mentioned in book 2 but were not introduced. Readers will follow this new tale all the way to our friends from New Castle, of course there will be a lot of bumps along the way, familiar faces, and a brand new character I know everyone is going to love.
SC: What research did you use to help set the mood and location?
DC: Living. Book one has settings that I am very familiar with; a factory, a hospital, and all the little towns and neighborhoods that exist only in my head. I have had to look up technical things; rigor, livor, and algor mortis and stages of decomposition.
SC: Who are your favorite characters in the novel and without any spoilers what makes them special for you?
DC: Uncle Bruce is my favorite character of the series. He’s a surly, sarcastic gentleman. No one ever knows if he actually likes them or not because it’s hard to tell if he’s being serious or just breaking their balls. He knows just about everything you could ever need to know and has no qualms about letting you in on the fact. He is the type of character writers love because he says things most people wouldn’t be able to get away with.
SC: Any interesting facts about the novels that you’d like to share with us?
DC: Every book turns back the hands of time to day one of the outbreak, we follow a new story all the way to where the one before it left off and beyond. I wanted to make a series that didn’t just get longer but deeper.
SC: How long did it take you to write the novels in ‘Life Among the Dead’ series?
DC: Books two and three only took about a year each, it’s hard to say. While I was polishing book one I was inspired to start the sequel, and the same happened with book three. Book one evolved over the span of many years. It started as a screenplay, well the zombie portion of a horror screenplay. That was signed with a producer but ultimately went nowhere. I then decided to publish it through Lulu, only to hear from a reader that there was an exorbitant number of typos, I have a box full of these volumes. I went through and edited it as best I could, released it on Kindle. There was still errors but it was far cleaner than the first edition. I’d say start to finish that one took about 4 or 5 years to get it to this point.
SC: What do you do when you’re not writing?
DC: Working or spending time with my wife and kids. I’d love to be a full time writer/family man, but it just isn’t possible right now.
SC: How has your real life experiences factored into your writing?
DC: The main story is derived from my need to provide and protect those I care about, should the world catch fire there are only three people I’m concerned about saving. Sometimes I wonder ‘what if it happened now?’ Wherever I happen to be. That often turns into a storyline. There is an area in book one that takes place in a factory that’s largely based on the two I’ve worked at. There’s also a psychiatric ward in the story that’s base on the one I worked at when I was in the Navy.
SC: What are your thoughts on traditional publishing and self-publishing?
DC: It’s great that writers no longer need to be too heartbroken by rejections, they can just go forth and do it themselves. That’s what I did. No one would touch my book, I put it out on Kindle and it did very well, a year later I put out Book two and that’s when Permuted Press contacted me.
SC: Do you have a certain routine when writing for getting yourself in the mood and mindset?
DC: It starts with a daydream. I let my mind wander and write what I see. At this stage I hand write my first draft. Taking it from the rough to the computer is where the story really takes form. When I am really dedicated to typing and feeling confident in what I’m doing, I wake up even earlier than usual to have some quiet time to make the magic happen before going to work. I like to write in mostly quiet, there can be something going on in the background as long as I can ignore it, controlled chaos.
SC: Do you have any advice for other writers who are writing in or who want to write in the genre?
DC: Though you are stomping very familiar ground, and yes to some they are hallowed, make it your own. If you have an idea that’s against the grain with zombie purists, go for it. This is your world, your story, your zombies, it’s all right to stand out.
SC: What was the hardest part of writing your novels?
DC: Making the connections. The stories are all intertwined which makes it hard to keep everything straight.
SC: Did any major changes to your story occur from original concept to print?
DC: The first Life Among the Dead was meant to be a trilogy. It’s broken into three parts, each was actually supposed to be its own book. I just couldn’t stand to separate them so I made it all one volume.
SC: If you could co-write a novel with any author: Who would it be and why?
DC: I don’t think I could write with anyone, a writing partnership would require far more compromise than I can handle when it comes to a story. Beta readers, friends as well as my editor tried to make suggestions that I didn’t like, though I was respectful to their ideas, I had to keep things the way I saw them.
SC: Do you have any other information for my readers who may be interested in finding out more about you or your writing?
DC: They can head over to my site: http://danielcotton.weebly.com/ I post all my books here, or they can go to Permuted Press if they want more from me or the other great Permuted writers. I can also be found on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.