Posted on December 16, 2010 by Flames
Our author design essay continues with Patrick D’Orazio telling us about his new novel Comes The Dark, which is published by Library of the Living Dead Press.
Six weeks have passed since the virus ravaged the world’s population and in that time most of humanity has passed into shadow, turning into corrupt, rotting flesh eaters that known only pain and hunger as they attempt to destroy the remaining members of the human race.
Comes The Dark by Patrick D’Orazio
Comes The Dark, which is my first published novel, is my humble entry into the zombie genre. I wasn’t necessarily interested in recreating or morphing the zombie into something new or different with my book, but wanted to focus on the dynamics between human beings thrust into a horrible situation, being forced to do things they would otherwise be unwilling to do and deciding if surviving is even the right choice when all they have ever known and loved has been annihilated. I love the original Dead trilogy of movies by Romero and while the zombies he created have been an endless source of fascination with me for as many years as I have watched them on film, my biggest appreciation for those movies comes from the fact that the characters felt real and vital in their quest to survive. The zombie tales I enjoy the most don’t focus heavily on the zombies or the blood or guts (though both elements play key roles, for certain), but on having a well developed, character driven storyline. It is the stresses that bring these characters together and tears them apart that make zombie fiction so compelling to me.
For my novel, I tried to extract what I could from my own life, my own existence as a suburban family man and stretched that, morphing it by asking a question: what would a guy like me do if their world was turned upside down and my worst nightmares became real? I puzzled over how an average guy would react to his world being shattered into a million pieces. In my story it is the zombie apocalypse that has ripped his life apart, but it could have been a natural disaster, war, a terrorist attack, or anything that could wipe away all preconceived notions of what the world is and his place in it. The zombies play their part, disrupting everything, causing those still living to hate, fear, and puzzle over what they did to deserve this horrific existence, but the monsters spend a good deal of time in the background, only showing up when called upon to cause mayhem and destruction that keeps the plot moving forward. For me, it was almost like moving chess pieces across a board and trying to judge how the characters I created would react to my moves-would they collapse, surrender, fight, flee, or turn on one another?
Those sorts of thing have always fascinated me.
My desire to create this story was born of a desire to respect the traditions established by Romero within this genre. The story itself takes place several weeks after the dead have risen so the novel does not deal with that initial shock that comes from the dead rising, but with the aftermath, as the majority of the human race has already been annihilated and those who remain are stuck trying to hold it together in a world that is mostly dead. The characters know the rules as they relate to the undead, they understand the dangers, and yet, they are still finding it very hard to come to grips with this reality.
The biggest challenge I faced in completing my novel was the fact that I am technically a first time author-at least a first time published author. I have been writing since I was very young, but had never given much thought to letting anyone else read the stories I wrote for as far back as I can remember. At least not until the idea for this book burrowed into my brain and wouldn’t let go. I was compelled not only to write the tale, but to seek out publishers who would be willing to give me a chance to tell this story to the world. So I spent time before I did that particular search looking for victims-er, I mean beta readers, and I also started networking with other writers and zombie fans who I got to know via message boards and through Amazon. Anyone who would provide me with insights into the challenges I would face with this process and provide me with information on the things that have made them successful or what they felt worked within this genre. Even with that in mind, I went into this process with little understanding of what I was actually doing and how much work it was going to entail.
I tried to proceed with caution, doing what research I could for my story and laying out the overall idea for the book, but I think where I probably hit the biggest snags was in not sticking to a routine in my writing process. I overwrote this story by a long shot, and it took several good friends and later on other writers and editors to provide me with the honest assessment of where I was getting off track and where I was doing my best work. I spent about a year and a half crafting the original manuscript and then another year after that trying to cut it down to a reasonable size. At the same time, I was reading as much as I possibly could-horror, science fiction, fantasy, and anything else I could get my hands on. I was writing reviews on Amazon on zombie novels, and that also helped me to connect with even more fans and writers. I did my best to give sincere and honest reviews of the works out there, and helped me gain even more of an understanding of what I was trying to achieve by writing this novel. I think as a writer, you have to be a voracious reader-the two go hand in hand.
I had also written quite a few short stories before I finished my manuscript, and that allowed me to stretch the boundaries of what I am capable of writing. Short story writing has different challenges inherent in the process compared to writing a novel and that process taught me discipline more than anything. Knowing that a full tale, with complete character development and a plot that makes sense to a reader must come together within a margin of a few thousand words forced me to learn how to write with better precision than I had been doing in the past. Despite the fact that you can have 50-100k words to tell a tale in a novel doesn’t mean you have to meander endlessly before you make your point. Short story writing helped me return to my novel and see where I could cut and slice it down even more without losing the fundamental story I was trying to tell.
I think it boils down to this: whatever you write, be it flash fiction, short stories, or 200,000 word epics, you need to always be moving forward, always writing, always reading, and always keeping an open mind. Every writer out there, even the ones who have all the recognition and admiration of their fans and peers, are a work in progress, always striving to do better with each story they create.
Patrick D’Orazio – 2010