Interview with Ryan Henry, Author of Omega Zero
Omega Zero (from Amazon): “When a drug deal goes bad, Trent, a drifter and former Marine, flees into the dense forests of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Weeks later, the starving fugitive returns to find the world around him ravaged by a mysterious illness.
After a brutal gunfight with a hostile stranger and a trek through an abandoned, corpse-littered neighborhood, Trent is left with more questions than answers. He happens across a young woman named Emily who offers shelter in her deceased father’s home.
Believing themselves to be immune to the deadly virus, the two survivors form a tenuous bond. However, Trent and Emily will be put to the test as they encounter vicious enemies lying in wait at every turn.
They will soon discover that nothing is what it seems and that survival is far from certain.”
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve never really considered myself a writer. I’m just someone with a few stories rattling around in my head, possessed by a nagging compulsion to write them down.
How long did it take you to write Omega Zero?
About two months. I changed two chapters entirely, which added to the time. The editing process took a bit longer than the actual writing.
What was your favorite part of the book to write? Why?
The Epilogue. In my opinion, it’s the most detached, clinical, and grim way to end my story. You have this young couple, who could have had a future together, but the reality they end up sharing together is a mockery of what might have been.
How did you decide on the title?
Omega Zero is the name of the virus that destroys humanity. I felt that it was a fitting title for the book as the disease is like an unseen, omnipresent impact character.
Where did you get your information or ideas for Omega Zero?
Multiple readings of Stephen King’s The Stand, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead graphic novels. I watched old Twilight Zone episodes and AMC’s Breaking Bad. The factual information I incorporated in Omega Zero took a lot of research and revision to get right.
How did you choose your writing genre?
I didn’t, really. I don’t even know how to classify Omega Zero.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Similar to what Stephen King advised in his non-fiction book On Writing: I’d sit down every night and try to force out at least three to four pages. I’d then go back and excise the superfluous exposition and dialogue. I didn’t write any outlines or make any concrete plans for what would happen from chapter to chapter.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
My unwillingness to use brand names for fear of a lawsuit. So I try to find ways to logically skirt the issue in the context of the story. For example, the protagonist has a stolen SIG P229R, a type of semi-automatic handgun, which he’s hiding in a satchel. When he’s at a sporting goods store, he forgets the model number – partially out of fear that the proprietor will figure him out, but mainly because his mind is racing and he’s trying like hell to stay cool. So the proprietor, clearly frustrated, points to a row of handguns in his showcase and asks the protagonist to find the same gun among all the others. Not once did the entire model number show up in the novel’s text.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
All the time. Right now, I’m working on my second novel, and am completely deadlocked. So even trying to answer these interview questions is pretty tough.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to play bass guitar, listen to extreme metal music, watch movies, and read, of course. I would say I read more history than fiction. I’m especially interested in the Second World War and the Korean War. I also spend some time at the range, firing a few of the guns I write about.
What does your family think of your writing?
My wife is extremely supportive, but tells me when I’m taking a wrong turn in a story.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned about your readers?
How often readers berate an author if said author doesn’t supply a happy ending. My favorite books and movies all end on a down note. I guess I just thought there were more readers like me. The response to Omega Zero’s ending has been vitriolic at times – as if some readers expect you to wrap things up nicely or simply provide hooks for a sequel.
Speaking of your readers, do you often hear from them? What kinds of things do they say?
Not really. I just read the reviews on my Amazon product page to get an idea of what people think. A lot of them are pushing me to write a sequel, which I suppose is expected these days. I don’t know. Some of them are quite vocal about how I should have ended the book differently.
How do you deal with any negative feedback and/or criticism?
Not very well. I’m quite a perfectionist, so harsh critics always have me second-guessing my product and whether or not I should be writing at all.
Have you written any other books?
Omega Zero is my first “genuine” book. I’ve written some “warm-up” books and stories, and have only shared them with a few people.
What do you think makes a good story?
Plot twists. Lots of plot twists. Even small ones that could be easily overlooked. And the reader has to be able to identify with all of the characters in some way, not just the protagonist. For example, a villain can’t just be a stock “bad guy” – there has to be some motivation for his actions that the reader might understand and think, “I see where this guy is coming from.” The quality of a story just gets better when the protagonist has some nasty flaws as well. No one likes a “Mary Sue” or a “Gary Stu.”
How do you choose book subjects?
In the case of Omega Zero, I just wanted to write a good end-of-the-world tale with a few sucker punches along the way.
Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?
I’m not sure. As an indie author, I know for sure that if I don’t pitch my work, no one else is going to do it for me.
What are some of your methods for self-promotion? What has worked, what hasn’t?
When I first self-published Omega Zero, I made myself do something every night online to promote my book. I would find a site or message board and pitch my book. It seems to have worked fairly well.
Has it been necessary to travel much when promoting Omega Zero?
Who would you say has been a major influence in your life? (Writing or otherwise)
My maternal grandfather, John Sinclair, was a hell of a storyteller. When I was a kid, I used to beg him to tell me ghost stories before bed. I would always try to return the favor by telling him some of my own – but my juvenile efforts didn’t even compare to the tales he conjured up. Somewhere down the road, I got older and naturally discovered the horror greats – Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, Shirley Jackson, and Richard Matheson – and then branched out into other genres.
Do you ever use friends, family members or acquaintances as character models?
We often hear the term, Write What You Know. Do you think this is always true?
To some degree, yes. But following that adage can constrict the imagination and kill your vision. In Omega Zero, I set the book in an area I know, but let my imagination run wild.
How much time did you spend researching information for Omega Zero?
A lot. And when I thought I could get by without research, I invariably found myself fixing things later that I didn’t think would be important. I’m learning from my mistakes.
Do you write other types of content? (Articles, Web content, etc.)
I used to write album reviews for a heavy metal ‘Zine.
Do you have a blog?
No blog. I should probably start one, though.
Are you active on social media sites? If yes, which sites? Have they been effective marketing tools?
Just Facebook. I don’t think it has been terribly effective as a marketing tool at all.
What is your opinion on using a pseudonym when writing?
I understand why Mary Anne Evans wrote under the name of George Eliot in the Victorian era. I also get why Stephen King wanted to write as Richard Bachman to step away from his “name brand.” But, personally, I wouldn’t write under a pseudonym.
Has any book (or movie) influenced your life?
I would say more than anything else, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and John Hillcoat’s film adaptation of the book changed my outlook permanently. Both incarnations of the same story proved that beauty and virtue could survive despite amoral lawlessness and mass destruction.
What would be your best word of advice to aspiring writers/book authors?
Write it all down, revise until you have a completely different story, and find an unforgiving editor. I used two editors for Omega Zero.
Are you working on anything new now?
Ryan’s book is available on Amazon for Kindle. Here’s a link to my review of Omega Zero.