After reading and frankly, becoming obsessed with the four-book series of The Remaining, I had to talk to the author and find out more about…well, everything. I reviewed the series a few weeks ago, but couldn’t resist the urge to toss a few questions at D. J. Molles.
First, if you’ve not heard about the Remaining, I strongly believe that soon, you will. It’s a captivating look at a post-apocalyptic world, with a strong military protagonist and a realistic look at what could happen to survivors as they attempt to eke out a life amongst all hell breaking loose, government collapse and fight-to-the-death power plays.
The success of the series is another example of how self published—what we now like to call indie authors—are creating amazing stories and going around the big publishing house obstacles to bring their stories to readers.
I sent a message to the indie author and was thrilled when he agreed to the interview.
Q: In our email exchanges, you always sign your name as just Molles, so I’ll follow your lead. Molles, the bio you have on your author page is very short. Still, one can’t read your books without assuming that you have a military background, but you don’t. Did you ever consider joining? Do you find yourself having to do a lot of research to make your stories realistic?
Molles: I considered it a while back. My brother is Army and he had me convinced to join up. My wife wasn’t quite as convinced. So I got my current job as kind of a compromise between her and I—I could still get out there and have some “fun/adventure,” but I would still be around. As far as research goes, yes, I’ve had to do my fair share of research, but probably not in the way you would think. I have a lot of buddies that are veterans, and of course my brother, so my “research” usually entails a phone call to one of them. And a lot of it I just pick up from conversations and “war stories” over beers.
Q: You published The Remaining in Jan, 2012 and have published the next books in about six month increments. That’s amazingly fast. Do you find it difficult to keep up that pace or does that feel natural for you?
Molles: It feels fairly natural. I will admit, I felt a little pressure when I was finishing up Fractured (book four in the series). I actually took a few vacation days from work to sit down and hammer some pages out and get myself back on track. But I like a quick pace when it comes to writing.
Q: You have a day job. At what point do you think you could leave it and write full time?
Molles: Great and difficult question. I thought I would be ready by now. I told myself that if The Remaining did well for a year, I would think about it. And it’s been doing great. But I’m still just not comfortable with cutting the cord just yet. Not sure when I will be. I really think a lot of what I write flows from the experiences I get at work, and I worry about losing touch with the real world like I feel a lot of full-time authors do. But then I think about how much writing I could get done if I wrote full time. I guess I’m still on the fence.
Q: You have almost one thousands five star reviews for The Remaining alone. Still, there are a few one and two star reviews for each book. Do you read them? Do you read any of your reviews?
Molles: I do read the reviews for about a month after I publish each book. A lot of them have good information and make some valid points that I feel can help me sharpen myself as a writer (even the negative ones). However, if I continue to read them—particularly while I’m in the middle of writing the next book—I’ve found that both the positive and the negative reviews alike will begin to seep into my writing. And then I start to feel like I’m writing a story based on focus group data. And I don’t like that feeling. I prefer when the story goes its own way.
Q: You don’t have a blog. You have a Facebook page but you don’t seem to do much with it. You don’t do any of the social media things that indie authors swear by to get their products sold, but your books are still doing well. Do you think a little social media effort would help? What do you do, in terms of marketing? Do you ever attend writing conventions?
Molles: I am an admittedly poor self-promoter. I just don’t want to be that guy that walks into a room and keeps trying to turn the conversation to himself. Nobody likes that guy. And, at the end of the day, I really don’t want to push my books on people. I’d rather my work speak for itself. Would some extra social media effort help me? I’m not sure. It’s definitely possible, but I also feel like you run the risk of becoming white noise if you post too often. So I generally only say something when there is something that needs to be said. As far as writing conventions, I’ve never been to one, but I am curious about them. Kind of in the way that I’m curious about skydiving: I’m sure I could be talked into it, but I’m also pretty sure I wouldn’t like it much.
Q: As someone who did skydive and found I didn’t like it AT ALL, I have a feeling your fans would love to have an opportunity to meet you at a writing conference, maybe get you to sign some books. If you decide to do at least one, is there one in particular you’ve considered?
Molles: I’ve never really done much research on writer’s conferences, but I would love an opportunity to meet some of the folks that have enjoyed my books. I am terrified of book signings, though. I once saw an author sitting in a local Books-A-Million, clearly there to sign some books, but he was sitting at his little table alone and there wasn’t a soul in line. I swear, I’ve never seen someone look quite so depressed. It was really one of those moments where you feel embarrassed FOR someone.
Q: If you survived a book signing, you could probably survive a zombie apocalypse. Aside from your family of course, who would you want by your side to face down the danger and why?
Molles: Probably the guys I work with. Solid bunch. Good rapport and trust is already there, so I feel like we would be a pretty effective zombie-fighting team right off the bat.
Q: Your character, Captain Lee Harden, has a go-bag he can grab when he’s on the run and it’s saved his life on many occasion. Do you have a go-bag of your own? What do you have in it?
Molles: I do. I’m always telling people they need one. You don’t need to be a prepper or to believe that the end is near to realize that having a little bag in your trunk is a good idea. Mine is built around getting myself from my work to my home (distance of about 40 miles). I have two liters of water. Gas mask. Blanket. Ration bars. Various medical supplies (CAT tourniquet and QuikClot Combat Gauze are musts for any go-bag). Spare ammunition. A siphon pump and tubing. And lastly, several light sources to include glow sticks, battery operated flashlights, and wind-up flashlights (you can never have enough light options, in my opinion). Oh yeah, duct tape. You can do anything with duct tape.
Q: Your go bag list has given me some great ideas! The siphon tools are brilliant. Have you had any thoughts about writing a zombie survival guide?
Molles: Not necessarily a Zombie Survival Guide, but I’ve done my fair share of research, read my fair share of books, and attended a lot of classes, as well as having plenty of practical experience of my own. I’ve considered compiling the basics in a quick-reference survival guide that would have everything from how to scavenge food and even weapons in a survival scenario, to caring for wounded, and even some basic tactics–like how to safely clear a building (not what they show in most movies and TV shows).
Q: Why do you think we’re attracted to stories about the end of the world as we know it? What is it about that concept that makes you want to write about it?
Molles: Interesting things happen to people when things go very, very bad. And what’s worse than the end of everything you know? The concept of it strips away all pretense of civilized behavior and common decency. What you have left is just the person. Sometimes they are good, and sometimes they are bad. But I think stories about the end of the world give an opportunity for a writer to really tell an honest story.
Q: The Remaining stories are your first indie published books. What made you decide to go indie and not the traditional publisher route?
Molles: I’ve been down the road of trying to get a book into a big publisher, and after a few years and a lot of rejection letters I got a little burned out. I actually took a break from writing for a while, but eventually came back to it simply because I enjoyed doing it. That’s how The Remaining got started. I just wanted to write something that I would have fun writing, and for once not write something for the sake of trying to get it published.
Q: But now I understand you’re changing course and have a big announcement to share:
Molles: I have a great deal worked out with Orbit, and I’m really looking forward to getting my books out to a wider audience. I probably would not have gone out on my own and tried to talk to publishing companies, but my agent, Dave Fugate, has been an amazing ally for me and did all that nasty business for me.
Q: Congratulations on the agent and your new publishing deal with Orbit. That is freakin’ awesome and well deserved! You’ll be among some of the Science Fiction and Fantasy greats like, Iain M. Banks, Terry Brooks, Brent Weeks and so many others. How do you think this new reality will change things for you as a writer?
Molles: You know, there’s a lot of changes. Some of them are good, and some of them are bad. Obviously, any time you sign that publishing deal, there is a loss of control to a certain extent. That was one of my biggest concerns. Me and Dave (agent) talked about all the pros and cons, ad nauseum. There were times when I was saying “Let’s do this” and Dave was saying, “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” and then sometimes it was the exact opposite. In the end, Orbit showed that they were willing to be flexible, and the pros outweighed the cons. So for me, the changes are that I can spend more time writing, and reach a wider audience, and still maintain a comfortable level of control.
Q: When will book five be coming out? And can you give us a little tease?
Molles: Book five is currently looking at an early 2015 release. Of course, I didn’t want to leave my readers hanging for that long, so I’m very excited to announce that I’ve just completed the second of two novellas, which will both be released in 2014. Even before I found out the timeline for Book 5, I wanted to give my readers some background on a couple characters that I’ll be bringing out in Book 5. So the idea for the novellas was already floating around in the back of my head. In a way, the novellas are kind of a “prequel” to Book 5 that I think will give the readers a better feel for what’s going on in the big picture. Then when Book 5 comes around, we can just hit the ground running! Which is what I intend to do.
Q: Is the new publisher going to reissue all four of the previous books?
Molles: Yes, the publisher is taking on the entire series. At the beginning of 2014, they will republish all the ebooks, followed by putting paperbacks into stores throughout the spring/summer. The first novella will be included in the paperback version of The Remaining (Book 1), but will also be available by itself as an ebook. Then the second novella will be published separately towards the end of 2014. And then Book 5 out on ebook and paperback in early 2015.
It all sounds incredibly exciting and I’m thrilled that you’ve allowed me to help you make the big announcement. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.