Bio: D.A. Roberts was born in the small town of Lebanon, Missouri. Growing up on the farm gave him plenty of opportunities to cultivate a fertile imagination. Encouraged by his mother, he dreamed of one day becoming a famous writer. An avid reader, D.A. enjoys reading more than watching television. A diverse career path has helped him create a unique view of the world. He’s worn the hats of a soldier, a factory worker, a bouncer, a lab technician, a Security Officer and most recently a Corrections Officer. He draws on all of these experiences to bring his writing to life on a very human level. He married Annette in the summer of 1993 and has been happily married ever since. Their three teenage sons Nathan, Nic and Noah keep them both busy and are their pride and joy. They have an English Mastiff named Xander, who is a big part of their lives. D.A. loves to camp, hunt, fish, hike and Geocache. He also enjoys old-school pen and paper role-playing games. When not writing or on duty as a Corrections Officer, he enjoys spending time with his family. A good cup of coffee, a warm fire and a good book are his guilty pleasures. And yes...like his character Wylie Grant...a little Bushmills Irish, once and a while. --This text refers to an alternate Paperbackedition.
1. The Ragnorok Rising series is a very unique take on both apocalyptic tales and zombies, it blends several elements to tell the tale and puts us in the shoes of a cop. Tell us a bit about why you chose to create this series. What started it?
Well, that's an interesting story. In addition to being a writer, I'm a Corrections Officer with the Sheriff's Department where I live. I've been doing it for eight years. Once night, several of us officers were having coffee together when we began discussing horror movies. We talked about different ones that we had seen, but before long someone mentioned zombie movies.
Well, I always loved zombie films, so I was eager to talk about those. One of my friends asked, "What would we do if it happened here?" Meaning how would our department react to a zombie apocalypse. At first, we all just laughed. Then he said, "Assuming zombies were real, how would we react?" After a few more chuckles, this group of veteran officers began discussing how we would modify our county's own emergency plans to include zombies. It didn't take long before we realized that we weren't prepared for that kind of thing.
We doubted that our department would last very long in a full outbreak. That only left me thinking about it. In fact, I couldn't get the concept out of my head. The next day, I couldn't look at a local building or car without thinking "how would we modify that?" or "could we defend that?" When I got home, I started making notes. Ragnarok Rising was born out of that late-night conversation with my fellow officers.
2. Mythology comes into this too. Did you need to do a lot of research to be able to use it in this more modern setting? What did you like about utilizing Norse legends to create these elements?
I had to do quite a bit of research on the Norse aspects. Although I had to make some changes in order for it to fit into my story, I took the bulk of the Norse parts right out of the old Icelandic Sagas. Applying it to the modern world wasn't as difficult as I had anticipated. I mean, in Law Enforcement and the Military, a lot of the Viking ideals are still upheld. Concepts like honor, duty, sacrifice, commitment and the warrior ethic still run deep in us. It was shocking how easy it was to mold the Norse to fit into that mindset.
I loved using the Viking aspects and making them part of modern life. It has given more than one reader reason to reconsider what they thought about the Vikings of old. It also allowed me to do something very different from the norm in the zombie genre. I wanted my stories to be different enough to stand out from the pack. I wanted to be unique.
3. You have some real life experience with being an officer of the law, what elements of your career also helped you when you were considering the plot and elements of your series?
What I do for a living heavily influenced the story. I wanted to show that Law Enforcement was more than just people with guns when the zombies came. They still believed in holding the line and defending the helpless. They still held true to their oaths. It would be the men and women that I have had the privilege to serve with who would inspire the heroism and dedication I tried to breathe into my characters.
Real heroes keep fighting, even when the odds are against them. The men and women I have worked with showed me all that was good in people. They were brave, honorable, generous, self-sacrificing, dependable and unwavering in their duties. How could I create characters that would be any less?
4. Do you think you would have been able to tackle a similar apocalyptic scenario if you were in Wylie’s shoes? Would you have done anything differently?
Honestly, I would like to think that if push came to shove then I would do very much what Wylie did. I'd make sure my family was safe, then put on my uniform and report for duty. That's what we do, all of us in this type of work. Be they firefighters, military, law enforcement, EMT's, paramedics or any first responders. We put ourselves in harm's way, to protect those who can't protect themselves.
I can't say what I would have done differently, either. I would have done my best, despite the circumstances…even if it cost me my life. That's why we put on the uniform. George Orwell said it best, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." We are those rough men.
5. Action packed, intense, and involving, this is a powerful series of books tackling some difficult territory. Did you write any scenes that you found hard to write? If so, why?
In book one, there is a scene where one of the main characters discovers that his family is dead. I don't want to give away too much because I hope you will read the scene and see it for yourself and feel the emotion of it. That scene was tough for me. I could picture it so clearly in my mind's eye. A few times, I had to walk away from the computer to clear my head. I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I cried as I wrote it. With the images that came to my mind, how could I not? They were just that vivid, to me.
There are other scenes that were just as difficult to write. A lot of emotion flows through these books. The highs and the lows that they face. Some loses you can't help but feel right along with them.
6. Readers clearly love Ragnarok Rising, have there ever been any readers that reacted negatively to the books? What sort of things bothered them? If not, what parts did you worry might cause a stir?
Any book, no matter how well written, will have people that don't like it. I love the Harry Potter books, but some people don't for whatever reason. The fact is, you can't please everyone. Unfortunately, it happens.
Some people didn't like all of the guns and gun terminology. That struck me as odd, since it's a zombie book. You can't have zombie fiction without fighting the zombies, right? I'm a detail oriented person and writer. I had to make certain that the weapons and tactics were correct. I might have gone a bit overboard on the gun information, but I wanted it to be spot on. I wanted other officers and military personnel to read it and go, "yeah, that's pretty much it."
There are also a few, shall we say, tense scenes between Wylie and Spec-4. I don't do any vivid sex scenes and Wylie never cheats on his wife. I can't say he's not tempted, but he never breaks that vow. He does come close, though. He's only human, after all. The times he comes close are a little explicit. Not bad, but enough to warrant an R rating instead of a PG-13. But then again, the fighting and gore should get it an R rating, on their own.
7. There have been a lot of changes between the Walking Dead comics and the TV series, some of them because Robert Kirkman felt like he made some iffy steps in the comics. Would you change anything about the Ragnarok Rising books in hindsight? Why or Why not?
Every writer or artist will look back at something they did before and think "I could have done this differently." I'm no different. Looking back, there are a few things I would do differently, but I know that's only natural. There are a few things I probably would change and might in later editions, if it comes to that. For one, I'd put in more interaction with Wylie's family.
I'd also put more of the Norse influence in book one. I tried to keep it vague in book one and planned to make it more and more prominent as the series progressed. I'd like to put in more references and details. There actually are a few instances where a reader told me that they didn't like the Norse references at all.
My only reply for that is, did you not notice the title? Ragnarok Rising. The name Ragnarok isn't there by chance. It's as much a part of the story as the zombies are. Like I said before, you can't please everyone. I just hope that people enjoy my work. After all, that's what it's all about.
8. Do you feel like there is more to say about this world and its characters? Would you consider writing more books in the series?
Absolutely. I am currently working on book five of the series. Ragnarok Rising: Damnation is the working title. After that, I will take a break from zombies for a while. I can't say that I won't want to revisit those characters and that world, but I have other worlds to walk in as well. Other stories and characters who need to be shared. I can't wait to show you what's coming next.
9. What are some other zombie series in film and books that you think it really got it right? Which ones do you think really miss it?
I might not make many friends here, but I'll tackle this one. While I do like The Walking Dead, I kind of agree with George Romero. TWD is more or less a soap opera with zombies. They put too much emphasis on who is angst-ing this week. While I love the setting, I get tired of the angst. I want more action and less complaining.
I hate Z-nation. There is less cheese in the state of Wisconsin than in that show. I watched the first few episodes and I really tried to like it, but I just can't. I can't watch it. Don't get me started on iZombie. That one's absolute drek. So was Warm Bodies. Just drek. Why try to make zombies relatable and cutesy?
Zombies are the villain of the piece. There shouldn't be any middle ground there. They are the dead and they want to eat you. There's nothing ambiguous about that. I loved the remake of Dawn of the Dead. The fast zombies were a big game changer for me. They put the horror back in the genre. Fast zombies are relentless, they don't get tired and they're going to keep running long after you're exhausted. They scared me. For the first time in a long, long time…the zombies scared me again. I loved that movie for that reason. It had some other problems, but overall it was a great movie.
I loved 28 Days Later. Great film. Also, not technically a zombie film, but the movie with Timothy Oliphant "The Crazies" was awesome. To me, I put it in the same category with zombies. It's one of my top picks. I have a soft spot for almost anything with George Romero involved. His movies are what made me love the genre. Well, except for Land of the Dead. That was just terrible. I guess what I look for in a zombie film or book is horror. Not kitschy pop-culture "zombies" that aren't even close to the actual word. Maybe I'm a purist, but zombies are supposed to be scary. Not cheesy, not lovable, not misunderstood. Scary. Period.
10. Do you define yourself as a horror author or an author who often writes in the genre? Would you write things outside of it? What sort of stories?
I'm an author. I love horror, but I don't want to limit myself to only one genre. I wrote zombies, but I'm also about to release my first sci-fi novel, based on a popular video game. I have plans for more horror, but I also plan to do fantasy, more sci-fi, a serial killer story and who knows what else.
Don't limit yourself as a writer. Your only limitation should be your imagination. Write what makes you happy. If you see yourself as a horror writer and that's what you want to be, that's awesome. Write it to the best of your ability.
Writing is all about dreams. I've dreamed of being an author for as long as I can remember. I want to tell my stories for as long as I can continue to do it. Heck, I've even considered writing down the stories I used to make up to tell my children at bed time. Who knows, I just might do it one of these days.
11. You’re recently gotten involved with JEA, are there any interesting projects ahead for your there?
Absolutely. First thing, I have a short story I wrote that will be appearing in an Anthology called "All That Remains". My story is called "The House in the Woods." I can't wait to see it in print. I get as excited as a kid on Christmas every time I see something I wrote come out in print. It's an amazing feeling and I hope I always get that excited when something new is released.
I'll also be working on a project with the incomparable Catt Dahman. Not sure how many details I should be giving away on this one, but we're co-authoring it. We've been bouncing ideas off of each other for a few days and I'm stoked. This is going to be epic.
I'm really going to be pulling out all of the stops on this one. I'll have to just to keep up with Catt. She's amazing. I was honored deeply when she asked me if I'd like to work on the project with her. I mean, I'm still just a farm kid from Lebanon Missouri at heart. To think that my writing has gone so far that amazing authors like Catt now want to work with me. I feel blessed and amazed.
12. What other books and stories can we hope to see from you in the future?
Oh, now there's a loaded question if I ever heard one. I have so many projects in mind, I hope I live long enough to write them all. I have a Werewolf series to start with. It's ready to write. I've done the character bios, the outlines and the research. This one's ready to jump. I can promise you that no teenage girls will want to date my werewolves. They aren't cute or cuddly. I've got a working title for the series. I call it Apex Predator. As in, the very top of the food chain. I'm excited to see how this goes.
I also have a one-off, stand alone novel based near Lake of the Ozarks about a local legend. This story will be very Lovecraftian. The more research I did for the book, the creepier the legend became. It was practically begging to be turned into a horror story. I'm surprised no one has done it before now.
I have an entire series planned based on the wildly popular video game, The Infinite Black. It's from Spellbook Studios and you can download and play the game for free at Spellbook.com. A few months ago, they contacted me about doing back story for the game. After I finished, they liked what I wrote and asked if I would consider doing fiction in that universe. I jumped at the chance. I mean, an opportunity like that doesn't just fall into your lap every day. I should have the first book in that series ready to launch in about a month. Maybe less. Go check out the game and tell them D.A. sent you.
I keep a notebook in my bag that I write down story ideas in. I have a ton of them. I could probably keep three writers busy, full-time. Oh well, I'll just write what I can and keep them coming. Who knows what I might come up with next?