Justin Kassab is the author of Foamers (The Primal Age Chronicles) which is his first book and is published by Akashic Books. He grew up in Central Pennsylvania and pursued an M.F.A from Wilkes University. Visit him here.
NAW- Tell us about your book, Foamers. How did you get the idea for it?How long did it take to finish the book?
Foamers is a post-apocalyptic novel that follows a group of survivors and examines how they redefine themselves in a world without law. The idea came from many late night conversations with some good friends about what we would do in the end of the world. After a while of running through scenarios the story began to appear. The novel started as the project for my Masters in Creative Writing from Wilkes University, and was released to the public about three years later.
NAW- Tell us about the character of Kade. How did you develop the character?
Kade was far more difficult to create than I ever imagined. Trying to sculpt a person who hates the world he lives in, but yet remains likeable to the reader was a tricky feat to balance. I think it was finally somewhere near the 37th revision that he finally was able to be a likeable people hater.
In his final inception he is a person who was diagnosed with Huntington ’s disease at a young age. This is the foundation of what makes him into a prepper. He uses the end of the world as an escape from the world. Then a little over a decade later, the Primal Age descends and all of the sudden he finds himself as the leader of a group of survivors. Sadly for him, there is a big difference between theory and practice.
NAW- Your book could easily be adapted into a movie. Did you write it with the idea of adapting it into a movie someday?
Before Foamers was a novel it was a TV show. So there are some remnants from that original concept still floating around the novel. However, I think it is less that I think of adapting it and more that screenwriting is part of my writing form. That being said, I would love to see the movie.
NAW- Did you carry out any research for the book? If yes, tell us how did you go about it?
I did my best to make everything as realistic as I could. I spent a great deal of time researching flus, most notably the Spanish Influenza and how the public reacted to the casualty rate. My monsters, foamers, are modelled after chimpanzee behaviour. By the time I was done researching them, I felt like I could teach a seminar on the little guys.
My favourite part of research is utilizing experts. I have many friends in military or law enforcement, who were great aides in helping me keep actions accurate. I even went so far as to know the MPG for each vehicle the group used, and how many rounds their guns could hold.
I find research almost as much fun as writing, and am always thrilled to learn something new. The difficult part is knowing when to put the research down and get writing.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing I can usually be found on a pool deck somewhere. I coach water polo and swimming as well as manage a local aquatics facility. If I’m not paying the bills I am likely to be found outside somewhere. I try to be able to maintain the skills my characters possess. So, I spend a lot of time hiking, shooting, or any other outdoor activity that I think would be useful. Lastly, I am still a kid at heart, so when I can find time I still enjoy a good old video game session.
NAW- When did you decide to become a writer? What was your inspiration?
I was a freshmen in high school when I first took to writing. At first my writing was in response to a broken heart, but the more I wrote to heal, the more I fell in love with storytelling. I had a great group of friends and they were always thrilled to listen to me recant my latest story. I’ve tried to walk away from writing a number of times in my life, but I’m not happy if I’m not writing.
NAW- Tell us about your publishing journey. How difficult (or easy) was it finding a publisher?
I am a case of being in the right place at the right time. I don’t want to downplay the amount of work I put into my novel, but my path to publishing was much simpler than many of my other writer friends.
At Wilkes University, I had an amazing mentor by the name of Kaylie Jones. Around the time I was finishing up my degree she was starting her own publishing company, and she was looking for a novel she could use as the flagship for her Ebook line. Lucky for me she loved Foamers, and shortly after I graduated I signed a contract with Kaylie Jones Books. There was still a great deal of work involved, however it was nice to not have to add any more rejection slips to my collection.
NAW- Who are your favourite writers?
Terry Goodkind will always top my list because during my youth he had the greatest impact on my writing. James Jones is a close second since I think he is the writer I have learned the most from reading. Kurt Vonnegut rounds out my top three at the moment, but I will give J.K. Rowling my honorary guilty pleasure ranking.
NAW- Name your five favourite books.
The Stone of Tears-Terry Goodkind
Slaughter House Five-Kurt Vonnegut
I Am Legend-Richard Matheson
World War Z-Max Brooks
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-Robert Lewis Stevenson
NAW- What are your upcoming works?
My main project at the moment is getting the sequel ready. However to keep things from getting too monotonous, I have also been working on a lot of short stories that take place in the Primal Age, but away from the characters that are in the novel. If you are a fan of my writing keep your eyes on JustinKassab.com to see when the next release will be.