I have an exciting post for today. Recently, I read and reviewed a book called Afognak by James Rains. As you know, this has been one of my all time favorite books that I have read as of late. I had the opportunity to interview the author, James Rains, about his experience living/working in Alaska, as well as writing the book Afognak.
Before getting to the interview, you can click here for my review.
Run. Fight. Die.
The island of Kodiak, Alaska has been harboring a dark secret for centuries, and that secret is about to be unearthed.
Dr. Joseph Karikoff and a group of survivors race against time to flee the horrors unleashed on the island in this apocalyptic biomedical thriller.
Publication Date: March 15, 2015
1. Q: Did working in Kodiak have some influence in writing Afognak? If so, how?
A: I was working in law enforcement in Kodiak, Alaska, during the time of the tsunami that decimated the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Soon after the event, as radioactive material began to be released into the water surrounding Japan, an emergency meeting took place at the police department because Kodiak shared water via the ocean currents, with Japan. The fear was that we would start to have debris from the power plant showing up on our shores, and that we would start to receive radioactive debris.
On one of those days after the Fukushima disaster, with FEMA warnings coming in on a daily basis, I was sitting in the hospital parking lot listening for a tsunami siren test. We had been running drills all week, just in case we got hit with an earthquake or tsunami, since such events had nearly wiped Kodiak Island off the map twice in recorded history, maybe more. As I watched in horror, one of the Coast Guard helicopters got really close to the blades of one of the large wind turbines. In my mind, I played it out as if the helicopter had hit the wind machine throwing the large flaming blades down the mountainside taking out the islands power, water, and communications.
Suddenly, I knew thent I wanted to write an apocalyptic thriller about the island and its unique people.
2. Q: What was your favorite part about writing Afognak?
A: I would have to say creating up the unique story. When I sat down to write the book, I had nothing other than the one mental image described above. When I was done with the book, it was as if I had lived out the entire story myself. I was all of the main characters, and I visualized and constructed every thought, every word of dialogue, and every move they made. I felt their pain and their fear. I was immersed in the book as I wrote it for six months.
3. Q: What kind of research did you do when you wrote Afognak?
A: I did a lot of research on the island as well as its native people groups. I spent a lot of time on the phone with individuals from the local museums here in Kodiak. Also, I had a lot of dialogue with police colleagues of mine about emergency protocol, police department policies, and what they would do given certain situations. I did research with a fireman from the Navy about large armored Navel ships and how to sink them, and I was able to pick the brains of several individuals within the medical field about viruses and medical protocol. I would say I spent the most time, not writing Afognak, but doing the research needed to make it believable. One of my favorite author’s was Michael Crichton, and I always respected him for all the research he did to make his stories blur the line between truth and fiction.
4. Q: What made you decide to write Afognak from several points of view?
A: I blame Stephen King. He is my idol in many ways. I love how he changes the point of view in his books. I remember reading IT for the first time. He kept switching the point of view, so you got to get a little bit from each of the characters. And, you even got the point of view of the evil clown/spider, which was out of this world. I had never read anything like it, and every book I’ve written, save one, has been written in that format.
5. Q: What was the easiest/hardest part about writing Afognak?
A: The easiest part was sitting down and writing the book. I wrote the entire book in about six months. I worked at a feverish pace. I was completely immersed. The hardest part about writing Afognak was the editing. I struggle with a learning disability that makes writing very difficult, and I tend to be a perfectionist with a little bit of OCD and ADD. As you can guess that makes for a rough journey. I can create a fantastic story in my head though, and throw what’s in my head on paper, but that is only a very small part of the battle. It took me six months to write Afognak, it took me nearly four additional years to do a simple edit.
6. Q: What inspired you to become a writer?
A: I grew up in a rough neighborhood near East Saint Louis in a mental and physically abusive home. My father struggled with alcohol and drug addictions. I struggled with all the stuff a kid in that type of environment struggles with—low self esteem, fear, feeling unloved and unwanted, and I saw a lot of things a little kid should never see. Plus, I struggled in school because I learned a bit differently than others did. So, I began to use what I call mental storytelling as an escape from the realty around me. It worked really well. Sometimes it worked too well. I would not learn how to read well until aroundsixth grade, and after that, I read everything. I found that not only could I escape in my own storytelling, there were people who could create all kinds of places in which to escape. Also, I found I could relate to some of the main characters in the books—people who had or were struggling with the same thoughts and emotions I was struggling with. I remember reading Stephen King’s The Shining and relating to the boy as well as getting a picture of what my dad must havefelt like as an alcoholic. I realized I could help others through writing—even if to just escape their life for a little bit.
7. Q: What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A: I love hearing that people enjoyed the book. I wrote it to entertain, so when I heard that it has accomplish that goal, I’m reminded about why I love writing and being a writer. Also, I enjoy getting to travel around and talk about my book. I always get some epic questions, and I love being able to answer them!
8. Q: Are you going to write more books similar to Afognak, ie post- apocalyptic/biomedical thriller.
A: Afognak is the first book in a series entitled, “The Kodiak Series.” The next book is entitled, Chiniak, and I’m currently writing that book. It will pick up whereAfognak left off. It will have a lot of similar themes—cold, fear, starting in a remote village on Kodiak, ending in Anchorage. But, Chiniak will introduce new characters and a new location. My focus on the first book was all professionals—cops, doctors, and military. Chiniak,though satisfying the questions that the first book raises about the main characters, will also focus on a new set of main characters that are not the professionals. Instead, they are going to be the everyday kind of people you find in a small town or city—soccer moms, fisherman, and maybe even a techie nerd (which I consider myself).
9. Q: Are there any fun facts that you would like to tell readers about yourself and your time writing Afognak?
A: The entire time I wrote Afognak, I was convinced that it would never be published, and that I was writing it for fun!
Thank you James Rains for the interview! And readers, be sure to pick up your copy of Afognak today.
About the Author
James Rains is an avid storyteller. For almost two decades he has been writing and telling stories that captivate audiences of all ages. Rains has a love of knowledge and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in religion, a Master’s Degree in education, and an Education Specialist Degree. He works in education and he spends his free time writing and reading and hanging out with his wife, Sarah and dog, Horace. Afognak is his first book.