Jeff Gunhus Interview – Inspiration, Research, & Characters

Which came first: the title or the book? Was there a specific event that inspired this book? How much research was involved in writing this book? Was the horrifying last chapter included in the first writing of the book or was it added later? What advice does the author have for writers that have yet to be published?

What was the inspiration for this book? Was there a specific event that gave you the idea for it?
Story ideas can come from anywhere. In this case, I read an article about an experiment where three mice had their brains linked together through a computer. Once linked, they were able to perform tasks at a higher level, essentially becoming a neural computer. They talked about some of the possible directions this technology could go in the future…and I took it a bit farther.

How long did it take you to decide on a title? Or did the title come before the book?
Titles are tricky things. Sometimes they pop out at you. Sometimes it’s a slow slog through dozens of possibilities. Resurrection America came easily as I knew I wanted to name the town Resurrection to work against the idea of the town dying from lack of jobs and opportunity. As the themes of the book took hold, it was an easy jump to Resurrection America as both a place and the central idea that drives both the antagonist and the protagonist. They want the same thing, but they have wildly different ideas of how to get there.

marathon runner, wikimedia commons

The things that happened in this book occurred at such a fast pace. Did writing it make you feel as though you were running a marathon?
There were times that I was frustrated I couldn’t write faster because I wanted to see what happened next as much as I hope my readers will. I had an ending in mind, but the exciting thing about writing is the discovery along the way. Elmore Leonard famously said about his own writing, “I leave out the parts the people skip.” I try to do that as much as I can.

How completely did you develop your characters before you began to write?
I get an image of them in my head, often pulling pieces of them from people I know. I think through the turning points they’ve had in their lives, whether that’s marriage, having kids, losing a loved one, fighting in a war, losing a job, etc. It’s important for me to know why my characters are taking an action more so than knowing exactly what they are doing. Still, I remind myself that real people are not consistent and they don’t always act logically or in their own self-interest, so I leave my characters room to surprise me.

PTSD, wikimedia commons

The sheriff had some issues with PTSD from fighting the Jihadi. Have you ever known anyone who suffered from PTSD? Or did you have to research it?
Not directly, but I have many friends with parents who experienced PTSD and I drew on their experiences. I also researched it. It’s a devastating issue that I think we need to more to address as a society after more than a decade and a half of war.

Which character was your favorite? Why?
Keefer was a lot of fun to write, the bad guys always are. Like the best bad guys, he has a definite perspective and worldview where you catch yourself for a second buying his logic. Then you realize he’s completely insane.

Which scene was your favorite? Why?
In thrillers, you always want a ticking clock to dial up the tension of the action. I had fun writing the scene the Town Square with an actual clock ticking down to zero. That was fun. But it’s the final chapter that has people talking…and that’s always fun.

balancing act, flickr

Which scene was the most difficult for you to write?
The balancing act where you’re not quite certain whether Rick is on to something or if his PTSD has created a paranoia that has taken him off the rails was tricky. The call from the President was the missing ingredient to finally make Rick admit he was wrong.

Did you have to research anything before writing this book? If so, what?
Every book has some level of research, but this one particularly so. Some reviewers mention they think the science is a little far-fetched. This is what prompted me to add the author’s note in the back to point out than many of the more fantastical things already exist in computer science labs around the world.

computer science lab, flickr

There is a Resurrection Mine in Colorado. Is this the mine that you based the one in the book on?
I’m not certain whether there is a Resurrection Mine in Colorado. Not one that I know of, but it seems like a great name for a mine, doesn’t it? The mine in the book is based on the Creighton nickel mine in Sudbury, Canada. There’s an amazing neutrino lab a mile underground with clean rooms and a massive device to capture neutrinos that would be at home in any sci-fi movie.

Was the horrifying last chapter included in the first writing of the book or did you add it later?
It was one of five scenes I knew going into the book. The moment Rick sees the security fence around the mine, the moment the military storms into town, the countdown of the clock, the moment in the mine when the real plan in revealed, and then the last chapter. I debated whether to include the last chapter, but I chose to because I think it’s a more accurate depiction of the real risks we all face.

writing, pixabay

When did you first have a desire to write?  How did this desire manifest itself?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid trying to make the books I loved last longer by writing additional scenes. My first published novel was a fantasy middle grade book I wrote for my son who was a reluctant reader, so having the writing bug helped me craft a story that I knew would hold his interest. He became an avid reader and the book series took off.

Do you ever become bored with what you are writing?  If you do, how do you get past that point?
Yes, but that’s when I know I’ve left the main highway and gotten myself lost. If I’m bored writing it, then I can’t imagine anyone who is going to be excited to read it. So I hit the reset button and try to figure out how to get back on track.

fiction genres, flickr

What is your favorite genre in which to write?
Whichever one I’m currently writing in. I do enjoy all types of books, so I write in several genres because, for me, writing is just an extension of the reading experience. I love Stephen King’s career because although he’s known for horror, he jumps between horror, fantasy, and crime fiction. But people come for his voice, regardless of genre. It’s not the best career advice for aspiring writers because it can confuse your audience, but I feel that if I write the books I want to read, then it will reflect well in the work.

What kind of books do you like to read?
I have eclectic tastes, but I love horror, science fiction, and fantasy. I read every new Stephen King and Joe Hill. I enjoy science fiction like Hugh Howey’s Silo series. I’ve re-read Dune several times. But then I read Michael Chabon and I just want to write like that. Then I read Neil Gaiman and wish those were my words. I enjoy being thrilled by a good story and having pangs of jealousy as I see the craft play out in front of me.

family balancing act, flickr

How do you manage to balance your time between family, friends, and writing?
I try to write every day and usually get six out of seven days. With that kind of consistency, I don’t spend that much time writing per day. Also, I wake up between five and five-thirty and get most of my work done early.

Is there any advice you would like to give writers that have yet to be published?
Don’t write to be published. Write because you love it. But don’t think loving it will be enough to make you good. Go to conferences. Take courses. Join a writer’s group. Do the work. Even with all that, ultimately it comes down to two words: Writers write. Butt in chair, get to work. Hard work won’t turn you into James Joyce, just like going to the driving range every day won’t turn you into Tiger Woods. But you will get better. And even if you don’t, if you’re not worried about publishing and you’re writing what you love, then you’ll still have a blast along the way.

Recommended Article: Resurrection America – a Review

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