Interview with Byron Suggs, author of Rockapocalypse

headshot7

Byron Suggs, Author

Rockapocalypse cover

I met Byron in a writers’ group on Facebook. Imagine my delight when I found out his first book, Rockapocalypse, is what we like to call a Biblical Fanfic! So I asked him if he’d come chat with us for a bit. Here’s how that went down:
~

~

~

Michelle Johnson: Congratulations on your new release! Can you tell us a bit about it?

~

~

headshot7:     Thanks, Michelle. I can try if you’ll bear with me. Fraught with “time-frame-dyslexia”, the story of Rockapocalypse can be difficult to relay in a few sentences. But we can start with a Divine parallel: the 1959 death of Buddy Holly and simultaneous birth of Peter Travers. Fast forward fifty-two years. Peter Travers is a highly successful music mogul, happily married to his childhood sweetheart. But fate has a nasty surprise for him in the form of a terrible automobile accident that leaves him in a coma, dangling between life and death. With his longtime friends and family gathering around to rally and pray for his recovery, Peter recalls the harrowing events of the summer of 1974 when he and his companions crossed paths with four dead rock stars and formed an alliance in the face of a terrible evil. As the story unfolds, a long suppressed detail rears its ugly head and forces Peter to confront the harsh realities of his fate. Unaware that he is suffering physical and spiritual decline in his coma, his childhood friends begin to experience strange and disturbing signs that convince them the past and future are about to collide in a way that may change their lives forever. With precious time running out, Peter and his friends race through different planes of existence to battle for their souls in a final Rockapocalypse.

~

    Michelle Johnson: That sounds awesome, Byron! Where did you get the idea for Rockapocalypse: Disharmony of Justice?

~

~

headshot7: From my own childhood. But that’s like saying “fruit” when asked what’s in the fruit cocktail, isn’t it? The fact is, I had a very good childhood. It was a magical time to be young in America. The 60’s and 70’s spawned a cultural revolution of a magnitude since unrivaled. I was happy, my imagination knew no bounds, and music seemed as much a part of my life as breathing. We all owned transistor radios, played outside far and wide with no worries, adored heroes and villains alike, and viewed the world with wide eyes and wonderment. But the bad existed as well: war in the jungles of Southeast Asia, a deep cultural split between those who grasp the “revolution” and those that clung to tradition and the “American” way, protest marches, social injustice, the Charlie Manson murders and Kent State shootings—as a kid it was like standing in a candy store in the eye of a very destructive hurricane.

As I grew older and came to terms with my own spiritual faith, I thought about those days and wondered: was God’s hand really in the details of that time? Of course, I knew the answer to that, but it planted a seed in my mind that sprouted in the form of Rockapocalypse. Several biblical themes dominate the story: redemption, forgiveness, faith— and probably others that elude me at the moment.

~

    Michelle Johnson: It was an incredible era to live through. And interesting that it turned into a story full of biblical themes. I suppose it could be argued that biblical themes are at the foundation of most things… but what were your biggest biblical fanfic influences? (movies, shows, or books)

~

headshot7: I’m not sure I can say that any particular biblical fanfic source influenced me. However, if those are thumbscrews you’re pulling out, I’ll take a guess and say movies over shows, with books last. (However, Milton’s Paradise Lost does come to mind.)

~

Michelle Johnson: Thumbscrews? Who me?

*halo*

Seriously though, let’s talk about your characters – I promise to put the medieval devices away… Are your characters pure fiction, did you borrow biblical characters and make them your own, or are they based on people you know?

~

headshot7: All of the above. I’ll apologetically decline to elaborate.

~

Michelle Johnson: Well, at least you are polite about it. I totally understand. There are characters in my books that I will never tell where the inspiration came from.

But how about a favorite, then? Which of your characters in Rockapocalypse is your favorite, and why?

~

headshot7: Now, that’s not fair, Michelle. Every author know that once you’ve spent an enormous amount of time with your characters, they all hold a special place in your heart. However, since you put me on the spot, Peter Travers  was the impetus for the entire story and I probably relate to him more than the others. But if I had to give a “literary Emmy” to any one character, it would be Margie, his childhood sweetheart and eventual spouse. She grew on the pages in ways I never imagined.

~

Michelle Johnson: Don’t worry Byron, I won’t tell the rest that Pete is teacher’s pet. My guess is they already know…

So… the concept of a musician playing for his soul is a tale Robert Johnson made famous with his song, “Crossroads.” Tell us how you made your battle unique.

~

headshot7: Well, my concept in Rockapocalypse was a bit different. Instead of a single musician playing for his soul, I have three who died under questionable circumstances and one who simply died in an accident. In the course of writing the book my choices for three of the rock stars seemed driven by the themes I mention above. I asked myself what if? What if God spared the souls of these people in return for carrying out his Divine plan? (i.e. forgiveness and redemption.) As for the fourth, Buddy Holly, I surmised he was simply part of the larger plan from the beginning. As such, I found him to be the natural leader of this rock entourage.

~

    Michelle Johnson: Buddy Holly, in my opinion, definitely was part of the larger plan. I think it’s so cool that you wrote him in. Speaking of the Divine plan – is God a major character in your book, or is God more of a background persona?

~

headshot7: Yes. And yes. With God, is there a difference?

~

    Michelle Johnson: No, I suppose there isn’t. 

So what can you tell us about your writing process? They say there are really only two types of novelists. Pantsers and plotters. Which one are you?

~

headshot7: Pantser, hands down. I cannot plot in advance. That’s like bounding my hands and feet, gagging me, and placing my head in a vise. (Kind of like Fifty Shades of—) I like to throw the map in the glove box and head off in a general direction. I am a man, after all. But seriously, no one sits down to write a book without a basic concept in their noggin. We all start with a general idea of a story. We should have a general idea of the characters and setting, too. How your characters react to their surroundings, and to other characters, will drive the plot. A lot of times they’ll surprise you, which is okay because the reader will be surprised as well. That’s the fun of writing for me. To plot it all out would be like, well, taking American history in high school. No surprises, no fun.

~

Michelle Johnson: Fair enough. Me – I’m a structure kind of a gal, even though I slept through History in high school.

So, no biblical fanfic influences, eh? How about a favorite book, movie, and television show that demonstrates biblical fanfic?

~

headshot7: Would the 1988 film The Seventh Sign count? Loved that movie. It had many of the same themes I used in Rockapocalypse. As for books, I’ll say Stephen King’s The Stand. Television, I’m afraid, may be a problem for me. I stopped watching television with any consistency about fifteen years ago.

~

Michelle Johnson: The Seventh Sign was awesome! One of my most favorite movie moments EVER was when Abby Quinn (Demi Moore) stabs David Bannon (Jürgen Prochnow) and he says: “Now I am his WRATH” then explodes in an amazing blast of light. And The Stand!  I could talk about that one for hours. Expect a post on both of those in the near future! M-o-o-n, that spells blog posts!

Rockapocalypse really does sound great, and right up our alley. What are you working on now?

~

headshot7: Well, that would be jumping the gun a bit. My latest work in progress is actually a continuation of my second book, Cold Currents, as far as the characters are concerned. So, I’ll tell you a little about that one, okay? Cold Currents is completely different from my first book in that I left the action/adventure/paranormal/coming-of-age mindset and went for the crime fiction genre. I’d spent the last few years scouring over the works of James Lee Burke, Lee Child, and more recent authors like John Hart. When the whole process of getting Rockapocalypse to print began to rattle me a bit, I sat down and asked myself “look, while you wrote a good first book, what’s really inside you that needs to come out?” A few days later I sat down and wrote the opening paragraph for Cold Currents:

“I was twelve years old the day they found Jenny Franklin’s head buoyed in a collection of debris along the banks of the Neuse River. Spring rains had swollen the muddy waters to levels not seen since 1947, dredging up secrets from its depths, and on that day, exposing the atrocities of a dark heart. There were no money pictures in the news, nothing gruesome, just a photo of police standing around on the river bank, looks of despair etched on every tired face. My father was one of them.”

And I didn’t stop writing for the next five months. It was a blast! The words just fell out of me. When I wrote the last sentence I knew I had a good book in my hands. (Note: I am not an egotistical person. I just felt what I think some writers feel when all the cogs and links fall into place.) In fact, with the exception of a few rounds of line edits, it was that “first draft” that drew the attention (and offers) of several agents. It’s currently on submission! I’m very proud of that book. (For a short synopsis and book trailer visit http://www.byronsuggs.com/Books.html )

As for my current work in progress, Bone Whispers (tent.), I felt my MC, Bobby Taylor, had more layers I needed to peel back. It’s going a little slower this time around because I have to focus so much time on getting Rockapocalypse into the hands of readers while the momentum’s there. Aside from all the social media promotions, I’ve done six book signings since it launched in September ’12, and have three more scheduled before the end of January 2013. After that I’ll ease back a bit and get down in the trenches to complete Bone Whispers.

~

Michelle Johnson: Wow, congratulations! And that is one seriously awesome first paragraph! We look forward to hearing some wonderful news from you soon! Thank you so much for coming and chatting with us, Byron.

~

Follow Byron on Facebook , Twitter or connect on Linkedin.

And drop by his website to find out the latest news on Cold Currents.

Advertisements

About Michelle L. Johnson

Agent with Inklings Literary Agency, Author, and occasional wannabe comedienne. Firm believer in all things caffeinated. Represented by Jamie Bodnar Drowley.

Posted on January 9, 2013, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Agreed. Great opening paragraph to Cold Currents.

  2. Jessica DePriest (Sandlin)

    Great interview, Michelle!

  3. Ditto on the wonderful opening paragraph! Rockapocolypse sounds like my kind of story. Growing up in those crazy days, it felt like rock’n’roll was the soundtrack for my life. And Biblical fanfic with screaming guitars… oh, yeah. Enjoyed the interview! Can’t wait to read it!

  4. M-o-o-n, that spells great blog! 😉 I had to. Sorry, Michelle. heehee Great to get to know you, Byron! Your books sound awesome and I look forward to checking them out. The Neuse River, eh? As in North Carolina? Love it!

    • Thanks, Amy! Yes, the Neuse River in North Carolina. I grew up in Johnston County. The river was central to Cold Currents as a geographical feature that brings about a catharsis for my main character, Bobby Taylor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: