Axioms of Light

Interview: Tomorrow War: The Chronicles Of Max [redacted] By J.l. Bourne

Today I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing J.L. Bourne, an author I discovered several years ago and took a random chance on. I’m very glad I did. His new book, Tomorrow War: The Chronicles of Max [Redacted], is out and already making waves in the dystopian circles. With 105 reviews on Amazon (currently) the book has a rating of 4.8 stars. On Audible, 4.5 stars. It’s worth checking out. Below is my conversation with J.L.

Tomorrow War on Amazon

Tomorrow War on Audible

JC: Congratulations on the release of your new book, Tomorrow War: The Chronicles of Max, and all the success you’ve had as an author. I discovered Day by Day Armageddon about 4 years ago and devoured it. Before we actually get into Tomorrow War a bit, you’re an officer in the US Navy. Being the son of a Marine (don’t hold that against me), I want to thank you for you service. When did you decide to start writing? Was this always a passion or dream of yours? Or, as in my case, just some crazy idea that came into your head one day?

JLB: Likely closer to the crazy idea you mentioned. I actually started writing Day by Day Armageddon in late 2003. I never considered writing a passion, but I do enjoy it and love to see what my readers have to say about my works.

JC: When you begin writing a new story, do you have it pretty well outlined? Are you more of a “discovery” writer? Somewhere in between?

IF WE SUFFERED A MASSIVE COLLAPSE, 70% OF THE U.S. POPULATION WOULD LIKELY BE DEAD IN THE FIRST SIX MONTHS.

JLB: Discovery all the way. I never know how a novel ends until I write the last sentence. There are probably better ways to do it, but I’m not a classically trained writer. I’m a naval officer.

JC: Much of my writing is the same way. If I do outline, my characters usually end up correcting me as I write. Many people love the Day by Day Armageddon series. The zombie genre is so saturated with lots of mediocre to terrible entries, making it hard to sometimes find the gems. How were you able to find success with DBDA in such a heavily saturated genre? What qualities about your story have made it rise above so many others?

JLB: I’m a huge believer in the “you build it, they will come” school of writing. If you write something great and position it to be seen, it will catch on and be loved. The biggest problem I saw in the so-called “zombie genre” in the early 2000s was the lack of realism with survival, firearms, tactics and the decisions national leaders would actually make. I saw a vacuum and I jumped on it with Day by Day Armageddon. It took off and here we are, twelve years and a few novels later.

JC: All right, Tomorrow War. I have listened to the audiobook. As an audiobook junkie, I feel somewhat “authoritative” in saying that Jay Snider has continued to be a great fit for your work. While TW departs from the zombie scene, it clearly stays within the framework of a tragedy that topples nations at the onset of what will become a dystopian future. This time, you tackled it from the perspective of a cyber attack. What drew you toward this catalyst for your story?

JLB: Well, I assume you’ve seen the news lately. Greece and the EU are on the brink, a “glitch” brought down the NYSE and United Airlines yesterday. Things are not exactly looking rosy for the US and world economy despite the Ministry of Truth’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ numbers. A cyber or EMP attack are very real threats to our infrastructure and national security.

JC: You’ve managed to create very believable, likable characters, both in DBDA and TW. I think the first person point-of-view probably helps in this, something you seem to be comfortable with. Is this the style of writing that comes most natural to you?

JLB: I think so. I’ve written a novel in a more traditional format and it did well, but I enjoy the first person perspective. From what I’m reading in the reviews of Tomorrow War, so do my readers.

JC: I agree with that. Shattered Hourglass was a strong entry in your DBDA series, but I feel more at home with your stories in first person. Grey Fox was a fun short story that solidified that for me after Shattered Hourglass. As an avid journal keeper, I find your style very interesting. Both Day by Day Armageddon and Tomorrow War utilize characters that keep journals, through whom the stories are told. So, I have to ask, do you keep regular journals?

JLB: No, I don’t think so in the traditional sense, but I think we all do in the digital sense. Our smartphones, webmail, and electronic fitness trackers tell a comprehensive story about us.

JC: In TW, we get, what I believe, is a very clear, realistic look at what could happen with the breakdown of communication and nationwide logistics. With the loss of cell phones, the Internet, the ability to purchase with credit, grocery stores only carrying about 3 days worth of inventory, and banks unable to redeem withdrawals in a panic (usually only 14% of deposits on hand), the world can turn crazy very quickly. All this from an act of cyber terrorism. How real do you believe this type of threat is to us?

JLB: Very real. So real I don’t rely fully on the U.S. banking system and neither should your readers. Have a backup plan and enough cash hidden away somewhere to get you to a safe place if things go sideways. That’s just prudent advice your grandfather would give you, nothing more.

JC: There are some brutal acts done by people who were probably normal, everyday folks before the crisis hit in Tomorrow War. Unfortunately, I believe this might be realistic in such a situation. But there are also probably some very good people that would find each other as well. What do you think crisis does to us as people?

JLB: At the risk of sounding pessimistic, the bad guys would far outnumber the good guys in a Tomorrow War situation. The self-induced have-nots would be gunning with a vengeance for the rest of us that saw this coming. It’s just the reality of an urban survival situation. A father with a hungry child will kill you and yours for his.

JC: In TW, Max, our main character, is put into some pretty tough situations that required a lot of creativity. I have to admit, I felt like I was watching several issues of OffGrid magazine play out in my head (a publication I enjoy). It was really a great picture you painted, easy to imagine and follow. One reviewer called Tomorrow War a survival manual (though more entertaining than any manual, for sure). How much research did you have to do to come up with some of the weapon and survival tactics in TW?

JLB: Thanks, if your readers are interested, I’m featured in OffGrid issue #8. I am also a fan of the magazine and I think you’ll find the interview informative. Back to your question: I’m not a special operator, I’m a simple, down to earth guy with 20 years on active duty in the military. Over the past twenty years, I’ve seen and done a lot of interesting things at the service of the taxpayer and the Republic. A lot of the weapon and survival tactics came natural to me, growing up in the backwoods of rural Arkansas. I’m also a graduate of S.E.R.E. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) school as well as what most would call, Advanced SERE school. I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge during my years in the military and as a simple country boy and a lot of that knowledge went into writing Tomorrow War.

JC: Tomorrow War is set predominantly in Arkansas, and I have to admit it felt very authentic. Your familiarity with the area probably explains that. One element I loved in Tomorrow War was the train (no spoilers, don’t worry). That whole setup really brought things together as a literary device and was very effective. Where did this idea come from?

JLB: I’ve always been fascinated with trains, and felt that there was no better anchor to the story than a piece of Americana like the train you saw in Tomorrow War. My late father was a big fan of trains and we played around with model trains when I was very young.

JC: How much of your ideas for stories come from your travels as an active duty military officer? Do you have a note pad or something you use to furiously write down ideas as they come?

JLB: I don’t really keep a notepad handy, but I probably should. Ideas just pop into my head from time to time. My travels as a military officer are coming to an end. I’m thinking of retiring from service in 2017.

JC: Having read (or listened to), One Second After by William Forstchen, as well as several others, including James Wesley Rawles, I find a common thread of the need to have things to barter, whether physical items (cash, gold/silver, tools, ammo, food, seeds, medicine, cigarettes, etc) and/or skills. There’s a lot of knowledge in the world, but I’m not so sure there’s a lot of survival knowledge. Assuming we did experience a massive collapse in the government from whatever cause, how well do you think we’d fair as a nation? What can we do to improve?

JLB: If we suffered a massive collapse, 70% of the U.S. population would likely be dead in the first six months. There would be no avoiding this. Energy sustains life in this country and not having refrigeration, air conditioning, heat and clean water and food would decimate the average population.

JC: Frankly, I can see Tomorrow War as a movie. It’s the right length, the right amount of action, the right depth of character and enough realism to scare the crap out of people. Any nibbles or distance traveled down this path at all?

JLB: There are some nibbles, but when it comes to the big screen, I don’t believe anything I hear from producers and only half of what I see.

JC: Do you plan to stay with The Chronicles of Max? Head back into Day by Day, Armageddon perhaps? I could stand a little of both. Just sayin’…

JLB: No comment. Sorry.

JC: All right, keep your secrets. What is the most rewarding part of being an author?

JLB: The most rewarding part of being an author is having a day job to fall back on if “this writer thing” fails (other authors will laugh at that).

JC: As long as your quality keeps up, I’m sure the writing gig will do just fine. And finally, just to incite heated debate in some circles, 9mm or .45? AR15 or AK47?

JLB: 9mm pistol because you can fit more in a magazine, and the AR15 because it’s accurate, modular and simpler to suppress. Many AK-47 barrels are not concentrically threaded causing serious trouble if you try to attach a suppressor (silencer) to the muzzle. In a long-term grid down situation, you’re not going to want to shoot your gun without a silencer, a legal assessor in 40 states.

Thank you for your questions and as always, keep your doors locked.

Thanks to J.L. Bourne for taking the time amid his active duty military and writing schedules to do the interview. He’s very interactive and approachable on his Facebook page.

My award-winning, #1 bestselling book Circle of Reign, is available on Amazon and Audible.

Altar of Influence: The Orsarian War on Amazon and Audible.

My two short stories, The Red Grove and Remnants and Shadows, are also available on Amazon and Audible.