The International Writers Magazine: Q & A with the Authors
|Another Place To Die: The Endtime Chronicles
(Vol 2) Print and Kindle (US) UK Kindle
Hammer & Tong
Marcel D’Agneau interviews Sam Hawksmoor & Sam North
A new edition of this classic pandemic novel edited by Sam Hawksmoor. The authors are interviewed after their collaboration experiment.
Link to Chapter One here
'I was drawn into the story immediately and couldn't put it down. The characters are still with me. Excellent book.'
Nick11 Amazon UK
'A great story, well told'
- Austin - Amazon UK
Another Place To die: The scenario - A city gripped by fear as a lethal virus approaches from the East. No one knows how many are dying. People are petrified of being thrown into quarantine. Everyone is suspicious of the vaccine... Best friends Kira and Liz once parted are scared they will never see each other again. Teen lovers, Chris and Rachel, prepare to escape to the islands.
Marcel D’Agneau (MDA) Like the line... 'This is how the world ends. Fighting over spaghetti sauce in the supermarket car park.' Cheery stuff guys. But truly apocalyptic. Why the new edition?
Hawksmoor: I’ll answer that. Although I liked the first edition North wrote back when, I always wanted more about the younger characters, Rachel, Chris and Kira. I felt it was a book in two halves, the City drama with the taxi driver and the collapse of the city and then the drama of the kids out in the gulf.
North: We decided to strip out the city story and add back Liz’s story, the whole other character arc I had deleted. Previously Liz’s story made the book too long and back then I had an editor who kept saying cut, cut, cut.
Hawksmoor: And when I read Liz’s story I insisted it should go back in. So it kind of made sense to concentrate on the outer story rather than the disintegration of the city, leave that to the reader’s imagination rather.
MDA: Well you start off in the city at least. You get a very rapid taste of what is to come with the scene on the bus. Very cinematic.
Hawksmoor: Ha, we had so many arguments about that.
North: He made me write that opening 27 times. Probably still have me at it if he could.
MDA: Perhaps that is what is so striking about Another Place to Die (in both versions) it is like the template for a movie. Quick to evolve, and very visual at all times. You want these kids to survive.
Hawksmoor: But you don’t know if they will. Realistically – the chances of survival are very low unless you are in lockdown with your own water supply and food. Food is critical when no one will be growing it. Also right now people are at last thinking about a world where antibiotics will no longer work. That will be a very scary place indeed. We are down to the last line of resistance already and in China it is routine to overdose pigs with antibiotics and the slurry pours antibiotics into the China Sea... think then of the fish we eat... we are sleepwalking into a global disaster.
MDA: What part did the Ebola situation in West Africa play in getting this book back into print? Or the recent outbreak of Plague in Madagascar?
North: None. We started to discuss this back in 2012 and met up in Montreal for some intensive writing when Hawksmoor was on his book tour there in 2013. Ebola wasn’t in the news at all.
Hawksmoor: But it is a good prompt that there’s always going to be threat that one day we just might not be able to cope with. Ebola is unlikely to be a problem in a stable society with access to drugs, hygiene and fresh clean water - for now at least. But what if there is a second SARS pandemic?
North: And the spread of Ebola was also led by a social custom of hugging your dead and coming into contact with body fluids. West Africa is having to unlearn how to deal with death. It is a very emotional issue there. Our virus is much more dangerous in that it is airborne as well as spread by contact. It has a much greater chance of spreading and killing quickly.
Hawksmoor: I was always thinking in the back of my mind about Twelve Monkeys. One of my favourite movies. All it takes is one guy on a plane to expose all the passengers in an airport and wham – it spreads around the world in a day.
MDA: I like that these kids have no special training. Perhaps a strong instinct for survival though.
Hawksmoor: That’s why I made North develop the first chapter so many times. Rachel wasn’t clearly defined in the first edition and now she is the one who knows it isn’t safe to stay that the city, that authorities are probably lying about the extent of the infection. She’s making up wreaths. She knows how many people are dying. I wanted her to be anxious to hit the road.
North: But not on her own. She has to persuade Chris that it is their only option.
MDA: And finding his mother the way he does must have been the clincher.
North: Of Course. It is supposed to shock. Kira is different. She has been raised waiting for the end of the world and is ready for whatever comes. But unlike her father, isn’t a fanatic. She wants to survive because of Red, her dog. She isn’t waiting for rapture and doesn’t care a fig for ‘paradise’. She knows there is no such thing.
MDA: Clearly you have a unique set of characters here. Liz being my favourite.
North: I was sorry to lose her from the original, but the book just got too fat.
Hawksmoor: I made North trim back on Marcus’s journey in Mexico too. I think that was my main role, stripping away the distractions from the key players. It would be easy to be tempted by the drama happening in the city as people die or come under quarantine. The behaviour of the authorities, the violence as people lose hope. The first edition did go into that in some detail, but I felt that you either deal with that exclusively or follow the survivors story. Best not to do both. In the end that's what we decided to do. It becomes a different novel entirely because of that.
MDA: So how did this collaboration work?
North:(mock gun to head) I write. He cuts.
Hawksmoor: I struck out scenes I felt slowed it down or lost focus on the main characters.
North: Yes he did that. I was sorry to lose the scene in Victoria with Kira’s parents for example.
Hawksmoor: It was a good scene, but sometimes it best to let the reader imagine what happened to them, rather than spell it out.
MDA: I noticed the famous rat scene changed significantly.
Hawksmoor: (Laughing) North has to have his rats. But once we lost the taxi driver and the city he didn’t have a rat scene.
North: Liz had a lot of stuff to go through in her baptism of fire. The rats had to be there. I found a way. People don't realise just how difficult surviving survival will be. There's no going back. Once you lose infrastrucure and the rule of law it's virtually impossible to hit the reset button.
Hawksmoor: By the way I had no idea rats breed so fast. Next time you see an apocalypse movie, if there aren’t any major rat scenes, ask why. They will swarm in their millions.
MDA: I noticed a taxi driver snuck in to the first chapter anyway.
North: I couldn’t cut him out entirely. He would get upset.
MDA: The scenes in Mexico – when Liz meets the kids. What prompted that?
Hawksmoor: A long debate actually when we were editing in Hasparren in France. Think about it. A virus sweeps across the nation, killing, disrupting, there’s social chaos everywhere, violence… but if you are in jail, or in an institution, what if one day the people who lock you up and feed you don’t come in. And they don’t come in the next day or the days after… Perhaps someone will let them free, perhaps not, but either way the consequences will be dire. Same for hospitals. In the Ebola crisis not enough is said about the health workers who die trying to save lives. 20% died. That’s one hell of a sacrifice.
North: And these kids aren’t sick, but you can bet that in a difficult situation they would be at risk. There’s plenty of evidence of the sick and infirm being abandoned in a war situation and a virus outbreak is a very similar situation. You can choose between self-sacrifice or selfishness. Most will choose the latter I regret to say.
MDA: Is Another Place to Die: Endtime a YA novel? You don’t market it as such.
Hawksmoor: It’s dystopian of course, but although it is mainly about the kids trying to survive, I think it’s a scenario that will appeal to all readers. I hate having to pick a category. One of my favourite novels is La Peste (The Plague) by Albert Camus. You don’t find that in sci-fi, or dystopian or fantasy sections. It’s literary fiction. I’m not claiming we are literary fiction with all the baggage that goes with that, but this is about something that could happen, might well happen, it’s a portrait of just how quickly things can unravel. You can read it for vicarious thrills or a blueprint on how to survive.
North: We already know the antibiotics won’t work in future. In West Africa they had the luxury of experimenting on people who are desperate enough to take anything. If it happened here – people would demand results really fast, but once the electricity goes down it’s game over anyway. The food will run out before a cure is found.
Hawksmoor: And even if you could get the power workers to the plants to keep the power going – are you going to let them out again? What about their families? How well do you think they will take being parted from them? People really have no idea how fast things can unravel. Editing this book makes you realise that the Preppers are not the cranks they are made out to be.
MDA: I noticed you used American spelling on this edition.
Hawksmoor: I noted readers of the first were all complaining about the use of English/Canadian spelling
North: So in this version we are going to annoy the British and the Canadians. You can’t win really.
MDA: And it is print only at the moment?
North: Kindle and iBook available now
MDA: Are you planning any other collaborations?
North: I think Hawksmoor writes alone
Hawksmoor: (Laughs) I’ll let you be my first beta reader for the next.
MDA: Well good luck. You think anyone who read the first edition should buy it again?
Hawksmoor: Of course. The first edition is a collector’s item now. I’m hoping this new edition will attract new readers.
North: That’s why Hawksmoor added The Endtime Chronicles to the title – so they will know it is different. All the stuff about Prophet Arnold and his Church of Final Redemption is him.
Hawksmoor: This is a book about the Endtime. No Endtime without a Prophet to guide us. I quite like the old bastard actually. Every home should have this book.
MDA: Thank you guys. Good luck. And oh yes, I loved the Christmas scene - people should buy it just for that moment. Lovely constrast to the harsh reality of their world.
Another Place To Die: The Endtime Chronicles available on Amazon -
all territories UK / USA / Canada + kindle
© Marcel D'Agneau 2019
Marcel is the author of 'Eeny Meeny Miny Mole' and more. And occasional stringer for Hackwriters
Read Chapter One
Another Place To Die: The Endtime Chronicles
Hawksmoor & North
Chapter One: Warning Signals
‘Those who stay in this city will die by the sword, famine and pestilence, but they who go out beyond to places of safety will survive. Our cities will be overwhelmed by darkness.’
Prophet Arnold: Church of Final Redemption 29:1-5