Interview – Christopher Artinian – Safe Haven: Rise of the RAMs

Book Name and Description:  Safe Haven – Rise of the RAMs

The planet has succumbed to a monstrous virus. Those who die from the

infection return as savage predators hell-bent on spreading the virus to the rest of the human population. The UK and Ireland are the last hold-outs, but when the infrastructure supporting their self-imposed quarantine collapses, it’s everyone for themselves.

Mike Fletcher and his sister Emma live in Leeds. With the city’s streets overrun by the dead, their only option is to flee. They take their younger siblings and set off to find their last remaining relative in the far north-west of Scotland.

As they travel north they encounter other survivors – but who can they trust? Their terrifying journey will require them to confront horrors both human and inhuman, in the outside world and within themselves. Will they ever find a safe haven?

(It’s not just about fighting to survive in a zombie wasteland.  It’s about family, love, and doing the right thing when the odds are stacked against you.)

Interview Questions: 

What gave you the idea for Safe Haven – Rise of the RAMs? Mike, Emma, Sammy and Jake… the family unit, have been in my head a long, long time.  They were originally intended to be characters in a play.  It was going to be about a family’s fight for survival in the face of losing their parents.  Twenty-odd years ago, the zombies weren’t even in the picture.  I never wrote the play, but the characters stayed in my head.

I have always loved horror and have a particular penchant for the post-apocalyptic stuff. So, I realised it would be a shame to lose these characters who I knew so well, and decided to give them a different fight for survival.  Not only was the battle to keep the family together; it was to keep it together when everything around them had collapsed.

What got you into writing in this genre? I read quite a lot of post-apocalyptic stuff.  Books like Swan Song, Earth Abides, Alas Babylon, The Death of Grass and so on.  There are a lot of truly fantastic stories out there.  I have always been a horror movie fan and love films like Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days later etc and just decided I wanted to marry two of my loves together.

How long have you been writing? I began writing for music fanzines when I was 15.  Mainly about Prog stuff – ELP, Yes, Marillion etc.  I started my own music fanzine at 16 and wrote for a few different ones over the years.  I never really tried to write fiction until I was in my early thirties when I entered a sci-fi shorts film script competition.  I actually got through to the last few places.  That gave me the confidence boost I needed to start writing a bit more and I produced some short stories.  I tried to write longer pieces but was never in the correct frame of mind to finish them.

Then, about five or six years ago I came up with the idea for a horror film script which I finished in a matter of a few weeks.  That was the first time I’d tried to put an entire concept from start to finish down on paper.  That built my confidence again and after a couple of false starts, I began writing Safe Haven.

Tell us about your past books and stories? Well, even though Safe Haven: Rise of the RAMs is a current release, it feels like a past book.  I am currently working on book three and book two will be out in early June.  I have done a number of short stories but just tucked them away for a rainy day.  I wrote a script for a horror movie that I am really proud of and completing that gave me the confidence to start working on a full length novel.

What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I find the process of writing very exciting and very organic.  I rarely know how a scene will pan out until I’m a few sentences from completing it.  I loved doing drama at school and getting inside the heads of characters was like an escape.  I do the same thing when I am writing.  I try to see the story unfold through the eyes of the characters and influence the action through their personalities.  So my writing day ultimately involves me having lots of different people in my head.  Some of them do things I agree with, some of them do things I disagree with.  Some of them have my traits some of them I find horrific, but I try my best to keep the characters and mood authentic.

You could say drama has been a big influence on the way I write and the way my stories develop as a result of it.  There are lots of great writers who have inspired me to want to write.  But more recently the support I have been shown by the people who have read Safe Haven and the people who have liked it has been overwhelming.  Their support and their influence has given me renewed verve to carry on telling this story and I genuinely can’t thank them enough.

What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why? 

My favourite book without doubt would have to be Swan Song by Robert McCammon.  It is an epic post-apocalyptic tale that drew me into the story from the beginning.  I have never felt so immersed in a piece of literature as I did with Swan Song.  It is powerful, emotive and evocative.  It makes you think and feel in a way few books have the power to do and I love what McCammon does with language.  The guy is a genius.

A long time ago, I bought Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.  This is a brilliant, brilliant book.  It has so much useful information in for writers.  It is presented in a funny, yet clear and concise way, and I would recommend anybody who is serious about writing should read it.  My disappointment came from my own naivety.  I had been writing and editing myself round in circles and started looking for answers in books… as you do.  I bought this book thinking it would “cure me”.  I finished it in no time at all.  I put it down and I thought about it, and thought about it.  It didn’t cure me.  I was not suddenly able to edit my book magically and see all the mistakes I had made.  But that disappointment was one of the best things for me because it made me realise that although there would never be any magic answers, there were answers, magic or not.  They came in the form of tools.  I realised my tool box was only half full and that I needed to keep adding to it to develop my skills as a writer.  That book really helped my development.  It was the happiest disappointment I have ever had.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author? I must have read Stephen King on Writing half a dozen times.  It is as funny as it is informative.  Out of everything though, what I love about that book is the fact he never gave up.  He had an invoice spike nailed to his wall that all his rejection letters went on.  No matter how many times he got turned down, he just kept going and going.  That is something to admire.  That is something that I think back to whenever I get down about anything.  Just keep on going.  Keep on writing and keep on fighting.

For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why? This trilogy is very personal to me.  If I had to boil it down to the bare bones, I would say it is all about honour and love.  Maintaining honour in the face of adversity when everything is against you is a tough thing to do.  Falling in love when the world around you is falling apart happens time and time again but it is the ultimate declaration of optimism.  I wanted to write a story that was scary and horrific but uplifting and inspiring at the same time.  Hopefully by the end of book three I might have achieved some of the things I set out to do.

What are you doing next? At this moment in time I am about two thirds of the way through my first draft of book three.  It’s difficult for me to think about the next project too much because I have enough people in my head without adding any others.  That being said I would really like to do a novelisation of the horror script I wrote.

What advice would you give aspiring writers? Never give up.  If you feel inside you that you want to write.  You should write.  Even if it’s just for yourself.  If you feel you are not good enough, get better.  Writing is a process.  It’s all about development and self improvement.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  So if you are passionate about it don’t let anyone put you off.  We should do what we love.  We should do what makes us happy.  Life is short and we should snatch its small joys where we can.

bio: Christopher Artinian was born and bred in Leeds, West Yorkshire.  He moved to the Outer Hebrides in the north-west of Scotland in 2004 and lives there with his wife and dogs.

He is a huge music lover, an avid reader, a movie buff, a loyal supporter of Yorkshire County Cricket Club and a vegan.

Other than his family, writing is the main love of his life, and after completion of the Safe Haven trilogy he has plans for a number of other projects including the novelisation of a horror film script he wrote and completion of work on a thriller.


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