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Origins: After Oil, The Last Iron Horse... and where the character Derek Moss came from.

I've getting asked quite a bit about where the idea originated.  It seems to be a very popular question.

The truth is... everyone in the books, from Derek to Abigail, are based off people I actually know.  The trilogy got its start a few ways.

The first was during a role-playing game called Dead Reign.  It's not a big secret that I'm no fan of zombies (at all), and the end of the world brought on by nuclear apocalypse has been done to death that it was also not an option I really wanted to explore... much as I love the Fallout series.  The game master at the time wanted to know what could possibly bring my interest back but still make it playable within Dead Reign.  I immediately asked, "Pick something without zombies or nuclear wastelands."

That left a challenge.  What else could end civilization to make it a post-apocalyptic game of survival?

The answer came from a surprising source--on the Discovery Channel there was this special called "The End of Oil", and it was a docu-drama based on the premise that oil and other fossil fuels simply ran out.  Needless to say, the idea continued to percolate and the next week when my friends and I got together I raised the idea.  We tried it, and it worked out.

Some of the characters in the books are loosely based on those characters.  Many of them, however, had to be mixed together as including everyone would have given me a cast of well over a few hundred... and some of those felt repetitive.  Great for minor characters to flesh things out, but not so great for main characters.

At this point, there was no Derek Moss (or Marissa).  There, however, was Sheridan -- then named Kristina -- and Terrence Scapael.  The role later given to Derek and Marissa were originally Terrence & Kristina's.

However, in a conversation with family and a few family friends who absolutely do not play the same creative gaming as my friends and I did, we bounced around just how each of us would react to this, and what skills we actually had, and what would likely kill us rather than help us.  A few more characters came to be (Daniel Wither, Lorraine... Garrett...).

Through these conversations and these games, the plotline, and the characters came to life.  Some died, some didn't.

And then, in one fateful early morning (like 1 or 2 am) my phone rang.  It was another friend of my family... who was also my (now ex) husband's boss... who also was the general manager for a local company that sold solar panel systems... Yep.  "Derek" himself called us at the small hours, in a very good mood and wanting to chat.  Considering I was up, we chatted.  Somehow we got onto the subject of what I was writing, and "Derek" was a bit put out when I told him the only scene his character was in was a short scene while on the phone with Terrence at the beginning of After Oil.

You know, this scene;

However, this morning Terrence wanted to live closer to the city where the roads were plowed more frequently than they were here.  He awkwardly balanced his phone between his shoulder and ear as he drove the ATV with a plow attachment on it up and down his long driveway.

“—That’s what I said to Sheri this morning.” He flipped the phone over to the other shoulder and lowered the blade of the plow again as he prepared to take another swipe down the drive.  “If it keeps snowing this much, we’ll be digging out clear through June.”  He paused to listen to the other person, again switching which shoulder the phone rested.  “All right, maybe not that long but the point still stands.  One of these days I swear I’m moving to someplace without snow.”

Sheridan walked outside and watched her husband as he cleared the driveway, shaking her head as she did so.  

Terrence looked up and over at her with a wave and ignored her frown.  “Are you and Marissa still coming over for New Year’s?” he asked.  “Great, I’ll tell Sheri to expect you.... Derek?  Hello?”

"What happened?" asked Sheridan.

"I don't know," answered Terrence.  "The phone cut out in the middle of what he said."

And that was it.  "Derek" was never seen again, although the others who would know of him wondered if he survived.  The storyline continued without him.  However, "Derek" wasn't happy with that and insisted he should have more of a part in the story.  So, I promised him I would, at least, get him there (His words, "I have a four-by-four, and if Sheridan is you I know you'd have something there to drink and I'd be there with bells on!"  I wonder if he remembers this conversation...) but he'd be like Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars.  Train someone, mentor them, and then sadly die midway through the book...

I tried.  I really did.  I wrote him into the book (and that was a doozy to logic out) and even wrote him a major part to the point where I promised "Derek" would die... but... in the editing Derek lived because the rest of the developmental editors and beta readers liked him far better than they did Terrence, or the others, as the lead.  In later edits, the role of Derek and Terrence actually reversed, with Terrence dying and Derek taking over.

So, Derek remains as our leading character and will be there at least until the end of the third, and possibly fourth, book.

The book, and eventual trilogy, I never intended on publishing (I was actually planning to put in enough editing to make it not embarrassing but then go through LuLu or Createspace so we could have print copies on our personal shelves as a laugh... if anyone is old enough - or caught the reruns - the look on my face when I received my advance for After Oil was like on that Murder She Wrote when JB first finds out she's being published... yeah... like that!)

So, now we come to the present.  The second book of the trilogy is on shelves (OMGWTFBBQ!!!) and the first mock-ups of the third, and final, book of the trilogy is already being circulated by my publisher.  It's a bit too soon for a reveal but... wow... it's my favourite cover so far.

From not intending to publish to the general public to being on order to deliver the third book... and looking to the future for a fourth book (but not in the same series... I have something new I'd like to work on before returning to the Kingdom of Walden).

What do I have planned for the future?

Well, if I have half the success as the fictional JB did (well, minus the murders...) I'll be happy.  I'd really like her house, too... but I have more work to do for that!


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