Author Spotlight: D. Ryan Gish

In today's Author Spotlight, we're meeting D. Ryan Gish, author of the zombie apocalypse novel ENTHRALLED. Be sure to catch the sneak peek at his novel at the end!

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Headshot5Where did your inspiration to write ENTHRALLED start?

ENTHRALLED was inspired, at least in its infancy, from a drunken conversation between my close friends and I in which we determined that we would, without any doubt whatsoever, survive a zombie apocalypse. At least there was no doubt on their part ... and there probably still isn't. I, on the other hand, wasn't so sure we'd all survive, so I thought it would be fun to play that out. ENTHRALLED became my way of doing that. Of course, it morphed into something far bigger and more interesting as the story unfolded and deeper questions, fears, and emotions began to surface. But it honestly all started with beer.

What was the hardest thing about writing ENTHRALLED?

This was my very first attempt at writing a complete novel. I had written short stories, but a novel was much more intimidating.

So I think the hardest part was actually getting started. Writing that first sentence. Then that first paragraph, first page, etc. ... At some point, though, the story started telling itself, and I just had to focus on keeping up.

Writer’s block: How do you beat it?

I don't. I've heard a lot of writers say they power through ... bust out a thousand words a day whether they suck or not. But I'd rather not force it. I enjoy writing. When I try to force it, I don't enjoy it. If nothing comes to me, then I do other things. I've found that with women and writing, desperation yields poor results. Eventually, I'll have a dream or an idea or something will happen that will inspire me. Sometimes I have a lot of ideas all at once, and I write them down so I can draw on them later.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

I would have to say my favorite author is Stephen King. His Dark Tower series is still the most fascinating thing I've ever read. I love how he can develop a character, and often times a large number of characters, in ways that create real emotional ties with the reader. His unique way of storytelling is addicting ... I've never read another author that can bring a story to life the way he does.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

Time. And fingers. I guess I really just need a good idea that I can work with. And whiskey. Whiskey helps.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

I love spending time with my three kids. I support the Orlando City Lions MLS team ... love going to games. Duck hunting has become one of my favorite things to do, although I usually miss a whole lot more than I drop. I love being in the woods and near/in the ocean. I've been thinking about taking up surfing again, but haven't committed to it yet. Mostly I just love being around my friends and family.

 

FROM THE BOOK:

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Wake Up, O Sleeper

1

“Zombies,” I said, waiting for the automatic doors to sweep open. “Every single one of them.”

Beyond the glass, a myriad of shoppers stalked the aisles in search of items that would only briefly sustain them. I’d watched them all day from behind the deli counter, and I stopped in the entryway, grimacing as I realized I would soon be joining them.

A man shoved past with a case of beer, and my jaw clenched.

“Excuu-use us,” my daughter said, putting one hand to her hip. The man had enough sense not to look back. If he did, he likely would have turned to stone under my six-year- old’s glare. “Some people.”

“You don’t talk to adults like that, Zoe,” I said, then faked a cough so she wouldn’t see me smile.

Before us, an elderly woman struggled to separate a shopping cart from the rest in the stack, and my smile faltered. She freed the buggy and continued on her way. I gazed back into the parking lot, wondering how much we really needed milk.

My stomach rumbled its irritation at the amount of my wife’s fried rice I had consumed for dinner; an uncomfortable reminder that Sydney was home cleaning the dishes. There wasn’t a chance in hell I could come home empty-handed.

“Let’s make this quick,” I said. “Try and keep up, Faris.”

My son’s hand slipped into mine. He was three, and I could hear his miniature boots clopping fast against the polished concrete as I put my head down and power-walked past the cash register. Someone called my name, but I shot down the nearest aisle, pretending not to notice. We took a sharp right at the end of the row, slowing when the bank of refrigerators came into view.

“Can we get cookies?” Zoe said, stopping at a display of Oreo’s stacked in the center of the aisle.

“Absolutely not,” I said over my shoulder, and dragged Faris the last few yards to our destination. A blast of cold air hit me as I opened the refrigerator, pulled out a gallon of fat-free milk, and let the door swing closed again.

“You know why they put the milk at the back of the store?” I said when Zoe had caught up.

“So you have more time to tell this boring story?” She pressed her nose against the glass and let her breath mist up the frosted surface.

“You love my stories,” I said while she drew a “Z” over half of the fog, then took Faris’s finger and traced an “F” beside it.

A man and woman watched from farther down the row. No amusement there. Faris squeezed my hand and we started back the way we came.

Something about their expressions made me look again, but the couple had moved away in the opposite direction.

Zoe ran ahead, this time halting beside a bank of chips.

“They put the milk at the back of the store so parents have to drag their kids past all the junk food to get to it,” I said and prodded her with a light kick to the rear.

“Hey, Shane,” a loud voice came from my right. I cringed, my hope of making it to the check-out lane before being accosted now dashed. I turned to see the pimply part-time bakery worker hopping and waving in my direction, and I slugged toward the counter to see what he wanted. A line of people snaked through the tables of prepackaged pastries, reaching the sandwich station in the next section of the store.

“What, Tim?” I said, bypassing the queue, ignoring the impatient faces.

“Shane, I’m so glad you’re here,” Tim said. He stole an awkward glance over his shoulder.  Then he bent his head and said in a much lower tone, “Something’s up with Justin.”

I took a deep breath. “Tim, I’ve been off for over two hours. I can’t deal with this right now.”

“Dude, I know you got your kids and all, but something’s seriously wrong with him.”

“Listen, Timmy,” I said, trying to reign in my annoyance. “I am off the clock, and even if I wasn’t, it is not my job to figure out what’s wrong with the boss. I turned that job down, remember?”

“I really wish you hadn’t,” he muttered and shot another look toward the storage room door.

My arm jerked suddenly, and I felt Faris’s grip on my hand tighten. The old woman with the buggy stared down at my son. Her mouth curled into what might have been a smile if not for the way her cracked lips lifted over her yellow front teeth. Faris seemed unable to tear himself from her gaze; his body trembled with every breath.

A cold chill brushed down the nape of my neck, and I took a few steps back, pulling Faris with me, but my daughter didn’t follow.

“What’re you lookin’ at, lady?” Zoe said. When the woman ignored her, Zoe passed her hand directly in front of the elderly lady’s face. “Hello-o.”

The woman snapped out of her trance. She shook her head and turned her attention to Timmy.

“I’ll have a dozen of those sour cream donuts you make so well,” she said in a rather pleasant voice. Much more pleasant than that look she gave my son.

“That’s another thing, Shane,” Timmy said, holding a finger up to the woman. “I can’t find any of the damn donuts. Justin’s moping around somewhere in the back and Samantha’s nowhere to be found. I’ve got a line the length of the Nile and people are starting to act really weird.”

I lingered on the elderly lady a moment longer before returning my attention to Timmy. She seemed completely normal now, like her brain had turned off the senile switch and flipped on the sanity.

“Look, I can’t … ” My voice faded to nothing when the door to the storage area creaked open and Justin, the evening shift manager, slipped through. His glasses sat askew across the bridge of his nose and half of his shirttail dangled over his waistband, but not enough to conceal his open fly. Yet it wasn’t his disheveled appearance that took my words away, or the powdered sugar smeared all over his mouth and chin. It was the look in his eyes. So much like the old lady’s and they were aimed straight at Faris.

I backed away from the counter, this time ensuring I had both of my children within my grasp. “Sorry, Timmy,” I said. “We gotta go.”

“Uhhh,” Timmy said, only now noticing our boss standing in the doorway like a Royal Guard after an all-night bender. “Don’t … forget your milk.”

I quickly stepped to the counter and grabbed the gallon of milk. As I backed away, I felt Faris yank on my arm. But this time it was much harder. I spun to see the hunched old woman tugging at my son, her gnarled fingers wrapped around his forearm. Faris’s mouth gaped open, his eyes pleading, screaming the words his tongue refused to form.

Zoe cried for her to let her brother go. The line of people watched with blank stares and did nothing. Timmy gasped. Justin sneered. My son closed his eyes, and the old lady held fast.

I had no other choice.

The milk hit the floor. And so did the old hag.

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