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Clare writes inspirational romance, usually of a suspenseful nature. Her books are available through her publisher Pelican Book Group and Amazon. She is married with three kids and lives in the UK. She loves watching sci-fi, crime drama, cross stitching, reading and baking.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Review of Yield by Bryan K. Johnson

About Your upcoming release/Book:
Bryan K. Johnson
Author of Yield: Book 1 of the Armageddia Series

How did you come up with your premise? Is there a story behind your book? How did the story evolve?
I was on a plane from San Francisco to Bend for a job interview, and the fog was so thick over the bay that it completely blotted out the sky. As we took off above the cloud bank, everything just disappeared beneath me. Mankind and all our worries seemed to fade into the grey. I wondered what would happen if the world changed at that very moment. What if the life I knew didn't exist when I landed? What if my world died somewhere under those clouds?

That experience started everything, and even turned into one of my favorite scenes in Yield. As our main character, disgraced firefighter Devin Bane, takes off on the way towards his own interview, everything he knows changes while he's in the air. Devin crashes headfirst into a chaos he doesn't understand, fighting not only to get back to his wife and kids, but also to protect the other survivors now looking to him for a leadership he wants no part of.

For those who are not familiar with this story, would you please give us the blurb?
Ex-fire chief Devin Bane rises above the thick clouds for an interview in Seattle and the promise of a better life. Packing up his carry-on items for their descent into the city, Devin is blinded by a distant flash, followed by the screams and chaos of a crash landing.

Outside the plane's wreckage, a new nightmare surrounds him. Seattle's iconic skyline is gone.

Searching for answers as he flees through the ruins, Devin and a handful of survivors are surrounded by the most primitive side of human nature. Plunged into the darkness of a broken society, their tattered souls are each tested by the horrors they face. Even if Devin can escape the city, a far worse danger now blocks his path back home . . . back to his family and the dawning of a changed world.

Are there any fun tid-bits about this story you can share with us?
Yield actually started its life as a screenplay. I thought the concept made for a very visual type of story, so I initially fleshed out Yield in a traditional screenplay format. That alone took me a couple of years because I was working on it after long days at work and time with my family. Putting it together as a screenplay actually helped me quite a bit while writing to better visualize the scenes, structure the story, and tighten up my dialogue. But screenplays have to be so concise and heavily formatted that it really limited the emotion of the story. I received a lot of feedback from prospective agents and production companies that the screenplay was overwritten and just too literary. So I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet to expand Yield out into a novel. It took a few more years, but was extremely liberating to be able to flesh out how my characters felt and thoughthow the fear inside them was palpable and crippling. It allowed me to really explore my own style of writing and create a much deeper story.

How did you decide on the setting?
I'm from the Pacific Northwest, so I fell back on the locations I'm most familiar with. By placing Yield predominantly in Seattle and Portland, I thought that would also make it more unique than most of the other disaster books and movies out there. Those always seem to center around the cities of New York or Los Angeles. I lived in Portland for many years, but hadn't been to Seattle in ages, so I had to do some research to make it feel real. I tried to incorporate major landmarks, thoroughfares, and businesses downtown wherever possible to add to that feeling of realism and strengthen the overall believability of the story.

When will it be released?
Yield will be available in trade paperback and all e-book formats on August 14th. You can go to www.armageddia.com for all of the purchase links.

Written in the present tense, Yield is a fast paced book which throws you into the heart of the action as the survivors battle to find out what happened and simply make it through the first few days. At times a little confusing as you head hop through everyone in the scene, the gritty narrative keeps your attention and makes the book hard to put down. 
It's written from the perspective of the characters, who have no idea what's happened to their city or their families, only that there are very few people left alive. Not easy to read at times, as its no holes barred view on what could happen--but not from where you expect.
A good story, that pulls you in, keeps you reading and wanting more.

Where were you born?
I was born on a military base in Pullman, Washington, many moons ago. My dad was in the Navy, and we moved around quite a bit when I was little. After my parents got divorced, I moved down to Woodburn, Oregon, where I grew up and eventually went to high school. After that, my life blurred across four states before finally settling back in Oregon with my wife and two kids.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? 
I love the Oregon Coast, so even if I could choose to live anywhere, I'd have a house overlooking those crashing waves. There's just something so inspiring and powerful about watching the tide come in. New inspiration always seems to ebb and flow with those waves. I've sat out on the beach for hours on moonless nights, just listening to the water scatter across the sand . . . feeling it beside me in the black. There's nothing quite like it.

What hidden talent do you possess outside of writing... something you do for fun, but are good at?
Creativity is one of those things that I think can easily cross over into other disciplines. Outside of writing, I love to draw. I sketched out many of my characters and even some backdrops for Yield. You can check them out at: http://www.armageddia.com/Artwork.html  At one point in high school, I actually wanted to be a comic book artist, but I just didn't have the speed for it. The really good artists can finish several full pages in a day. My sketches, like my writing, I spent so much time reworking that they took considerably longer than that.

I also made all of my own book trailers and enjoy building motion graphics and 3D animations on the computer. That's what I did in the television industry for many, many years. I've won a dozen or so awards for my broadcast design and marketing work over the years. I play the guitar as well, sometimes using that as an escape. Jamming out on my Gibson has a way of freeing the mind.

What music groups/artists blast from your CD player while you write?
When I'm not writing, there's usually hard rock cranked up on my iPhone. Three Days Grace, Nickelback, Fireflight. I play guitar and enjoy the driving riffs and energy of that style of music. When I'm writing, my brain goes to a very different place and I have to listen to music without lyrics. For some reason, vocals distract my own words from coming out so I listen to an eclectic mix of trance, classical, and movie themes when I write. The various tones and emotion in the music I'm listening to can manifest themselves in very interesting ways throughout the writing process. I once had the idea for an entire screenplay while listening to an instrumental rendition of a Led Zeppelin song. I just couldn't scribble down the thoughts fast enough.

What got you interested in writing?
I've always loved to read, and started writing at first to continue those stories that I didn't want to end. I thought that the worlds other authors could create in my mind was so incredible that I wanted to try it for myself. We learn by doing, right? I started with the easier story lines of graphic novels, enjoying illustrating at least as much as putting together the words. I didn't quite have the speed for mass producing comics, so I moved on to other visual art forms like graphic design and advertising. Even though my career took me down that path, I never stopped writing. I've put together quite a few shorts that I'd love one day to expand out, and have also written a handful of screenplays. As I mentioned earlier, Yield was once a screenplay just begging to be freed. That story couldn't be confined.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
It sounds obvious, but make sure your writing is polished and professional. Edit it until your fingers bleed and you're positive that it just couldn't possibly be improved. Then . . . edit it again. I know it sounds painful, but to be taken seriously and to have a chance inside this competitive industry, the work has to stand its ground against an army of financially-backed juggernauts with legions of professional editors in tow. In order for a publisher or agent to take a chance on you, the material can't just center around a good idea. It has to be well executed cover to cover. Tighten it up. Make sure it is as perfect and captivating as you can make it. Then read it again.

Do you ever suffer from writers block? If so, what do you do about it?
I think everyone gets writer's block from time to time. Some days the words are flowing and it's all I can do to keep up with them. Other days, they can't be beaten out of me with a sledge hammer. If I'm stumped, I'll jump to a different part of the story or take a step back and try to look from a more macro perspective. Is it a local issue or is there a broader plot, character, or flow problem that needs addressing? Looking a page or two ahead of where I'm blocked and working down from there I also find helpful because it reorients me back to the broader story and helps to show the problem area in context.

Are you working on anything at the present youd like to share with us?
I'm currently working on book two of the Armageddia Series, and love the direction it's going. I feel like I learned a lot while writing Yield, and that's helped my process on book two tremendously. The follow-up to Yield explores a darkening world, one filled with revenge, retribution, and a desperate struggle to find hope within the chaos. Book one saw the transition from normality to a new way of life. It was very sudden and immediate in the lives of the characters. Book two of the Armageddia Series takes place a year later, and is more about the sustained struggle to survive and how the characters have changed in very different ways to do just that.

Whats the strangest thing youve ever eaten?
When I was twelve, my grandparents were celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary and decided to take the entire family on a cruise to the Caribbean. At that age, boys especially I think are open to trying things that more mature minds would caution against. So, I purposefully set out to eat the craziest things I could find on the menu. I had fried frog legs approaching Labadee, slurped down escargot in Jamaica, and had my first lobster tail somewhere between Haiti and Cuba.

What do you want to know about the future?
Who is to say the future will ever be written? (...says the guy who just wrote a book about Armageddon... ;) If I could only know one thing about the future, I'd like to know what kinds of people my kids turn into. Parenting is one of the greatest things we can ever do, and if I had just a tiny sneak peek into their lives years from now, I think that would be a very enlightening experience. Kids don't come with instruction manuals, unfortunately. That makes it hard to know if you're doing a good job parenting. Are we setting the right examples? Encouraging them enough? Too much? There is a delicate balance always at play, and it would be nice to have some confirmation now and then.

What is your favourite pizza?
Linguisa and olive at Abby's Pizzanot even a contest.

Are you a morning person or a night person?
I do better writing at night. I'm a relatively early riser, but not a contributing member of the human race until I have at least three or four cups of coffee in me. French roast. Black. STRONG. Is there anything better than having a steaming hot cup with absolutely nothing else on your mind? Watching the slow and steady ticking of the clock move past panic before reality finally sets in . . .  Sorry, what were we talking about again? I think I need some coffee.

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