Diannika Alyse Star: So, to start with, could you tell us a little about your book After Sanity: Corporate Aspirations?
Wes Kirk: That’s probably a bigger question than typical, believe it or not. It’s got quite a history behind it. But the actual story, takes place in an alternate timeline and after that timeline’s World War 3. Society is still trying to recover, and government is extinct. The rule of ‘law’ only extends as far as far as people who have the gumption to do something about it. On a high level, I’d say it’s a cross between Fallout 3 (the game) and The Punisher. Minus all of the advanced tech from the Fallout universe.
The main character, Jim Barrons, is a young orphan living wherever he can hide as he’s homeless and destitute. He has been since his parents were murdered in front of him a few years before this story picks up. Because of what he’s seen, and been through, Jim is arguably broken, even at such a young age. He has a very binary sense or morality. There are things you do, and things you don’t. If it’s in the ‘don’t’ category, you’re labeled a raider. And that is universally considered the lowest scum around. The story picks up with him only 6 years old, and having already spent the last couple years on the street. He has a group of friends with him. His pack. And they all abide by the same rules, ‘do nothing to be a raider’. Stealing, murder, and a bunch of other crimes will get you labeled as such. So they won’t do it, even if it means starving.
Jim dreams of working his way up to the Corporate Districts of Pharm Co. City. He wants to work for the people who live there, so he can live in peace and security, without having to worry about raiders or starving to death. To that aim, he becomes a mercenary.
Star: Well, I’m sure our readers would be interested in hearing some of that history, if you wanted to share it. I know you have me curious now.
Kirk: Sure thing. 🙂 But, for some context of Jim’s struggles, I may need to give some more information about the universe.
Pharm Co. City Is a massive city with three major district sectors. In the very center is the Corporate Districts. By today’s standards it would seem like middle or upper middle class with buildings ranging from modern homes to skyscrapers that you’d see in any major city. But, by After Sanity standards, that’s the cream of the crop. That’s as good as it gets. They even have a massive wall all the way around it to protect it and keep out the ‘less savory’. Surrounding that are two other districts called Working Class, and Slums. These two make up massive rings that surround the intercity, as the city has been ever expanding out into the general land beyond. There is no wall separating the Working Class from the Slums. It’s not an abrupt change. There’s a slow gradient as people expand outwards and improve their own areas. Typical Working Class buildings would look like old shops or buildings in serious need of repair. The better off they are doing, the less holes in their awnings for example. Slums, are what the name implies. Houses made out of whatever they can cobble together. Sometimes it’s sheet metal. Sometimes it’s broken concrete that they’re managed to stack tight enough it doesn’t fall over. Other times, it’s literally a hole in the ground.
The Term “Raider” is actually a classification in After Sanity. Anyone who does things that basically be considered a Felony by today’s standards would get to be labeled a Raider. Theft, murder, assault with deadly weapon, robbery, etc. Oddly enough, basic assault is not on the list.
Anyone that’s labeled a Raider, basically has no rights. Anyone may kill them, in whatever way they deem fitting, and it’s considered doing a public service. The person who does it, even is allowed to claim whatever personal possessions that the person has on them as partial payment for such services. Short of anything that was just stolen, that is.
The term ‘legal’ get’s thrown around a lot, but it really doesn’t really mean the same thing. There IS a group of “Corporate Investigators” that are denoted by their long black overcoats and hats. But they are mostly just there for show. Anytime anyone does kill someone, it’s called ’87ed’ as in they have to fill out form 87 and explain what happened. There’s obviously a lot of room for exploitation around that.
The term mercenary is also a bit different than today’s usage.
In this verse, having a steady job is the abnormal way to go about things. Most people are signed up for a contract, for a specific job, with a specific time frame. After that, they are left to find a new job. Jobs are handled by information brokers. Different ones go about things in their own way, but, generally, they put postings on the walls inside of their shop with the job details. If someone wants the job, they take it, get further information, and head off. To be eligible for some jobs you’d need a certain bit of clout with that particular broker, as they want to make sure the job gets done correctly as their reputation is on the line as well. They get paid after the job’s done typically with an electronic system of currency called “Credits” or “Creds” for short. The idea behind is practically identical to the way Bitcoin works, but I did all of that before even hearing of bitcoin. So that was a bit of an “Ah HAH!” moment for me.
So, practically everyone that does a job for hire is called a mercenary. Although the connotation is still mainly something like security work. For Jim, he’s a bit naive about the whole thing, but starts off as a courier. As, what else is he really going to be doing as a scrawny malnourished 6 year old?
So, yes. He works his way up, to prove himself, and ends up in situations that most would consider out of his league. Including blatant mercenary work.
On that note. After Sanity doesn’t sugar coat anything. As bad as society can possibly get after a complete government collapse and massive nuclear war, it does. And I pull no punches with it.
Oddly enough, I give that warning regularly, trying to keep people from freaking out or being too offended. And the response has been rather surprising. The one individual who seemed the most timid and reserved only had one concern “Is the plot predictable?” Violence? Murder? All kind of seedy behavior? They cared not. They only wanted to make sure they wouldn’t figure out the plot before they got to the end.
Star: To be fair, if you read dystopian fiction, you kinda are expecting that,or even looking for that.
What inspired you to write this story?
Kirk: Fair enough! I believe you have a point there. The basic story just started out as two scenes. One with the main character defending an outpost, and the next one with him stumbling across a plot to kill a rich girl in the Corporate Districts.
The way I write things, typically, is I start with a single scene, then let it grow outwards from there. I explore the characters. Their personalities. The environment. How they got there. Most of the time I take these characters, well, SHELL of a character, and flesh them out. I give them personalities, although sometimes I discover their personality as I’m having them work through scenes, then have them go about their business the way THEY would. the best description I could give is I give them life, and let them do what they are going to do. My only nudging comes when I throw whatever conflict at them, and let them resolve it the way they would.
Another thing that’s bleed into the story, is probably my own frustrations with the way things have gone with the world. You know the story by now I’m sure. Go to college. Spend a ton of money, time, and effort, into a degree. Only to come out to find the economy in tatters. So this probably had a good dose of venom towards all that nonsense.
You write what you feel. You write what you know. And that was for me, as I’m sure it’s been for a lot of people, a very disappointing reality to find. So it’s only natural it would seep into at least some of my works.
Star: When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
Kirk: This is going to sound really crazy, but, before I was out of elementary. Honestly.
I don’t remember the exact moment or nudge. I mean, my mother had been reading to me, and getting me to love books, before I could even talk.
You could say she thoroughly indoctrinated me into the wonderful world of books.
I do remember my first chapter story I wrote though. I was ten years old and wrote a short fantasy story. I don’t remember the length. Probably only like a novella. Hand penned in horrible handwriting with even worse spelling, I remember that well enough.
I had been working on it for a while, but let someone get under my skin, and gave up writing for a few years. I picked it up again in highschool, where I wrote a lot of stories, poems, etc. Including my first 100k wordcount works. Then I got into college and was too busy to do more than a snippet here or there. However, I did take some classes in college that really helped me with my pacing and overall storytelling.
Star: Aww that is adorable! And doesnt sound crazy at all!
Who has inspired you most in your writing?
Kirk: Wow, that’s a hard one.
For my method of writing, I would say Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). At least in the presentation side of things.
He’s had a quote that I’ve rather adored. “My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.”
Basically, he’s made his writing accessible, and thus a pleasure read, by keeping things simple. This doesn’t mean that he’s dumbing it down for people. It just means he doesn’t feel the need to make himself look smarter / superior by throwing around a bunch of ten dollar words.
I did some research into it and the general reading level for his works is around 6th grade. And that’s kind of what I’ve aimed for.
For the subject matter. I’m not sure. I’m one of those that fell on the weird generation where I remember the world before the internet, saw it sprout, and then grow into the monster it is now. I’ve had a lot of experiences and have had a lot of interests that help fuel even more experiences by exposing me to things that not everyone has been able to do or see.
Star: To finish off, do you have any advice for other writers?
Kirk: Actually I do. There’s two things that I’ve learned over the years, that I seriously wished someone would have told me back when I did my first story at the age of 10.
First, don’t give anyone too much power over you or your work. Take everything everyone says with a grain of salt. It’s their opinion, and it doesn’t matter who they are, no one is right 100% of the time. If they don’t like it, but you do? Move along. Don’t even bother talking to them about it anymore, because you’ll only end up discouraged and it may end up meaning the world ends up losing your stories.
Second, All first drafts suck. They’re supposed to. Don’t get hung up on it. To quote Terry Prachett, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Don’t worry about getting everything absolutely perfect on the first go. It’s not supposed to work that way. You’re just going to hang yourself up, and give yourself way more stress than you need to. And, trust me, writing is stressful enough without adding to the load. If it helps, think of it this way: when painting, you do it in layers. You start off with big swathes of color to work out layout and composition. Then you go in with additional layers to add more detail and definition. If you tried to make a hyper realistic eye, with the rest of your canvas still blank, there’s a very strong possibility that the overall composition itself will be wrong. So, think of that first draft as laying out the wide swathes of color, and know that you are going to refine it later.
Star: That sounds like great advice!
Thank you so much for talking to us!
Kirk: My pleasure.