Tuesday 20 May 2014

Blog Tour Author Interview & Giveaway - State Of Infection by Michael J. Frey

State Of Infection
by Michael J. Frey

Genre: Science Fiction/ Horror
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date of Publication: March 6, 2014
Number of pages: 266
Word Count: 84K
Cover Artist: Tommy Dalston

Book Description:
Just months before the Battle of Central Park and the onset of the Second Civil War, President Obama declares martial law in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as Montoya’s encephalopathy spreads.

Despite the military’s best efforts, the government falls and Manhattan is reborn as a city-state under a military dictatorship. Survivors Mike Calaf, and Avalon Calendar struggle to survive, caught between the zombies and the new ruler of New York.

But long before the zombie infection, during the First Civil War, Doctor William Jackson (of the Confederate States of America) is trying to unravel the mystery behind this strange new sickness. He knows that if Complex P fails to work, there could be devastating consequences which might influence the future of mankind.

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Author Interview

1. Tell a little about yourself. What you do when you’re not writing? What are your aspirations for the future?

By day, I am a very busy physician. I practice medicine in New York City at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center. I am an Obstetrician/Gynecologist, so I deliver babies half the time, and practicing women’s health the other half. I am also busy in the OR, dealing with issues like fibroids, ovarian cysts, etc.

By night, I am a husband and a father. My two boys, Jackson and Parker, are 16 months and 4 years-old. My wife, Jessica, is very supportive of finding time for me to write (after the dishes are put away and the kids are asleep). So she’ll read or watch TV (especially if Downton Abbey is on) and I’ll sneak downstairs to the basement where it’s quiet to write.

For the future I hope to continue to write short stories, poems and maybe even another book. I also plan to continue developing my medical practice.

2. When and why did you start writing?

I have been writing since middle school/junior high. I still have a few notebooks, tucked away in plastic blue bins, sitting in the attic of my mother’s house, filled with bad poetry declaring my love for Alexis, or Shari, or whomever I was dating that month. I had a great mentor in a camp counselor one summer, who helped me a great deal in developing my poetry into more than it was.

In high school, in Long Island, New York, I wrote for the school newspaper. I liked the structure of newspaper writing, and continued it at my college (in Boston). During med school, all bets were off, and I focused only on medicine. It was not until I moved to Manhattan, in 1998 when I was able to start writing for fun again.

3. Have any particular novels or writers influenced your writing?

I used to read only the classics and I feel very much influenced by Homer’s The Iliad. I also was very moved by the works of Ernest Hemingway, Milan Kundera and the poetry of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Billy Collins, and Charles Bukowski. But if two authors in specific have most influenced my writing (at least my prose) I would credit: Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. To rattle off a few of their novels that I really loved: Under The Dome, Cell, Duma Key and from Bradbury, I found The Martian Chronicles very influential to my writing.

4. Give us some backstory about State of Infection. Where and when did you write it?

I wrote State Of Infection, over the course of a one-year span, in the middle of the night. Sometimes, while my wife and kids were sleeping; sometimes, while I was in the hospital with a patient in labor. I found time when I could. It came quick, poured out of me. So a year was enough time.

5. What was your favourite part of writing State of Infection?

Writing, in general, is an escape for me. An escape from how I think during the rest of my waking life. I get up and start thinking. Coffee, dogs, juice for the kids. Breakfast, more coffee and off to work. At work, I think like a doctor. It is very enjoyable at times, but creative writing allows the other half of my brain to work.

6. What does your writing schedule look like?

Very random, but usually happens late at night into the morning.

7. Which fictional character would you like to take to dinner and why?

Fun question. I think I would pick Achilles, the central character of The Iliad and the greatest warrior in the Achaian army. We would grab a few burgers at the local diner, and the first question I would ask him is why he and his friends have to introduce each other by first reciting their family lineages back 5 to 10 generations. I would inform him that it very much slows down a conversation and is kinda boring. Then I would advise him that his most significant flaws are his temperament and excessive pride. Then I would run.

8. Besides your lead, do you have a favourite character in the story?

I like Castor Dean, who is the ruler of New York City, after the apocalypse. I can’t decide if he is a good guy or a not so good guy. In his pre-apocalypse days, Castor was a high ranking soldier in the army. He gets tapped by President Obama to be the military governor for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. From there, he kinda takes over. But he is loyal to his friends and loves his wife. I think Castor struggles himself, with his urges and his desire to do good. If the story continues into another book, Castor will definitely take on a larger role.

9. What is one of the most surprising things you've learned as a writer?

When I look back at my writing from 5 or 10 years ago, I am amazed at how much of it just sucks. My writing has improved with time. I am surprised how much my skills improve by just continuing to read other and write.

10. Any advice for aspiring authors?

Your words are your children. No one will judge them harsher; no one will love them more than you. Like any form of art, writing is so varied and appeals to so many people. Opera is out, but books (mostly ebooks these days) are still in, despite Apple TV and the internet.

Practically speaking, I will recant (rather than claim ownership of) some tips that have helped me as a writer. Write what you know. As Stephen King put it (though I’m paraphrasing) if you’re a plumber and you like to write about science fiction then write about a plumber who works on Mars. People like to read about other people’s jobs, and if you character has a job you know a lot about, it becomes more realistic.

Have the guts to cut, or as Kurt Vonnegut said, “If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.”

Grammar. Notwithstanding the prior sentence is a sentence fragment. Being grammatically tidy is important. Getting a book about grammar is very helpful. I always brush up a bit, before I begin writing. No one will take you seriously as a writer if your prose is not polished and edited to grammatical correctness. Even if you write like people talk (as I try to do) in the vernacular, you have to present your words, sentences and paragraphs at their best.

Excerpt from State of Infection


It’s been nearly a year since the outbreak. Most people call it the ZA infection, though it’s not really an infection. The proper medical term is Montoya’s encephalopathy (named after Claude Montoya, the French researcher who spearheaded the early studies). 

I was in my office seeing patients when it began. Back then I had a medical practice on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, about a block away from my one bedroom apartment. I could get from my office to my home before you could say Jack Robinson. It was convenient as heck (and in the end, probably saved my life). 

In those days my biggest concern was keeping the practice growing. Medicine is, among many things, a business, and like most businesses, mine had overhead. Lots of overhead. In my case overhead meant two receptionists and two nurses. I also had the malpractice insurance to cover, which seemed to go up almost every year. Next came the office supplies (both secretarial and medical). Then throw in the computers, maintenance, and a small reserve for holiday parties. Private practice in New York City was a costly beast to say the least. 

Fortunately, I did pretty well and was able to celebrate my black Friday earlier and earlier each year. I wish I could attribute my good fortune to my skills as a doctor, but as Avalon might say, that dog won’t hunt. There were plenty of good docs in New York City before the ZA infection, so I had to find a way to stand out. The real secret to my success was keeping the waiting down to a bare minimum. I prided myself on it. Everyone hates waiting for the doctor, I get that, I hate it too. And no group of people does hurried and rushed like Manhattanites. So if Mrs. Kessler had an appointment at noon, she was seen by noon, or sooner. That, and a pair of the friendliest secretaries known to mankind, is what kept my people coming back. 

Of course, it didn’t always work out that way. All it took was one complicated condition to throw off the schedule. For example, during what I thought was a routine physical exam, I felt an enlarged liver in a fifteen-year-old boy. That’s how a visit booked for twenty minutes became forty-five minutes. After explaining the findings to a terrified patient and his mother, I then had to order liver function tests, screening tests for hepatitis and a CT scan of the abdomen. It takes time, but it has to get done. You do what you can while keeping the bottom line in mind. And, if Mrs. Kessler wants to tell you about her son’s academic success at Brandeis University, or Mr. Barkman wants to show you pics of his new Shetland Sheepdog? Well, you smile and look at the pics, or at least that’s what I did. Good word of mouth followed, and my practice grew; satisfying both my needs as a physician, and as a businessman.

I wish I could say my office was filled with marble and gold leaf, and that I had one of those big fancy wooden desks. It wasn’t like that. But it wasn’t one of those tired, worn out old offices with dirty carpets and framed posters of Matisse and Van Gogh everywhere you turned. It was pretty standard I guess. 

On my desk, I had two photographs. One was a recent pic of Kimberly and me in the North Fork of Long Island (the wine country). The other was of my sister and my parents, which was taken at a wedding, or bar mitzvah, or something; everyone dressed up and smiling in the type of picture that seemed dated the second it went into the frame; the type of picture destined for a desktop. Overall, I’d say it was a nice setup. Then the ZA infection came and everything changed. And if a little zombie apocalypse wasn’t bad enough, the Southern Federation showed up next to conduct what they called the Second Civil War. Talk about bad karma.  

Manhattan is now what one might call a city-state, a tiny little country onto itself. And who gets to be king of New York? A man named Castor Dean does. Castor Dean is the class president...of a pretty big class. Not that he was elected by his classmates (or anyone else for that matter). His authority was given to him by what remained of the military after the government collapsed. His official political title is the Gallum Major; which means king or ruler. Personally, I would have chosen “El Hefe” if I ruled New York, but they never offered me the position. This is not to say that Castor Dean is a bad leader, it’s just that the vox populi never meant much to him. Most survivors welcomed Castor and his absolute rule. After all, because of him, the city still has electricity and clean water. That fact alone makes Castor worth his weight in gold. 

Castor changed things up when he came into power. For starters, he renamed the city. Manhattan, he felt, had been erased by the ZA infection. The survivors of the zombie apocalypse needed a fresh start, a new beginning. So Manhattan was reborn as Gallum City, and Roosevelt Island (a small island adjacent to Manhattan) became its capital. Because of Roosevelt's small size, Castor’s army was able to clear out the zaps in a matter of days. This zombie-free sanctuary (just a few minutes boat ride from Manhattan) was the ideal location for the new ruling class. Roosevelt Island was divided into three sections. The southern section became a military town named New Sparta (where most the soldiers were barracked). The middle of the island was for government leaders and their families. The northern section was given to the surviving civilian population, the natives, who lived on Roosevelt before the infection. They were allowed to stay, provided they agreed to relocation.

About the Author
Michael Frey is a physician and assistant professor in New York City. He lives in Westchester, New York with his wife Jessica, two children and two dogs.

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5 ebook copies of  State Of Infection by Michael J. Frey up for grabs.

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