In “The Compound” With Robert Ford

compound-smFrom the publisher:

Tartarus Federal Penitentiary is home to the worst violent criminals society has cultivated. It’s also a revolutionary modern-day fortress, powered by solar panels and built to be a self-sustaining environment, complete with dairy barns and green houses. It’s the perfect place to be when an experimental virus hits the American public, making the dead walk the Earth once again.

Two brothers become entwined in a deadly struggle for power among the crowd of prisoners that have overtaken the guards.

Divorced parents fight for survival, trying to find each other and keep their daughter safe from the growing number of zombies.

An old biker is a man on a mission, trying to fulfill a promise to his dead wife, apocalypse be damned. Both his will and his supply of ammunition will be tested.

As the survivors on the outside fight for their lives, their lines of fate converge, leading them through the crowds of zombies and forcing them into the hell of the prison to save one of their own.

Robert Ford has delivered a hit right out of the gate with his debut novel, The Compound.  From the beginning where a disillusioned General watches the world burn because of the Branch 14 virus, Ford takes the reader on a tightly woven tale that left me unable to put the book down until that final page.  As illustrated in the description above, the book follows the characters on their own paths as they find their way through a new and terrible world.  Without going into too much detail about the characters and their trials, each one reads like a person you know and can relate too.  A brother watching his sibling go crazy with power while inside a prison where the inmates rule, a father trying to find his ex-wife and daughter, and a man trying to keep a promise to his dead wife all grab you and stay with you long after you put the book down.

The book starts quickly with the Branch 14 virus getting loose and quickly spreading across the United States.  Once the virus is established, we are introduced to the main characters in short chapters placing them in the path of the newly risen dead.  Ford shifts the point-of-view around in short sweet chunks.  Each person gets time to grow and the chapter lengths aren’t long, but instead are small bite sized pieces that help to build the tension.  This is really used well when the action is focused on the prison as the action ramps up for its bloody conclusion.

Overall, the father trying to find his family during the zombie apocalypse has been done many times.  Robert Ford does take it and with his voice, makes it a new experience that doesn’t seem old and worn, but instead new and exciting.  The hardcover is sold out from the publisher, but it is available in eBook format (click here to purchase).  I highly recommend the book to anyone who loves zombie fiction or to anyone who wants to read a great book.

I am now pleased to welcome to the Arena for the “10 Questions”, Mr. Robert Ford…    bob

1.  Who is Robert Ford and how did he get here in his writing journey?

Oh wow. That is a long journey without a ring of power, I’ll tell you.
I grew up as an only child on a large farm in northern Maryland. My
parents worked a lot and my grandfather lived with us as long as I can
remember — he was the farmer on previously mentioned working farm —
and I was left to my own devices a lot. My mother kept buying me books
as a kid… I guess to occupy me and feed my imagination as well as so
she could get something done around the house. Little did she know…

I devoured books as a kid and rapidly worked my way up the ladder to
more adult fiction (a lot of which, my parents probably didn’t know I
read at the time), and one day I discovered a paperback of Stephen
King’s Carrie. That absolutely changed everything for me. I had
written short stories and poetry in school as far back as I could
remember and just kept on doing it. I was very lucky to have a string
of phenomenal English teachers that saw something in me back then and
kept urging me on.

Who am I? I am my own worst boogeyman.
I am a wearer of many hats… but to be honest, as much as I’d like to
answer this one, I’ve honestly got no clue who I am. You hear some
people say they’re really in touch with themselves and they “know” who
they are… I don’t know. Over the years I’ve started to think we’re
all fluid like quicksilver, forever changing and impossible to grasp
and maybe a little bit poisonous.

2.  The Compound takes place in a world where the undead walk and  
the inmates are running the prison. How did you research the prison  
life portrayed in the novel?

The prison in The Compound is a futuristic model, created with modern,
self-sustaining amenities to take the burden off of the American
taxpayer. To my knowledge, I don’t think a prison exists like this in
the real world, but I kept kicking around the what-ifs and arrived at
the design of Tartarus.

I looked over a lot of overhead views and layouts of penitentiaries
and prisons across the country, studying them for how secure they
might be, as well as how the hell I could break into one if I had to.
Like the old saying goes… if it’s built by man, it can be destroyed
by man.

For a while, I fell down a rabbit hole of research, reading a ton of
files and message boards and publications about… ehh… let’s say…
information that could be frowned on by the government. Thing is, I
HAD to read about this kind of thing. It’s the sort of information
that would come in handy during a zombie apocalypse. Homemade bombs,
survivalist booby-traps, weaponry, poor man’s silencers. The internet
is an absolutely scary wealth of knowledge.

3.  You are a very busy man between your writing and your Whutta (www.whutta.com 
) ad agency.  How the hell do you find time to write?

I gave up sleep about a decade ago.

It’s difficult, definitely not going to lie about that. My normal
process of research and pre-writing takes longer than a lot of other
writers I know, so it’s always been a struggle, but The Compound,
overall, was written pretty quickly for me. I hope I can continue this
trend.

4.  Samson and Denial was a fun romp through the streets of Philly  
with cults and severed mummy heads, but The Compound took a more  
serious tone dealing with the decay of society and the family.  Did  
the story always want to be a more brutal and serious novel or did  
it turn out that way organically?

Samson and Denial was completely character driven from page one and I
think Samson’s personality is truly what set the tone for that
novella. I knew it was going to be hard and fast-paced with some
twists the readers wouldn’t expect, but there would be undertones of
humor because Samson was the one narrating the story.

With The Compound, I had the opening scene from Chapter One in my head
for about six months before I knew what else happened afterward.
Without giving too much away to anyone who hasn’t read it yet, the
opening scene is supposed to be a light-hearted fun sort of moment
when all of a sudden, things start hitting the fan.

I think that’s what it would really be like if an apocalypse broke
out. I think most bad things that occur in our lives are like that.
You’re strolling along, sipping your Red Bull or playing Angry Birds
when all of a sudden, destiny throws you a curve ball and that happy
little secure pocket of safety you thought you had all along… well,
you realize that was all an illusion.

Death is always over our shoulder whether we want to admit it or not,
and in a communal life or death situation, I think we would see all
manner of breakdown in law and morality and a good portion of human
decency. There will be some who stand out, as there were a few in The
Compound that did — but whether they stand out for being good-hearted
or for utter brutality remains to be seen. I wanted to portray that
type of brutality the world would be like in a situation like that.

5.  What tops Robert Ford’s read pile right now?

This year, I have been scrambling so much I haven’t had time to read
nearly as much as I’d like to, but I have “White Picket Prisons” by
Kelli Owen, “Severance Package” by Duane Swierczynski, and a book
about Shamanism. Oh, and there’s also a tattered copy of Musashi’s The
Book of Five Rings, but that’s a gap-filler because I’ve read it so
many times.

6.  Seeing your first novel released must have been a huge high.   > What went through your mind when you came home and found a box on  > your porch from Thunderstorm books?

Paul Goblirsch is an absolutely amazing guy to work with. I really
can’t say enough about him. He was an absolute pleasure to work with
on Samson and Denial and when he invited me to pitch him some ideas on
a full length novel, I jumped at the opportunity. When I saw the
package on my doorstep, I had seen the cover art on-screen a long time
before that, but seeing and holding my first novel in my own hands…
yeah, that was a big deal. That Thunderstorm does such a beautiful job
on production and design is icing on the cake.

7.   While the characters in The Compound fought for their lives 
around Tartarus Penitentiary the Branch 14 virus was spreading.  Are 
there any plans to return to another area during the outbreak or  
have you said your piece on the subject?

Ahhhh Brent, this question made a smile appear on my face. Here’s the
thing — I had never really intended to write a zombie novel at all. My
fiction has always tended to be more about human monsters, with a
little twist thrown in for good measure. But the idea came to me and I
thought it would be fun and it took off. Along the development of The
Compound, the character Calvin popped into the story out of nowhere—I
hadn’t had an idea of him at all until the day I wrote him onto the
page—and he became one of my favorites.

There’s a lot of things I’ve got lined up first, but I definitely
can’t rule out revisiting this world. As things were wrapping up in
the final chapters, I kept wondering what Calvin’s motorcycle brothers
were doing elsewhere. I don’t know the answer to that question yet,
but if I ever find out, maybe you will too.

8.  What does Robert Ford have coming up for the readers to devour  
next?

I’m finishing a novel right now that’s out of the horror genre titled
No Lipstick in Avalon and it’s a huge departure and for a very
different audience than what I normally write. It was just one of
those ideas that came to mind and a character that wouldn’t shut up in
my head so I sat down one day to write a page or two in an effort to
quiet the thoughts down a bit on the matter. No dice. It only got
stronger and thirty thousand words later, here I am. There’ll be more
information released about that as I get closer to wrapping it up.

But next up in the horror genre, I’m working on a novella–Big Stakes
Jackie—that I had written some notes on and forgotten about. I came
across the notes a while back and laughed as I remembered just how
disgusting some of the things that take place really are. I had the
opening idea a long time ago and it never fully fleshed out until
recently.

After “Big Stakes Jackie, it’s a bit of a toss-up. I’ve got a lot of
notes and research for The Crimson Sisters, which is a novel-length
sequel to Samson and Denial. I won’t reveal a lot of what will happen,
as it’s taking some turns as I flesh it out, but I’ll tell you the
opening line:

“The fucking midget was on fire.”

9.  This is not a question.  Welcome to “Pimp Yourself”!  Right here  
you can lay out where the good people can find and follow you my 
friend.

Haha!  I’m available on Amazon at:

> http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Ford/e/B004TA252S/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

twitter
@bobford

> https://www.facebook.com/robertfordwriter

and the blog

> http://coronersreport.blogspot.com/

10.  There are a few writers who stop by here on their travels 
through the writing world.  What bit of Bob advice do you have for  
them tonight?

If you want to be a writer, then write. That novel/screenplay/short
story/novella isn’t exactly gonna write itself and if you really do
want to become a writer, you’ve got to heed the advice given to me by
so many others in the field: Ass in chair. Write. Repeat.

If not, you’ll end up being that person years from now telling someone
“Yeah, I had a great idea for a novel once.”

Don’t die with your music still in you.

Bonus Question:  Who wins in a drink-out?  Robert Ford or Ron 
Dickie?

Sweet mother of all that’s holy… I can hold my own against mortals,
but he’s CANADIAN for God’s sake! I think the only thing I could
outdrink Dickie in is probably tequila. Everything else he’s got me,
maple leaves down.  =)

I would to thank everyone for stopping by and a big thanks to Robert Ford for taking the time to stop by and chat!

Goodnight… (I know it’s day, but that’s the closing line regardless)

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