Twenty Questions With Year Zero Author David Dean Lugo

Q: At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?
I think anyone who writes their ideas down is a writer. It doesn’t just have to be fiction, or for public consumption. It could be an email, your diary, an essay for school, whatever. To me the simple act of writing, consistently is what makes someone a writer.

Q: Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

No, though I do in a way. I wanted to write under just my first and last name, but the website was already taken so I had to add my middle name too. I also use my real name because, and this may be petty. But I want all those teachers, and other kids who thought I was nothing, a loser or whatever, to know they were dead wrong.

Q: What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

To me they mean it’s time to take a short break and do something else. I’ve never really believed in writer’s block as this affliction which causes one to be unable to write. It simply means you need to rethink and reframe what you’re trying to say.

Q: How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?

Well, since Year Zero is my first novel I don’t really know yet. So, I’ll have to get back to you. I hope I’ll take it in stride. I mean not every book, movie or whatever is meant for every person. We all have our own taste. So, if someone doesn’t like it, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Q: Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?

I think there can be. There’s some aspects of my life in elementary and high school in Joey’s experience of school. The character of Cameron Black is loosely modeled on a real person I had an all-consuming crush on in high school. I never went out with her or anything which, it turns out, is a good a thing because by the time we were juniors it became apparent she wasn’t a particularly nice person.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

The middle is the most difficult part for me. It’s essential to the story as a whole, because it’s where all the character building and essential information is. It is also what makes the ending work. It can also be kind of a drag to write because it’s not as exciting as introducing characters and situation, or the building tension of the third act.

Q: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Just do it. Don’t worry if you’re good enough. You are. Don’t worry about what some unknown they will say. Just write the best book you can, and it will find an audience of likeminded people.

Q: What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Well besides the mechanical; correct spelling, punctuation, and such. I think the most important thing is honesty. Your characters have to feel and react in a way that is true to their nature, to what information you’ve given the reader about them. Your characters often won’t let you make them do things they don’t want to anyway

Q: How do you use social media as an author?

Poorly. I’m not really an outgoing person with strangers. I’m more a sit an observe kind of guy. You know, who do I want to know, are they trustworthy? That kind of thing. Once I know you though, it’s a different story. And social media is really just millions of strangers. And it’s all kind of weird to me because I can’t really watch someone. I mean they can tweet or post whatever, but I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t see how they really are when they think no one is watching. And I think more than a few people on social media are projecting an image of who and how they want to be seen, or maybe it’s an idealized version of how they think of themselves.

Q: What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing?

Well, none of it was particularly hard in the getting down on paper way. Emotionally though, without spoiling things, the part when Joey goes to the cemetery was really kind of tough. It still makes me cry whenever I read it.

Q: What part of the book was the most fun to write?

I really enjoyed writing of all Joey’s diary entries because it was a place that allowed me some room to explore the situation, and what was going on in Joey’s head.

Q: Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

I relate the most to Joey. Like I’ve said a bit of my school experience is in the book, and Joey and I are both speak the same. The sarcasm, the ability to at least try and find humor wherever possible. Also, I wasn’t a confident kid growing up, and I didn’t care too much for confrontation.

Q: If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

Year Zero is the first of a trilogy. I’m currently writing the second one which focuses mainly on the character of Harlan Grundy and tells more of his story. It’s a sometimes uncomfortable headspace to be in, but I think it’s a story worth telling. No one is just one thing.

Q: What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?

Well one significant way is that in the first draft there was no man in the shed. In the original version Joey doesn’t go back out and bring the man home to nurse back to health. It’s a completely different book, and somewhat more, I don’t know, depressing. Ultimately, I think, saving the man reveals more about Joey’s character, and really helps informs the decisions Joey makes throughout Year Zero.

Q: How important was professional editing to your book’s development?

Indispensable. I wouldn’t have dreamed of publishing this book without it. I did multiple rounds as well with the most talented professional editors I could find, and it wasn’t cheap. Some people try to do the editing part on the cheap, but I really believe you get what you pay for when it comes to editing, and cover or interior design.

Q: How long did it take you to write this book?

All told it took two years. But it wasn’t all straight writing. Much of that time was me working a regular job and coming home so physically and mentally exhausted that the well was dry. Once I cut back on the hours it was about six straight weeks of writing every weekday.

Q: What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?
I think I’m more of a planstser. I have some concrete idea’s about plot points and such. I usually write those down in a kind of rough outline. But how I get from one to the next, well that’s something I find out when I write it.

Q: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
Coffee. And more Coffee. Also music. I can’t write in silence. At least, I don’t want to try. I have specific music for whatever project I’m working on as well. On my blog is the playlist I listened to while writing Year Zero. For the next book I’m listening to a lot of punk, and metal. There is also a fair amount of Five Finger Death Punch and Black Label Society playing in my office right now.

Q: If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?
Well, if I were to write a one off book and could pick only one character I think I might try something with Mikey. It might be fun to make try to change the readers perception of him. I mean, in the first draft, Harlan was the antagonist and not a main character at all.

Q: If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?
I’m not really sure. Probably someone with some unpopular opinions so I could have an opportunity to engage in a real dialogue with them, find out why they feel the way they do, and present them with some alternate points of view.

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