In the era of Zombie Mania, no one is safe, even in a small northwestern Illinois city, where citizens are forced to lock them selves in the local grocery store, while others are trapped in a van in the local Casey’s parking lot. Yes, even Prophetstown is not immune from the Immuno-Degenerative and Epidermal Decomposition Virus that has spread uncontrollably. Sound real?…a local author hopes it does, at least enough for you to buy his newly released book “After Z”.
Jason Schwartz, from Prophetstown, has spent most of his life serving in the Army both as a reservist and on active duty, including deployment to the Middle East. Since leaving the service he has become an over the road truck driver, which oddly enough led him to become an author.
The Lyndon native and 1992 Prophetstown High School graduate got caught up in the zombie craze several years ago. Schwartz said he was always an avid reader and a fan of Stephen King and Max Brooks, who wrote “Work War Z,” which became a benchmark motion picture depicting a zombie apocalypse starring Brad Pitt. Schwartz is also a big fan of the TV series “The Walking Dead”.
With hours of windshield time the OTR driver listened to dozens of audio-books, which built the foundation for his writing. Oddly enough it was a news story about a huge lottery jackpot that set the wheels in motion for his novel. He took the scenario of the lottery win and used it as a springboard to a battle for survival against a zombie invasion.
His project began in June of 2016 when he started compiling notes, eventually telling his wife, “I think I’m going to write a book I haven’t read yet.” He began a rough draft on his laptop sitting on the mattress in the sleeping compartment of his truck. He eventually graduated to using a folding chair and a TV tray as his desk. The novice writer sent a rough draft to a professor friend at Bradley University this past spring for editing and suggestions. Schwartz converted the novel to an audio format which he listened to in his cab at least 10 times searching for mistakes and checking continuity.
Schwartz had decided to self-publish using Kindle Direct Publishing, which is Amazon.com’s e-book publishing unit, launched in November 2007, concurrently with the first Amazon Kindle device. The service provides no editing help, so he had to depend on friends for feedback with the 120,000-word, 386-page work. His pen name is J.S. Patrick.
The Internet did provide Schwartz with the ability to interact with established authors Jonathan Maberry and Scott Sigler, who have written novels of the same genre. He was able to get some advice from them on the writing and publishing process.
Local residents will recognize many locations that Schwartz uses to convey the story. He also incorporated the talents of Carol Camper from Tampico, who created the artwork on the cover of the novel. Several of his family and friends are also part of the story as he used the middle names of his children as the main characters and included several other characters named after army buddies.
The tangible aspects of the authors project can now be seen as he is able to track the number of pages that are read online. “What is really cool is going on Amazon and seeing something that I made that is selling,” said Schwartz. He recently received a few copies of the paperback and plans on ordering several more to autograph.
Fans will have a chance to get their own autographed copy of “After Z” at a book launch party on Saturday, September 7th from 4-5 PM at Pizza Joe’s in Prophetstown.
Schwartz is not waiting to see the reviews on his first work, as he has already started on a squeal and is hoping to have an audio version of his novel available in the near future.