On a rare rainy day in Southern California, author A.S. Thompson takes a sip of his green tea and gathers his thoughts as he looks out a coffee shop window.
After a thoughtful pause reminiscing his past literary works he said, “if they like it, that’s awesome. I can kind of give my little thing back to humanity and later on I can say, ‘Yeah, I wrote a couple books and did something for the zombie genre.’”
Thompson, a 2009 Cal State Fullerton alumnus, is the author of two zombie novels The Longest Road and its sequel, The Change.
Both focus around a group of cousins trying to survive after a zombie outbreak.
Thompson, who grew up in Fullerton, decided to stay local and attended CSUF, mostly to stay with his band, City at Large, during high school and college.
Although he wasn’t very involved on campus, Thompson and his band did perform at the Becker Amphitheater during his time as a Titan.
At 14 years old, Thompson started playing guitar in bands. City at Large started off performing locally then eventually played larger shows and went on a tour around Southern California.
While attending CSUF, Thompson took a screenwriting class where one of the projects was to write a script.
He decided to write about a zombie apocalypse and what would happen if his cousins were survivors of it.
He always found zombies fascinating ever since he watched Night of the Living Dead.
There’s something about the idea that they can keep coming for you, the emotional aspect that your loved ones could be zombies and the primitive lifestyle, Thompson said.
Thompson started writing more than what was required of the assignment.
“I just did my report, did my paper, turned it in and didn’t really think anything of it until a year and a half later. I said, ‘I should write a book.’ Why not write a book, right? Because that’s a natural course of action. People just say one day ‘Let’s write a book!’”
Initially, Thompson wanted to enter the film industry and had no intentions of becoming writer.
After graduating in the fall of 2009, he interned at Entertainment Tonight and worked with a few friends on film projects at different indie film companies.
“It was the worst possible time to graduate because there were no jobs … there were no projects really going on,” Thompson said. “So I tried to do film and was debating going to film schools. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
By the end of 2010, he decided to go into law enforcement. He graduated from Orange County Sheriff’s Academy in 2011.
“I saw the film thing wasn’t working out too much and law enforcement was kinda that one thing that I always thought of doing too,” Thompson said.
Once again, timing wasn’t on his side. He found it difficult to find a job at the state level of law enforcement.
So, in October of 2011, he traveled to Washington D.C. to try his hand at the federal level.
For a year, Thompson found himself attending school at Georgetown and interning on Capitol Hill.
He networked and tried to land a federal job, but that didn’t work out either.
“Timing was not on my side, yet again,” Thompson said.
In December of 2012, he came back to Southern California where he applied for a job with the Los Angeles Police Department, but they ended up stalling.
Now, Thompson works in the wine industry and writes part time.
He was looking for something to fill his time while he was trying to figure out his next move in law enforcement.
In May, he started out in the tasting room, but once the harvest hit he began working in production and crushing grapes.
“It’s super cool,” Thompson said. “It’s the best job ever. I get to pour and drink wine during the day and hang out with people that want to be there. It’s almost a blessing in disguise.”
While in D.C., he decided to try and get his manuscript published.
“I thought it was cool, I didn’t really expect to ever get anything published nor have a desire to,” Thompson said.
Thompson’s parents were always supportive of his pursuits, from music to film.
They were shocked and surprised to learn that he wanted to publish his first manuscript.
Besides the required reading in high school and grade school, he wasn’t much of a reader.
Thompson’s dad passes out his books at his dental office.
“She (Thompson’s mom) hates horror, so it was really weird for her at first to get involved and see that it’s something that I wrote,” he said.
Thompson sent out his first manuscript for The Longest Road to a few different indie publishing companies. Finally, a Connecticut-based company, Bradley Publishing, took interest.
In the first three months of The Longest Road being available, around 100 books were sold, but two months later, Bradley Publishing closed down.
He was soon picked up by Severed Press, his current publisher based in Australia.
Three to five weeks after his second book The Change was released, around 3,000 books were sold.
“I never got into it for the money,” Thompson said. “It’s not a money thing for me. It’s just cool to see people that read it and write something about it whether positive or negative.”
Throughout the series, he uses real life places, people and things as inspirations like the MLB baseball team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, friends’ names, places he has been and his experiences with the sheriff’s academy and the jail system.
Thompson said his writing style improved from the first book to the second with the addition of character depth, making it darker with shocking deaths and more location research for descriptors.
“That’s really what I wanted to do with the shift, is have the reader no longer have this happy-go-lucky feeling,” he said. “The good times are over. It’s now let’s get down to it. It’s survival mode.”
Thompson admitted he doesn’t really have a writing process. The Change, took between six to eight months to write.
“Not having a formal background in writing, I think I do things the complete wrong way,” he said.
For the first draft he writes out plot points, then for the second draft he goes back in and flushes out the plot points with more detail and substance.
“It’s almost like what sculpting would be like. Where you have this stone that’s nothing, a blob, a rock,” he said. “Then you first start to chisel away and break it off bit by bit. Then, at the very end, you’re sanding it down and you have your finished product.”
Next year, he looks to start a new superhero themed project with help of the illustrator of his current books, Michael Boyajian.
The third book in the series is set to be finished by February.
Thompson’s books, The Longest Road and its sequel, The Change, are available for purchase on Amazon.com.