The Story Behind The Story: Foamers by Justin Kassab
To celebrate the release of Foamers, the first book in the Primal Age Chronicles and the latest release from Kaylie Jones Books, we invited Justin Kassab to share with us how Foamers and the Primal Age Chronicles came to be.
Nazi Zombies was an add-on game to Call of Duty: World at War—a staple of my senior year of college. Though the game was lacking anything remotely approaching a story, it did prompt a great number of postapocalyptic discussions among my teammates. In the year that followed graduation, I decided I was going to make it as a screenwriter, and many of those discussions turned into a screenplay that I was certain would become an amazing postapocalyptic TV show, since zombies hadn’t yet taken over cable. That same Halloween, The Walking Dead hit and forever shelved my dreams of Foamers the series, even though I had twelve episodes and a three season outline. This wasn’t the first of my ideas—or the last—that I shelved because a similar idea was released first and did extremely well.
After a great deal of frustration, I sought additional help for my writing. I found Wilkes University and loved the layout of their Creative Writing program. I was sure this was the place I needed to be to take the next step toward becoming a professional screenwriter; however, the program requires each student to take two foundation courses. Having majored in creative writing in undergrad, I was anxious to move forward with screenwriting training, so I selected that, and then settled for fiction as my second course. I figured it would at least supplement what I’d learn in screenwriting.
I write that with all the prejudice I had at the time. I believed I was nearly there as a writer. I thought I was on the cusp of being good enough.
Those two foundation courses showed me just how little I truly knew.
Kaylie Jones was my mentor for my fiction foundation class. At Wilkes, once you’ve completed the foundation courses, you are assigned a one-on-one mentor. Though I was hell-bent on majoring in screenwriting, Kaylie saw something in my fiction she liked (though to this day I am still not sure what). At the twenty-fifth hour, still struggling to make my decision whether to pursue my degree in fiction or screenwriting, I took a leap of faith and decided to take my chances to see if I could figure out what Kaylie saw in my writing.
Which created a whole new problem, as I didn’t have any ideas for a book. None. I had like 37.2 ideas for screenplays, but no ideas for a novel.
As panic flooded me during my first meeting with Kaylie, in which I had to give her my idea for a novel, I resorted to one idea I never thought would return from the grave: Foamers. I had a loose outline. I had some sort of structure that I thought maybe resembled a novel. When I pitched it, Kaylie said, “Like The Walking Dead,” to which I hung my head, but at least I had a project. I will never forget saying, “This should be easy. I already have the idea. I just have to write it.” Kaylie laughed.
I couldn’t figure out what was so funny. But as I suffered through my naïveté and sixty some revisions, I understood what was so funny, but didn’t find it funny myself. Looking back now, I find it a little funny.
Retraining my mind to write fiction after screenwriting for so long wasn’t as easy as I thought. Lucky for me, Kaylie never lost patience and wasn’t afraid to resort to using a stick when necessary. One of my many weaknesses was how few books I had read. She made me read novels. Novels and novels and more novels. After finally being broken of my screenwriting habits and throwing out everything I thought I was going to be able to use from the TV show outline and basically restarting the entire project twice, Foamers found life.
The question people often ask is how long did I work on Foamers. For the better part of the last six years, this project has had a foothold in my life. Years of research, interviews with experts, writing, revising, and of course, reading and reading and reading novels, and everything else that comes with the process, have all come together into a book I believe is now worthy of publication. I go forward toward the release the same way as my characters enter the Primal Age: with excitement and fear.
JUSTIN KASSAB graduated in 2009 to the worst job market since the Great Depression: the end of the world didn’t look so bad. To pass his time of being unemployed, he took an interest in survivalist skills. The hobby carried over into his writing and led to the crafting of The Primal Age Chronicles, a series of short stories and novels about the end of the world. Foamers is his first novel. Visit his website: http://justinkassab.com.
Foamers is an e-first release that is available wherever ebooks are sold.
Posted: Mar 25, 2014
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