Good afternoon, Everyone and welcome! It has been a busy few weeks, but I haven’t forgotten about you. Today I have an author whom you are going to love! Amy Dunne is the author of “The Renegade” which debuted on 14-Sept-15 by Bold Stroke Books. She is here to chat with us all and has a giveaway to these of you who would like to leave a comment or question. Let’s all give Amy a warm welcome.
“The worst thing you’ve ever written is better than the best thing you’ve never written,” –Unknown
What is “The Renegade” about?
“The Renegade” is a speculative fiction romance. The story starts with the aftermath of the Red Death pandemic that has wiped out most of the human population. We meet Alex and experience how much she has lost because of the Red Death. She has no one left alive, no plans or destination, only a rucksack full of belongings, and the promise she made to try and survive. We join Alex on her journey as she meets other survivors all with their own agendas and fights to stay alive. The new world is dangerous and unforgiving, but over time Alex begins to trust and care for her two companions.
We also meet Evelyn, a medic in the Rapture’s Haven Camp. It quickly becomes apparent that there is something dark and disturbing lurking beneath the camp’s friendly exterior. Evelyn and the other women are trapped inside the camp and are nothing more than slaves. There’s no way out and worse still, many of the camp members have willingly embraced their roles. With a son to protect and the camp leader’s jealous unrequited lust to deal with, Evelyn is desperate and will do whatever it takes to keep her son safe.
When Alex’s companion is attacked there is no choice but to pledge allegiance to Rapture’s Haven Camp and its deranged cult leader. Instinctively drawn to one another Evelyn tries to warn Alex of the terrible danger they’re in. Unable to deny their desire they desperately try to keep their relationship a secret, for fear of the potentially fatal repercussions. As the stakes change and their situation deescalates, their lives and the lives of their loved ones are thrown into deadly jeopardy. Escape is no longer possible. They must fight for their freedom—or die trying.
What or who inspired you to write “The Renegade?”
I’ve always been a huge fan of reading speculative fiction and watching TV shows and films of the same genre. The concept for the story had been developing in my head for some time. I wanted to know what it would be like to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. I didn’t want zombies or mass destruction on a grand scale, because they don’t offer out much hope for the survivors. I wanted nature to take back what was once its own and there be a reasonable chance of survival and living off the land. Would we adhere to the laws of the old world or make new ones? What would become of religion, sociology, medicine, morality, technology, agriculture, and knowledge? How would this new world affect and develop the emotional, psychological, physiological, and spiritual aspects of the survivors? Could we survive or have we lost the basic knowledge and practical skills to develop communities and relationships, hunt, forage, fish, build, produce medicine, protect, teach, farm the land, and tend livestock? What of roles within a community? Would we uphold the same values regarding equality, race, gender, religion, rights, diversity, and sexuality? Are we morally obligated to procreate in order to save the human race? These questions were the driving force.
The biggest problem I encountered was fear. My own fear. Fear of writing a first attempt at a new genre. The fear that the story was too big for little old me to do it the justice it deserved. The fear of letting my publisher and readers down. Fortunately, my beautiful wife soothed all of those fears away with her unwavering belief in my writing abilities. Whenever I came close to giving up, she would insist I sit back down and do another hour or two of writing. She would listen to my worries and fears and give me the encouragement I needed. Without her, I don’t think The Renegade would ever have seen the light of day. She is my inspiration.
What traits were you looking for when you were creating the main character for your story?
In all of my stories, I try to insist that both main characters are of equal importance to the story. They both show a unique set of emotions, thoughts, fears, actions, and ambitions that are integral to them as a character. I like that we see the relationship from both of their points of view.
I knew I wanted Alex to be physically fit, powerful, practical, a problem solver, able to protect herself and others, self-righteous, stubborn, and a fiercely loyal person. Surviving comes naturally to her. Her flaws, like Evelyn’s, are just as vital to the story as her positive traits. She is very wary of others, reluctant to create relationships, and doesn’t trust easily because she’s been hurt so much by the affects of the Red Death. I like that she’s a bit of a loner and is fiercely independent.
Evelyn is a medic and a mother. Her character traits are very different to Alex’s. She’s empathetic, caring, feisty, maternal, protective, loving, resourceful, brave, invested in others, selfless, highly emotional, quick to anger, social, intelligent, funny.
Although Evelyn doesn’t necessarily have the same practical skill set as Alex to make surviving easier, she is strong willed and determined. They compliment each other by making up for what the other person lacks. That I think is the beauty of watching characters and their relationships develop.
Did you do any types of writing while you were at school? If so, did you receive any awards or recognition of your work?
English was my favourite lesson at school. I enjoyed reading books but also having a go at writing my own stories. My debut novel, “Secret Lies” is based on the short story I wrote for my GCSE coursework. I always knew that if I was going to have a story published that would be the first one. Other than coursework, I never really wrote with the intention of others reading it. I was shy and didn’t have much confidence in my writing at that time.
Although, I must admit that I was good at public speaking. I enjoyed writing speeches to entertain and inspire others. I was elected Head Girl of my secondary school by the students and staff. I was even invited back and presented with the Robinson’s Public Speaking Award in 2002. So I suppose you could say that I always enjoyed entertaining others.
Was there anyone, in your life who was an inspiration for you to write? If so, what did they do?
My wife is the biggest inspiration. She encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming an author. She believed in me every step of the way. When I received rejection e-mails, she comforted me. When I wanted to give up, she gave me the push I needed to carry on. When I succeeded, she praised me and told me how proud I made her. When I go to book events, she’s by my side supporting me (often wearing a t-shirt with my book covers on). She’s incredible. And I don’t think I can ever repay her selflessness, unconditional love, and support, but I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying.
Another inspiration, was my Irish gran, Mama Bridie, She passed away in 2007 and I still feel her loss as acutely today as I did on the day I found out. She was short (like me), caring, funny, strong, a great storyteller, fiercely protective, had a wicked sense of humour, and believed my sister and I could do anything. Sadly, she never got to see me play rugby, graduate from university, meet my amazing wife, watch us get married, see my books get published, or win a Golden Crown Literary Award. But I think she would’ve been proud of me. And there’s not a day goes by when I don’t miss her or think about her.
“In this world, you have a choice: survive as a slave or fight for your freedom.” What do these words mean to you?
These words embody what “The Renegade” is about. In this dangerous new world everything has changed and not necessarily for the better. It’s the beginning of a new dawn of human existence. Every decision that is made and put into motion is going to affect if and how the human race survive. All it takes is one deranged self-appointed leader to wreak havoc on our future. It is the time to stand up against what is wrong and fight for what is right. There are no second chances. You have to fight tooth and nail for what you want this new world to be. It would be easy to stand back and accept the world that is given to you. There’s no risk of punishment or death if you do what you’re told to. But ultimately, the lasting affect and consequences of choosing to be passively subservient will taint the future of generations to come. It’s my hope that if ever such an occurrence should happen, there will be strong women and strong men who will fight for equality and diversity, rather than taking the easier options.
Do you have anything in specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for your support and wonderful messages. It means so much that you’re prepared to embark on the different literary explorations of genres with my characters and I. I know that in some instances sticking with one genre would make marketing easier, but the characters and stories in my head refuse to conform. Every time you buy and read one of my books, there’s a different set of characters and storyline compared to the previous books and I’m thrilled that this doesn’t put you off. Thank you for sticking with me. I hope that you gain as much enjoyment out of reading the stories, as I do from writing them. Without you, writing would be pointless.
Thank you so much! Amy’s debut novel, “Secret Lies” won a Golden Crown Literary Award in 2014 in the Young Adult Category.
What has been your favourite part of being an author? The least fave?
Honestly, I’ve enjoyed every part of the writing, editing, and publishing process. I love learning new information, and every book brings a whole host of new experiences and lessons. Writing, is more than a hobby. It’s a bit like an addiction, because it takes over your life. I eat, sleep, and think constantly about characters and stories. If I didn’t write them down, I don’t think I’d get any peace. But my absolute favourite parts are growing to care about the characters as if they were family and friends, and hearing feedback from readers about how the story and characters have impacted on them. I’ve had reader’s write to me to say that because of Secret Lies they now have a better understanding of self-harm and abuse. That they manage to access resources for themselves or a loved one. That Season’s Meetings has given a new meaning to Christmas, and for the first time since a personal tragedy, those readers are going to celebrate Christmas and make the most of it because life is precious. How incredible are those message? To have been able to write something that emotionally moves people and helps them, is by far the best part about being an author.
My least favourite part is writing sex scenes. I’m a huge prude in real life (I blame my Catholic background) and so writing those scenes is something I really struggle with. I’ve been told on many occasions, “just don’t write them then.” If only it was that easy. Let’s be honest, sex is a hugely important part of our relationships. So to not include it, seems firstly, unfair to the characters and secondly, it hinders the character, story, and relationship development. It’s in no way gratuitous, to put it quite simply it’s vital. But that doesn’t make it any easier for me. I have to psyche myself up and drink—a fair bit of alcohol. To make matters worse, in Season’s Meetings and The Renegade both sets of characters insisted on another sex scene when I’d originally only planned one. We had a heated debate, but ultimately, they won—they always do.
Me: One thing that all authors love are book reviews, so please leave one when you are through. It shows the author that you care. Here is a Five Star review from a reader on Amazon:
By RLynne on September 27, 2015
“The Renegade” is set in what’s left of a world ravaged by The Red Death. Survivor Alex Clarke has been prepared by her father to survive on her own. And, with his death, which was preceded by her mother’s death and the death of her lover, Alex has set off to find a place that will be safe. She meets Murphy, an Irish survivor, who joins her on the journey as does Paddy, a puppy she rescued. The three of them are rescued and taken to Rapture’s Haven Camp. The camp medic, Evelyn, warns Alex of the dangers in the camp, particularly for women.
Dunne has done a wonderful job of world building, providing plenty of details to help readers visualize Rapture’s Haven Camp. There is much that is dark and sinister, but Dunne has provided readers with lovable Paddy, and Jamie, Evelyn’s son, to add to add warmth and lightness. She has also given the camp some good people along with those who are cruel and mean. This is a very good read which gripped me until I turned the last page!
What other authors do you follow?
I have so many authors that I follow. I’m a huge fan of the following: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Dashner, Stephanie Meyers, Veronica Roth, Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, Robin Hobb, L. J. Smith, Anne Rice, J. K. Rowling, Gerri Hill, Gill McKnight, Katherine V, Forrest, Meghan O’Brien, Kim Baldwin, Radclyffe, Kiki Archer, Clare Ashton, and to be honest, this list could quite easily be never ending.
How has the artist Dolly Parton been an inspiration to you? What does your favourite song of hers mean to you?
I remember from a very early age loving Dolly’s voice and music. As I grew older, that love for her music remained and I’ve never been ashamed of admitting it. I’ve seen many interviews and films with her in and she’s just such an incredible woman. She successful, a brilliant business woman, a gifted musician and songstress, but also so genuine, down-to-earth, and funny. What’s not to like?
And how did I know I‘d found my true love and soul mate? I found someone who likes Dolly as much as me. Our first date was front row tickets to see Dolly live in concert. It was awesome and Dolly even winked at me. At our wedding, our first dance was “Think About Love” by Dolly and I’ve set it as my wife’s ringtone and as my alarm clock. It reminds me every time she rings and every morning of how lucky I am.
On the day you are featured on “Ellen” what is the first thing you are going to say to her in person?
“Thank you for being awesome, Ellen. And, err…are you sure I’m meant to be here? Just checking.”
What is of local interest of yours that you’d like to brag about?
Living very near to the city of Nottingham is a privilege. As a student I worked as a costume performer in the authentic real old gaol, prison, and underground caves. I learnt about all of the history and the people who lived there. It was one of the best jobs ever. It was so rich in history and to be fair, gory and spooky accounts. I now work in the Theatre Royal and the Royal Concert Hall. The Theatre Royal was built 1865 and is stunningly beautiful and historic. It’s a pleasure to work in such regal settings.
Can you describe your love of Irish rugby?
Yes, even though it pains me greatly after our defeat in the knockout matches of the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup two days ago. I’m still disappointed.
I discovered a passion for rugby at university. I joined the team and then later got elected as the Team Captain and led us to the university finals in London. It’s such a great sport. It’s physical, fast paced, skilful, and a great team sport. My family are Irish, so that’s where the support of Irish rugby comes from. My whole family support Ireland and we watch the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup with passion.
My favourite sport and my favourite place.
Let’s give a shout out to Keele University. What would you like to say?
I will always be a fan of Keele University. Some of my happiest memories and life-long friendships were made there. There were tough times, but there were far more wonderful times. Over my four years, I came to realise who I was as a person and accepted my sexuality. Without Keele University, the experiences, the friendships, and memories, I have no idea what my life would be like now. So thank you. And as all Keele students new and past will know…”Never Forget.”
What is in the works for you?
There are two stories that are fighting for attention at the moment. A romantic comedy and a sequel to “The Renegade.” I’m not sure which one will win and be written first, but I imagine it will come down to which one shouts the loudest. Either way, I’m looking forward to both.
Don’t forget to leave a comment or question as you will be entered to win a copy of this fab book!
Below I have an exciting except:
Alex Clarke tried to keep her composure, afraid that if her true emotions surfaced they would only add to her dad’s suffering. She bit down painfully on her tongue, silencing the hysteria clawing up her throat. A hot trickle of coppery blood was enough to keep her screams at bay.
She watched as her dad suffered yet another violent coughing fit, his gaunt face contorted with pain as he struggled to catch each labouring breath. The rattling sound from his chest had grown louder. His bulky frame was misleading, as his body was helplessly weak and frail. His clothes were saturated with sweat and bloody mucus. A thick layer of perspiration coated his skin, while his body shivered as the raging fever continued to ravage him.
Alex looked away. She knew he hated her to see him so weak. In truth, he no longer resembled the strong and powerful protector of their family. The anguish of remembering him as the gentle giant who’d taught her how to ride a bike, told exciting bedtime stories, and taken her on adventures hurt more than she’d believed possible.
As an only child, she’d never wanted for anything or been lonely. The three of them had been content and happy with their little family unit. Her parents wholeheartedly supported her in whatever she’d endeavoured to do. At sixteen, she’d finally gathered enough courage to tell them she was a lesbian and they’d accepted her without judgement. In later years, her partner Dianne had been warmly welcomed into their family, and for eighteen months they’d all been happy together.
Things had been perfect.
The perfect days they shared had turned into perfect months and had passed by quickly. In the blink of an eye, all hell broke loose. Within months, everything had gone to shit. Everyone and everything she loved, except for her dad, was gone. Soon he’d leave her, too.
She sensed the coughing fit subside and reluctantly returned her gaze to him. Besides herself, he was the only living person that remained.
“You’ve everything packed…like I showed you?” he asked, his voice nothing more than an audible rasp.
“Yes.” She grimaced at the pain it caused him to speak.
He gave a weak nod and his gaze met hers for a fleeting second before she looked away. The familiar blue rings of his eyes were set against the startling red backdrop that had once been white. Although his eyes had been this way for two days now, she still found it impossible to bear. The cause of the unnatural red eyes hadn’t been properly explained. It’d been listed as one of the main symptoms of the strain. She guessed it probably had something to do with the pressure caused from the violent coughing. Regardless of its cause, it was another indicator of the final stages of the Red Death. The sensational name was first used by the media, and by the time scientists had come up with an official name for it, the Red Death had already stuck.
She’d witnessed its devastating course from beginning until end twice before—first with Dianne, then only days later, with her mum. She was certain her dad was in the last and most horrific stages. Worse still was the knowledge there was nothing she could do to help or even mildly relieve his suffering.
He coughed again and thick bloody mucus, more black than red, spilt down his chin. With a trembling hand, he wiped himself with his soiled cloth.
Alex fought hard against the urge to heave and clenched her hands into painfully tight fists. Her nails cut into her palms, verging on breaking the skin. Hysteria stalked close to the brink again, and she mustered what little resolve she had left to swallow it down.
“Your mum and I love you—” Another coughing fit cut him off. The pain was obvious, but a few moments later, he continued, “You’re destined for something big, Alex. I’ve known it since the day I held you in the hospital. I’m just sorry I can’t be with you.”
A searing lump of emotion lodged in her throat. She forced her words over it. “I’m destined to die like Dianne, Mum, and the rest of the world. In a few days, I’ll start with the symptoms.”
He shook his head. Pink tears tainted with blood streamed from his burgundy eyes. “You’re immune.”
She glared defiantly and tried to swallow, but the lump made her wince. Boiling tears welled in her eyes. “That doesn’t make sense. Just because you’ve always said I was your miracle baby doesn’t mean I’m immune to this. You only started with it a few days ago.”
“I was lucky to last this long. It allowed me to teach you how to survive. I’m ready to be with your mum and Dianne. There isn’t time to go over this again.” Another coughing fit tore through his body, crippling him with pain.
Alex couldn’t hold back the tears. “I don’t want to be alone. I can’t go on without you. I can’t…I’m not this special person you think I am. I’m just me.”
“Alexandra,” he said, his lips and teeth coated with rank blood. “You will go on. You swore to me on your mum’s and Dianne’s graves that you would go when I told you to and never come back. We didn’t raise you to be a liar or a coward.”
She felt like a berated child, which made her sobbing worse. “Dad…please—”
“Promise me again, now.” His voice was raspy and disjointed because of his shallow breathing, but she still heard his steel determination. He wouldn’t back down.
In desperation she tried to get him to see sense. “I’ve nowhere to go. And I need to look after you—”
He lifted a weak hand, immediately silencing her. “I don’t need looking after. There’s nothing you can do for me. You know it. You’re not going to watch me turn into a corpse.”
Alex knelt before him. “I need to be with you until the end. I can’t just leave you. I won’t do it.”
“We went through this with Dianne and your mum. We both know what happens in the end. Soon, I won’t even know you’re here.”
“But I have to bury you with Mum.”
He sighed, which turned into another coughing fit. When it lessened he whispered, “I’ve made my own plans. This pathetic excuse for a body is nothing more than a slab of rotting meat. Burying it is pointless. Your mother and I will be reunited in whatever comes after this life. Now, promise me that you will go on living and never return.”
Alex couldn’t speak. The words were stuck behind the lump that choked her.
“Please?” He reached out and gently held one of her hands. “Promise me.”
His huge hand felt clammy as it trembled in hers. His desperation was so urgent and intense, it was claustrophobically palpable.
“I won’t come back here,” she said, swiping tears away. “I promise.”
He closed his eyes for a moment. “Thank you. Now take your things and leave. You’ll need to find somewhere away from the town to set up camp before dark. Try to remember everything I’ve taught you. Keep your wits sharp and avoid people.”
“Everyone’s dead!” She felt guilty for shouting, but her frustration and anger at their situation was too much. “We haven’t seen anyone in weeks. Months even.”
He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “You’re still alive and there will be other survivors. Everything’s changed now. Survival and self-preservation will rule people’s minds and hearts. You must be wary, sweetheart. Now, please pass me my box.” He indicated to the silver box resting on the coffee table.
Her stomach lurched as she got to her feet and picked it up. Inside was his Beretta handgun. She had the exact same model upstairs. They’d spent many hours practicing with them in recent weeks. Confused, she offered the box out. He’d emptied the fifteen-round magazine the previous day, ordering her to pack it with the rest of her ammunition.
“Thank you. Your mum and I couldn’t have loved you any more even if we’d tried. We’re so proud of you. We’ll be with you, watching every step. You’ve got to be brave. It’s going to be hard, really hard, but I know you’ll make it.”
Unable to speak, she tried to convey everything she felt and wanted to say in the fierce hug she gave him. His fevered flesh shook beneath her touch. She could already smell the familiar sickly sweet and pungent stench that came with the last stages. He didn’t have long.
“I love you,” she said, choking through muffled sobs.
“I love you, too. Now leave me.” His voice strained trying to remain strong and commanding.
She held on all the tighter, not ready to let go of him. When she did finally pull away, she refused to meet his eyes. She’d be strong for him. She’d gather her things, leave, and then when she was far enough away, she’d allow herself to break down. But not one second before, because she was brave, just like her dad.
She went to her room and checked everything one final time. It was hard to resist the urge to take more. Her bag was packed solid and heavy. But as she longingly surveyed the room, she saw photos and other sentimental belongings that she’d always taken for granted. Every single one of those items now seemed invaluable.
She laced her boots with trembling hands, shouldered her large rucksack, the weight pinning her. She slung the shotgun over her left shoulder and checked the gun holster on her right hip. Her own handgun was safely in place. She adjusted the leather sheath attached to her belt, allowing her fingertips to briefly caress the familiar smooth hilt of the six-inch hunting knife. In theory, she was ready to leave. The stark realization that she was ignorant and unprepared for what lay ahead was enough to physically paralyze her.
The sound of her dad coughing downstairs snapped her from her thoughts. It was time to go. She gave one last longing look around the room that had been hers for her entire life. Even when she’d moved into a flat with Dianne, her parents had remained adamant that this room would always belong to her. They’d never changed a single thing. She stepped onto the landing and closed the door behind her, resigning herself to the knowledge she’d never enter again.
Downstairs, she lingered at the front door. She could hear the sound of her dad’s gasping breaths from inside the living room. She waited silently. A sharp pain stabbed through her heart. Neither spoke. The foreboding filled the silence between them. She racked her brain for something to tell him, desperate to initiate one final conversation or to just hear one more word from him. But there was nothing left to say. It’d all been said, and there were no words that could voice her heartbreak and grief. She refused to make this harder for him. She knew intuitively that however unbearable and painful this was for her, it’d be worse for him.
She gripped the door handle, pressed it down, and pulled open the door. She stepped over the threshold like she’d done thousands of times before and was greeted by the warm June morning. With bated breath, she paused one final time, her ears straining for the familiar voice. After a few long torturous seconds of silence, she closed the door behind her. She followed the orders he’d given her; she engaged the lock, pushed her keys through the letter box, and heard their jingle as they landed on the welcome mat.
She took her first tentative step away from the house, her heart tearing in her chest. She took another step, leading her away from the home and burial place of her mum and girlfriend. She wanted to go back to the garden one last time and say good-bye, even though she knew it was useless. There would never be enough time to grieve fully, or enough ways—or words—to say good-bye. Although the solitary future she now faced would probably offer her ample opportunity to try.
She reached the end of the driveway and closed the creaky iron gate behind her. Without purpose she allowed her feet to carry her down the familiar but deserted street. Cars lined most of the driveways and pavements. She numbly passed by each house, remembering the familiar faces of those who used to live there. She’d babysat for most of the kids on their street at one time or another. She’d laughed and danced with them during their street parties only a few years ago. They’d celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic Games with quintessential homemade buffets, plastic cups, patriotic bunting, and a mismatched variety of tables and chairs.
She rounded the corner as a sudden loud bang erupted, causing her to flinch in shock and grab for her gun. The silent morning echoed with the resounding sound of the single gunshot. Familiar. She knew it’d come from her dad’s handgun. With startling clarity, she knew if she checked the rounds in the magazine he’d given her yesterday, there would be one missing.
A single renegade tear escaped. She briskly wiped it away with the back of her hand. Inconsolable hurt filled her to the brim, but there was also a flicker of relief. He wouldn’t suffer the same excruciating, degrading, and horrific fate that her mum and Dianne had.
She’d never return to the house and break her promise.
There was nothing to go back for now.
“I love you,” she whispered, looking up to the sky, then bitterly chastised herself. Whispering was pointless when there wasn’t another living soul around to hear. Truly alone for the first time in her life, she began walking again.
No destination in mind.
No end in sight.
I want to thank Amy for stopping by to chat. It was fun getting to know her and her book is one that I don’t want to miss, and neither do you. Don’t forget to leave a comment or question for a chance to win a copy of “The Renegade.”
For more about Amy, check out her links below:
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Printed With Permission 2015