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Meghan is a senior in high school. For her senior summer, she’s planned the journey of a lifetime with her two friends: they will take a cross-country bicycle trip from their small Massachusetts hometown to Seattle, Washington.

Joining Meghan on the trip are Dave, who secretly has a crush on Meghan; and Chris, who has recently been diagnosed HIV positive as the result of a bad decision.

As they plan their journey, a previously unidentified flu breaks out in India, beginning a relentless march around the globe. By the time Meghan and her friends are halfway across the country, the horrible truth is known: this is not a flu virus. This disease turns its victims into flesh-eating zombies. And it’s here.

Scared, exhausted and alone, the three decide to head home in a desperate race through infected territory. Can they survive THE TRIP?

My review:

“The Trip” by Tim Morgan was recommended to me by a friend and I was reluctant to read it because of its Zombie theme which I am not overly keen on. Fortunately the book has much more to offer to make it worthwhile a read.
Dave, Chris and Meghan decide to take an eight week ride on camelbacks from Billerica in Massachusetts to Seattle after their prom. The story however is not told in a linear way but starts more or less halfway through their trip and reveals in flashbacks the background of those three friends and sheds more light at the complicated relationship they have with each other as well as their reasons to go on the trip in the first place. Meghan wants to get away from her family, Dave has a crush on Meghan and Chris messed up his love life badly and has a scare with HIV.
This aspect of the story reads like a young adult novel but the theme of HIV ad unprotected sex gives it a little more of an edge. For the picky reader there are some minor issues with the correct use of HIV and AIDS, which is explainable by the fact that this comes from the voice of teenagers.
Interwoven are snippets of official news announcements that explain the outbreak of a virus in India and its spread across the world. Zombies’ roam the country and the three cyclists are in constant danger as they move through an apocalyptic setting where cities have been abandoned, people fight over the little food they have and few are willing to share the little resources they have. The action and suspense parts are balanced by the more serious descriptions of a world in chaos.
The scenes depicting the contact with Zombies are entertaining and tense, those about the contact between humans are thoughtful and reminded me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy but fortunately they were more accessible and digestible.
The main characters are very well set up and developed throughout the book, particularly Chris and his personal crisis. I wish I could tell you more but I don’t want to spoil the story for you. The comic style book cover implies a more light hearted read than this is but if you are looking for substance in the an often merely one dimensional genre then this is your pick.

Interview with Tim:

Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.

By day I’m a senior web developer – right now I work in southern New Hampshire in the United States. At night and on weekends I write and make short movies. As an undergrad I studied writing with a minor in theatre, and while working on my graduate degree I focused on writing with a strong concentration in screenplays.

I was quite impressed by the depth of some of your writing in this book which is unusual when writing in a Zombie book. What is your background in writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. My parents had an old manual typewriter that I would write short plays and newspapers on. (Yeah, I’ll be the first to admit I was a weird kid) I went on to study professional writing as an undergrad and later went on to get a master’s degree in writing. I’m glad to see the investment in education has paid off. 😉
Until this project, most of my work for a while was in screenplay (I’ve got a YouTube channel with some of my material on it, including a spoof of the TV show SURVIVORMAN that got almost 50,000 views). I decided to write a novel so I could free myself of the conventions (and restrictions) of a script.

What made you chose this theme or genre? How did the story come to you? Did you plan it or did it come to you naturally?

Back in 2008, right before Christmas, there was a major ice storm that knocked out the electricity to a large swath of New England. For almost a week we had no electricity; I’d go to work in “the world” and come home to a cold, dark house. It wasn’t the end of the world but it sure seemed like it.
During this time the world didn’t fall apart – I actually experienced the other side of human nature. Particularly, a co-worker drove across Massachusetts and New Hampshire with me to borrow a generator from his father. (This was during the work day – and our employer didn’t say anything to stop us) That kind of kindness sticks with you.

Do you identify with any of your characters and if so, what aspects of them?

I think there are aspects of all three of the characters in me. The character I most closely identify with is probably Meghan, followed closely by Dave.
Meghan thinks the world isn’t taking her seriously, and she’s out to prove herself. I’ve been there myself – I’m a programmer during the day, but my background is in English and communications. At times it’s been a difficult to be taken seriously in this field, but I do feel like I’ve proved myself at this point.
With Dave, he has a hard time talking about how he feels to Meghan. When I was that age, I had a difficult time relating to the opposite sex as well.
I identify less with Chris. He’s really more a mix of several people I knew in high school than me. He’s the impulsive wild man of the group and serves as a counter-point to level-headed Meghan and voice-of-reason Dave.

How did you come up with the idea of including HIV into the mix?

A few years ago I was working part-time as an English professor at a college. As an English professor, especially when you’re dealing with first year composition students, there’s a lot of unloading (I would equate it to being a therapist in some ways).
One of the essays I read was from a student that was in a similar situation to what Chris finds himself in. That was either the most powerful personal experience I’ve ever read, or a really talented fiction writer cutting his teeth. Unfortunately the student dropped out of my class before I found out which I was dealing with.

Who are your literary influences? Which are your favourite books?

This may sound a bit strange coming from the author of a zombie novel, but I’m a huge Dave Barry fan. I’ve read a couple of Cormack McCarthy’s books, in particular THE ROAD really changed me and was a huge influence on this novel. (I like to think of it as THE ROAD with hope)

A lot of your writing is quite thoughtful and deep. Were you ever tempted to write a plain Zombie story?

When I set out to write THE TRIP, I really wanted to do something that hadn’t been done in the genre before. As I was writing the novel, it became increasingly clear this was a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. It’s about three friends and how they handle the what could be the end of the world.
These days it seems like the market is crowded with zombie fiction – I think there are hundreds of thousands of readers that will pick up a title just because it’s got the word “zombie” in the description. But in order to stand out, you’ve got to be different.

How is your experience in the independent publishing industry?

This is my first self-published novel. I decided to go print-on-demand through Amazon.com’s CreateSpace service. So far it’s been quite an experience!
Probably the best thing I can say to anyone who’s thinking of attempting this on their own is that writing the book is easy, getting people to read it is hard. Hard, but possible and a lot of work.
For me, it’s a lot of work, but it’s fun work. I’m enjoying the public relations aspects of independent publishing, and getting anything above a one star review on GoodReads or Amazon.com is what really keeps me going.

Which aspects of writing and publishing do you enjoy the most and which ones the least?

The most enjoyable aspects for me are setting out on new projects. That’s the exciting time for me. With anything, the longer I work on it the more it becomes a drag. By the final draft I find sometimes I can barely look at the material anymore.
THE TRIP took me about a year to write, then I spent six months polishing it and about a year and a half traditionally marketing it before I decided to self-publish. By the time I was reviewing the proofs I’d hit the point where I was over-tweaking and knew it was time to be done.

Can you describe your writing environment and habits?

My computer is in my living room. I try to squeeze in time for writing or research (good writing takes a LOT of research) on a fairly regular basis. I’m married and have two kids in high school, so sometimes it’s tough. (It was more difficult when the kids were younger, but it does get easier as they get older)
I’ll usually write at night, while my wife and kids are watching TV (unless they’re watching a DVR’d Craig Ferguson episode – then the writing has to stop). I’ll usually sit down and plug my headphones in and listen to music while I’m trying to write. I have eclectic tastes – I’ll listen to anything from Joss Stone to Shakira to Shivaree.
I’ve also been known to take my laptop and park in a coffee shop for a couple hours with headphones and a cup of chai tea.

Who does your editing and how do you control the quality of your writing?

For THE TRIP, I showed the early drafts to some trusted cohorts in my writing group. We’re pretty tightly knit – there are three of us, and we’re pretty supportive of one another. There were a couple of other beta readers once I got deeper into the drafts, which also helped.
I’ve also found that I need to put my work down for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes. Sometimes this is a couple days, sometimes a week, and for the final drafts it was longer. I’ve found this works for me pretty well.
For the final preflight before publication, I had a professional editor friend take a look at the novel. I was relieved that by the time she looked at it, there wasn’t much for her to catch, but she made some really good points on what she found.
My advice to anyone self-publishing is to not skip the step of a professional edit if at all possible. Either find the money, make friends with a professional editor, or figure some other way to get it done.

What are your next projects? Where could we hear about them?

In the immediate future, I’ve written a short screenplay that I’m planning on producing this spring. It’s a silly little short about a crazy woman who summons a cursed lawn gnome to haunt her ex-boyfriend. It’s been a while since I’ve produced anything, and I think it’ll be a nice change of pace for me.
I’m also planning a follow-up to THE TRIP. I’m still fleshing out details, but the follow-up and the original will intersect at certain points. The plan right now is to follow one of the minor characters from THE TRIP and a national guard unit as the crisis unfolds. THE TRIP was mostly aftermath; the follow up will focus more on what happened during the crisis.
If you want to keep up-to-date on what I’m working on, the best places would be my web site and my YouTube channel.

Links:

Official web site: http://www.timmorgan.us/thetrip
Amazon.com buy link: http://www.amazon.com/author/timmorgan
Amazon.uk buy link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Trip-Tim-Morgan/dp/1480111236/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1362323022&sr=8-2
Tim’s YouTube channel, currently featuring a book trailer for THE TRIP: https://www.youtube.com/user/tmorgan2100?feature=mhee

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