Jason Carver is a member of a lost generation. Fresh out of college and buried in debt, he, like many of his peers, finds that the American Dream he’d been taught to believe in has become a cruel myth. The country is in the midst of the greatest economic crisis to strike in over fifty years. Jobs are disappearing, families are losing their homes, and for the first time in decades, the youngest generation faces the prospect of a less prosperous future than their parents had. It is an age of bailouts and “too big to fail” corporations in which the average citizen is too small to matter. Forced into a tedious, dead-end job just to stay afloat, Jason finds an outlet for his frustrations in punk rock and getting drunk with his friends. It seems that all he can do is bide his time and wait for an opportunity to escape his predicament. However, events in his life and the country at large continue to deteriorate. Public discourse becomes increasingly toxic. The nation’s first Latino president is attacked by a shadowy extremist group shortly after being sworn in. Soon afterward, Jason experiences the most violent and heartbreaking night of his life. All the while, a small group of well-connected elites benefit from the public’s plight. Jason Carver decides he’s had enough. He’s going to fight to save his future and his country. Anyone caught stealing either is going to pay.
“Roaring Zeros” by Nate McIntyre is a modernist Robin Hood tale set in a near future USA that is plagued by an economic downturn, poverty associated with corporal greed and by the surge of a right wing New American Front, NAF.
Our hero Jason lands a job as door to door salesman, encouraged to sell members of the public luxury they cannot afford, so his employer can afford more managerial bonuses. He leaves the job in anger and starts an almost personal vendetta against the greedy and evil forces in the country.
Not entirely heroic and benign Jason’s anger vents at his former boss, his French love rivals and the heartless wife of an industrialist. In their noble frame of mind however, he and his friend share their illegally obtained financial gains with his poor neighbours.
Their actions inevitably lead up to a big show down against the NAF and during the lead up to this Jason finally overcomes his rejected love for former flatmate Jessica and falls for prolific journalist Kristen (and she for him) but his obsession with his new role and the sacrifices he is willing to make threaten the new relationship.
The writing flows easy, plot and sub plots are told in a fast moving and pleasant way showing the professionalism and skill of the author. I must also congratulate the author for the great choice of title, , which works on several levels.
The book deals with controversial political issues such as the use of violence to counter violence, robbing from the rich and blaming poverty on corporal greed. Having a protagonist who sways between hero and villain himself was not always easy or comfortable reading, although it was thought provoking and stimulating in many ways. Fortunately Jason grows through the experience, showing McIntyre’s talent for character development. This is a challenging book as much as the economic situation is a huge challenge for the outlook for an entire generation, which Jason and his friends represent.
The book and its themes stayed with me long after I finished reading, which is always an indication that the author succeeded in his aim.
Interview with Nate:
Tell us a bit about yourself as an author and a person.
I’m twenty-seven and live in San Diego, California. I have a clerical job downtown and also do some volunteer work outside of that. My educational background is in political science and international relations, and I’ve had a strong interest in history from an early age. I also served six years in the Marine Corps Reserve.
As far as hobbies, I’m into reading, punk and similar forms of rock, home brewing, sports (baseball, hockey, international soccer), and maintain a modest PC gaming habit. Creative writing is a relatively new thing to me and this novel was my first serious attempt. It was an interesting experience that I’d like to try again once I have time.
How did you come to writing in the first place?
Honestly, the primary factor in my decision to start writing was boredom. I’ve always been a relatively active reader and follower of current events. I graduated college right when the “Great Recession” started, and along with a lot of people my age, I had a pretty tough time finding work. I was also close to the end of my reserve contract at the time and couldn’t even turn there for full-time employment because of budget issues. As a result, I had a lot of down time and one of the ways I decided to fill it was with this story.
When did you first have the idea for this story? Did you know then what the story would be about?
I’d say the idea first started forming in late January or early February of 2009. This was pretty soon after I had graduated and right in the middle of the financial crash and the bailouts. There was talk all over the news about job losses, companies going under and speculation about the “next Great Depression.” I specifically remember one morning where I was watching the news while looking for jobs on my laptop. A story came on about the bank that my parents and I had our money in being in danger of collapse. I called my dad asking him if we should pull our money out. It was pretty alarming and reminded me of stories my grandparents told me when I was a kid about what they went through in 1929.
In addition to this, there was a lot of heated rhetoric surrounding the 2008 election and Obama’s victory. We were seeing the rise of a lot of loosely-related groups under the Tea Party label and an outpouring of populist sentiment in general. The country and the world were in a lot of trouble and the level of public anger was very high. I started thinking about what I learned in my history classes about the Great Depression and what a modern repeat might look like. I didn’t know all the details from the beginning and some ideas changed over time, but that basic premise remained throughout.
How long did it take you to write the book?
The very first draft took about a year and was done in April of 2010. There was a lot of stop-and-go from there. Overall, it took about three or three and a half years to finish.
How many rewrites did it take you?
I never did a full rewrite all at once, but there were passes where I made significant changes. In total, I have around a dozen drafts dating back to the very first.
Which of the characters did you enjoy writing about the most and would you say you are like any of them?
They were all pretty fun, but Jason was the most enjoyable. I’d say there are elements of my friends and I, and many of our fellow Millennials in each of the characters. There are a decent amount of similarities between Jason’s background and my own. However, I think he and the other characters could be easy for a lot of people to relate to. As I was writing, I observed my surroundings with the goal of creating characters that played the role of “everyman.”
Do you feel as hopeless as some of the characters in the book, or as angry?
Back in 2009 when I first started writing, I would probably say yes, actually. Or at least close. That was a rough period for me personally and for the world at large. I know I wasn’t the only one, though. I’d say I’m still upset with many aspects of our society and government in the wake of the financial crash. However, the sustained level of scepticism and protest I’ve seen over the last few years has given me some hope that things will improve. Whether it was certain elements of the Tea Party, the Occupy movement a little more recently, the record interest in third-party candidates in 2012, or the protest movements in Europe and elsewhere, it shows that a growing number of people are waking up and won’t just accept the status quo any more. That’s encouraging.
In a nutshell: Could you say what the message of your book is or what would you like to express with it?
I wanted to illustrate the power of everyday people and the importance of exercising it when necessary. As recent events have shown, we live in a world where people are often treated as objects and have to just accept whatever is given to them, while those in positions of power and privilege play by a different set of rules. I also wanted to explore how it is often personal grievances and emotion that motivate individuals to act out on a wider scale.
The other point I wanted to get across was the potential dangers of populism and turning to the wrong solutions out of desperation. The Great Depression allowed fascism to take hold in Europe through a combination of street violence and elections. While I do think the current wave of populism is justified, some of the rhetoric out there is eerily similar. I wanted to explore what this would like look from my generation’s perspective if things continued to deteriorate. When I look at the events of the last year or so in certain places like Greece, I think this warning is especially valid.
Do you read the same kind of books? Do you have time to read?
These days I read a lot of non-fiction. Books about politics, history and things like that. I’m currently reading David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years, which has been interesting so far and I think addresses an important issue. However, I do like dystopias and books with some action and adventure. In the past I read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy and military thrillers like Tom Clancy’s work. I still do from time to time.
How do you write? What is your writing environment like?
I’m almost always in my room with music on. It limits distractions and sometimes the music can help me focus if I get stuck on something. I also like having the Internet at my fingertips so I can research something if I have a new idea.
Who are your favourite authors / influences?
I really like George Orwell’s work. Homage to Catalonia is one of my favourite books. Jack London is another. I also like a lot of Tom Clancy’s older books and admire the amount of detail and research that went into them. Brian Jacques is another I’d include, even though he was a children’s author. I probably read fifteen books from his Redwall series in middle school and thought he was good at making relatable characters.
I also get a lot of inspiration from music and movies. Greg Graffin is a brilliant songwriter and thinker whose work I’ve enjoyed for years. Some of the themes and style of this book were inspired in part by movies like Boondock Saints, Fight Club, and SLC Punk.
Who would play your characters in a movie?
Jason – Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s played similar roles before.
Marty – Sean Astin.
Roger – Jim Parsons.
Alex – Charlie Day. He’s hilarious and I’d like to see how he’d handle a character and story that becomes more serious over time.
Kristen – Olivia Wilde
Jessica – Amanda Crew
What is your next project and where would we find out about them?
I haven’t really started anything yet, but I do have a few ideas I’m considering. The one I think I might work on next is sort of a futuristic dystopia. I’ll probably make announcements about it on my blog, Facebook and Twitter once I start working on it.
Thanks for reading my book and giving me the opportunity to do this interview!
Blog: http://www.nathanstate.com (still needs work, but I do post updates here)
Roaring Zeros fan page: http://www.facebook.com/RoaringZeros
Amazon (paperback or Kindle): http://amzn.com/1481221167
Smashwords (multiple formats): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/269399
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/roaring-zeros-nate-mcintyre/1114072852?ean=9781481221160