Zombie lit is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to the proliferation of E-publishing, self-publishing, book aps, portable readers, audiobook podcasting, and of course blogs. Savvy up and comers are making the most of blogging platforms to tell great stories fans can access for free. One such newbie is Steve Kuhn, whose blog Diary of a Runner is a journal-style following of—you guessed it, a survivor of the zombie apocalypse. Steve Kuhn was kind enough to take time away from blogging to tell us all about his project.
WLF/ZZN: Hey, thanks for the interview! Let’s start with an easy one. Of all the things in the world there are to write about, why would you choose zombies?
First off, I’d actually like to thank YOU for the opportunity to discuss my project. I’m a big fan of your stuff!
I’ve been a zombie lover since way back… like before it was cool, hehe. Anyway, I was reading some various zombie themed forums and I found myself offering criticism on various movies and literature. It dawned on me that I really had no place making such criticisms because outside of being a fan, what did I bring to the table? I’d never written anything before. I mean, it’s easy to sit back and pick at everything I think is wrong with a piece but I felt like a dick because I knew nothing of what it’s like to put -myself- out there to be criticized. I remembered an artist once saying with regards to critics, “If they know what’s so dope, they should make it themselves and quit judging everyone else.”
WLF/ZZN: You are the creator of Diary of a Runner, a blog-style web series from the POV of a survivor during a zombie apocalypse. Tell us about it.
Diary of a Runner, or Run Dext Run as the regulars affectionately call it, is an effort to tell the “everyman” side of the story. Our protagonist, Dext, is not a tough guy. See, fans of zombie fiction have it in their heads that they’re “ready” for the apocalypse. Funny thing is, the vast majority of people have never seen a mutilated human being up close and personal in real life. They’ve never dealt with watching a loved one (or a child) violently killed in front of their eyes or smelled the unforgettable odor of decaying flesh. I don’t care how much you “think” you’re prepared. The reality is that we live in a bubble and when that bubble is popped all our plans go out the window. I’m able to set aside any sort of self righteousness with Dext and tell you about how scared he –really- is. I can tell you about how he threw up at the sight of a corpse or how he didn’t run headlong into the fray to help someone… Dext isn’t a hero. And the people he meets along the way are just as flawed but in different ways.
WLF/ZZN: What’s new and innovative about Diary of a Runner that readers can’t get anywhere else?
First off, it’s FREE to read at www.rundextrun.com!!! The Runner offers a lot of awesome content that goes far beyond just the story itself and we’ll be talking about that later on in the interview. I update the site with new entries two to three times a week so you never have to wait that long to get back into it. The entries are designed to keep the realism fully intact.
WLF/ZZN: Odessa Baxter is quite a name. I’d love to know how you chose it. Do tell. And the nickname, “Dext,” where does that come from?
I knew I wanted my guy to be called Dext. I like it… it’s cool but slightly nerdy (Poindexter style). However, I wanted it to be more of a nickname. So I came up with Odessa Baxter… it just popped in my head at the time. I took the “DE” from Odessa, the “XT” from Baxter, and mashed them together. Voila! DEXT was born!
WLF/ZZN: After reading the existing entries, I’m not clear who Dext’s intended audience is. Can you clear that up for me?
Interesting question. I honestly didn’t target anyone. I guess I just wanted to strike a balance between the gore lovers, the survivalists, and the casual fan of zombie stuff. What I’m finding is that even people that don’t normally enjoy zombie fiction love The Runner.
WLF/ZZN: I’m intrigued by Chalmers. Will we hear from him again?
Chalmers is a huge part of this thing. If you log on and see that today there was a “Letter” and not and “Entry”, get stoked! That means that you’re going to learn a piece of information that will fill in a blank or drive the underlying arcs. I want them to be “Oh SNAP!” moments. I guess that’s the long way to say, “I can’t tell you when we’ll hear from him again because it might ruin the surprise.”, hehe.
WLF/ZZN: What has the reception for Diary of a Runner been like?
The reception has been better than I could have ever hoped for. The site and social media stuff launched the last week of April this year. That’s a little more than a month ago.
We currently have about 1200 regular readers and we’ve done so strictly by word of mouth! So, I’m absolutely floored. So, our biggest challenge has really just been reaching a larger audience, getting the word out to more people.
WLF/ZZN: Why Baltimore? Why not say, Miami?
I’m from Baltimore originally. Anyone who grows up in Baltimore knows that you rep your city! Moreover, its close proximity to Washington, D.C will play a role eventually. The clear swath that can be cut from east coast to west coast is very important to where we’re going story-wise as well… but you didn’t hear that from me.
WLF/ZZN: Speaking of Miami, what’s your opinion on the recent goings on down there? Have you taken any preparations in case the worst should happen?
People are crazy! I don’t think it’s so much the onset of the zombie apocalypse as it is a great example of global desensitization and some seriously strong drugs.
If it does hit the fan, I exercise my 2nd Amendment rights to the fullest and we know where we’re going… if we can get there.
WLF/ZZN: What advice would Dext give fellow survivalists out there?
Find yourself a group of like-minded people and be self-aware enough to know your place/ role in that group. Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians will get you killed. Also, never underestimate how the effects of clean water, or lack thereof, can impact your survival. When the purification and treatment facilities cease to operate, clean water will become a very expensive commodity.
WLF/ZZN: Is it true that there’s extra content available on social networking sites? How can readers get in on that?
I have social media in effect 100%. Readers have full access to me on a personal level with our Facebook page and profile (Run Dext Run and Odessa Dext Baxter respectively), Twitter (@dextandcrew), and e-mail ([email protected]). I love interacting with them SO much. There’s even a fanpage (RDR Street Horde) where folks can participate in our promotion efforts such as flyering, forums, and all sorts of stuff. We give prizes and ranks for those who participate at a high level.
And that leads me to the real magic of The Runner. When I do contests and trivia games, the winners get to contribute to the actual story! We’ve had people name characters, make decisions for the group, or sometimes I’ll reward them with spoilers or insights into ongoing plotlines. It allows the reader to put their own stamp on The Runner and it really makes us a community unto ourselves. Believe me, when you name a character and watch them come full circle it’s amazing! I mean, it’s YOUR character and you’ll root for them that much harder… and you’re that much more devastated if they die.
Donations are appreciated and the funds go right back into content such as prizes for the contests.
WLF/ZZN: I’m hearing murmurs of game development for Diary of a Runner. Comment?
For sure! In a few weeks, we’ll be releasing some Dext-themed Atari-style games like “Dextman” and “Dextipede” to create a buzz online that will culminate in a full-on 8-bit (like, old school Nintendo) role playing game that will allow the player to fill in the back-stories of all the major players in The Runner. Another great part of our social media tie-in is that readers can see exactly what we’re doing and how far along we are. I’ll post pics and updates as we work. Truly interactive from start to finish.
WLF/ZZN: Thanks so much, Steve. Anything you’d like to say to your loyal supporters?
I really just want to thank everyone who has taken the time to give Diary of a Runner a chance as well as the people behind the scenes. I’ve come to really enjoy putting this together and I’ve met so many new friends and great people doing it. Now my goal is to Keep Dext Running!!! As long as people are reading it, I’ll keep on writing and trying to keep the content new and fresh. Love to all!