Originally born in Austin, author Drew Montgomery now makes his home in Houston. He attended Texas A&M University, where he earned a degree in Economics. He currently works in the video game industry and outside of writing, he is a passionate sports fan who also loves reading and working out.
Montgomery currently has five works available on Amazon: three short stories, a short story collection, and his most recent work, post-apocalyptic novel The Plague, which was released in March of 2013.
When and why did you decide to become a writer? Was there one particular moment when you realized, “I have a story to tell, and I intend to tell it”?
I actually started writing stories as far back as elementary school, where I wrote my own version of Jurassic Park, which is still one of my favorite movies. At the time, my parents would not let me watch it, so I decided to create my own story, inserting myself and several of my friends into the narrative, and then followed up with a much more original (but still blatantly ripped off) version of my own. I did get a lot of encouragement from my parents after that, including quite a bit of giving up computer time to let me pound away on Word.
It was from there that my craft began to develop. I would not just write, but create worlds, entire cities and civilizations just to use as a playground for my mind. From there, it has simply been a matter of putting word to paper. I’ve written tons of stories of all sizes and genres, a fact that really reflects my eclectic taste in media.
What separates The Plague from other apocalyptic zombie tales of recent years?
The Plague is unique because instead of turning the focus to the downfall of humanity, it takes place well after the apocalypse has already come and gone. The focus turns, rather, to the survivors as they try to make their way through a broken world, whether it is a group of people trying to survive, a borderline obsessed doctor still struggling to find a cure, the military planning a desperate offensive to save what is left, or those who came to the conclusion that the only way to survive was to take what they could by force.
Another thing that I think makes it stick out is that there is an overarching message of hope. So much of what I’ve either read or watched in the genre is so depressing because there never seems to be any hope. It seems so often to devolve into humans regressing to their basest instincts in the name of survival. That really seems to be the theme of a lot of apocalyptic stories in general, that is, “what lengths will people who were once good go to in order to survive?” While there is an element of that in The Plague, I also wanted to show that even in the most dire of circumstances, that there are still people who will do the right thing.
While I did try to write The Plague as a unique zombie novel, I do feel that Red Winter, which is a short story that takes place at the beginning of the downfall, is more unique, not for the content, but for the format. I wrote it as a blog written by a survivor who is in the midst of the apocalypse, a young man trying to maintain his sanity as the world collapses around him. It has actually been my most popular work since it was published, and one that complements The Plague very well.
In a world in which society has broken down, to what extent would survival outweigh morality? In other words, do you believe the majority of individuals would simply revert to doing whatever it takes to survive, even if that means hurting and/or killing others?
This is an interesting question. I think a good example of this is what is going on in Mexico, where people have begun to form vigilante groups to fight back against the violence from the cartels. When your life is in danger, it really starts to blur the line between what is considered morally good and morally bad. I do believe that most people are good, and that given the opportunity will do the right thing. When there is considerable danger to oneself or one’s family, I think it ceases to be a moral issue. Is killing in itself morally wrong? Yes, but when you are trying to protect yourself or your family or simply your means to survive, then morality ceases to hold any sway.
What do you like most about writing?
I love writing because it gives me an avenue for creation. Books are a marvelous way to ignite the imagination, but being able to do that in my own words is simply remarkable to me. I love being able to watch my worlds open up, to watch my characters develop and grow, to take on personalities of their own. It is actually a feeling that is difficult to me to put into words, but just being able to see my ideas pour out onto paper is just incredible, to know that I’ve created this world and these characters from my own imagination.
What book do you wish you had written?
There are so many I could pick for this because there are so many books I love. I think if I had to pick one, it would come down between A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (cheating, I know, it’s a series) or No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. The former is incredible to me because the author is able to create such a complex world with so much going on, not just in term of action, but the subtleties, the intrigue that makes it so unique among fantasy novels that makes it feel so real. The latter is to me a microcosm of McCarthy’s writing. More than any other modern author, he is able to combine symbolism and imagery to tell a complex story of a world passing a man by as he can only helplessly watch.
What does your day job entail?
I run the QA department, so I am in charge of all the testers. In the past, I originally started as a tester and have kind of worked my way up across a couple of companies. Most of my work now involves making sure everything gets covered, making sure bugs get moved on down the pipeline, and writing test cases. In the past, I’ve worn all sorts of hats, so to speak, including production work, fixing maps, creating test maps, and even a bit of promotional writing, though unfortunately that never saw the light of day due to some administrative issues. I did write a small blurb for a collectible that made it into a final game; it was about how a character named after me died.
What is the most enjoyable video game you’ve played recently?
I’ve recently been playing Crusader Kings 2 a lot. I found it because of a Game of Thrones mod. It basically allows players to start as a ruler in the Dark Ages where they are tasked with gaining power and continuing their dynasty across several generations. It is unique because it allows you to use not just force, but intrigue, whether it’s forging a claim on a neighboring land or assassinating a rival ruler or marrying to gain an alliance. Other than that, my usual choice is Team Fortress 2, as any of my gaming friends would quickly attest to.
How would you fare in a zombie apocalypse? Do you have a plan in place?
I would probably fall victim to Murphy’s Law in the case of a zombie apocalypse and have something go completely wrong. I think my currently living arrangements would be rather defensible, but I would probably do something irrational and get eaten. Living in the middle of a large city does not help either. I do think I have the physical capabilities to keep myself alive for a while, and I am pretty good at improvising, so I may be able to last for a little while, but I can’t help but think that my tendency to buy fresh foods and my lack of feasible weapons would doom me in the end.
You’re a Texans fan, right? Let’s say the Houston Texans trade down to the 7th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and select Johnny Manziel. Is this something you’d be in favor of, and how do you think Manziel would fare as a pro in this scenario?
I am most definitely a Texans fan! The franchise formed when I was younger, and having followed them closely and gone to plenty of games since, it has felt as though the team has grown up with me. As an Aggie, I would be ecstatic if the Texans drafted Johnny, though I do trust the coaching staff to make the right choice. I’ve watched every game of his in the past two years and feel confident that he will be very successful at the next level. He does admittedly have some aspects of his game that he needs to work on, but put him on the field and I am sure that he will succeed.
What’s next for you?
I finished a fantasy novel within the past year that is currently in the hands of some beta readers. I hope to have it out sometime this year. Since I completed it, I have been working on expanding the universe through both short stories and another novel, and perhaps more after that. I also have a handful of short stories that I have been looking to compile into a collection, though I may try to expand on that before I push it out. There are so many stories I wish to tell, and my hope is to put them all into writing one day, whether anyone reads them or not.