It was National Novel Writing Month and I was spending the month chatting with people in the Facebook group. I had no intention to participate. I simply had no interest. However, one day I was watching the Walking Dead. During this particular episode, a girl was being kept on the upper floors of a hospital She was later lowered into the dark, knowing she might have to avoid zombies to leave the building.
So as I thought there, I thought that was terrifying. However, at least she knew what was in the darkness. I wondered, what if nobody knew what was below? What if nobody had ever been in the darkness? If they’d lived their whole lives at the top of the tower? That was the core idea from which FLOOR 21 was born: an entire society of humanity that has existed for all its living memory at the top of a tower. What lies below? They may never know, given the disease known as the Creep that kills them off as they go lower and lower into the tower.
The idea resonated with some video games I knew of. I draw a lot of inspiration from game narrative techniques. One of the most popular narrative delivery techniques in gaming today is the use of recordings left behind by inhabitants. It lets players choose whether to get into the story, or focus on the game. So, my book features a girl who tells her story by recordings. It also lets me switch to other viewpoints if I want, because if these are all recordings, then it makes a cohesive sense. This is a story told by assembled recordings, like a history drawn together. It had something in its DNA drawn from World War Z in that respect. It also relied on narrative forms such as Black Hawk Down and Into Thin Air, where stories were told with exciting first person perspectives, but set in this dark fictional world.
That world itself was inspired first by the scene from the Walking Dead, but also from a game called Lone Survivor. Lone Survivor deals with the single inhabitant of an apartment building dealing with zombie type creatures and infections along the walls. It draws on zombie clichés to make a thematic point, but again what was important to FLOOR 21 was the use of a single building in which to tell the entirety of the story. Finally, a French surrealist game called OFF heavily inspired the ‘weirdness’ of the novel. OFF is almost a modern Alice in Wonderland with a much darker tone, and deals with incredibly bizarre characters. Those all fed the overall tone of the story, which deals with incredibly strange phenomena and an infection nobody really understands.
As for Jackie, the main protagonist? My college years were defined by Ellen Page and Michael Cera, and I draw thematically on a lot of my own youthful experiences in combination with their mannerisms and means of discussion. More than anything, I enjoy the informality of that duo, and that comes through pretty clearly in the way Jackie speaks as well. Despite being in a dark environment, she is overly casual at times. The resulting contrast is interesting, and provides a unique blend of dystopian horror with young adult delivery. You may find the final result unusual, but I think that’s been part of the appeal of the book, and Jackie herself is typically beloved by almost every reader.
Publication occurred due to my participation in the Amazon Scout contest. I won my contract after several thousand readers voted for my book. I’ve been involved in the agenting and publishing process before, and this was the most straightforward publishing process I’d ever been involved with. After being told I’d won, I was contacted by Amazon, given a contract offer, given a copy edit of my book, and six months later was published. It was a whirlwind, but one I’m grateful for.
About the Author
Jason Luthor has spent a long life writing for sports outlets, media companies and universities. His earliest writing years came during his coverage of the San Antonio Spurs as an affiliate with the Spurs Report and its media partner, WOAI Radio. He would later enjoy a moderate relationship with Blizzard Entertainment, writing lore and stories for potential use in future games. At the academic level he has spent several years pursuing a PhD in American History at the University of Houston, with a special emphasis on Native American history.
His inspirations include some of the obvious; The Lord of the Rings and Chronciles of Narnia are some of the most cited fantasy series in history. However, his favorite reads include the Earthsea Cycle, the Chronicles of Prydain, as well as science fiction hits such as Starship Troopers and Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?
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