I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to my blog to D’Juan “OJ” Dyer, an award-winning writer of post-apocalyptic fiction and a published poet. Post-Apocalyptic fiction is one of my favourite genres and I’m thrilled that you are here to share your work and your writing journey with us.
- Before we delve any further, would you like to tell readers a little about yourself?
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for putting me on your platform. I see we are coming out the gate with a loaded question. Who is OJ? In the simplest form I am a man on a mission to transition from a street soldier to a world esteemed writer and poet. I was born in Detroit, Michigan and raised mainly in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
My adolescents were plagued with gang violence, which led to me being stabbed twice in street fights, and the crafting of a persona that I am currently trying to shed to grow into the man I am supposed to be. Throughout this transition I have found myself holding beliefs that are contrary to the normal. I am an ordained pagan minister and an outspoken anarchist. But beyond that I am a 23-year-old father of four, who is finding his way through this cold world. I am a life-long writer although I just recently entered the publishing industry. I also own a niche-publishing company by the name of Half Dead Association, LLC which I started to release my dystopia and post-apocalyptic novels autonomously.
- What prompted you to become a writer and get involved in the publishing industry?
I always wanted to be a writer ever since I was a child. I’m going to be completely honest I was a bad kid. I practically lived on punishment. Punishment in my household was different though, my mom would strip my room bare. She would take everything out, including my door off the hinges, just leaving my clothes in my closet and my mattress. But the one thing she allowed me to have was books. She would take me to the local library and let me pick out like six books to take home and read. So, at that point I was reading multiple books within a day, and that made me fall in love with storytelling. To me, books were magical. They transported me out of my solitary confinement conditions into a different world. What’s more magical than that? After reading so many books and being transported to so many different worlds I knew that I wanted to write. I wanted to be able to transport someone into a fictional world and make them fall in love just like I did. I had always been a creative soul, but those experiences gave me an artform to hone in on. So, I started writing little stories but never shared them with anyone.
I didn’t officially decide to jump into the publishing industry until two years ago though. Why? Because I got my heart broken. I completely lost myself. I was homeless and majorly depressed. I started to live with my best friend, whom I’ve known since the third grade, in a studio apartment. I would just lay on the couch all day doing nothing. My spirit was broken. But my best friend one day got fed up with me just sleeping all day and forced me to get up and write something. That’s when I started writing Black Autumn. After sharing a bit of it with him, he got all serious and asked me if I ever considered publishing the stuff I wrote. In that moment is when I decided that I would actually try my hand in publishing, I mean I didn’t really have anything else to lose at that point. Once I put Black Autumn out, it won #1 New Release in 30-Minute Teen and Young Adult Short Reads. How I looked at it was like, for it to be my first project I put out and it achieved that accolade, writing wasn’t an option anymore, it was my destiny. The rest is history in the making. Who would’ve thought I would find my blessing in the midst of what I perceived to be cursed times? I surely didn’t. C’est la vie.
- Your work in the apocalyptic genre has earned you the title “The Voice of The Apocalypse”. What inspired you to write in this genre?
I’ve always been a fan of the genre and that even extends beyond books. What started it was my obsession with zombie movies and shows. Then I got really big into doomsday prepper content and just all things that was based around the end of the world. I was fascinated. People tell you to write what you know, and that’s what I love to consume so it was a natural fit. The biggest draw in for me was questioning what people would do without rules. When you really think about it, society behaves a certain way solely because we have laws set in place that are enforced with punishments. If you take away the laws and you take away the punishments, people will probably act completely different and be more impulsive. For example: Say you are broke and hungry, and you happen to walk past a pizza shop. In our current society, you are probably going to be like, “Man I wish I had the money to get some pizza right about now.” But if there was no consequence, most people would run in the pizza shop, steal a pizza, and go home happy.
I like writing in this genre because I can explore that other side, the what-if, and make people ponder their own morality. In this genre anything goes. You wouldn’t kill someone in the store today just because they grabbed the last loaf of bread. But what if there were no rules and that was the last loaf of bread in the city? What if your family was starving and haven’t eaten all day, would you kill for it then? My examples may sound a little unhinged but it’s the truth, and I want readers to confront that truth within themselves. How far would you truly be willing to go under dire circumstances with no rules?
- Your dystopian short story, I Did Something Bad (Ascendia Series), released earlier this year. What themes does the book explore?
I would say betrayal and freedom are the biggest themes. The story is based around someone who is looking for freedom within a super controlling environment, and the main character also happens to be deeply betrayed by the people closest to him. The search for freedom and the major betrayal he suffers is why the story is titled ‘I Did Something Bad’. In the end it also briefly explores forgiveness with a strong conviction on action and consequence. At first the betrayal isn’t evident, but when the main character explains it, I think most people will understand it but not agree with it. The twist in that book is crazy if I do say so myself.
- Do the characters in the story in any way reflect elements of your own personality /life experience or those of people you know? Tell us about the main character in your novel and his motivations. Feel free to share a short snippet.
The elements of my story actually refer to a song that my previously mentioned best friend made. It’s called ‘Shoulda Known’ by Sahghoul. It’s available on Soundcloud, and I definitely think it deserves more recognition. But of course, me being an apocalyptic fiction writer, I put my own spin on it and expanded it into my own world. I actually used a couple of the lyrics throughout the course of the book. That came about because one day I played the song while in the shower and the idea for this story just popped into my head. I always have the best ideas while in the shower, it’s my sanctum. The only aspect that directly relates to my life is that the main character is a writer. The story itself is set in a city that is ruled by a dictator. The main rule is no one is allowed to leave the city because everything is allegedly destroyed outside of the walls of this city. The main character is a journalist that doesn’t believe everything is destroyed and he’s on a mission to find a way to escape the city and in the process expose the dictator as a liar.
Snippet: “Almost instantaneously Blackridge lost contact with the rest of Ascendia. Soon after, the mayor sent out a group of officers to seek aid. But when they returned, they came with a message. Supposedly everything outside the city’s walls were destroyed with no signs of survivors. You did not believe them one bit; it did not make sense. No one could envision what would happen next or how to possibly rebuild, but they believed in Mayor Shepard. Too much if anyone asked you.”
- Your author bio states that you have done a lot of travelling. To what extent, if any, did this influence your writing journey?
Travelling has definitely influenced my writing. When you travel to so many places you see so many different cultures and meet so many different types of people. Which is crucial to the world-building aspect because it makes you consider different dialects and mentalities. Someone from up north is very different from someone down south. From their beliefs to their morals, to their mentality, its all just so different. You gain a deep appreciation of people as a whole when you get to see different backgrounds and different struggles, and how they are portrayed. Humans are such unique creatures. Travelling also helped me spread my brand tremendously. I get support from so many different states just because I was able to build genuine connections from either living there or passing through. I was born in Michigan but have also lived in New Mexico and Texas. For a few years I used to take a yearly vacation to Florida. I’ve visited West Virginia, Georgia, and Ohio. On road trips I’ve passed through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
- Are you a ‘panster’ or ‘plotter’ or something in between?
Panster all the way. I honestly wouldn’t know how to plot if my life depended on it. The only thing I plot ahead of time is the character names and the locations the book will take place in. I drew a complete map of my fictional world Ascendia and pick different locations for each book. But once I get the general idea of the story I want to tell, I go straight to the lab and start cooking. I don’t really know how other authors write, but the story just comes to me and tells itself as it goes.
Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m the one writing the story, the characters are telling their stories to me, and I just document it. It’s almost like they are their own sentient entities. There was this one time I was half asleep and lines just started appearing in my head out of nowhere. So, here I am all groggy trying to listen and type at the same time. This continued for about a half an hour before they were like okay you can go to sleep now; we’ll tell you more when you wake up. Is that weird? Oh well, it is what it is. It’s kind of enchanting when I think about it. Maybe a little crazy, but enchanting, nonetheless. I say that because I’ll be writing and like I know what I would do in certain situations, but when it’s dictated to me, I just be like, “Woah. You are crazy, I definitely wouldn’t of did that.” Or it’ll be the opposite and I’ll be talking to myself like, “That was your response? I ain’t even mad at you, I would’ve done the same thing.” Yes, I just admitted to talking to myself at times. And I’m not saying I’m a genius, but all creative geniuses talk to themselves.
- Do you set aside time to write every day? I am particularly interested in how you manage to motivate yourself to set aside time to write within a busy schedule or when life decides to throw us a curveball.
If I didn’t set time aside to write every day I feel as if I’d be disrespecting my fans and supporters, but that’s just me. Who am I to play with these people who believe in me? Having four kids, it’s definitely a tedious task. Luckily, my spouse understands how important it is that I write so she often will watch the kids for a couple hours a day and just tell me to go do what I do best. I don’t suffer from writer’s block like most people so it’s easy for me to just hop in my zone and go. I learned that sometimes you must cut your luxuries to make time for writing. I used to be an avid gamer, but then I started feeling guilty. I would game for like four hours straight, on the light side, and when I finished, I’d just sit there and be like, “I probably could have made a better use of my time, like writing my story.” So, I stopped playing video games, I haven’t touched a game in about eight months at this point. I’m very self-motivated. This is my calling and if I don’t give it my all then I’m only hurting myself.
Sometimes life does throw you a curveball and you can’t help it, but you have to will yourself to write. Even if it’s half a page, it’s better than nothing. I once heard a quote that you have to put an equal amount of work into your business as you spend working in someone else’s. That stuck with me. Because your day job will keep the bills paid, but your business is what will make you rich. When you come from where I come from, a lot of people don’t make it out. So, when you have something that gives you that sliver of hope, you MUST take it and run with it. That’s how I look at it, this is my only way to make it out, so I have to keep pushing forward no matter what happens. Whatever you are going through, pour that emotion into your story. Are you angry? Write a fight scene or a scene where your main character is furious. Horny? Write a sex scene. Sad? Write a scene where you character is experiencing the ‘all is lost’ moment.
At the end of the day, little progress is better than no progress. As long as you are working on your project, rather it be writing or editing, you are progressing. You have to ask yourself what is your goal and how do I get there? My advice is to set your goal very high. My goal is to own a private island, and with writing being my only foreseeable way out, I have to make time to push that ball forward until I reach that goal. By any means necessary. I want my kids to have a better life than I had, and if I want that to happen, I have to continue writing every single day. People depend on me, this is bigger than self.
- Writing can be a solitary process. Do you have any writing buddies, co-writers, or anyone you go to for support, either face- to- face or online?
When it comes to the writing process, I often run to my spouse Ella Chrisman, who is also my editor. She is the only one that really sees my vision in its entirety and knows where I’m trying to go with my writing. She always gives me sound advice when I ask. Other than that, I usually talk to Stanley James II as he has a lot of experience in the world of publishing with his company, GangTales Publications. He’s been a real stand-up guy about helping me move forward in this industry. A lot of the time though I stay to myself, I’ve always been that way. I’d rather deal with things alone, and only ask for help when I feel like I absolutely did everything I could before going to outside resources.
- What do you find the most difficult part of writing?
I would have to say the hardest part is releasing projects. I’m about to admit something pretty heavy that most people don’t know about me, and it directly correlates to my writing. My stepfather used to abuse me as a child, and my mom had no clue. So, I developed this fear of being vulnerable. When I finish writing a story, I get anxious to release it because my writing is such a vulnerable part of me. A lot of things I write have my own internal thoughts or feature poems about my true feelings. Being damaged like I was at such a young age makes it hard for me to know that when I release projects, people are going to form opinions about it and judge it. But I’m conquering that fear with each project I put out. Sheesh, you are getting the raw version of me in the interview.
- If you could share three pieces of advice to give to an aspiring author, what would they be?
The first is, don’t listen to people when they tell you what you can and can’t do. This is your craft, and everyone has their own path to walk. Walk in your truth, what doesn’t work for someone else may just work for you. (That rhymed and I didn’t do it on purpose, must be the poet in me.) Second, perfectionism is a hinderance. If you are looking for perfection, you will never get anything done. You live and you learn, and the best way to learn is through experience. Third, this is a marathon and not a sprint. You will not become a best seller overnight, but don’t let that discourage you. Keeping writing, keep releasing content. The only way you are going to make it in this industry is through dedication, hard work, and patience. (Long Live Nipsey Hussle)
- How many books have you published so far in your writing career and what are you currently working on?
I’ve published one e-book, Black Autumn, and one paperback which is I Did Something Bad. Honestly, I’m sitting on a few stories that I’m not sure if I’m ever going to release because they are just so personal. Like I said, I’m still trying to conquer that vulnerability demon. Right now, I’m working on the main content of the Ascendia series. Paradise Wilds is up next and should be available in either July or August. I’m already 111 pages into that so that’s why the potential release date is so close. After that is Raven’s Rock, which I’m super excited to start. I foresee this probably being about a 12-15 book series, so y’all will be hearing about the Ascendia Series for a while.
- Finally some fun questions!
a.) Do you have a ‘go to’ drink or snack to inspire you while you write?
Most definitely! Red Wine is my go-to drink. Okay, you were probably not expecting that but it’s the truth. A little bit of wine is great for writing, it loosens me up and gets me out my head. I can write a little more freely without overthinking about how my writing will be perceived by the general public. For a snack, I would probably say cheddar and sour cream Pringles for sure.
b.) Do you believe in aliens?
Without a doubt. To believe that humans are the only creature in this universe with superior intellect is honestly a terrifying thought, especially because I feel we are leading ourselves into an extinction. But then again, that’s where we run into the Fermi Paradox. If you look throughout history we have many cultures, some ancient, that believed we have been visited by aliens multiple times already. The most interesting one to me is the Anunnaki, the ancient alien gods of Mesopotamia who were in charge of determining the fate of humanity. I also believe that aliens may be the reason behind our technological leap.
c.) Your favourite flavour ice cream?
I’m weird, I don’t really like ice cream. The closest I get is ice cream sandwiches, and even that’s iffy. I’m not really a big dessert fan, especially cold ones. Even though this wasn’t asked, I also don’t eat pork or any red meat. I’m a pescatarian.
- Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?
My final words: Go order you a copy of I Did Something Bad, like right now! Otherwise, you are doing yourself a disservice. Also, every copy that gets ordered feeds my children a happy meal. You still haven’t ordered your copy yet? You must want my kids to starve, rude. Paradise Wilds is on the way, and if you stuck through this whole interview, I love you lol.
Thank you for such a fascinating and candid interview. I wish you the very best in life and with your writing and am looking forward to reading your work. 🙂
The impenetrable city of Blackridge, Ascendia finds itself stuck under a dictator’s control five years after an earthquake caused the rest of the world to end. The number one rule of Blackridge is that under no circumstance is anyone allowed to leave the city. But after a journalist’s wife goes missing, he yearns to escape the city’s walls. In order for the journalist to break free of the fascist government, the truth about his wife’s disappearance must be unveiled.
BONUS CONTENT: Features a Sneak Peek of Dyer’s upcoming novel ‘Paradise Wilds’
D’Juan “OJ” Dyer is an award-winning writer of post-apocalyptic fiction and a published poet. O.J. was born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan – but has traveled all across the United States. As a father of four and businessman his goal is to inspire people to chase their dreams, and to show his children that they can do/achieve anything if they put their mind to it. He solely committed to writing fictional novels professionally, after he transitioned his life from being a member of a notorious street organization. Dyer self-funded his craft by investing his personal money into learning the business, then creating his own independent publisher, Half Dead Association, LLC to release his novels autonomously. His work in the apocalyptic genre has earned him the title “The Voice of The Apocalypse”.