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No One is Safe: An Interview with Upcoming Novelist Justin Kassab

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Justin Kassab graduated in 2009 to the worst job market since the Great Depression: the end of the world didn't look so bad. To pass his time of being unemployed, he took an interest in survivalist skills. The hobby carried over into his writing and led to the crafting of The Primal Age Chronicles, a series of short stories and novels about the end of the world. Foamers is his first novel.

Loren Kleinman (LK): In The Primal Age you chronicle a society that has been overtaken by a Feline Flu virus. Only those between 16 and 35 remain unaffected, but everyone else begins to die. A vaccine is created. It's not tested properly and four out of five of those vaccinated turn into "ape-like monsters." Why this particular age range? Are they left to clean up what the previous generation tampered with or destroyed?

Justin Kassab (JK): It is less black and white than that. I researched the Spanish Influenza when I was creating the Feline Flu, as well as other flus. 16-35 just has the strongest natural resistance, but for example entire colleges are wiped out by the Feline Flu because of the close quarters. No one is safe.

LK: You mention on your site that "[w]hen modern society is faced with the challenge of a primitive existence, people find themselves in the Primal Age." What is the difference between a civilization based on modernity and one that is primal? Do you think we've ever truly reached a state of modernity?

JK: At the current rate that technology advances a true state of modernity is sort of like reaching the top of a rollercoaster. You won't be able to realize where the top is until you are plummeting down. It might not happen in our lifetime, but it would be like looking back on the Classical Age from the Dark Ages. You can see the peak in hindsight.

LK: Your book reads like a movie. Did you write with the expectation that it could be adapted to the screen?

JK: I often compare a short story to a movie and a novel to a TV show. I like to create chapters that give a reader a sense of closure, but they still want to turn the page to see what happens next. Like when its 4 am and you can't stop hitting the next button on your favorite TV show. As much as I would love to see Foamers find a life on screen, it reads like a movie because I spent many more years as an aspiring screenwriter than novelist, and there are still shades of screen in my writing style.

LK: Do you think writers today should write books that can easily be turned into screenplays? What would be the benefit? What could be the downside to that?

JK: I don't think writers should try to make their book anything but their own voice. For me I had a background in screenwriting and that reflects in my prose, but I don't think you can force your voice.

There are advantages to adaption. Look at Rowling and Collins. Their books were best sellers but their movie deals and franchises took them to the next level. But if you try to write a novel with the mind set it is going to be adapted you'll end up hurting the novel. If you don't write a great novel a publisher isn't going to pick up your book. If your book doesn't get picked up, there is no chance to adapt it. Write the story you have to tell in the way it needs to be told.

LK: Do you think a primal age is possible?

JK: Do I think one like takes place in Foamerswill happen? Unlikely. But there is always the possibility. If the U.S. had to pay back its debt we would be in a similar situation as Germany was in post WW1 where people burned money to stay warm because it was worthless. Again, not saying one will happen, but it never hurts to know how to take care of yourself in a worst case scenario.