Part of why we write is to make a difference. Whether it's in our life or in just one readers' life, we all hope that the words we put to paper will change someone for the better. Chris Pourteau has taken this a step further by putting together a compilation of works dedicated to the cause of donating to Pets for Vets.
Through Support for Indie Authors, I had the chance to talk with Chris a little bit about his calling to this project and where he hopes to go from here.
Enjoy the interview below and I strongly encourage you to take the time to check it out and donate to the cause as it's such a worthy one!
1. Can you tell me a little bit about what led you to embark on this journey?
Back in the fall of 2014, my friend Stefan Bolz (who also has a story in Tails of the Apocalypse), posted a photo on Facebook of his dog, Ember, on an empty road. The photo shows an autumn setting, and Ember’s stance seems lonely, like she’s searching for something—or someone, maybe. I commented on his photo that it looked like a shot from The Walking Dead, if the show were about a dog. A story quickly formed in my head about the zombie apocalypse as the family dog might experience it. The story kept poking me in the brain, demanding that I write it. So over the Christmas holidays I did and published it in mid-January.
I was very concerned about how the story would be received. I mean, The Walking Dead isn’t a happy show. And now we’re putting a dog into that “reality”—not ingredients for a Disney movie by any means! I hit “publish” and winced.
The story, “Unconditional: A Tale of the Zombie Apocalypse” rose to the top of Amazon’s “Top Rated in 30-Minute Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Reads” pretty quickly and stayed there for 6 months. After 11 months, it’s still #3 . It has 50 reviews—pretty unusual for a short story—with a 4.8/5.0 star average.
Based on the reviews, readers seem to empathize closely with the unnamed dog in the story and his terrifying experiences as he searches for his best friend, a boy who flees with the rest of the family when the zombies overrun their home. I’ve lived with dogs all my life, and I think I managed to touch readers with my canine hero. Then, I thought—why not an anthology? And with other animals, not just dogs?
Because I felt it had a place in this anthology as “the story that started it all,” I’ve included “Unconditional” as the final tale in Tails of the Apocalypse.
2. What has been your favorite part of this process?
Although it was a blast working as the editor to help the authors shape and refine their stories, partnering with Pets for Vets, Inc., has been the most fun. I knew I wanted to benefit an animal charity and had even reached out to The Humane Society of the United States. Then David Bruns—one of the writers in Tails and a U.S. Navy veteran—suggested Pets for Vets, a national 501(c)3 nonprofit that matches shelter dogs (that would otherwise be euthanized) with military veterans returning home who need them. Personnel train the animals as special companions for veterans suffering from emotional trauma, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I’m donating $1.00 per book sold (e-book, paperback, and audiobook) to Pets for Vets through the end of 2015.
They’ve been great to work with. We signed an agreement with them, issued a joint press release, and have gone on podcasts together. We’ve been posting weekly to their Facebook page to advertise the collection, as well as spreading the good word about their organization everywhere we can. Their mission is to help veterans heal through the power of unconditional love many of us have experienced with our own pets. Within many of the dystopian landscapes our authors set their stories, the same healing occurs between our human and animal protagonists. We couldn’t have picked a better thematic fit with our collection.
3. How long has it taken you to put this together?
I finalized the line-up sometime in the late spring and set August 19 (branded on my brain now!) as the deadline for draft stories. By mid-October I had a complete manuscript, sans final proofing and changes, together. The collection publishes November 20 , though pre-orders are currently available at http://bit.ly/buy-tails-for-vets.
4. What’s your goal for this project?
I have several. First and foremost, I want to hand Pets for Vets the biggest check possible. Second, I’d like to recover my costs. I’ve personally financed the development of the anthology—paid the writers, the artist, the promotions, etc.—so I’d like to at least break even there. Third, although I’ve been a professional editor for over 20 years, this is my first major solo effort in fiction. I’d like to start establishing some street cred there, because in 8 to 10 years, I’ll likely be retiring from my day job and hope to supplement my retirement with writing and editing income.
5. Can we expect similar projects from you in the future?
Because I work a day job full time and write fiction of my own in my “spare time,” it’s difficult finding the time to helm a big project like this. But I hope to be able to do at least one like it per year as editor/producer. I already have one in mind, in fact, for my next trick! If Tails does well, I might do a second volume along the same theme next year, also benefiting Pets for Vets. The benefiting-a-charity model really resonates with folks, so I think that’ll be a staple component for future projects as well.
6. What would you like readers and contributors to take away from this?
In a nutshell, this anthology is The Walking Dead meets The Incredible Journey. The inherent nobility of animals—including values like instinctive self-sacrifice and unconditional love—are explored by some of today’s most talented independent writers, including four USA Today bestselling authors. All manner of animals—dogs, cats, wolves, bears, even parrots—are presented as heroic figures. If you love animals, particularly pets, I think you’ll enjoy the anthology.
I know the topic of apocalyptic fiction might be outside the wheelhouse of some of your followers. One of our early readers, Graham Salisbury , author of Under the Blood-Red Sun, Hunt for the Bamboo Rat, and other novels for young readers, says this about the anthology:
“Tails of the Apocalypse is a book project worthy not only of its heartfelt cause, but also of its crisp, imaginative writing. I found myself captured by the gripping power of ‘story,’ and this for me is telling, as I don’t normally delve into this genre. With this collection I was given an opportunity to step beyond myself into something new, something fresh … and I was captured. Thank you! Very well done, and highly recommended.”
I think the especially important part of that review is recognizing that Mr. Salisbury doesn’t typically read this genre, and yet he loved this collection.
7. Any final thoughts?
We’re doing our best to deliver a big check to Pets for Vets in January. We’d really appreciate the support of your readers in that effort. Look them up on the web (www.petsforvets.com) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PetsforVetsInc/) and see the good work they’re doing. If not through the purchase of Tails, I hope you’ll be inspired to support them in some way. They have chapters all across the United States.