Blog-versary Author Post Keegan Kennedy & Excerpts: The Harbinger
Keegan Kennedy Unleashed – the interview.
So, what possessed a BDSM gay erotica author to write a post-apocalyptic novel?
I love to shock people. I enjoy being unpredictable. I love erotica, and I’ll continue to write it, but I want to do more. So many times, I’m written off as a one-note writer. I get off on challenging that perception.
I’ve always been a fan of apocalyptic fiction. Stephen King’s The Stand is one of my favorite novels, and he inspired me. In no way, shape or form am I in the same league with Mr. King, but I wanted to pen an apocalyptic novel that included major gay characters who weren’t sidekicks or killed off easily. I wanted to write something I hadn’t read before and I think I did a decent job. At least, I hope I did.
About Reviews and Reception:
Well, that’s always an interesting subject. I’ve gotten more praise than scorn, but the scorn often sticks with a writer. Primarily, there are four major characters in my dark tale, two gay and two straight. Because of the subject matter, I marketed it toward both straight and gay audiences. Not unexpectedly, I shocked some heterosexual readers. I’ve gotten the most negative feedback about the “sex scenes”, which, in my opinion, were almost non-existent. They were the type where the action starts and then the scene fades before anything major goes down—a far cry from my erotica tales. Once or twice, the scene picks up in afterglow. The character of Logan King has sex several times, so those scenes are the ones shocked readers, I assume.
One reviewer called it: “an anti-Christian gaypocalypse.” I actually laughed about that one. Even in my erotic novellas, I sometimes get a little political, but in The Harbinger, I am outspoken about the government of Russia. I actually mention two Russian politicians by name as well as the homophobic Patriarch Kirill, who’s the current head of the Russian Orthodox Church. In this alternate timeline, Russia has become a religious oligarchy under control of the Church and not all readers have appreciated that. But with the anti-gay laws being passed in that country, I think my take on the situation is very topical and not far from what could develop there.
The abundance of characters has also alienated readers, but with any book of this scale, it’s hard not to add them. After all, you need numbers when fighting creepers and trying to keep your sanity after a superflu has wiped out almost everyone, right? Memphis, despite its problems, is a very diverse city filled with all sorts of people and I believe I’ve captured it accurately by showing a vast array of different people of many races, incomes, sexual orientations, and ages.
Another major point of contention is the fact that I tell a story and develop my characters before the flu comes. These are common gripes –
“It takes too long to get started.”
“It’s too boring at the start.”
Why on earth would anyone care about characters that are already in the thick of it? Why would anyone care that Kirk makes a drive through hell to get to his mother’s side? When Alex loses everything and falls into darkness, would it be as intense if you didn’t know his prior life? When Meredith finds another survivor, Empress, if you hadn’t gone through the gauntlet with her, why would it matter? It’s all about a compare and contrast of the world of before and after.
Despite the criticisms, I wouldn’t do it differently.
Amazon Reviewer: “Holy crap I loved this book is love how the author incorporated different races, religion, and relationships. This book will have you thinking about stuff you never thought you would. I can tell that Keegan put a lot of time, care, and imagination into this story. It was brilliantly written. There are scenes that will shock and scare you. There are scenes that will break your heart. It was like reading a movie scrip. You will find characters you’ll love and hate. You will shed tears. Totally check this book out you won’t be disappointed.”
Amazon Reviewer: “This is my first time reading Keegan Kennedy but I know for sure it will not be the last. Harbinger is an epic read. The scariest thing about Harbinger is, this could easily happen in real life. There are many characters in this book, but they are a necessity to the plot. I have my favorites which are Kirk and Meredith but there are many more whose personalities come to grow on you. This novel holds nothing back, it’s hard hitting, juicy, scary as hell. The author has captured everything he set out to do. This is a brilliant piece of work. I would easily recommend you buy Harbinger because guaranteed you will not be disappointed. I now need the follow up book as it has left me on the edge of my seat needing to know what’s next.”
Amazon Reviewer: “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading the novel, but within a few pages I was hooked. There were a few characters I truly liked. I appreciate dark humor and I was not disappointed. I eagerly await the sequel to this book.”
Amazon Reviewer: “Sort of original take on the whole zombie genre that’s more thought out than the usual fare. Also the lead in, detailing the lives of the major characters prior to the, you know, zombie apocalypse, is always more welcome than the standard the-world-ended-here’s-how-people-are-coping, with life before appearing in often cryptic flashbacks and dark reminiscences. I’m more a fan of the process of the world falling apart than the aftermath, so thumbs up. Inclusion of gay characters is great, and while I hate the word, the diversity of the characters is refreshingly honest and realistic. Despite the criticisms, I very much enjoyed the book, and look forward to more.”
Amazon Reviewer: “Yeah, this book is done in a tasteful manner. (No pun intended) Initially, I didn’t think one could do too much with a mundane topic. Shame on me. I was pleasantly surprised not only with the diversity of characters but a very imaginative doomsday apocalypse. While reading this fascinating drama, I wondered what was worst- the living dead or the ominous threats of other deranged living humans. Witnessing all sorts of conditions and the good/bad aspects of those survivors was a study of the human condition. Definitely, the author brought to life compassion after tragedy and also the cruelty of humans. This isn’t just one story but many vignettes pulled together as one follows lives trying to piece things together. Despite the gory, descriptive scenes it did add an intensity to this tale. Even though, the story seemed far-fetched one could imagine how this could occur. Surprisingly, the author addressed issues of man’s impact on the planet, overdependence on fossil fuels, innate prejudices, mental illness, loss and facing challenges, and appreciation for just staying alive. Wonderfully, the mystery of how different working human groups would join together was done with tact. The book did drag a little but it did all fit in the end. It does seem the ending did hint at a sequel. Ok, I’m ready for it!”
What can you say about the sequel?
This is exclusive to On Top Down Under Book Reviews, but here’s a preview…
The Harbinger is a novel with an ending, divided into four episodes. If a reader doesn’t want to continue, there is an exit with an ending. With that said, the door is open for sequels, and that’s one of the projects I’m working on now. The four episodes took over two years to write, so the format, going forward, will be episodic.
Episode Five: Discord (working title) picks up two days after the ending. I don’t want to give too many spoilers with storyline direction, but I will tell your readers these things.
This is a time of adjustment for the group. Although they have a really good situation, not everyone is thrilled with the way things are shaping up, especially when it comes to assigned jobs. Some people are not happy.
Apocalypse or not, people are who they are and not everyone will like each other. This is no utopia and the group isn’t as safe as they think.
Alex feels the weight of the world on his shoulders as he struggles with an overwhelming attraction toward Meredith. Knowing Alex’s mindset, Meredith turns to someone else for comfort. Kirk isn’t the most congenial person and several people take a strong disliking to him. Something prophetic that Channing said to Logan will come to pass. Isaiah has been taken prisoner by Starnes’ group and he will see firsthand the insanity of this larger and well-organized group from the inside. Nina reaches a turning point, as the loss of Simon catches up to her.
And three major or supporting characters will die.
As it stands now, the word count is 55,000 with roughly new chapters in Episode Five. Release date will be perhaps in late November. Episode Six is already mapped.
The Harbinger Blurb:
It starts as a whisper, barely audible.
Rumors. Paranoia. Conspiracy theories. Subterfuge.
Like lightning, the plague moves across the globe, spreading out in all directions. When the naysayers can no longer ignore the wails and moans of the dying, the Harbinger will already have them by their throats.
But the end is only the beginning…
Discovered in the Alaskan permafrost, the ancient virus was reanimated and genetically-altered. The new strain showed great promise in curing many of mankind’s afflictions. When the specimen fell into the hands of the Russian theocracy, their inept scientists attempted to create a biological weapon—a weapon that outsmarted them.
Now, the androvirus is a deadly airborne plague, conquering the world in a matter of days. With a communicability of 100% and a mortality rate of over 90%, there is no immunity. For the survivors, who can suppress the virus, there is only change. A few adapt, but most become walking, talking gray horrors with an appetite for flesh.
Primarily set in the American city of Memphis, four loosely-connected strangers, caught up in their lives, find their worlds annihilated by the swiftly-moving plague.
Alex Connelly is a wealthy, young executive, living an idyllic life with his pregnant wife, Madison. Kirk Foster is a self-absorbed aging gay man, desperate to hang onto his youth and sex appeal. Meredith Brinkley’s on-going war with breast cancer takes a turn for the worse, and she faces an impending double mastectomy. Logan King is a closeted baseball jock, playing for a minor league team while coming to terms with his true identity. And only together will they survive…
“During the last twenty-four hours, the patriarch of the Holy Federation of Russia has died of a virulent strain of influenza, and there have been reports of a widespread outbreak of the same flu across that nation. And suddenly, to put it in the most simplistic of terms, someone shut down the Russian communications grid like a vacuum cleaner with its plug yanked out of the wall, killing all cellular service and Internet connectivity for that part of the world. Now, their state-run news media is downplaying the flu that killed the much-despised dictator.” She paused. “This screams of massive government cover-up on the part of the Russians. What intel does the State Department have on this so-called Russian Flu as well and the convenient communications blackout?”
“First, let me say,” Secretary of State Polis began with an amused grin that hinted of condescension, “I enjoyed your vacuum cleaner metaphor… But to answer your questions, we are aware of no cover-up. The State Department can confirm that Patriarch Kirill has died. To be candid, the cause of death is still being verified.”
“Mr. Secretary, are you saying that Patriarch Kirill may not have died of influenza? Could he have been overthrown in a coup similar to the ousting of the Putin Regime, five years ago?”
Another cool smile came over Jared Polis’ face. “I didn’t say any of those things, Ariana. Because of the Russian communication blackout, we’re awaiting final confirmation on the cause of death.”
“Can you confirm with our viewers the appointment of a new patriarch?” Ariana looked down at her notes, reading the name. “Patriarch Korov?”
“Yes, it appears the Holy Federation of Russia does have a new, more hardline leader – even more hostile toward the United States than his recently deceased predecessor.”
“What about the existence of this Russian Flu?”
For only a split second, the Secretary of State seemed uneasy, but he swiftly regained his pleasant demeanor. “To our knowledge, there is no such thing as the Russian Flu.”
“Mr. Secretary,” Ariana continued pointedly, “if there is no Russian Flu, what about the reports that flooded in from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets originating from Russia before the cellular and Internet outages?”
“What reports are you referring to?”
“The reports about hospitals filling up and the mass burning of bodies.”
“Ariana,” the smiling man chided politely, “we believe those alleged reports and disturbing pictures were part of a mass conspiracy perpetrated by a Russian domestic terrorist organization in an attempt to discredit the Russian Orthodox Church.”
The reporter frowned. “With all due respect, tens of thousands of reports and accounts, all saying the same thing, makes your mass conspiracy theory unlikely. What’s more likely is that there’s an illness spreading through the hostile nation… And to stop the news from leaking, perhaps to conceal a potential weakness, the Russian government actually pulled the plug on their own Internet and cellular grids to suppress the truth.”
“Ms. Hernandez, credible journalists, such as yourself, buying into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories can be damaging to credibility.” He smiled again. “After all, this isn’t FOX News.”
“It is also damaging to credibility to completely ignore reports such as the ones that were coming out of Russia,” she countered.
“Well, you have a point there.”
“Does the CDC or the State Department have contingency plans, in case these unsubstantiated rumors turn out to be fact?”
“Of course,” he replied, narrowing his eyes and his smile fading. “But Ariana, I’ll say it again… To our knowledge, there is no such thing as the Russian Flu and there is no need for concern.”
Alex shook his head. Although he personally didn’t know what was truth or hyperbole during the tense interview, he knew how to read people and he could easily tell that Secretary of State Polis had been lying. And something told him that Ariana Hernandez had known that too.
“Like I give a fuck what everyone says about me!” Kirk blasted as Steve handed him his drink. “The younger guys may be making me an old man before my time, but everyone my age is boring, coupled, or crazy – and sometimes all three.” He paused. “And that’s easy for the two of you to say. Andre, you’re still in your thirties.” He looked over at Derrick. “And you, you’re thirty-two, but pretending to be twenty-eight to snare younger guys. At least, I’m honest about my age… Isn’t that how you got that baseball player from the Redbirds into your bed?”
Derrick’s face reddened. “That was not for public consumption.”
“You’re sleeping with one of the Redbirds?!” Andre’s eyes were wide. “Why the hell didn’t ya tell me?”
“Thanks, Kirk,” Derrick scowled. “Great way to keep a secret.”
“Not my secret to keep,” Kirk said, taking a sip of his vodka cranberry.
“Spill!” Andre insisted.
“Well, I’m not giving you his name,” the good-looking blond guy started, “but I can confirm Kirk’s statement.”
“Why can’t you give us his name?”
Kirk replied instead. “Because the baseball player is closeted.”
“Just like the little dipshit from Grindr that you’ve been fucking,” Derrick shot toward Kirk.
“Closeted and bi guys can be fun for a minute.” Andre pursed his lips. “There are thousands of down-low brothas here in Memphis with twelve-inch cocks and they’ve provided me with endless hours of entertainment and orgasms.”
“Yeah, but then they freak out on ya as soon as they think their friends will find out,” Kirk reminded him.
“That’s never bothered me,” Andre replied. “By the time they freak out, it’s time to throw ‘em back into the pond.”
“Twelve inches?!” Derrick gasped, considering the reality. “How do you fit all of that inside you?”
Andre shot him a look. “What makes you think I’m the bottom?”
Kirk and Derrick erupted into laughter.
Andre looked offended. “What?”
“A person would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to know that you take it up the ass!” Kirk quipped.
“My flight to Memphis is still leaving, albeit later, but you’re right. In a couple of hours, they’re closing JFK. From what they’re saying, the separatists didn’t try to attack Memphis International, so it’s open for now.” He paused, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Are you on your cell?”
“Yes, but I’ve had horrible reception too,” she replied, her voice calming now. “I’m so sorry, Alexander.”
“For freaking out on you. Logically, I knew you were probably okay, but I didn’t know for sure, and that was driving me crazy.”
“Are you still staying with my parents?”
From the sound of her sniffles, he could tell she was crying again. Alex found a semi-isolated spot next to a large window that overlooked the tarmac. Outside, it was raining, lightning flashing across the dark sky.
“I don’t know how long we have, but I’m doing everything humanly possible to get back to you!”
“I know. When do you think you’ll be back?”
“Originally, it was supposed at ten. Now it’s probably going to be way after midnight.”
“I just hope the plane hurries,” Madison said miserably. “I need you here with me!”
“I’ll do anything and everything I can to be at your side as soon as I possibly can! I promise you that!” Alex swore. “I love you and I’m coming home to you!”
“I love you too!”
“Madison, I haven’t had much access to the news, but have there really been terrorists from Texas taking control of planes?”
“They were stopped before they made it to any planes. According to the news, hundreds of Texas militiamen have been arrested trying to sneak weapons onto flights.”
“This is all so weird.”
“Something isn’t right about all this.” As Alex spoke, his chest tightened. “Since when did Texas militiamen take their grudge internationally? Where in the hell did this come from?”
“I don’t know. I could believe North Koreans taking down the Internet and the phones or even the Russians trying something shady, but the stories don’t make any sense to me either.”
Alex lowered his voice. “Baby,” he began in a whisper, “I think all these stories are lies.”
“Really?” she gasped. “But why would the government lie to us?”
“That I don’t know, but I’m gonna figure this shit out.”
The sounds of honking horns and yelling and the smell of burning gas filled the thick air around him. The determined but trapped occupants of the vehicles watched as he rushed by. Kirk saw a range of emotions on their faces: panic, fear, frustration, confusion… Some passengers were lying down. Some cars were packed beyond maximum capacity with people or belongings, while some had only a single driver. These people were attempting to evacuate the city only to be trapped in their cars, stuck in the gridlocked traffic. The pandemonium only added to the ominous sense of death coming at Kirk from every direction.
Having left at the spur of the moment and not in his right mind, he had left his gun back at his house.
When he finally made it to Kroger, it was packed. There were lines of cars tangled in every direction in the small, cramped lot. The angry drivers honked their horns and screamed at the top of their lungs. But the cars were trapped there because no one stuck on Union would allow them to pull onto the road. People with shopping carts were running in every direction. Behind him, there was a loud crunch of metal. Kirk turned to see that an SUV had backed into a car. The drivers jumped out, yelling at each other. Most were ignoring the accident, busy throwing items into their cars and trucks as if they were on fire.
Feeling everything closing in around him, Kirk dashed toward the entrance, pushing his way into the grocery store through the mob. The power inside the building was flickering, making the grocery store seem like a disco of the damned. The throng inside were crazed and panicked. Screams, yells, and obscenities filled the air. There were no employees in sight and it dawned on Kirk that they’d fled. The feral looters had toppled the Grocery Store Union and had taken over management of Kroger. Shelves were emptying and people were grabbing things without thinking.
Kirk fought through the miasma of the angry, the terrified, and the sick. He’d forgotten a basket, but by this time, he was in the middle of the maelstrom. At that moment, from a couple of aisles over, a gunshot boomed and piercing cries cut through the crowd. He dashed down a less packed aisle and spotted an old woman lying on the concrete floor. Her eyes were open and lifeless and blood had pooled from the back of her head. He didn’t have time to register mourning or sadness; he could only react with his instincts. Seeing a handheld basket in the dead woman’s hand, he took it and desperately started scanning the shelves.
Kirk shoved several bottles of juice into his basket. Knowing the grocery store well, he bolted down the aisles stepping from side to side to avoid the ferocious and doomed herds. To his left, a little girl, around six or seven, had backed into the empty space on a shelf. With blood crusting her nose and her eyes cloudy, she was screaming for her mother.
Logan stared blankly at the screen, but he didn’t expect there to be anything new—only a repeat of the same crap they’d been reporting for the last few hours.
“And tonight, we’re bringing you the latest on the terror crisis that has crippled air traffic and stranded tens of thousands of people across the United States.”
As he watched, Ariana looked to her left and nodded. Suddenly, he heard shouting from off camera and a shot was fired.
“Now!” a man’s voice screamed toward Ariana, and her entire demeanor changed.
“People, I don’t have long, but I must tell you the truth of what is happening in this nation and the rest of the world!” she exclaimed, crumpling her paper script in her hands. “The United States Government, along with the leaders of other nations, has been lying to you in an attempt to conceal the truth, but it’s time you knew!”
Off camera, there were more shouts and another shot was fired.
With his mouth ajar, Logan watched as Ariana looked nervously to her right. “We are in the grips of a deadly flu that I originally reported on several days ago. This flu originated in Russia and is believed to have been made in a laboratory.” About ten feet behind the anchor desk, a big guy was attempting to wrestle a rifle away from a soldier. She pressed on calmly as commotion continued all around her. “The intentions of the Russians are still unknown at this time, but that doesn’t matter now because this superflu is the deadliest thing that we’ve ever faced as a species!”
“Shut her up!” a man’s booming voice sounded from off to the side.
“The entire world is in the grips of this deadly contagion, and the end result will be nothing short of a mass extinction! And how do I know? Because I’ve already lost my husband and my mother, and I am also sick myself.”
Another shot rang from off camera and Ariana screamed, her voice becoming urgent and panicked. “Our government has orchestrated an elaborate cover-up to keep the American people in the dark! There is no terrorist threat! There are no North Korean hackers! The US government pulled the plug on the Internet, TV stations, and all cellular services. And we’ve been forced to pre-tape the news while reading scripts handed to us by the armed soldiers!”
More shots rang out.
“I repeat. There are no terrorists and no hackers – there is only the Russian Flu! If you can hear my voice, leave populated areas and avoid contact—”
A single shot rang out and Ariana stopped speaking. Her upper body swayed for a split second and then her head exploded. And as the brave woman’s brain erupted from her skull, a bloody chunk of Ariana Hernandez’s brain matter splattered against the lens of the camera. What was left of her head and chest slumped onto the anchor desk as the grotesque smudge on the camera oozed down the lens before all went dark on the TV.
About the Author:
His current release is the epic novel: The Harbinger – a chilling, apocalyptic tale of survival that decimated stereotypes and shocked his fans. Upcoming works include – a TBA romance between two anti-heroes. And by popular demand, he is re-mastering his older novellas into his new anthology series, the cheekily-named: Smooth Jocks and Gruff Jocks.
I want to sincerely thank all of my readers! Because of you, I have spoken to and made new friends from across the globe on every continent with the exception of Antarctica – to my knowledge. Your kind words and encouragement have meant the world to me. I answer all emails, so feel free to contact me.
I can’t think of a better book to gain inspiration from than The Stand. It’s one of the greatest books I’ve ever read and I’ve read it many times over the years. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched the mini-series. If it’s on TV (which is often) I get lost in that world all over again. Simply brilliant. The Harbinger looks like a very interesting book and I’m really loving that cover. Thank you to Keegan Kennedy for the great post and for stopping by during our 4th anniversary. The excerpts got me sucked in and I… Read more »
I have the Harbinger on my Kindle and I’ve read some of it and enjoyed it thus far. I’m waiting on the Christmas New Year break to finish it.
The excerpts are good and allow potential readers a good peek at the writing.
I feel left out. I’ve never read The Stand but I’m a bit of a heretic and never really been into Stephen King.
You know my ADHD sometimes prevents me from reading books that are too long. The Stand, hardcover and uncut, is 1153 pages. That’s the version I’ve read many times without missing a beat. Even now I could get it on my Kindle but there’s something about that hardcover. I’ve not loved every Stephen King book I’ve read (as you know) but this one is brilliant, as I said.
The Harbinger looks really good and I hope to be able to read it when things slow down as well.
Hate to break it to them, but the reviewer who said it’s, “an anti-Christian gaypocalypse,” has made me want to read it! It’s great to see all types represented in a genre that typically doesn’t have that, except as throw away characters. Sounds like my kind of book! Thanks for the head up on my favourite blog. 🙂
I agree with you, Pandorash, that sentiment makes me more interested, not less 🙂 It is true, gay characters and characters from all/different sections of society are often not represented (well) in fantasy, dystopian, end-of-world books.
I hope you read The Harbinger and enjoy it 🙂