Thursday, October 16, 2014

First Wave by JT Sawyer Tour- Review and Interview

Displaying First Wave Banner 851 x 315.png
First Wave
Travis Combs Thrillers
Volume 1

JT Sawyer
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, zombies

Publisher: JT Sawyer
Number of pages: 192
Cover Artist: Melody Simmons
 First Wave - A Post-Apocalypse Novel by JT Sawyer, Thriller Author and Survival Instructor

Book Description:
Special Forces veteran Travis Combs just wanted to forget his weary years of leading combat missions while taking an extended rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.

As he and his group complete a 22-day trip on the Colorado River, they find the world has unraveled from a deadly pandemic. 

Now, he has to show his small band how to live off the land and cross the rugged Arizona desert, while evading blood-drinking zombies, gangs of cartel bikers, and a rogue government agency.

 Review:  I was quite impressed with the down-to-earth aspects this has.  This is not just some zombie-crazed novel, but a story of survival.

Travis is one of many of a rafting group that has been away from civilization for the past 3 weeks but when their pickup does not show up the group soon learns that the world has taken a nasty turn. You can see the summary description for some of what they face.

To be honest, there is not a lot of zombie action in these books.  While there are some they are not the main focus.  Like I said, this is survival story.  While many zombie stories take place in the city, this story hits the deserted lands where mother nature has a few twists of her own to throw in.  Travis and company face flash floods, rabid dogs, heat, lack of food and more.

While this in itself may not be new, the practical, harsh reality is.   Even without nasty biker gangs or zombies, there are just some lands that have a harsher element to them and Arizona can be one of them.  

Displaying canyon-panorama.jpgI loved the survival aspects, honestly it is educational in many ways.  Although I hope to never be put to the test of those wilds! While I enjoyed the story so far I am struggling to get into the characters.  I felt that I was just starting to get a decent feel for Travis at the very end.  Let alone, the others in the group.  So I hope the next book has more character development.

Overall, I enjoyed this.   It is not a scary, over the top zombie novel.  Yes there are zombies but so far they play a minor part.  Although from my understanding of the series, I think they might take a more pivotal role later on.  So for adventure with a bit of intrigue and zombies tossed in, check this one out!  I know I will continue the series.

Interview with JT Sawyer
The zombie craze right now is so huge and there is so much out there. What sets your books about from other zombie novels?

Readers have told me how much they like the fact that the zombies are a backdrop and the focus is on the intense interactions of the characters, especially between Travis and the other lead female characters in the story. I never liked the zombie books or movies that focus solely on endless gore, shooting, and savagery. I much prefer writing about resourceful, gutsy individuals who use their skills to confront a crisis and work together to stay alive. This is nothing new in the human drama or in horror writing but in the First Wave series, but one element that separates the book from others is that Travis is driven by his desire to make it back home to his son, no matter how long it takes or the obstacles that befall him. In this sense, my thinking was heavily influenced by one of my favorite books, The Odyssey.

While we are still on the idea of Zombie novels, do you have any favorite zombie novels or movies you liked or that perhaps helped inspire this?


I was “reared” on the Romero films and have always loved the classic horror films. Zombielandis a real gem and one that infused much-needed humor into an otherwise ghastly genre. Once I started researching the frightening world of epidemiology and read John Barry’s fine historical book, The Great Influenza, I got a feel for what a global pandemic might look like. As a fulltime survival instructor, I spend too much time in this “what if” mentality so it wasn’t too hard to imagine a worst-case scenario and how that could potentially play out.

How was the transition from writing Nonfiction survivalist books to fiction?

It was a challenge at first. I was so used to spouting off how-to material and technical information that I had to redirect my thought processes. When I delve into something, I go full-bore so I decided that it was best to just stop the non-fiction writing for a few months and focus solely on the creative aspects of dialogue and character development in my First Wave books. Now I can juggle both better and have to as I do a lot of freelance writing for outdoor magazines as well as doing the fiction material each day.

What scene in this book did you have the most fun writing? What was the hardest?

Believe it or not, the most fun scenes were all the survival sections when the main characters are forced to live off the land. Having done that myself so many times over the years and also having written about the dry, technical end of things, it was fun to sit back and let it unfold amongst the characters (and without me actually doing any suffering in the wilds for a change!).

The most difficult part of the writing was delving into the character of Nikki, the rogue agent pursuing Travis and his group. She is a very complex and dark individual with her own motivations, and getting into the mind of such a character was a challenge at times. I don’t think I could write books about serial killers!

The book takes place in Arizona. Why this particular setting?

I live in Flagstaff and have guided trips throughout the canyon, mountains, and mesas covered in my books. I have been on three to four week treks where I come back into the (modern) world not knowing what has unraveled while my group and I were away. I needed this type of starting point for Travis, who has just completed a 22-day Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon only to return to a completely different world. Many of my friends who are professional river guides have recounted such tales about being in the Grand Canyon on-and-off for six months, so I wove this element into the book.

I see you taught survival courses. So many people I know have never set foot outside of city life and many may not be able to take a course but are there any skills you think everyone should take the time to learn (at least to some extent)?


As far as wilderness skills, I would learn to make fire under any conditions (rain, snow, night, day, etc...) possible. Firemaking, with modern tools such as spark-rods, matches, and lighters, is a hallmark outdoor skill and one that can be a lifesaver. Hypothermia is the number one killer of people in the outdoors the world over and most cases happen in 50 degree F weather so become proficient at firemaking. For an urban setting, I would say know where your water comes from and determine what you would do to obtain more if a grid-down situation happened. Regardless of whether you’re a tri-
athlete or Navy SEAL, you can’t live long without water.

Just for fun-
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?


Japan is high on my list. I’ve been a lifelong student of various martial arts and have always been drawn to the Japanese landscape and culture.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Reality shows. I’ve worked on several survival shows as a consultant and won’t do it anymore. The reality is that everyone, host included, is back in a hotel each night and there are stocked coolers on the set 24/7.

What is your favorite time of the year and why?

That transition period between late summer and early fall. This is when all of the edible plants, nuts, and berries are available and the weather is very forgiving.

I noticed in another interview that you are a fan of the TV series Lost. In particular Sawyer. First of all, I must agree he is the best character of the series. And with that who is your least favorite or what episode/plot line was your favorite?

My favorite episode was in Season 3 when Juliet and Kate are handcuffed together and dropped in the jungle to survive together. Those were two amazing, tough ladies with believable motivations behind their actions.

And finally, can you tell us a little tidbit about yourself that you have yet to share with your readers.

When I’m not writing, I do a lot of woodworking- making handcarved bows, spoons, bowls, and walking sticks. My hands can’t keep still whether it’s on a keyboard or with a whittling blade. My wife says she’ll never have to buy another serving spoon!





About the Author:

JT Sawyer is the pen name for the author who makes his living teaching survival courses for the military special operations community, Department of Homeland Security, US Marshals, FAA, and other federal agencies throughout the US.

He has over 25 years of experience testing long-term survival skills in the desert, mountains, and forest.




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