Hi everyone, thanks for sticking with me through this month-long tour of the characters of Sam’s Town, my zombie apocalypse novel releasing…any day now! My fantastic cover artist, Mike Nair, has finished his work, and it looks great! I’m going to show it to you at the end of the post, but if you’re too excited to wait, go ahead and scroll down now (Sam and I would just appreciate if you came back here and read the rest afterward).
Today I want to tell you about Sam, who is both the protagonist of my novel and, to a great extent, my concept of what a good (though flawed) man looks like. Forgive me while I get sappy for a second: I was telling a friend the other day that all this character development I did over the past couple of years–for Adrian, Joe, and Frankie too, but mainly for Sam–helped me to figure out what I was looking for in a man I would want to marry. And right around the time I finished writing my novel this past summer, I met a man like that in real life. My boyfriend, Jordan (who I hope is reading this), has many of Sam’s best qualities–his loyalty, his intelligence, and most of all, his gentleness.
But enough about my personal life. What can I tell you about Sam Larson without taxing your patience with an unusually long post? He’s the writer and illustrator of a web comic called The Adventures of Sparky the Sidekick. He loves movies and will watch just about anything, but some of his favorites are the Godfather trilogy and George Romero’s zombie classics (the latter of which serves him well now that he’s living in a world where zombies actually exist). He’s a good cook who specializes in Italian food, though he doesn’t show off that skill very often. He hates conflict. He likes to feel useful. He struggles with depression. He’s smart and persistent, which makes him good at problem-solving. (In the novel, he tinkers with a vending machine until he figures out how to open it without a key. Which reminds me of another fact about Sam–he loves Coca-Cola.) He has a gift for making other people feel calm, which makes him the perfect counterpart to his frenzied best friend Adrian. He has these enormous pale blue eyes (just like his mother’s) that are always making people ask him if he’s okay, which he finds incredibly frustrating. He constantly underrates himself. He’s stronger than he thinks, physically and mentally, as the circumstances of the novel force him to discover.
Here are some fun facts about Sam:
- I imagined a version of this character years ago, when I was in high school. His name was Sparky (like the aforementioned sidekick). You can read about the evolution of Sam in this post.
- I once wrote a post about Mr. (Fred) Rogers in the voice of Sam.
- Just like I gave some of my random quirks to Adrian and Ramona, I endowed Sam with this (understandable, I think) phobia that I have: He hates to watch people using intravenous needles in movies or TV. Stabbing a zombie in the head, fine. Shooting up heroin or getting an IV, no thank you. He has to look away.
And here are the first two paragraphs of my novel, in which we meet the title character:
You could tell by his apartment that Sam Larson lived alone. There were always a few dishes in the sink and a few pencils and sketchpads sitting around, and there was a sag in the middle of the couch where he usually sat. Sam worked from home, mostly. He taught an occasional art class or appeared at a comic book convention (his name was never high on the billing), but mostly he sat in his apartment and made comics. That was how he liked it.
On the last Friday night in July, Sam made spaghetti carbonara and ate a plate of it. Then he turned on his epic movie scores station on Pandora and started drawing. He was working on an installment of The Adventures of Sparky the Sidekick, his superhero web comic that capitalized on the ironic potential of foregrounding the affable best friend and downplaying the character who would normally be the hero. Sam’s fans—they were few but loyal and willing to express their loyalty with their money—loved Sparky because he was witty and long-suffering and always came out okay in the end, despite all the crap he deflected away from his rather useless best friend. But none of his fans knew that Sam drew Sparky as a version of himself—a short, round guy with straw-yellow hair and big washed-out-blue eyes that were always making people ask if he was okay.
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: Here’s the cover of Sam’s Town! What’s your favorite part about it? I’ll pass your feedback along to the artist!
Stay tuned for the official release announcement!