By: RYAN L. GRUENEWALD
Unlike a zombie’s ravenous walk toward human flesh, undergrad Jim Master’s first steps into the literary world can be described as smooth.
On Mar. 15, only a few months after submitting a query, Master accepted an offer to publish his first novel, “The Book of Roland.” Along with eight subsequent books of Master’s proposed series “The Soul Eater Chronicles,” the work will be published by Permuted Press.
Among his many roles at IU South Bend, Master has been a student since 2004. In 2005, he took a job with food services on campus, and functions now as retail supervisor for Sub Connection in the Student Activities Center.
“I’ve always loved to write,” Master said. But, when he began his higher education, Master was majoring in computer science. Taking time off school, he began to write “The Book of Roland.” As the novel neared completion, and with encouragement from his wife, he returned to school to study English.
Master hopes to graduate next spring with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in film studies.
The kitchen stood dark and quiet except for the hiss of the deep fryer’s burner clicking off. Lit only by the afternoon sun, Master sat, after hours, in the almost tranquil Sub Connection dining room.
“I have a real nice, loving relationship with my wife,” Master said, “I’m very blessed in that area.”
Master owes much to the support of family and friends.
“My grandfather has always pushed me to read,” Master said. “We’d always go to book stores and bookshop, and talk about books.”
The community of writers on campus is something for which Master is genuinely thankful.
“The Creative Writing Club is a great bunch of people that have really good insights, not just about writing, but on life itself,” Master said. “If you have a great support system you’re not going to be a hermit in the woods writing.”
Among his greatest literary influences, Master cites Stephen King, Jim Butcher and James Patterson, “but not the new James Patterson, old school James Patterson.”
The narrative of “The Book of Roland” centers on an outbreak of zombies in Indiana.
“They’re your basic George Romero (“Night of the Living Dead, “1968) zombies, you know, they’re slow moving they’re not like the new ‘Dawn of the Dead’ running zombies,” Master said. “I don’t believe in running zombies. I’m old-school like that. It doesn’t seem right for a guy, in life, couldn’t run as quickly as he could in death.”
Master refers to Roland, the protagonist, as the black sheep of his family who is involved in the medical industry. Roland has chosen a career as a school teacher.
“Without giving too much away, Roland’s family business is somehow linked with the outbreak,” Master said.
As Roland searches for his brother and father, lost somewhere in the heart of the outbreak, he meets up with some unique characters. One of which is Tim, “a katana-wielding gun-slinging monk” who has been sent by his brotherhood to stop the zombie infestation.
Each book presents a deadly sin (lust, gluttony, wrath, envy, pride, greed, sloth) in the form of a creature. Zombies in the first book represent gluttony for their insatiable appetite.
Master revealed that the series is centered on Tim. As the books progress, Tim will appear in varying degree and the reader will be witness to an evolution of his character.
For some, getting a book published might sound like a daunting task. Nevertheless, Master took a realist’s route. All but ignoring the major publishers, Master researched small, independent companies he thought would suit his manuscript best.
Permuted Press, with the tagline “enjoy the apocalypse,” had a penchant for sci-fi, fantasy and horror as well as publishing serials. To Master, it was a good fit.
“This book in particular has a lot of “The Walking Dead” comic book in it. It has some similarities, where the punishment of the main character happens a lot, because I do kind of punish the main character Roland quite a bit,” Master added. “It’s kind of like “Zombieland.” It’s that travel-type movie only in a book”
Despite the immense commitment involved in writing nine books, Master plays it cool.
He’s focused on graduation but has yet to decide whether he’ll begin a master’s program right away or concentrate on writing.
Master reports he’s 37,000 words into the next book and has outlines for the other seven. In spite of his busy schedule, he’s content with his full-time job,
“You need something to balance your life with the stories you write.”