Sometimes you discover a writer that not many folks know about. Sometimes that writer is a breath of fresh air, so much so that, even though you want to shout their names to the universe, you still kind of want to be selfish, and keep their words all to yourself. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘Hey, check this out.’
But what do you do when that writer is actually two? What do you do when they are brothers? Do you compare them to the Brothers Grimm? You can, but really, what fairness is that for a comparison? It would be like saying, ‘you have a lot to live up to.’
Today, I want to introduce you to the Brothers Dunne, Justin and Robert. They hail from Australia and you, more than likely, have never heard of them. If you have, then consider yourself fortunate. If you haven’t, prepare to. With a combined voice that comes across as just one united style, this duo could go a long, long way.
Oh, and I hear they like needles, so they’re in the right place. Welcome to the Donor Center, Justin and Robert Dunne.
For the first few questions I’ll let you guys fight it out on:
Which one of you is the dominant voice in the writing?
RD: Justin is definitely the dominant voice in the writing. We tried writing separately, but you could really tell the difference between writing styles. Some bits I would write and Justin would tweak them into his “words” or when Justin wrote, I would just add in small bits to add my flavor.
JD: I spend more time playing with the words. Sometimes it works well, other times Rob disagrees. He keeps me honest. I look at it like making a movie, with roles for director and producer. We both want the same thing, we both put in ideas, but only one of us can hold the camera.
Which one of you is more creative?
RD: I wouldn’t say either one of us is more creative. I would say I have more ideas but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Say I have ten ideas, only three of them might be any good. Justin might only give five ideas, but 3 of them are good.
JD: I look at being creative as a muscle you can work out. The more you use it, the stronger and easier it becomes. It doesn’t have to be with writing a story. Rob strengthens his creative muscle designing beer labels. Do you even create, bro?
Which one of you cooks better? (Yeah, totally unrelated)
RD: Hands down it’s me that cooks better! (ask Justin about chicken and corn) He does make a mean mushroom risotto though. While we are on the subject I like to tell people that there are usually two types of twins – the smart and funny one and the sporty good looking one. Well I am the smart and funny and athletic and good looking one… and he is Justin J
JD: Rob’s answer to this question has offended me…because the truth hurts.
Which one of you is older?
RD: Mum didn’t get it quite right the first time so she had me 13 minutes later and I think she got it spot on. I have been a twin my whole life!
JD: I sometimes regret not enjoying those 13 minutes more while I had the chance.
Which one of you started writing first?
RD: I think we both started writing first J. I can only speak for myself here, but I have always done small bits of creative writing, I even wrote a few songs in my day. Which is strange considering I hated Enlish Studies at school and actually flunked out. JusBug (call him JusBug, he loves it) started writing the short stories first and it was his idea to combine to make a series of short stories that eventually evolved into a small novel.
JD: Don’t call me JusBug. Nope. I was writing first. 13 minutes before Rob…also, I did pretty good in English at school.
Justin, I met you a while back through the Tales of the Zombie Wars website. I’ve been fortunate enough to read your first published stories and I have seen you grow in confidence. Being that you are fairly new to the publishing world, what factors can you look at as confidence builders?
JD: Nothing is better than honest feedback from strangers. It’s all well and good your mum telling you your awesome, but…she has to. I have a fear of being arrogant, so for me confidence and arrogance walk a fine line. I just to try to learn, and have fun as I go. If I am happy with the end product and happy that it is of a level that I would enjoy reading, I am confident enough to put my work out there. Did that sound arrogant?
No, JusBug…I mean, Justin, it didn’t sound arrogant at all.
My brothers and I are completely different when it comes to hobbies and passions. Collaborating with them to write a story hasn’t really happened (except the one time my baby brother asked me to write a story based on an idea he had). What is it like collaborating with each other on a story or project?
RD: It’s easy. We don’t really worry about each other’s feelings too much so if we don’t think something is working we let the other one know (politely of course) With technology the way it is now, it’s as simple as emailing each other the progress and doing it in our own time. When inspiration strikes! I’ll often see something in my day-to-day that might give me an idea and text Justin while I remember. Little things like that make it easy to collaborate.
JD: This is how it goes. We work on a bit. Rob’s idea or mine, but I’ll spend time trying to craft the words. Rob will turn around and say, nope, yuck, don’t make sense. Not to all of it, but parts that he doesn’t like. I won’t say anything, but will have arguments loaded and ready to go. Then I take a step back, actually listen to what he has said…and normally agree. I don’t agree just because he said so, I agree because sometimes I take the easy road out. He points out the direction we should take. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. The structures and nuances take a lot of work, and sometimes more work is needed.
Do you guys write separate stories or do you collaborate on all of them?
RD: We write separately all the time, but I like to get JusBug’s input to see what he thinks and I think Justin likes it when I give him feedback, too. Either way, I like giving him feedback. The story is the important thing at the end of the day, and if you can find someone that can help you make it the best version it can possibly be then I think that’s a good thing.
JD: Yeah, what he said. I have written quite a few stories all by myself, but Rob is always the first to read them.
Do you guys keep some of your ideas to yourselves or do you bounce them off of one another for additional insight?
RD: I bounce most of mine. Sometimes they are stupid and I don’t realize they are stupid until I hear the words coming out of my mouth, but I’m always bouncing.
JD: Half of the fun is in the bounce.
You both have stories in the zombie anthology: The Gathering Horde. Did you both intentionally write stories for this anthology or did it just kind of happen that you both got in?
RD: Zombies On A Plane was a (very) re worked concept that we/Justin changed for the anthology. It was originally a mother and daughter. The Woes of Albert Cross was a story that more spewed out of me. I wrote it in one sitting and only gave it a quick edit before submitting it. I didn’t think it was going to make the cut to be honest and was ecstatic to know it made it in. If you read those two stories, I’m sure you will see the difference in our writing styles.
JD: I also co-wrote another story in that anthology. I do enjoy a co-write, (wink wink) because I enjoy the conversation about writing almost as much as I enjoy the craft of it. I was asked by Jeff Clare, a magician of a man, if I would like to expand an idea we had already played with.
You both wrote The Nothing Man, an as yet released series of stories. Tell me about TNM, what inspired it and what each of you put into it.
RD: The Nothing Man has evolved from very humble beginnings. Without giving too much away it was originally an idea for a graphic novel, but it turns out we can’t draw. Then it was supposed to be a series of short stories all with a common theme and then it became its own monster that we don’t think people will have seen before. To begin with we used to joke about writing a whole book, something with an actual front and back cover, something we could show our Mum and give to the kids when they are older. Now that it’s happening it is a very proud time. We have only written for fun and at our own pace and not a lot of people have read the story so it will be good to hear what people think.
JD: I had a short story I was working on and Rob didn’t know about. It was missing something. Rob came to me with a paragraph, the gist of which spurred on the character, The Nothing Man. The theme of the paragraph was, What is Nothing? I put The Nothing Man into my short story. That was the first in the series. We discussed him as if he were a comic book character, and tried to theme the stories to have that sort of painted feel.
The style of TNM and the stories in The Gathering Horde are very distinct. Is that style collaborated on or is it more one of your voices and the other brother adapted to it?
RD: I write as if I’m picturing it in a movie. I try get into the characters minds and describe their surroundings and feelings in a way I think they would see and feel things. So it depends on who the character is as to what the writing style is, but again, most of TNM is JusBug’s unique style because you could tell the difference between our writing.
JD: He called me JusBug again…Have you ever made yourself smile because of a conversation you have had in your head, with yourself? I try to narrate like an honest train of thought process. With TNM we created individual characters and tried to write like the thoughts in their heads…that make sense?
JD: I have tried different styles, but nothing is easier for me, than writing thoughts. They are already there. It’s wrapping them around interesting story ideas that work, aren’t predictable, or boring and don’t leave too many unanswered questions that makes writing, the craft, fun for me.
Portions of TNM originally appeared on the website, Tales of the Zombie Wars. However, I hear that the entire storyline has been picked up by All Things Zombie Publications. How did that come about?
JD: Basically, I thought we were finished. It has taken about two years and lots of wine bottles to get to where we are now. I asked some friends about publishers, word got back to the people at ATZ and they showed some interest so I asked them if they would like a look. They picked it up. Tales of the Zombie Wars have been so good to us. They gave honest, good feedback early on and I can guarantee, without their support and the feedback from the readers there, Tales of The Nothing Man, (yes, ‘Tales’ is in honour of the site) would not be nearly where it is today…which is in editing. Also, there is way more to the story than what appeared on the site. Probably shouldn’t be such a long answer when I started with the word, basically…
Can we expect non-zombie themed stories from one or both of the Brothers Dunne?
RD: I don’t know if I could go away from the zombie theme, or at least horror. I love this genre because it can make a good story great. Zombies in writing are kind of like bacon. Everything is better with bacon. Seriously though, with the horror theme you can see people stripped down to their bare bones, comment on sociological and religious beliefs and then add the horror of something that doesn’t care about your social role, your religious beliefs, your race, sexual preference or any of the things we all seem to worry about day to day.
JD: I will never say never. But here are my thoughts. Even though there are so many books in the zombie genre, I really do think there is room for more. It has that aesthetic appeal where you can tell a story of a rich man on a plane, a beggar in the streets or a drug dealer in the Bronx and then add zombies. Mystery Zombie. Crime Zombie. Funny Zombie. Romantic Zombie…ok, maybe not romantic zombie. Every time I write something, it always ends up with zombies in it.
We mentioned earlier that ATZ Publications has picked up TNM. When can we expect a release for this title?
RD: It’s in the editing stage at the moment and we are working over the next month to finish the cover art so it should be ready for release…. Actually I still don’t really know. Couple of months? Jus, do you know? Did I mention this was our first book?
JD: We are taking our time. You only get to release your first book once, and we want it to be the best version it can be. So…we don’t really know.
I want a funny story about you two from your childhood.
RD: There are a lot of funny stories, too many to just pick one. So I’ll let Jus answer thisJ. All the ones I could think of were life threatening. From running away from king brown snakes, being in a tree that falls down and unknowingly swimming in a creek with river snakes and crocks.
JD: In our childhood they all involve near death and dangerous animals. In adulthood they all involve near death and alcohol.
How can folks get in touch with you two?
I think you have enough blood from the both of us, but before we go I’d really like to take the opportunity to say thank you. You have given guidance and encouragement from the beginning. It is an honour to call you a mate. Until we meet again, my friend. Always wanted to say that.
Thank you, guys, for coming by. There’s orange juice and cookies at the exit.
Let me say this: I have been very fortunate to get to know Justin over the last couple of years or so, and Robert over the last few months. I’ve read everything that Justin has let me read and I truly enjoy their style of horror and humor and the humanity to which their stories are told. The story, Boys In Times of War quickly became one of my favorite stories–not just zombie stories, but stories overall–with its look into life during the apocalypse as children. The gut wrench of one of the scenes is so powerful I found myself holding my breath.
I don’t think the Dunne Brothers are good storytellers. I know they are. With that said, here’s a little teaser to The Nothing Man:
The fire is already visible, flames dance above trees and thick black smoke chokes the skyline, blocking the sun. It’s only early evening but I have to flick the headlights on to see. Like little demons playing hopscotch, the flames hop and skip from here to there, with us ultimately in their path. In no time at all we skid to a halt at the western gates of the property. The Nothing Man is off the bike and at the gate, but he struggles, fumbling with the lock. He doesn’t seem to care if we live or die. I look back over my shoulder and wish that I hadn’t. A wall of fire reaching up to the heavens is rushing down from the hills. Flames first lick, then swallow, turning everything in their path to black. The devil has sent its angry pet here to devour everything and it makes its presence known with a bellicose deafening roar. The heat is so intense I can’t tell if I’m sweating or melting.
Rooted to the ground the trees have no escape, they crack and shriek and pop. The wind howls, thunder still booms. The fire roars and here in front of us a small herd of four or five Clickers …Click…
Impending doom in the form of a raging inferno threatens our existence, but still they hunger.
Anger boils in my stomach. I get off the bike and easily knock the useless stranger out of the way. Death threatens from every possible angle. Sweat drips in my eyes. My hands shake with fear and the metal locks are extremely hot to the touch. The pressure of the situation asks me to rise and so I do. Forcing my mind to calm, I manage to quickly undo the lock on the gate and push it open, knocking down two Clickers. Back on the bike we take off again. I throw a leg out to knock a third Clicker down and maneuverer to dodge the scrambling others.
Scorching flames now racing alongside us, pushed on by the winds faster than the top speed of my old quad bike. I risk a quick glance off the beaten path to look behind us. Framed by a horizon of bright red flames an undead creature arcs it back, drops open its jaw, lolls its cracked tongue out and shambles down the rocky path after us. Moments later a bigger, crueller, less forgiving beast attacks it. Like a small shark getting swallowed by a bigger shark, the fire consumes the Clicker. Skin melts off its hands but still it claws its boney fingers at us. What meat is left on it sizzles and blackens until it cannot walk and tumbles down the path. Still a flaming mess, it opens its mouth, begging us to let it feed on us until, pop, its head explodes.
The Dunne Brothers gave you the links to contact them up above, but I want to add one that they didn’t give. If you would like to read a little bit of their work, including Boys In Times of War, follow this link:
As always, until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.