As a kid, Daniel Humphreys devoured books, a trait that later developed into telling his own stories through comics and short fiction.
But he never thought of writing as anything more than a fun hobby. That is until he won a writing contest.
“I don’t think I really made the connection that you could get something for writing until I won movie tickets for a contest at my school in fourth grade,” he said.
It was a moment that forever changed his opinion of writing.
“After that, having my name on a book was one of my biggest goals,” he said.
By the age of 21, he had written three novels, all while starting a career in information technology with Xerox.
He even signed a contract with a literary agent and thought he was heading for his big break as a writer.
But his dream turned into a nightmare when he learned his literary agent was a con artist who ended up being sent to prison for all of the various scams she tried to pull off.
“She made a living stringing people like me along,” Humphreys said. “The really crazy part about that entire experience is that I don’t think a villain with her characteristics would be believable in fiction.”
The experience crushed him and made him give up writing.
“I put up my outlines and my rough drafts and just focused on my career,” he said.
But there was still a spark of interest left, which he credits to his own mind and internal monologue that never stops asking questions.
“It’s something I can’t really help,” he said. “I’ll be driving and see something and I’ll start asking myself, ‘What if? And what next?’”
It’s that line of questioning that inspired him to write “A Place Outside the Wild,” a zombie apocalypse novel that questions if the dead are really the living’s biggest threat.
“I spent a lot of time in my company car, and there was a property where Duke (Energy) stored stacks of utility poles. One day, I thought, ‘What if you needed those to build a fence,’ and it snowballed from there,” he said.
After switching from a field service job with Xerox to remote support that allowed him to work from home, Humphreys found he had more time to devote to writing.
With the support of his wife, Tara, he enrolled in an online fiction writing class and started to write “A Place Outside the Wild.”
The story became his first published novel.
“It kind of just exploded, honestly,” he said. “The book took on a life of its own to the point that I had to trim out major chunks of the story to keep it from getting too big.”
The book, the first in the Z-Day series, became more of a success than he ever imagined it would, earning him finalist honors for best apocalyptic novel in the 2017 Dragon Awards.
“Seeing my name on the same list as authors I’ve read for years was surreal,” he said.
Two sequels, “A Place Called Hope” and “A Place for War,” continue the zombie saga. He hopes to return to the series with a fourth installment in 2021.
“I don’t know about everyone else, but the COVIDpacolypse has really tamped down my zombie enthusiasm,” he said. “But I do plan on getting back to the Z-Day universe early next year.”
With the popularity of the television series “The Walking Dead,” Humphreys said zombie apocalypse fiction has a big following.
“I think it comes down to the ‘what if’ question again,” he said. “It’s a way for us to put ourselves in the worst possible circumstance and game it out in our heads.”
His first brush with the genre was watching the remake of “Night of the Living Dead” when he was a kid.
“The entire construction of that movie presents you the choices of the characters, all while you’re saying, ‘I wouldn’t do something that dumb.’ Maybe not, but we’d definitely make our own mistakes,” he said.
Zombies aren’t Humphreys’ only subject matter, as he also is the author of the Paxton Locke books, an urban fantasy series along the lines of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
“The books that have really stuck with me over the years are the ones that elicit powerful emotion, whether it be sorrow at a character’s loss or joy at their victory,” he said. “If I can do that, that’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?”
Now, at the age of 42, Humphreys lives in Columbus and works in the information technology department at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.
“I spent a good chunk of my life in Colorado and Arizona,” he said. “I moved back East in 2004, met my wife and have been here ever since.”
He started his job at Schneck in May 2019 and considers it to be the most enjoyable job he has ever had.
Although he’s a published author, Humphreys said he doesn’t consider writing a job.
“I like to tell people it’s what I do instead of golfing,” he said.
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Name: Daniel Humphreys
Books: The Z-Day series and the Paxton Locke series
Full-time job: Information technology department at Schneck Medical Center
Family: Wife, Tara; children, Jackson and Carleigh
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What: Author Daniel Humphreys book signing
When: 11 a.m to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Magic of Books Bookstore, 113 W. Second St., downtown Seymour. Copies of Humphrey’s books are available to purchase at the store.