Introducing Jerry D. Young
Jerry D. Young is a prolific writer of over 100 books, many of which are prepper-themed. Some of his most popular publications are Disaster in the Burbs, Shipwrecked!,and Ozark Retreat. Jerry grew up on a farm and was introduced to the benefits of homesteading as a child. As time passed, he has shared stories of disaster survival with the prepper community. When Jerry agreed to this interview, I eagerly picked his brain about his inspirations for writing, what he believes to be the largest threats looming on the horizon, and what he thinks we can do to future proof ourselves for such threats. Below is the transcript:
How Jerry D. Young Got Started Writing
Bob: On your Amazon page, you mentioned that writing was effectively a second career of yours. Had you always wanted to write? What finally pushed you to publish your work?
Jerry: I cannot say I have always wanted to write. My brothers and sisters were brought up as readers. At various times when I could not find something I wanted to read, I would make up my own stories.
I was already interested in Civil Defense when I was twelve, and could not find much information on the subject, much less fiction. Primarily nuclear war. So, that summer I began to write my first story. It was about a group of school kids that were on a field trip when the Soviets parachuted in troops and equipment into the middle of the country, from St. Louis to Memphis, to divide the country and control the Mississippi River barge traffic.
To make a short story shorter, it was WIP (work in progress) off and on for three years. But between changing schools twice and moving from 40 miles outside of St. Louis to the Boot Heel of Missouri, and several other things, that story was set aside.
Having easy access to a library after the move the week I turned 14, I found plenty of things to read, so there was not much incentive to write. But that began to change a few years later. I was really into the then current form that Civil Defense had become. From Civil Defense through various agencies to FEMA. There simply was not too much fiction to find about survivalist subjects and nuclear war, major volcanoes, and such. And I was running out of things to read at the library.
When I did not have anything interesting to read, and I had a bit of time, I would take notes and write short vignettes of ideas I thought I might flesh out at some time. It was all sorts of story types. I had a driving urge to get published so I could be on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I did not accomplish that before he retired, but I was doing more writing. And one of the stories I worked on from time to time was the nuclear war story I had been wanting to do for years.
Life intervened again and I did not have much time to write, other than to jot down notes whenever something came to me. And then, in 1977 home computers became available. That was the trigger point. I had wanted one since the first time I had seen a magazine article that they were soon to be available a few years earlier. My father bought a Radio Shack Model 1 to use in our plumbing business, and I purchased a word processor package for it.
Whenever I was not otherwise occupied with things that had to be done I was on that computer, teaching myself programing, doing the work for my father, and writing. Since I could type reasonably well, the computer made all the difference. Writing by hand, with my terrible spelling and very poor handwriting, was pretty agonizing, and discouraging since it was difficult to change things very much. The computer allowed me to do that.
I have been writing off and on since 1977, simply due to the access to a computer. I wrote all kinds of things. In 2004, after I became ill and could no longer work, I had time on my hands. I had found internet prep forums by that time. On one of them, which I will not name, there were a few people writing prepper stories and posting them, usually a chapter at a time.
I decided to try my hand. I was going to revise the story I started in 1965, but wound up doing Percy’s Mission. People on the forum seemed to love the story, so simply kept writing additional stories. Usually Prep/PAW (Post Apocalyptic World) type stories, but others, too. When the Amazon Kindle e-book program became available I delved into that and began publishing my stories there. A few years later a start up print publisher that had found my stories. He asked to sign me on, as his second author, after himself.
So, after looking things over, I did. He finds artwork for the covers, has additional editing done, finds Voice Actors for audio books, and promotes the books in places where I cannot. It sure seems to be working.
I now have more time to write. Which is good, because after nearly dying four times over a short period of time, my sister kept telling me God had a plan for me or would have kept sending me back. After I wrote Percy’s Mission and people told me how much the story had helped them get their preps in much better order, and how they used that book and others to help their families and friends get much better prepared, I realized that I had found my calling. My mission that God had put me here to do. That was to help educate people on how to not just survive the coming difficult times, but to live through it, begin the recovery, and in time, finally be in a position so the human race cannot be wiped out by a single event.
Bob: Over the years, you have written over 100 books about prepping, post-apocalyptic scenarios, and disaster survival. What inspires you to produce such a prolific output of content?
Jerry: Life. I think that is my best answer. But it is a bit more complicated than that, I suppose. I am a history buff, all the way back into far pre-history and early humans. And having studied the relationships between humans and natural phenomenon, I realized that so many things that happen in the universe are cyclical in nature.
Other things I learned over the years, in school, by reading, by working, by living life, through research and observation, I came to the have the belief that there have always been times when humans had to get through very rough times with only what they had with them or made sure were around them.
For centuries it was simply the way of life that people had to live. Later, as communities developed and became larger and larger, and nations developed, where not every one had to use the overwhelming bulk of their time just to do what was required to feed, clothe, and house themselves, people could specialize.
That meant that people became dependent on other people for things they needed to survive. When those other people were not able to provide these things, then you had a serious problem. So people began to store foods, water, and other necessities. And prepping, by whatever name the people chose to use, began.
All of my learning, by whatever means, showed me that there were a huge multitude of things that had, could, and would affect people. Despite the fact that the basics of prepping are universal and apply to just about every scenario, there are other needs that can be particular to given type of event. When something would trigger a new thought about one of those possible events I felt a strong urge to figure out how I would deal with it, and in turn, how other people could deal with it. So I sit down at the computer and start writing.
Anything can be the trigger. From a news report, to a comment I hear. I hear a name that intrigues me for some reason. A product or a process that I had not heard of before. It can be pretty much anything. My mind makes these seemingly random links between simple situations and complex full stories. I really cannot explain it better than that.
Jerry’s Readers and Collaborators
Bob: What’s your relationship like with your readers? The prepper community is collaborative and supportive, so I’m curious to learn if they help influence some of the topics you write about.
Jerry: I love my readers. My fans. They are the greatest one could ask for. They forgive my mistakes as easily as they heap on praise. I am not sure I really do them justice. They have given me things, sent me money, donated to help get my truck fixed, and supported me all through my writing career.
And I do pick up ideas from them sometimes. Not only that, but I often get complaints about my ‘rich’ characters. They certainly are not all rich, but yes, some of them have done well for themselves in the stories. But where I have a character buy a piece, a part, or item of supply, (which is what some complain about, as they cannot do that themselves), many of my readers tell me how they could not afford something like what a character purchased. They then go into detail about how they accomplished the same thing with ingenuity, skill, thinking outside the box, and pushing the envelope.
That is what a prepper does. Sure, if one can afford a factory version, and it is a good one, get it. But if the idea is good, but the execution in the marketplace is bad, make your own, better, and often cheaper, version.
I actually do this myself for much of my gear. But it is very, very difficult to write about it and make it understandable to other people. I have my experiences over sixty-five years. Lived where I have. Done the jobs that I have. Hunted, and fished, and trapped, and did thousands of things that no one else ever did quite the way I did, because the circumstances were different. Or the location was different. Or their experiences were different, and on, and on, and on.
But they did and do have their own. And many simply use them, the way I used mine, and come up with a way to accomplish what a character does in a story, and that I have often done in my prepping experience.
If I simply explain one way that I was able to do something, it does not help others very much. Because they simply do not have or have not done what I have. They have done other things. Many more things than I will ever do or experience. So they use what they have learned and know and experienced, to accomplish the task the purchased item accomplishes. They understand that getting the job done is what is important, not necessarily what tool is used.
Sure, ‘the right tool’ might make it quicker, easier, or have some other advantage, but if you do not have one, making a tool that will work is just fine. And really does exemplify prepping and preppers. And my readers and fans do that in abundance.
They read deep between the lines and know what it is I am trying to say, on what the important accomplishment is, not what expensive tool can be purchased with which to do it.
Yep. I love my fans. I have learned so many things from them. Some have been the inspiration for an element of a character, or of a vignette within a larger story, or what can happen when things go wrong, and when things go right.
If it was not for my fans, I would not still be writing. I began to write to have something to entertain me when I could not find anything else. So, I would have written. But a few stories. And then I would have found something else to do, because the writing would have become boring to me, and I would have run out of ideas. But that is not the case with my readers and fans. Even if they are not sending me ideas directly, the way some do, I see them discussing things on forums and blogs, on the air, locally in group meetings, at PrepperCon, in the local prep store, everywhere.
And I want to say, “Thank you! All of you! You keep me going.”
Bob: Over the years, I’d imagine you’ve developed some strong relationships within the prepper community. In fact, one such relation, Atlas of Prepper Boards, introduced you to me. Do you have any collaborators? Do you have specific survival writers who inspire you to continue contributing to the community?
Jerry: I have had some very strong relationships with other preppers. Unfortunately, the prepper community, and I personally, lost two of them over the years. Fleataxi was one. He was a prolific writer and well versed in prepping. With a penchant for science fiction, too.
And TOM (for Tired Old Man). I read a couple of his stories in 2004, along with several other writers on forums at the time. That drew me out of the depression I was in due to my health problems and severe pain I was in constantly, and since I already had an interest in prepping, and had written other types of stories, I fell right into writing Prep/PAW (Post-Apocalyptic World) stories and posting them online. TOM and I edited each other’s stories for years. But he is really the only writer that I have had that kind of working relationship with.
In those early days I did read Angry American’s stuff online, and Halffast’s Lights Out when he was posting it online. I read the early versions of Rawles’ Patriots he posted online as he developed the story. There were a few others. My style of writing, and approach to both the technical aspects of writing and to prepping itself were quite a bit different than anyone else I read at the time.
Then, I quit reading any prepping related stories online. I was accused of plagiarism by another prepper author. I had not read his work. Not any of it. Yet was accused because there were some similarities.
I realized that as long as I could truthfully say that I was not reading other prepper stories that any accusations of plagiarism would be much easier to prove false.
Although I have not worked closely with, or collaborated with, anyone on prepper stories, I do help a local friend get his story ideas into shape to publish. But they are his stories and I just type them in and organize and edit them.
I have helped a few other Prep/PAW story writers with suggestions, ideas, minor editing, and, mostly, encouragement. But again, not in a collaborative way. The accusation of plagiarism really spooked me, made me angry, and made me very cautious about working with other writers.
All that aside, I do still see and talk to several of the old group that started the way I did. Mostly at PrepperCon. We have each gone our own way, with some of them becoming best selling authors. Even a movie deal or two, I believe, might be in the works for a couple. We were a pretty tight group there for a while.
What Does Jerry D. Young Prepare For?
Bob: Having written about so many disastrous scenarios, is there one that stands out as particularly worrisome? Do you prepare generally for most threats, or specifically for a particular threat?
Jerry: As with so many other things in prepping, and in life in general, it is not either/or. It is almost always both. Or both plus a bunch more. As I indicated earlier, I prep for Basic Human Needs first and foremost. And then I add preps for specific threats that require some sort of preparation that is not generally required for other situations.
Even with that, however, many of those specialty preps can be modified or expanded slightly, usually for very little extra expense, to help prepare for other situations, too.
For instance, preparing for an attack with nuclear weapons calls for a fallout shelter in addition to the basic human needs. Well, since I am building a fallout shelter anyway, why not include blast protection? Just a bit of extra dirt and a specific design.
Also, since nukes can produce EMP, even if it is not a special EMP device, how about adding a Faraday cage room in the shelter. After all, security is necessary, and you are going to have weapons and some valuables in the shelter in a small vault room, you can just include the metal mesh and turn it into a Faraday room.
While protection from fallout does not require a sophisticated air treatment system, you do still have to get fresh air in and stale air out of the shelter. Add a few components to actually filter the air and you have significant protection against chemical and biological dangers.
You do have to run those air pipes out of the shelter, some well hidden real ones, and some dummy ones for security, it simply is not much more work or expense to lay the wires, pipes, conduit, and fiber optic lines for an observation system. And might as well include weather instruments, too. Certainly, the communications system antenna and control lines.
Since you have to dig in the drain system under the shelter, just a bit more digging and the addition of some 30” – 42” culvert and you have a very effective passive cooling system as well as means of escape from the shelter if necessary.
As you can see, the basics lead into specifics, which can be expanded to include more specific as well as more basics of a higher level.
I do have a list of things that I always consider when planning and incorporating or adding preps. It is currently up to 205 line items. Some are related. Some are very unlikely. For some of them, the only prep I can make is to stay right with God, because I will not survive that particular event. I can give you the list to add to this if you like.
My interest started with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when I was nine. When I was 12, my first story was about an invasion by the Soviets, which included the use of nukes. So I suppose writing about nuclear war would probably be my favorite. But there are a whole bunch in line right behind it.
Bob: Let’s briefly talk about homesteading. You grew up living a relatively self-sufficient lifestyle. What was that like? What did you learn from the experience?
Jerry: Though we were very poor, and without any indoor plumbing during that time, my parents, three brothers, and two sisters got through it okay. I probably got the most out of it, as I loved the exploring, hunting, fishing, foraging, and such when my father took me with him after my oldest brother graduated high school and headed out on his own.
I am not sure we would have made it had we not lived on that place. As I said, things were very tight with six children to feed and clothe on a single income of a factory worker.
I was young, only five when we moved there, and we moved away on my fourteenth birthday, so I did not get everything out of the experience I might have had I been older. But it sure did introduce me to many things, and gave me experiences that made things so much easier for me later in life.
For instance, the overwhelming majority of people in the US have never used an outhouse. And of those that have, most of the use was in campgrounds in the summertime, or at camps.
Not the same as day-in day-out use, 24/7/365 during the heat of the summer and the cold and ice and snow of winter, with the outhouse a good fifty yards from the back door of the house. So, field sanitation methods are no problem for me. Where I know people that I believe would hold it in for a three-day weekend trip if they could to avoid using a park outhouse or horror-of-horrors, go out behind a bush. In the middle of the night. In the DARK.
Much less having to dig a new hole and move the outhouse, or in a couple of cases, dig a new hole and transfer the contents of the original to the new one and cover it up. That was a smelly job. But, later on, when my father started a plumbing business after we moved, it was no problem cleaning out sewer lines after the outhouse experiences.
But less disgusting aspects of living on the mini homestead was the food. We grew almost all of our vegetables, and much of the fruit we ate. Twenty-five chickens gave us eggs and chicken to eat. Two milk cows, one Jersey and one Holstein gave us both lots of milk and lots of very good cream. And that cream made some great butter. After turning the crank of that churn for what seemed like hours.
As our landlord was a farmer with cattle and hogs, when it came hog birthing season, he always had a few runts that were not economical for him to raise. So, he would give us one or two of them to raise. We even bottle fed a couple of them over the years. But every fall my dad did the butchering. Both of the calves from the milk cows, and one or two hogs. We culled the chickens then, too.
And as we loved my mother’s pulled goat barbeque, my dad usually bought one or two goats ready to butcher at the same time. We only tried to raise goats one year. They worked over my two younger brothers too much, so that experiment was the one and only time we raised the goats rather than bought them.
We had a huge chest freezer we filled, but the main thing to preserve the bounty was pressure canning. There were cases of filled jars everywhere. Those falls were some very busy times. And my mother was a master with the pickling crock. The best pickles and about the only sauerkraut I have ever actually liked.
The Christmas after I turned 12-years old I got my first rifle. A single shot .22 rimfire. From that point until we moved one of my responsibilities was putting game on the table. Before that, I was all over the farm, of which we had the run of in return of keeping an eye on things for our landlord.
There were plenty of various wild foods in several places. Wild blackberries. But keep an eye out for copperhead snakes. American persimmons. Wild strawberries. Hickory nuts. A black walnut tree in the fence line around the house. Poke. A sassafras tree just down the road up to the house from which I harvested a few roots every year for tea.
Since my dad hunted raccoon, which were the bane of our landlord as they loved his field corn that he fed the cattle with, we were allowed to pick all the field corn we wanted during the few hours it was super sweet and tender when it ripened, but before it started to dry.
We also had access to his and his parents’ small orchard of fruit trees. Pears, apples, and the best peaches I have ever had.
I simply hunted while I was out collecting the other wild eatables. Of course, my father had made sure that I knew how to take care of myself alone when I was out there. We often went camping and he made a point to teach me the things I needed to know in addition to the regular camping skills.
Overall, it was pretty tough. Especially at the time. But as I have grown older, I realized how much of a gift it was. I learned how to work together with my family, and just as importantly, I learned how to rely on myself and get things done on my own. I simply would not be who I am today if not for those experiences.
Advice to Preppers
Bob: Throughout your many books, you’ve published invaluable advice that better equips your readers to survive disastrous events. For those new to the prepping community, what one tip would you share to help them get started?
Jerry: I wrote an article several years ago, and keep it updated when something comes to me that I think should be added. It is called Make A Plan & Prepping 101. In it I go through the way I sort of did things, but wish I had done much more faithfully.
However, at the very start of it is what I consider the best advice that I can give. And it is exactly what I still do when I am contemplating adding or changing preps or the way I prep.
That is: Always prep first for basic human needs. You need them every day. You will need them during every situation that can come up whether it be a one-day event or something that leads humanity into a PAW (Post-Apocalyptic World) where there is essentially no infrastructure left and the survivors, primarily preppers, will have to do pretty much everything for themselves and each other that a complex infrastructure is doing now.
Providing every basic human need we have. Air; potable water; safe, nutritious food in quantity; the means for sanitation; the means to maintain our core body temperature whether it is -30℉ or 120℉ and we are inside a structure or out in the open; security; human interaction; the means to maintain and support a family; and the few other things that, if humans go very long without, will cause death, quickly, or agonizingly slowly.
All the rest can come a bit later. And should. Because there are situations where they will be, or could be exceedingly important. But basic human needs ARE important now and will be all the time, from now on until you die. And then they will be required for you descendants.
Prep for basic human needs first!
Advice to the Next Generation
Bob: I’ve mentioned in some of my posts that this generation isn’t quite as prepared for SHTF events as the last generation. Limited attention spans and the need for instant satisfaction leaves many millennials vulnerable. What are your thoughts about intergenerational preparedness and what advice would you lend to the younger generation?
Jerry: To be honest, Bob, this is a difficult question for me. I do want to answer (and will), but I have a pretty strict policy about helping people with advice or anything else. I only do so for people that I know want to learn about prepping and are willing to take the time, put in the effort, and spend at least a bit of money, to start getting prepared.
If it is someone that just wants to play at prepping; wants to start an anti-anything militia or group; is looking for someone they can ridicule and possibly do a hatchet job on for the media; lazy people that want me or others to prep for them; and several other types of people; then I simply do not bother.
I play dumb (I am really good at that. Apparently, I am a natural…), or plead lack of time, or some other excuse to avoid getting involved with the person. If they are not really wanting to prep, anything I say or do involving prepping when they are around will only come back and bite me. I have the scars to prove it.
As to the specific questions you asked: I believe Millennials, in general, have several problems in addition to those you list that make it very difficult for them to get to a point where they can be serious about considering prepping. Much less do it.
If they just happen to be born at the right time to be included in the group called Millennials, and do want to start prepping, then my advice is to read my article Make A Plan & Prepping 101 and start following the guidelines it presents. Do not dive in with both feet without any plan. Do not start out with buying a random selection of guns. Go with double buying at the grocery store of shelf stable foods you normally eat and shelf stable versions of the fresh foods you eat. Study. Learn. Practice. Vet anyone that offers to teach you all about prepping. Carefully. There are those that are looking to set up preppers to take a fall. I will not go into the reasons, but just encourage anyone that is contemplating joining a group, starting a group, or working with anyone to improve their prepping, to vet everyone.
If it is an intergenerational situation, where someone in the extended family is or has been a prepper, pick their brains to start with. And Write It Down! Especially anyone that lived through or right after the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the New Deal, and World War II. They likely have information that can be used, and insights on many more things that will be useful.
Jerry’s Favorite Book He’s Written
Bob: I can’t end the interview without going for the low hanging fruit. Of the over 100 books that you’ve written, do you have a favorite? If not, do you have a topic that most interests you?
Jerry: I really dislike this question. I get it all the time. It is so hard for me to answer. Percy’s Mission was the first Prep/PAW story I completed and then put up on Amazon, so it is a favorite.
Disaster In The ‘Burbs is another favorite. Female readers tend to really enjoy it as the lead character is a woman. A very capable, skilled, and assertive woman. And her primary antagonist in the story is also a woman. A woman the readers seem to really like to hate.
Missouri Rafter is another favorite as it is based on my father. He really did keep a small boat tied up by the back door of the house, in case it flooded again, worse than the other two that had it floating, but did not quite get into the house. Some changes of course. But those that knew him and have read the book said I captured his spirit perfectly.
Poke It With A Stick is a favorite, too. Humorous (at least it is supposed to be), but with undertones of reality that I find worrisome.
The same with A Penny For Your Thoughts. That one is hitting very close to home with the information now being released on the news and on-line from various sources. It is a favorite.
I could just keep going, but I know you want one. I suppose, if I have to, I will say my favorite Prep/PAW novel that I have written would be my first one. Percy’s Mission.
Following Publications by Jerry D. Young
Bob: Aside from your Amazon page, how can readers stay up to date with your latest publications and posts? Are you currently working on anything that you want my readers to know about?
Jerry: My website, jerrydyoung.com, is not up at the moment. I hope to get it up before the end of the year. I do not mind getting legitimate questions and comments at my secondary e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Do put something in the reference box so I know it is not spam. I will get back to them as I get a chance.
People can post something on Atlas’ site, prepperboards.com. I am visiting it again regularly.
I have just finished helping my friend get his new one ready. Tales Of The Irish Rose It should be out soon. Not a Prep/PAW story, at least not at first. I will say that some of the characters will be showing up in The Dark Times – Part 2 – Into The Twilight which I am now working on.
I am part of a 2-meter repeater system network Prepper Net every Wednesday at 8:00pm Pacific time. You can listen in with a delay through Broadcastify or listen to the recording of the net usually a day or two afterwards on nnpg.net.
You can also join in the conversation through the chat room on nnpg.net. It is on live at the same time as the net and people log on and make comments or ask questions, which are relayed to the net coordinator.
I will be with the NNPG (Northern Nevada Preppers Group) Amateur Radio operators for Amateur Radio Field Day on June 22 & 23, 2019.
Bob: Thanks so much for speaking with me, Jerry. I’m so amazed by everything you’ve been able to accomplish. I appreciate your time.
Jerry: You are quite welcome! It has been a pleasure speaking with you. And thank you very much for the kind words. And I certainly cannot finish this with my tag line:
Just my opinion.
Jerry D Young
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” said Manny, from The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein)