Interview with Sam Sheridan, author of The Disaster Diaries

Sam Sheridan is an intriguing character. He has worked as a professional sailor and as a wildland firefighter in America. He has also authored two of the best books on fighting written in the modern era, a path which led him to train and compete with some of the best martial artists in the world. Sam travelled to Thailand and fought in the ‘art of the eight limbs’, more commonly known as Muay Thai, before stepping into the cage and testing his skills in mixed martial arts. Recently, Sam decided to take on another challenge facing up against those terrible nightmares and disturbing thoughts that keep many a person awake at night.

Disaster Diaries is Sam’s journey to learn and master the skills necessary to survive everything from the zombie apocalypse to atomic fallout. It is a thrilling read that treads the line between ‘prepper’ manual and adventure journal.

The Disaster Diaries

You have a very different approach to researching your books than most – could you explain how and why that came about?
I feel that to actually understand something, to be able to convey information that might be valuable, you have to do it, at least a little. So I try to explore things in a hands-on way. Also, I love learning new skills and putting myself in situations with a steep learning curve. When the curve flattens out I tend to move on. It’s not particularly admirable.
What drove you to seek out the training and skills that you did for the book?
I have always liked disaster movies and Post-Apocalyptic scenarios, but I never really worried about them. Then, I had a child—and I started to realize that I didn’t really know enough to survive a big disaster or the Apocalypse. I had always figured, “Oh, I’ll be alright,” but when you are responsible for others, truly responsible, then that answer doesn’t cut it.
Did the popularity of zombie/apocalypse books and films etc spur you into action?
In some ways, yes—they contribute to zeitgeist. But also, we’ve all seen the footage from the Japanese tsunami, or Bandah Aceh or 9/11, and we know what the end of the world might look like on TV.
How does your wife and family view what you undertook for ‘Disaster Diaries’?
They indulge me. My mother is probably more ‘prepped’ than I am, she has big gardens and chickens and so forth.
What was the most challenging aspect of researching the book?
Tone was a big one. These books can take themselves too seriously, as the topic itself is quite grim. You end up with books that are boring and dire. I didn’t want to do that.
Are you a fan of the fictional side of disaster and apocalypse – if so, what is you’re favourite novel/film/TV right now?
Of course I’m a fan! I love everything from Max Brooks ‘World War Z’ to Jared Diamond’s ‘Collapse’. I just read ‘Boneshaker,’ which was fun. I love the movies, even the hammy ones, for the ideas, for the ‘how would I handle it’ thought experiment.
You’ve fought in MMA and witnessed a lot during the writing of your books – do you feel well prepared or has the process of ‘Disaster Diaries’ made you more worried about possible futures?
I definitely feel more prepared, even though a lot of the skills are perishable: stunt driving or shooting. I’m still worried, but guardedly optimistic.
Are you a full time prepper now? Can you possible train for all possibilities or do you have to accept certain failings?
I am a prepper, I guess, although I think a lot of hard-core preppers might find me cavalier. I think you need to walk the line between paranoia and preparation. Learning new skills is fun and active, while hunkering down in a bunker with a sweaty shotgun in a white-knuckled fist is not going to make you any happier or even any safer. Obviously, you cannot prepare for all possibilities, as some of them counter each other. “Stay Flexible” is the family motto.
The themes of all your books is quite extreme, from learning to be a fighter to training for disasters – what draws you to these things?
I’m a fearful person in some sense, and I dislike fear, and the only way to destroy fear is by doing. So I try to go at my fears when I can.
What can we expect form you next?
I’m working on various projects all the time. You have to, to survive creatively.

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