Creating SHTF Fiction Characters – How I Came Up With Scratch

THEM a zombie apocalypse SHTF fiction novel

Early cover art for THEM

Being one of the few authors writing books in the SHTF fiction genre, readers are often curious about how I come up with ideas for my novels.

One question I get asked a lot is about how I came up with Scratch Sullivan. It’s funny, because I had no idea how memorable the character would be when I first thought him up.

Yet, my readers seem to develop an immediate connection with him. Maybe it’s because he’s hard as nails, yet he still maintains a certain vulnerability about him, or maybe it’s just because he always tries to do the right thing, even in impossible circumstances.

Whatever it is, people really seem to like Scratch.

Like I said, my readers are often curious as hell about how I came up with him, so I thought I’d share a bit about the origins of his character and what went into his psychological makeup and background.

To be honest, Scratch is an amalgam of my own experiences and a host of people I’ve known. Like Scratch, I’m half-Latino and half-Irish. But, unlike Scratch, I’m whiter than bleached milk.

I also spent some time in the military, but I was never in anything close to special operations. I spent most of my time in the reserves and working in troop medical clinics while I was on active duty. Cushy jobs. “Chairborn”, if you will.

But, I always looked up to those guys who were high speed and low drag. One of my good friends is retired Army, and while he was in he was a Ranger school instructor, sniper qualified, and he spent three tours in Iraq in an infantry unit, kicking doors and chasing down bad guys.

As you might imagine, he was my number one fact checker on all the Ranger related stuff in the books (thanks Jim).

Regarding all the martial arts stuff, most of that comes from my own experiences. I’ve trained in various martial arts systems for three decades, and despite all the broken bones and torn up joints, I still can’t seem to get it out of my system.

So, if the fight scenes seem ultra-realistic (which is what I was going for), now you know why.

As for the overall content of the books, well…

Let’s just say that I wanted to write a series of books that had all the things I like in them, dialed up to 11.




Martial arts…

Military stuff…



And action. Lots of action.

Truth be told, these books were inspired by the pulp novels I grew up with… stuff by Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft, and Roger Zelazny, as well as modern zombie apocalypse SHTF fiction classics like Day By Day Armageddon and World War Z.

I hope you’re enjoying the books just as much as I liked writing them. They’re a blast to write, and I’d be doing it even if I didn’t get paid for it.

Well, I could go on about this stuff forever… but I gotta’ get back to writing the next book in the series!

Until next time,

~M.D. Massey


  1. Robin Cruce on July 7, 2023 at 11:15 am

    Will there be more in the THEM series? I’ve read all of them so far, as well as all of the Druidverse books. I love them all!

    • M.D. Massey on July 7, 2023 at 4:18 pm

      I’m planning out more books that will be set in that world featuring those characters. No promises on when I’ll get around to writing them, however. But, the answer is yes.

      • Carol Hallenbeck on July 26, 2023 at 3:12 pm

        Wonderful! THEM is one of my favorite book series, and I love Scratch too. Can’t wait for more. Excited, excited.

Leave a Comment