Once Upon an Apocalypse – Pondering the Aftermath of an EMP Attack

Have you notice that, if you want to reach someone with a new idea, you may have to point them to a movie or a novel?

That’s what Jeff Motes had in mind when he wrote Once Upon an Apocalypse: The Journey Home. He wants you and me to think about preparedness, especially if we experience a catastrophe like an EMP attack.

While several authors have written about what might happen in the wake of a major EMP outage, Jeff’s approach is different. It’s a hard story to categorize, and I’ll have more to say about that below.

But Jeff Motes doesn’t care about that as much as he simply wants to nudge his readers toward being prepared.

On DestinySurvival Radio, I spoke with Jeff about his book.

Who is Jeff Motes?

You never know who shapes up to be an author these days. Here’s info on Jeff’s background.


Jeff received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering in 1984 and a Master’s in Business Administration Degree in 1994. He is a licensed Master Electrician and a licensed Professional Engineer. He owns and operates an electrical contracting business and has provided electrical services to many of the industrial plants and water systems in Southwest Alabama. Prior to entering into business with his father, Jeff work for 10 years as the System Engineer for the local electric cooperative.

Jeff is a strong believer in “life-long” learning and holds to the idea we should do “the best we can with the best we have to live, and help those around us live.”

Jeff lives in the Salitpa community, near Jackson, Alabama, with his wife, Donna and youngest son. His two other sons are married and living with their families elsewhere in Alabama.


Jeff has been preparing in one way or another since his teen years. He says preparing is like insurance. We do it in case something happens.

An EMP would be a worst case scenario. While it is a real threat, it’s hard to say how likely it is. Nonetheless, it makes fodder for a story designed to make readers think about getting prepared. Veteran preppers will appreciate it, too, because being prepared for the worst means being prepared for many other things.


Once Upon an Apocalypse--Book 1--The Journey Home--Revised Version


What’s the story?

“The day” begins one day at 4:05 PM when an EMP attack over Kansas sends the U.S. back to the 1800’s technologically, with ew exceptions. Jill Barnes, Jack Chance and John Carter each find themselves on their way home when the event happens.

We follow the journey of each of these characters, though the bulk of the book deals with Jill and John. Both of them are Christians, which affects how they respond to the circumstances in which they find themselves.

The first character we meet is Jill. She’s a positivbe example of someone who is prepared, having learned from her father. She proves this near the beginning of the book when she was forced to defend herself and a mother and her children when they’re attacked by bad guys.

Jack, on the other hand, finds himself victimized by bad guys because he isn’t prepared for such an eventuality. We see no more mention of him until near the end of the book, and we’re left wondering about him.

As the story moves on, we discover it’s not all sunshine and roses for Jill. But you must keep reading to find out what happens next as the suspense heightens.

We’re introduced to John and find, like Jill, he’s well prepared, and he knows how to anticipate problems he might face. He’s got a good head about him. In fact, he comes across to me like a super hero who thinks of things no one else would.

His mindset is to consider the possibility that tomorrow may not be like any other day.

Jeff says John isn’t a super hero, and there may be more like him out there than I would guess.

How John and Jill come together in the story seems improbable to me. But this is fiction, after all. And we wouldn’t have a story without amazing coincidences. Besides, strange things can happen in the real world.

The examples of Jill and John are positive and give you and I ideas we might want to try when the chips are down.

On the other hand, at one point on their journey, John and Jill kill and eat an armadillo. That makes for a good story–and it may be necessary under the bleakest of conditions–but I’ve read it’s possible to contract leprosy from contact with an armadillo. Be careful.

Plenty of action scenes take place, complete with killings of bad guys. We can only speculate now whether such incidents will represent reality in the aftermath of a massive EMP. But Jill and John come out alive from situations where it doesn’t seem possible they should have.

Be ready to suspend disbelief for the sake of the story.

Spoiler alert. There’s a happy reunion in the end. But it’s marred by a comment from a character we meet for the first time. It’s then that we see why this is labeled Book 1, and we know there will be more to come in this saga.

Where did it come from?

Once Upon an Apocalypse: The Journey Home got its start on Facebook when Jeff asked friends if they had any clue about an EMP. That started engaging discussion. As a means of getting people to think about being prepared, he started writing what eventually became his novel.

How should you read this book?

That may sound like a strange question, but here’s why I bring it up.

This book was initially written in the second person point of view. For example, “You do such and such….” or “You think…” And so on.

Some time after our conversation, Jeff revised the book so characters speak in first person point of view. This makes for easier reading.

I’ve updated links in this post so they’ll take you to the revised edition.

Jeff’s intention is to immerse us as readers into what each character experiences. Chapters change focus from one character to another. Jill and John are the main characters whose view we experience.

Because of this change from one character’s point of view to another, sometimes overlap of events occurs when a new chapter begins. This gives us a chance to see things from more than one characters vantage point.

What is it and what isn’t it?

The book isn’t intended to be a prepper manual or “how to” book. But Jeff weaves instruction and rationale for prepping into the narrative through the personal reflections and conversations of his characters. He does so without being preachy.

For example, a family who takes in John and Jill for a while explain their reasoning for investing in a large quantity of food for their pantry.

Another incident of this sort takes place when John and Jill take inventory of everything in their packs. Who among us is so well prepared?

We see both positive and negative examples concerning such things as self defense and security for individuals and groups.

Why write a book this way?

As Jeff told me, he doesn’t read a book merely for entertainment. He wants to learn something. He gives you and me that opportunity, too.

Where does this book fit?

This novel defies genre labeling. It’s a prepper adventure, but it’s more than that. It morphs into a Christian romance. Or more accurately, it becomes a romance involving two Christians.

Profanity and violence scattered throughout the novel would likely disqualify it as suitable for the category of Christian fiction. Furthermore, Jill and John share a bed for a few nights, but there’s no sex. Even though they’re each described as good people, does that sound believable these days?

Romances and Christian fiction aren’t my cup of tea. I don’t read much so-called prepper fiction either. Nonetheless, as I read, I was drawn into the story. Give it a chance, and you’ll be drawn in, too.

The difficulty in defining genre may make this book harder to sell. That said, I encourage you to enjoy the story and don’t bother about where it should fit.

What’d he say?

I’ve already referred to some of what Jeff and I talked about in the paragraphs above. But here are a few other tidbits to whet your appetite for our chat and, of course, Jeff’s book.

John encounters a rogue cop who put his personal interests first. He contrived to steal John’s bike. It begs the question as to whether police will become untrustworthy or whether they’ll disappear from the streets to protect their own families.

What about alternative transportation, such as bikes or older ATV’s? Should you go off the main roads? Jeff shares some thoughts on that in our conversation.

We also talked about militias, both good and bad. The bad ones will behave more like organized gangs. But in the novel Jeff favorably portrays good local militias.

Where is it safer? In the city or country? In either place you’ll need basics like water, food and shelter.

Community plays an important role in the survival of the novel’s characters, and Jeff encourages you and me to become part of a preparedness oriented community. With trouble coming, it’s always good to at least have a support network.

Could an EMP attack be a fulfillment of Bible prophecy? Jeff and I agreed that we can’t know that for sure, but it wouldn’t be inconsistent with it.

How can you find out more?

Hear my conversation with Jeff Motes by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for April 21, 2016. (Right click to download.) You can connect with Jeff on Facebook.

We can expect a second book in this series and possibly a third. Meanwhile, you can order Once Upon an Apocalypse: The Journey Home by clicking on its title wherever you see it llinked in this post.

Read it. Think about it. And do what you can to be better prepared.

Author: John Wesley Smith

John Wesley Smith writes and podcasts from his home in Central Missouri. His goal is to help preppers as he continues along his own preparedness journey.