Hi everyone! Today we welcome Stephen Blackmoore to the blog today, to talk about writing, zombies, and his latest book, BROKEN SOULS. BROKEN SOULS, the sequel to one of my all time favorite books, DEAD THINGS, released to a store, virtual or brick, near you yesterday. Blackmoore's also written some other amazing books. You really can't go wrong. Check it out on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and other places of your choosing.
Without further ado, I give you the interview!
Describe yourself in one tweet:
I AM SPARTACUS! If Spartacus were a slightly doughy, over 40 writer who walks into walls a lot.
Where did you get the idea for DEAD THINGS, the first book in the series?
It really came from a couple of things. I had a snippet of dialog I wrote years ago about a guy infested by ghosts. I sat on it for a long time and nothing came of it. Years later I was going through a folder on my hard drive and ran into it and I had just rewatched MEMENTO with Guy Pearce. The two of those came together in my head and that's where the character of Eric Carter came from. From there I re-read a piece from my novel CITY OF THE LOST, which is a stand-alone that takes place in the same world before DEAD THINGS occurs that cemented the whole thing for me and things sort of unfolded from there.
On a scale of one to ten, with one being the sound of soft rain on your windshield, and ten being cage match with an angry grizzly bear covered in bees, how difficult was it for you to write the sequel?
Mmm. Six-ish? I knew pretty much what I wanted to do with it after I wrote DEAD THINGS. The trick for me was figuring out how much to call back to DEAD THINGS in BROKEN SOULS. It drives me nuts when I accidentally pick up a book later in a series and realize too late that I haven't read the first one and then I'm lost. If there's enough detail in it to let me move forward it's fine, but if there isn't and I can't figure out what's going on it drive me nuts.
So I wanted to make sure I had enough to let a reader get into the story quickly without having to depend too much on having read DEAD THINGS. No idea if I pulled it off, of course. Guess we'll see.
For anyone out there about to write a sequel, do you have any advice?
Reread your previous book. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but it can really help a lot.
There were quite a few times while writing BROKEN SOULS where I got stuck and found the solution was something I had already laid the groundwork for in DEAD THINGS. In fact there are some things I found that I set up in CITY OF THE LOST. Going through those can not only help solve problems but it can also help you keep from screwing yourself. I had a scene in BROKEN SOULS at one point that I got quite a ways through and realized almost too late that if I kept going it would contradict something I had said in DEAD THINGS.
I know some people who swear by a series bible, and I think that's useful, but it won't help solve all of those problems.
This is actually a brilliant idea. A series bible helps, but there's lots of little things you throw out into a novel that can sometimes trip you up.
What is your favorite paragraph in BROKEN SOULS?
That's a tough one. I don't know that there's a single paragraph, but I do have a favorite scene. I don't want to spoil things, but there's a scene at the La Brea Tar Pits where Eric finally gets the truth of what's going on and it really screws with his head. I particularly enjoyed writing that one.
One of my favorite things about the series is the wonderful gritty L.A. vibe. I started reading DEAD THINGS expecting the neutral urban fantasy setting, but was quickly blown away at how you mashed up horror and noir. Was this intentional at all? Did you go into the book wanting to write something different, or did it come out organically as you were writing the story?
It was intentional. Noir and horror are pretty closely related, I think and I wanted to write something that really brought in Los Angeles as a setting. I really didn't want this to be a generic UF, but still wanted to play with the tropes. As much as I knew how I tried to tilt them all to one side to, hopefully, keep them interesting and put a different spin on them.
It makes me really happy, for some reason, to hear it was intentional. I love urban fantasy as a genre, but the settings can be generic, and setting to me is very important. DEAD THINGS really did take the standard tropes and twist them on the head, so the stuff I love about the genre is there, but still felt fresh and new.
Your main character, Eric Carter, is a necromancer. I’ve read tons of books about death magic that gloss over what someone with those sorts of powers would actually experience. Which is why when I read DEAD THINGS, and saw how you focused on Eric’s grief and isolation, I was pumping my fist into the air shouting, “Yessss!”. Was it hard to write from this perspective?
It was easy in that I think I understand the character well enough to be able to express how he's feeling, which isn't always a straightforward thing, but hard in that, well, writing about grief is always hard. We don't like to look at it and it's certainly brought up some things for me that I wasn't expecting.
I think as a character Carter's not done grieving, particularly because so much of what's gone wrong for him is his own fault. That's something I hope to explore more in the next book. I see him as having a perspective on death that actually makes it harder for him to grieve. He's constantly surrounded by reminders of what's on the other side and it isn't pretty. Every day he sees tragedy after tragedy and he never gets a break from it. It wears on him.
One of the things about grief, and we've all run into this at some point in our lives, is that it requires a certain amount of stillness. You have to be able to think about it and face it. And Carter doesn't get that chance.
That is a wonderful point, and one that I hadn't considered yet. *makes notes* And there is something wonderfully awful reading about a character making bad decisions and then trying to climb out of that mess by making worse decisions.
What does your typical writing schedule look like?
Weekends and evenings. I have a full time day job and so I have to wedge writing in wherever I can. It's easy to get overextended and I'm running into that right now, actually.
While writing, what do you struggle with the most?
Time more than anything. Even full time writers struggle with this, so I'm nobody special. And I don't know that having more time would necessarily help. I'd probably just piss it away on videogames.
Is there any one book or author you feel inspires you the most?
I think there's a group of writers who really do that for me. Chuck Wendig, Kevin Hearne, Jaye Wells, Karina Cooper, Richard Kadrey, Tobias Buckell, Kat Richardson, and that's just who I can think of right off the top of my head. For some of them it's their prose, some of them it's their plotting, all of them it's their work ethic. I feel like a slacker next to these people.
If someone asked me to make a list of my favorite authors, that would be a good start to that list.
Is there a third book in the series planned? Please say yes.
There is! I'm working on it now, actually. I'm playing with about half a dozen different titles at the moment, so I'm not sure which one's going to stick. After that, who knows? Hopefully my publisher will want more books. I have at least two more planned and would love to keep writing them.
You hear that? Everyone go out and buy ten copies each so he gets a contract for more books.
You’re rather hilarious on Twitter with your fake horoscopes. How do you divine such wisdom? Pig’s blood? Aeromancy?
I dance naked in the moonlight and am showered by divine wisdom. That may actually just be the sprinklers in the backyard.
And most importantly, during the inevitable zombie apocalypse, what is your survival plan?
Who says I'm going to survive? If we're being swarmed by the undead I'm switching sides.
Or Plan B, since I plan on learning the ancient art of necromancy, is I'll keep you as a pet zombie writer. Mwhahaha!