TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Tim: For reasons I don’t understand, for some projects I type material, while for others I need to handwrite it and then type it. Sometimes the words and ideas just flow more easily using one method than the other. If I find myself having real trouble composing at the keyboard – when the words come so slow and difficult that writing is torture – I switch to writing by hand in a cheap notebook, and usually the words pour out of me like water. Sometimes during the course of a long project like a novel, I’ll switch back and forth between methods several times. I always tell students that if you find yourself blocked, change the way you’re writing – write by hand, write in a different location, write at a different time of day, etc. Sometimes switching things up can make all the difference.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a panster?
Tim: I’m a bit of both, actually. I usually work from a rough outline that lays out all the major events and story beats, but when it comes time to write specific scenes, I find myself improvising as I go. My outline may change as I go along, too – sometimes in small ways, sometimes large ways. I’ve sold all my novels to publishers via outlines for the last ten years or so. Since I write them months before I actually get a contract to start a book, I sometimes find myself taking a fresh look at an outline and saying to myself, “What the hell were you thinking? This is way too sketchy to base a novel on! Man, that editor must’ve been crazy to buy this!” But then I settle down and start writing, trusting myself to flesh the story out as I go.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Tim: Stephen King and Piers Anthony were both huge influences on me in my younger days. I loved King’s characterization, sense of place, and ability to evoke fear in his readers, and I loved Anthony’s wild creativity and sense of humor. In many ways, the Matt Richter books are a direct result of both those influences. One of my all-time favorite writers is Lawrence Block, and I named Matt Richter after Block’s detective Matt Scudder. I really enjoy Simon Green’s work, too. We seem to be on similar wavelengths in many ways. Several reviewers have compared the Nekropolis books to Simon Green’s Nightside series, which I take as a great compliment since I love those novels!
TQ: What inspired you to write the Matt Richter series?
Tim: Years ago, I was in a writers’ group that counted the fantasy novelist Dennis McKiernan as one of its members. Dennis invited me to join his gaming group, too, which I was thrilled to do. The members of the gaming group took turns being gamemaster, and the games they ran were all original scenarios created by the gamemaster. So when my turn came to run a game, I created the city of Nekropolis as the setting. Not long after that, I adapted the scenario I created into a novel called Necropolis (which was the original spelling of the title). That book was published by a small-press publisher called Five Star. Years later, Angry Robot brought out an expanded edition of the novel in paperback (there’s an additional 25,000 words in the new version). The editors thought using the original Greek spelling of the word Nekropolis gave the book a more sinister, gothic vibe, and I agreed.
I liked the idea of a zombie private detective because it A) sounded like it would be a hell of a lot of fun and B) since corruption is a prime thematic element in classic PI novels, I thought a rotting zombie who is struggling to solve his case before he falls apart would make a fun twist on the theme of corruption.
TQ: Matt Richter is a zombie. How does Matt differ from zombies as depicted in a George Romero film?
Tim: Matt is a self-willed zombie. He retains his full human intelligence, all his memories are intact, and he has no need or desire to gorge himself on human flesh. He can’t turn a human into a zombie by biting them, and if you put a bullet into his brain, it might interfere with his thought processes depending on the damage done, but it wouldn’t stop him. He slowly rots over the course of a two-week period of so – though he’ll rot faster if he suffers significant damage. He can see and hear, but he can’t smell and he can’t feel anything physically – no pleasure, no pain. He moves slower than a human, and as he rots, his speed and coordination both decrease. He needs regular applications of preservative spells to keep himself fresh, which is one of the reasons he works. Preservative magic doesn’t come cheap! And of course he’s way more charming and has a better sense of humor than any Romero zombie – at least, that’s what he’d tell you!
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Dark War?
Tim: In one scene I introduce the character of Granny Red, the most feared monster slayer of all time. She’s an old woman garbed in crimson, and she’s rumored to be the original Red Riding Hood – or perhaps the legend come to life. A little girl who lost her way and almost paid for her mistake with her life, and who later became a slayer of werewolves, and eventually any and all monsters, when she grew up. I had a lot of fun writing that scene – Granny Red could kick Van Helsing’s or Buffy’s ass any day of the week! And still be finished in time for tea.
Another favorite scene occurs because Matt – who’s become rather famous after saving the city in the last two books – is being followed around throughout Dark War by a cybernetic vampire camera operator who’s constantly filming him with his ocular video implant for a reality show. At one point Matt sees playback of some of the finished footage, and the show’s producer, concerned that Matt’s too dull, has provided a false voiceover to make Matt seem like an overwrought stereotype of a noir detective AND a lustful, flesh-hungry zombie to boot! Matt, of course, is furious, but his friends think it’s hysterical. And I do too! I wrote this scene as a way to poke a bit of fun at a reviewer who thought Matt wasn’t “intense enough” in Nekropolis. Why fire off an e-mail to respond to a reviewer when you can instead use the incident to fuel a fun scene in a new book?
TQ: In Dark War, who was the most difficult character to write and why? The easiest and why?
Tim: In some ways, I guess Matt was both the easiest and most difficult character to write. Easiest because I’ve written so much about him and I know him so well, and most difficult for the exact same reason. I had to try to avoid falling into a rut with him. When you write a series character, you have to avoid making everything seem “same old, same old” to the reader, and you have to remember that your character grows and changes during the course of his adventures. Hopefully, I managed to pull this off in Dark War.
TQ: How many books are planned for the Matt Richter series?
Tim: The series currently stands at three novels: Nekropolis, Dead Streets, and Dark War. There are also three short stories featuring Matt: “Disarmed and Dangerous” in Spells of the City (which takes place before Nekropolis), “The Midnight Watch” which appears after the text of Dead Streets (and which takes place between the first and second books in the series). And “Zombie Interrupted” which is forthcoming in Human for a Day (and which takes place between the second and third books). Right now, no further books are planned in the series, but if Dark War sells well, who knows? I’d certainly love to write more novels about Matt and the strange city he works in, and I have plenty of ideas for future adventures.
TQ: What's next?
Tim: In September, the first novel in a new series I’m writing with Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of the Ghost Hunters TV show will appear. It’s called Ghost Trackers, and it’s about three friends who as teenagers come in contact with a terrifying supernatural force, an encounter that leaves them traumatized and unable to fully remember what happened. Now, fifteen years later, that same force is stirring once again, and the friends return to their home town to discover the truth of what happened to them on that fateful night and prevent the darkness from spreading.
I had a lot of fun writing this book, and I’m currently at work on the sequel.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Tim: Thank you for having me!
About the Matt Richter / Nekropolis Series
NekropolisMatt Richter / Nekropolis 1
(Angry Robot Books, September 28, 2010)
Meet Matt Richter. Private Eye. Zombie. His mean streets are the city of the dead, the shadowy realm known as Nekropolis.
This place has always been ruled by the vampire overlords.
Now they're plotting to destroy the city.
... over his dead body.
More pulp than Pulp Fiction, more butt-kicking than Buffy, Nekropolis is the first in a deathly new series.
File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Zombie Detective | Undead City | Crime Overlord | Sexy Vampires ]
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Dead StreetsMatt Richter / Nekropolis 2
(Angry Robot Books, March 1, 2011)
MATT RICHTER'S GOING TO PIECES - LITERALLY.
You've got to keep your head to survive in the teeming undead city known as Nekropolis. It's a pity crazed genius Victor Baron couldn't manage that. Now everyone wants a piece of him.
Zombie detective Matt Richter and his glamorous she-vampire companion Devona are back on the case, with another wild and wonderful investigation.
FILE UNDER: Urban Fantasy [ Zombie Detective | Undead City | Crime Overlord | Off with his Head! ]
Amazon : B&N : Book Depository : Borders
Dark WarMatt Richter / Nekropolis 3
(Angry Robot Books, June 28, 2011)
From his first arrival in the deathless city of Nekropolis, ex-cop Richter has found himself embroiled in disputes with the city’s vampiric rulers, shapeshifters, golems and other monstrosities. But Nothing has prepared him for the Dark War.
Discover the explosive third book in the Matt Richter series, the stunning follow up to Nekropolis and Dead Streets.
FILE UNDER: Urban Fantasy [ Zombie Detective | Undead City | Dark War | Crime Overlord ]
Amazon : B&N : Book Depository : Borders
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