Today I am interviewing Nate Crowley, author of the new sci-fi horror novel, The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack.
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DJ: Hey Nate! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Nate Crowley: Sure! I used to be a journalist, but a couple of years ago I wrote a massive story about my mate’s birthday on twitter, and that somehow led me into a career as a fiction writer.
DJ: What’s The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack about?
Nate: The book is about political prisoners who get executed, then reanimated to work as slave labour aboard whaling ships on an alien sea. The protagonist, Schneider, can’t remember whether he was a librarian who was framed for sedition, or a dangerous rebel leader. In any case, he’s ended up dead and working in the most nightmarish environment imaginable, so he decides to give himself the benefit of the doubt and start a slave revolt.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack?
Nate: You can’t write a whaling story without a bit of Moby Dick getting in through the cracks, so there’s a little of that general flavour in there. I’m massively into natural history too, so there’s an awful lot of unusual and grotesque wildlife in the story, both in the oceanic setting the book starts in, and in some tropical locations later on. In terms of other influences, I’m very much into China Mieville – I love the way he writes about social structures that are even more monstrous than his actual monsters, and I’d like to think I’ve managed something a little of the same. I’m also a great fan of the late Iain M Banks, particularly in the way he managed to inject humour and humanity into the most horrendous situations.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Nate: I guess what makes Schneider likeable for me is how thoroughly difficult he finds it to handle the situation he’s in, but how he keeps trying anyway. Any heroism he has is in his capacity to deal with the horror of his surroundings by laughing at the absurdity of them, and in trying to cheer up the other dead people stuck in the same (very literal) boat. Later on we meet Mouana (no relation to the Disney hero), who is an executed soldier with a much harder, less whimsical attitude. But despite seeming like much more of a badass than Schneider, she turns out to have her own insecurities, and the end they only manage to keep things together by knowing when to lean on each other for support.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack like?
Nate: The book is set in a very distant future, which is hobbling along several centuries after the collapse of a utopian interstellar culture called the Lemniscatus. This society was spread across thousands of worlds connected by what amount to stargates, but now half of them are broken, and half the rest are either incredibly dangerous to use, or go to the wrong place entirely. There’s no overall government – everything has broken down into a chaotic web of local, warring states, each trying to hold on to whatever functioning technology they can. Schneider’s city, Lipos-Tholos, is situated on the coast of a world like earth. Miles out to sea, there is a lemniscatic gate leading to a world called Ocean, which is a water world teeming with leviathans. As Lipos-Tholos is perpetually under siege, it feeds its population by harvesting Ocean’s abyss with huge whaling vessels… and very unconventional crews.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack
Nate: Because Schneider used to be a librarian (well, probably), a lot of his memories are based around the books he’s read. Presenting short passages from some of these books was a great way to give plenty of flavour to the world I was writing, without making the reader suffer through massive infodumps. I also really enjoyed how much freedom my setting gave me to come up with weird creatures and technologies – in a universe which is so chaotic and sprawling, you find your characters are always coming face to face with inexplicable things with backstories that are only hinted at.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Nate: Well, the book finishes on a savage cliffhanger, which I almost feel I should apologise for. Aside from that, the feedback I’ve had so far suggests a particular supporting character seems to be a bit of a fan favourite. He’s a man who spent most of his life being aggressive in a bad pub, and he doesn’t seem to have changed much since becoming a zombie. He’s pugnacious, nihilistic, and repeatedly barks the same swear word like a sort of unpleasant Hodor – but I suspect he has a tender heart.
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Nate: Yeah, definitely. Although it’s marketed as a horror title, and there’s no shortage of absolutely horrendous stuff going on in it, this was intended as a weirdly gentle book. It’s about dealing with despair and grief, and about how friends can help each other through really terrible times.
DJ: Now that The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack is released, what is next for you?
Nate: I’m currently finishing up a humour book called The 100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed), which is coming out with Solaris in September. It’s a retrospective look at some of the best games that have never been made, lavishly illustrated by a team of genuine games industry artists. That’s been an absolute blast to write. Once that’s done I’m working on a fantasy novel called The Key & The Fish, which I’m hoping to say more about soon, and once that’s done – with a bit of luck – I’ll be working on another Wrack story.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Nate: I would cordially invite readers to get in touch on twitter. I’m very active on there, and always really happy to chat with anyone about my work.
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack that we haven’t talked about yet?
Nate: Giant gorilla cavalry.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack is published by Abaddon and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Kobo
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A hilarious, thrilling, violent and weird ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ for the 21st Century.
SCHNEIDER WRACK WAS DEAD.
Until he wasn’t.
Convicted of a crime he’s almost completely sure he didn’t commit, executed, reanimated, then pressed into service aboard a vast trawler on the terrible world of Ocean, he was set to spend his afterlife working until his mindless corpse fell apart.
But now he’s woken up, trapped in a rotting body, arm-deep in the stinking meat and blubber of a sea monster, and he’s not happy. It’s time for the dead to rise up.
From the stench and brine of Ocean to the fetid jungle of Grand Amazon, Schneider’s career as a revolutionary won’t be easy.
But sometimes a zombie’s gotta do what a zombie’s gotta do.
Nate Crowley lives in Walsall, near the big IKEA. A compulsive world builder, he is the author of The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack as well as the celebrated Daniel Barker’s Birthday. Nate is currently working on a text adventure about a haunted sales training manual called Big Mike Lunchtime’s Business Training ‘95, as well as the animated series Realms of Fightinge, and a new novel. You can find him as @Frogcroakley on twitter, where he is apparently worth a follow if you’re into that sort of thing.