Today I am interviewing Matt Doyle, author of the new urban science-fiction/tech noir novel, Addict, first book in The Cassie Tam Files.
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DJ: Hey Matt! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Matt Doyle: Hey there! So, my name’s Matt, and I’m a UK based author. When it comes to fiction, my work tends to fall loosely into the hybrid genre classification. The reason for that is that while my tales tend to be speculative fiction at their core, I personally enjoy a lot of different types of story (spanning pretty much any type of media you can think of) and I like to mix different elements in as I go. In the case of Addict, it has a near future sci-fi setting, was influenced by urban fantasy, but is written to in part be a homage to crime noir.
When I’m not working on fiction, I also run a pop culture site, Matt Doyle Media Dot Com. If that sounds a little narcissistic as a site title, it’s because it was intended to be a central hub for my various projects. Over time though, it’s grown to not only give me a platform for my own work, but to allow me space to blog about everything from anime and video games to cryptozoology and random nonsense. At time of writing, I’m working on doing at least one post a day Mon-Fri every month, so there’s a lot of material coming out!
I mentioned projects plural there because I like to keep myself pretty busy. I’m an avid cosplayer, with a focus on crossplay, and have at least one new costume to plan and build every year. Thus far, they’ve varied from building a full fursuit of Renamon from Digimon Tamers to modifying a motorcycle helmet to play Celty Sturluson from Durarara!! On top of that, I have been known to occasionally produce physical art. I mostly work digitally, but the odd ink or pencil doodle does appear. I actually have a RedBubble shop with some of my current art plastered over a ton of different stuff.
I also occasionally write a little about past experiences. For example, I spent ten years working in the UK pro wrestling industry, not only as a wrestler but also as a referee, ring announcer, on screen manager, booker, promoter and liaison between workers and management. That comes up once in a while if I have a story to tell. I cover certain events like Bi Visibility Day each year too.
Outside that, I have a ton of social media accounts linked on my site. I’m most active on Twitter at the moment, as well as a few Facebook groups. In a way, it’s good for me, I think. I’m in that unfortunate position where I like the company of others, but I’m not very good at real-life socializing. Connecting with people online is a useful way to get around that.
DJ: What is Addict about?
Matt: OK, so as it says above, Addict is the first book in The Cassie Tam Files. Cassie herself is a PI working in a fictional city called New Hopeland, and the book follows her latest case. In this instance, she’s visited late at night by a lady named Lori Redwood who wants Cassie to look into her brother Eddie’s death. Eddie was a Virtual Reality Junkie, and the police have already declared his death to be an accidental overdose on the synthetic stimulants that most VR Junkies use, but Lori insists that this is impossible as he never used stimulants. Cassie believes that the police were probably correct, and she makes that clear to Lori, but takes the case anyway. The more that Cassie digs though, the more that things don’t seem to add up, and she soon finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. To make matters worse for our intrepid PI, she also has to deal with the fact that Lori is fast becoming the first person that she’s been attracted to since splitting with her ex-girlfriend.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Addict and the series?
Matt: I knew when I started writing Addict that I wanted to do something noir based while keeping with my familiar science fiction bent. To that end, I binge watched Blade Runner, The Maltese Falcon and L.A. Confidential on DVD over a twenty-four hour period, and used that as a starting point for how I wanted the story to feel. To me, The Maltese Falcon is one of the best examples of the old style hard-boiled detective drama, so that was a good one to revisit. The idea that PIs should be set on following their own morals to get results is one that I really took on board with the book, and will continue to use going forward. Blade Runner helped me get a good feel for how to apply the tropes to a futuristic setting and, if I’m being honest, any excuse to re-watch that particular classic is good by me. L.A. Confidential meanwhile was one of my big influences in terms of how I wanted to city of new Hopeland to run. That film is a prime example of corruption running roughshod over society, and trying to take in all the subtle clues and hints at the darker side of the city was a good learning experience for me.
Despite knowing that the book was going to be pretty heavy on future tech, I did know that I didn’t want it to feel like a hard sci-fi novel though. The thing with the old pulp fiction detectives was that, although they were very stylized, they were also very accessible. Hard sci-fi I tend to find is very much a love/hate subgenre for people. As such, I tried to take my cues from Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series in terms of how I wanted to write the book. I love the way that she builds her stories, and bringing that sort of pacing in was one of my goals here.
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? (aka What makes them compelling?)
Matt: I’m going to start with Cassie here as she’s the only POV character in the book. She’s a Chinese-Canadian woman in her late twenties who initially wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and join the police force. She eventually set up shop as a PI, first in her home city of Vancouver, then finally moved to New Hopeland, a tech-focused city built on Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert.
Cassie is definitely the takes no prisoners type. She has a really strong sense of what she views as right, and will stubbornly pursue that result no matter what path it leads her down. As a result, she definitely gives off an air of neither having time for other people’s nonsense, nor having any willingness to engage with it. If that means subtly manipulating a situation verbally, she will. If it means less than subtly punching someone in the face, that’s fine too. Despite this tough streak though, she does have some softer edges. Her self-assuredness with work doesn’t really carry over to her personal life, and the end of her previous relationship left her a little gun-shy in terms of romance. She also has a mixed relationship with horror films insofar as she loves them, but without fail, suffers from horrible nightmares every time that she watches one. Somehow, she just can’t stop watching though! She has a little mechanical gargoyle called Bert too that she really loves. Bert is an AI that acts as both a playful house pet and a pseudo-security system for Cassie’s home-cum-workspace, and her interactions with him not only provide some comic relief, but act as an example of what Cassie can be like when she relaxes.
Moving on to our other leading lady, Lori Redwood is a New Hopeland native in her mid-twenties who is a press photographer by trade. She’s more adept socially than Cassie and, though she suffers dealing with her brother’s death, she is more than capable of being a bit cheeky and using humour as a building block for conversation. What makes her really interesting though is that, both as a client and a love interest, she forces Cassie to take a look at herself in terms of being fairly judgmental.
You see, Lori is a Tech Shifter, which means that she wears a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. In her case, that’s a black panther named Ink. Tech Shift Gear is primarily used by military and law enforcement groups, but is also commercially available to the public if they can afford it. For Lori, being Ink acts as a release, and takes the role of a coping mechanism for her when she’s had to deal with photographing people and situations that have left some negative marks on her. In that respect, it acts as a spin-off from non-sexual puppy play. The reason that it affects Cassie so much is that she was present when the tech first rolled out to the public, and she saw a lot of bad stuff happen as a result when the wrong type of people got ahold of it. That’s left her wary around the Tech Shift community and, as such, Lori entering her life is something that tests her on many levels.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Cassie Tam Files like?
Matt: New Hopeland is like this futuristic cross between the L.A. of L.A. Confidential and Gotham City. It’s corrupt from the ground up, and you can only go so far before you’re likely to encounter issues with getting what most would deem fair treatment. Somehow though, despite this being a long fall from the near utopian vision that the city was supposed to represent when it was built, it’s assimilated this darkness into the way it works. People accept it, and they deal with it as best they can. Many embrace the moral grey area, and as a result, New Hopeland can be a dangerous place if you’re not careful or not in the know about certain people.
Being built to act as a showcase of America’s technological advancements, the city is full of future tech. Being near future, it’s not as far along as something like Star Trek, but the advancements are there. What was important for me here though was to keep the tech realistic. This wasn’t written to show off ideas that we’re only glimpsing in the distance, this was meant to show a potential future. For example, the Tech Shift gear that Lori wears is simply a mechanized advancement of fursuiting, while the VR environment that her brother was addicted to is a high-speed mish-mash of current VR gaming and online business.
The key for me with New Hopeland was to create something that readers could look at and say, ‘this could happen.’
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Addict?
Matt: There are two things. First and foremost, writing Cassie. She sort of wandered into my head fully formed when I started to write, and going on this particular journey with her has been so much fun! I’m really looking forward to seeing where else she takes me with this series.
Outside that though, being able to play with the tech ideas and interweaving them into the story. Giving thought to how things might advance and bringing that to life on the page was just so cool. I love theorizing about stuff like that.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Matt: Thus far, it’s been Bert! People really seem to love the mechanical little menace. He’s equal parts adorable and terrifying, and I tend to describe him as being like a loyal guard dog with the attitude and a very sarcastic cat. I hoped that people would like him, but I never thought for one moment that he’d get such a good reception.
Both Cassie and the world itself seem to have struck a chord with people too. I think that Cassie’s character comes across as being really cool, but at the same time, she’s flawed enough that she interests people. When readers started praising all the technological stuff too, that was really heartening for me.
I think that, to a degree, different readers will take different things from the book though. In truth, I’m just happy that it’s being enjoyed.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing The Cassie Tam Files? Addict is only the first book, but 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?
Matt: Hmm … that’s a tough one. As a first book in a series, Addict is primarily there to lay foundations. It’s an introduction to Cassie and her world, so I’d say that the message in that respect is ‘this world is here, come and enjoy it’. At the same time though, there are some hopeful undercurrents in there too. Cassie’s journey towards coming to accept the Tech Shifting community is one that can apply to a lot of different things, and it’s one that will continue through the books. There’s also the underlying message of it sometimes being necessary to keep fighting and keep pushing forward, no matter how much mud has gathered around you. New Hopeland is a dark place, but hope exists. Moving forward with the series, I want to place some focus on that: sometimes we’re placed in some difficult spots, but we can move forward from there. Even if the darkness remains, there are options.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Addict that you can share with us?
Matt: Oh, there are plenty. I don’t want to get too spoilery though, so … I do tend to like Cassie’s descriptions of people and things. For example, her first view of Lori gives a nice glimpse into her appearance:
‘I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.’
I always loved that last line about punk rock gone cyborg. As another one, her view of the people and tools in the police headquarters:
‘The six-foot slab of moustache and middle-aged spread that is Captain Andrew Hoover cocks his head at me as he walks by, and brings himself to a stop at the desk where I’m scribbling some rough notes on a stupidly cumbersome web-based warrant application form with an oversensitive e-pen.’
And of course, there’s this Bert quote:
That pretty much covers everything for the beaked blighter.
DJ: Now that Addict is released, what is next for you?
Matt: Well, I’m almost done doing my personal edits on the sequel to Addict, and I’ve started planning out the mystery for book three as well! On top of that, I’m working on a short, illustrated guide to how Tech Shifting works.
I’ve just had a short sci-fi story titles Nor’Killik published in ROAR 8, a furry anthology by Bad Dog Books. I also have a story called Torin appearing in Queer Sci-Fi’s upcoming flash fiction anthology, Renewal. I’m always on the look-out for anthology opportunities and have a few stories that I’m waiting for responses on, as well as one or two that I still need to write.
Outside of that, I have a self-published series called The Spark Form Chronicles that is ongoing. It’s kind of a tribute to everything I loved as a kid in the 90’s but set out for adults, so imagine bits of science fiction, anime, card gaming, AI philosophy, and pro wrestling all wrapped up in one. The first two full length novels, WICK and CARNIVAL, were well received, and the follow-up novella GIFTS is out now too. I’m currently doing the edits on FAHRN, another novella that follows two of the characters after the events of the first two books. So there’s that.
Then there’s the website, the cosplay, the art … I guess that I could sum up my answer as: Far too much.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Matt-Doyle/e/B0120Z5RFU
NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/authors/matt-doyle/
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Addict and The Cassie Tam Files that we haven’t talked about yet?
Matt: Addict has been a real journey for me because it’s the first novel that I’ve had published by a professional house, in this case, the awesome NineStar Press. That in particular is important for me as it marks a big step forward professionally. I still see merit in self-publishing, but working with others has been a goal for me from the get-go. I’m proud of that, and I’m really happy that NSP took a chance on me. They’ve been wonderful from day one in my eyes, and I look forward to working with them again.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Matt: I’d say as well that I always try to do two things with fiction. The first is that, as I’ve mentioned, I like to mix genres. I also try to create sprawling worlds with interesting characters that you can really get behind and love or hate. To that end, Addict is an urban sci-fi tale with a tech noir twist that gives you a glimpse into a future that could yet be.
The thing is, different people like different things, and mixing it up like that can be a bit mixed for readers too. I value reviews though, good or bad. I value praise because it tells me what I’m doing well, and I value constructive criticisms because it helps me see what needs changing moving forward. To that end, if you read Addict or any other books of mine, please do give me feedback! If you don’t want to review it directly, please feel free to contact me via my website. I love to talk to readers, and I love to hear what people did and didn’t enjoy. And if that’s not your cup of tea, then by all means drop by my site anyway. We talk about so many different things there, you may yet find something to enjoy.
That all being said, I want to give a big thank you to DJ for having on board for this, and a big thank you to anyone who made it this far into the interview! I do ramble a bit sometimes, so sorry about that. Thanks everyone, and I hope to catch you around somewhere online.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Addict is published by Ninestar Press and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …
For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.
When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.
Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.
Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.