Today I am interviewing Paul Tassi, author of the new science-fiction novel, Herokiller.
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DJ: Hi Paul! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Paul Tassi: I’ve been writing about video games, movies, TV and tech for about a decade now. I’ve been writing for Forbes specifically for eight years. Herokiller is my fourth book, where my first three are a different science-fiction series called The Earthborn Trilogy. I work from home so I’m able to find a lot of time to write, which is fantastic, and what helps me finish these books, even if it’s not my full-time job.
DJ: What is Herokiller about?
Paul: It’s the year 2035 and a televised TV deathmatch, the first of its kind between death row inmates, has just been ruled illegal. Its founder, media mogul Cameron Crayton, decides to form a new kind of tournament called The Crucible, one that operates on a volunteer basis with competitors signing up to win a billion dollar first prize if they can survive. They fight with armor and medieval weapons, updated for modern day use in a shining new Colosseum that Crayton builds in the Las Vegas desert.
Mark Wei is a former CIA operative who was instrumental in crippling China during the second Cold War, but lost his family due to Chinese retaliation. His old handler calls him back into the field to sign up for The Crucible, infiltrating the contest to get close to Cameron Crayton, who the US government believes is a puppet for a foreign power. As he trains and fights he befriends some of the other combatants he’s supposed to kill, but runs into others that are among the most dangerous men and women on earth. If he can reach the end, he might learn the truth about Crayton, but the road to get there is a razor’s edge, and his past demons haunt him as he tries not to lose his mind the way America itself has seemed to, reveling in the bloodlust of the tournament.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Herokiller?
Paul: Clearly I am not the first person to think of a televised deathmatch tournament in fiction, but I did seek to make mine unique, despite some obvious influences. I liked the Hunger Games, how it elevated its contestants to almost godlike status as they fought, but I wanted a more structured tournament than what we saw in that series, and in something like in Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale.
Honestly, my two biggest non-literary influences were fighting games and professional wrestling. Both of these do great job building up these larger-than-life characters, and I thought I could do the same with my fighters in Herokiller. But using the format of a novel, I have a chance to hopefully give them more dimension than you’re able to see in video game cutscenes or wrestling promos alone.
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?)
Paul: Mark is lost after his family is ripped away from him. When he was in China trying to start a war on behalf of the CIA, his entire motivation for returning was to see his wife and the daughter he had yet to meet. But once they were killed, he had little to drive him forward. The Crucible gives him a chance to be useful again, and to be a part of yet another important chapter in American history. It also lets him veer dangerously close to having his death wish granted with every fight. We see him heal as he grapples with fame with the help of newfound friends, but the mission is unforgivably brutal, which takes a new kind of toll.
Brooke is his new handler, a young woman who helps bring him out of the darkness and supervises the insanity of his Crucible mission. Mark comes to rely on her entirely, but realizes she’s suffered her own losses.
Carlo is his friend and training partner, a UFC welterweight who enters the Crucible alongside Mark to try and reach new heights of fame and provide for his family.
In the tournament Mark meets Arya, a dancer, Moses, a historian and Ethan, a war hero with a desperately sick wife. While he bonds with them, he also runs into some terrifying enemies including a Russian mob hitman, an erroneously freed serial killer and a beautiful gold medal gymnast with a dangerous dark side.
Cameron Crayton is an enigma. He’s charming, fabulously wealthy, and quite possibly insane. At least that’s what Mark believes. Mark has secrets that are revealed throughout the course of his undercover mission, but they’re nothing compared to Crayton’s.
DJ: What is the world [What is the name of the universe] and setting of Herokiller like? ((the environment, weather, people, religion, technology, architecture, government, etc; is it violent, peaceful, patriarch/matriarch, etc.))
Paul: After China splinters into five warring nation-states thanks to the CIA helping to destabilize the government, the US is the only true superpower in the world. And yet it’s rotting from the inside, its population growing large and lazy, bored by everything on TV except pornography and now Crayton’s blood-soaked circus.
2035 is the future, but not that far away, and I tried to make this idea at least 1% plausible, due to America’s love of both onscreen violence and celebrities. The Crucible has both.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Herokiller?
Paul: I really enjoyed developing the characters, particularly the core fighters that make up the final phase of the tournament. I know I’m using some tropes with them, but I tried to be unexpected where I could, and make real, over-the-top memorable characters you could love or hate. I wanted to write the book like an action movie so you could picture the crowds, the armor, the weapons, the fights, and I hope that comes through.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Paul: I’m hoping that the last few chapters take things to a next level to such a degree that a few heads will be spinning. The finale is a bit open-ended, so I think some readers will be wondering what exactly happened, and what could possibly happen next.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Herokiller? Was 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?
Paul: Despite what it may look like, this isn’t really meant to be a commentary on media violence. Sure, if we ever get to actually putting televised gladiator matches on TV that will be pretty bad, but I’m not trying to be the morality police for our current media climate. One of my primary goals was actually about Mark himself. I feel like we see almost no prominent Asian leads in pop culture unless they fit into certain stereotypes leading kung fu movies or showing up as second-billed sidekicks. I wanted Mark Wei to be a total leading man in every way, an action star but not necessarily a martial arts wizard, a hero that gets the girl, rather than the best friend of the guy that gets the girl. I’m sure I didn’t get everything right, but I hope Mark Wei is a type of hero we don’t see too often, and should see more of.
DJ: Now that Herokiller is released, what is next for you?
Paul: I have been working on Herokiller 2 for a while, which I wasn’t sure I was going to write at one point, but I really like the direction it’s heading. And yeah I want to call it Herokiller 2 like it’s an action move sequel, hah. I have a few other science-fiction and fantasy ideas floating around in my head with some chapters down, but we’ll see. In the meantime, I have to keep my day job which is mainly playing and writing about a lot of video games.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Paul-Tassi/e/B00GF2V55Q/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Paul: Hopefully it hooks you from the start, but if not, give it a little time. I’ve designed it to get crazier and crazier as the story unfolds, and by the end it’s in a wildly different place than it started, and hopefully readers will enjoy it.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Herokiller is published by Talos Press and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Ready Player One meets Gladiator in this high-octane thriller that mixes fight-to-the-death UFC-style cage matches and black-ops espionage.
In the near future, the line between entertainment and brutality has blurred. Mysterious billionaire and entertainment magnate Cameron Crayton is a household name from his questionably legal televised spectacles where death-row inmates fight to the death. But his old shows pale in comparison to the recently announced and eagerly anticipated global event, The Crucible. A gladiatorial tournament open to the general public to enter, the show’s winner is promised unimaginable wealth and fame if they’re able to survive a series of globally-broadcast, fight-to-the-death cage matches.
Former black-ops operative Mark Wei wants nothing more than to be left alone with his drink after sacrificing everything—including his family—in America’s covert war against China, a war won largely because of Mark. But there are rumors that Cameron’s background and business dealings involve shady connections to foreign powers, and soon Mark is reluctantly convinced to dust off his training and enter the tournament as an undercover agent. It’s the most dangerous assignment he’s ever been given—racing to expose The Crucible founder’s secrets while navigating the pitfalls of fame from a viral phenomenon where the stakes are literally life and death.
About the Author:
After years of consuming science fiction through a steady diet of books, movies, TV shows, and video games, Paul Tassi eventually decided to write his own stories in the genre. He didn’t imagine he’d ever actually finish a single book, but now that he’s started writing, he doesn’t want to stop.
So far, Paul has completed The Earthborn Trilogy, a sci-fi series about a ruined Earth, and how humanity survives in the stars thereafter.
Paul lives in Illinois with his beautiful and supportive wife. He writes for Forbes and his work also appears on IGN, The Daily Dot, Unreality Magazine, TVOvermind and more. It’s a slow day if he’s written less than 10,000 words.
Having someone, anyone read his stories has been an incredible experience, and Paul is extremely grateful for all the support he’s received regarding his work so far.