Today I am interviewing Nathan Crowder, author of the new novel, Ties that Bind.
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DJ: Hi Nathan! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Nathan Crowder: I started off writing poetry. Just awful poetry. From there, I tried writing horror short fiction. Now, to be fair, I was in junior high/high school, and it was all bad and not remotely scary. I’m thankful my parents gave me encouragement and freedom to suck at something for a while so I could learn how to be GOOD at it. Everything I’ve achieved as a writer has been a result of that, despite the fact I don’t think they ever really got what I was writing about.
DJ: What is Ties that Bind about?
Nathan: Short answer, Ties that Bind is about human trafficking. Fun! Longer answer, it is about three women: one a wealthy dilettante hero, one a compromised, hard-scrabble vigilante trying to make up for her father’s sins, and one is the right hand for Cobalt City’s premier crime family. It’s about them confronting their privilege and complicity in the very real world of human trafficking, and how they can make a stand.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Ties the Bind?
Nathan: A few years ago, there was a flurry of news articles and first-person narratives from people who had escaped human trafficking. I was troubled that the reality of trafficking and human slavery was far more widespread and ignored than I’d ever realized. It’s an institution, a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s right under our noses but we never think to question it. As is often my way, when I find out about this kind of injustice, my brain wishes there were heroes to step up and fight it head-on. It’s kind of a central theme of mine. So I considered which heroes I had kicking around Cobalt City who would make the most compelling lenses to view the situation through.
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?
Nathan: I have three focal characters in Ties that Bind. The first is Julianna “Velvet” Vanderkemp who is an heiress, a former party-girl who almost died from a designer drug cocktail several years ago and instead was gifted with extraordinary strength and sharpened intellect. Velvet is, in some ways sort of like Paris Hilton becomes Wonder Woman with Batman’s fashion sense. By way of contrast, Roberta “Bantam” Pak is a police detective sort of worn down by the system. She took up the mantle of Bantam from her father who died years ago as an enforcer for the Lo Cartel, and is trying to redeem his name but fell victim to the same compromises that he did. Finally, we have Xia “Harlequin” Lo, the adopted “niece” of Donald Lo, the city’s crime kingpin. She’s been his right hand for decades and is starting to question how things are done in the crime family.
DJ: What is the world [What is the name of the universe] and setting of Ties that Bind like?
Nathan: Cobalt City is a lot like our world, except for the superheroes, alien invasions, ancient god, and parallel universes. It’s set on the edge of Cape Cod, just south of Boston. It has a long tradition of heroes dating back to the Revolutionary War. It’s said that if you want to be a movie star, you go to Hollywood, country singer—Nashville, stage actor—New York. And superhero—Cobalt City.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Ties the Bind?
Nathan: I’ve had Harlequin sort of in the background of earlier Cobalt City books. She also plays a big part in the future of the De la Vega Mysteries as an ally of Gato Loco, because I like how they play off each other. But I’ve never really had the opportunity to do something more with her. By contrasting her against both Velvet and Bantam, she opened up a whole other level of Ties that Bind that turned the story in a different direction. Plus, I love Robbie Pak. She’s the kind of street level hero I love, a C-lister who is cautious about swimming with the big fish who quickly finds herself rising to the situation.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Nathan: Hopefully, it will be an increased awareness of human trafficking and asking themselves what they can do to help. I’d also be happy if they were excited to see more of Bantam, because I fell in love with her in this book, and devoted a string of stories to her on my Patreon.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Ties the Bind? 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?
Nathan: Evil thrives in the shadows. It’s not just active. It can be a passive acceptance of the status quo without questioning who benefits and who suffers. My goal was to shine light on the crisis while telling what was ultimately a fun and thrilling crime/superhero story. I also wanted to write a gritty adventure novel focused on women characters and to show a wider variety of heroic women archetypes.
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 Ties the Bind that you can share with us?
Nathan: “There was still plenty of crime in Cobalt City committed by ordinary people making very bad decisions. No, it wasn’t glamorous. But even without costumes or powers, they were real monsters. They didn’t bother to wear masks because their victims were their own family, their neighbors. So I was able to work in the shadows because acknowledging me meant admitting that a person don’t need a death ray and an iron mask to be evil. No one wants to read that over their morning coffee.”
DJ: Now that Ties the Bind is released, what is next for you?
Nathan: I’ve been writing continuing adventures of Bantam on my Patreon as a series of linked short stories, like individual issues of a comic book. At some point, when I finish this arc, I intend to collect them into a single volume.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Ties the Bind that we haven’t talked about yet?
Nathan: Bantam and Velvet are an adorable couple. Getting to sneak in a bit of a cute lesbian romance amid the chaos was a highlight.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Nathan: I encourage readers to check out any of the other Cobalt City fiction by this tight-knit little family of authors we’ve created. I can almost guarantee there is something to scratch any itch.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Ties that Bind is published by DefCon One Publishing and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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It’s a multi-billion dollar industry in a country that would rather look away–an insidious crime so horrible that authorities are powerless, or unwilling, to stop it.
Not even Cobalt City, the bright, cosmopolitan center of the superhero world, is safe from human trafficking and sexual slavery. For heroes used to dealing with madmen and megalomaniacs, the decentralized nature of the blight is difficult to comprehend, much less impact. How do you combat not just criminals but the very nature of a crime itself?
Velvet, society girl turned powerhouse, has slugged it out with gods. But when she crosses paths with a dead young woman, she finds herself dragged into a grim underworld that challenges her understanding of the city. With the mysterious vigilante Bantam as her guide, Velvet goes in search of justice for the victims of sex trafficking—whether the deadly Harlequin and Crime Kings of Cobalt City like it or not.
But how can she hope to stop something as nebulous as an idea?
And who can she really trust?
The eldest child of an existentialist librarian and a teacher/child-care specialist, Nathan had always tended towards the literary. Lurid ghost stories and big books chock full of pictures from classic horror movies captured his imagination early on, and nothing was ever quite the same again. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, he wanted to be a writer from as far back as the age of 10 This career dream was later replaced by chef, paleontologist, teacher, and any number of things, but he would find himself being drawn back to writing again and again.
Due largely to his love of movies, his first serious writing was screenplays, of which he’s written five over the past several years. He has also written over a dozen novels, including the super-hero novels Chanson Noir, Cobalt City Blues, Greetings from Buena Rosa, and Ride Like the Devil. His short fiction has appeared in such places as, Byzarium, Crossed Genres, Absent Willow Review, , and in the anthologies Close Encounters of the Urban Kind by Apex Books, Cthulhurotica, Rigor Amortis, Cobalt City Christmas, Human Tales, Rock ‘N’ Roll is Dead, Space Tramps, and Cobalt City Timeslip. His ghost story “None Left Behind” won the Hauntings competition at the prestigious Hugo House in 2007, and his urban/sci-fi story “Deacon Carter’s Last Dime” has appeared on the long-list for storySouth Notable Stories 2009. And “Frames of Reference” was an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Years Best Horror 2010.
Nathan currently lives in the Bohemian wilds of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood where he blogs about writing, film, fringe candy, and social justice. He is known to haunt the local coffee houses, comic shop, dives, and karaoke stages. Nathan lives alone with his cat, Shiva, who is currently managing his career in exchange for fresh kibble.