Author Interview: Tommy B. Smith

TbS PhotoToday I am interviewing Tommy B. Smith, author of the new horror novel, New Era, first book in the Black Carmenia series. 

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DJ: Hi Tommy! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Tommy B. Smith: I’m a lot of things. Too many things, some days. I’ll keep it short, though. I’m a writer of horror and dark fiction, author of award-winning novels such as The Mourner’s Cradle, Anybody Want to Play WAR?, and others. I also have a short story collection out, Pieces of Chaos. I’ve done some editing and freelance work on the side, and have taken some involvement in film as well. New Era is my newest book release. 

DJ: What is New Era about?

New Era - Front Cover Art Tommy: The story of New Era revolves around a few different characters, and even different time periods. It opens with the story of Terry and Marjorie Valentine, who have moved into a cabin deep in the countryside of Concordia Parish, Louisiana, near the Black River, seeking refuge from a traumatic occurrence that almost fractured their marriage and lives. This area has a dark past, though, and what proceeds is a dual tale, that of Terry, Marjorie, and others in their circle, and of Raleigh Castel, a boy who disappeared under strange circumstances in 1918. 

DJ: What were some of your influences for New Era and the series? 

Tommy: I spent some time traveling through central and eastern Louisiana a few years back, and there I found inspiration for the story, as well as in history and the concept that each object we perceive has a story which, by proximity, may become linked to our own. 

DJ: There are many different definitions of horror in genre, so I’m curious, when you write “horror”, how is it that you try to scare your readers? Do you go for gore? Shock? Maybe build up tense moments? Or perhaps it is the unknown?

Tommy: I’ve touched on all of the above at various points, though I don’t necessarily consider gore to be scary. Colorful, perhaps. New Era approaches more of the tension angle, since it is more of an atmospheric tale of quiet horror, though the book does have its distinct moments of sheer savagery. 

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? 

Tommy: Terry and Marjorie have a complex relationship. They’ve managed to continue their life together, but not without suffering some damage. The fact that they’ve survived it speaks much of their dedication to each other, even while it’s fraught with insecurities on both sides. Every day is a new challenge for Marjorie, who struggles to overcome her fears and even dares to pursue the strange secrets buried in the adjacent property.

DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why? 

Tommy: I would have to go with Chloe, best friend and roommate to Terry and Marjorie’s daughter Natalie. When such subtle dimension springs from a secondary character, this leaves us, the writer and hopefully the readers, wanting more. 

DJ: What is the world and setting of the Black Carmenia series like?

Concept Art - Black Carmenia

Credit: Sako Tumi

Tommy: Incredibly nuanced. While each book strikes from a different angle, the Black Carmenia books largely fall into the category of Southern horror. I happen to live in the South, so here I’ve taken advantage of the setting and identity of the surrounding regions. You’ll see folklore, mysticism, and even some cosmic horror come out of it. The black carmenia itself, a rare flower with unusual qualities, plays a pivotal role across the entirety.  

DJ: What was your favorite part about writing New Era

Tommy: I enjoyed the research that went into it, exploring the actual region of the book’s setting and its possibilities. So much of it doesn’t even figure into the book, given this is a work of fiction and not an in-depth lesson for academic purposes, but it provided an interesting experience nonetheless. 

DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?

Tommy: After finishing New Era, probably wondering where it could go from there. There is definitely more to come, and it may not be what everyone expects. 

DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Black Carmenia series? New Era 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?

Tommy: When I set out to write New Era, I originally considered it a stand-alone story. I’ve written short stories set in different parts of Louisiana and intended to set my next book there, and also to pen a dual tale spanning two distant eras. By the end, it appeared there was more room to explore. Much more. Themes of betrayal, family, and resilience are definitely a part of New Era. As for what others make of it, I will let the readers make their own interpretations. 

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 New Era that you can share with us?

Tommy: The world never slept, she understood now, even when the channels signed off and the lights went out. Behind the curtain of night, screams pierced the stillness, car horns blasted, glass bottles smashed against streets, strangers banged on doors at two-in-the-morning, drunk drivers careened into telephone poles, and insomniacs fought for their last shreds of sanity.

DJ: Now that New Era is released, what is next for you?

Tommy: The second Black Carmenia book has already landed with the publisher. I’m currently in the midst of writing the third.

DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?  

Amazon Author Page:





DJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Tommy: Thank you for having me, and thanks to all of my readers, friends, and supporters for being so excellent. Until the next.

DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions! 

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***New Era is published by Raven Tale and is available TODAY!!!***

Buy the Book: 

Amazon | Goodreads

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New Era - Front Cover Art

About the Book:

Insomnia. Headaches. Fear.

It drove Marjorie down, cost her a career, and almost destroyed her marriage. When she and her husband Terry escaped to the quiet green countryside west of the Mississippi River, their new home, it seemed too good to last.

The snake-ridden adjoining property, bordered by a row of maple trees, hosts a deadly secret. There the blood of fiends and innocents stain the crumbling ruins of an old farmhouse, a decaying testament to a web of treachery and murder stretching back to distant times.

The horror in the ruins watches in wait. Marjorie fears the end, and the end is coming.

TbS Photo

 About the Author:

Tommy B. Smith is a writer of horror and dark fiction, author of The Mourner’s Cradle, Poisonous, and Anybody Want to Play WAR? as well as the short story collection Pieces of Chaos. His work has been featured in numerous magazines and anthologies to span the years.

He has previously worked with Morpheus Tales as editor of the Dark Sorcery and Urban Horror special issues of the magazine.

Road Between Worlds: A Horror Author’s Chronicle is a documentary of the creative journey, that of the author and others including writers, artists, and filmmakers of varying backgrounds and persuasions. It begins in a cemetery and spans the book tour of 2018 across eleven cities.

In 2019, The Mourner’s Cradle received the Imadjinn Award for best horror novel, and in 2020, Anybody Want to Play WAR? for best literary fiction novel.

He currently resides in Fort Smith, Arkansas with his wife and cats.

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Author Interview: Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas_Headshot_Credit John Geiger
Today I am interviewing Richard Thomas, author of the new science-fiction, fantasy, and horror short-story collection, Spontaneous Human Combustion.

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DJ: Hi Richard! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Richard Thomas: Sure! Thanks for having me. I’ve been writing for about 14 years now, with three novels, three collection, over 170 stories published (including alongside Stephen King four times now). I also have edited four anthologies, and ran Gamut magazine and Dark House Press. So, I’m not just an author, but an editor, teacher, and past publisher. I write dark fiction, but more and more these days, with some hope, not entirely bleak. I write hybrid fiction, often maximalist, with heavy setting, across quite a few genres—fantasy, science fiction, and horror, as you  mentioned— as as well as neo-noir, thrillers, Southern gothic, new-weird, magical realism, transgressive, and literary fiction. 

DJ: What is Spontaneous Human Combustion about?


Richard: Great question. It’s my fourth collection of stories, covering that last five years or so, and I think some of my best work to date. It’s not so much about spontaneous human COMBUSTION (bursting into flames) although there are some of those elements in the collection. It’s about spontaneous HUMAN combustion—the combustion of human elements, exploring the duality in human nature, the secrets and monsters we hold inside ourselves, and the potential to either lean into the darkness (“Yes, I WOULD like to live deliciously!”) or to push back against evil, and do the right thing. The image on the cover of the book shows a woman’s face, a mask really, breaking apart to reveal a ravenous wolf underneath. So, these are dark stories, but not without hope. Most story either has a “hopepunk” vibe or there is justice/vengeance at the end. And sometimes, yeah, the darkness wins. There is that, too. But I’ve been working hard the last few years to put LOVE at the center of my dark stories, and not DEATH. So that had gotten me to some different places, more optimistic.  Continue reading

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Author Interview: Ron Walters

Ron Walters Angry Robot photo
Today I am interviewing Ron Walters, author of the new sci-fi thriller novel, Deep Dive.

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DJ: Hi Ron! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Ron Walters: Thanks for having me! I’m originally from Savannah, GA, but moved around a lot as a kid because my dad was in the Coast Guard. At the moment I live in Germany with my wife, two daughters, and two rescue dogs. When I’m not writing I work as a substitute teacher at the high school where my wife teaches language arts.  

DJ: What is Deep Dive about?


Ron: Deep Dive is a sci-fi thriller about a video game developer named Peter Banuk who’s so obsessed with salvaging his floundering career that he spends more time working than he does with his wife and young daughters. When he tests an experimental VR headset designed by his tech genius business partner and friend, the headset malfunctions and knocks Peter out. After coming to he discovers that his daughters no longer exist, and he’s somehow the hugely successful game developer he’s always dreamed of being.

DJ: What were some of your influences for Deep Dive

Ron: There are so many to choose from. Dark Matter and Recursion by Blake Crouch were definitely more recent influences in terms of the kind of book I wanted Deep Dive to be. Same with Tad Williams’ Otherland series, which I read way, way back when I was in college–nothing I’ve read since has quite surpassed its scope and inventiveness, especially where VR is concerned. I’m also an avid gamer, so when I first started plotting Deep Dive I knew I wanted it to focus on video games in some way. It really wasn’t until I watched a documentary on the development of God of War (the 2018 one) that I finally nailed down the main character and plot. Continue reading

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Author Interview: Jonathan Strecker

Today I am interviewing Jonathan Strecker, author of the new sci-fi horror novel, Shimmers.

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DJ: Hi Jon! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

J.P. Streckers: Thank you, DJ. I am honored to be interviewed. 

I was born in a small town in Ohio – Bellevue. It is a bit south of Cedar Point, which is a well known amusement park in the area. As you will see in the book, the location is centered around Bellevue. 

As a child, my friends and I were fascinated by the supernatural. That fascination persisted into adulthood. As such, when I went to college at The Ohio State University, I majored in Psychology. As time went on, I diversified my educational ambitions, including taking classes for an MBA and completing my doctoral degree in Education. I am currently a Head of School in Western Pennsylvania. 

DJ: What is Shimmers about?


J.P.: While the story Shimmers is purely fiction, the tale embodies theories I have developed over time regarding the supernatural. James and Josh, three-year-old twins see something unusual in the forest while camping. Josh, the braver of the two, steps into a mysterious anomaly and disappears. James continues to see the shimmers, but is too frightened to interact with them until many years later. With the support of his younger brothers and best friend, Bob, the boys begin to test their own theories. As the boys experience ghosts, demons, and mythical creatures, they begin to understand the dynamics of the shimmers and devise a plan to find Josh and bring him home. If you enjoy stories that incorporate time travel, alternate dimensions, quantum theory, and the unexplained, I believe you will enjoy Shimmers.

DJ: What were some of your influences for Shimmers

J.P.: As I mentioned, my educational background is a myriad of experiences ranging from psychology, physics, education, and business. I tend to consider the unexplained through a logical mindset. However, I also have strong beliefs based on my own experiences, including having survived both Stage IV Cancer in my early 20s and a cardiac arrest in my late 40s. Each of those events contributed heavily to my supernatural experiences. Needless to say, I am extremely lucky to be alive and my experiences with the supernatural are quite unusual. Nothing like crossing over to the otherside to help with imagery and imagination.  Continue reading

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Author Interview: Isabel Yap

Today I am interviewing Isabel Yap, author of the new short-fiction collection, Never Have I Ever.

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DJ: Hi Isabel! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Isabel Yap: Hi! Thanks for having me. My name is Isa; I’m a writer from the Philippines. I started going by Isabel when I moved to the US, which is a decade ago now–mostly because when I introduced myself I would sometimes get, “Oh, Lisa?” as a response. I write fiction and poetry, I’m trying to learn how to write novels, and I work in the tech industry as a product manager. I like fanfic, manga, museums, places with lots of trees, and sweets of almost any kind.

DJ: What is Never Have I Ever about?

Isabel: Never Have I Ever is my debut short story collection. It collects stories written between 2011 and 2020, which span the genres of contemporary fantasy, near-future science fiction, horror, epic fantasy, and fabulism. It’s about being Filipino, so faith, food, and family are significant themes. It’s about grief and loss, the awkwardness of your twenties, and several different types of monsters, some who are friendly, some who are girls, some who are both.

DJ: Being an author, what do you believe makes a good short-story? How does it differ from wiring novel-length stories?

Isabel: I still don’t know how to write novel-length stories, though I’ve been trying with varying degrees of seriousness since at least 2005. Writing novels is extremely difficult, and I basically take Kelly Link’s cheeky view that novelists who say short stories are harder to write are lying. I’m really not one to ask for a comparison, having only managed one of those lengths so far. As for what makes a story good, there are specific things I care about: I like some attention to the line, I appreciate resonance, and I love it when I’m either surprised or my expectations are met exactly. I like when stories give me physical sensations. There are certain relationship arcs that are totally my jam, that will be easy for me to fall into; but I can be convinced to like almost anything if the execution delights me in some way.  In the end I think what makes a good story–no matter the length–is that, at its core, it’s about something real. I want to feel that the author crafted it thoughtfully, trying to get that realness across. In its bones it has to have truth, whatever that means for the author and the eventual reader.  Continue reading

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Author Interview: Stephen Deas

Today I am interviewing Stephen Deas, author of the new fantasy novel, The Moonsteel Crown, first book in the Dominion series. 

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DJ: Hi Stephen! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Stephen Deas: Well… male, early fifties but young at heart, good sense of humour… Oh, wait, you probably mean the books? Right. So, I’ve been publishing novels under various names in various different genres for… fifteen years I think. But what got me started writing was fantasy. It was reading fantasy that made me want to write stories of my own, the first stories I tried to write were fantasy and it was as a fantasy novelist that I was first published. I’ve been off doing SF and crime and historical stuff for the last few years… it’s seven years since The SIlver Kings came out. Wow. It doesn’t feel that long. Anyway, I’m really pleased to be writing fantasy again for Angry Robot, and particularly pleased that it’s The Moonsteel Crown.

DJ: What is The Moonsteel Crown about?

Stephen: Essentially, it’s a trio of misfits who hang out as part of a small-time crime gang calling themselves The Unrulys. The boss has ambitions and so he falls in with a shady character who wants to use the Unrulys to steal something special and just happens to know where and when it might be possible. So our heroes are roped into doing the job, which they do, only to discover that what they’ve stolen is far too hot to handle, and that, like or not, they’re now in the middle of something much, much bigger than them. Most of the rest of the story is about them trying to extricate themselves from this mess with their skins intact while everyone is out to get them, occasionally stabbing each other in the back, and also dealing with their own ongoing problems.

DJ: What were some of your influences for The Moonsteel Crown and the series? 

Stephen: That’s hard. The Moonsteel Crown is quite contained in scope but the series is going to broaden out later. So when you look at the setting for the series as a whole, it’s basically the classics of epic fantasy: Tolkein, Moorcock, all those old names. It’s difficult to remember – the bones of this story were laid down twenty years ago. But when you get into the nitty-gritty… I wanted to write something where the characters weren’t particularly special, and were mostly just trying to survive. I hadn’t read any grimdark then (I want to say it didn’t really exist, but someone will immediately prove me wrong, so let’s say I hadn’t discovered it). There are definitely echoes of Scott Lynch, but again, he hadn’t been published either, back then. I guess there’s a streak of Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork in the grubbiness of Varr. I sort of wanted a Fellowship of the Ring who were all ‘No! We don’t want that! Nothing to see here, move along! You take it!’ and tried their absolute damndest to spend the whole story getting drunk in The Prancing Pony while somebody else sorted out the whole saving-the-world business. Continue reading

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Author Interview: Devin Madson

Today I am interviewing Devin Madson, author of the new fantasy novel, We Ride the Storm, first book in The Reborn Empire series. 

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DJ: Hi Devin! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Devin Madson: : I’m an Australian epic fantasy author… as in I’m from Australia not that I write epic fantasy about Australia. Honestly, I don’t think I could out-fantasy the animals we already have here. I self-published my first book in 2013 and was picked up by Orbit in 2019, I work a stupidly obsessive amount, love video games but never have time to play, love plants but never have time to garden, love doing jigsaws but… well, you get the idea.

DJ: What is We Ride the Storm about?

Devin: We Ride the Storm is the story of an empire built by war being brought down by war, crushed beneath its history of division and inherited hurts. We follow three different point-of-view characters, one from each of the three cultures clashing here. A snarky assassin with a voice in her head she can’t escape, an honourable warrior trying to hold on to his tenets while being forced to fight in a foreign war, and an ambitious princess who wants to rule the empire in her own right whatever the cost. There’s a lot of intrigue, tense battles, trippy necromancy, respectful head severing, tea, and my favourite of all – disaster humans.

DJ: What were some of your influences We Ride the Storm and the series? 

Devin: We Ride the Storm is the continuation of a generational story I started in my novella, In Shadows We Fall, and then continued on through The Vengeance Trilogy (also being re-released by Orbit and will be available early August). So while I deliberately wrote them to be read in any order, it means there wasn’t as much unique inspiration for this story. When I first started writing in this world, the story I wanted to tell informed much of the world building, but now the world and its history informs the stories I want to tell.

The world itself has lots of inspirational sources as it’s been growing slowly in my mind and in my books, trunked and finished, for more than ten years. The magic system came from listening to my aunt talk about the past lives she’d been regressed through, a lot of the world history is inspired by little bits of our own history, and the whole Levanti culture was born from the original first line of the book because I’m that much of a pantser. Continue reading

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Author Interview: Timothy Zahn

Today I am interviewing Timothy Zahn, author of the new space opera novel, Queen, final book in The Sibyl’s War trilogy. 

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DJ: Hi Timothy! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Timothy: I’ve been writing full-time for the past forty years, with 58 novels and over a hundred short stories published. I’m best known for my 13 Star Wars books (beginning in 1991 with Heir to the Empire), but have several other series to my name, including the Cobra, Dragonback, and Quadrail series and the Blackcollar and Conquerors trilogies. 

DJ: What is Queen and then The Sibyl’s War trilogy about?

Timothy: A young woman, Nicole Hammond is snatched from the streets of Philadelphia and taken aboard a giant spaceship, the Fyrantha, to help with the (mostly human) crews that are repairing it. Nicole is a “Sibyl,” which means that with the aid of a special inhaler she can telepathically hear the ship tell her crew what needs to be repaired. One day, she happens upon a large terraformed chamber and two groups of different aliens, intent on killing each other. Against her better judgment she begins to investigate the Fyrantha’s secrets.

DJ: What were some of your influences for The Sibyl’s War trilogy

Timothy: Nothing in particular, though I read a lot of SF in my youth and so there are undoubtedly a lot of subconscious influences from those books and authors. Mostly it was to be a combination of puzzle-box, space opera, and redemption arc. Continue reading

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Author Interview: Scott Coon

Today I am interviewing Scott Coon, an accomplished short story writer and author of the new science-fiction novel, Lost Helix. 

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DJ: Hi Scott! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Scott Coon: Hello, DJ. Thank you for having me. Though Lost Helix is my first published novel, I have had several short stories published. Bewildering Stories recently featured “The Loneliest Advertisement Bot” and have published a few other stories over the years. My work is often influenced by my career as a computer programmer and also by my six years as intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army. Both played a role in Lost Helix.

DJ: What is Lost Helix about?

Scott: Growing up in a space station, DJ dreams of writing music but he can’t make a living on it, not in the Stone River Asteroid Belt. Thanks to company’s never-ending contracts and impossible to afford transit, leaving isn’t an option. DJ expects to end up working for Black Mountain, just like his dad and everyone else. When his father goes missing, DJ finds an encrypted file and other evidence that his dad was a hacker in the company’s secret war of industrial sabotage, sometimes claiming lives to knock competitors off the most valuable asteroids. To recover the evidence, the company sends a lifelong family friend, Agent Coreman. DJ is forced to make a run for it, hoping to find justice and maybe his dad.

DJ: What were some of your influences for Lost Helix

Scott: My ideas often come from asking the question, “Yeah, but what next?”  Terraforming is a recurring concept in science fiction, like in James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, but what happens when the planet is done? How does humanity go about populating it? The world of Lost Helix is my answer to that question. Another source of inspiration was the video game Sid Meier’s Civilization. Every time I built the domed spaceship bound for Alpha Centauri, I wondered what would become of it after the colonists stripped it for parts and left its remains in orbit. In Lost Helix, I give my science victory colony ships a second life as a farm, feeding the miners of Stone River. Continue reading

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Author Interview: Ferrett Steinmetz

Today I am interviewing Ferrett Steinmetz, author of the new cyberpunk, romance novel, Automatic Reload.

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DJ: Hi Ferrett!! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Ferrett: The marketing department always refers to me as a “quirky” author, which means “I write books that don’t fit into easy categories.”  My Flex series was about a magic caused by obsessions, where if you were truly devoted to your cats, you would become a magnificent felimancer – master of cat magic!  Except you wouldn’t want to rule the world, you’d just want to take care of your ever-growing hoard of kittens.

Then I wrote The Sol Majestic, which is a space opera about a restaurant – there are no warships battling, just chefs trying to make soup for the most personal of reasons.  

So my books are a little weird.  

DJ: What is Automatic Reload about?

Ferrett: It is a cyberpunk romance.  Think about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, except they’re both faster-than-human killing machines with PTSD and panic disorder, falling in love while they murder people.  

DJ: What were some of your influences for Automatic Reload

Ferrett: They say that all books are a conversation with each other.  In this case, Automatic Reload is very specifically a word I’m having with K. C. Alexander.  

Don’t worry, though.  It’s a good word. 

See, I read K. C. Alexander’s cyberpunk novel Necrotech, and in it they had a marvelously violent female cyborg who exuded a steady stream of don’t-give-a-fucks.  And because K. C.’s prose is so sharp and evocative, I kept watching their heroine Riko and her artificial limb wake up in garbage-smeared alleyways and lice-filled jailbeds and all manner of disgusting places…

And while I loved following Riko around, I kept asking one question:

When does she field-strip and clean that damn thing?

I mean, Riko kept landing in slimy, gunky situations and her artificial limb never seized up.  And while I was waiting for the scene where Riko had to spend the day oiling and tightening her neglected limb, I started imagining my own “maintenancepunk” novel where I had a guy who did some serious tuning.

So not only is Automatic Reload about cybernetic action, it’s about a realistic cybernetic firefight where you have to worry about degrading weapons loadouts and proper configuration files.   Continue reading

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