As some of you may know and others should know, Jeff Somers is the author of the cyberpunk/Sci-fi/noir/high tech/ low life Avery Cates series. After that series came to its conclusion he set his sites on blood. Or rather the consequences of using blood to fuel magic. In his new book We Are Not Good People (release date: October 7th, 2014) we get to see this interesting dynamic of blood for power play out. Jeff was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to answer some questions on his new book, writing mechanics, and what the future holds.
I give you, 7 Questions with Jeff Somers:
1) How did the blood for power/ use of magic come about?
Jeff Somers: There ought to be a story about me being in some dive bar or in Las Vegas or some Biker hangout and getting really amazingly drunk, and then falling out of or being thrown out of a window and as I’m flying through the air, bleeding profusely, I have this image of blood magic.
There should be a story like that. That would be cool. But there isn’t, because I’m a writer, which means I spend all my time sitting in front of a keyboard, dozing.
The original image came to me decades ago as part of a short story I wrote, where a guy walks out of a bar after closing time and finds an old man, a vagrant, floating a few inches off the ground and telling him he just needs to be willing to bleed for things – typically for me back then, the story wasn’t very good and was filled with baffling things that probably made sense to an extremely drunk 19-year old version of me, otherwise known as The Jackass.
That idea that power should require a cost has always been there for me. I think even in the Cates books, I was playing with the idea that Cates is in a local way very powerful – one on one, he tends to get what he wants because he’s willing to be violent and ruthless. But that power costs him immensely. Too often in fiction power is simply granted and we’re supposed to believe that this guy is The One because he’s pure of heart or simply because of his bloodline. Screw that. You should earn your magic powers.
2) Lem Vonnegan is in some ways like Avery Cates. He’s a down on his luck kind of guy who has been pushed into something that is out of his control. He also has an ethics that he goes by wherein he refuses to use other peoples’ blood to cast his Charms and Cantrips. What draws you to this character archetype?
Jeff Somers: It’s tied to the concept above, that power has costs. In Lem’s world, the powerful have basically pushed the costs of their power on to other people. I think this type of character speaks to me because it’s small scale – in other words, these people are controlling the very small aspects of their lives that they’re capable of controlling. Lem can’t change the world, or control other mages, but he can control how he spends his time here. That matches up with my own view of the world: I’m powerless in the larger scheme of things, but I get to decide whether I eat this donut sitting on this desk right now. And my decision is to eat that donut, dammit. And then I feel momentarily powerful. And then nauseous.
Jeff Somers: Basically, Trickster didn’t do as well as we hoped, for many reasons, none of which, to my surprise, were due to my dangerous binge drinking and general public image as an idiot. My editor at Pocket is awesome, and he realized we’d gotten the book off to a bad start. And my agent is the sort of agent who, if I called her at 4AM from the desert and told her I had some bodies that needed to disappear would show up half an hour later wearing a miner’s helmet and carrying two shovels. So we cooked up the idea of re-launching the book with a different cover and different marketing, and frankly I was very excited about the idea.
4) Fixer is a nice little introduction into the world of the Ustari Cycle and a short story that has been FREE for some time now on Amazon. Is there any chance of that getting put into print or will it remain only in eBook form?
Jeff Somers: At the moment I think it’s going to remain an eBook, because even when it’s not free any more it will remain a low-price introduction to the universe. Plus we can give it away from time to time as the spirit hits us, which will be fun. Of course, you never know – it might show up in print someday.
5) I’m anxiously awaiting We are Not Good People so I can dig back into this world, will more books from this world be coming or what is next up for you?
Jeff Somers: I don’t know! I have plenty of ideas of where Lem and Mags might go, but it remains to be seen if people will want to read more about them. People can be so cruel and uncaring when all you want them to do is buy 10 copies each so you can lie around in a bathtub full of gold ingots. I mean, seriously, I’ve basically put out a personal ad that reads SARCASTIC DRUNKARD SEEKS YOUR MONEY SO HE CAN TELL YOU LIES and yet people are so resistant.
I’m working on several projects right now that may or may not turn into my next published book, two short stories that are destined for anthologies if those anthologies ever actually manifest, and I just started blogging about books over at the Barnes and Noble book blog, which ought to be interesting. Although I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I am not allowed to submit essays about how awesome I am and how people should buy my books all the time, which kind of crimps my creative flow.
6) What goes into your writing process? Is it very organic, where you just write and see where the story takes you, or do you set up a vague or detailed outline of the chapters and course of events?
Jeff Somers: It’s funny, I gave a seminar on plotting novels at the Writers Digest Conference in New York this summer, and I talked about plotting a novel versus pantsing a novel, and ultimately came up with the term “plantsing.” I always start off with an image that’s often the first scene of the story more or less complete. After that it can get tricky: I usually don’t know where I’m going, and just make it up as I go along. That last sentence pretty much describes every aspect of my life, from romance to finance, as well.
Sometimes this works 100%, sometimes I get into the weeds and get lost, and then I have to pause for breath, go back and retro-plot what I’ve done and do a little plotting forward to clarify things. Once I get clarity again, I resume pantsing, because pantsing is fun. Also fun to say. Pantsing!
Of course, then there are weird moments: This year I also revisited two separate novels with similar themes I’d been unable to make work. So, I mashed them together, sewing in two separate narratives to create one – and it totally worked. So that writing process would probably look like some sort of Portrait of the Insane and would get me committed to a mental hospital, where I’d be that guy screaming that I don’t belong here until the orderlies came to beat me up and pump me full of psychotropics.
7) I’ve got to ask this last question. I personally felt that the Avery Cates series ended perfectly but have we seen the end of Avery Cates or is there legs left in his tired and worn out body and soul?
Jeff Somers: Thanks for that – the ending of that series prompted a lot of reaction, and some folks just didn’t like it. They wanted a more heroic, walking-away-from-an-explosion kind of ending. But I knew all along it was going to end that way – the whole story was really about the collapse of a society more than anything else.
Avery’s got legs. I have an idea that I’ve been kicking around, and I wrote a short story that picks up with Avery a little while after The Final Evolution. Plus, someone suggested prequels to me involving Canny Orel, and that could have a lot of possibility. For the moment, though, I’m focused on other things, so if it happens it won’t be for a while yet – though the short story might get out there one of these days. We’ll see.
I’d like to thank Jeff for taking the time out of his busy drinking, er… writing schedule to answer these questions. We Are not Good People comes out on October 7, 2014 and it promises to be another wild ride off the rails. If you would like to keep up to date with what Jeff Somers is doing feel free to visit his website at: Said Cunning Old Fury
Finally, from me to you, stay MOARGeek everyone!!!