Please welcome R. S. Belcher to The Qwillery. The Shotgun Arcana, the sequel to the The Six-Gun Tarot, is out on October 7th from Tor Books.
TQ: Welcome back to The Qwillery. How has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote your first published novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, to The Shotgun Arcana?
RSB: Hi! Thank you so much for having me back! Shotgun Arcana is my third published novel, the sequel to my first, The Six-Gun Tarot. I think my process as a writer has increased in speed. I wrote Shotgun in the same year that I wrote my second written (and third published) novel, Nightwise. The demands of deadlines, means you have to buckle down and produce material you are proud of on a much quicker schedule. I wrote Six-Gun on and off over a few years and now I'm trying to average two novels a year. I must say though that the more you write and the more you enjoy that process, the quicker you get by nature. You get excited to tell your stories and you simply write more. I'm happier with my writing process now than I was the last time we chatted.
TQ: In a January 2013 interview you described The Six-Gun Tarot as "...a genre-bending fantasy set in the wild west of 1869. It has horror, steampunk and black humor. It’s been likened to “Buffy meets Deadwood”. How would you describe The Shotgun Arcana?
RSB: The Shotgun Arcana is a sequel to The Six-Gun Tarot and it has all those elements of horror, steampunk (more so than Six-Gun, in my opinion), and gallows humor that readers enjoyed in Six-Gun, with, I think, even more action and character development than its predecessor. It's a story I'm very proud of.
TQ: Please tell us something about The Shotgun Arcana that we won't find in the book description.
RSB: Shotgun Arcana has a a lot more historical characters in it than Six-Gun did. I think history buffs will have fun picking out the little Easter eggs I tried to drop for them in the novel. Also readers get to see an amazing map of the town in this book that I think will blow them away. I was so impressed by the artist's rendering of Golgotha and I think fans of the series will be as well.
TQ: Which character in The Shotgun Arcana surprised you the most?
RSB: This time around, I think it was the character of Auggie Shultz. Auggie's story arc is very surprising and very human. I also like the journey that Malachi Bick makes in this story. This story has a lot to do with Bick and his growth as a character.
TQ: What's the interest in Tarot cards? Do you have a deck or decks?
RSB: I own several and collect decks where I admire the artwork. I think Tarot touches on so many aspects of the human experience—psychology, sociology, Jungian archetypes, mythology and the collective unconsciousness.
TQ: Why do you believe that the Western genre blends so well with other genres / subgenres?
RSB: The western speaks to a part of us that yearns for the frontier, for freedom, and exploration, to make our own way and to command our own destiny. Those ideas are so essential to being human, in my opinion, and they work so well cloaked in so many different forms- be it Star Wars and Firefly, or Star Trek, or Blood Meridian or No Country for Old Men, to name just a few. The western embodies the human desire for boundless exploration and freedom.
TQ: Please give us one or two of your favorite lines from The Shotgun Arcana.
RSB: I'm my own worst critic, so here area few that have popped up while talking to folks and on Goodreads:
“It's a shame really. So many genuine villains out west these days, real hard cases, and a shave-tail like you come along with a fine Idea like robbing trains. Irony.”
“...What things do you think the Almighty was whispering in my ear all those countless eons? Words of endearment? Of joy and peace and love? No. He dipped his tongue in the blackest blood and he whispered to me of slaughter, of death of torture and atrocity. That is your creator, Biqa. He built this entire lovely, lovely playground so that he could tear it apart, abuse and neglect his toys and listen to the terrified screams of the monkeys as they tried to understand...”
“Where did payback end exactly? Charlie Upton had murdered Jim's Pa. Jim killed Charlie. One day Jim might get shot or hanged for what he did to Charlie and someone like Mutt or Jon Highfather might seek revenge in his name. How far back did the blood flow? When was it enough? Could anything ever get square?”
TQ: What's next?
RSB: The Shotgun Arcana releases October 7. Then I have my occult noir novel, Nightwise release in August of 2015. I'm currently working on a novel— first in a series for Tor—called The Brotherhood of the Wheel. It's about truckers, outlaw bikers, the occult mysteries of the U.S. interstate highway system, secret societies, serial killers and urban myths. Brotherhood is supposed to release in 2016.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
RSB: Thank you, Sally! It's always a pleasure to talk with you. I hope we can do it again very soon.
The Shotgun Arcana
Tor Book, October 7, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
R. S. Belcher’s debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was enthusiastically greeted by critics and readers, who praised its wildly inventive mixture of dark fantasy, steampunk, and the Wild West. Now Belcher returns to Golgotha, Nevada, a bustling frontier town that hides more than its fair share of unnatural secrets.
1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party…and the dawn of humanity.
Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness. But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day’s time, the town and its people will be tested as never before—and some of them will never be the same.
The Shotgun Arcana is even more spectacularly ambitious and imaginative than The Six-Gun Tarot, and confirms R. S. Belcher’s status as a rising star.
The Six-Gun Tarot
Tor Fantasy, March 25, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
Published in Hardcover, January 22, 2013
Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.
A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn…and so will all of Creation.
R.S. Belcher’s The Six-Gun Tarot is “an astonishing blend of first-rate steampunk fantasy and Western adventure.” (Library Journal, Starred Review)
R. S. (Rod) Belcher is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor and reporter.
Rod has been a private investigator, a DJ, a comic book store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice and risk administration, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He's done Masters work in Forensic Science at The George Washington University, and worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly.
The Grand Prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Anthology contest, Rod's short story “Orphans” was published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 published by Simon and Schuster in 2006.
Rod’s first novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was published by Tor Books in 2013. The sequel, The Shotgun Arcana, is scheduled for release by Tor on October 7th 2014. His novels, Nightwise, and The Brotherhood of the Wheel are to be released in 2015 and 2016, also by Tor Books.
He lives in Roanoke Virginia with his children, Jonathan and Emily.