Monday, July 06, 2015

Interview with C.T. Phipps - July 6, 2015

Please welcome C.T. Phipps to The Qwillery. Esoterrorism, the first novel in The Red Room urban fantasy series, is published today by Ragnarok Publications. Please join The Qwillery in wishing C.T. a Happy Publication Day.

Join C.T. and Ragnarok for the July Block Party to celebrate the publication of Esoterrorism on Facebook tonight at 8pm here.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

C.T.:  Oh, I've been writing since I was six or seven years old. I've been writing **well** since about five years ago. I was inspired by Jim Butcher's DRESDEN FILES and Charles Stross' LAUNDRY FILES to create something similar. Truth be told, the Red Room and Derek Hawthorne have been rattling around in my head since the late Nineties. It's only now that I've become proficient enough to actually get their story down.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

C.T.:  I'm going to share one of my secrets: I create a list of about a dozen really-cool things I'd like to see in the novel or adventure and then I introduce the characters to them. I have a general idea of where I want a book to go, for example, but things change as I think my heroes (and anti-heroes) react to events. Many times, I have a plot point planned only for me to think, "You know, Derek/Gary/Jacob wouldn't do that."

For me, the most challenging thing is to avoid overwriting. I love my world and characters so much, I have to be very strict with myself to avoid going on tangents about them. Thankfully, I have very good editors for helping keep the plots moving. Really, I could talk for days about any aspect of them. Did you know Derek's favorite video games were Borderlands 2 and Alpha Protocol? Stunning, I know.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

C.T.:  I mentioned Jim Butcher and Charles Stross for being my chief influence for Esoterrorism. Derek isn't particularly much like either novel's protagonist but he does have their similar sense of sardonicism and disdain for authority (despite being, quote-unquote, "The Man"). I briefly beta-read for Jim Butcher, actually, before my father was hospitalized (he's fine now) and I wasn't able to keep up with the group. I've also been blessed to know several authors who write the kind of fiction I love to read like Tim Marquitz (Demon Squad), Shana Festa (Time of Death: Induction), Rob J. Hayes (Ties that Bind), and Jim Butcher (Confessions of a D-List Supervillain) who have helped inspire me in times of writer's block.

But if I had to name my favorite authors? We could be here all day. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Andrjez Sapkowski, Robert Jordan, Marion G. Harmon, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, David Weber, and a few hundred other ones I could name off the top of my head.

TQDescribe Esoterrorism in 140 characters or less.

C.T.:  Snarky secret agent Derek Hawthorne unravels conspiracy within his ruthless employers. Spies, succubi, zombies, mercs, & magic, oh my.

TQTell us something about Esoterrorism that is not found in the book description.

C.T.:  The books are kind of a deconstruction of the "Hidden World" concept. A lot of urban fantasy has the premise of a conspiracy keeping the supernatural hidden from the rest of us. Esoterrorism and the Red Room Files in general includes a lot about how that kind of coverup would require gross abuses of power, constant lying, and outright brainwashing. It's, at heart, incredibly amoral and weighs on our heroes for their part in it. That's going with the idea our heroes do think that it's better than the alternative (unrestricted magic and weirdness for everyone to access).

TQWhat inspired you to write Esoterrorism? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

C.T.:  I love fantasy of all types: epic, grimdark, dark, sword and sorcery, high, low, and everything in-between. Urban Fantasy appeals to me because I think there's very few stories which aren't improved by the addition of dragons. On a more serious note, Urban Fantasy begins with a world we all know and we get more world-building than we could ever put to paper just by saying, "look out your window. That's where this is set. Now this is where the plot begins."

As for what inspired Esoterrorism, well, I was a big fan of The X-Files in the Nineties along with many tabletop RPGs in the same genre: Delta Green, Mage: The Ascension, Vampire: The Masquerade, and Spycraft. I'm not a believer in real-life conspiracy fiction since, for the most part, reality trumps anything we could dream up but I don't mind drawing from the peculiarly American mythology of secret all-powerful societies controlling everything. I just enjoy portraying them as full of incompetence, nepotism, backstabbing, and people just doing their jobs as any other government branch.

My depiction of spywork is a little more James Bond than George Smiley but if you're going to insert werewolves and demons, your spies might as well kick ass.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Esoterrorism?

C.T.:  I did my best to sort of immerse myself in the kind of world I wanted to create. It's easy enough to envision the House (the conspiracy Derek works for) and the Red Room (its operations branch) but I had to start working out who provided them with their tools, equipment, funding, and so on.

I could have just easily just said, "They're rich and powerful because they are" but that would have been a cheat in my opinion. So, I did a lot of research on agencies both fictional and otherwise to get a sense of how I wanted the organization to feel. If nothing else, when you find out most of the Red Room's spies do more paperwork than shooting, you start think they're a little more believable.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

C.T.:  Derek is a character who is just very easy to right because, at the end of the day, he just doesn't give a damn. Having been an agent dealing with the supernatural for over a decade and having made way too many moral compromises for his own sanity, he's really dropped all pretenses of caring what his superiors or coworkers think. It allows a nice flow from the brain to the mouth which I think makes him terribly amusing.

One of the harder characters was his partner, Shannon O'Reilly, who is a character very much like an opinion. What you see is not necessarily who she is and what she reveals isn't necessarily all there is, even when she trusts and likes you. They're really kind of a Yin and Yang pair in the spy world. I also think it's what attracts them to each other.

TQWhich question about Esoterrorism do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

C.T.:  Who would win in a fight? Derek or Wolverine? To which I'd ask, "Movie Wolverine or comic Wolverine?" Ha-ha, no. If I wanted a fan to ask any sort of question of me, I'd have them ask, "What is Esoterrorism really about?" For me, it's about the ambiguities of the human condition in a very inhuman environment.

Poor Derek was literally born into the House and has been raised to be one of its agents, which means that he's something of an outside to the rest of the world and the honesty about our environment we take for granted. I had a lot of fun creating a morality for people who lie, cheat, and kill for a living--all, ostensibly, for the greater good. How that would affect someone who is, otherwise, a normal person was an interesting writing challenge. Especially, when you also note he lives in a world with quote-unquote real monsters.

Really, the fact Derek is a mountain of snark just covers up what a terrible time he's having. You know, in-between the martinis and beautiful double-agents. I'm not saying the job has no perks.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Esoterrorism.

"Karl, I've had a really bad day, so if we could skip to the part where I kill you I'd appreciate it."
"We are not listening to Magic Carpet Ride on a magic carpet. We're on a serious mission here."
The last one just begs for context, I think.

TQWhat's next?

C.T.:  I have another series published by Amber Cove Publishing called, "The Supervillainy Saga" which is a tongue-and-cheek look at what sort of person would want to become a criminal in a world of superheroes. The first book, The Rules of Supervillainy, came out last month to surprising acclaim and the sequel, The Games of Supervillainy, should be out this Fall.

What I'm really excited about, though, is both the sequel to Esoterrorism, Eldritch Ops, and my epic fantasy novel, Wraith Knight, also being published by Ragnarok Publications, next year. I think fans of my writing in Esoterrorism will like these books every bit as much even if the genres are different.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

C.T.:  I very much appreciate you interviewing me!

The Red Room 1
Ragnarok Publication, July 6, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 420 pages

Derek Hawthorne was born to be an agent of the Red Room.
Literally. Raised in a conspiracy which has protected the world from the supernatural for centuries, he's never been anything other than a servant of their agenda. Times are changing, though, and it may not be long before their existence is exposed.

When a routine mission uncovers the latest plan of the magical terrorist, the Wazir, Derek finds himself saddled with a new partner. Who is the mysterious but deadly Shannon O'Reilly? What is her agenda? Couple this with the discovery the Red Room has a mole seeking to frame Derek for treason and you have a plot which might bring down a millennium-old organization. Can he stop the Wazir's mission to expose the supernatural? And should he?

About C.T. Phipps

C.T. Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger, reviewer for The Bookie Monster, and recently signed a deal with Ragnarok Publications to produce the urban fantasy series, The Red Room.

C.T. Phipps is also the author of The Supervillainy Saga, the first book of which, The Rules of Supervillainy, was released this June.

Website  ~  Twitter @Willowhugger  ~  Google+


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