The following is an interview with author Matt Maxwell on his new novel, Queen of No Tomorrows. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Maxwell about the inspiration behind the book, his creative process, what he hope that readers will take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your book, Queen of No Tomorrows! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the novel’s premise?
Matt Maxwell: Thanks. Queen of No Tomorrows is a cosmic horror/crime novel set in eighties Los Angeles. It tells the story of punk librarian and book forger Cait MacReady. No longer satisfied with copying old texts, she makes up a new one and finds that not only is it more than she thought, but that there are people and things that will stop at nothing to possess it.
BD: Given the combination of the supernatural horror and crime noir genres in this story, how would you describe your approach to melding the two genres, and did you find any specific challenges in doing so?
MM: Mixing/breaking genres is something that I’ve nearly always done in my writing, unconsciously or not. So, it wasn’t a big stretch for me, honestly. I suppose the big challenge in this is getting people to accept the story for what it is and not what they expect it to be. The writing was easy enough, once the homework was out of the way.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working on this book, and what do you hope that readers will take away from the story?
MM: This isn’t a popular opinion, but I’m not trying to get people to take away any particular thing from the story. I hope I’m giving readers a unique experience, something they haven’t read ten or a hundred times before. Sure, there’s ideas I have behind the various characters, but I try not to bludgeon readers with them, so there’s a good chance that folks will read the same scene or line differently. That’s a hard thing to get over as a writer, that you need to trust the reader.
The creative process was a lot easier than I thought, probably because I didn’t wrap myself up in trying to replicate an experience/process. The second book is a little harder, or I’m more reluctant to work on it or something. But more on that later.
As for nuts and bolts process, it was fairly simple. I pitched a few different ideas/settings and the publisher picked one. I had a pretty good idea of what I thought the book would be about (but as I said earlier, am trying to be flexible about different readers coming away with different results) though I did find myself being surprised by a few things. And you have to leave yourself the room to let things occur to you in the actual writing and to be able to run with them.
The outline was pretty loose, just some major points here and there to pick up on. But I couldn’t deviate too much for the simple fact that QONT was always intended to be a shorter work. Not a lot of room to dilly-dally on things. Research was pretty minimal, just needed to get a few facts right so I could salt them in and pretend like I knew what I was talking about. I’m not big on writing as instruction, though I know some writers get very into details and artisanship of the characters on the page. That’s not where my interests lie.
One thing I’d like to add is the editing went pretty smoothly, and I was relieved about that. Scott Gable of Broken Eye found ways to clean up my work that simply didn’t occur to me. But I’ve never been particularly good about editing myself, either.
BD: Were there any previous creators or works that impacted your approach to the story?
MM: Oh sure. It’s hard to write about Los Angeles and not summon up the ghost of Raymond Chandler, though I try not to be as openly cynical as he was when he spoke through Marlowe. Nor am I fool enough to compare my prose to his. He was a master of the metaphor and poetic view. On the horror side, I don’t know. The prose and story and setting are nothing like, say, HPL. But then, he said his piece, right? And sure, there are concepts of his that I’ve picked up on and I like to think that I’ve expanded sufficiently to rise above copycatting. Outside of prose, writing by Tom Waits and Neko Case have both been a big impact on me, though I’m not sure how much of those actually show.
BD: Do you foresee expanding this story into subsequent novels?
MM: Yup. I’ve got a semi-prequel (partially the same setting with some brief character overlap) called Cindy Says Follow planned out pretty thoroughly. It introduces a few things that I want to expand on in the real follow-on (tentatively titled That Black Radiance) which picks up around a year after the events of Queen of No Tomorrows. But they’re just planned out at the moment; no firm commitment to them being written or published. It goes without saying that reading and reviewing Queen of No Tomorrows will be a huge help in seeing either of these books come to pass.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
MM: I’m working on a science fiction/space opera with cosmic horror underpinnings tentatively titled Voidmaw. This is a much larger work than QONT and unfortunately requires a lot more work in planning and world-building. Turns out you have to flesh out a lot more detail for things you haven’t actually directly experienced (as I have with eighties LA). Go figure.
So, making that world, the world of the Solarchy, more fully-realized and at least passingly consistent has been a lot of work.
I’ve also got a couple more stories coming out from Broken Eye, in particular one in the second volume of their Miskatonic University duo anthology. That’s due out early next year, I believe. But nothing else I can really talk about at the moment.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Queen of No Tomorrows?
MM: There’s my Twitter account (@highway_62), where I’m probably spending too much time. Happy to chat with folks there, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever broach “What is the book about?” questions in a meaningful way. Much more likely to talk about my favorite Savage Republic track or which coldwave bands are catching my eye at the moment.
I also post semi-regularly to my blog. Yes, I still have a blog. I try to get something up at least once a week.
I have a tumblr account (several actually). The most active is highway62.tumblr.com, though I also post some stuff to smoketowncomics.tumblr.com. That last one might be of particular interest to readers who loved Queen of No Tomorrows, since there’s a fair amount of overlap between the book and a comic series I tried to get off the ground several years ago.
Other than that, just email. matt (at) highway-62 (dot) com.