Author Interviews: Steve Diamond
We sat down with our very own Steve Diamond (hey boss!) to discuss his upcoming book from Ragnarok Publications, RESIDUE! (Amazon)
From the blurb on Ragnarok’s website:
RESIDUE follows 17-year-old Jack Bishop after his father is abducted and a monster is let loose in his small town. As he looks for his father, he begins to notice that he can see the psychic residue left behind by monsters and murder victims. Along with the mind-reading Alexandra (Alex) Courtney, Jack uses his growing ESP abilities to stop the deaths in the town, and find out why his father was taken.
(In the interest of full disclosure, in our personal lives, Steve and I are very good friends. However, rest assured, that only makes me a harsher critic in the review you’re going to read soon.)
1.) What author do you consider the biggest influence on RESIDUE?
Most directly influential on my novel would be Brian Lumleys’ NECROSCOPE. Lumley is an incredible author, and his novel, NECROSCOPE grabbed me from page one. It was the first time–outside of X-Files–that ESP was really the main thrust of a story, and I’d enjoyed the story. That always stuck with me, and it became one of the main pieces of my story right from the beginning. Plus, Lumley really reinforced to me that monsters aren’t safe. Monsters are monsters. They want to eat you. Or worse. It’s a lesson that has stuck with me and appears in all my writing.
On my writing in general, the most influential author on me is Robert McCammon.
2.) For a horror novel, RESIDUE has a lot of action. Most people consider horror to be a slow burn thriller style book (ish). Why do you feel such an action packed book is horror?
Whew. That’s a heavy question. Horror isn’t just one scene. Or two. Sure, a singular scene in a novel can be Horror, but that doesn’t make the entire novel Horror. Likewise, action scenes in a novel don’t necessarily make it an action novel. It has to do with the overall tone of the book. To me, Horror is primarily about fear and dread. Most thrillers or books dedicated to action don’t have major consequences to the main characters. When I write action, I like to have fun with it. Every author should. But of equal/more importance are the scenes before and after the action sequence. What are the feeling going into that scene? Look at Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan. Those scenes where the soldiers are anticipating the battle to come. The fear on their faces. The knowledge that they may not make it through the coming battle. The dread. To me, that’s one way to establish Horror.
In my novel, and in my writing generally, I try to keep those before/after scenes in mind. The action scenes may be pure adrenaline, but with adrenaline comes a crash. I like to deal with the consequences of the action as much as the action itself. I also feel like action in a Horror novel has stakes that that aren’t present in typical action thrillers. This is something we see in Urban Fantasy a lot. No matter how dire the situation, the characters are going to succeed, and there will be hardly any consequence (or even if they fail, it’s really no big deal). There’s nothing inherently wrong with that type of novel. I love those types of novels (read: Jim Butcher). For my Horror writing, I want the opposite. Even if the character succeeds, it doesn’t mean they are OK. If they fail, the stakes are exceptionally high–so they fight even harder in an effort to succeed, and still might not. It’s all about the consequences.
3.) What is the most influential NON-horror novelist on RESIDUE?
The first name that pops in my head is Steven Erikson. I really like how he does his characters–both male and female. His female characters are tough, awesome, and sympathetic (if he wants them to be). Same with his male characters. But they all have flaws and weaknesses. Reading his series was a joy, because I got to see the growth of so many characters–sometimes over the course a few battles, and sometimes over thousands of years. I also like how many of his characters start out as relative nobodies and come to be exceptionally important.
I’ve talked with a lot of fans of Erikson’s work. Sure, we all love the epic scale of the novels, but we mostly point at characters and say, “Dude, can you believe how incredible that character is?” I try really hard to have characters in my fiction that people love (or hate, if that’s the goal).
4.) If you could say anything to one author in relation to RESIDUE what is it?
I’d thank Robert McCammon for writing such incredible novels. When I finally was able to meet McCammon, I freely admit to geeking out. He was such a gracious, kind, genuine person. With his books, he taught me to love Horror, and to be sure to include hope in my Horror stories–something I hope I’ve incorporated in my first novel. With his personality, he taught me how to comport myself as an author. So yeah. To Robert McCammon: Thank you.
5.) What did you learn while writing RESIDUE?
That writing is hard! That I’ve got a long way to go, and a million ways to improve. I learned how difficult it is to get a coherent, structured story on paper, that has a solid beginning, middle and end. There were hours spent in front of the computer agonizing over every line and every word. But that’s how the business is. And it is a business. If you treat it like a hobby, it will stay that way. If you treat it like your job, you will sit down and get stuff done.
6.) What do you wish you could change? Why?
Besides getting published earlier? That would have been nice. But you know, maybe that’s my fault. I wish i would have taken my writing more seriously earlier on. Had I done so, I wonder if I’d have had a novel purchased years earlier? Or more short stories out there?
7.) What is your favorite horror novel? Why?
This is a tie between McCammon’s THE WOLF’S HOUR and Matheson’s I AM LEGEND. As far as I’m concerned, I AM LEGEND is one of the finest pieces of fiction ever written. The idea of exploring the question, “Who is the real monster?” has had such a profound impact on my writing as a whole. THE WOLF’S HOUR was a different sort of enjoyment. It was a Horror novel that had everything. Horror, adventure, action, romance, history, monsters…I mean, for those that have read it, the freaking murder train! A werewolf spy infiltrating Nazi Germany! I adore that novel. So. Freaking. Much.
8.) What is your favorite Fantasy Novel? Why?
This is a surprisingly easy question for me. MEMORIES OF ICE by Steven Erikson. More happens in that book than in most other epic fantasy SERIES. That book literally made me laugh, gasp and cry (that ending… Erikson you brilliant jerk…). The scale of it is stunning. The way Erikson makes you love the characters. The action–both small scale and large. I have never been so emotionally drained after reading a novel as with MEMORIES OF ICE.
9.) You’re a fan of the practice of redshirting people (having them killed in novels). Why is it fun, and why do you seem to love doing it?
First, I love being redshirted. For whatever reason I find it hilarious to see authors kill me off in the most violent of manners. Maybe this says more about me than I’m intending? Heh. As for doing the redshirting, I love putting friends in my novels. It’s a fun, silly way to reward people I know for the intentional/unintentional help they have given me. I love to hear from people after they read their part in the novel! It’s the enjoyment of it. Man, if you aren’t having fun with this writing stuff, you are losing out. Yeah it’s work, but life is meant to be enjoyed.
10.) How do you plan to top RESIDUE and what do you expect the reader to see as growth for you as an author in the next book?
My next novel is PARASITE, the direct sequel to RESIDUE. Without getting too spoilery, I’m going to do some stuff on a huge scale that I haven’t seen done before. I want my characters to make life-altering choices. I want them to fail miserably before they can succeed… if they succeed.
I’ve written the first half of the novel, and already I’m seeing growth in myself. Going through the whole revision process and through edits (loved my editor) showed me a ton of big and little ways I could improve. Some of that wont be seen by readers, ’cause I’m taking care of it before-hand. I think I’m better at character now. Dialogue. Hopefully that all shows in my next novel, and in any future stories I put out.
11.) What defines GOOD action for you?
Depends on what I’m reading and watching. Anything shaky-cam…I’m just done with it. It’s to the point where I can’t even tell what’s happening anymore. In written-fiction, I equate shaky-cam to a lack of clarity. I need to know what’s going on. If I’m ever confused, the scene is a failure.
Sometimes I like artsy fighting. Sometimes I like brutal, bone-breaking scenes. The Winter Soldier did a really good job with action scenes. Sometimes Cap just punches a dude, and you know that guy is broken. No wasted effort. No feinting. Just a punch or a kick. Yet later when Cap fights Winter Soldier, their is more skill shown.
My favorite action scenes are desperate ones. Ones where everything is as stake and characters have to risk up everything.
But overall, good action feels natural. Take the action scene at the end of Quantum of Solace. Awful. So now the guy is an expert axe-fighter? Really? Compare that with the opening two scenes from Casino Royale. Holy crap awesome.
12.) What is one book you wish you had never read, but you learned a lot from?
THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova. I learned the value of solid villains from this novel. Now, I’ve learned that lesson in various other ways over the years, but in this case the villain, Dracula, was pathetic. A pushover. He’s Vlad the effing Impaler, and he goes out like a boxer paid to take the fall? Geez. Villains are just as important as your heroes. Period. It can’t be easy to overcome them. The result has to be in doubt. I love to admire villains for their ability to be horrible and devious and brilliant.
13.) What is your plans for after the Project Sentinel series? In detail please?
This is where things get exciting, right? I recently edited a Horror Anthology, SHARED NIGHTMARES. The experience was hard, educational, but also awesome. I’m working on pitching around another anthology that has some terrific authors in it. I kinda wanna make that a thing I do. I have a short story due soon for a charity anthology. I recently finished off an anthology story about giant robots! (It may have turned into a Horror story too…I can’t help it.) I have plans to co-author a YA Cyberpunk series. I have some Weird West stories in the planning stages. A dark Urban Fantasy/Horror that is Luther meets THE WOLF’S HOUR. And hey, if someone wants me for an anthology, I’ll prolly say yes.
14.) What 100+ year old literary work was most influential on RESIDUE?
Sherlock Holmes. Love those stories so much. I love Moriarty because he is an equal–if not superior in some cases–to Holmes. This goes back a bit to my answer on villains. I like the way Doyle tells the stories. Some are creepy, some are fun. Some are just plain silly. I love them all, and I tried to take a measure of that investigative intelligence and put it into RESIDUE.
15.) What question do you wish you’d been asked in interviews, and what is the answer to it?
Q: Your novel is YA. What are you doing with your characters to set them apart from all the whiny teens in other YA stories?
A: I try not to make them whiny. Proactive characters are much more interesting than reactive characters. Not all teens are flimsy, tissue paper. Not all teens huddle in the corners of their rooms, whining because people blinked at them wrong. These days, with all the crap going on in the world, I believe teens are stronger than ever before. I want to show this. Girls are tough. So are guys. Just because the character is a teen doesn’t mean they are stupid. Doesn’t mean they won’t give it all. Risk it all.
Thanks Steve! Look for a review of RESIDUE (Amazon) next week!