Interview With Stephen Blackmoore

Dan and Kate: Your debut novel CITY OF THE LOST introduces us to a Los Angeles filled with zombies, wizards, vampires, and plenty of bad attitudes to spare. With your blend of hardboiled crime and supernatural pulp, this is not your grandpa’s LA. What influences did you draw upon
to create this world?

Stephen Blackmoore: L.A. is a weird place that everyone who doesn’t live here thinks they know because of movies and television. That’s always bugged me, because the interesting places aren’t the ones that people talk about. Hollywood is one of the most boring, self-important places on the planet. Nothing interesting (beyond the occasional car shooting) happens on the freeway. Yet if you say Los Angeles to someone both of those are usually the first things that come to mind.

So one of the things I wanted to do with CITY OF THE LOST was make it more like how I see L.A., not just in terms of setting, but in terms of just how weird and beautiful and terrifying this city actually is. Horrible and wonderful things happen in broad daylight.

And I couldn’t imagine a supernatural setting that didn’t share that
same sense of schizophrenia.

The vampires are emaciated, scab-encrusted addicts, not sexy, super-powered love-machines. Magic isn’t Good or Evil, it just is and it’s the psychopaths using it that are the problem. Joe Sunday, the protagonist, comes back to life as a zombie who looks great for an undead, killing machine. Until he very much doesn’t.

Which I just realized is probably a metaphor for this town.

For me, the most terrifying character in the book is an idealistic USC sociology grad who’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the homeless vampires (and other things) hanging out in Skid Row. She’s short, whip-smart and will skin you alive if you get in her way.

It’s that weird dichotomy of sane and crazy that Los Angeles has in spades that really informed the book more than anything else.

D&K: It may not be your grandpa’s LA, but we want more of it. Tell us about the sequel, DEAD THINGS. Do our readers get a second helping of CITY OF THE LOST’s zombie protagonist Joe Sunday? He’s a fellow with a definite…“appetite”…for adventure.

SB: DEAD THINGS is a follow-up to CITY OF THE LOST, but it’s not a sequel per se. They both occur in the same world and there’s at least one character from CITY OF THE LOST who makes an appearance.

CITY OF THE LOST is, and I hate this term but I can’t think of what else to call it, a fish-out-of-water story. Joe Sunday is a thug who gets murdered and brought back from the dead to discover this whole world that he had no idea existed. Zombies, vampires, wizards, demons. All of that has him spun the whole time.

DEAD THINGS is the flip side of that. DEAD THINGS is from the point of view of Eric Carter, a guy who grew up with magic. For him it’s always been in his life. He’s a necromancer and his particular talents are with the dead. He sees them, talks to them, can control them to some extent, and, unlike Joe, he’s very aware of how his world works. For him the crazy is just another day. He has more problems with Normal than anything else.

He’s kind of like what would happen if the kid from The Sixth Sense grew up to be John Cusack in Grosse Pointe Blank.

The story involves him coming back to Los Angeles after fifteen years when he discovers that his sister has been murdered. He bailed in a hurry because of some things he did and he’s left a lot of loose ends. Now that he’s back he’s got to deal with those just as much as he has to deal with finding his sister’s killer. Things get complicated fast and what he thinks is going on turns out very quickly to not be the case.

So though there’s no zombie Joe Sunday in this one, there is a whole lot of crazy. Ghosts, mages, Voodoo Loa, Santa Muerte, the works.

At the moment it looks like Joe Sunday’s going to be sidelined for a while. I’m not done with him, but I don’t think he’s going to have another book for the foreseeable future.

D&K: Like many of the authors we interview for this column, you are very active on social media. Please tell us more about your involvement on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and your own website StephenBlackmoore.com.

SB: Social media’s kind of an odd thing for me. I know a lot of authors who look at it as just a marketing tool, and I see that and agree with the necessity of using it that way, but I don’t like to treat it like that.

I’ve been blogging for a long time. Hell, at this point who hasn’t? Though I haven’t done much with it lately I have a blog that’s all about Los Angeles crime called L.A. NOIR (http://la-noir.blogspot.com) and I used to write about Los Angeles politics over at a (sadly now defunct) site called L.A. Voice (http://lavoice.org).

Earlier this year I started blogging over at my author site (http://stephenblackmoore.com) to talk about, surprise! writing. Mostly. I’ve done a few rants on other things but not much.

I don’t use Facebook a lot. It feels a lot like posting to a corkboard in the office lunchroom. It’s great for announcements but that’s pretty much it. There’s not a lot of real engagement with people.

Twitter (I’m @sblackmoore, by the way) on the other hand is like hanging out at a very large cocktail party. I’ve met a lot of very cool people through it. And some assholes, but they’re easy to filter out. You get to have conversations with people, not just give static announcements. And it’s wide open. You can talk to anybody. Whether they talk back is a different thing, of course. If somebody’s going to take the time to engage me in a conversation I do try to at least keep up my side of it. Sometimes that doesn’t work.

 

For more of Dan and Kate’s discussion with Stephan, check out the next issue of Crimespree magazine.