Carpathia obviously links into the centenary of the Titanic disaster this year, but was that the starting point for the story?
Not as such. It starts with the recognition that the Carpathia, which was the ship that rescued the Titanic‘s survivors, is named after the Transylvanian mountain range in which sits Count Dracula. Once you make tht connection, the premise of the story — that the Carpathia is full of vampires — falls into place.
However, the centenary was the reason I wrote the book now. With Titanic remembrances sure to hit a fever pitch this April, it seemed like the perfect time to get the book onto shelves.
Everyone has their own take on vampires: which ones particularly influenced you, both in terms of ones you wanted to emulate, and ones you wanted to avoid?
I’m a huge fan of Dracula, and I’ve read and studied vampires for years. I appreciate the vampires in Anne Rice’s work and in Stephenie Meyers’, but I wanted to go for more of an old-school vampire: vicious bloodsuckers that have their own agendas. I suspect the fact that I wrote a few stories for the Vampire: The Masquerade roleplaying game many years back probably played into that.
There’s a cameo by a “Mr Shubert” on the bridge talking about time travellers: was that a nod to classic genre series The Man From Atlantis or The Time Tunnel ?
Neither, actually, and I hadn’t made either connection before. He’s named after Chooch Shubert, one of the DJs who took part in a song-remixing contest to get his name used in the book.
Along with John Anealio — who’s a fantastic musician — I wrote the lyrics for a theme song for my publisher, Angry Robot. (You can still download the song for free.) I ran this contest with Angry Robot for fun, and we had some great entries. You can listen to those for free too.
The winner was a man named Dale Chase, who gets a prominent ending in the book.
You deviate from “real” history quite considerably (!), but how much of the real Carpathia‘s voyage and crew did you incorporate?
As much as I could while being respectful. Most of the details about the Titanic and the Carpathia are as accurate as I could make them. I worked from deck plans for both ships to situate the action and move people around the ship. I used prominent historical figures when they fit, and I manufactured others when I needed them — especially when I wanted a character to do something terrible. I didn’t want to defame any real-life people no matter how long they might have been gone.
This is your third book for Angry Robot, and again it’s dealing with immortality, as Amortals and Vegas Knights both do in their way. Is this something that particularly resonates for you, or is this more by way of coincidence, bearing in mind how many other books you’ve written?
No, I’ve noticed this in my work too. It’s clearly something I enjoy exploring. As a recovering Catholic, I was brought up to think about the afterlife a lot, and I suspect that I’m busy poking around various forms of that in my work now because of that.
Not everything I write has to to with immortality, of course, although the three books you mention are my first original work (i.e. not tie-ins for games or films). Heroism is another common theme I see crop up in my writing all the time. When I can mix the two, it’s even better.
You’re working on the “12 for 12” project – can you tell us something about that?
Yes! It’s this insane idea I had to challenge myself to write a novel a month in 2012. I ran a Kickstarter drive for the first trilogy back in November, and it was a huge success. I’ve finished the first two books already, right on schedule, and I’m in the middle of a second Kickstarter drive for the next trilogy right now.
The first trilogy was based on a dystopian superhero roleplaying game I wrote back in 1999, called Brave New World. This next one is called Shotguns & Sorcery, and it’s based in a fantasy noir setting that’s like what you’d get if Raymond Chandler tackled The Lord of the Rings.
And what else do you have underway at the moment ?
I’m also writing Magic: The Gathering comics for IDW. Issue 2 of the first four-issue miniseries just came out, and we recently announced a second miniseries for later in the year. I also helped out with the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game that hits stores this week.
I have a number of other projects in the works that I’m not at liberty to talk about yet. Besides comics and fiction, I also write nonfiction, design tabletop games, and write for computer games and toys. Stop by Forbeck.com, and you’ll see all the details as I’m able to share.