Today’s author interview is with Matt Doyle, member of the Indie Eden Book Club and author of Addict. Addict is about a Private Investigator named Cassie Tam, who finds a lot more than she bargained for when she investigates the apparent overdose of her client’s brother. Let’s see what Matt has to say about the book, and about his journey as a writer.
Welcome, Matt! To get us started, can you give us a short description of your book?
Of course. Addict is the first book in a series of near future crime novels about Cassie Tam, a Chinese-Canadian PI working the fictional city of New Hopeland. In this case, she is hired to investigate the death of a local VR junkie. While she initially expects to find that the police were right to call it an accidental overdose on synthetic stimulants – a lot of VR junkies die this way in New Hopeland – she soon starts to find evidence that the case is not what it seems. To complicate matters further, she also starts to find herself falling for her client, the deceased’s sister Lori. So, what we have in essence is a hard-boiled detective tale set in the near future with a F/F romantic subplot, that plays out a little like an Urban Fantasy novel.
That sounds great! Is there any famous author that inspires you, or that you admire?
Oh, plenty. Terry Pratchett has always been one of my favourites. I started reading his Discworld series when I was about nine or ten, and I haven’t looked back since. Neil Gaiman too is an author whose work I’ve followed for a long time. In more recent years, I’ve been reading a lot more Urban Fantasy, and am a big fan of Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series and Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series.
Your own book is in the sci-fi and noir genres. What drew you to these genres? Do you also like to read books in these genres?
Most of my work falls broadly within the sci-fi genre, but I like to throw other things in to add a bit of spice to it. When you look at my first series, The Spark Form Chronicles, for example, the basis of the tale is to question whether an AI can ever actually be considered alive. That is in itself very sci-fi. At the same time though, the way the story is set out draws in a lot of stuff from other places, like collectible card gaming, professional wrestling, anime and so on.
With The Cassie Tam Files, it all kinda came about at random. I was basically playing an online fighting game – BlazBlue Central Fiction on the PS3 if you’re wondering – and the idea to do a mystery novel struck me. When I finally did sit down to start on it, I decided to binge watch a few films that fit with what I wanted to go for in one way or another. So, I watched Blade Runner, The Maltese Falcon and L.A. Confidential. I do read within the genres (I quite enjoyed Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon for example), but focused on the films for this one because I tend to like drawing inspiration from wherever feels right at the time. Moving forward with the series for example, there’s actually going to be a touch of The X-Files and some bits that kinda fit with the anime, Psycho Pass. When it comes to literary influences for the novel, I actually took more from Urban Fantasy, because I tend to junk out on the stuff when I have the time. I like the way stuff like the Mercy Thompson books play out, and I wanted to incorporate that into the story to a degree.
As to what drew me to the genres … with sci-fi it’s just what I’m most familiar with. I grew up reading sci-fi, fantasy and horror, and a lot of my TV habits fit with this: Farscape, Star Trek: TNG, and the Battlestar Galactica Remake all get multiple viewings with me. It’s not even so much the space setting that grabs me with them – though that is cool – it’s the characters. When it came to sci-fi settings, I always kinda enjoyed the more run-down and slightly dystopian outlooks, like RoboCop and Alien. With the noir side of it, I really like certain types of mysteries. L.A. Confidential I chose to watch in the lead-up to writing because I loved the corrupt side of things, with the underlying message that the good guys don’t always win. At the same time, hard-boiled detectives always make me smile. They tend to be quite tough, but incredibly faulted. They have their justice, and they really throw themselves at that concept, but they aren’t above acting like the bad guys too. Mixing those two types of world just felt right in this case.
That’s a really interesting answer! And I can definitely see all of those influences in your book (which I can’t put down, by the way).
Moving on to your readers now, who is your target audience for this book? What do you think will appeal to them about Addict?
It’s odd I think, but I tend not to write with specific target audiences in mind. I just write the stories that I want to, and see where it fits afterwards. Terrible, I know. In the case of Addict, it really comes down to what you want from your sci-fi and crime novels. At 56,000 words, it’s a quick read. What that means in this case is that I don’t go into high detail about how the tech works, and while there are some twists in the mystery, it’s not going to be for people who only like the longer mysteries like Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series.
No, I think that the ideal reader for Addict is someone who likes soft or urban sci-fi, and easy-read pulp crime. The thing with it is that it plays out like a TV show presenting the genres in a monster of the week format. You could view it as a single episode or TV special with a promise of more to come. And there certainly will be that; the second book is signed to the same publishing house, and I’m almost done with the first draft of book three.
I’m the same way! I tend to let the story choose it’s own genre (even if some “experts” would say that that’s not the way to go!). In this same vein, when you write a book, do you plan out everything beforehand, or do you let the story follow its own course?
I’m part way between the two. I tend to make some notes to guide myself through the main points of the story, then just start writing and let it flow. Usually, I hit a point and realise that I should have planned more out, and end up having to scramble stuff together to make sure that everything is going to tie up the way I intended. I never quite learn that lesson.
The Cassie Tam Files is unusual for me as a series in that regard, as I have masses of notes relating to books I haven’t started writing in the series yet. The reason for that is that, while each book is designed to be its own enclosed mystery, there are things going on the background that will be picked up later too. There’s a bigger mystery running behind it all that will pay off later, and it’s important to know where that is heading. I need to know which hints to drop when, and how they’ll all come together in the end, or things will get very disjointed, very quickly.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I have to write with music. I honestly can’t write in silence because I get distracted far too easily. If there’s music on in the background, it’s like there’s a constant distraction there to draw that part of me in, and the rest of me can just get on with it. I find that if I pick the right playlist, it really helps me with the feel of my writing too.
That’s a good idea! Do you have any other writing tips for other authors?
I actually got this advice from someone regarding something other than writing. You see, I spent ten years as a professional wrestler, and I once got some advice from former WWE superstar Rob Van Dam whereby he told me that he always worked to build the matches that he wanted to see. If he put on something that he’d enjoy, then the chances were that others would to. I took that advice to heart in the wrestling, and I apply it to my writing too. So, I say this: write the stories that you would want to read. If you do that, you will be happy with them, and the chances are that someone else is going to want to read them too.
Just remember this though: there is no one right way to do this. It’s a creative art. Take advice from as many people as you can, see what makes sense for you, and don’t be afraid to learn.
I think that is some of my favorite advice. (And I’m a bit starstruck now!)
Thinking about marketing, what would you say is the best way to market your book? With which method have you had the most success so far?
I wish I knew! This varies a lot, I find. Honestly, I think that a lot of it comes down to timing. If your advertising focuses on the right part of your book and it happens to catch a trend, you’re in luck, for example. There are so many success stories that there must be a trick to it, but I’m not certain what it is just yet. For me, Twitter ads seem to have worked most times though. Not every time, but most of the time.
How did your book come to be published? What was your journey to publication like? Did you get a lot of rejection letters before you finally saw your name in print?
This particular book has been a lot of fun for me. You see, when I started writing it, I’d decided that my main aim with it was to get it in the hands of an agent or a publisher. If I failed in that, then I had planned to self-publish it, but with the proviso that I wouldn’t start writing the second book until I knew if it was going to sell or not.
So, once I had the thing ready to go, I started sending e-mails to a few publishing houses and agents that I’d approached before with different projects. Now, I know that a lot of people get quite scared at this stage, especially the first time around. Here’s the thing though: even with a slew of rejections, I’ve tended to find that publishing industry professionals are very approachable, and they’ve always been very pleasant in their dealings with me. Honestly, if you behave professionally, you won’t have any issues other than that you won’t strike gold with every e-mail.
While I was doing this, I started seeing people posting about Twitter Pitch Events. If you don’t know what these are, they’re basically events where you tweet about your manuscript, add in a themed hashtag, and agents and publishing houses start reading the tweets. If they like a tweet, that means they’re interested, and you can send them your work. I hadn’t heard of the events before, but after seeing a few success stories, I figured that I’d give them a crack. So, I sent out some tweets about Addict during, PitDark (for dark literature), DVPit (for diverse books) and PitMad (for all sorts of genres).
The thing to note here is that the hosts of the events can’t control who will take part. As such, it pays to do some research into anyone who likes one of your tweets. From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of people involved are all professional, and absolutely fine, but there are always going to be one or two that come in from the vanity publishing end, and then you’re going to have a decision to make as to whether that’s how you want to get your book out there. It’s also worth noting that, just because someone likes your tweet, doesn’t mean that you have to send them your work. You may look them up and decide that said agent or publishing house just isn’t a good fit for you for whatever reason, and that’s fine too.
In my case, one of the likes that I got during PitMad was from NineStar Press. I wasn’t familiar with the publishing house, so I did a quick check and found that they were relatively new, but that they had a decent reputation. They focused on LGBT books, and most importantly to me given the nature of the book, they published genre fiction alongside the more common romance novels. So, I sent them the manuscript.
Now, I was actually really nervous with this one. NSP seemed like they’d be a good fit for the book, and I really felt like it’d do me some good to work with them. Being used to rejections though, when the e-mail response came back, I started reading and got as far them praising the book, then immediately started expecting a ‘but it isn’t for us’. To my absolute joy though, it didn’t happen. They offered me a publishing contract and, after reading through the terms, I signed. I was absolutely over the moon!
Congratulations! It sounds like you really earned it. :) So is being a published author everything you dreamed it would be? If not, how is it different? Is there anything you would change about it?
Thus far, it’s been wonderful for the most part. When it came to self-publishing The Spark Form Chronicles, that was a real learning experience for me. The books have been, and continue to be, far better received than I expected, and I feel like they really enabled me to get an idea of my bearings in the industry.
Addict though, that’s been a real surprise, and in all the right ways. The thing is, NineStar Press take their output very seriously. At the same time though, they aren’t dragons, and every member of staff that I’ve worked with has been really nice. The process of working with them has been really good from start to finish. For one, they gave me three editors. This really ensured that the work was a lot tighter, and it helped me pick up some errors that I’d missed in my self-editing. That one editor was Canadian helped a lot too, as it meant that I could ensure that Cassie was using Canadian slang correctly. After that, I got to work with the cover artist, Natasha Snow. Honestly, I’m really happy with the work that she did for Addict. It stands out among my other books, and just looks so good!
Moving beyond getting the book together, I was also really impressed with NSP’s marketing work. As well as the expected social media posts, they arranged a full blog tour for me, which was a new experience. As someone with a limited budget, having the publisher take some of the burden away and arrange that for me was a huge help.
Of course, once the book is out there, that’s when you start to hit potential snags. I naturally expect people to dislike my work more than they do. My stories can be a bit weird at times, and I know that they don’t check all the boxes for everyone. As it is though, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Most people seem to find more to enjoy with Addict than they don’t, and that’s been really heartening. I’ve made some good friends through working with other authors too, which has been a real bonus for me!
In all, being a published author has been far better than I expected. Would I change anything though? Well … more sales would be nice 😉
Haha I think that goes for all of us. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Matt!
About the Author:
Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.
About the Book:
New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …
For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.
When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.
Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.