UPDATE: Winners announced, check the bottom of the comments. Thanks everyone!
I’ve met some great fellow authors online over the past couple of years, but in this social media day and age, the vast majority of them have been online. Certainly nothing wrong with that, it’s the way of the world, but I consider it a rare privilege to be able to get together in person with some of these fine folks. One fine folk I call a friend is Robert Swartwood, the successful self-published author of several horror and thriller novels, the latest of which is THE INNER CIRCLE, and someone who was a woman the first time I met him.* This is the second in his horror/thriller trilogy, and he was kind enough to put together an interview about this, and the first in the series (MAN OF WAX).
* Okay, I can’t put that statement out there and leave it hanging… One of the first e-books I bought was NO SHELTER by a new female author, Z. Constance Frost, who I “met” in an online writers forum (and you know how those ‘meeting online’ things can be…mysterious). I had numerous conversations with her, noticed she was very good friends with Robert Swartwood (and even did some interviews with him!), promoted each other’s books, and so on. I even encouraged young Z. Constance to join Twitter, where so many other helpful authors reside! So imagine my surprise when Z up and turned into a man. (Robert wrote No Shelter under a pseudonym because it was a different type of novel than he normally wrote.) It took several days before I stopped feeling dirty… (Cut to bathroom scene from The Crying Game.)
Robert and I live less than two hours from each other, so we had a fantastic couple of hours at lunch (in a brewpub…writers don’t mess around) discussing writing, marketing, and other highbrow activities. Looking forward to doing it again. Make sure to visit his site and take a peek at his books, all very highly rated.
Short and Sweet Third-Person Bio
Robert Swartwood was born in 1981. His work has appeared in such venues as The Los Angeles Review, The Daily Beast, Postscripts, ChiZine, Space and Time,Wigleaf, and PANK. He is the editor of Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, which was chosen by The Nervous Breakdown as one of their favorite books of 2010, and was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon.
Oh, and check out these covers…they drip professionalism. Love ’em (click to enlarge):
Now without further ado, my interview with Robert, and a SPECIAL GIVEAWAY at the end (so read all the way through, folks…no cheating):
SU: If someone put a gun to your head and said, “Send a promotional 140 character tweet about The Inner Circle, and make it good”, what would you type?
RS: “The Inner Circle is The Hunger Games meets The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but even better!” … or something like that. I’m not good at promotional tweeting.
So is The Inner Circle (not to mention Man of Wax) horrific? Very much so, yes. In fact, I have received some one-star reviews of Man of Wax where readers make it about 15% into the book and stop because, they claim, it’s so “dark and disturbing” and “disgusting.” Personally, I don’t think it’s THAT dark and disturbing and disgusting, but I can see where some people would think so. Thing is, though, I am not one to show the dark and disturbing and disgusting. I’m not a fan of “torture porn”; in fact, I find myself almost bored by it, because it’s the same thing again and again. Some might argue there are instances where torture porn applies to these two books, but that again comes down to what your definition of torture porn (and horror) is. The books deal with a secret group of people who get off watching other people tortured and put through extreme situations, but the books are much more than that. In many ways they’re about survival, about the dark depths of human nature, while at the same time trying to show there is still hope.
So, to get back to your question, more horror than thriller or more thriller than horror? That, again, would have to depend on each reader’s definition of what horror (not to mention thriller) is. But the books are very fast-paced, so there’s that. I try to keep the action going as much as I can. At the same time … well, as some other readers have noted, they are dark and disturbing.
Now, let me clarify something: I had just graduated college, I was still living at home, my two jobs were substituting for a middle school and high school and working as an assistant manager at a movie theater. So, with all those factors, I had the opportunity to write as much as I could. There were mornings when I would get called to take a subbing job and would turn it down. When I went to work at the theater, I would take my laptop along and work up in the projection booth and write between sets. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) understood how hard I was working on the novel and didn’t press me to spend time with her … well, okay, not that much time.
Anyway, so when I started Man of Wax, I knew a little about Ben Anderson’s character, but none of Carver Ellison until he showed up halfway through the book. And then … everything just happened to fall into place. I didn’t have trouble getting into their heads because they were already there, just waiting to be written.
But in The Inner Circle, two years have passed and Ben has changed drastically. He hasn’t found his family yet, and doesn’t think he ever will, so he doesn’t have much left to live for. Instead he becomes a soldier in Carver’s army against Caesar, and he steps up in a major way — in fact, he almost becomes that Jason Statham character we all like to think we would become in dire situations.
As for Carver, he is still doing whatever he can to get to Caesar and those in the Inner Circle. We do, however, learn more about his back story, and why and how he has become man he is.
Thanks for having me here, Steve!
GIVEAWAY TIME: Easy stuff here. Robert has generously donated a free e-book copy of the first in the series, Man of Wax, to ANYONE who helps spread the word about this interview and comments below. Simply link to this blog page, retweet it, share on Facebook or Google+, even post it on your MySpace wall. Then make a quick comment below saying “I did it!” or something creative along those lines, and you’ll find yourself with a horror/thriller book in your hands (e-reader).
And ONE LUCKY RANDOM winner will receive an AUTOGRAPHED copy of BOTH novels.
Ready? Go share!