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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Interview with C. T. Phipps (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order Cthulhu Armageddon HERE
Order Straight Outta Fangton HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Chthulhu Armageddon
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Straight Outta Fangton
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Esoterrorism
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with C. T. Phipps
Read "Giving Back Vampires Their Bite" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)
Read "To Mythos Or Not To Mythos" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)

Charles T. Phipps has been leading an interesting career. With every new book release he goes forward in a different genre. Two of his most recent releases were Cthulhu Armageddon & Straight Outta Fangton. I enjoyed reading both of them and wanted to discover his thoughts on their inception, possible sequels and what will be his next release...

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic and thank you for taking the time. How does it feel to have close to six books published since you made your debut in 2015?

CTP: It’s an ecstatic feeling to have so many volumes out. It’ll also be seven before the year is out. The Rules of Supervillainy, The Games of Supervillainy, The Secrets of Supervillainy, Esoterrorism, Straight Outta Fangton, Cthulhu Armageddon, and the upcoming Wraith Knight are everything I’ve written over the past four years. So, to see them all released or read for release is a heady experience. Better still, they’re also all in a wide variety of genres.

Q] You recently had two books release which are distinctly different in terms of genre as well as plot and characters. Can you tell us how the inception for both of them occurred? How long have you been working on them? Has either book evolved from its original idea (if at all)?

CTP: Straight Outta Fangton was inspired by my love of vampire fiction throughout the Eighties and Nineties. I'm a huge fan of the Nosferatu but they haven't been treated all the best recently. I felt they needed to get some of their bite back (so to speak) and wanted to make a book which deconstructed some of my favorite elements of the "curse" and reconstructed others. I also wanted it to be equal parts funny and serious. As one of my fans put it, "Straight Outta Fangton is to urban fantasy what The Rules of Supervillainy is to superheroes."

Cthulhu Armageddon was inspired by my love of two things, H.P. Lovecraft's mythology and post-apocalypse fiction. I like to think of it as what you'd get if you'd combine Mad Max with the Call of Cthulhu. There’s more than a little Fallout influence too. I figured just about everyone in the horror has done a Cthulhu pastiche so I wanted to do something slightly different. I was helped along by the fact I wanted to do something serious as well as epic. For me, that was the idea of a gunslinger wandering the Great Old One-ruled wastelands with an eye toward revenge.

Straight Outta Fangton was a very easy book to write and took only about a month from start to finish. Cthulhu Armageddon has taken several rewrites and a number of years to finish. It’s one of the works dearest to my heart and one of the ones I consider to be my masterworks. Both books have benefited from my increased experience and lessons learned.

Q] Talking about Cthulhu Armageddon, I loved the plot concept of our world that has been rendered alien by the invasion of the Old ones. I thought an excellent pitch for the book would be Mad Max meets Lovecraftian Mythos. What do you think? What was your pitch for it?

CTP: Haha. I find that funny because I not only mentioned it above but it's actually listed in the Foreword as the pitch I made. I've always been a big fan of Mad Max and the idea of people surviving in a world gone mad seems like it would be an excellent model for the people eking out an existence in Cthulhu's shadow. There's plenty of other influences which have gone into my books like Brian Lumley's Titus Crow novels, the Fallout series, The Walking Dead, The Dollars Trilogy, and Red Dead Redemption. There’s a little bit of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower and The Stand as well.

Q] After finishing the book, two thoughts came to my mind. Firstly I hope you write a sequel because this world is too cool not to explore more & secondly I was truly distraught upon reading the demise of a secondary character. Any chance you might pull a Tolkien?

CTP: I do, in fact, have plans for more volumes in the Cthulhu Armageddon series. Crossroad Press has expressed a lot of interest in my post-apocalypse vision of Lovecraft's world and I've already finished the second volume in the story, The Tower of Zhaal. It follows the protagonist and six other characters in a fun little "The Magnificent Seven vs. Cthulhu" plot. I hope fans of the original book will check it out. As for the secondary character, I'm afraid they'll be restricted to flashbacks from now on.

I felt it was important that despite the fact our characters are a good deal more durable than your average Lovecraft protagonist that we show just how dangerous the wasteland is. Still, it was with great reluctance I decided to off them.

Q] Speaking of the CA series, how many volumes do you think will be required for Booth's saga? How far along are you in the next book, and is there anything you can tell us about books two, three and the series beyond?

CTP: I currently have plans for four volumes in the series, depending on what the response is I might do more but they're already prepped for. There's The Tower of Zhaal as mentioned, The Tree of Azathoth, and Cthulhu's Canyon. Each of the volumes will be discussing a different element of the Wasteland and focus on another kind of Lovecraftian monster. No one, not even Booth, is necessarily safe though he's a remarkably good character at surviving. I think only Randolph Carter and Titus Crow have a better record against the hazards of a Cosmic Horror Story.

I don't want to diminish the threat of the universe they live in, for example, or really ruin the feeling of the characters by making them invincible. Instead, I just want to focus on the prospect of showing how people react to living in a world where not only is humanity not on top of the food chain but they may actually be sliding toward extinction.

Q] In your book, you seem to mix horror, SF & Lovecraftian mythos nicely. For those younger readers who aren’t quite acquainted with the Mythos, what would you say to put their minds at ease?

CTP: The Cthulhu Mythos can be summarized as humanity is actually just the latest in a long line of races which have inhabited the Earth. Millions of years ago, it was visited by huge alien gods (called the Great Old Ones) and their servitors who decided to settle down on our planet and take a good long nap. Their immense psychic powers and alien presence has warped the world in subtle and grandiose ways. There are offshoots of humanity which live in the deepest parts of the oceans, in the depths of the Earth, and even in humanity’s dreams.

In the Cthulhu Armageddon-verse, those ancient alien gods have awakened and reclaimed the Earth. They were barely aware of humanity when they killed much of our species in the planet's reshaping. Now it's a hostile alien wasteland where humanity has reverted to a kind of Wild West lawlessness.

My story follows a Recon and Extermination Ranger from New Arkham named John Henry Booth after his exile. He’s a African American descended soldier who is less interested in trying to save the world than surviving and getting revenge on those who wronged him.

Q] Moving onto Straight Outta Fangton (cool title btw), what led you to craft this story about a down on his luck vampire who has to work at a gas station? Also who came up with that title?

CTP: I was struggling for a while about what would be a good idea for a vampire story which hadn't been covered before. Bluntly, everything about vampires being sexy, rich, immortal badasses had been said and I didn't want to just treat them as pure monsters. God knows, I didn't want them to sparkle or be romantic leads either.

In the end, I was inspired by the odd combination of Straight Outta Compton and Clerks. I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to be the vampire who wasn't blessed in every conceivable way by their transformation or cursed with generic angst. What about the vampire who just has to hold down a job? As for the title, that was me after many-many failed attempts.

Q] Will this book herald a series as well? What are you plans for the sequels? Will we see Peter travel to other cities and get to see their quirky facets?

CTP: I'm mostly done with 100 Miles and Vampin' the sequel to the book. It's not exactly a series, per se, though. Basically, much like Gary Karkofsky in The Rules of Supervillainy, I just feel like writing book after book as the jokes come to me. I have charted out a little bit more of the world and what parts of it are controlled by which factions. It's a world where vampires and humans are coexisting in something of an uneasy peace since the former have all manner of impressive powers while the latter have guns.

Lots and lots of guns. Bombs too.

Q] One thing that stood out was that for both these stories, the protagonists are black & I have to laud you for making that choice. Even in 2016 do we rarely get to see protagonists in a different shade than Caucasian. What was the key factor for you to go down this route?

CTP: Straight Outta Fangton's Peter Stone was always black in my mind because he's a character who is fundamentally tied to Detroit and that has a predominately African American population. With the exception of Blade, Blackula, and a handful of others, vampires are also rarely depicted as of African descent. It felt appropriate in my deconstruction of the "traditional" vampire narrative that the undead would be as diverse as the rest of humanity. It also would be a very weird title for the book if our protagonist wasn’t black.


As for John Henry Booth, he's a character I rewrote from my original draft when I realized that his fundamentals had shifted. One of the things I challenge in Cthulhu Armageddon is a lot of the basic assumptions about Lovecraft's world (such as his xenophobia) even as I celebrate others (such as his awesome pantheon of alien gods). In the future, particularly after the apocalypse, people aren't going to care about skin color or ethnicity.

I lucked out that Idris Elba was signed up for Roland Deschain in The Gunslinger while Denzel Washington got the lead in The Magnificent Seven. They both provided me with encouragement that this was a good decision.

Q] The Fangton series has a deep dark comedic streak to it which is very comparable to the movie “What We Do in the Shadows”. It however does slip into grim territory from time to time. How do you balance this fine line between comedy & horror?

CTP: I'm a huge horror aficionado but I grew up in the late Eighties and early Nineties so the mixture isn't nearly as strange to me as it is to others. Army of Darkness, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Lost Boys have always been in the back of my head for favorite horror films even though they're also comedies. Plus, I just watched What We Do in the Shadows before I wrote Straight Outta Fangton.

For me, comedy is fundamentally about the laughing at the world's absurdities which can range from the aggravating to the horrific. I love trying to get a laugh a paragraph but I don't ever want to make my vampires stupid or weak. The humor comes from the fact Peter Stone is a monster capable of tearing people apart with his bare hands but he's not enough of one to exploit that fact. Hence, the only people who really profit from a vampire’s powers are those who are the worst of (in)humanity.

Q] You have also written a comedy supervillain series wherein you provide your own touch to the superhero & villain tropes. Is Fangton an attempt to put your stamp on the vampire story genre? If so what are you trying to accomplish?

CTP: Oh yeah. Straight Outta Fangton is basically the spiritual cousin of The Supervillainy Saga. I wrote the latter as a love song to everything I loved about comic books and superheroes while also a way to criticize the elements which didn't work for me. I feel the same way for my vampire novel. I love vampires but they've suffered a lot of villain decay due to being constantly shown with all of their benefits and few of their weaknesses.

For me, I wanted to show vampires who did have serious drawbacks to their condition (homicidal urges if you're hungry, most of the weaknesses of traditional lore so that every vampire loathed crosses or even people causally calling on God). I also wanted to show them compensating for these weaknesses. Then I enjoyed simply making poor Peter the kind of guy at the bottom of the totem pole. As a vampire who is a few years old, he's aware of his position in society and has a few abilities but has to live in the shadow of the genuinely powerful vampire elite and the humans who envy as well as loathe the undead in equal measure. 

Also, to tell a funny story about a guy who has seen hundreds of vampire movies.

Q] Talking about your Supervilliany saga, you have 3 books out so far. Where is the series headed and how many books do you think you will need to bring it to its conclusion?

CTP: The Supervillainy Saga is meant to imitate the style of an ongoing comic book with all that entails. As such, I consider each chapter of the book to be an "issue" of the Merciless comic. So, really, I'm not ready to cancel or reboot the series just yet. I think The Supervillainy Saga will go on until I get tired of writing the series. As for where the series is headed, I have an endless number of ideas of what sort of scenarios and situations to throw Gary into.

The Science of Supervillainy is the next book. Gary successfully manages to prevent the end of the world and President Omega’s plot to take over but it results in him getting brainwashed into living a normal life in a specially constructed suburban prison for years. Rescued by Nightgirl, Gary and Mandy find themselves in a retro-future Falconcrest City where everything fun is outlawed. Who is the party responsible for this? Gary’s virtuous doppleganger, the superhero Merciful!

Q] You also have a dark fantasy boom coming out from Ragnarok Publications. Can you tell our readers more about Wraith Knight, the world it’s set in & what can readers look forward to from it?

CTP: Wraith Knight is a dark fantasy story following Jacob Riverson, an epic hero about four hundred years ago. Killed during the Fourth Great Shadow War and reanimated as one of the King Below's generals, he spent a century as a monster. With the King Below's death, he has been freed from his slavery and found himself in a strange new world where humans have to deal with living in peace with the monsters once enslaved by their Great Enemy.

It's basically my deconstruction of the usual fantasy tropes of Always Chaotic Evil monsters, high fantasy wars against Dark Lords, and other classics of the genre. What happens after you win the big epic war and it turns out the bad guys are people you have to learn to live with.

Q] Based on all the above answers you seem to be a writer who doesn’t want to be tied to down to a specific genre? In that regards you are in a small club of writers. Is this done intentionally? What are your thoughts about it & why do you choose to publish all your titles under the same name (going against the industry norm of having different pseudonyms for different genres)?

CTP: Being an independent author has offered me a certain level of freedom in terms of picking and choosing my projects. I imagine if I was worried about everyone knowing whether or not I was the author of Cthulhu Armageddon (sci-fi action/post-apocalypse horror), Esoterrorism (urban fantasy), The Supervillainy Saga (superhero comedy), Straight Outta Fangton (urban fantasy comedy), and Wraith Knight (fantasy) then I wouldn’t have done it. I want my readers to be able to appreciate all of my work, though.

Q] Nowadays the internet is a very important tool for authors and publishers in promoting their books and you seem to have embraced that philosophy whole-heartedly. Yet, with technology becoming more advanced every day, is the future of print in jeopardy and what are your thoughts on e-books?

CTP: I don't think the medium of relaying novels matters as much as some authors think it does. As things like Kindles and other ebook readers become more available, print books will become less prevalent just like Ipods have replaced some portion of the CD market. I think we're decades away from them ceasing to exist, though, and even then I think there will always be a market for them in the way vinyl records continues to exist. Ultimately, what matters is the writing itself and it doesn't matter if it's ebook, print, or audiobook format. Indeed, I do my best to make my book available in all three if I can.

Q] Thank you very much for your time and for answering all the questions. What would like to pass on to your fans both old and new?

CTP: Read as much and as widely as you can. There’s so many books out there which need love.


C.T. Phipps said...

Great interview, Mihir! You asked all the right questions!

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