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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Interview with Michael J. Fletcher & Clayton Snyder, the authors of Norylska Groans



AUTHOR INFO

Michael R. Fletcher lives in the endless suburban sprawl north of Toronto. He dreams of trees and seeing the stars at night and being a ninja. He is an unrepentant whiskey-swilling reprobate of the tallest order and thinks grilled cheese sandwiches are a food group.

His novels include BEYOND REDEMPTION (Manifest Delusions #1), THE MIRROR’S TRUTH (Manifest Delusions #2), GHOSTS OF TOMORROW, SWARM AND STEEL, SMOKE AND STONE (City of Sacrifice #1), ASH AND BONES (City of Sacrifice #2), BLACK STONE HEART (The Obsidian Path #1), SHE DREAMS IN BLOOD (The Obsidian Path #2), THE MILLENNIAL MANIFESTO, and A COLLECTION OF OBSESSIONS (a short story collection).

Website: http://michaelrfletcher.com/

Born in Michigan and moved to North Dakota, Clayton W. Snyder is a full-time dabbler and part-time author, pursuing his dream of writing. He’s been published in several small magazines, and maintains a blog, Nod.

In his free time, he yells at clouds and accidentally gets
nominated for awards.


INTERVIEW

Hello guys, thanks so much for joining us! Would you tell us a little about yourselves, and what made you want to start working together?

Mike: There are at least two versions in this story and one of them is true. The other is mine. I had this idea for a magic system and some very basic world-building, but I didn’t want to have to write an entire book by myself. Also, I didn’t really have what you would call an actual plot or characters or a story. I’d just read Clayton’s The Obsidian Psalm and thought, ‘This dude is completely bonkers. I wonder if I can trick him into writing half of this book for me.’ It turned out I could!

CLAYTON: My name’s in caps because I’m very important. Sorry, what was the question? Anyway, Mike came grovelling to me, and I, in my largesse, allowed him to work with me. Every word of this is a lie. Except the caps part.

DAMNIT! I WANT MY NAME TO BE IN CAPS TOO! (AKA MIKE): Grovelling is a strong word. Though I do recall promising to mail him a grilled cheese sandwich.

CLAYTON: I never did get that. How slow is Canada Post, anyway?

Collaborative work is… Well, it’s not for everyone. But you’ve pulled it off. What does it take to successfully co-write a novel? And what was the process for Norylska Groan?

Mike: I think the trick is to take turns being insane and demanding. That, and to go in without ego. Clayton and I have really different styles, and that was a huge part of the appeal. We’d pause every three chapters to take stock, discuss how to move forward with the next three, and to do editing passes on each other’s work. Normally the only person I edit is me, and so I’m always in my head, in my voice. If something isn’t worded the way I want it worded, it’s wrong. Editing someone else is different. You have to set aside your own voice and let them be them.

What amazed me was how tight our first draft was. Bouncing the story back and forth, each of us bringing our own specific brand of batshittery to the project, took this somewhere I never would have gone on my own.

CLAYTON: Yep, still very important. Did we successfully write it? I think we’ll tell you in a year. To answer your other question, whiskey. Truckloads of the stuff. Enough to make Hemingway claw his way from the grave and stand in my living room, bitching about my liver.


Mike: Hey! Where did my fucking all caps go?! Anyway. Yeah. There was a lot of whiskey involved. We also did a skype thing once to discuss some plot-thingy but it got so awkward we just ended it mid-call.

How do you divide the labor? It is by character? If so, would you be willing to discuss who writes which character? 

Mike: After figuring out the basics of the story, we built the two characters we thought we needed to best tell that story. We then duelled with lightsabers to decide who got to write whom. With the battle done and our limbs well on the way to regrowing, we launched into the project, each of us writing out character. As I mentioned above, we stopped every few chapters to read and decide where to go next. This was a crucial part of the process as we were both able to bring new/different ideas and suggestions to each other’s plotlines. It’s frustrating as fuck when some other writer jams their fingers into your work and suggests something awesome that you wish you’d thought of on your own. Fucker.

CLAYTON: I just wanted to write a guy who broke legs.

Did you map out all the plot points beforehand, or did you make it up as you went along? What do you do if you disagree on where to take the story?

Mike: Yes and yes and kinda. We never really butted heads on anything. We’d make suggestions, and if the other dude failed to appreciate your genius and ignored you, you shrugged and got back to writing. I should mention that we went into this with the agreement that it would be a zero-stress project. No deadlines. No expectations. We were free to bail any time we wanted without repercussions. And then we nailed the first draft in three months.

CLAYTON: We plotted fairly heavily—mostly from the three-chapter breaks. Adjust as needed, then plot out the next three. There were also Zoom meetings, 4am screaming sessions, and once, I think he sent me a head stuffed with crumpled Post-Its.

Mike: Based on his story line and how the book ended, I’m 98% sure he didn’t read any of the post-its.

What do you think your fans will enjoy the most about this upcoming book? And how does it differ from books you write solo?

CLAYTON: Wait a fucking second. I have fans?

Mike: Does Dyrk Ashton count as ‘fans’?

CLAYTON: Not after this book.

Mike: This book really has two strengths:

1. The magic system is basically a cyberpunk concept smushed into a fantasy novel.

2. One character who is a horrible person who does terrible things, and another who is really rather nice and does even worse shit.

3. Heaps of character.

4. An inability to count to two.

What can readers expect when they pick up Norylska Groans?

CLAYTON: Blood, torture, murder. But also, a good dose of humanity, struggling in the midst of all that, just trying to right their own lives and get by. Definitely not clowns. Not even a mime. Though I was a pretty staunch advocate for a mime dismemberment scene.

Mike: I think CLAYTON (seriously, he’s still getting all caps?) really nailed it.

What were your inspirations behind the story?

CLAYTON: A lot of my inspiration came from noir. Blackmoore, Chandler, Hammett (Not Metallica’s drummer. I checked.), and Polansky. I’m also quite fond of violence in my media.

Mike: Hey! I don’t even get bold anymore?! Fuck. For my part, I really wanted to play with this cyberpunk idea (stealing/selling/implanting memories and personality traits) in a fantasy setting. The basic idea was lifted from some short stories I wrote (which you can find in A Collection of Obsessions – Ha! How’s that for a subtle plug?). The idea for those short stories was stolen (er...borrowed) from George Alec Effinger’s Marîd Audran series. If you haven’t read them, go read them. We’ll wait here until you’re finished.

Yeah. Take your time.

How would you describe the plot of Norylska Groans if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

CLAYTON: I’d phrase it as a question. “What would you do for family?” Which is admittedly better than my initial response, where I just copy and paste the summary for Driving Miss Daisy in here.

Mike: Each of us is the hero in our story, no matter how shitty our actions.

What subgenre does it fit?

Mike: Cyberlowsteamdeathpunk Fantasy.

CLAYTON: Throw some noir in there, cook at 350 for six hours. When it finishes, baste it with an unfertilized chicken embryo—wait a minute. This is a recipe.

How did you come up with the title Norylska Groans?

Mike: It’s a line in the book. Pretty sure it was written by a genius.

CLAYTON: I’m pushing 50. You get out of bed at 4am at my age and see how it sounds.

How does it tie with the plot of the book?

Mike: What? We were supposed to do that?

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to its protagonists/antagonists?

Mike: I don’t feel like answering this one. Too much effort.

CLAYTON: Sorry, I was making coffee. Did I miss anything? I wouldn’t say there’s any one antagonist. Maybe in a meta sense—the city, crime, crushing debt. Or maybe there is. But you’ll have to read to find out. As far as the protags, we have Kat, newly-minted officer with the militsiya, and Gen, fresh to the Shkut crime Family. How they interact, how their stories converge and diverge is what the book’s really about. How do you survive in a place like Norylska?

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

Mike: Oh fuck yes. And it’s an integral part of the story. But, you know, explaining it all (or at all) would ruin the fun of learning about it as you read. So, I ain’t gonna.

CLAYTON: I’m agreeing with Mike here. I think part of the magic of... uh, magic, is not overexplaining it.

What’s next for the two of you?

Mike: We have a couple of ideas for another novel set in the same world, but we’re both nipples deep in other projects, and honestly, I’m kinda burned out. I’ll be releasing three books (including this one) in 2021 and I need a break. Hold on, checking the calendar. Here’s what’s up: Finish the last City of Sacrifice novel, write the last Obsidian Path novel, write the last Manifest Delusions novel, write a thing for the new Grimdark Magazine anthology, record audiobooks for everything, record Wizards Warriors and Words podcast episodes, work my day job, be a dad and a husband, and sometimes use whiskey to shut my brain off.

CLAYTON: Probably something equally insane. As Mike said, we have future plans, but in the meantime, we’re both kind of at the end of a long rope. I’ll probably tinker with some short stories, hammer out an idea or two, and generally play video games. I do have a book in beta right now—a sort of Southern Gothic Portal Fantasy, but it’s probably still months out from being ready. Barring all that, I’ll rip the floors out of my house and install hardwood laminate.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Mike + Clayton: You know how people say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life? Yeah, well they’re full of shit. Do what you love, and you’ll work your ass off every day because otherwise, you’re going to FAIL at what you love.

Can you imagine anything worse?

Oh. And have fun.

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