Hey folks, I have a real treat for you here today with the author of TO BEAT THE DEVIL, first book in the TECHNOMANCER series by M.K. Gibson. Michael is an author I really believe in because he first came to me and I introduced him to Amber Cove Publishing. As I said in my review of his book (available here), I absolutely loved TO BEAT THE DEVIL and am looking forward to the next installment.
What is this book about?
175 years have passed since God quit on mankind. Without his blessing, Hell itself, along with the ancient power of The Deep, were unleashed upon the world. Two world wars and oceans of blood later, a balance was reached. Demonkind took its place as the ruling aristocracy. Mankind, thanks to its ability to create, fell to the position of working proletariat. Alive, but not living.
Welcome to New Golgotha, the East Coast supercity. In it you will find sins and cyborgs, magic and mystery, vices without virtue and hell without the hope of heaven. In the middle of it all is Salem, smuggler extraordinaire and recluse immortal, who has lived and fought through the last two centuries, but his biggest battle is just beginning.
To Beat The Devil: A technomancer Novel is an incredible adventure full of cyborgs and demons, gods, magic, guns, puns and whiskey, humor and heart. Follow Salem as he embarks to discover the meaning of the very nature of what mankind is: our souls. And, who is trying to steal them.
In any case, let's hear from our author!
1. So, could you tell us what TO BEAT THE DEVIL is all about?
Sure! The short answer: Hope for humanity when all hope is gone.
The longer answer: To Beat the Devil is the first of my Technomancer series. Set almost two centuries after the events of G-Day, when God quit, To Beat the Devil follows an immortal smuggler, named Salem as he tries to make it through this horrid world where literal Hell has taken over in God’s absence. Salem meets another immortal, a mage named Father Grimm, and the two of them begin a quest to discover the secrets of mankind’s souls, who’s been stealing them and for what purpose.
2. What inspired you to do a post-apocalypse cyberpunk novel?
I’d love to say the works of William Gibson or some poetically nostalgic thing writers say in interviews. The truth is, back in 2008, a buddy of mine over group chat said: Man, I wish someone would write a book that had heaven and hell, cyberpunk and Lovecraft! Now, my other friends said “No way! Yuck! Too much genre blend”. I said “Challenge accepted.”
After that, I started world building, trying ideas out on paper, drawing pictures etc. But, none of it coalesced into something I was happy with. One night I was reading some book from a big name publishing house and thought...this is really bad. Everything is formulaic, the characters aren’t interesting, the world is boring and this writer got published?! Why can’t I?
So, I made it my mission to finish my story, revision after painful revision.
3. Could you tell us about Salem?
Salem is, as many first time writers do, an initial projection of myself into my story. How can you write 1st person POV and not put some of yourself in there? But, what Salem became was much more. He’s a love letter to the classic mold of rogue-asshole characters of old; a smart-ass with a heart. While the series is set in the future, the roots of inspiration I drew from writing his adventures are deeply entrenched in the buddy-cop movies of the 80s. He smokes too much, drinks too much, and cares to little about people.
But, his outward attitude isn’t from being a douche. He lived through G-Day. He fought in the human-demon wars. And, spoiler, mankind lost. He’s suffered for almost 200 years. So, in this new world order, all his hope and belief in goodness is gone. And, as the book progresses, he is forced to open himself, once more, to hope and faith and all the horrible suffering which comes with it.
4. What separates him from other urban fantasy candidates?
That is a very good and complex question. He is eventually a hero, but so are others. He is reluctant, again, not new ground. He’s an immortal, but so are plenty of urban fantasy protagonists. But Salem is an immortal through technology. A technology he didn’t ask for, but was done to him as a child. We’ve established that on the surface, Salem is yet another smart-mouthed, wise cracking protagonist. But, once you read a little, he has many layers of depth and heart. Based on his experiences and age, he has a very hard time connecting with people.
Due to his imposed immortality, he’s lived, and fought, through literal Hell on Earth. He watched the biblical apocalypse happen around him and suffering on a global scale. He saw humanity beaten, rise up, only to be beat again. Salem has carries the burden of what he’s witnessed, along with his own sins, with him. As such, Salem lives in his own little bubble, keeping “friends” at arms length and enemies at blaster range.
But, what’s the expression, no man is an island? I used that as my driving mantra through the book’s narrative.
5. What's unique about your world?
The world I created is post-apocalyptic urban fantasy. I sat down and tried to imagine if one day, Hell gates opened and every nightmare walked free. What would that be like? Like a zombie story, society would collapse very quickly. Unlike a zombie story, the enemy is faster, stronger, just as smart and has no remorse for the human condition. Then I imagined, what would happen if said demons were now transsubstantiated, made flesh and blood. They would bleed and they would die. They need food, clothing and toilets. Since mankind’s one gift is the soul, the divine inspiration to create, they would be forced to bend to demonic law.
So, after multiple wars and countless suffering, I created a world that’s been ripped up and rebuilt over and over. Because of this, the technology isn’t as advanced as it should be considering where we’d be if nature ran its course without demons. The end result is demons rule as the nobility while mankind continues existing as the working class.
The setting of To Beat the Devil is inside New Golgotha, one of the walled mega-cities. New Golgotha ranges along the US’s east coast from Boston MA to Richmond VA. Each supercity has walls, because in the open ranges of the world, the Abominations walk the land. The dinosaur sized demons who helped Hell defeat man, but who are not physically built for civilized life.
6. Who is your favorite character (after the lead) in your story?
Oh bloody hell, just ask me who my favorite child is. Well, each secondary, and several tertiary, characters are so much fun to write. The Spinnoli Sisters are my cybernetic enhanced battling bartenders. Maz’ael is a Gluttony Demon and the district’s local Bishop. Jensen the doorman and bouncer is a great one to write. Ricky, or Mr. Rictus, is the owner of Dante’s, Salem’s favorite bar and brother. He is a very key figure.
But, I would say my favorite character after Salem, is the mage, Father Grimm. He is what Salem could be. He is another immortal and the oldest person walking the planet. His history is rife with being chin deep in the worse moments of human history. There is so much mystery and hidden actions by Father Grimm that I constantly have to recheck my work to make sure I don’t expose too much. But with him and Salem, together on their adventure, I get to once again channel classic, buddy-cop, antagonistic bonding.
7. Who are the antagonists in TO BEAT THE DEVIL?
Heh...me? I created a hellish world where you can murder whoever you want as long as you get a permit, pay your credits and cover a portion of your target’s annual worth. This is Hell’s rules. They need mankind placid enough to work, but they don’t care for our ever thinning morality.
But for the sake of the question, there is someone out there stealing souls. You see, with God gone, there are no new souls coming in. And any piece of the divine is a hot commodity. And, as the mystery unfolds, we learn more about heaven, hell and what our souls mean to the infernal and the divine.
Along with Hell and its denizens on Earth, there are also The Deep Ones. The ancient primordial forces which influence mankind way past what demons can do. They are my injection of the Lovecraftian mythos. A seemingly third party nuisance at first, which begin to take more center stage as the series progresses. The Deep Ones hate all of existence, human and demon alike. But, wouldn’t you if God said “Let there be Light” only to drive you away?
8. How would you describe the mythology of your world?
I would describe it as the Grand Unified Theory of Mythology (not to pat myself on the back or anything). What I did was look at other books and look at what they weren’t doing: explaining it. This is where my left and right brain get into a battle. I need to understand the mechanics of something.
I love mythology. And in nearly all of them, there were progenitor beings (titans, giants, cthonic deities) to the classics. Chronos was a titan and father to Zeus while Uranus was Chronos’s father. Odin was the son of Bor. Before Bor was Burri. My point is, each mythology has a lineage of older entities. Primordial power which spawned all the classics. And, I wanted to use them in my books as well. What urban fantasy story hasn’t borrowed some gods?
The question was, how do I make them all work? So, I decided that to use the Judaeo-Christian structure. The main power, call it God, came into this realm of existence. And in the bible, God created the primordial concepts of Light, time, etc, his fingers if you will, to make Creation. These fingers were the first primordial
Powers, extensions of his own being. God allowed these Powers to created the various mythologies around the world as long as they followed his Eden template for humanity. Each of them, the Norse, Irish, African, Asian, Native American, Greek and such were all trickle down descendants from the original angelic power of God. This way, each creation myth and mythology, were true, geographically localized and unified.
From there it was game on. I scoured various myths to see which gods and power survived their respective end of days. In the Norse Ragnarok for example, two lesser known (and lesser used) gods Vali and Vidar survived. So, they are in the book as powerful entities Salem encounters. But, that’s my crazy brain. I can’t write it if I don’t know how it works.
9. How would you do as a citizen in New Golgotha? Would you want to live there?
Me? Oh shit. Hell no. Did I not mention demon’s walking around, people stealing souls and murder permits? I wrote that place, I know what’s really going on. No thank you! I need a tetanus and penicillin shots just thinking about it.
10. How did you get involved with Amber Cove?
Heh, gonna get your plug huh? Well, after I wrote To Beat the Devil I shopped it around. I have a ton of rejections framed on my wall from all that. Then, I got picked up by a press, strung along for about a year and was released. But, by meeting some writers in that time, I managed to pitch to two other presses and got picked up again.
But, as a first time writer, my work was getting pushed back further and further. So, after talking CT Phipps, he encouraged me to speak to Jim Bernheimer, owner of Amber Cove and author of the D-List Supervillain series. CT had published his Rules of Supervillainy and Games of Supervillainy with Jim/Amber Cove and spoke highly of me. CT set up the meeting, Jim liked my book and here we are. All hail Charles! :)
11. What other books would you recommend for fans of your work?
Well, of course the big names like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid series. I also drew inspiration from Richard Kaedry’s Sandman Slim books. But mostly the great Simon R. Greene’s Nightside series.
Without that beautiful mess of genre blend, there would be no Technomancer series. Lastly the works of Robin Hobb, with emphasis on her Farseer and Tawny Man series. While those series are more traditional fantasy, her crafting of human emotion is a benchmark I reach for. I learned from her works, your protagonist is bland if you are not striving for an emotional resonance with your reader.
12. What can we expect from you in the future?
Poverty probably, heh heh.
But seriously, I’ve already written books 2 and 3 for Technomancer, Flotsam Prison Blues and Once Piece at a Time respectively. For this series, I’ve decided to use the songs of the immortal Man in Black, Johnny Cash, as my divine-inspired titles.
I’ve also finished finished my fantasy action-comedy Villain’s Rule where I explore the idea of a villain adviser from our world who helps classic fantasy style villains in different realms by exploiting fantasy media tropes and loopholes.
Thank you so much for letting me do this interview! I hope your fans enjoy my book(s) as I enjoy your works!
TO BEAT THE DEVIL is available at Amazon.com.