I got to interview R.S. Belcher, author of the Golgotha (starting with The Six-Gun Tarot), Nightwise (I posted an excerpt of the second book The Night Dahlia recently), and Brotherhood of the Wheel series. I haven’t read all of his work yet, but I love what I’ve read so far and it was great to have the opportunity to ask him some questions.
I hope you enjoy the interview!
Hi Rod! Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.
Thank you so much for inviting me.
You’re writing three different series right now. Is there anything you get to do or ideas you get to explore in the Nightwise series that you don’t in the Golgotha and Brotherhood of the Wheel books?
Yes. All three series have a “flavor” to how I write them. Nightwise is my NC-17 series. It’s harsher, has rougher language, more adult content, more sex, drugs and rock and roll. It’s also less optimistic than Golgotha or Brotherhood is. I do try to push the envelope a bit more in these books. I think of Nightwise as an occult crime novel, or as Fantasy Noir. So, yeah, I focus on and explore those ideas in that series.
How long do you expect the Nightwise series to be? Is each book fairly standalone or is there an overarching arc that the series will follow?
I’ve always kinda hated series where you have to read a half-dozen books to get any enjoyment out of the one in front of you. I work really hard to try to make each book I write, regardless of the series, standalone.
I have gotten more appreciation and respect for the folks who do write long series however with each new book I write in my series. It get’s harder and harder to not spend some time addressing stuff and characters from other books in the series. But my goal is to make my books a cohesive whole while making each story stand by itself.
For Nightwise, at present, I have several more ideas for books, at least three or four more, and an idea for a Nightwise / Brotherhood crossover story. As long as folks keep reading them and enjoying them, and my publisher keeps showing interest in the series, I can write quite a few more, and like I said I’ll try to keep them as standalone as I can.
One of the things I loved about The Six-Gun Tarot was that the world and characters were so immersive and identifiable despite the cacophony of all the ideas that went into the book. How did you pull that off?
I have a very overactive brain, hahahaha! Seriously, I write about the things I discover that interest me. I mash up genres because I have very eclectic taste in, well, everything. It seems unreal and kind of plastic to me to fence yourself into a single genre in any book you write. Life isn’t divided up by genre. It’s a comedy, a tragedy, it’s mythology, horror, and everything else, anything else, you can imagine. I try to make the worlds I build reflect that.
The characters are really important to me, I don’t want to write some hackneyed cliche of a person. I try to feel what they might feel and draw on my life and the lives of people I know to make they seem more true. I tend to end up liking a lot of my characters, even the really messed-up ones. I get to know them and that helps me to make them seem more alive to my readers, I think. I hope anyway.
When you’re writing a new book, do you avoid similar books so that you don’t end up influenced by them, or do you seek them out for inspiration?
I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction and if I get an idea for a book, I dive into research for it. After the fact, I will go back and read stuff that I get compared to and I usually find the comparisons very flattering. Some of the crime and detective writers that I got compared to for The Night Dahlia, for example, blew me away!
I read in an interview that your time working as a private investigator influenced Nightwise (and presumably The Night Dahlia). Could you tell us more about those influences?
I worked as a PI to pay my bills through undergraduate and grad school. I had wanted to get into Forensic Science as a career and a lot of my graduate work was concentrated on that discipline. Being a private investigator, especially in the towns I was in, gave me some insight into police procedure and culture (I worked for a veteran homicide detective and a uniformed police sergeant who were childhood friends and started their agency together) as well as criminal enterprises, and street and gang culture. All of that and a bunch of other work experiences all have found their way into my work. I’ve actually considered recently trying my hand at straight detective fiction and use that time in my life as source material. It might be fun!
What is your writing process like? What parts of writing do you find the easiest/hardest and most fun/tedious?
I love to research. I hate to edit. I try to give myself a few days or weeks, if I can spare it between projects to clean my brain out a bit and get ready for the next project. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, but I do chapter summaries to keep me focused and on point before I write the chapter.
If you could go back and edit or re-do a particular scene in something that you’ve already published, is there anything you would change?
God, yes! An occupational hazard can be trying to not tinker and tweak a scene, or a whole manuscript to death. At some point you have to just say, “okay, it’s done!” I really, really suck at that.
Is there a character that you have created ended up surprising you because of the decisions they made?
Yes, all the time. I’ve planned on character’s deaths or actions and then had them, in the course of writing the scene find a solution that I didn’t see initially, or tell me “No, I’m not doing that.” It’s amazing, I honestly think it’s a kind of magic and it delights me every time, even if it does sometimes screw up my plot.
What are you most challenged by these days?
Time. I want to write more, get more projects done. I have so many ideas knocking on my skull and I want to see them made flesh, so to speak, but I can only write so quickly, and I never, never want to neglect the people I love. So, I’m trying to learn to work smarter, not harder, and to unplug and not be hermit all the time. It’s harder to do than I would have ever imagined it would be.
What writer would you wish to hear has always wanted to meet you?
Grant Morrison, Robert B. Parker, Roger Zelazny.
If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why? (Please feel free to describe your weapon of choice as well).
I like being a human. Seriously, I usually play humans in tabletop RPG’s. My girlfriend in college ran a very early Vampire RPG and I wanted to play a human. It’s not always easy to do, but I have no clue how to act like an elf, or a dwarf (well…maybe a little), but I can do this human thing, at least as well as anyone else does, I hope. As for a weapon, there are days I wish I had Dalek vision! It’s better for everyone that I don’t.
If you could have Laytham Ballard team up with a fictional character from another author’s universe, who would it be and why?
I’d love to see the interaction between Ballard and Harry Dresden, or maybe Sandman Slim. How about John Hartness’s Bubba the Monster Hunter? I think that would be quite the show. None of these guys work and play well with others.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much to all the folks who read my books, recommend them, and write me to offer encouragement. You guys are the best! I want you all to know how much your time, your support, and your kind words mean to me. Thank you!