How did you come to write Project-52?
My original intention was to write a web-based serial, published in 52 weekly installments - hence the title and structure. This was partly to try out internet publishing, but also as a calling card - I'd written a couple of novels that I planned to submit to publishers and figured this might be a way to drum up some attention.
Why didn't you publish it that way?
I soon realized that short snippets over a year isn't a satisfactory way to read (or write) a story. I looked at the internet serials I personally had read: Stephen King's The Plant ran to about 6 installments before he pulled the plug, Matthew Reilly's Hover Car Racer had about 8 sections, Felicia Day's video series The Guild went up in series of 10-12 episode each. Max Barry e-mailed 1 page a day of Machine Man around, but I didn't continue after the free ones stopped. Short chunks that go on for a long time seemed too draining to come back to, so I refocused it.
I thought about doing it in 13 sections three times a week, which seems to be the frequency of many web comics, but over the course of time I noticed two things: the iPad and Kindle made e-reading a lot easier, and a couple of novelists I used to read in book form were moving into electronic short stories (Steve Berry and Barry Eisler, the latter backing out of a printed book deal to self-publish on the net).
Given the way e-books were rising in popularity while traditional publication was declining, I decided to try e-books as a primary path rather than a calling card to get into dead-tree-edition novels.
Did you know who the killer was when you started writing?
Yes - I'd outlined the big reveals in the last couple of chapters as I was plotting it out, so I knew not only who did it but also who was innocent of murder but guilty of concealing something from other characters. With that in mind, I set up preceding scenes that would read one way in the first instance but reveal other meanings when you knew what happened at the end.
What's with all of the game imagery? Are you a gamer?
That all sprang from the initial spark of an on-line novel that was based around the number 52, which leads to a deck of cards as well as weeks. Computer gaming is also changing, moving from the stereotype of geeks in basements to a wide cross-section of society, so I thought I'd set it against that background.
I try to use imagery in all of my writing, slipping in (hopefully) subtle references that may not hit the top of people's minds but have some connotations, so I put in a lot of nods to cards, chess and alternate reality gaming (ARG) that some people might notice but most will sail over. Those who figure out the puzzle in the red Joker chapter will learn some more about this.
I played computer games a lot at university and in my early years at work, mainly things like Doom and Quake - in fact there's a Doom level floating around the net that I created with a friend - but have less free time once my work, family and writing increased. Nowadays, my main gaming is Monopoly or Lego Star Wars on PS3 with the kids or knocking back a couple of levels of Angry Birds when I'm on a train.
Have you always been a writer?
I've always been a reader of books and a watcher of film and TV and knew that I wanted to get into the creative side of that. As a kid, I wanted to write and direct movies - preferably the then-future Star Wars prequels - so spent a lot of time writing scripts on a typewriter on my parents' kitchen table. Looking back, the execution was clunky and reflected my lack of life experience, but some of the ideas were pretty good - in fact, my first competed novel was a novelization of one of those scripts and my second was based on ideas I scribbled down on a notepad as a teen.
Which authors do you read?
I read a lot of thrillers and adventure stories. I get my conspiracy thrillers from Dan Brown, Steve Berry, Michael Crichton and Brad Meltzer; political and legal thrillers from John Grisham, Scott Turow and David Baldacci; crime novels from Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Jeffrey Deaver, Lee Child, Kathy Reichs, Harlan Coben, Janet Evanovich and James Patterson; horror and supernatural stuff from Stephen King and Joe Hill; plus some action thrillers from James Rollins, Tom Clancy, Matthew Reilly and Barry Eisler.
Some of my favorite writers actually work in the world of film and TV, where I enjoy watching things written by Joss Whedon (and the whole Mutant Enemy clan: Marti Noxin, Jane Espenson, Tim Minnear, David Fury, Howard Gordon etc), J. Michael Straczynski (jms), Aaron Sorkin, Rob Thomas, John August, James Cameron, William Goldman and George Lucas.
What's next? Is there a Project-53?
In December 2012, I'll publish an e-book called Blue Prime, a crime thriller with the tag-line: "Los Angeles - 20 seconds into the future and 2 degrees closer to hell…"
It sets up a real-life version of a comic book super hero and explores how people would really react to a masked vigilante roaming the streets, and what it would be like to be the one behind the mask. This is actually a story I completed prior to writing Project-52 and have been waiting to put out into the public arena. As I’m revising Blue Prime, I'm currently working on another project that should see the light of day in 2013.
Ideally, I'd like to get to a point where I publish one full-length novel and some shorter fiction every year. I'd also like to explore some of the opportunities available in electronic publication that you can't get in printed books, whether that's by an enhanced e-book with video or weblinks, actually making an internet serial work, or maybe a way of letting readers make choices that doesn't feel like a kid's choose-your-own-path book.