An Interview with Andrew C. Piazza Author of A Song For The Void

Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here and guess who appeared out of the cosmos and in my dungeon! Andrew Piazza, the author of the spectacular book A Song For The Void about a cosmic horror on the high seas during the Opium Wars in 1853. You should all go out and read it, right after you finish reading this post. Andrew was nice enough to let me ask him a few questions about the book, about his speculative fiction and his writing process. Welcome to my dungeon, Andrew, and thank you for joining me! Without further ado let’s get into the interview. 

Slick: A Song For The Void is not just a cosmic horror novel but a historical cosmic horror novel. Why did you feel it was a story well suited to the time period of the Opium Wars? Had you ever considered other time periods to set it in?

Andrew: The story came about as a synthesis of two separate pieces; first, the 
creature known as the Darkstar.  I came up with the idea for this 
particular nastie a while back, but I wasn’t sure where to put it.   
Then, as I started going down a rabbit hole reading about the history 
of the Opium Wars (I have a tendency to find such rabbit holes) I 
realized I had exactly the right setting.  Using that setting and that 
monster allowed me to discuss some of the themes present in the novel; 
addiction, identity, existentialism.

Slick: How much research goes into being historically accurate in your fiction? 

Andrew: Quite a lot.  I usually have to throttle back a bit, because there is 
always a risk of going overboard and including TOO much of the 
history.  In doing so, an author can compromise the narrative flow.  I 
recently read a historical horror novel set in approximately the same 
time period that suffered this mistake.  The author had clearly done 
exhaustive research and was very keen to show it all off, but the plot 
began to drag as a consequence.  It’s best to learn as much as you 
can, and then “forget” it so to speak, and let the setting be just 
that… a background that is very believable so as to create an 
immersive experience for the reader… a more perfect illusion, if you 
like.


Slick: What is your writing process like? Do you dedicate time to it every day or do you wait for inspiration to hit?

Andrew: I don’t subscribe to the need to write a certain number of words per 
day.  I do work on my books every day, but that need not be composing 
of a rough draft… it could be research, outlining, editing, etc.


Slick: In the book, there is a menacing cosmic entity that threatens the people aboard the HMS Charger called the Darkstar. What gave you the idea for that entity and the horrors it introduces to the characters?

Andrew: (Mild spoilers) I liked the idea of a cosmic creature that could wipe 
out humanity except for the presence of the magnetosphere.  That is a 
peculiar quirk of our planet this is highly underrated.  It protects 
us from certain death in the form of cosmic radiation, and most of us 
have no idea.  It fits in very nicely with the general concepts of 
cosmic terror, which come from being a tiny creature in a vast and 
dangerous universe.


Slick: The main character, Doctor Pearce, struggles with addiction. Not just addiction to substances but addiction to the past and what he has lost. Do you think that this topic is one you will explore further in future works?

Andrew: Struggling with the momentum of one’s past is a common ailment, so I 
will undoubtedly have characters struggling with this in the future, 
but I don’t know if it, or addiction in general, will be as front and 
center of a theme as in this novel.


Slick: The story also gets quite philosophical at points. It poses the question of what we truly are. If someone has head trauma and their personality changes, are they still that same person? Is there anything behind the machinery of our bodies? This kind of question perfectly matches with the cosmic horrors that appear in the book. Why did you want to dive into these questions and do you think you arrived at answers for yourself?

Andrew: If you really want to freak yourself out, read up on what happens when 
portions of the brain are damaged by injury or disease.  Or studies on 
how flimsy our knowledge of consciousness really is.  At the time of 
the novel’s setting (mid 1800’s), science was rapidly displacing 
religion as an explanation for how things are.  A transcendent 
explanation… we are all special creatures with a near-magical, 
eternal “spirit” residing within, began to be replaced by a more nuts 
and bolts approach, leading to an existential hole that still exists 
today.  It is the great challenge of modern philosophy to provide the 
consolations of religion, but still within the framework of logic and 
science.

A few years ago, I was blind-sided with an unexpected medical 
diagnosis that required dangerous surgery.  For a short time, I 
thought I might not be around to wake up the next day.  It got me 
thinking quite a lot about these kinds of existential dilemmas.  Part 
of dealing with that was in re-prioritizing my writing, which I had 
let wane in the years before out of the standard distractions of career.

Slick: I am glad that everything worked out okay for you and glad you picked writing back up so we could have some great stories to read.


Slick: This book kept me up late at night, not just reading, but also because it is genuinely scary. With Lovecraftian style horror, it would be easy to go overboard and make the horrors seem almost silly. Yet you were able to deftly maneuver the reader so that it was horrific without being outlandish. Is that a difficult balance to accomplish?

Andrew: It’s a tightrope, to be sure.  Part of the key of writing effective 
horror is to establish a strong sense of normalcy and a belief in the 
world the author has created… now we’re circling around to your 
question on historical accuracy.  Writing a setting and characters 
that are believable and establishing them as such allow an author to 
then turn all that on its ear and present the impossible as not just 
possible, but likely.


Slick: With the book and series Lovecraft Country and the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu being quite popular right now, it seems that cosmic horror is having a bit of a resurgence in popularity. Why do you think that is and how do you think that might influence your future stories?

Andrew: My favorite kind of horror is cosmic horror.  I believe it is the 
horror that lies beneath all other, from which all other forms of 
horror flow.  Why do we fear death?  Because we fear oblivion.  We 
have this aching, dull, poorly defined fear inside all of us, that 
maybe we’re not the special snowflake and center of the universe that 
our ego convinces us we are.  To be completely out of control, 
helpless, a leaf blown by the wind, is terrifying, as is the unknown, 
as is the prospect of nihilism.

As far as how it will influence further stories, you can count on my 
writing more novels like this.  Cosmic horror holds the best capacity 
for exploring those themes that run deepest, much like good science 
fiction or fantasy.


Slick: Will there be more books involving these characters and, if so, what are the plans for the next book?  

Andrew: I doubt we’ll see more of the characters in this novel, although the 
Darkstar may indeed decide to return and visit humanity again one day.

Slick: The story is on one level very personal and shows how one character relates to the world in a very difficult time. On the other hand, some menaces threaten not just Doctor Pearce but perhaps all of humanity. Do you think that the personal story of the Doctor helps to reflect the struggles of mankind overall?

Andrew: If you’re going to tackle a “big” story epic in scope, it is important 
to have a “small” story of the individuals caught up in that epic 
scope, in order to make it accessible.  We can read dry statistics of 
millions dying and it is a distant unreality, but the story of a single 
person’s suffering can easily make us weep.


Slick: As I said above this story kept me up at night because it is quite frightening. What kinds of stories keep you up at night?

Andrew: Stories of people being cruel to each other to a level that is hard to 
believe.

Slick: Agreed. Those stories can be all to prevalent and very hard to take.


Slick: How can readers buy the book and how can they get in contact with you?

Andrew: The book is on Amazon, in print and ebook format.  The US link is 
https://www.amazon.com/Song-Void-Historical-Horror-Novel-ebook/dp/B08D59S9HR.   
Readers interested in a free sample of my work in order to see if I’m 
a good choice for them can go to my website, www.andrewpiazza.com
where I have a free starter library available.  I’m also on Facebook 
at https://www.facebook.com/andrewcpiazza/.

Slick: I have signed up myself for your free starter library and I have to say, it is an excellent value with great writing. You can consider me a fan. Thanks so much, Andrew, for taking the time out of your day to come and visit my dungeon.

If you are still reading this post, once you are done, go out and buy the book. If you love cosmic horror, you will not be disappointed.

Cosmically yours,

Slick Dungeon

An Interview with G.E. Hathaway Author of Burn

Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here and guess who crawled into my dungeon! G.E. Hathaway, the author of the spectacular book Burn about a post apocalyptic Tucson, Arizona, that you should all go and read, right after you finish reading this post. She was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about the book, about Tucson and about her writing process. Welcome to my dungeon, G.E., and thank you for joining me! Without further ado let’s get into the interview. 

Slick: Let me start with the obvious question. How does it feel to have a book out that is post apocalyptic while we are in an actual worldwide pandemic currently?

G.E. Hathaway: I have to admit, it’s a bit strange to drive around an empty downtown Tucson- like I’m a character straight out of the book!

I’ve been doing a lot of observing. There’s the world I imagined dealing with a large-scale emergency in Burn, and then there’s our actual reality dealing with COVID-19. I think the fears associated with living in a desert city are quite consistent with the reality. Water and shelter are essential against the heat, and we started hitting three-digit temperatures this week. If the power grid gets overwhelmed, outages occur. Something I’ve been greatly encouraged by, however, is the way people have come together to support each other during this difficult time. Even when things seem the most divisive and hostile, there’s always the helpers.

Slick: Your book is set in Tucson and it’s clear from reading it that you have a love of the area. What about the area inspires you and how did you decide to set your story there? Was there any consideration of setting it somewhere else?

G.E. Hathaway: I was greatly influenced by my time living near downtown Tucson and the University of Arizona campus. It’s a very old neighborhood, first of all, with a unique charm that you don’t find in many other places. With the development of the downtown area, you have an interesting combination of worlds; modern industrial and traditional Sonoran styles. As a result, the culture is delightfully mixed, and there’s great support for artistic expression. I wanted to present the city in a way that is recognizable to the locals today, and not just as another cowboy western. Tucson has evolved, but at the same time, I knew I needed to introduce it to new readers in a way that may be accessible to them, hence the idea of the “new wild west.”

Slick: What is your writing process like? Do you dedicate time to it every day or do you wait for inspiration to hit?

G.E. Hathaway: I write full time in a different industry and I’m a parent, so my creative writing goals are structured for maximum efficiency, which sounds so dry and uncreative! Basically, I keep a journal of writing concepts, and once I think a concept has enough legs to keep my own attention let alone someone else’s, I flesh out the beats. I sit on it for a while, making edits as needed, and if it continues to hold my interest, I outline the chapters. It takes a couple months before I’ll even sit down for the first draft, and by then I’m dedicated to a full writing schedule. I try not to go too long without writing during this time, because I don’t want to lose momentum.

After I complete the first draft, usually over a couple months because I write straight through without editing, I put it down for another month. Then I revisit it, edit it as best I can, then submit it to beta readers. I want to catch huge plot holes and narrative issues early before I send it to a professional editor.

Slick: Do you remember when you first got the idea for Burn? What was that like and why did you feel the need to tell this story in particular?

G.E. Hathatway: I was driving across town near the end of a very dry, hot summer, when the first monsoon storm hit. The monsoons here are gorgeous. The clouds roll in like a wild animal. Similar to how someone in the Pacific Northwest may come out to enjoy a sunny day, everyone in Tucson will go out to watch the rain. As I watched the first storm roll in, I realized wanted to capture that transition and heighten the stakes of what that relief means for the locals. I imagined the opening scene of the book that day. While the rest of us humans are enjoying the rain, there’s an actual battle going on between the weather, and I wanted to personify that. Although in those early days of brainstorming, the fight between the gods happened in the open desert instead of a convenience store!

Talisa

Slick: In Burn there is a technology called the Grid, which seems to be a renewable power source that doesn’t rely on any traditional power supplies. How did you come up with the idea? Do you think this sort of technology would be something that could exist in reality in the future and, if so, do you think it would be a good idea to use it?

G.E. Hathaway: It’s funny, after I started distributing an earlier draft of Burn to readers, I started getting articles from them they’d found on experimental technology that supposedly generates electricity from ‘thin air,’ either through microbiomes or water vapor. The future is here! I think one of the biggest things to think about is how to set up boundaries to the technology and keep it contained. Similar to dropping a boom box in a bathtub, how can you use the energy without having residual effects somewhere else? I’d also be curious about its finite conditions. If there’s no catastrophic fallout, I think it would be cool to see.

Slick: I loved the interplay of nature and technology in the book. Do you feel that the two can coexist well together or do you have more of an affinity for one or the other?

G.E. Hathaway: That’s exactly what I hope to explore in follow-up books! I think the big question I’m trying to address is: how can the two coexist in a way that isn’t detrimental to the other? I think having this story take place in the desert is perfect, because the environment is so fragile to begin with. On the one hand, our existence as a species is dependent on the health of the environment, but on the other hand, we need technology to survive the brutal heat. As a Tucsonan, I’m in a place that needs both.

Noah

Slick: To me, this book feels kind of like a cross between The Stand by Stephen King and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Were you influenced by those authors at all? If not, who are your main influences when it comes to writing?

G.E. Hathaway: American Gods definitely served as an influence because I wanted to explore the deities in this book by how they evolved and are defined by the existing society. I love Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. Their world building is magical. Other authors I love include V.E. Schwab and Jason “David Wong” Pargin.

Slick: What are you reading right now? Any great books you can recommend to people who like Burn?

G.E Hathaway: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai is amazing. I keep going back to that one. A time traveler who lives in the ideal futuristic scifi world we originally envisioned from the 50s accidentally changes the past, and creates the present we currently know and recognize. The science fiction in this book is so interesting, with the time travel machine powered by the Earth’s axis. I also highly recommend Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by Jason “David Wong” Pargin, which looks at a dystopian future where our own social media engagement enforces a surveillance state. It’s also supremely funny and smart.

Liam

Slick: Three of the main protagonists, Liam, Ellie and Noah, all find themselves face to face with Gods and Goddesses. Was it difficult to personify these Gods and Goddesses while still making the interactions believable for the human characters?

G.E. Hathaway: I had fun with this one. Each character is driven by their environmental purpose. The Sun God is ruthless and unforgiving, much like the sun in Tucson. Alternatively, Winter is indifferent to humans, more peaceful. Winter doesn’t have the damaging effects in Tucson like it does in other parts of the world, but it does provide relief from the summer. The Rain Goddess gives life to the region, so I saw her as a motherly figure, and therefore more empathetic to humans. Those characteristics fed their interactions with the main characters. Hopefully trying not to give away too much, the stranger the humans meet in the desert was both the most fun and saddest character to write, because it aligned with how humans interact with the area wildlife as both a threat and a treasure.

Slick: Will there be more books involving these characters and, if so, what are the plans for the next book?  

G.E. Hathaway: Yes! I have book 2 outlined, with ideas for book 3 in development. I just hope my pandemic anxiety calms down enough for me to stick to a writing schedule! Book 2 is going to answer a question that Book 1 leaves hanging. I’m excited about this one, because it will introduce more gods as well as give the readers a glimpse of a modern and active Grid city.

Slick: In the book we find out what happened in Tucson when the Grid goes down but we don’t see what happens outside of Arizona. Will we get a glimpse of that in future books?

G.E. Hathaway: Yup! Our heroes will go outside of their comfort zones and visit the capital Grid city, which is located outside Arizona. Readers will also get to see what politics looks like since we’re in a future where a powerful corporation, Utopian Industries, has merged with the government system.

Ellie

Slick: The book is cinematic in scope and I could see this working as a graphic novel, movie or television series. Have you put any thought to trying to adapt it into any other kind of media?

G.E. Hathaway: I would love that! My hope is that the book picks up some steam in the indie world and attracts the attention of those who could make that happen. I actually have another manuscript with an agent at this time, so maybe if that one takes off, I can bring attention to Burn.

Slick: How can readers buy the book and how can they get in contact with you?

G. E. Hathaway: Burn (Desert Deities, Book 1) is available now on Kindle devices at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086FZ9K4C. I hope to get it formatted for paperback soon.

My website is https://gehathawayauthor.wordpress.com/

Email: g.e.hathawayauthor@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/g.e.hathawayauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gehathaway

Thanks so much for stopping by my dungeon! Now if you could just show me the way out? Oh, um I think she left. Anyway go read the book!

Inquisitively yours,

Slick Dungeon

Note: all art in this post was created by Sofia Bjerned and are property of G.E. Hathaway and can be used for personal/non-commercial use. They cannot be modified/edited for commercial purposes.