Wednesday, 12 March 2014

An Interview With Romantic Science Fantasy Writer Matthew Graybosch

If you are looking for my National Wormhole Week post, please click here.

As I've said before, I love my weekly Speculative Fiction Writer post because I sometimes get to discover new writers and hopefully make new friends. This week I had the pleasure of interviewing another new writer, Matthew Graybosch.

Hi Matthew. Welcome to my little corner of the world. Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. Here we go:

Q: Are you a morning or evening person?

A: Definitely a night person. If I wanted to wake up at the crack of dawn every day, I might have pursued a military career.

Q: If I visited you during your day job, what would I find you doing?

A: You'd find me standing in my cubicle, with my keyboard, trackball, and one of the two displays connected to my workstation propped up on a side table I bought from IKEA for ten bucks. The other display sits on the shelf built into my cubicle.

I started standing at work a couple of years ago when I realized that sitting all day at work was making it difficult for me to stand or walk when I needed to. So now I stand and work for an hour or two at a time. It makes shopping trips with my wife easier.

Q: What is your biggest grammar peeve?

A: I think this is more of a usage issue than a grammar issue, but I hate it when people say "you need to" do something instead of "I need you to" or "Would you please" do something. It's inaccurate, since desire on one person's part does not constitute need on my part. Moreover, it's rude.

Q: On your website, A Day Job and a Dream, you say, 'You too can write a novel on your lunch break'. Is that possible?

A: I did it twice. Sometimes I only manage 500 words a day, but as I pointed out in a recent blog post on the subject, 500 words for 200 days will give you a 100,000 word novel. It adds up.

The first time was a 289,000 word draft of Starbreaker that I finished in May 2009. I sat on it for a while before I started revision. However, revision fell by the wayside for a couple of years due to demands from work.

I started rewriting Starbreaker again in 2011, and posted snippets on Google+. This brought me to the attention of Lisa Gus of Curiosity Quills Press, who wanted to publish it as a serial.

When I started sending in chapter drafts, CQ decided instead to offer me a contract to publish Starbreaker in three or four volumes. I had my titles within 15 minutes:

  • Without Bloodshed (published on 17 November 2013)
  • The Blackened Phoenix (in progress)
  • Proscribed Construct (in preparation)
  • A Tyranny of Demons (in preparation)

 I wrote Without Bloodshed the same way I did the original Starbreaker: a little bit at a time: on lunch breaks, after work, and on weekends. I did the edits and revisions in similar fashion, and now I'm three chapters into The Blackened Phoenix.

Q: The cover for Without Bloodshed is stunning. Who created your cover art, and how much of a creative input did you have?

 A: Ricky Gunawan did the artwork for Without Bloodshed. I had more input than many authors get.

CQ originally wanted to pair me with another artist, but she specialized in photo-manipulation covers more typical to paranormal romance and urban fantasy. It wasn't right for Starbreaker.

Fortunately, the marketing department decided that a high-concept cover might work better sales-wise, so I suggested a cover based on a tattoo most Adversaries get to represent the ideals of liberty, justice, and equality they uphold by diplomacy and force of arms.

Q: Would you like to share an extract with us?

A: Since Amazon provides samples of Without Bloodshed, how about a preview of the next Starbreaker novel, The Blackened Phoenix?

Josefine Malmgren stared at the code on her screen, wishing the junior developer responsible wasn't sitting beside her where he might see her rub her forehead. Her headache radiated from between her eyebrows, directly above the bridge of her nose. Instead, she turned her chair towards him, and pushed it back half a meter. "Wei, what were you thinking when you coded this class?"

"I needed cryptographic functionality, so I implemented it. What's the problem?"

Josefine yielded to the pain, and rubbed her forehead. It only helped on a psychological level. "Wei, I was able to crack the encryption you implemented without an AI's help. How did you test this?"

"That's not my job."

What would Claire do? Oh, wait. Assuming she wasn't too sensible to take a job obligating her to babysit apprentice developers barely capable of distinguishing between a compiler and a Cuisinart, she'd probably be halfway through ripping this kid a new asshole already. But he's only sixteen. I suppose I should be gentle. Rather than emulate her old friend, Josefine forced herself to take a deep breath and count down from two hundred and fifty-five in base sixteen before speaking again. "Wei, you're an apprentice, and you might not know better, so listen carefully. Testing your own code is part of your job, and it's more important than writing the code. Now, what do you think would happen if we let this code into production versions of Aesir OS?"

To the boy's credit, he provided the correct answer immediately. "Any hardware using my code would be vulnerable." He glanced down at his feet for a moment. "I'm sorry, ma'am. How hard will it be to roll back this changeset?"

Josefine shrugged. "That's not your problem. Instead, you're going to study the existing Aesir OS code, and the libraries we use. Under no circumstance are you to write so much as a comment. In fact, you are reassigned to the testing team effective ninety seconds ago. Instead of making life harder for everybody else, you're going to test everybody else's code. Now get out of my office."

"I already rolled back that code." Hephaestus, the AI in charge of building code from AsgarTech's various software projects, appeared on Josefine's screen and spoke as soon as a slump-shouldered Wei closed the office door behind him. "Don't you think you were a bit hard on the kid?"

"Maybe." Josefine rubbed her forehead again, found her bottle of aspirin, and chased two pills down her throat with a gulp of tepid coffee from a mug her friend Claire gave her for their last Winter Solstice at university. It was black, and had RTFM emblazoned upon it in bold white type. "I'm tired, and while my code might not be suffering, it's showing in how I interact with people."

"Then why not take some time off?"

"We're right up against the deadline. Since I rooted out that shit Wei injected into the code base, we might finally get acceptable results. I can slow down after we get the prototype activated."

"You said that after the last milestone, and found a reason to keep working."

"Now you sound like Claire. I get enough of that nonsense from her. Would you mind starting the AesirOS build and copying the new version to Aldebaran, Betelguise, and Rigel while I get dinner? Leaving the office for a couple hours might do me some good."

"Of course, Dr. Malmgren. If you don't mind, I heard from some of the other developers that a new restaurant called Memison's opened nearby, and they supposedly make excellent fish dinners."

Josefine nodded as she wrapped herself in her heavy navy wool cloak, a relic from her university live-action role-playing days. It was warmer than her pea coat, and it concealed her overtime-ravaged figure. "Thanks, but maybe next time. I was in the mood for an Agni Burger tonight."

The Agni Burger franchise three blocks from the AsgarTech Building was too crowded for Josefine's liking. She ordered her dinner to go, trailing the aroma of fresh ground lamb with goat cheese wrapped in naan, hot basmati rice, and Indian spices behind her as she returned to her office.

She started the AesirOS test runs on the virtual machines before unpacking her dinner and nuking it. As she began to eat, a notification chimed a request for her attention. She let it wait, and took some time to indulge in an opportunity to catch up on one of her favorite comics. After another installment in the adventures of a vampire-killing rock musician named Eddie Van Helsing, she checked the waiting notification. She thrust her fist skyward in celebration; AesirOS finally passed all of the initial tests.

Now the Project Aesir virtual machines would begin the real tests: a century of simulated life compressed into a few short hours. If the virtual personalities created by the tests exhibited no signs of psychosis, or any other form of mental illness that might make them a danger to themselves and others, then Josefine would begin the next phase. I might activate Polaris tonight, if everything goes well.

The Agni Burger's spices lingered on Josefine's tongue, warming her as she spread out the Japanese-style futon she kept for late nights on the job. She curled up on it, kicking off her shoes and wrapping herself in her wool cloak because she forgot to get blankets to go with the futon. She set her implant to poll the test machines while she slept. She would wake when the tests were finished.

"Oi, Josefine! Wake up and smell the napalm!"

Josefine opened her eyes and glanced up. "Claire?"

"Who the bloody hell did you think it would be, Josse? Were you expecting the Spanish Inquisition?"

Josefine struggled out of her cloak and retrieved the tablet from her purse. Activating the screen, she found an annoyed-looking Claire in an old Crowley's Thoth t-shirt wearing a headset with an attached microphone staring back at her through video chat. "I was expecting to get some sleep while these damn tests run. What's the problem?"

"Well, Josefine, I was expecting you to join me for some Ultraviolence. You know how I play. I need somebody to cover me while I rush the enemy."

Josefine blinked, wracking her brain for a moment before recollection finally came. "Oh, shit, Claire! I'm sorry. With all the overtime I work lately, I forgot all about it."

Claire removed her headset, and dragged her fingers through a mass of curls dyed the same red as a New York fire engine. "That's what you said last week, Josse. Not to mention the three times before that. I held my tongue yesterday while you worked on Winter fucking Solstice, but I'm done."

Josefine opened her mouth to protest, to insist upon the importance of her work at AsgarTech, but Claire pressed on. "I'm the last real friend you have, and I'm not going to give up on you, but you're really starting to get on my tits. It's not about the bloody game. You're killing yourself at that job, and showing classic signs of impending burnout. If you make it necessary for me to come down there, I swear by Xiombarg's favorite strap-on I'm packing Cluebringer so I can have a little chat with your boss."

"Dammit, Claire, we might as well date if you're going to complain about the time I spend at work." Josefine instantly regretted her words, which she hurled in frustration with her friend over yet another interruption-packed day working for the AsgarTech Corporation. Though her remark was rude, she feared Claire's response for other reasons. Nor did she want Claire coming to her workplace and brandishing the cricket bat she painted black and used as a threat to people whose foolishness annoyed her.

Claire flashed a coquettish smile and fluffed her hair on the other side of the video call they shared between London and AsgarTech headquarters in the domed Antarctic city of Asgard. "Really, Josse? You finally realized we belong together? Give me an hour to get ready, and I'll take the first maglev out."

"No, it's not like that." Josefine flushed at Claire's teasing, a staple of their friendship since their university days. A year older than Josefine, and almost her exact opposite in personality, Claire instantly took to her and became the friend she wished for as an introverted, awkward girl growing up in Stockholm. "God, you're such an incorrigible flirt. Aren't you seeing somebody?"

"You mean Sarah? She needs the sort of help I'm not experienced in providing to human beings. She got hurt in Boston, and she's convinced her scars make her repulsive. Utter bollocks, of course." Claire leaned forward, adopting a conspiratorial whisper. "After all, you remember the lads I used to bring back to our room at university."

"I saw more of them than I care to recall." Josefine recalled one young man in particular, whose slight build enhanced his overgenerous endowment. He left Claire sore, and unrepentant, for a week. "So she needs therapy. Are you going to stick with her, or just keep her in the rotation?"

Claire shrugged. "When do I stick with anybody, Josse? Seriously, though, what the hell are you doing at AsgarTech that demands these crazy hours? I'm ready to report the company to the Phoenix Society for worker exploitation on your behalf."

Josefine shuddered at the thought of AsgarTech, and her patron Isaac Magnin, being reported to the Phoenix Society. "I'm not getting pressured to work late, Claire, but I have responsibilities."

"So do I, but you don't see me living in a bloody office. What makes Project Aesir so demanding?"

"It's not Project Aesir. It's the people. I'm one of the few women holding a senior position in this company, and it feels like the men reporting to me are utterly bereft of anything resembling a clue." She glanced at Zero, the coal-black kitty emulator curled up on the desk beside her. He was the prototype for AsgarTech's EmCat product line, which Josefine helped develop in her first year at the company as an experiment in creating small, mobile AIs. The company considered stripping speech from the production models because of Zero's tendency towards profanity, but instead chose personality tweaks intended to make the cats more polite. "I bribe this furry bastard to guard my office door and stop intruders, but he never stays bought."

Zero rolled over, exposing the white patch on his belly, which Josefine called his creamy filling. "Fuck you, mommy. Gimme a belly rub."

"How do you put up with a cat capable of backtalk?"

"All cats are capable of backtalk. At least Zero and the other EmCats speak English."

"In his case, that's not a plus."

Zero hissed, and tapped at Josefine's tablet to disconnect the video call. "Who does that reject from a Heinlein fanfic think she is?"

Josefine used her forearm to shove Zero off the desk before calling Claire again. While her tablet renegotiated the connection, she scooped Zero up and exiled him from the office. "If you can't be polite to my friends, then go make yourself useful. Catch some mice or something."

"Oh, I'll catch some mice, mommy. And I'll leave what's left on your pillow."

"I love you too. Go play."

Josefine closed the door behind her, and found Claire waiting. "Seriously, Josse, why work at AsgarTech, where you can't even do your real work during normal hours because management can't give you the privacy you need? Not to mention that furry little monster you created. I know Isaac Magnin's your patron, but didn't you put in your time? Why do you care so much about building the most expensive stunt double in history?"

Josefine winced, stung by Claire's dismissal of her work. The Project Aesir specs included advanced self-repair capabilities, and it proved a simple matter to extend the functionality to provide self-alteration. The same subsystems that permitted an AI equipped with a Project Aesir body to repair itself also allowed such AIs to tailor their bodies to match their self-image. The code that allowed existing AIs to transfer into a Project Aesir body also allowed them to back up their memory and personality for transfer to a new body should the original be destroyed.

Josefine regarded the additional features as a major accomplishment, and her pride in her work demanded she rebuke her friend. "I know you like your little jokes, but Project Aesir matters. So many AIs feel trapped in their host machines. I'm working to give them the freedom and mobility we take for granted. I get to work with Dr. Magnin, and help him." Josefine flushed as she spoke. Why do I always get flustered talking about Isaac?

"You're blushing, Josse-cat." Claire paused, and shook her head. "Oh, I get it now. You're infatuated with Im-- Isaac Magnin."

"I am not." Claire constantly teased Josefine about Magnin, and despite her protests, she doubted she would say no if he were to invite her to his penthouse at the top of the AsgarTech building for a nightcap. Surely his competence and patience follow him to the bedroom. "Oh, fuck it. Maybe I am a little. He's a genius, he's beautiful, and I feel safe around him. Is that so bad?"

Claire fell silent for a minute. "No, it's not so bad. Just be careful, all right? I can't tell you everything, but you don't know Magnin as well as you think you do. I think he's the sort of man whose secrets make him dangerous."

"Is this because he's a 'white-haired bishounen'?" Josefine used the phrase Claire habitually applied to Magnin, which she claimed was a particularly untrustworthy character archetype in Japanese pop media. Because beautiful platinum-haired men usually proved villainous in anime and manga, Claire insisted upon distrusting Isaac Magnin. "And what were you about to call him before you caught yourself?"

Claire shook her head and flashed a coy smile. "Like I said, Josse, I can't tell you everything or the beautiful raven-haired man who makes me feel safe will kick my ass. Just be careful, all right?"

Q: Do you have a favourite character from Without Bloodshed. If so, why?

A: It's a big cast, so it wouldn't be fair to play favorites. I like different characters for different reasons. With that said, I have to be careful about the ladies stealing the show. I gave Naomi, Claire, Ashtoreth, Thagirion, and the others big personalities, and it can be a challenge to balance them with the men.

Then there's Isaac Magnin. He was the first character I created, because I wanted to write a better, more complex and compelling villain than any I'd read in fantasy the late 1990s. I wanted to create an alternative to dark lords and evil wizards hungry for world domination. He already rules the world, and he's trying to save it. It's hard not to make a hero out of him.

Q: What are your writing plans for the future?

A: I mean to finish The Blackened Phoenix, and write the rest of Starbreaker: Proscribed Construct and A Tyranny of Demons. I'm also thinking of dabbling in NA fiction, with an adventure from Naomi Bradleigh's youth. Given time, I could write an entire alternate history of the world around Starbreaker.

“All who threaten me die.”
These words made Morgan Stormrider’s reputation as one of the Phoenix Society’s deadliest IRD (Individual Rights Defense) officers. He served with distinction as the Society’s avenger, hunting down anybody who dared kill an Adversary in the line of duty. After a decade spent living by the sword, Morgan seeks to bid a farewell to arms and make a new life with his friends as a musician.
Regardless of his faltering faith, the Phoenix Society has a final mission for Morgan Stormrider after a dictator’s accusations make him a liability to the organization. He must put everything aside, travel to Boston, and prove he is not the Society’s assassin. He must put down Alexander Liebenthal’s coup while taking him alive.
Despite the gravity of his task, Morgan cannot put aside his ex-girlfriend’s murder, or efforts to frame him and his closest friends for the crime. He cannot ignore a request from a trusted friend to investigate the theft of designs for a weapon before which even gods stand defenseless. He cannot disregard the corruption implied in the Phoenix Society’s willingness to make him a scapegoat should he fail to resolve the crisis in Boston without bloodshed.
The words with which Morgan Stormrider forged his reputation haunt him still.
PURCHASE LINK - link automatically redirects to the appropriate Amazon site based on the reader's country.



Matthew Graybosch is a Romantic science fantasy novelist from New York who codes for a living. He’s also a gamer, a long-haired metalhead, and a geek who passes for normal by not talking about the nerdy stuff that excites him. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife, two cats, and a bicycle that nags him whenever he doesn’t meet his daily word count. He’s hard at work on the next Starbreaker novel.

Thank you, Matthew. That was an enthralling extract. Another book to add to my TBR pile. I admire your work ethic and commitment in writing every day. If someone wants something badly enough, they will find a way. And you did!

I'll be back on Friday, when Stephen Tremp will be travelling through a wormhole, bringing his Escalation Blog Tour with him.


  1. Thanks for having me, Ellie. I'm glad you enjoyed meeting Josefine Malmgren. She'll prove a major character in _The Blackened Phoenix_, providing Morgan crucial evidence in his investigation of Isaac Magnin's corruption of the Phoenix Society. :)

  2. Great to meet you, Matthew. Science Fantasy is a great genre. :)

    1. Thanks, M Pax. I originally set out to write straight epic fantasy, but that didn't work out. Too much stuff from other genres leaked in, so I eventually decided to embrace the gonzo. :)

  3. Wonderful interview. I think it fantastic you wrote 2 novels during your lunch break. That's a great cover! Good luck.

    1. Thanks, Christine, but I have to admit I also wrote at night and on weekends. I wrote whenever I could, including lunch breaks. But "lunch break novelist" has a nice ring to it. :)

  4. What a great story of the road to publication. Congrats, Matthew, on great cover art. And standing up at work, very cool.

    1. Thanks, Susan. I'm glad you like the cover. I hope you'll also enjoy what's inside. :)


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