Robert Brockway‘s second book in The Vicious Circuit series, The Empty Ones, just hit stores, and I was lucky enough to ask him some questions—and he actually answered them! If you haven’t started this series, and you love urban horror (there is such a thing, right?), then this series should be on your TBR list. And thanks to Tor Books, I have a copy of The Empty Ones to give away to one winner from US or Canada, so check the giveaway at the end before you leave! And whatever you do, don’t miss the last question of this interview:-D
And please give a warm, punk-filled welcome to Robert!
Thanks for having me! Nice place you got here. Shame if something were to… happen to it.
Oh, it’s going to be that kind of interview, eh? For readers who are unfamiliar with your series, can you give us a little background on the story?
The Vicious Circuit is a trilogy from Tor books, starting with The Unnoticeables, released last year, The Empty Ones released just now, and the final book, tentatively titled Kill All Angels, releases next summer. I’ve been told its part horror and part science fiction and part seven-other-things, but I just call it ‘punk rock fantasy.’ The story follows two timelines: Carey, a punk rocker in the late ‘70s through the early ‘80s, and Kaitlyn, an amateur stuntwoman in the modern day. Both of them encounter sinister, unexplainable stuff in their day-to-day lives – faceless kids invading the punk scene, immortal psychopaths at Hollywood industry parties, caustic monsters in the sewers and angelic balls of light in the skies. When their friends start disappearing, both Carey and Kaitlyn are pulled headfirst into this strange world, trying to uncover the single worrying secret that unites everything.
In The Unnoticeables, the story moves back and forth between L.A. and New York. In The Empty Ones, part of the action has moved to London. What made you decide to change up the location?
Carey’s arc in the trilogy is meant to follow the overall arc of punk rock in pop culture: It starts out all fun and games in NYC, jumps the Atlantic to England, where it gets more serious—the punk scene tries to actually address major issues like politics, war, and consumerism—then moves to LA in the ‘80s, where it becomes jaded and angry. And now you know where his story in book 3 is going! Though it stops there: Carey doesn’t turn ‘pop punk’ twenty years later and start appealing to pre-teen girls. They would find him disgusting, and rightfully so.
What do you think makes the punk rock culture such a great background for a horror story?
NYC in the late ‘70s really was a very different and very dangerous place. It’s a natural setting for horror already—but the punk scene in particular was rife with potential. Think about the cast in most horror flicks: Young people in an isolated place, drinking and screwing their lives away, and most of them are just disposable fodder. That last sentence describes every punk I ever knew, and how society views them. As a young person in an already sketchy place, actively participating in a fringe movement that’s dismissed if not outright loathed by normal society, who’s really going to care if you go missing? You probably ran away, gave up this silly trend, or just overdosed in a gutter. Who cares? It’s the perfect cover for sinister elements to start disappearing people.
You used to be an editor and columnist at Cracked.com. What made you give it up to write novels? If you had to choose either editing or writing novels and stick with your choice, which would you choose?
After a regular 2-3,000 word column every week for five years, I just plain burned out on it. I mention that only to add that it was far harder to balance writing books and working a day job back when I was doing the column. It turns out there’s only so much writing I have in me per week, and that all went to the column—it was only once I gave it up that I realized I had a bit of that focus to spare, and could use it on other projects. That’s when I really started writing these books. If I had to choose between the two jobs right now, I’d choose editing, because I don’t want to die. The books are fun, and I love them, but they don’t provide anywhere near a livable wage, and so far they’re not such runaway successes that I feel confident about any sort of authorial future, much less a full time one. I pretty much just plan on writing as much as I can, as fast I can, before they finally realize that I snuck in, and kick me out of literature.
Well, I sincerely hope that does NOT happen! In your spare time, what do you do for fun?
I used to: Ride motorcycles, fix up classic cars, go to bars with friends, practice archery, draw comics, and a whole mess of other things. I do none of that stuff anymore! Now I just write. That’s all there’s time for. Unless my car breaks down, then I guess I’m technically fixing up classic cars again. I regret nothing!
Please tell us three things about yourself that can’t be found on the internet.
Oh man, I’ve been on the internet for a long time, and I have shockingly little shame. I once wrote and published a 2,000 word essay on the time I ejaculated blood. It got hundreds of thousands of views. You are asking the world.
Okay, these are pretty tame, since the interesting stuff is already out there:
- My left eyebrow hairs grow three times longer than the right ones. I have to trim it, or else I look Jekyll and Hyde, if Hyde was played by Peter Gallagher.
- If there was a gameshow about finding dog crap in a yard full of pinecones, I would be its reigning champion.
- I can never remember if the word ‘dearth’ means what I think it means, or the exact opposite.
Tell no one.
ROBERT BROCKWAY is the author of The Unnoticeables and The Empty Ones (books 1 and 2 of the Vicious Circuit) and (isn’t) a Senior Editor for Cracked.com (anymore). He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife Meagan and their two dogs, Detectives Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh. He has been known, on occasion, to have a beard. Visit him online at robertbrockway.net.
Are you a US or Canadian resident? Then this giveaway is for you! One randomly selected winner will receive a finished hardcover of The Empty Ones. Simply fill in the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!