(The audio of this interview is available at the bottom of this post!)
MF: How are you doing, Jim?
JR: Good, good! Good to have you on here.
MF: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it!
JR: Of your many projects that you’ve got going on, something that I find particularly interesting as a writer is this 12 for 12 project that you’ve got going. For anyone who’s not familiar, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what that is?
MF: Sure. It’s this crazy idea I had last summer. I thought, “Hey, I write pretty quickly. I bet you I could write a novel a month.” (chuckles) Which is like this insane bar bet. And you know, it may have come up at Gen Con, actually last year – the gaming convention.
JR: Oh yeah?
MF: And I looked at it and I thought, you know, I’d love to do that, actually. I think it’d be a lot of fun. I think I could certainly do it. The trouble is that I also have a lot of other gigs that I do as a freelance writer. Like I write the Magic: the Gathering comic book for IDW. And I have a few other things: computer games, toy work, a novel – Carpathia – coming out at the end of the month here from Angry Robot. So I didn’t think I could give all that up and I didn’t want to give all that up, right?
MF: So, I thought, “Let me trim this down a little bit and instead of writing like 80,000 word novels, which is what I usually go for, I’ll try writing 50,000 word novels, which will give me a little bit more breathing room.” And I decided to launch that program back in last November as a Kickstarter and said, “Look, hey guys, I really want to do this but I need to be able to eat so I’d like to basically take preorders for these books. And we’ll do some special editions. There’ll be autographed and hard covers and soft covers and things like that for people who are interested, and you can sign up for a high pledge and get your name in the book or create a character or something like that.” And it did pretty well. It started in November and ended on December 4th and we ended up racking up something over $13,000 for the first three novels. And I’m currently – just about a week and a half ago, launched the second Kickstarter for the second trilogy of novels. And that’s already up just shy of $5000 at the moment, I believe.
JR: That is awesome. As someone who has tried NaNoWriMo and just sitting there – and I’m still at like 30,000 words from last November…
JR: …when I saw this project I was like, “Is he insane?!” (chuckles)
MF: Well you know, I’m a full time writer, right? This is my day job. I look at my daily word count and I know I can do this, right? Back before I had a whole bunch of kids as a full-time freelance role-playing game designer I would write regularly 5000 words a day. Since the kids came along they cut into my writing time a little bit so I’m down to about 3000 words a day. But on good days I get to the 5-6,000 words.
JR: That is very cool, and I think anyone who’s aspiring towards being a writer full time is definitely going to try to hit that goal.
MF: Well, now if you’re getting paid by the word, generating more words helps. They all have to be quality words, mind you.
JR: (laughs) That’s true.
MF: They have to be publishable words. But being able to generate them quickly – and after you’ve been doing it for some 10-20 years you do get quite a little bit quicker at it.
JR: Very cool, very cool. So the first trilogy you already mentioned is already funded.
JR: And that was for your Brave New World novels.
JR: And why don’t you tell us a little bit about those?
MF: Yeah, that’s based on a role-playing game – not the Aldous Huxley novel. The original quote for Brave New World comes from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” actually, where Miranda, who’s the daughter of the wizard Prospero, sees a man washed up on the shore of their private island – for the first time in her life she’s ever seen anybody but her father. And she looks up at this handsome guy who’s about to become her love interest and she says, “Oh brave new world, that has such people in it.” And I thought that was perfect for a superhero role-playing game. So, back in 1999 I came out with a superhero role-playing game called Brave New World through Pinnacle Entertainment Group and it was later published by Alderac Entertainment Group, or AEG. And it’s been basically lying fallow for the last ten years or so. We did about eight or nine different books in the line and then cut it off. But we’ve had some people over at Reactor 88 Studios working on doing an independent film based on it. And I said, “Geez, you know, we’ve got this good fan base of game players out there and we’ve got a lot of people who are interested in my writing. Let’s see what happens if we cross the streams and combine them for this first set of trilogies.” And so far it seems to be going pretty well. For me it’s a lot of fun because I get to return to this world that I spent a lot of time and effort creating a dozen years ago.
MF: And the fans seem to really be enjoying it so far, too.
JR: Can you actually tell us anything about how the movie’s going?
MF: Yeah. It’s currently on hiatus. We got a proof of concept video made which is about five to eight minutes long – I forget. It depends on which edit you look at. And basically the first eight pages of the role playing game are a comic book, and we took those and filmed those. And then we have a screenplay that follows it off after that and tells you what’s going to happen in the world. But we filmed the proof of concept hoping to go out and find funding for the rest of the movie. The problem is that being an over-the-top, high-action role-playing game with superheroes in it, this is not a cheap movie to make, right? (chuckles)
JR: (chuckles) Yeah, I can imagine.
JR: That is such an awesome game.
JR: I really enjoy it.
MF: Oh, we got a kick out of it. We love that stuff. I love Jared’s stuff from way back, actually. And so we have a screenplay that I and a guy named Jeff Dohm worked on that actually was shot last year and is currently in post-production, so that’ll be out some time later this year. And the idea there again is to prove to people with money that we have a team of people who can make these kind of movies and make them do well. And then hopefully use that as a means of leveraging funding out of people so we can make a bigger movie later on.
JR: Excellent. I wish you the best of luck with that because I really want to see these movies! (chuckles)
MF: The InSpectres one is a boatload of fun and I honestly think this kind of slacker ghostbuster thing is a lot easier to shoot on a shoestring budget than you would expect.
JR: Let’s move on to your second trilogy, which is – as of this recording – still being funded.
JR: So the Kickstarter is still open for it. That’s the Shotguns & Sorcery novels. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about those?
MF: Yeah, people have until March 11th to get in on this Kickstarter. And just go to kickstarter.com or go to my web site at forbeck.com and you can find out about it. But it’s based on a setting called Shotguns & Sorcery that I originally developed as, again, a role-playing game setting for Mongoose Publishing back in about 2001. But then my wife got pregnant with quadruplets and that kind of shattered everything to hell as far as getting that done. (chuckles) So I never actually got very far beyond the notes and selling it to Mongoose. And the rights reverted back to me. I said, “Geez, I’ve had this idea sitting around for a long time. I’d love to get back to this! It’s a lot of fun.” It’s kind of this noir-ish fantasy setting in this city called the Dragon City which is on the coast of this continent that’s basically overtaken by undead and other types of zombies. The city basically has a dragon emperor who controls the entire place and protects the people from the dead. But it’s striated – as you go up the mountain you get more and more powerful people. Like the orcs live at the bottom and the humans and the halflings live about a quarter of the way up, then you have the dwarves, then you have the elves, and then you have the dragon, who sits up top. So it’s got this great Chandler-esque, Hammett-esque kind of noir going on, but in a fantasy setting, right?
JR: Yeah, that is very cool. I really love that mashup. I was actually just last night – I was looking at Goblintown Justice, the short story that you’ve put out.
MF: Yes, that’s available for free for anybody who wants to read it, of course.
JR: As soon as I got to the part where you’re using flying carpets as taxis, I was totally sold on it.
MF: Yeah, I think that’s such a great image, you know.
MF: It’s like I can flag down a flying carpet, you know. “Oh! Yeah, okay!” Suddenly you know exactly where you are – even if you’ve never seen this before.
JR: I love both genres and just the whole mixing of them – the sweet and sour effect – is very cool there, I really like that.
MF: Thank you.
JR: So folks again have until March 11th if they want to get in on that.
MF: The way it works is – what I did was I set a very low goal for the first book in the trilogy and then we try to see if we can hit stretch goals where we can unlock the second and third books in the trilogy. So right now we shattered the first one very quickly, I think in 32 hours. And now we’re stretching out to see if we can get the second book unlocked and then the third book unlocked. And usually this has me chewing my nails right until the last second. (laughs)
MF: But it’s good fun and you know, usually what happens is you have this big spike at the beginning, and then it kind of levels out in the middle. And then in the last week everybody says, “Oh! Oh! Oh! I’ve got to do that or I’m going to forget it!” And then it spikes up again. And you know, the trouble of course is during that middle period you’re always sitting there going, “I hope the spike comes! I hope the spike comes!”
JR: (laughs) Yeah, totally! Totally. Well, let us hope that that happens! Can you tell us anything about the remaining two trilogies you have planned?
MF: Well, I can tell you a little bit. The fourth one I’m not quite sure about yet. I’m actually contemplating a set of thrillers for the next one that are more modern-day stuff. And for the fourth one I’m thinking either science fiction or maybe some combination of three individual one-shot books. So I’m going back and forth between them. Those are still a little bit off for me. Actually I have a really good idea for the thrillers that’s going to set them apart from everything else but I’m not quite ready to announce it yet.
JR: Cool, well we’re looking forward to that, then. And just looking over your Coming Soon list on your web site here, you’ve got – to put it mildly – quite a few plates in the air.
JR: But I noticed that you have here – and you also mentioned that at the end of the month you’ve got a novel called Carpathia coming out. What’s that about?
MF: The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is coming up on April 15th and the ship that picks up the survivors of the Titanic was called the Carpathia. And the Carpathia, of course, is also named after a set of mountains that ring part of Transylvania and is actually the mountain range in which Castle Dracula sits. So the connection here is: what happens if the ship that picks up the Titanic survivors is actually full of vampires on their way back to Europe?
JR: (laughs) That’s awesome.
MF: What kind of hell comes out of that? (chuckles)
JR: (laughs) I think that qualifies as irony.
MF: (laughs) Yeah, I mean my publisher is like, “The lucky ones went down with the ship.”
JR: (laughs) Yeah.
MF: You want to be respectful because this is a real disaster, right? I mean, it’s been 100 years, so that means we can play with it a little bit. But I mean there were a lot of people who died in this, but I’m taking care to be very respectful of the actual real-life individuals. And I concoct a lot of – obviously – fabricated vampires and such to battle it out with each other. So it’s good fun.
JR: That’s excellent. Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we go?
MF: Well, I do also have the Magic: the Gathering comic book I’m doing for IDW, and that’s coming out. The next issue will be on February 29th.
JR: Is that based in like their core world or is there a separate world?
MF: It kind of jumps around. It starts out in Ravnica. They don’t have really one core world, but the first issue starts out in Ravnica and from there it goes to Innistrad, which is where the current block is. It’s a kind of horror-themed block. And from there – I shouldn’t probably reveal where it’s going to go from there quite yet.
JR: That sounds like a lot of fun.
MF: Yeah, let’s hope we can keep rolling on with them.
JR: Well, now if folks want to find you online – you and your various projects – where should they go?
MF: Go to forbeck.com. That’s F-O-R-B-E-C-K dot com. And I try to keep it updated fairly regularly.
JR: I’ve been there. There is a lot of stuff on there and it is all very awesome. Thanks very much for talking to us!
MF: Thanks for talking to me, Jim. I really appreciate it!
JR: Thank you, take care.
MF: You too.
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