Please tell us a little about yourself –
What’s to tell? I grew up mostly in Brooklyn, and somewhat on Long Island, went to a state university because it was very inexpensive at the time, have lived in New Jersey, Vermont, and Boston, and now live in California. I used to be a best boy, then a gaffer, for industrial videos and forgettable independent feature films including Eyes Beyond Seeing, started writing seriously in the late 1990s, spent a few years writing term papers for students before making much headway. Then I started publishing journalism in business magazines like Silicon Alley Reporter and alternative newspapers and magazines like In These Times and Village Voice, back when the whole dot.com thing was big. I’ve published a few books and lots of stories, and work full time as an editor for Haikasoru, an imprint of Japanese science fiction in translation. I used to co-edit the magazine Clarkesworld, and was on the masthead for its first Hugo and World Fantasy nominations. My work’s been nominated for the Bram Stoker award in five different categories, and won once for Haunted Legends, an anthology I co-edited with Ellen Datlow. I have a dog. I got married last year. I spend most Sundays wrestling with an old Chinese man in a hidden mews in Golden Gate Park.
What is your work space and writing routine like? –
It’s a plain old kitchen-style table in the corner of my living room, so I can watch TV while I type. A piece of paper with deadlines is on my left, a bowl of grapes or glass of water on my right. A haphazard pile of recentIy purchased or arrived books fills up the rest of the table. I generally sit down to write after working all day, so I’m often up till 2 or 3am. I most often write stories in one or two sittings, an essay in a sitting, or a novel chapter in one or two sittings. I write many more short items than books, probably thanks to journalistic training.
My commute is ninety minutes each way, so I get my leisure reading done there. Books while on the train, via my telephone’s ebook app during the walk to and from work and the train—five miles a day.
Some favorite books and authors? –
My favorite novel is Something Happened by Joseph Heller, and he’s certainly one of my favorite writers. I also love John Fante, Harlan Ellison, Kathy Acker, Barry Graham (the Scot, not the American of the same name, but I hear he’s pretty good too), Lovecraft and Kerouac, Kathe Koja, and more. I’ve recently—like this week—started hunting down books by Gerald Kersh after a friend lent me Prelude to a Certain Midnight.
Is there a genre you haven’t written but would like to work on one day? –
Eh, not especially. I think that’s an immature impulse, really. “Oooh, I have to try my version of a Regency romance, and splatterpunk, and a social novel, etc etc.” One shouldn’t even be contemplating genre when one sits down to write.
You’ve co-written a book with the fantastic Brian Keene, how does a story written by two people happen. What happens when you disagree are ideas tossed about till you both like one? What is the process like? –
Oh, we thought up the idea for The Damned Highway—missing chapters of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail describing a Lovecraftian conspiracy to dominate party politics during the 1972 election—and then Brian cranked out the first several pages. I took over, and when I get bored, I passed them back. We spent very little time talking at all. At one point, one of us declared a character dead, and the other trotting him onto the page, hale and hearty, some chapters later. I think one thing I asked Brian to do was rewrite a little so that Mamie van Doren didn’t sleep with Richard Nixon during a giant Cthulhoid orgy, then I made that a plot point later on.
The publishing industry isn’t too big on short stories which you have many of published for all to enjoy, do you think this will change with the rise of ebooks? –
It’s a possibility, but only when it becomes possible to sell an ebook for 25 cents or less and for that to be economical. Actually, one reason why many smaller presses are cranking out anthologies is because established writers can just self-publish their novels. It’s hard for ten or twenty people to get together and self-publish an anthology on Kindle, so that “service” is still better handled by publishers. The novella and the novelette, on the other hand, are likely to benefit from ebooks. People seem to want to read somewhat shorter material on their phones, and at $1.99-$3.99, the price is right for a story of 10,000 to 35,000 words.
Some first drafts take many years other barely any time at all, what was it like with Bullettime? –
Like a lot of my books, I wrote the first 50 pages and a brief proposal for the rest, handed it off to my agent, and then moved on to other projects, while she tried to sell it. It didn’t go to well for a few reasons—publisher contraction and school shootings, which is a theme of the book. The Virginia Tech shooting in particular led to the book being pushed right off a few desks and into the recycling bin. I submitted it myself to ChiZine in 2009 and just over a year later, after I met with them at World Fantasy Convention in 2010 did they acquire it. Then I had a year to write the rest!
What was the inspiration behind Bullettime? –
Back in the early 2000s, I lived across the street from a high school in Jersey City, New Jersey. I worked from home, and my room’s windows faced the school. Anyway, the student body flooded the streets three times a day—in the morning, at line-up, at lunch, and then in the afternoon after the final bell. So I got to see the social dynamics, and walk amongst them. I saw a few shouting matches, a fight, a mess of cops trying to corral the kids as they’d interfere with traffic while patronizing the local restaurants, and the idea of a school shooting came to me.
Please tell us more about Bullettime –
It’s a story of a kid named Dave who likes abusing cough syrup, and manifestation of the Eris–the Greek goddess of discord. They share some classes at a school in Jersey City. Stuff happens. Nothing good.
What do readers have to look forward to next? –
I have two other novels coming out in 2013 or 2014. PS Publications of the United Kingdom will be releasing The Last Weekend, which is about San Francisco’s relative immunity to zombie outbreaks (no cemeteries, lots of hills) and an alcoholic writer’s daily life after the apocalypse. Dark Horse, which also published The Damned Highway, will be doing a crime novel (there’s only a soupcon of the supernatural in it) called Love is the Law. Sort of like Harriet the Spy, if the lead character were really into both Thelema and Trotskyism.
Nick Mamatas is the author of four and a half previous novels, including The Damned Highway with Brian Keene, and Sensation. He’s also an anthologist—recent titles include Haunted Legends, co-edited with Ellen Datlow, and The Future is Japanese, co-edited with Masumi Washington. Nick’s short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Weird Tales, New Haven Review, and the Canadian literary journal subTERRAIN, among many other periodicals and anthologies. A native New Yorker, Nick now lives in California, but first he spent several years living in Jersey City, New Jersey.