10 Questions with Clinton Boomer

1. Let’s start with, can you tell my readers a little bit about your novel “The Hole Behind Midnight?”

Absolutely, and it would be a pleasure! I often describe the book to friends and/or prospective readers as a darkly-comic, postmodern urban-fantasy crime/mystery noir/pulp tale-of-suspense-and-magic-and-cursing, a rollicking thrill-ride full of nudity, violence, foul language, forgotten gods, a world-ending conspiracy, dick jokes, gunfights, cigarette smoking and one-liners, torture scenes and haunted car chases, an ex-girlfriend and on more than one occasion, a demon clown from Dimension Q with a thing for stabbing people in the throat.

This is my first novel, and I’m more proud of it than anything else I’ve ever worked on. It’s got everything I could ever want in a novel – little shards of 1940s gumshoe detective fiction mixed up with weird, sick magic and wild, strange comedy – and the review I’ve got on the cover says it all:

“Raymond Chandler meets Douglas Adams by way of a fantasy nerd’s fever dream. And it’s AWESOME.” – Daniel O’Brien, Senior Writer for Cracked.com; contributor to the New York Times bestseller You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News

Now, it’s also a weighty 550-page tome, so any summary I could come up with will probably fail to do the bugger justice. But, yeah, in general … that’s a little bit about it.

2. “The Hole Behind Midnight” is a setting where knowledge really does equal power. By being a geek about comic books, mythology, music, religion, politics, etc. your intimate knowledge of all of these things and more manifests itself as real, tangible power. Was this by design as a chance for you to indulge in some of your favorite interests?

Oh, yeah, 111%, that was my goal. I’ve got a thing for etymology and sub-pop-sub-culture, as well as everything else you listed, especially esoteric-religion & conspiracy-history, and there was certainly a part of me that wanted to make that obsession a legitimate source of super-human ability in an urban-fantasy setting; I’ve gotten so burned out by vampires and werewolves and boring old tropes about uninteresting things going dull-bump in the night that I wanted to play with how magic worked, and I think I stumbled ass-backwards into something that people really respond to.

Of course, I can’t forget to mention the huge chunks inspiration I took from Israeli fantasy-author Uri Kurlianchik, or the deep debts of genius I owe to Massachset-based novelist Ashavan Doyon and to New York game-writer Lou Agresta; each of them, and many other members of the WereCabbages Creative Guild, were instrumental to me as friends, collaborators, editors and sounding boards during the creation of this book and the shared universe it inhabits, existing as a first peek into that world. Their interests and weirdnesses influenced the novel a TON.

3. I found the way magic worked in “The Hole Behind Midnight” to be a wonderful blend of sympathetic magic and Chaos magic; a modern interpretation of folk magic. How did you decide on the magic used in your novel? And if you don’t mind, could you share a little bit with my readers about how it works in “The Hole Behind Midnight” universe?

Since I come, first and foremost, from a roleplaying-game background, one of the early things I did was write up a design-document for magic, which ended up in the final version of the novel, slightly truncated, as a series of notes from the protagonist’s mentor in Chapter 14 and later, as an interlude between chapters 19 and 20, with frequent musings on the topic by the main character throughout the rest of the book. All of it is based on conversations between various members of the WereCabbages, and it’s tied to the idea of magicians “claiming territory” of Emptied Empires, and becoming Secret Royalty to lost or fictitious lands.

One of the big elements I wanted to include is that magic, like Photoshop, can do just about anything … but that there’s no guidebook or user’s manual. The main character is sometimes in the dark about how some trick of enchantment actually works, and he’s not much of a magician, himself, which gave me some wiggle-room to play with weird questions and freaky answers.

In short, the rules of the setting are that you gain power by calling yourself nobility of a place that doesn’t exist, and that you can use the power so generated – the Dust of the Empire – to do interesting things, like break various physical laws. Most magicians can use this power all-but-instinctively to enhance their own physical strength or speed, to command the weak-willed, or to perform minor divinations, because rulership so often means having might of arms, domination over the masses, and foresight … but older Kings and Queens have figured out tricks and rituals to teleport, bind monsters, alter memories, create magical items, hide themselves in plain sight, and other, stranger stuff. And, of course, this is all against a backdrop of a secret universe which lurks behind the one we know, and the various players who move back and forth from the Waking World to the Nethertime.

And it’s more complicated than that, obviously, because Secret Royalty also have to deal with the potency of their ancient or fictional empire in mass culture, other claimants to their throne, courtly intrigue from their own friends, and rules about identifying themselves as Kings if anyone asks them. That’s on top, of course, of the Totems of each Empire and creatures from the Deep Sideways and basic stuff like having a job & paying your gas bill.

It’s a joy to play around in, honestly.

4. The protagonist in the book, Royden, is a real asshole. And yet as the book goes on you end up rooting for him. Where did the idea of a gruff, anti-authoritarian, Indian, little person come from?

Royden is the consummate outsider. That much, I knew from before the first word was written. I wanted him to be physically and emotionally remarkable – the diametric opposite of a noir/pulp antihero who can slip unobtrusively from place to place, blending into crowds, keeping his cool … and with a big-ass chip on his shoulder about that. It was a discussion with Lou Agresta, about two days into the initial free-writing, that led to Royden being a little person, and a discussion at about the same time with Uri Kulianchik which led to him very specifically being dark-skinned and ‘ethnic’-looking.

And it works. Which is really awesome.

But all of the profanity-spitting, heavy-smoking, semi-recovering-alcoholic, kleptomaniacal, poor-impulse-control, oppositional-defiant, anti-social-behavior stuff comes out of a very dark spot in the back of my brain which I usually keep tightly locked up … because if I acted like Royden, I wouldn’t have any friends. And, of course, Royden doesn’t. Still, I’m always pleased to hear that people can root for the son-of-a-bitch, because I have a soft spot in my heart for him.

5. Currently “The Hole Behind Midnight” is available as a self published title. How has the experience of publishing your own book been?

It could have been a real and terrible nightmare, honestly … but I’ve been very lucky to have incredibly supportive friends, family and collaborators, plus the amazing people at Lulu.com watching out for me and cheering me on, and that’s made a world of difference. I wouldn’t wish the anxiety and confusion and self-examination of the publishing process on my worst enemy’s dog, but it’s been worth it, 111%, every time I meet someone who liked the book and shared it with a friend.

6. Many of our readers (especially our Geek Month in Review readers) may recognize you from the work you’ve done on some role-playing games such as Pathfinder. How did you end up writing for the RPG industry?

I’ve been a gamer since 1993, with the release of Planescape, and a lot of my favorite moments and memories with the closest of my friends involve RPGs – talking about them, playing in them, or involved in events closely related to them, like the traditional post-LARP dinner or the Mountain Dew-fueled roadtrip to a convention. I’m probably best known online as the co-creator, writer and producer of the D&D PHB PSAs on YouTube, through the auspices of my channel CreativeJuices7, and that represents the first of my “game writing” in a lot of ways.

But the leap to professional writing occurred with the inaugural RPG Superstar! competition from Paizo Publishing in 2008, in which I placed in the Final Four worldwide; after that, I got the opportunity to lend my pen and my gonzo to the Ennie Award-winning Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting … and the rest has mostly been history. I’m incredibly proud of all of my projects, especially my work for 3rd-party publishers like Rite Publishing and Sean K. Reynolds Games and Open Design and Zombie Sky Press and so many others, and I hope that I get to keep doing this for the rest of my career.

7. What are some of your favorite RPGs and how do they influence your writing?

I’m all-but-obsessed with Planescape, as the Lady of Pain tattoo on my back might give away, and I have an eternal and perhaps unhealthy level of love for the Spelljammer: Shadow of the Spider Moon mini-setting created by Andy Collins and published in 2002 by Paizo in Polyhedron, which I’ve used for a number of campaigns. I still dick around with ideas for that universe in the back of my head almost a decade later – to my mind, that’s the mark of great, inventive writing.

Besides high-fantasy, high-octane, slightly-gonzo d20-based sword-&-sorcery, I also have a lot of love for modern or semi-modern settings: Call of Cthulhu, Unknown Armies, Shadowrun and various White Wolf stuff across the board – my favorites were always the Corax, the Technocracy, the Kuei-Jin and Fomori, for whatever reason. Maybe because they’re more alien, or have a bit more to unpack behind the stories.

All of this bleeds into the rest of my writing, of course – I love dialogue interplay, and trying to ground the really and absurdly fantastic into actual emotion. The real trick is to take an absurd concept like immortal, steam-powered Aztec warriors aboard a rune-scribed ice-ship heading for battle against space demons and give the characters something interesting to say.

8. You’re also a bartender, so I’m obligated to ask, what is your favorite rum drink?

Oh, rum is a beautiful liquor! I pride myself on a lot of my concoctions, from picture-perfect Long Islands to a Bloody Mary that will bring a tear to your eye, and especially on a small arsenal of clever, candy-sweet shots that will leave you wondering if there was any hooch in there at all right up until the moment your ass hits the floor … but rum is one of those alcohols that barely needs encouragement or a massage from the likes of me. Once you’ve learned how to mix a sharp Captain & Coke, your training in the arts of rum is about half over.

Of course, there’s one drink I can make with Malibu, crème de cacao, Bailey’s Irish Crème and two secret ingredients that will knock your socks off, but it’s something of a trade secret.

9. What’s next? Are you working on anything my readers should be on the lookout for?

I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff I’m working on right now, plus the ongoing book-tour, and I’m super-excited to be submitting more work to everyone I’ve worked ever worked with in addition to my just-announced gig with Clark Peterson’s all-new Legendary Games.

Right now I’m working on several novels, novellas or book-ideas, including the direct sequel to the book – ‘The Thirteenth Impossibility’ – and a project called ‘Big American Hell’ for the Hellcrashers setting. There’s also an apocalypse/cyberpunk book called ‘Flickering Degenerate Fluorescent Dystopia’ that’s struggling to get out of my head and on to paper, a very odd piece called ‘Cityskin Pariah’ that’s rattling around back there as well, and of course I can’t forget my old loves: ‘Soapscum Unlimited’ and ‘Brand-New Knockdown’ and ‘Road to Varno’.

If I live to be a million, I’ll never get half of my ideas on paper.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Buffet any one question.

Ooooh! Fun! Alright, but this isn’t a poll-question or a right-or-wrong thing. I’m just generally curious, and I find that I spend a lot of time thinking about it, myself:

Which would you prefer as an afterlife: to discover that your own existence was like a super-packed DVD, or that existence itself is like a video game?

Both of them have their upsides, in my opinion.

In the DVD version, you would get to sit down at the end and talk to the cast and crew – or, at the very least, listen to the commentaries and skip around chapter by chapter and check out what you missed on the first viewing. You could pause and rewind, afterward, and clip through to the featurettes and check out behind-the-scenes footage and audition-pieces and a music-video, and maybe see deleted scenes and alternate takes and endings. That would be really cool … and then, maybe, you could browse through all of the other lives that have ever been, watching sequels and remakes and original, experimental projects and watching stuff you’ve heard of but have never seen, before finally choosing to take on another role.

In the video game version, there’s less finality – you could go back to any save point and pick it up again, or restart as a different character on a harder setting, or try to unlock extra levels and achievements on various modes. It’s never, ever really complete because you can always make new challenges for yourself or go back and try it a different way this time.

I think about this sort of thing a lot, I guess.

I just wonder which one would be more satisfying.

Honestly, I’d go with none of the above. When this is over, I want it to be over. No reflections, no time to ponder “what might have beens”, no do overs. I’m quite looking forward to nonexistence.

About Clinton Boomer:
Clinton J. Boomer, known to his friends as ‘Booms,’ resides in the quaint, leafy, idyllic paradise of Macomb, Illinois, where he attended 4th grade through college. He began writing before the time of his own recollection, predominantly dictating stories to his ever-patient mother about fire-monsters and ice-monsters throwing children into garbage cans. He began gaming with the 1993 release of Planescape, which shaped his Jr. High years, and he was first published professionally in the Ennie Award-winning “Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting” from Paizo Publishing after placing in the Final Four of Paizo’s inaugural RPG Superstar! Competition. He currently devotes a full 99.9% of his waking hours to thinking about fantasy-adventure in general or ninjas, more specifically. Boomer is a writer, filmmaker, gamer and bartender; his short comedic films, the “D&D PHB PSAs,” have over 3900 subscribers on YouTube and and have been viewed more than a million times. A member of the WereCabbages creative guild, a frequent freelance contributor to Rite Publishing, Sean K. Reynolds Games, Paizo Publishing, Reality Deviants Press, Zombie Sky Press, Legendary Games and the Hellcrashers setting, his debut novel “The Hole Behind Midnight” was released in 2011; Daniel O’Brien, columnist for Cracked.com and contributor to the New York Times bestseller You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News called it “ … Raymond Chandler meets Douglas Adams by way of a fantasy nerd’s fever dream. And it’s AWESOME.” Boomer is currently the happiest he has ever been in his whole life. He can be found online at www.clintonjboomer.com