Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Here’s an enticing excerpt from Matthew FitzSimmons’ new book:
“The rear façade of the Wolstenholme Hotel could have been more forbidding. Sure, it was possible. Throw in a few gargoyles. Maybe a moat and fill it with alligators.
Gibson told himself it would be fine. Chances were, Deja and her boarding party had drawn attention away from the rear entrance. Unless the fifth floor were disciplined, which up until now they had been. He judged it to be about thirty yards. Thirty yards of open, well-lit parking lot between him and the hotel. All it would take was a single man with a rifle to ruin his night. Gibson wouldn’t even hear the shot that put him down. He scanned the darkened windows again. Nothing.
It wasn’t a comfort.
He broke cover and sprinted across the parking lot. No serpentine or zigzag nonsense; he put his head down and ran for his life. Thirty yards later, he threw his back against the hotel and strained to hear any indication that he’d been seen. So far so good. Now he needed a way in. Vehicles were parked in tight formation around the loading dock, so he didn’t feel like rolling the dice there…Instead Gibson hoisted himself up on a Dumpster where he realized the jump was a lot farther than it looked from up on the fire escape. Don’t be such a baby, he told himself; it’s only a ten-foot jump from the top of a Dumpster to an antique fire escape. In the dark. If he missed, he was going to break something. Hell, he might break everything.
“You can do this,” he whispered to himself.” (361-362)
Interview with Matthew FitzSimmons
About the Author:
“Matthew FitzSimmons is the author of the bestselling first novel in the Gibson Vaughn series, The Short Drop. Born in Illinois and raised in London, England, he now lives in Washington, DC, where he taught English literature and theater at a private high school for over a decade.Poisonfeather is his second novel.”
- If you had to zone in on one character from Poisonfeather (besides Gibson Vaughn) who would you say was the most challenging to write?
Gavin Swonger proved to be an ongoing challenge to the writing of Poisonfeather, because as is typical of him he wouldn’t do anything that I told him. In the early going, I expected Swonger to appear only in a handful of scenes. However, he continually forced himself into my thinking and evolved from a walk-on character to a key figure in Poisonfeather. He made such a strong foil to Gibson that I wound up rewriting my outline to accommodate his expanding presence. In some ways, the book is about Swonger, and he becomes Gibson’s most important relationship in Poisonfeather.
- Do you have a favorite quote? It can be from your own creation, from an anonymous writer, or even Poisonfeather.
“I got most of my teeth,” Swonger said, hung up on the wrong part of the conversation.
One of the hardest skills for me to master was how to write dialogue that didn’t sound like me. Nothing flattens a book faster than a cast of characters who all speak with the same voice and for a long time, all of my characters sounded suspiciously like variations of Matthew FitzSimmons. One of those is quite enough. I’ve worked hard to improve how I handle dialogue, and I love writing characters who say things that I would never say, in ways that I would never say them. Gavin Swonger is a great example and a character who was so much fun to write for that reason. I like the above line about Swonger’s teeth because in a tense moment, it is both unintentionally funny and touchingly sad. It’s not something I would ever say in similar circumstances, but as soon as I wrote it I knew I’d captured Swonger at his best and worst. Those are nice moments for a writer.
- What gave you the idea to write a series themed around money laundering, theft, financial Ponzi schemes, and hacking?
Back in 2013, I read an article in The Atlantic by James Silver about the high concentration of psychopaths on Wall Street. This was in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and there was a pervasive sense that no one on Wall Street had been held accountable. Nor did I feel any genuine contrition coming from Wall Street institutions – only an irked sense that the whole situation was an inconvenience to be weathered until business could resume as before. So the idea that psychopaths might be drawn to and succeed on Wall Street, rewarded for their ability to disregard the human beings in a financial deal, struck a chord in my imagination. I couldn’t imagine a more satisfying villain for a thriller and so began to write a character sketch that would become Charles Merrick.
- What detailed research did you do in order to better understand hacking and special equipment like the Stingray?
Poisonfeather is dedicated to Michael Tyner, my technical advisor on both Gibson Vaughn books. Over the last few years, he’s given me a crash course in the technical aspects of hacking. It’s been fascinating to research, and from the beginning it’s been important to me that Gibson’s hacking remains firmly rooted in the real world. Whenever someone in the infosec world compliments me on getting the details right that is due to Michael. One of my favorite parts of writing Gibson Vaughn is planning his hacks with Michael. Our conversations often begin, “If Gibson needed to hack X, what’s the coolest way he could do it.” Then Mike gives me three or four options, and I try and pick the one that works best for the story.
- How did you choose the three quotes used as chapter starters/breaks? (“The Hubris” “The Cold Rock” and “The Giant, Crazy Bird”) Did you add them before or after you finished writing the chapters?
I knew from the beginning that I would use the Prometheus Bound quote for the first section. It applies so eloquently to Charles Merrick’s character and the ill-advised interview that opens the book. The second two quotes were late substitutions. Originally, I had chosen song lyrics by Tom Waits and Parliament. However, the rights holders required such astronomical licensing fees – ten percent of all revenues from the book, in one case – that I had no choice but to return to the public domain. In the end, I actually think the quotes I settled on work better for the book.
- Through the drafting, writing, and editing stages of The Short Drop andPoisonfeather, (plus becoming more familiar with the world of publishing,) what are points of advice you could give to up-and-coming authors?
Cultivate good relationships with your beta readers. The acknowledgements of novels are filled with appreciate words for an author’s beta-readers – friends and family who provide feedback on drafts. Such feedback can be invaluable to the process, but to be effective there needs to be trust. Most of the time, writers think in terms of whether they can trust their beta-readers. I think a much more important question is can a beta-reader trust their author? Initially, a beta-reader is going to go easy, suspicious that a writer’s request for “honest feedback” is actually code for “tell me how awesome I am.” The burden is on the author not the beta-reader to establish trust. If, as a writer, you react badly to feedback that you didn’t want to hear (but that might actually be critical to improving your manuscript) then that beta-reader will never risk the relationship to tell you the truth again.
- What can readers of The Short Drop and Poisonfeather look forward to next from you?
I’ve seen the ending of Poisonfeather described as a cliffhanger. I think of it as setting the table for Cold Harbor, the third Gibson Vaughn novel. Cold Harbor pick up threads from both of the first two books, and it will change Gibson’s expectations forever. I’m well into writing it and in a lot of ways it is my favorite of the three. After Cold Harbor, there are plans for two more Gibson Vaughn books. Once the fifth book is written, we will have to wait and see.
My immense thanks to the wonderful people over at Wunderkind PR for their enthusiastic assistant with creating the content for this post!! They are connoisseurs of good books.