Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Matt Doyle – Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas.
Thanks so much, Matt, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Matt Doyle: Either a werewolf or a pro wrestler. I actually achieved both to a degree!
I was a part of the UK wrestling scene for about ten years. I got to meet one of my childhood idols in Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, worked with some current big names like Zack Sabre Jr and Pete Dunne, trained a bunch of people, and even ran a few shows myself. It was an amazing ride, albeit one that left me with a few niggling injuries.
And the werewolf thing? I’ve been a furry since the 90’s. Okay, so I never transformed into a real wolf or anything, but I have had some fun with costume work. The first big project that I ever built was a Renamon [Digimon Tamers] fursuit, and more recently I got to try out some facial prosthesis to be Inukai from Flying Witch. It’s all great fun!
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
MD: I’ve enjoyed writing since I was really young, ever since my first creative writing assignment in fact. Back then, I was just getting into horror, and wrote a story about a circus comprised entirely of robot clowns that went haywire. Not the greatest storyline, I know, but for a ten-year-old, it was pretty good I think. It’s certainly one that, looking back on it now, I could probably tweak if I wanted to.
As to discovering I was good at it … I think that I at least believed that I was from the get-go. My stories in school – and I mean right the way through to finishing high school – seemed to score well with the teachers. I was also aware that my work tended to be very different to what the other people around me were producing, which probably helped. Honestly, if I looked back on them now, the older stories probably wouldn’t be as good as the grades indicated, but that was certainly the first hint that I was doing something right. It didn’t really sink in for me until I started getting some really good reviews for my first self-published novel, WICK though. That people were praising it and sticking around for the second book was really heartening, and kinda hammered home that maybe I really was good at this stuff.
JSC: f I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads? Why? And can we have pictures to drool over?
MD: I love questions like this … okay, I’m gonna stick with Addict here, as it’s the most popular of my books at the moment. I won’t cast everyone but will show who I’d pick for four of the good guys.
Olivia Cheng as Cassie Tam – Cassie is Chinese Canadian, so I wanted to see that preserved in the casting. Oliva is Canadian born, but her parents were Chinese speaking immigrants to Canada, moving form Hong Kong. The whole thing of whether Hong Kong is part of China or not is actually one of the most googled things about the area, but most people in Hong Kong do consider themselves Chinese as far as I am aware. Still, Oliva is a good choice here. You need only watch clips of her in Marco Polo to see that she can both act and fight, which gives her all the tools she’d need for the role.
Ruby Rose as Lori Redwood – Lori is actually a character that I had a tough time casting in my head. Ruby has the facial structure for Lori’s shaven headed look, and she’s more than capable of portraying her playful attitude though, so she feels like the best fit in my head.
Christian Kane as Devin Carmichael – Christian I’m familiar with mostly for his roles in Angel, leverage and The Librarians. He’s actually a pretty underrated actor in my opinion, and he ha both the build and the attitude for Devin. His combat skills are also useful as Devin is a trained assassin.
Nicholas Lea as Captain Hoover – Cassie describes Hoover as a six-foot slab of moustache and middle-aged spread. I wouldn’t necessarily describe Nic Lea that way, but I do think he’d do a good job as the most senior member of the New Hopeland City PD. Anyone who saw him as Krycek in X-Files will know that he can act, and I think that the role would suit him well.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
MD: Weird. LOL. I’m no good at sticking rigidly to one genre, so everything ends up with a mish-mash of styles. Hybrid Genre was a term that I saw online, and I think that fits pretty well. What you’ll tend to find with my work is that the full-length pieces will incorporate two or three genres, and there will be plenty of stuff going on in the background. It’s always speculative fiction in one way or another though, and usually has both a grounding in soft science fiction and at least one LGBT character.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
MD: LOL. She’s not on the keyboard at the moment because the radiator is on, and she’s warming herself, but this is Yoroichi. She’s named after a character from the anime/manga series, Bleach, largely because the character’s cat form looks a lot like her. That she likes to fight. She is an absolute terror in the local area, especially to our dog, The Great and Powerful Trixie (named after the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic character).
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
MD: That really depends what you want to class as my first; i.e. whether you include self-published or only traditionally published. I’ll do both, just in case.
WICK was my first novel and was self-published back in 2015. I did have some interest from a couple of publishers later on, but it just didn’t pan out unfortunately. This one fits broadly into the GameLit category and follows five professional card players in a futuristic tournament. The basic idea is that we have three things going on at once for each character: their real-world problems, their tournament matches, and the bigger backstory that links them together. What was really fun with it was that I got to experiment so much; the main character chapters were pretty much straight narratives, but the card battles were set out like a pro wrestling match, complete with commentary. What surprised me was that the character that people seemed to love the most was Carnival, a holographic AI in the form of an anthropomorphic wolf-rabbit hybrid that specializes in capoeira. She never had a POV chapter, but her existence and insistence that she is alive was really at the center of the main story.
Now, if we’re meaning traditionally published stuff, then my first is actually Addict. That was released last year by NineStar Press and is a lesbian sci-fi/crime noir cross-over. The whole thing was written after junking out on Blade Runner, The Maltese Falcon and L.A. Confidential. This was a really cool to work on because the MC, Cassie Tam, is just so much fun to write! She’s a snarky, stubborn PI, and totally awkward when trying to be social with unfamiliar people. The book follows Cassie as she investigates the death of a Virtual Reality junkie. The whole case blows up in her face pretty quickly, and what initially looked like an accidental death soon starts to look more like murder. To make things ever more complicated, Cassie starts to fall for her client, the deceased’s sister Lori. Lori is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as a panther, and Cassie has always been a little wary about the Tech Shift community, so she’s left feeling very awkward indeed.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
MD: Oh, yes! Books were my solace, especially when sick. I was one of the ‘advanced readers’ in my first school and started reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series at a very young age. I liked to mix that up with Point Horror novels, and a couple of comic series (Fleetway’s Sonic the Comic, Archie’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Marvel’s Transformers). The more that I could find to read the better though.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
MD: Type and hope. That’s not entirely untrue, actually. What tends to happen is I’ll make a plan, then start writing and somehow managed to deviate at random points, leaving myself wondering how I’ll get back on track again. It’s worked so far though! Give me a massive cup of tea and some symphonic rock music, and I can write anything. Or at least convince myself that I can.
JSC: What fantasy realm would you choose to live in and why?
MD: I’m not sure if this counts, but the Sonic the Hedgehog universe. Sure, there’s the danger of a mad scientist marauding through the city with his robots, but Sonic and co are just so cool, that’s the danger would be worth it! Plus, I’d get to hang out with Tails. I find foxes adorable anyway, but he does so many cute little things in the games that he’d always bring a smile to my face just by celebrating clearing a zone.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
MD: Oh, so many things! Let’s see …
NineStar Press bought the rights to The Fox, The Dog, and The King, which is the sequel to Addict. That gives Cassie a very different case to work through. We’re almost at the end of the editing process now, so I’m hoping to have a release date for that soon. I’m really excited though. Each Cassie Tam book will have its own self-enclosed case, but they all leave breadcrumbs for a bigger plot too, and this one really makes that clear. On top of that, we’ve got some back matter this time around too: my illustrated guide to how Tech Shifting works. I drew on a fair bit from the furry fandom with it, as the suits follow some similar concepts to fursuits, but with a technological twist.
I’m also working through my personal edits for LV48, which is to be the third Cassie Tam book. I’m not sure when it’ll be done, but I’m hoping to offer it to NineStar within a few months. I don’t want to give too much away about it but … just as the Tech Shifters can be seen as tech-based werewolves, the criminal that Cassie is chasing here could be seen as a tech-based vampire.
I’m also editing MOTT. Set after the events of WICK, CARNIVAL and GIFTS, it’s the fourth book in The Spark Form Chronicles. My hope is t have that out this year, and maybe have it accompanied by a collected edition. I’d really like to get the card game out there but finding time to do the art is hard.
Outside that … I have a few other things planned. A couple of short story submissions, a choose your own adventure novel, a YA horror quadrilogy … I like to keep busy!
And now for Matt’s latest book: Addict:
New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …
For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation.
Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to in a long time.
Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.
I ALWAYS DID like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.
Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.
The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?
More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letter box and a voice. “Hello? Cassandra Tam?”
It’s funny, really. For all the tech advances that the world has made, no one has been able to improve upon the simple open-and-shut letter box. I stumble my way through the dark and wave dismissively at the frosted glass. The light switch and the keypad for the door lock are conveniently placed right next to each other on the wall to the right of the door, so welcoming my apparent guest is a nice, easy affair. The lock clicks a moment after the lights flood the room, and I pull the door open.
“Cassie,” I say, turning and skulking my way back into the room. “Or Caz. Drop the Tam.”
I hear a sniff behind me, and the lady from the letter box asks, “Are you drunk?”
“If I pass out in the next five minutes, then yes,” I reply, turning the kettle on. I’d left it full, ready for the morning, but I guess this is close enough. “Take a seat at the table. Would you prefer tea or coffee? I’d offer beer, but since I reek of it, I guess I must’ve finished it.”
Footsteps creep unapologetically across the room, and a chair squeaks on the floor. Good. If you can’t deal with a snarky response to something, don’t say it all, and if you can deal with it, then as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to apologise.
“Coffee,” the lady says. “So, do you always see potential clients in your underwear, or is it just my lucky day?” Her voice has a slightly playful edge to it, but with a sarcastic kick to round it off.
The business portion of my apartment comprises entirely of a small open-plan room separating my kitchen from my living room. And by open plan, I mean an allotted space that encroaches on both territories but is conveniently large enough to house what I need. Or, in other words, a table, four chairs, and nothing else. Since filing went near entirely digital, filing cabinets have pretty much become obsolete, so the two that I found dumped outside the building when I bought the place currently live in my bedroom, and contain a mix of quick access work stuff and personal files I’d rather not have floating on the net. Most things, though, I store electronically, the same as everything else.
I rarely use the business table to eat, read, or any of that junk, so until this evening it’s been entirely empty for a good few weeks. The lady sitting there now is studying me, I can see, and probably wondering if this was a mistake. Whatever she may have expected, a Chinese-Canadian gal of average height in a cami top and a loose pair of sleep shorts most likely wasn’t it. For what it’s worth, though, I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.
“Only when people come calling near midnight,” I say, crossing my arms. “And what about you? Do you have to work to rile people up, or is it just a talent?” I spot her wince and can’t quite contain the smile that fights its way up to my lips. I can’t really afford to lose another client, though, so I throw in another dismissive wave and add, “Don’t worry about it. It’s late, and I’m grumpy. Milk and sugar?”
She nods. “Two sugars, lots of milk, thanks.”
I finish making the drinks and plonk myself into the chair opposite my guest. “So how about we start with a name?”
“Lori. Lori Redwood. And I’m sorry about calling so late, it’s just that I didn’t really know when would be best, and I figured that you probably wouldn’t be busy this time of night.”
“And whatever problem you have has been eating away at you, so you wanted to sort it as soon, eh?”
Lori nods and takes a gulp of her coffee. “Something like that.”
I tilt my head, and rest my elbows on the table, letting my chin fall into my clasped hands. “I’m guessing this isn’t a missing pet case?”
“No. Do you read the morning news sites?”
“I browse. Why?”
“Did you see any of the articles about Edward Redwood? They would have been late last week.”
I close my eyes and cast my mind back to the things I’d read over the last couple of days. The name is familiar, and not just because of the articles, but I can’t place where from.
“Virtual Junkie, died of an accidental overdose of synthesised stimulants?” I try.
Lori nods again. “He was my brother. It wasn’t an accidental OD, though.”
I sigh. “I’m sorry for your loss, but he was an Addict, right? That’s what the press said. He wouldn’t be the first VJ Addict to OD, and he won’t be the last.”
“You don’t understand. Yes, Eddie was an Addict, but he couldn’t have overdosed himself, because he never used stimulants. He used to make a really big deal out of how he preferred the experience pure, because he didn’t want to mess up his chances of becoming a Pro.”
I shake my head sadly. “Miss Redwood…”
“Lori, please,” she cuts in.
“Lori, then. Let me give you a history lesson. Many years ago, some bright spark realised society had become so reliant on electronic tools that most jobs carried out by big businesses could be done virtually. As things advanced, they built a whole virtual world where people could work, and gradually, the staff who pulled the long shifts became reliant on the feel of being in the place. Meanwhile, out in the real world, regular people accessed the virtual world to communicate with the staff, and to play games, and they too became reliant on the feel of the place. And so, two types of Junkie were born; the Pros, supported by their bosses, and the Addicts, who were no different to the drug users of the twentieth century. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging anyone here, but Addicts don’t become Pros. Both types of VJ get unhealthily hooked, but the Addicts don’t have the support to keep it in check. They all end up on the stimulants eventually.”
“Not Eddie,” she insists. “He had a contract lined up. All he had to do was pass the entrance test, and he’d transition to Pro.”
“Now that’s a first. Who with?”
“I don’t know. That’s part of the problem.”
I narrow my eyes. “Lori, why exactly did you come to me?”
“Because the police won’t reopen the case. They said there’s no evidence that anyone else was in the room at all when he died. If I can just figure out who he was negotiating with, then that would be something.”
“So, what? You want me to find out who your brother was supposedly going to be hired by?”
“And then what?”
“I find out how he ended up OD-ing on something that he wouldn’t touch, and why.”
I down my coffee and lean back in my chair, crossing my arms again. “You think that he was murdered, don’t you? By someone in whatever company he was supposedly talking to.”
“Yes,” she replies vehemently, then shrinks back a little and adds, “I don’t know. Maybe. It’s the only thing that makes sense, right?”
“No, it’s not. What makes the most sense is that your brother was no different from any other VJ Addict, and he just hid his usage from you. Let’s say for one moment we can even entertain the idea that a Pro company were willing to hire an Addict. That isn’t even close to a strong enough link to start crying murder. Honestly, Lori, I get it, but you’re reaching here. You’re trying to grasp onto anything that can make this all easier for you, and that’s fine. But trust me on this. No amount of grasping at nothing ever changes anything.”
Lori has clearly been fighting back the tears, and my little speech just pushed her over the edge. She wipes her eyes on her sleeve and gets to her feet, keeping her head hung low.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” she says, and turns back towards the door. “I’ll see myself out.”
“Where are you going?” I ask.
“To look up some more names. You’ve made your position quite clear.”
“I never said that I wouldn’t take the case. I just wanted you to understand how unlikely your scenario is.”
Lori stops in her tracks and looks back at me. “You’ll do it?” she asks, her voice a conflicted mess of desperation and disbelief.
“If there’s something to be found, then I’ll find it.”
“I…thank you. Thank you.”
“Yeah, well, don’t thank me yet,” I reply, getting to my feet. I walk back to the kitchen, slide open one of the drawers, and pull out a small metal disc about one inch thick, and five inches in diameter. I throw it to Lori, and she whips her arm out, snatching it from the air. She turns it over in her hand, studying the glass top. “You seen one of those before?”
Lori shakes her head.
“It’s a standard Case Tool, at least for me. Take it with you, and when you get home, tap the screen three times quickly. It’ll load a bunch of files for you to complete. Don’t worry, it comes with a holo-keypad, so you won’t need to hook it up to anything. I prefer to keep things connected to my server, and mine alone when I can help it. Take your time, answer the questions with as much detail as possible, and tap to send them back to me. Before it’ll send ’em, it’ll ask you to enter your details to transfer the deposit for the case.”
“Okay,” she nods. “How much am I looking at?”
“Aside from being a potential murder case, this is gonna prevent me from taking on any other work for the duration, so I’m not gonna be working cheap. The deposit’s five thou. If I find nothing, that’ll be it, but if something turns up, I’ll expect the same again on completion. That cool?”
“Yes. Absolutely. Thank you.”
“Not a problem. Now get yourself home so that I can get some sleep.”
Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, running his pop culture website, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.