Rob Cornell is the author of DARKER THINGS, an urban fantasy thriller. An accidental nomad, Rob grew up in suburban Detroit, then spent five years living in Los Angeles before moving to Chicago to receive a BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College. He has traveled full circle, now living in rural southeast Michigan with his wife, two kids, and dog, Kinsey—named after Sue Grafton’s famous detective. In between moving and writing, he’s worked all manner of odd jobs, including a three-day stint as assistant to a movie producer before he quit because the producer was a nut job.
Here’s a teaser for DARKER THINGS –
Craig Lockman—no one had called him that in fifteen years.
Not since his days at the Agency. Not since he was trained to kill creatures that were supposed to exist only in nightmares.
Yet the teenage girl on his doorstep not only knows his real name, she claims she’s his daughter.
Before Lockman can learn how the girl found him, he’s attacked by a black-ops team of assassins. But these aren’t ordinary killers—they’re heavily armed vampires sent by his most hated enemy.
Forced on the run, Lockman protects his daughter from an onslaught of horrors while searching for who betrayed him and why. The investigation leads him to Detroit, where he unwittingly sets a plan into motion that could trigger a paranormal apocalypse and cost him his soul.
Rob was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
Previously, you’ve written traditional crime stories. What made you want to change to urban fantasy?
I’ll call it my chocolate and peanut butter moment. If you remember (and I might be dating myself here) the old commercials for peanut butter cups, you had two people—one eating chocolate, the other peanut butter—and by some crazy accident their snacks would meet. “You put your chocolate in my peanut butter,” one would say. The other says, “You got peanut butter on my chocolate.” Something like that. Oh, here’s an idea. With the power of Google I take you back in time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJLDF6qZUX0
And, yeah, looks like I dated myself. Anyway, I’m a huge fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher thrillers. Hard-core action. Strong, sometimes remorseless hero. Plot twists galore. I’m also full out in man-love with Jim Butcher and his Harry Dresden series. This is urban fantasy done right. Emotionally engaging main character. Quirky supporting characters. Cool magic. Scary creatures. Lots of spectacle in the most Aristotelian sense of the word. (Ha, I just threw some Aristotle at ya.)
I got to thinking. What if someone like Jack Reacher landed in a world like Harry Dresden’s. That spawned the idea for DARKER THINGS. Basically, it’s action-thriller meets urban fantasy. And dang, was it fun to write.
Tell us a little bit about Craig Lockman, the protagonist of DARKER THINGS.
Lockman is a pretty messed up individual. So messed up, he doesn’t even know how messed up he is, and that’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers. But he’s a strong-willed man who starts the story a lonely and living under a fake name because fifteen years before, while working as a government agent, his ID was compromised and his worst enemy nearly killed him. He became a security risk, so he had to go into hiding. But worst of all, he had to leave behind his fiancée without a word.
When Jessie shows up at his door, claiming she’s his daughter, Lockman has to reconcile two big parts of his personality—his sense of duty and cool professionalism with the passionate, caring man that had to abandon the woman he loved. He spends a good portion of the novel struggling to balance those sides and, therefore, create a new sense of self-identity.
He’s also a badass who isn’t afraid to face down a team of black-ops vampires sporting fangs and fully-automatic weapons.
What was the hardest part of writing DARKER THINGS?
The hardest part, for me, about writing any novel is keeping my self-doubts at bay. I have plenty of them. With DARKER THINGS I had the added worry about writing a novel length contemporary fantasy—something far different from my usual novel-writing exploits. I often questioned if I wasn’t wasting my time. But what got me through answers your next question.
What was your favorite part of writing DARKER THINGS?
The whole book was just plain fun. The action, the magic, my take on the standard paranormal tropes. I had more fun writing this book than anything before. Which actually added to some of the self-doubt. I thought, “This can’t possibly be any good if I’m having so much fun. This doesn’t feel like work at all.” I decided those were pretty stupid self-doubts to have. Besides, if I was having fun, who cared what happened to the book afterwards?
As it turns out, I’m happy with the result. And thus far, so are my readers.
Briefly describe your writing process. Are there any “writing rituals” that you stick to?
I’m pretty strict with my writing time. I have set hours during the day, depending on my schedule, and I only write during that time, and I write only during that time. I find it important to separate this time out of my day, otherwise I spend too much time obsessing about the book, or too little time writing. I also make sure to have a sketchy outline before I start. This used to go on index cards, but I’m now saving the environment by using a program called SuperNotecard. Just a couple lines per scene. Sometimes those scenes expand into several during the writing. Sometimes they get tossed out. But I always have that roadmap to keep me on track, which allows me to focus on telling the story.
How do you cope with writer’s block?
Doesn’t exist. That’s the short answer. The slightly longer answer is I have a secret weapon who goes by the name Jerrold Mundis. He wrote a book entitled Break Writer’s Block Now. Sadly, the book is out of print. His system is simply the best way to create a comfortable and productive working schedule, free of block. Luckily, he has an audio version of his seminar on his website. So I don’t sound like a complete commercial, Google him and you’ll find his site. Whenever someone asks me about writer’s block, I tell them about Jerrold Mundis. It sounds like I get a cut of his sales, but I don’t. I just really believe in his system.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read. Watch movies. Play video games. Play with my kids. Eat. Drink beer. Might explain the gut.
You’ve found a magic lamp. The genie inside agrees to grant you one wish (and ixnay on wishing for more wishes). What do you ask for and why?
Easy! More readers. The number one thing that makes my day outside of hearing my kids tell me they love me is hearing from a reader who liked one of my stories. The main reason I write is to entertain people with my stories. I want to give readers the same kind of experience I get from reading my favorite writers. I get no better satisfaction than taking people out of this world for a little while and sending them on an emotional and thrilling adventure.
Thanks for stopping by, Rob.
Thanks a lot for the interview, Nick. I had a lot of fun. I’m all about the fun.