Maurice Broaddus’ goal is admirable: to become so famous he can snub people at cons. He’ll also clean your clock at Scrabble. His novels include Devil’s Marionette, Orgy Of Souls co-written with Wrath James Wright, and The Knights Of Breton Court Trilogy from Angry Robot Books. He’s coedited the anthologies Dark Faith and Dark Faith 2 (forthcoming) from Apex Book Company and works for Apex Book Company now as Vice President of Acquisitions and Operations. He runs his own Con, MO Con, the one Con where he can’t snub you and is competing presently for the Guiness World Record for most falsehoods told in self-written bios. He can be found online at www.mauricebroaddus.com, as @mauricebroaddus on Twitter and on Facebook. He lives in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and two sons and cases of Reisling.
SFFWRTCHT: Let’s start with the basics: How do you define urban fantasy? And what are its key elements in your mind?
Maurice Broaddus: To my mind, urban fantasy is when the city is as much a character in the story as anyone else – plus the fantastic. The odd thing is that I didn’t know I was an urban fantasy author until I was told that I was one with King Maker. Honestly, I was doing NaNoWriMo as an exercise with some kids I was working with through Outreach, Inc., trying to re-imagine their lives in a fantasy world, but I also couldn’t get away from my horror roots.
MB: Yeah, I cleared it with them for me to use them in the book. They said sure as long as I didn’t have the house floating down the street or something.
SFFWRTCHT: So instead you have monsters.
MB: Just about every scene I have featuring Outreach Inc. happened to me in real life. Minus the occasional fight with monsters by staff members. Working with Outreach Inc. became a new way to see the city, which was a theme I wanted to explore in the book. Actually, some of the “monsters” Outreach Inc. has to battle are far scarier than the occasional cannibal troll.
SFFWRTCHT: For those who have not read the book, Outreach Inc. does ministry to the urban poor, delivering water, food or even socks and more.
MB: Yeah. Outreach Inc. works with homeless teens in exactly the way I depict them in the book.
MB: I had a Sunday School teacher early on who was a closet Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror fan. He introduced me to comics, Dr. Who, and Science Fiction.
SFFWRTCHT: Who were some of the authors whose work most thrilled and inspired you?
MB: Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Michael Chabon, Toni Morrison, Amy Hempel. They’ve all made me want to be a better writer.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you start writing and how long until your first sale?
MB: I made my first sale in 1999. I’d been writing seriously for six years by then.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you study creative writing in school? How’d you learn your craft?
MB: I was encouraged starting in high school to think about writing seriously. A teacher noticed I had some talent. Since my mom wanted me to major in something “practical,” I took creative writing on the sly, including taking the same creative writing class three times. Drove my guidance counselor nuts. Another reason it took me nearly six years to graduate college. I was using the class to give me deadlines to produce, which, in retrospect, made college the most expensive workshop ever! I have since sold every story written in them.
SFFWRTCHT: I think we had the same parents. I started out similarly with a teacher’s encouragement and then creative writing in school.
MB: Yup, other than some emotional poetry I did in high school. Laws have since been passed banning me from poetry. Once checks and real notoriety started happening for me, my mom reversed her stance on the value of writing. Now she’s bragging about her son the writer. I just wrote a children’s fantasy story about my mom and sent it to her for mother’s day.
MB: It definitely sprang from working with the kids through Outreach Inc. I once called them kings and queens of the streets…
SFFWRTCHT: The books are fantasy but very realistic in feel–gritty language, violence & characters. How much did you research?
MB: A lot. But that “research” was mostly living my life. Breton Court is actually Gateway Court, where I lived.
SFFWRTCHT: So it was a rough neighborhood?
MB: I didn’t think it was rough at the time. My wife disagreed. Then I read the first draft of King Maker and was like “damn, I’m glad we moved.”
SFFWRTCHT: Had you conceived of it as a trilogy or are there more?
MB: Strictly a trilogy. Though now that the world is built, I can easily go back and explore more characters. It evolved. I had originally penned it as a stand alone, but it was pointed out to me that there was a whole lot of story left in those characters. And there are an awful lot of Arthurian mythos to play with.
SFFWRTCHT: Were you a big Arthur Legend fan?
MB: I was a huge fan of Excalibur. And The Wire, for that matter. I’ve always thought Arthur was a bit of a tool, honestly. Part of that was his burden of being king though.
SFFWRTCHT: How long did it take you to write the first book?
MB: I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo. Took another three months for a second draft. I wrote the third draft (when I thought it a YA) and took two months. I sold it to Angry Robot Books and was told it was not a YA and I needed to add 30K words. So another three months. I wrote all of King’s Justice in just under six months. I just jumped right in and ran, which led to huge writer’s block for book three, King’s War, because I had to somehow wrap up all of those character arcs/legend somehow. Keep in mind, I was thinking of it as a writing exercise at the time. I don’t know if I’d sit down and do that today.
SFFWRTCHT: Were you a full time writer at the time?
MB: No, I became a full time writer because of it.
SFFWRTCHT: Plus you workshopped parts with a writer’s group you said, right?
MB: That was interesting. One lady (white) was an Arthurian expert. One gentleman (black) was a “hood” expert. They had totally different reactions to King Maker. She loved playing “who’s that?” with the book. He loved the characters. “I swear we lived in the same neighborhood” was my favorite compliment from him.
SFFWRTCHT: Does King’s War just pick up where King’s Justice left off?
MB: King’s War picks up right after King’s Justice, well into the repercussions of the betrayal from within the community. Their merry band of friends has exploded and is forever changed, yet they have to figure out some way to come together because Dred has gathered his forces and is making his final move.
SFFWRTCHT: How has your writing of these stories and characters evolved over the course of three books or has it?
MB: I think I especially got a handle of the characters in books two and three. By then, I was comfortable with them and with the story I wanted to tell. Some characters are always fun to write (Merle, Naptown Red) and some characters were much richer than I first imagined them (Percy, Lott).
MB: There was a very general outline for books two and three from the beginning. That being said, every time I sat
SFFWRTCHT: Do you start with characters sketches or outlines or just let it unfold as it comes? down to write each of the subsequent books, I had to thoroughly outline. If for no other reason than I was juggling sooooo many characters and overlapping storylines.
MB: I am all character sketches and outlines. I feel like more engineer than writer sometimes. But with that prep, by mid story, my characters have wandered off and done their own thing so I end up having to re-plot from the mid-way point after I’ve lost track of everyone. Keep in mind that the extra 30K was due in August, all of Book 2 in December, and Dark Faith was due that December also! I don’t remember the last half of 2009. It was a blur of words.
SFFWRTCHT: Any future plans to return to the world and characters of this trilogy?
MB: There are no immediate plans. King’s story has ran its course, but there are still a lot of stories to tell. I loved writing about Tristan and Iz all day long. And Omarosa. The universe itself is fun. I already dipped into it once already with the limited edition hardcover novella, Bleed With Me. So if fans demand it, I can easily pick up any of their stories.
MB: The church’s stance on horror has always puzzled me. I get variations on “It’s of the Devil” and “you’re supporting witchcraft/evil/the occult.” The best part about editing those was the friendship it forged between myself, Jason Sizemore at Apex and Jerry Gordon, my co-editor. I pitched the idea after Riesling at MoCon III to Jason. Jerry came over to the house every week, Riesling in hand, while we read and talked. I mostly dealt with the stories/writers I solicited. Jerry banned me from the slush pile after a while, when I shortlisted a fifth story I’d discovered there. Editors aren’t out to “get” writers. We want to find those gems. I want to be that gem! I’ve only felt that “gem” feeling a couple of times. “Pimp My Airship” was one. The children’s fantasy was another time. And a story I wrote called “Shadow Boxing”. With novels, I’m more insecure/neurotic than usual so I never get to the possibility of a gem.
SFFWRTCHT: Which denomination do you belong to?
MB: I’ve been mostly conservative, non-demoninational most of my life. Fundamentalist background. As you can imagine, I always fit in well at church. They especially loved me pointing out all of the horror and occult stuff in the Bible. Now I go to a church with a bunch of foodies who love wine.
SFFWRTCHT: Well, your stories’ grittiness does defy the bounds of the typical Christian writing industry.
MB: There is that, but that’s life in the streets. Few of my stories are (Christian) by some people’s tastes. But Christian is my worldview, not my “writing style.” Many are ready to get upset, until they realize that Outreach Inc. is a real Christian organization, and, minus the monsters, this is the lives kids live. And they need to be loved and ministered to. So King Maker and Dark Faith even more so, stretches a lot of folks of faith.
SFFWRTCHT: What projects are you working on for the future that we can look forward to?
MB: I have a Science Fiction noir novella coming out from Apex in August called I Can Transform You. I have a horror novella called Bleed With Me from Delirium Books in October. King’s War just came out this month, plus, a dozen short stories in various magazines and anthologies to come.
MB: I wanted a safe place where writers could talk about spiritual issues and be loved on by the church and a successful Mo*Con is measured in how well people felt loved. Mo*Con VI was the best and most controversial yet. Keep the first weekend in May open next year. We’ll be updating the Mo*Con site soon.
SFFWRTCHT: Readers should be sure and check out the Maurice Broaddus page at Amazon, especially the funny bio: http://amzn.to/r5h0SL.
MB: Yep. Allow me to leave you with this image: http://www.briankeene.com/?p=7701
Interviewer Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.