Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Interview with Rafael Chandler, Author of Hexcommunicated

Today I will be interviewing Rafael Chandler, author of Hexcommunication.

What are your favorite book(s)?

It's a long list, but here are my top three:

Imajica, by Clive Barker. I didn't know what to expect from this novel, but what I got was the strangest of fantasies and the most epic tale of magic and reconciliation that I've ever read. Gorgeously written.

It, by Stephen King. Of all his novels, this is the one that I return to time and again. Pennywise is easily the strangest of all entries into the Lovecraftian Mythos, and one of the most horrific.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson. Completely changed my view of what science fiction could be like. From the opening sentence, I knew that I was reading a very powerful novel: bleak, nihilistic, and frighteningly believable. And Molly Millions, the street samurai with razor-sharp finger-blades -- who doesn't love her?

Who is your favorite author?

Clive Barker. I've read all of his novels and short stories, and I'm anxious to read The Scarlet Gospels. His turn of phrase is intoxicating, his characters are powerful, and I'm blown away by his take on werewolves ("Twilight at the Towers"), vampires (The Thief of Always), and fairies (Weaveworld). And let's not forget, this is the man who gave us Pinhead.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I get my inspiration from everyday life; I simply superimpose the supernatural over everything I see. When I read about terrorist attacks, I imagine werewolves hunting them down. When I'm waiting for a flight at the airport, I envision severed hands crawling over screaming passengers. As I navigate a busy street in a crowded city, I see Cthulhu toppling buildings, swatting steeples, crumpling trucks.

Friends, family, and strangers take on supernatural qualities: fangs, tentacles, claws, a hunger for flesh, a thirst for blood. I see a car and I imagine it flipped over with a writhing obscenity trapped inside, surrounded by flamethrower-wielding werewolves.

How do you get into video game writing?

A few weeks after graduating from college, I saw an ad for a job testing video games. I quit my position as an editor with a major company, took a huge pay cut, and started testing video games for Electronic Arts. Sixty-hour work weeks, no benefits, low pay, and the best job in the world. I had some real good times and made great friends. Then the studio shut down.

I took another editing job, as you do when you've got a degree in English Lit, and while trying to scheme my way back into the video game business, I self-published a role-playing game called Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium. It was fairly well-received, and it got me a job interview at Ubisoft, where I wound up working as a writer and designer for the next three years.

But all roads lead to Rome: for someone interested in video game writing, it's possible to transition from another medium (such as writing fiction, comic books, TV, or film). Or one may well enter the industry as a designer or producer or programmer, and later migrate into a role focused on narrative.

The key is to remember that jobs are scarce: a 100-person studio may employ dozens of programmers and artists, but only one writer. Therefore, you've got to keep your expectations realistic, and you may need to relocate to another part of the world for work.

What was your favorite aspect of working on video games?

I love the idea that the participant is going to be interacting with a story that I've created. A host of challenges are created by this opportunity, and creating an immersive experience requires the writer to be disciplined, organized, and methodical in her or his approach to the narrative. I've developed an appreciation for spreadsheets, folder organization, and good note-taking.

Also, I've been lucky enough to work on several high-profile titles. It's insane to think that millions of people have been exposed to my writing.

Another thing worth pointing out: free beer. At work. No joke. That's how we do it in the video game industry.

What made you decide to self publish?

I've worked with major publishers before (as a nonfiction author), and for Hexcommunicated, I never even considered pursuing the traditional-publishing route. For me, complete ownership and control of every aspect of this novel was critical. I had no desire to give anyone else the ability to alter my plot or characters, or to select the cover artwork, or to manage the approach to marketing, or to change the book's price.

The PDF version of my latest role-playing game, Spite, sold for $6.66. I really doubt any publisher would have come up with that price point, but given the subject matter (hunting and killing angels), it seemed appropriate.

I started self-publishing 12 years ago, with the release of my first role-playing game, so for me, the issue of self-publishing's legitimacy was put to rest a while back. I've bought indie novels, and traditionally-published novels, and you get the good and the bad in either case. Same goes for movies and RPGs and music and video games.

What was the hardest part of writing a full length novel?

It was a challenge to control the flow of information. Introducing readers to the world of Hex Division, and the Force Amplified Entities (FAE), required me to develop a back-story, but I was then required to parcel it out, rather than dumping it in slabs of exposition. I learned to integrate the details of a complex world without slowing down the action or interfering with character development.

Why do you love horror and vampires?

Horror has always fascinated me. I grew up on a steady diet of late-night slasher movies on HBO while the gum-cracking babysitter skimmed gossip mags. I read horror novels by Stephen King and Clive Barker, and I listened to heavy metal music with lyrics about demons and serial killers.

I'm enthralled by the predatory nature of vampires: they bite, they feed, they kill. Sure, there's variety: some vampires seduce, others simply attack and mangle; some are polite, some are feral. But they're all hunters, and to them, we are a source of sustenance. It seems such a horrific way to die: to be consumed by another living creature.

Personally, I prefer my vampires to veer towards brutality and animalistic hunger. My favorite depictions of vampires include novels like Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot and Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, comic books like 30 Days of Night, and films like Near Dark and Blade 2.

Tell us about your new novel.

Nick Tepes is a federal agent with Hex Division. He's also a vampire. He likes fried chicken, beer, and breaking necks.

Nick's having a hell of a night. First, he's sent to find and kill a rogue vampire. Then he gets word that a psychic has foreseen Nick's death: in eight hours, a beautiful woman is going to kill him.

It gets worse: the Al-Hazred terrorist network, who were responsible for the horrific attack on the city of Providence, have now targeted Nick's hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. According to the psychic's vision, Nick will be murdered just after the terrorists complete their attack.

The Hex team has one night to prevent this prophecy from coming true, but the psychics of Hex Division are never wrong.

Hexcommunicated is an urban fantasy thriller featuring Fearwolves, Soultergeists, Lovecraftian horror, vampire-versus-zombie action, and a ferocious romantic subplot between Agent Tepes and the woman who may well prove to be his own assassin.

About the Author

Rafael Chandler writes video games. His titles include MAG, Final Eden, SOCOM 4, Rainbow Six: Lockdown, Gangstar Rio: City of Saints, Deep Black: Reloaded, and Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation. He's also the author of The Game Writing Handbook, which was a finalist for the 2007 Game Developer Front Line Awards. When not writing novels or video games, he designs tabletop role-playing games, including The Books of Pandemonium, Mall Jongg, and the upcoming Necrotroph. He lives in North Carolina. For more information, please visit, or find him at Amazon.