Q: Can you talk about the world in The Age of Bedlam books series?
MBF: Global warming has been solved by a wildly powerful clean energy solution called Green Fusion, which also advances technology by way of Quantum computing and the anti-gravity processor. Hover cars, anti-gravity bed chambers, biodigital Palmars that operate by thought-command. Life is pretty sweet. But a massive earthquake ruptures a Green Fusion plant, and it explodes, wiping out millions of people, causes several other plants to go up and sends raw zintonium into the atmosphere. Organisms throughout the world that come in contact with the substance either die, go berserk with the “sickness,” or mutate at an alarming rate. If something isn’t done, humankind will become extinct. So the United Nations puts together a plan to abandon Earth and colonize a planet named Quorre—a nine year trip. Naturally, there’s not enough space on the ships for everyone to make the journey. The Emperors of Bedlam is about the struggle of the people who were left behind.
Q: What brought you to write The Emperors of Bedlam?
MBF: I’ve had a lot of starts and stops trying to flog my writing wares to Hollywood. Mostly stops. But I was working on a woeful sit-com TV pilot script called Rock Bottom, and it was like the fifth draft or something like that. Scripts ultimately are a commercial document that you write in hopes that the various smart people in television will want to develop it into something to be watched by the folks in TV land. Which is awesome, but you get this voice in your head as you write that tells you the thing has to be written so the producers will like it, the budget won’t be too high, the actors will want to perform as those characters, and a director will agree to bring the thing to the screen. Then, after all that, with an insane amount of luck, maybe the fine people in TV land will want to give it a watch. Certainly not the most personal relationship between a writer and the audience. I was staring at this old civil war compass I keep on my desk and this lean, leather-clad guy stepped from the ether and appeared on the crest of a golden sand ridge. Stories and characters show up all the time in my brain, but the better ones plunge in like an arrow into a target, not be ignored or broken off. This was one of those. Couldn’t get around it. So I took a break from the TV pilot and dashed out a paragraph about the guy who turned out to be named C. August Grimnail. In a novel, as you know, it’s just you and the reader. So personal. I loved that. Plus, it’s not like screenwriting where inner-most thoughts have to be shown on screen somehow. It’s allowed, even encouraged to write about what people are thinking—not just humans, creatures too (seems only fair). I just kept writing and writing for something like five thousand words, and when I stopped, I was like, *makes hallelujah sound* I thought, maybe I should work on that every now and then, you know, just for a break. *laughing* Ninety-five thousand words later, published with plans for who knows how many more books in the EoB series … Yeah, some break that turned out to be.
Q: Why did you become a writer?
MBF: When I was ten years old, I used to write stories about a spy named Nick Danger in Big Chief tablets. Remember those things? Red and black with an image of a wise native American chief on the cover, then later there was an orange Son of Big Chief. Anyway, I’ve been writing stories since then. None very good, to be honest. In fact, my big plan was to become a trial lawyer. But, all the time I was talking about being a lawyer, I figured I'd make a few bucks so I could eventually quit and write stories for a living. Insane right? I mean, being a lawyer is a hard job. If you don’t love the law, there’s a good chance misery will set in very soon. One day I decided to give up the law school idea and instead just go directly to becoming a writer. Well, as it turns out, that’s damn hard as well. Maybe it wasn’t such a good plan. Probably would’ve made a lot more money as a lawyer. But writing stories engages my soul on the deepest level. When the story is rolling, it’s a natural high. When the words all look like shit and you feel like even your dog wouldn’t buy your book if he had the money, it’s a hardcore hangover. The short answer is that I can’t not be a writer—how’s that for some legal speak? These stories that arrive in my head demand, with torches and pitchforks, to come out somehow.
Q: You moved from Denver to London to become a rock star. How’d that work out?
MBF: Well, I didn’t end up overdosed in a dumpster. So that’s a bonus. What can I say? I was young and cocky, as we are at 18. With some songs I’d written and my bass guitar, I went off to become the next Sting, Bono or Bowie. Made a demo tape, met a lot of famous people, learned the art of drunken debauchery, and did not become a rock star (in case you’re wondering). Eventually, I decided that I was stupid and needed to get educated. So I moved back to Denver and got my English Writing degree.
Q: Do you still play music?
MBF: Every now and then. Nothing serious. I did write the music for the book trailer, which is coming out soon.
Q: What do you like most about writing?
MBF: I love how writing requires me to re-experience life. As the story rolls along, the characters encounter objects and people that must be shown with succinct imagery, so it's vital to focus on the tastes, smells, feelings and colors. Better still, I'm able to "live" something I may never get to try, like space travel to a new planet. In The Emperors of Bedlam, August walks into a hall filled with old books. It took me days to describe the wonderful buttery smell of a library or an old book shop. Writing it, I re-lived browsing the Strand in NYC, the basement level of a Cornell library and a hundred others. It was almost as satisfying as roaming those dusty stacks.
Q: So you decided to go “indie-prod” for your book. Can you tell us about your journey in publishing?
MBF: In Hollywood, asking someone to read your script is a bit like asking them to clean your toilet. When they “love” your script, you’re on top of the world. When they don’t, you’re a ghost. So I think I have a bit of PTSD from my haunting the screenplay battlefield. Once EoB was finished, I had no interest in going through the whole querying process and waiting around for someone to decide if it was good enough to be published based on their criteria. If the readers don’t like the material, well then fair enough. I’ll slink back into my cave and write something else. But it will be on my terms with the readers deciding directly, not someone who thinks he or she knows what readers want to read. No disrespect to the publishing industry. I just honestly think rejection of this book I love so much may have killed it and broken my spirit for good.
Q. I like to ask everyone this. Do you have a favorite quote from EoB?
MBF: “It was the socks.”
Q. Seriously? There are some beautiful, descriptive passages in this book. You're going with "It was the socks"?
MBF: *laughing* I have no motive to lie about such things.
Q. What are you working on next?
MBF: I’m deep in the throes of Book II of The Age of Bedlam series. I can’t say much about it at the moment, but I sure am happy to spend more time with C. August Grimnail.
Q. What is your favorite genre to read?
MBF: If it’s a compelling, suspenseful story, I’ll read the crap out of it, regardless of genre. But I tend to love sci-fi and literary fiction the most. Of course, I grew up loving fantasy thanks to Tolkien, and George R.R. Martin is one of my writing heroes along with Milan Kundera, Hemmingway and Shakespeare (Henry V continues to rock my world).
Q. Advice to aspiring writers?
MBF: The way of things in our current society has created little lawyers, business advisors and accountants running around in our heads dressed in stiff suits and tasseled shoes saying, “Careful of the way you write this,” and “Caution: your writing may offend so and so.” Valuable in our lives, but when it comes to writing, the betasseled must be bound, gagged and locked in a dark closet so that the only voice is the story guiding the writer to whatever sticky end.