C. T. Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger, reviewer for The Bookie Monster, and recently signed a deal with Ragnarok Publications to produce the urban fantasy series, The Red Room.
C. T. Phipps is also the author of The Supervillainy Saga, the first book of which, The Rules of Supervillainy, was released in June 2015.
C. T. Phipps' Esoterrorism was published by Ragnarok Publications on July 4th, 2015.
AN INTERVIEW WITH C. T. PHIPPS
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I'm pretty much the prototypical fantasy author, except for the fact I don't have a beard. If you do a quick survey, you'll find that's almost unprecedented amongst them. I was raised on Tolkien, played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons in high school through college, and have spent the years since trying to refine my craft so I can make the kind of books I want to read. Thankfully, I have a very understanding wife helping me through this. I don't think I'd have been able to accomplish nearly as much without her.
- What inspired you to become a writer?
I think I've always been full of stories in my head that needed to get out. The problem has never been not having the stories, the problem is that I didn't possess the skills to make them not suck on page. Writing is a craft and, like all professions, requires years and years of work to master. It's only in the past four or five years have I gotten the practice and skill necessary to get down the stories in way I think conveys what they're about.
- Your urban fantasy novel, Esoterrorism, will be published by Ragnarok Publications in July 2015. What kind of a novel is it?
Esoterrorism is an urban fantasy spy novel with a lot of humor adventure. A friend of mine said it was "James Bond, Hellboy, and The Dresden Files put in a blender and hitting frape." Which is a very generous description, I think. The basic premise is the world is full of supernatural monsters, races, and secret societies that live in an uneasy truce as long as the bulk of humanity is kept ignorant of their existence.
The strongest of these groups, the House, is the group which maintains this secrecy and functions more like a spy-agency rather than the Men in Black. They deal with esoteric terrorists (esoterrorists) who think the world would be better off if everyone knew there's creepy and crawlie beings all around them. Which, honestly, they might be right about.
Born and raised to be part of the House, Derek has been serving them all his life and after ten years of active service, has pretty much stopped giving a damn. This allows him to say what's on his mind with almost no filter--which isn't a good thing when a traitor is suspected in the Red Room (the House's operations branch) and he becomes a likely suspect.
Assigning him a new partner, Shannon O'Reilly, to investigate, exonerate, or terminate him based on her findings--they get caught in events way above their paygrade.
- How did you come up with the idea of writing Esoterrorism? Were any books or stories a source of inspiration to you before or during the writing process?
Esoterrorism owes a spiritual debt to the X-Files in particular and, in general, the cultural zeitgeist of conspiracy theories around the Nineties. Back then, it was easy to believe the government was capable of ultra-competent shadowy conspiracies. Since then, we've been exposed to their actual conspiracies which have been both enlightening and disappointing. If nothing else, the Truth that is Out There is the government is composed of a lot of people who don't know what they're doing.
Esoterrorism is an attempt to get the perspective of a person who would work for one of those Illuminati-esque cabals and see what sort of person that might be. The idea he was a person deeply disturbed by the kind of measures his organization would go to in order to maintain the status quo but unable to do anything but mitigate the damage as best he could struck me as an interesting character beat.
I decided to throw in epic monster fights, exotic travel, and femme fatales like in James Bond because the glamourous spy world of fiction contrasted well with the supernatural as well as moral ambiguity I was trying to right about. Magic-enhanced spies can do amazing action-movie-style scenes in my world but it doesn't make them any less likely to be eaten by monsters or capable of doing the right thing.
- Could you tell us something about the protagonist of Esoterrorism? What kind of a protagonist is Derek Hawthorne?
Derek Hawthorne is a Senior Agent of the Red Room, which means in real-terms he's survived more monster-filled insanity than any normal human being has a right to have. He's also killed way more people (humans and monsters) than any person should have to, surpassing a prolific hitman or wartime sniper.
At the start of Esoterrorism, he's outlived three partners, a failed marriage, and is really past the point he should be training agents rather than going on missions himself. Despite this, he's stuck because he's good enough at his job he's worried if he stops, people will take his place who will get killed. At least, that's what he tells himself. To use a James Bond comparison, he's about ten years down the road from where Daniel Craig's character arc began in Casino Royale and is kind of a living legend in his field.
The thing is, Derek is aware more than the vast majority of his fellow agents just how many lies they tell themselves to justify their actions. As mentioned, he's a very sarcastic and sardonic character, uninterested in playing nice. Really, verging on the insubordinate and daring anyone to do anything about it. This contrasts with some of the more idealistic characters (good and bad) within the setting. It also plays well off Shannon O'Reilly, his partner, who has seen almost as much as Derek but remains passionately committed to the Red Room and House.
Derek's also a bit of a geek simply because I find the juxtaposition of an ultracool assassin and killer being an enormous fan of pop culture amusing.
- How would you advertise Esoterrorism to readers? Why should readers read it?
I think fans of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files and Charles Stross' The Laundry Files will enjoy the Red Room series. I devote a lot of effort to the characters, world-building, and mythology but I also never quite take myself completely seriously. This is a world which, once, was full of many wonderful and fantastical things.
It's just events, lies, secrecy, and moral compromises have slowly worn it down to a much darker place. Derek and Shannon wouldn't be nearly as interesting a pair of protagonists, in my opinion, if they weren't frustrated romantics trying to make a cynical world better.
Besides, who doesn't love a zombie outbreak in a set of steam tunnels filled with people who have actually seen George Romero's movies?
- Esoterrorism is the first part of The Red Room series. How many sequels are you planning on writing?
The two sequels to the first installment, Eldritch Ops. and Operation: Otherworld are already written and in manuscript form. The first trilogy forms a thematic arc for Derek's character and allows him to confront a lot of the issues facing not only the House but his conscience. I have plans for a second trilogy loosely planned out, which will deal with the fallout from the first trilogy's events and culminating in the seventh book wrapping up the series.
I think seven novels is a good number for managing to tell the expansive tale I want to while also managing to deal with several world-changing events. One theme in the books is in the world of interconnectiveness and social media, you can't keep the supernatural suppressed indefinitely.
- What are you currently working on?
Glad you asked that. In addition to the Red Room series, I have two other ones I'm working on. The first, by Amber Cove Publishing is, The Supervillainy Saga with the first novel, The Rules of Supervillainy already out. It's a somewhat madcap four-color tale of a man who desperately wants to be a supervillain but isn't quite EVIL ENOUGH to pull it off. Indeed, he might have enough conscience to be an (anti)hero.
My other project is published by Ragnarok Publications too, called Wraith Knight and it's due out in January of 2016. Wraith Knight is a novel which follows the undead servant of a Sauron-esque Dark Lord who regains his free will when his master is undone. Now back to being the immensly flawed hero he was when he "died", he finds himself in a world where good and evil are not so clearly defined as they used to be. Its sequel, Wraith Lord, is about halfway done at present.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
Thanks for having me!