Welcome to the third (yes, the THIRD!) in my now fully fledged series of interviews with Indie Authors.
Today we’re going to delve deep into the realms of Cyberpunk!
For a while now I’ve been following and interacting (from time to time) with the #WritingCommunity on Twitter. While I support ALL the authors on there (especially the Indie ones) sometimes a book comes across my attention that seems to be very much in my wheelhouse.
At that point I am compelled to buy it!
One such author that crossed my path was @Anna_Mocikat
It was initially one particular book that caught my eye, but I got so hooked on Anna’s writing, that I bought all three of the books below. (Click on the book covers to be taken to their Amazon sales page!)
Shadow City was the first of Anna’s books that I bought, and at the time of this interview, the only one I’d read. Hence the interview covers that book as a topic of conversation. However since then I HAVE bought all three!
Behind Blue Eyes – the last one listed above – is a Cyberpunk Noir novel, which I very much enjoyed. This interview is coming out just as she unleashes it’s sequel upon us, Behind Blue Eyes: Fallen Angels.
I was lucky enough to get a sneak early read of Fallen Angels, and let me tell you…you’re in for a treat!
For the purposes of this interview we just covered the first book, so as to avoid any spoilers for the new one. But rest assured, we’ll be back to talk about Fallen Angels at some point in the future!!
So, without further ado, here’s my interview with Anna Mocikat.
First, tell me a little bit about yourself. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing? What’s a day in the life of Anna Mocikat?
Even though I don’t look like it, I’m a total geek. You certainly won’t find me hiking on the weekends, lol. I’m a passionate gamer and have been since childhood. So, I jump in front of my Xbox whenever my time schedule lets me. I’m currently playing Cyberpunk 2077 and I love it!
A typical day in my life? Well, I spend at least four hours a day writing, the rest is filled with creating book trailers for authors and marketing. I keep myself really busy and wish a day would have more hours ?
I can see a conversation re: Gaming in our future!
But let’s start with ‘Shadow City’, which is a great concept for a book. Without giving anything away at this point, tell me a little about the inspiration behind it. Where did the idea for this story come from?
Shadow City has been very much inspired by world-building known from video games. If you look at it closely, it reminds of the setup in RPGs. Influences for Shadow City have been (among others) the Fallout series and Shadowrun.
You’ve set it in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles setting, which is interesting. My book ‘Hunters’ is set in 2045, in a future where an event in our world called ‘The Rising’ changed the course of history in 2016. It allowed me to set my series in the real world (predominantly London) but because it’s an alt-future, it allowed me to play a little bit fast and loose with the details.
What made you decide to set the book in Los Angeles, rather than somewhere like Germany where I know you spent a long time? Or your home now in South Carolina?
I spent a couple of months in Los Angeles during my education, so I know the city well. I just thought it’s the perfect location for my story. I’m using places everyone has seein in movies a million times, such as the Hollywood sign, the Observatory or the Rodeo Drive but show them in a completely different, new way.
One of my marketing taglines for the book is: Los Angeles is an apocalyptic wasteland.
You won’t believe how often I heard from Californians: That’s true. Lol
In general, I always like setting my books in places I know well. The MUC series, which I published in Germany is set in a post-apocalyptic Munich. A city I know very well. Then Shadow City is set in LA where I spent quite some time. And finally, Behind Blue Eyes is set in a futuristic Atlanta. I don’t live there but live not far away and therefore visit often.
The other interesting similarity between ‘Shadow City’ and ‘Hunters’, is the fact that you are dealing with an ensemble cast. By my count you’re juggling at least six main characters, and then many more supporting roles. What made you decide to do that, rather than narrowing the focus down to one or two?
I’m a screenwriter by education and used to work in a writer’s room for a TV show. When I began developing Shadow City, I wanted to bring in my experience and knowledge from that time and therefore designed Shadow City the same way a TV show is designed. It’s nothing unusual to have a huge cast and many individual story strings and one main story arch in a TV show, so I brought that into book form.
However, I don’t recommend that to newbie writers as it’s the most difficult to write.
We spoke at length after I’d finished ‘Shadow City’, about how I was drawn to a couple of the characters in particular. Those of Eurydice and Bombshell. Both are strong female characters who are flawed, which makes them super interesting to me. Tell me a little about the process for developing them as characters? What were your inspirations?
I created Bombshell to be a bit like a female version of Robocop, just more humorous and sassy. She’s a human brain in a robot body and therefore super-strong and robust but can’t do basic human things such as eat or have sex, which bothers her a lot. She’s the funniest character in the book and gets all the cool one-liners.
With Eurydice I wanted to create a female villain that breaks with conventions and cliches. She’s super-badass, ruthless and sexy. She does horrible things yet readers love her. Loveable villains are my specialty, which I have brought to perfection with the villain in Behind Blue Eyes, Metatron. Readers have voted him to the second-favorite character in the book, which is astonishing. After all, he’s the villain.
Oh, I totally get that. Character creation is a really important aspect of writing.
With that in mind, turning my attention to the character of Colton – and trying to not give away any spoilers – it feels like he’s being set up as something special in book 1. If I had one criticism of the book, it would be that Colton hasn’t really grabbed me (yet!) as a character in this book the same way others did. I like him…but I don’t love him. I was especially ALL IN on Eurydice, Bombshell and Eric. It doesn’t detract from the book for me at all, because I’m totally in on those other characters (including Vincent, who we’ll come to in a moment!).
Now, I haven’t read the other books in the series yet, so maybe this changes in ‘Dark City’ (book 2) and I’ll come around on him. But, looking back on ‘Shadow City’ now, would you approach Colton differently? Or any of the other characters?
No, I wouldn’t. I gave deep thought to every character in the series and everything that happens. When I started writing book1, I knew exactly how the trilogy would end. There’s a reason why Colton is as he is. When the book first came out, I was a bit concerned that readers might dislike him because he’s too perfect. But it turns out that he’s almost as popular as Bombshell and certainly more popular than the darker and more troubled characters. He’s a very archetypical hero and people like that.
However, there’s much more to him than it seems and this is revealed in book 2, Dark City.
When I wrote ‘Hunters’, I wrote in a character called Zarra, who was never supposed to be a main character for the arc of the books as a whole. I simply needed a character to drive a narrative in book 1. But, the more I wrote her, the more I fell in love with her. This was reinforced by my beta-readers who listed her as one of their fave things about book 1.
It taught me that writing stories is very much the art of evolution. The book takes YOU as a writer where it wants to go. Do you have any similar experiences? Were there any characters, or indeed storylines, that you developed more in ‘Shadow City’ than you initially envisaged.
Yes, there’s one character I originally wanted to kill in the first book but then decided otherwise. Turns out it was a good decision haha. But other than that, I have mostly written down Shadow City as I planned. In Behind Blue Eyes, however, I had a similar experience as you. There’s one character who had a much smaller part when I planned the story and he was supposed to die in the end of book 1. But while writing, I began loving this character so much that I decided not only to keep him alive but also give him a much bigger part in the whole series. Turns out, this was one of my best decisions ever, as this character turned out to be the most popular among readers.
Your bending of the myths around Vampires etc also draws interesting parallels to my own book. It’s really interesting how you take something like Vampires and give them a fresh take. Then there’s also The Dark Ones and their counterparts. I was getting ‘Heaven and Hell’, ‘Angels and Demons’ vibes when I was reading it. No idea if that’s what’s happening as you don’t reveal that in the first book. Can you tell us a little – in a non-spoilery way if you can – about you came about these twisted concepts?
I always loved vampires, although the classic ones like introduced by Bram Stoker and later developed by Anne Rice. Glittering teenage vampire lover-boys are my nightmare and I have several well-hidden Easter Eggs in the series, which show that.
I took the classic vampires and gave them completely new lore. I believe it’s about time to make vampires cool again ?
The heaven & hell vibe you got from the story is intentional. I basically took the traditional concepts of good and evil and rewrote them, creating something new. I don’t want to say too much because it would be a spoiler, but everything will make perfect sense in the end. And everything has a scientific explanation. That’s an important factor of Shadow City, which sets it apart from urban fantasy. There’s no magic or mystical creatures there. Everything has a scientific explanation. I’m a huge Quantum Mechanics geek ?
One other thing that struck me about ‘Shadow City’, especially in the third act, is the action scenes. It feels frenetic at points and I feel would lend itself to an awesome TV show. If someone came knocking on your door with a big bag of cash, would you prefer to see it as a movie or a TV series?
Definitely a TV show. As mentioned before, I designed this story like a TV show from the beginning.
Writing action-scenes is by far my favorite and I’m glad you and many other readers like them so much! I basically create a film in my head and then write down what I see. It’s written the same way a film scene is edited. This might sound strange for many but it’s how I work.
When writing ‘Hunters’ I wanted to deal with adult themes, like horror, sex, swearing etc. You don’t shy away from any of that in ‘Shadow City’ either. Indeed in some of the scenes with The Dark Ones, there is some quite…disturbing imagery. First thing I want to ask is… Are you okay, Anna?
Never felt better.
I used to write horror screenplays and the Dark Ones’ torture scenes are a reference to that.
But as with everything I write, there’s a reason for those scenes. I wanted to show how bad those guys really are. I mean, we have people in the book who almost have super-hero abilities, yet everyone is shitting their pants in fear of the Dark Ones. I thought it was important to show why everyone is so scared of them.
Phew! Now tell me a little about your decision to go full on adult in a world that seems to be dominated by Young Adult at the moment.
That’s really an easy decision for me. I personally don’t like YA books. I don’t like sugar-coating, teenage love-triangles and kids saving the world. Don’t get me wrong. I know such books are very popular and there are many adults who love them, but it’s simply not my cup of tea. I skipped the YA books completely and went straight from reading children’s books to Stephen King, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick.
I like adult stories with adult protagonists. Besides, I don’t want to put any shackles on me. I like describing violence, sex and gore. I think my characters deserve it to get laid properly, lol. And I make my characters swear a lot. If someone doesn’t like that, that’s ok. There are plenty of very popular YA books out there ?
Okay, here’s a bit of fun. Elsewhere on this website (link) I do a ‘Casting Call’ where I talk about who I’d cast as the main characters in the inevitable HBO Max/Amazon TV series of my books. So, who would you cast as Eurydice, Colton, Eric, Bombshell, Jean and Vincent?
I honestly don’t know!
I know that sounds strange, especially since I come from the film industry, but I never had any particular actors in mind when writing Shadow City and still don’t know how I would cast them.
That’s different with Behind Blue Eyes, though, where I wrote Jake’s character for Ryan Gosling, haha.
So, your latest book (and the reason we’re here doing this interview!) is ‘Behind Blue Eyes: Fallen Angels’, which is out on the 24th March (just a week after ‘Hunters’, so we share a launch week! YAY!). From what I know about it so far, it’s a Cyberpunk Noir book if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell us what to expect in that book?
It continues the story of Behind Blue Eyes, which came out last year. I can’t tell much about the story but I promise it will have everything readers loved about the first book, and more. The story will go in some very unexpected places!
You mentioned to me in chat a while back, that BBE is your ‘Masterpiece’. And watching your ‘The Goth Writer’ video’s on your website, I know that you’ve been writing for 20years and have a wealth of experience. So, what is it that makes BBE the work that you consider your masterpiece?
It’s as if all my writing experiences came together when I wrote Behind Blue Eyes. I simply knew that this is my best book and I loved every single minute of writing it. I love writing in general but I call Behind Blue Eyes my love affair.
The interesting thing is, that readers notice it. I have mostly positive reviews for all my books but Behind Blue Eyes gets the most excited and enthusiastic ones by far.
Okay, last thing… Tell us something about Anna Mocikat that no one knows!
Hmm… I’m a goth who loves sunshine.
But please don’t tell it to the goth community or they will excommunicate me LOL
I promise I’ll redact that later!
Thanks so much for your time, Anna. After reading ‘Shadow City’ and LOVING is, I’m positive that ‘Behind Blue Eyes: Fallen Angels’ will be a HUGE hit!