Justin Robinson - A Secret World of the Blackest Magic
Much like film noir, Justin Robinson was born and raised in Los Angeles. He splits his time between writing and taking care of a small human. Degrees in Anthropology and History prepared him for unemployment, but an obsession with horror fiction and a laundry list of phobias provided a more attractive option. He is the author of more than 15 novels in a variety of genres including noir, humor, fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Most of them are pretty good.
Please give us a short introduction to what Coldheart is about?
Coldheart is about a young man discovering a world much larger than any he could ever dream of in the worst possible way. There's a serial killer haunting the streets of San Francisco, and Chris Black, our hero, starts tracking him and realizes something pretty strange: it's not a single murderer.
What inspired you to write about a cannibal killer?
The important thing is, it's not about the killer at all. As Hannibal Lecter would say, the murder is incidental. The murders themselves are about something much, much larger. I wanted to introduce this world (which now has two books, and soon to be a third) as a human being might discover it.
Tell us more about Chris Black. What makes him so special?
He's afflicted with schizophrenia, and he's spent his life being dismissed and condescended to because of it. He's also used to fighting for what he believes is true, and used to questioning reality as it's presented. So he's uniquely able to accept and understand the phantasmagorical world he encounters behind the mystery. His perseverance and toughness serves him well.
What appealed to you about creating a protagonist who is mentally unstable?
At risk of spoiling the entire story, I think it makes Chris's ultimate fate resonate more. I also have mentally ill friends and relatives, and I wanted to represent them.
You have degrees in both Anthropology and History. How has this influenced your writing?
It helps in understanding what is truly human nature and what's just something we invent to make ourselves feel better.
You authored more than 15 novels in a variety of genres. Why do you enjoy writing across genres?
It keeps me from getting hidebound. I was pleased to find out that everything I write comes under the larger umbrella of "weird fiction." I've taken to that. A lot of what I do can also be classified as noir -- Coldheart, Nerve Zero, the Blank books, the City of Devils books -- with other genres layered on top. It provides a fun way to explore tropes in both genres and create something unique.
This is the first story in your League of Magi. How do the other books tie in with this one?
The goal with the series is to tell a story that couldn't be told in any other medium. It's too sprawling for a movie, too big for a TV show, too labor-intensive for a comic. The hero of one story is the villain of another. So characters from one story may appear in others in entirely different contexts based on who's encountering them. Each book is a collection: there's a big novella that kicks things off, then 5-10 short stories about various characters and locales in the stories. So the sequel book stars Teotl as the heroine, who appears as something of a villain (albeit a nicer one than most) in Coldheart.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Deep Space Nine. And I can fence a little.
Where do you get your best ideas?
As prizes inside cereal boxes.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
I'm of the opinion that most people are fundamentally good and nearly everyone wants to believe they are. However, people are also capable of being fooled, and once fooled, there's a number of things that keep us from being unfooled. It's hard to accept when you're the bad guy, so most people will go through incredible lengths not to come to that realization. They'll justify the worst kind of behavior if they think that the ultimate goals are good ones. Everyone in Coldheart thinks they're doing the right thing, but who actually is is up to the reader.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
No. I understand who my characters are going in. I do all of that during the outlining phase, asking myself what the character would do in the situation. By the time I'm writing, I know what's up.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
Well, it used to be sitting down and doing my count. Since my daughter's been born, it's been looking after her and attempting to squeeze in some writing during her naps. And she is no fan of naps.
What are you working on right now?
Several different things. I have a space opera called The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is the later stages of editing. That's unlike anything I've ever done, but I'm extremely proud of the results. I just sent the fourth City of Devils book back to the publisher, which I think will be a treat for fans of the series. It's a big departure, starring a Bride of Frankenstein-style character trying to find the identities of the corpses that were used to make her whose memories she still has. And, of course, putting the finishing touches on Clay Soldiers, the third in the League of Magi series.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Patreon at weirdnoirmaster, and my website is weirdnoirmaster.com.