T. Allen Diaz - Cyberpunk Noir
T. Allen Diaz is an indie writer and (soon to be retired) firefighter in the Tampa Bay area. He is the author of several series including the Proceena Trilogy, The Lunatic City Series, and the flintlock fantasy War of the Gods. Writing and firefighting take up most of his time, but he treasures every moment he can with his family by the pool and walking the lake. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Lunatic City.
Please give us a short introduction to what Lunatic City is about.
Lunatic City is the story of a down-on-his-luck cop trying to do right in an unjust world. When his partner is murdered, he pursues the case on his own time, putting his job on the line and stressing his fracturing marriage. He is soon forced to take on a missing person case from a shady entertainment mogul, changing his life, forever.
What inspired you to write about someone who is forced to take on a private missing-persons gig?
It’s an accepted rule to put your characters through a high-pressure crucible, and a private gig was a natural way for a cop facing the ruin of his life to make ends meet in these difficult times.
Why did you create the Tycho crater as the backdrop for your story?
I had a couple reasons. One: I like the idea of being able to look longingly through the dome at Earth, and this is plausible in Tycho City. Additionally, I like the idea of a layered city linked to a class system. I’d used a similar concept in my Proceena Trilogy, a space opera set in an old mining colony and was leery of recycling the idea, but it really fit the story. After all, the contrast between the seedy Lower City and the flashy Upper gave Tycho City the right thematic feel I was looking for in a noir story.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m a pretty low-key guy. I like the mountains and winter weather but live in Florida. So, I spend most of my time huddled in the air conditioning or out by the pool early in the morning or late in the afternoon. I absolutely hate the beach except at sunset, and I rarely find it worth the effort to drive the distance and fight the traffic for a few minutes at the end of the day.
I’m pretty terrible, but I do enjoy banging around on the drums. I usually like to play unrecognizable classic rock, though I can play a few Eagles songs and at least keep time.
How has your work as a firefighter influenced your writing?
I suspect it’s had a great influence. The police and fire departments are very different, but the two societies have a lot of common threads. So, I think it gives me an air of authenticity when writing characters, department culture, and even some procedural situations. I’ve been told my police department funeral is a bit of a tearjerker. I’m sad to say, I’ve lived through a few of those and can write from firsthand experience.
I also think it helps writing a tormented, good-hearted cop who’s taken a bit of a turn. It’s not hard to tap into some of my experiences and apply them to a very similar profession. You don’t spend twenty-five years going to people’s worst day and not have scars. So, it’s only natural that some of those ghosts and darker shades of life find their way to the page.
Why a cyberpunk noir? What drew you to the genre?
I’ve always been a mystery guy, and, while there’s an obvious comparison to Blade Runner and Altered Carbon, I consider Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie Series a much more direct influence on Lunatic City. In fact, I borrowed a couple of metaphors from A Drink Before the War (a book I’d read eight or nine years before) and didn’t even realize it until I reread the story in the past year.
Lunatic City also deals with some pretty heavy real-world subject matter more in line with the Patrick Kenzie series. Setting it on the moon and adding some cool tech gives me the license to add the Lunatic street gang and mold the world into an environment that hopefully makes an old genre feel new.
Who is Frank Parker and what makes him tick?
If I was going to give you the one word that describes Frank Parker, it’s loyal. He’s loyal to his very flawed, dead friend. There’s no price he won’t pay to save his family. He is faithful to his job and the mission as he sees it.
Frank is also an anachronism even by today’s standards, an old-school cop looking to put bad guys away in a system he sees as corrupt and hyper-protective of the criminals at the expense of the good people of Tycho City.
He’s dogged, tenacious, and single-minded in his determination, but, above all, he’s loyal to his friends, his family, and his moral compass.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
All the time. In fact, my stories alost never proceed as planned. Sometimes the change is plot-driven. Sometimes it’s a character. This recently happened with my current work in progress.
I put a filler detective in a scene to establish my main character was being chased by the cops. She took on a life of her own, heading an army of crooked cops, and soon supplanted the main villain.
This happens fairly often. I do plot and outline my books, but it’s always a fluid process that does a lot of evolving both between outline and first draft and among subsequent drafts.
What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
A bad first draft on paper is better than a wonderful concept in your head. You can edit and mold something that’s written down, but a book idea unrealized is really just daydreaming until you do the work of getting it on paper.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
The cover was actually my concept. I liked the idea of the detective looking over this shiny metropolis with the Earth hanging overhead to give the book the off-worldly feel I was looking for.
A talented artist named Alvin Epps out of New Orleans turned that concept into a reality. He does great work and has done all my covers to date.
This is book 1 out of 4. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books tie in with this one?
Another influence for Lunatic City is the TV show Monk. Both have deeply flawed and haunted protagonists, and both have a mystery-of-the-week that overlays on-going plot threads from story to story.
So, while I think each “mystery of the week” is compelling on its own, Lunatic City is a serial where each is linked to the other by plot threads. Frank’s journey takes all four books.
Honestly, if the reader doesn’t feel compelled to move on to the next story, I haven’t done my job. This is a good time to add that Lunatic City is free, but the whole series is on sale. All four books can be bought for $2.97, more than a dollar off all 4 books.
You can get them here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07HPGGK3Z?ref_=dbs_p_mng_rwt_ser_shv…
Do you have any interesting writing habits? Favorite writing spot, time of the day to write, laptop or pen and paper?
I’m an early bird, usually up and on my laptop by five or six (sometimes as early as three-thirty or four). I sometimes write on the back porch (especially if it’s cool or raining) and love to write outside where I can look out at the mountains during family visits to North Carolina.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’ve just about finished the first three volumes of my Hard Rayne series. Hard Rayne is the story of Rayna Miloavich, an augmented super-agent/assassin with amnesia who takes on freelance missions on her quest to find out who she is and what she was doing when she lost her memory.
She’s a bad-ass, motorcycle-riding, two-fisted pistolera making her way in a post-modern cyberpunk future and is more Bourne Identity or Salt than Blade Runner or Altered Carbon. I was planning on releasing the first two in late March, but Amazon consideration may move that date forward.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The best place to stay updated on all my goings-on is to join my Nerd Crew Newsletter here. Not only do you get up-to-date info on new releases and other news, but you get two free stories: Lunatic City: The Rook a Frank Parker prequel and Sword of Jhanuka, a prequel to my War of the Gods epic fantasy. Members also get future free stories as they become available. I also exchange emails back-and-forth with members who reply to those emails.
I’m exclusive to Amazon. All my work is free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. You can find my three current series here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07HPGGK3Z?ref_=dbs_p_mng_rwt_ser_shv…
My website at https://www.tallendiaz.com/ has all my books and sign-up info for my email list. I have a Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/T.AllenDiaz and Twitter @T_Allen_Diaz.