Today I am welcoming Peter Hartog into the Indie Spotlight.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Peter has spent the second half of his life in the Deep South. Despite being an unapologetic damn Yankee, that hasn’t stopped him from appreciating mild winters, Southern hospitality, or SEC football.
Peter has been an insurance professional for too many decades, which means before smart phones and the internet. Yeah, he’s THAT old, but he still enjoys all manner of science fiction and fantasy media, MMOs, reading, playing tennis, cooking, musicals, cheering his beloved New England pro sports teams, and the occasional good cry. He’s been playing tabletop RPGs since the golden age of The Keep on the Borderlands (which he still owns and has been kept in pristine condition).
BLOODLINES and its sequel PIECES OF EIGHT are Peter’s first attempts at novels but won’t be his last. A blend of science and urban fantasy mixed with dystopian crime thriller, his work has been lauded by Kirkus Reviews as “a riveting multi-genre tale with sharply drawn characters in a striking futuristic world.”
When he’s not reveling in geek nirvana, you can find Peter with his wonderful wife, two amazing sons, three fuzzy rescue cats and one fluffy golden retriever doing whatever it is a menagerie like that does.
You can find him as @althazyr on Twitter, as Peter Hartog on Goodreads, or visit his website at peterhartog.com to find out what he’s currently reading or his thoughts on writing, life and other random stuff.
Hello Peter, welcome to my blog here in sunny Massachusetts!
What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?
After querying BLOODLINES and getting unceremoniously rejected by a broad spectrum of literary agents with little to no quality feedback, I gave up. I got tired of waiting. It’s as simple as that.
Now, I know that sounds like sour grapes (no, it IS sour grapes), but ironically, the rejections motivated me. I started reading about the differences between traditional versus self-publishing, the pros and cons, the negativity surrounding self-publishing and the so-called onus of “not making it”. Then I began my research into the wide variety of distribution platforms available, the depth and quality of professional cover art design, the number of skilled editing services offering everything from simple line editing to more in-depth developmental review, all of it. It opened a whole new world to me, and I took the plunge.
While my writer head is firmly in the clouds, my years of living and breathing in the professional world reminded me that publishing first and foremost is a business. Agents are trying to find work to generate sales if they want to stay in the game. Their use of demographic trending, potential local, regional, national, and international forecasting, the “What’s hot versus what’s not” takes in Hollywood and abroad, those are a few examples of the factors involved in their selection process.
My Guardian of Empire City stories didn’t make their cut. It hurt, but I get it, and I didn’t feel I had the benefit of time hoping the publishing industry would move in my direction. I simply wanted to see my books out in the wild and I haven’t looked back.
I’m glad self publishing has been a positive experience for you!
What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? (What’s your inspiration?) Have you ever written in other genres?
As I mentioned, I have a tabletop gaming crew who I have known for more than 30 years. We’ve played all kinds of RPGs, from AD&D (1st edition baby!) to Don’t Rest Your Head to (one of my favorites) Monster of the Week.
I’ve been running games since the 80s, and I love coming up with campaign ideas to terrorize…err…mesmerize my players. About ten-ish years ago, I’d been watching the television shows The Blacklist and Person of Interest, and the concept for doing a crime thriller was born. But I needed more. As a fan of Blade Runner, Harry Dresden and Harry Bosch, I wanted to combine elements of science fiction, fantasy and the police procedural to come up with something I hoped was refreshing and new. I needed to do something that was as sweeping and epic in scope as it was down-to-earth and humanly visceral.
I asked myself these questions:
What if the players were part of a clandestine cadre of law enforcement armed with an assortment of powers and technology that had to stop horrible monsters who were equally equipped? And rather than make up a setting, why not use New York City as the base but call it Empire City instead? And what if the world went through some horrific events, survived, and magic returned to be considered an integral part of the world’s new technology? What would their first case be, and how can I combine the elements of magic and technology to really make things weird and fun, but grounded by the characters?
I went with Evil Hat’s Monster of the Week game system and unleashed my idea on my poor players. The first “case” for the Empire City Special Crimes Unit was BLOODLINES.
That game ran for over a year. About two years later, I had put PIECES OF EIGHT together, and that took another year for my players to solve it. THE DEVIL’S SHARE (my current WIP and the third book in The Guardian of Empire City series) followed a couple of years after that.
As I was running THE DEVIL’S SHARE, the writing bug hit me. I wanted to pay my players (who are some of my best friends) the greatest compliment by novelizing their exploits. The previous cases had been so much fun, and my players had created these brilliant characters, most of whom are in the novels, although altered to fit my vision of them as they related to the story.
But I needed a protagonist, a relatable lead who was completely independent of those games. I came up with Tom “Doc” Holliday, a down-on-his-luck homicide detective (overly used trope, but I’m a sucker for it) who somehow possessed a magic he couldn’t control and didn’t understand (another overly used trope) that also came with a destiny he didn’t want (and a third overly used trope)? Holliday is a very rough amalgamation of Rick Deckard, Rick Castle and Steve Rogers.
A long time ago, I tried my hand at writing epic fantasy and fell flat on my face. The story concepts I had never truly grabbed me. Somewhere on my hard drive are four chapters from this story which I might revisit someday. My plan is to stick with Holliday for the foreseeable future.
I love down on their luck detectives! I’m looking forward to getting to know Tom Holliday.
Do you only read the genre that you write?
I read a wide range of genres, from romantic comedy and the occasional erotica, to police procedural and thrillers, high and low (and all the sub-genres) fantasy to hard science fiction and space opera. Twitter has been fertile ground for finding all manner of wonderful stories, and I try to keep an open mind.
What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Video Game you are playing? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?
A WITCH STEPS INTO MY OFFICE (ALEXANDER SOUTHERLAND, P.I. BOOK 2) by Douglas Lumsden – a fun urban fantasy following the misadventures of a private investigator named Alex Southerland. It’s the second in the ongoing series.
After that, I’m on to Jonathan Nevair’s epic sequel JATI’S WAGER (WIND TIDE BOOK 2).
As for television, I am a sucker for all the cooking competition shows on The Food Network (although I’m a terrible cook), especially Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. My wife and I are avid fans of all the Marvel shows, plus I absolutely ADORE the Bad Batch (and Clone Wars and Rebels). And now that football and hockey season are coming, I’ll watch the Patriots and Bruins any chance I get.
And after a 2-year hiatus, I’m back to World of Warcraft (RP server, of course). FOR THE HORDE!
I love listening to music while I write. Movie and television soundtracks are always on shuffle. Some of my favorite inspirational music includes:
Person of Interest
Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049
The Shawshank Redemption
Escape From New York
1492: Conquest of Paradise
Jati’s Wager is a great book (my review). I’ll be watching the Patriots too and my husband and son are big fans of the Bruins!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Be creative. Be yourself. Be true. And write on.
What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
My current WIP is THE DEVIL’S SHARE, the third installment in the series. I’ve been in a writing drought for the past three months, but that’s normal for me. After the release of a book, my creative side goes dormant to recover from all the “writing trauma”. I have a tentative goal of next summer to finish the first draft.
However, what I am excited about is the upcoming release of the BLOODLINES audiobook, scheduled to be released sometime in September or October, and featuring the voice talents of Todd Menesses (toddmenesses.com). To hear someone else reading the words I’ve written will be surreal, to say the least.
I’m also slowly putting together the notes on the fourth case for my RPG crew. This time, a strange shift in magic has sent our intrepid Special Crimes Unit into an alternate Gaslamp version of Empire City, filled with fog, my horrible excuse for different European accents, and a vicious serial killer preying upon the ladies of the night. Has Jack the Ripper arrived in Empire City? Or is it some copycat hoping to forge their own bloody legend?
Sue, thank you so much for this interview! I hope I didn’t bore you and your readers too badly.
You’re very welcome, Peter, thank you for visiting my blog today and good luck with your new audiobook and book sales!
BLOODLINES (Book 1 of The Guardian of Empire City)
Those dark and terrible things from your nightmares are VERY real.
They walk among us, masquerading as your neighbor, your lover, even your friend. You see, Empire City is full of them…if you only know where to look. How do I know this? Well, for starters the name is Detective Tom Holliday. I work homicide for Special Crimes. My friends, what few I have, call me Doc.
And the other reason?
I’ve got magic of my own.
Welcome to Empire City, where magic and technology co-exist, and humanity endures behind walls of stone and spell-forged steel. A place where danger lurks around every street corner, and anything is possible.
When former hotshot homicide detective Tom “Doc” Holliday is recruited to join Special Crimes, he trades in his boring desk job for a second chance to do what he does best: hunt down killers.
And his first case doesn’t disappoint—a murdered woman with a bogus past, her body drained of blood, and two eyewitnesses wasted on the designer drug goldjoy claiming a vampire did it. Armed with a fickle clairvoyance and saddled with a team whose past is as checkered as his own, Holliday embarks upon an investigation through a dystopian landscape filled with bio-engineered vampires, interdimensional shadow parasites, and the magical masterminds behind it all.
But to solve this murder and safeguard his city, Holliday will have to uncover the truth behind an ancient shadowy conspiracy and confront a destiny he never wanted.
PIECES OF EIGHT (Book 2 of The Guardian of Empire City)
How do you stop a killer who’s already dead?
Some secrets never die. When the mutilated corpse of an ex-con is found in the bowels of an old church, haunting Biblical verses scrawled at the crime scene speak of divine retribution, and a killer hellbent on revenge. For Special Crimes detective Tom “Doc” Holliday doesn’t need his fickle clairvoyance to see that a murder like this is only the beginning.
With few leads and fewer suspects, Holliday and his quirky team of paranormal specialists embark upon an investigation that will lead them down a dark and twisted path, and test the bonds of family and friendship. From the frozen streets of Little Odessa to the diabolical wealth of Park Avenue, Holliday will need more than his Insight to hunt down an unstoppable killer.
But when Holliday suspects the killer might not be what it seems, he’ll have to unravel a twisted web of greed and lies to save an innocent soul, or lose his own, and watch his world die.
Welcome back to Empire City!
Who is next on Indie Spotlight?
Dom Watson exists in the deep green of Suffolk, England. When he isn’t writing about space-age detectives and hyper intelligent Neanderthals and pipe smoking babies he can be found at the nearest tavern enjoying ale. Or maybe, talking to magical tramps on the roadside. He is trying to give up caffeine but the brain won’t allow it. The brain is the boss and it needs the caffeine to bring out all the wonderful ideas that will change the world. Dom is just in it for the crack. Vents about mental health because no one else will. Will donate his body for medical research for ten minutes peace. Don’t sleep in the nude. The night is hungry.