Author Brent Michael Kelley was kind enough to let me interview him regarding his release of Cruce Roosters, which is available today!
BE: Thanks for stopping by, Brent! Can you tell readers of my blog a little bit about your novella, Cruce Roosters, which will be published by Omnium Gatherum Media, March 26th, 2018?
BMK: Thanks for letting me stop by! Cruce Roosters is a future-sports/cosmic-horror story that follows a woman named Molly Most. She is a sportscaster for the most popular sport in all the land: Cruce, which is short for “crucibles.” Cruce is played by Roosters… dudes enhanced with drugs and robot parts and stuff. They use old cars and refrigerators and stuff to set up crucibles to defend their roost from the opposing team. Each roost has a chute. Team A tries to get their bombs (basically kettlebells) into Team B’s chute. A demagogue called Prophit King presides over Cruce games, leads the country, and has his eye on Molly Most. As the Cruce season gets closer to the championship matchup, Molly finds herself getting pulled in different directions. I’m pretty sure it’s the most violent thing I’ve written, but there’s a lot more to it than sex and violence. It’s not a pleasant journey, but I think that’s what makes the end so rewarding.
BE: I had a blast reading this novella! It’s like Kurt Vonnegut, JG Ballard, and you were mixed in a blender, and the result is a unique, powerful, scary, and funny novella. It’s a breath of fresh air amidst a sea of mediocrity. Where did you get the inspiration for this? And what kept you going?
BMK: That’s some impressive company to be lumped in with! If you look at the technology we have available to us, and you give that to a demagogue of the past, where would that get you? What would Stalin or Hitler have done with control of social media AND a nuclear arsenal? Would Stalin nuke part of his own country to get the rest to fall in line? I’m pretty sure he would. I felt like the time for this book is now. Writing got to be a grind sometimes, because it gets pretty bleak in places. When I conceived of this book, it sounded like fun. When I got into the actual writing, some parts were tough to get through. Couldn’t stop, though. Molly Most had something she wanted to tell everybody, and after some of the things she went through, she deserved to be heard.
BE: Aside from the social contrast/commentary, there is hope and heart within your characters. Is this a reflection of yourself? How did you go about developing that in this novella?
BMK: I’m definitely an optimist. I see better days on the horizon. I think there’s a golden age ahead, but my deep hope is that we can just HAVE that golden age… without enduring some kind of global catastrophe. That all informs the theme of the book, so while all the horrible things are happening in the story, I’m remembering it’s all in service to that theme (however nebulous it may be).
BE: How long did it take to go from concept to the finished product? And were you surprised with the outcome?
BMK: Let’s just say it took a bit longer than I wanted. It turned out better than I thought, and I have Kate Jonez to thank for that. She’s a great editor, and I hope everyone gets a chance to listen to her read sections of Cruce Roosters! I had been so cooped up with this book for so long I wasn’t really sure if it was any good or not. Did I just waste a whole bunch of my time? Did I waste a bunch of Kate’s time, too? So far the feedback on Cruce Roosters is better than I could have hoped. I’m starting to think I might not have wasted anybody’s time.
BE: You’re always taking readers to different places with a wild and zany cast of characters that we actually care about. How would you contrast Cruce to the rest of your work?
BMK: I don’t find Cruce Roosters anywhere near as playful as the Chuggie books or Keep Away From Psycho Joe. It’s my first foray into dystopian storytelling, so I hope I did it right! Also, the threats Molly faces are of a very different nature than the threats facing the characters in those other books. In Psycho Joe, Ruby has to worry about a crazy neighbor and getting a girl to like him. Chuggie fights monsters and stuff. In Cruce Roosters, Molly is struggling against things that are a little more realistic, and more monstrous because of that.
BE: Your work belongs in its own genre. Not a lot of writers and authors can say that about themselves. Was this your goal from the beginning? How did you go about developing stories that readers haven’t read yet?
BMK: It’s mighty kind of you to say that! I make no such claim, but you’re welcome to! I only set out to tell some weird stories. I try to come up with original ideas, and I try to weave them into a story that makes a little sense. Hopefully the story resonates with someone.
BE: Will there be a follow up to, Cruce Roosters?
BMK: Interestingly, Cruce Roosters is kind of a prequel to a short story I wrote called “A Friend In Paga.” That story appeared in an anthology called Fortune: Lost and Found, published by Omnium Gatherum. The characters don’t overlap, but the world is a continuation of the world in Cruce Roosters. Could there be more tales set in this world some day? Certainly. I’m fine with leaving it where it is, but that could all change with a simple phone call from a prominent literary agent. Hear that, prominent literary agents?! I’m looking right at ya!
BE: What projects are you working on now? What can we expect to see from you soon?
BMK: Next up, I’m going after the 4th Chuggie book. Things got pretty crazy at the end of the last Chuggie book, and when I finished it there was a sense of, “Welp. I can’t outdo THAT.” But I’ve had time to think about it. I CAN outdo that. Also looking at the follow up to Keep Away From Psycho Joe, which follows the adventures of a young man named Ruby. Ruby’s next adventure is going to be strange indeed. I might end up kind of alternating between the two, sort of seeing where the energy takes me. Ideally, I’d have both manuscripts off to the editor by the end of 2018, but saying that out loud probably adds at least another year to both projects. I have some short stories I’d like to finish up and submit. Might even tinker with a series for young readers. I have a son in kindergarten, and I think it’d be nice to write a story that he could read. Gotta see how much I can get done before they release Borderlands 3, because when that happens? Shee-oot, you won’t hear much from ol’ BMK until he’s done with the game!
BE: That sounds awesome! Thanks again for stopping by, Brent!
BMK: Thanks for checking out Cruce Roosters, Ben. And double thanks for helping me get the word out with this delightful Q&A! May the blessings of Space Odin rain down upon you like rain. From space. Like spacerain. CRUCE ROOSTERZ ROOL!!!