Welcome, Matt Doyle! I wish Matt could hop the pond and come over for Halloween. From the costume he wears when answering the door for trick-or-treaters, to his excellent taste in horror movies, we’d have a blast.
New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …
For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.
When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.
Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.
Favorite Halloween costume as a child or adult?
So, I actually cosplay quite regularly, and tend to build at least one new costume for a convention every year. The last two years, I’ve been reusing one particular costume for Halloween though: Renamon from the Digimon Tamers anime.
I built this costume in 2014, and my word it was a tough one! I’d never built anything close to a fursuit before, so I was going into it with nothing but a handful of online tutorials as a guide. Then, my sewing machine broke before I could start putting it all together, and I ended up having to hand-stitch the entire thing. In terms of the convention, it’s my most successful costume by far; I had tons of photo requests (sometimes, I even had bigger lines than some of the celebrity guests), and made a couple of magazine appearances here in the UK as a result.
I’ve worn the costume multiple times since, for everything from birthday parties to charity events. Halloween is my favourite time to break it out though, and for one reason: kids. Whether I’m walking around Trick or Treating with my youngest, or simply answering my front door to little ones who are themselves out and in costume, children love seeing a giant, cuddly, yellow fox standing in front of them. I get asked for high fives, hugs, photos … it’s fantastic, because you can see from the kid’s faces that they’re going to remember it for a long time to come. I love being able to help make positive memories like that.
It does confuse the odd drunk person though.
Best horror/thriller movie you’ve seen this year thus far?
Hmm … I rarely get to see stuff when it’s new. I simply don’t have the time or money to do a lot of movie trips, so I end up waiting for DVDs and Blurays to appear and order them then. Even then though, I usually end up waiting for the price to come down a little. The upshot of that is that my top films this year aren’t exactly new. Picking one would be hard too, so I’m going to cheat and name two from each genre.
- The Exorcist (Director’s Cut) – The Exorcist is so well regarded, and for good reason. We watch the film multiple times a year, but have previously stuck with the theatrical cut. This year, we finally picked up the anniversary edition on Bluray with both the theatrical and director’s cut. There are a lot of nice subtle touches in this cut but oddly, it’s not the infamous spider walk scene that stands out for me. It’s the ending. The extended ending actually feels a lot better to me, and it certainly helps set up The Exorcist III, which was based on another of William Peter Blatty’s books. Honestly, the only fault I can find in this is that, when you research him, the demon Pazuzu is actually pretty misrepresented in it. The way the demon behaves is actually more akin to the child and woman killing Lamashtu, whom Pazuzu was often invoked to counter. Even then though, the demon that possesses Regan feels more like Legion to me, which is actually broached in the third film.
- The Conjuring 2 – James Wan is, in my eyes, a modern master of creepy. While I find it hard to pick between his Conjuring and Insidious franchises as a favourite, I’m going with the Conjuring sequel here for one reason: it’s close to home. The film is based on the well documented ‘Enfield Poltergeist’, which was a haunting that took place in Enfield, London between 1977 and 1979. The house is only a little over an hour from mine by car, and it’s a case that we’ve done a lot of reading about because it was so fascinating. Of course, the length of time that the haunting went on is perhaps more indicative of demon than poltergeist, but that’s another story. The film itself is sensationalised compared to the documented events (Sky Living’s ‘The Enfield Haunting’ in 2015 is actually closer as a dramatisation I believe), but it does such a wonderful job of escalating from creepy to in-your-face that it’s hard to criticize it.
- A. Confidential – This 1997 classic is one of my favourite films. The main cast does a phenomenal job with it, and not one performance stands out as weak for me. The mystery itself takes us on a multi-layered, well-paced journey, and the conclusion is, while not entirely what you’d call a happy ending, satisfyingly realistic in the confines of the world it’s set in. In short, it’s as close to perfect as you can get in terms of thrillers, at least in my opinion.
- The Warriors – I first saw this on VHS back when my Dad borrowed from a family friend. I was hooked form the get-go. To date, this is probably the film that I’ve watched the most out of all the ones that I own. I don’t really know what it is about it that I love so much … the story is fun, the slightly campy costumes are cool, there are some wonderfully quotable lines … but it’s hardly high cinema. Somehow though, it endures well enough for me that I’ve ended up watching it at least once every year since the late 1990’s.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh man … I think that my original ambitions, back when I was a little kid, were professional wrestler and werewolf.
The funny thing is, I actually succeeded, to a degree. And I mean that in both cases! No, I don’t howl at the moon (unless I’m feeling particularly playful), but between Renamon and my last cosplay (Inukai from the Flying Witch anime), I’ve certainly managed to be a canine-person for a few hours a year.
The wrestling is where it’s at though. Way back when my age was only just hitting double digits, a lot of us used to play wrestle during break times in school. Then, back in 2001 (during my high school years no less), I took it to the next level and started training at NWA-UK Hammerlock’s wrestling school. Those were tough sessions; five and a half hours every Sunday, with very little in the way of breaks throughout. So many people came and went, largely because it either wasn’t what they expected with the focus on actual wrestling, or because it was tougher than they realized. I stuck it out though! During my time at Hammerlock, I got to appear on the same show as two of my old wrestling heroes too – Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart. And as to modern workers, I came through the same training group as Zack Sabre Jr and have worked with him many times, and I also worked on some of the same shows as Finn Balor back when he was Fergal Devitt. Over the ten years that I was involved, I did everything I could: wrestling, ring announcing, refereeing, booking shows, acting as a road agent, and even training people. They were good times.
Biggest Horror/Thriller novel influence?
This is an odd one for me because I tend to look to films and TV for inspiration in these genres. For example, when I wrote Addict, I came off the back of a film-binge of L.A. Confidential, Blade Runner and The Maltese Falcon. Other times, I’ll go to anime such as Ghost in the Shell and Psycho Pass.
YouTube videos about different encounters that people have had are great for horror too. It’s an absolute mecca for paranormal and creepy stories. Of late, I’ve mostly been focusing on a mix of cryptids and sightings of ghosts and vampires. Are all the ‘real encounters’ truly real? Probably not. I do think that most of them likely encountered something, though it won’t always be what’s reported. I actually wrote a long piece giving my view of what the Dogman cryptid may actually be. Regardless though, there’s an absolute goldmine of inspiration out there. Even just listening out for similarities between tales and picking out common threads between different encounters with the same thing can be enlightening when it comes to research.
Of course, I do read too though. Personally, I like stories that combine different genres. Take Urban Fantasy for example. Get the right book and you’ll get a nice mix of horror, thriller, and romance. Seeing them weaved together has always been an inspiration for me. Again, studies of true events always come across well, be they hauntings or crime studies. Comics can be a good source of inspiration too. Take Dark Horse’s Blacksad for example. It’s a collection of tales about John Blacksad, an anthropomorphic cat working as a PI in 1950’s America. The whole thing is essentially crime noir with some suitable political commentary on the period portrayed. Stan Lee actually described it as being ‘as good as it gets’.
What are you working on now?
Too much. Honestly, I’m always working on far too many things at once. Outside writing, there are the costumes and some art. If we’re looking outside stories specifically, there’s also my website, which is now up to five posts a week as a minimum.
In terms of stories though, that’s where most of my time goes. Let’s see …
- I’m finishing up my personal edits on the sequel to Addict before I submit it to the publisher. As a bonus, I’m also working on an illustrated guide to the Tech Shifting concept shown in Addict.
- The third Cassie Tam is in the planning stages, so I’m currently mapping out the concepts and the mystery itself.
- I’m editing FAHRN, a novella set after my original sci-fi duology, The Spark Form Chronicles.
- I’m editing both Stoth and Xera, which are the third and fourth books in my MG/YA horror series ‘Teller Tales’.
- I’m writing a couple of short stories with specific anthology calls in mind.
- I’m planning a build your own adventure novel.
I have a load of notes for other idea scattered about too, so they’ll turn into something soon enough and lumber me with a ton of other work, I’m sure.
Do you have a favourite character you’ve created?
Right now, it’s Cassie Tam. Sure, her being the primary focus of my work right now may be part of that, but there’s a lot to her that I really love working with.
In a way, she’s a homage to pulp fiction detectives: she has a very rigid set of morals that she follows, and she will pursue them stubbornly once she has her eyes set on a particular outcome. If that means sleuthing and subtle manipulation, great. If that means less than subtly punching someone in the face, that’s fine too. It works so well because the world that she lives in is corrupt by default, so having that sort of attitude gives her the opportunity to be both at odds with the underlying movements of the city while still being so embroiled in the way it works herself that she can work with rather against the tide.
The thing is, Cassie is incredibly flawed. She knows that her stubbornness and habit of digging will get her in trouble (it’s led to disaster for her in her past), but she does it anyway because she can’t get past the concept of following her own moral compass. She can also be a bit judgmental; her view of the Tech Shifting community is jaded at the onset, and her interactions with her client-cum-love-interest Lori really forces her into having to consider this. Then there are her views on VR junkies, the police in general, and the higher-ups in the city. She definitely has a habit of looking for negatives in people!
Throw in her fun little quirks, like the fact she loves horror films but suffers from terrible nightmares every time she watches on, and she’s just so much fun to write about. She’s strong-willed, doesn’t put up with other people’s nonsense, fights for the right result, but is in many ways just as bad as the city she lives in anyway. When you’ve got a character that gives you that much to work with, it’s hard not to love them.
That Cassie is a lesbian but her sexuality is simply a part of her character and not something that ever gets made into a big deal is something that I’m really happy with too. The Cassie Tam Files may feature a gay lead, but they aren’t coming out stories. They’re just sci-fi based crime stories that happen to feature a protagonist who isn’t heterosexual.
Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.
I always did like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.
Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.
The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?
More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letter box and a voice. “Hello? Cassandra Tam?”
It’s funny, really. For all the tech advances that the world has made, no one has been able to improve upon the simple open-and-shut letter box. I stumble my way through the dark and wave dismissively at the frosted glass. The light switch and the keypad for the door lock are conveniently placed right next to each other on the wall to the right of the door, so welcoming my apparent guest is a nice, easy affair. The lock clicks a moment after the lights flood the room, and I pull the door open.
“Cassie,” I say, turning and skulking my way back into the room. “Or Caz. Drop the Tam.”
I hear a sniff behind me, and the lady from the letter box asks, “Are you drunk?”
“If I pass out in the next five minutes, then yes,” I reply, turning the kettle on. I’d left it full, ready for the morning, but I guess this is close enough. “Take a seat at the table. Would you prefer tea or coffee? I’d offer beer, but since I reek of it, I guess I must’ve finished it.”
Footsteps creep unapologetically across the room, and a chair squeaks on the floor. Good. If you can’t deal with a snarky response to something, don’t say it all, and if you can deal with it, then as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to apologise.
“Coffee,” the lady says. “So, do you always see potential clients in your underwear, or is it just my lucky day?” Her voice has a slightly playful edge to it, but with a sarcastic kick to round it off.
The business portion of my apartment comprises entirely of a small open-plan room separating my kitchen from my living room. And by open plan, I mean an allotted space that encroaches on both territories but is conveniently large enough to house what I need. Or, in other words, a table, four chairs, and nothing else. Since filing went near entirely digital, filing cabinets have pretty much become obsolete, so the two that I found dumped outside the building when I bought the place currently live in my bedroom, and contain a mix of quick access work stuff and personal files I’d rather not have floating on the net. Most things, though, I store electronically, the same as everything else.
I rarely use the business table to eat, read, or any of that junk, so until this evening it’s been entirely empty for a good few weeks. The lady sitting there now is studying me, I can see, and probably wondering if this was a mistake. Whatever she may have expected, a Chinese-Canadian gal of average height in a cami top and a loose pair of sleep shorts most likely wasn’t it. For what it’s worth, though, I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.