Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful
by Justin D. Herd
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The right hand of the dominant mob family, Raine Morgan is tasked with hunting down two miscreants messing with the bottom line. He finds them on the docks, but, in the confusion of the fight, accidentally kills their victim and lets them escape. Horrified at what he’s done, Raine seeks redemption as well as revenge.
Things spiral out of control when a greedy middleman overthrows Raine’s mob organization. It’s only with the help of a friend inside the crumbling mob as well as a streetwise artist that Raine remains undetected as he searches for the men who started this all. Raine doesn’t realize, however, he has caught the attention of a disparate conclave of gods in the process.
As the pantheon returns to the city they’d abandoned, old conflicts re-emerge, causing divine civil war. Both sides try to pull Raine to their side, expecting to find a naive god for them to manipulate. Instead, they find a man stripped of everything, intent on playing both sides as they learn an awful reality – even gods can die.
Vents flushed and opened with a rush of steam. Hot enough to melt skin, the air sang to Marise, a beacon leading her home. She turned her head above to the tram line to the pipes and searched for her hole. As she approached her outpost, she slowed and scoped the scene. It was just about time for the dregs of society to pour out into the street. If she was found, well . . . she shuddered. The best outcome would be her being ousted by a city worker. Every other thought left her gripping the blade in her pocket, until her hand ached from the constant pressure.
She peered over her shoulder, found no one in sight. She shifted the bag’s strap across her chest and began to climb. Moonlight caressed her as she climbed, hand after hand wrapped around the beams. Faint conversation hit her ears. She paused, wedged between two pipes. Flashing neon from local bars flashed in her periphery. She shot quick glances to each side but saw no one.
She shifted her grip, yelped. Withdrawing her hand, she saw the jagged remains of a twisted bolt. She cursed herself for not paying attention, thankful it was her non-dominant hand. She tried to inspect the wound in the exuberant neons. She fought through the pain, clenching her hand. Blood flowed through fist. She wiped it on her bag.
A giggle came from street level as a couple emerged from between the beams of the landing.
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Justin D. Herd, author of Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful.
Hi Justin, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Would you please tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Not sure what you want to know! I’m a Specialty Retail Manager with Vintage Stock and I’ve been writing novels for ten years now. Long and short of it is that I got started by taking classes at the local VoTech with Mel Odom and finished my first novel in three months. It was rough, no doubt, but I accomplished my goal of not being one of those writers that takes ten years to finish their first book. I haven’t done much better, writing only four in the past nine years, but then again the editing thing is a lot more intensive than anyone likes to admit.
What were you like at school?
Distracted. Too smart for the bunch. I was in AP English and Math, but would have trouble paying attention to stuff I already knew. My junior year I dropped out of the AP stuff and spent most of my Math class making empty crosswords with band names for my classmates.
Were you good at English?
I’d like to think I was. But I was bored with all the analysis and having to write essays to impress some faceless people. I loved creative writing, just hated talking about theme and all that jazz.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Honestly, I’d like for people to read my stories. I tend to shoot for impossible ideas and try to make them reasonable. I don’t always succeed, but if there are people out there reading my work and discussing it, then I’ll be happy.
Which writers inspire you?
I’m not sure if there are any writers that actively inspire me. I have some favorites. I have some that would and have turned me into a giddy schoolgirl when I met them (Patrick Rothfuss), but there aren’t really any that get me out of bed and make me think “I want to be that.”
Give us an insight into your main character, Raine. What does he do that is special?
Isn’t that the problem with an everyman? That he isn’t supposed to be special? The thing I like so much about Raine is that he’s clumsy. He’s trying to do the right thing, even inside of a mafia, and he doesn’t kill his marks. Everyone else goes for brutality, but he will pay off their debts and try to set them on the right path. Unfortunately, most of them still falter and get back into debt, but at least he’s trying.
What are you working on currently?
Mostly, I’m working on making sure Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful is successful. But I am working on editing my fourth novel, The Magician. It’s about a robot who sells his soul to become a magician, only to come up against Lovecraftian Elder Gods. As I said, impossible ideas.
Which actor would you like to see playing the Raine from Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful?
My dream casting for Raine would be Michael Pitt. I absolutely love all the things he does. He’s always a bit quirky, a bit out of place, but he makes it work for him. Him as James Darmody was my favorite part of Boardwalk Empire and a clear inspiration for Raine.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing?
I was in college, not really feeling the whole vibe of it. I had majored in Letters, then Creative Writing, and none of it really fit me. School, in and of itself, never really interested me and to continue for years trying to get the “right” to write. It just wasn’t for me. Instead, I took the semester off and went to Moore Norman Technology, took some classes with Mel Odom, and, within three months, I had finished my first novel. At that point, I realized I didn’t need a degree to write and left college to pursue writing full time.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I write when I can. I often joke that I leave my full-time job to go my other full-time job, writing. Generally, if I get a free hour, it’s dedicated to writing. On my days off, I will go to Starbucks and sit sometimes for ten hours, just writing. You tend to become a bit infamous when you start doing that.
Where do your ideas come from?
I’m honestly not quite sure. I just find stuff and make odd connections. One of my novels came from the Out of the Game podcast. They were talking about what different types of brain damage can do to a person and I wondered “What if a corporation used that to force people up the corporate ladder?” So I wrote a novel about a society that inserts these green crystals into the base of people’s skulls and its shape would cause different types of brain damage. The lead character was being blocked from promotion, despite how good she was at the job, because she couldn’t afford to get the operation. So, she decides to get a back alley job. Then the crystal breaks. What now?
When I’m in the middle of writing, though, I use sites like DeviantArt to help stimulate my creative juices. I tend to save a lot of art, then peruse it when I’m feeling blocked, using their lighting cues, or the monsters or whatever to help give me a boost. Also, you can never go wrong with a good rock album.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?
I’m a pantser by nature. I’ve tried plotting out, tried writing out of sequential order, but it has never led anywhere good. Usually, I tend to write until I feel like I’m stuck, then I’ll plot out maybe two, three chapters, and then it’s off to the races! Of course, my characters end up doing something else entirely, so the plot doesn’t stick for very long.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
For me, it’s the anxiety of where to go. I tend to think all things out, worry about every angle, try to talk to people and that never works out . . . at the end of the day, I have to just power through it. Usually, as soon as I break that barrier, I’m good to go, at least for a few thousand words. I guess the biggest issue, now that I’m thinking about it, is trying to get across your vision to someone you’re asking help from. Most of the time, they suggest things that are so out of the realm of possibility that it’s hard not to get frustrated. I like to say that writers ask others for opinions so they know what they aren’t going to do.
Do you read much and who are your favorite authors?
I’m more of an audiobook person now. The issue with those is that my mind tends to wander, so I can miss bits of information here and there. On occasion, it actually makes the book better! But in the recent weeks, I’ve picked back up reading before bed. Read a chapter here, a chapter there, and finish a book in a couple weeks.
My favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Patrick Rothfuss, Justin Cronin, Terry Pratchett, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, and Stephen King.
For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Well, my library of thousands of books (not even joking) would say one thing, but I think I’m starting to lean towards eBooks. One thing I like is the ability to change the font to what’s comfortable, plus my Kindle Fire has Goodreads integration, so at the end of each night, I can post my thoughts and progress on the book. It’s nice to have a constant indicator that shows “Yes, I am making progress.” Social media really hasn’t been my thing, so anything that makes it easier is a plus in my book.
What book are you reading at present?
I just finished Vanessa Eccles’s Fabled. I’ve picked back up Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Skullcrack City, which is Bizarro gold. I’m also reading The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology, edited by Richard Thomas, who recently spoke at OWFI 2015.
Tell us about the cover and how it came about.
I’ve been toying around with the cover for months, even took watermarked stock photos in an attempt to recreate what I had in my head but I was unable to create anything compelling. Then I stumbled across Unsplash.com, as well as other commercial free resources, and it opened up a whole realm of possibilities for me.
Who designed your book cover?
I actually designed this one myself. I managed to find a couple disparate images that called to mind the mood, if not an actual scene from the novel, and pull them together. The fonts took another dozen or so attempts, but I eventually locked them down and the rest was just tinkering until it was perfect.
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one?
I have not yet. I’ve talked with a friend of mine who is a cameraman, but so far it’s only gone that far. I’d love to recreate the opening image of the novel, a man standing in an alley across from some flashing neons, silhouetted against the light as he pulled out a crooked cigarette and lights it.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
I’m sure on some level it does. The problem with giving stuff away is that the item then loses a lot of its perceived value. A great example for the gamers out there would be Steam Sales. They’re a wondrous event, usually during the summer and the holiday seasons, that discounts games to ludicrous lengths. A thirty dollar game could be $2.50, in an extreme example. So you get a lot of games for relatively nothing . . . the trouble is that most people are just collecting deals rather than playing the product they’ve spent money on. I’m guilty of it as well. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve got at the Friends of the Library Book Sale that I haven’t even cracked open.
How do you relax?
It really depends on the day. Sometimes, I’m a hardcore gamer. Sometimes, it’s a television show or a movie. Others, it’s reading a book. I’m mostly a homebody, though I can hardly resist karaoke if it’s there. I do have two small children, one two and a half, the other almost a year old, so while they’re up there’s little relaxation, but every moment is worth it.
What is your favorite quote?
“Move, pen, move. Write me a mountain, because headstones are not big enough.” – Shane Koyczan
I’m sure there are better quotes out there. Something inspirational. But this one just cuts to the heart of loss. Here’s another one of my favorites, from another beat poet group:
“Kinda the way swords wish they were pens. Not to be more mighty, but just to be.” – The Suicide Kings
What is your favorite movie?
Rather than a favorite movie, I’ll give you the movie I recommend to everyone: Primer. It’s a 2005 Science Fiction movie done by Shane Carruth. It was done on a $5,000 budget. Basic premise: What if a bunch of garage engineers made a time machine? The reason I love this movie is, well, it’s what you’ll find in my fiction: the characters are a part of this world. The camera is just there to give you a slice of their life and the strange events that befall them. It took me three times watching this film to be able to start following their conversations, because they don’t slow down to explain to you what is happening.
My highest recommendation for this film is that I showed it to a friend of mine once. The moment the credits started to roll, she turned to me and said, “You didn’t tell me I was going to have to think.”
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
You can find a link to everything I do through my website, JustinDHerd.net. Frankly, you could just type in JustinDHerd somewhere and you’ll probably find me.
Any final words?
If you like the cut of my jib, I run an entertainment podcast, The Dubious Consumers, where we discuss movies, music, games, poetry, comics, and even opera. Every other week we do a top three list that you can write into with your picks as well!
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
Thank you for hosting me! It’s been an honor.
Justin D. Herd is a Fantasy Noir author, who has been writing novels for ten years. He absolutely loves dark, twisted stories that take readers into unexpected places. Horror movies are his passion and he often takes stories to task for not logically thinking out their concepts. His home has been invaded by three eccentric cats, one of which is obsessed with all things digital. He is married with two children.
You can buy his books at the following links:
Google Play: http://bit.ly/1FJIeHf
Justin D. Herd will be awarding a $10 Amazon/B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.