Matt Forbeck Interview

Did I just type that blog post title? I’m actually shaking with excitement at the moment. As some of you may know I am a huge fan of Matt Forbeck. Not just his novels (Bloodbowl series VERY underrated) but also his gaming work. I spent a lot of time playing and dreaming up adventures for Deadlands Roleplaying for example. I could go on, but Matt’s credits are just a ridiculous catalogue of my teenager years and beyond. I think I’ll stop now before Matt decides to take out a restraining order. That’s enough waffle from me, on to the good stuff.

Tony: Which came first the idea of writing twelve novels in a year or the thought of starting your own Kickstarter project, and how did they come together in to one brilliantly insane idea?

Matt: I’d been thinking about writing a book a month for years, actually. I’m a fast writer, and some quick math told me it was possible, at least theoretically. I couldn’t afford to just take a year off and write a dozen novels though, and I just didn’t see how I could convince a publisher to get behind it. Most publishers balk at signing an author for more then three books at a time, and that’s often spread out over two years or more.

When I heard about Kickstarter, I realized it provided the missing keystone for the plan. If I could get enough people to back the project, then I could afford to write the books. The Kickstarter drives essentially serve as advances for me, based on the number of pre-orders I can line up for the book, topped off with a few premium rewards for my fans who can afford them. And when I’m done, I can publish and sell the books myself.

Tony: You’ve successfully funded two projects and are well on the way to funding the third. How useful have you found them?
What would be your top three tips on creating a Kickstarter project?

Matt: The Kickstarter drives have been fantastic. It’s both thrilling and humbling to see people willing to open their wallets to back the projects, and also to help persuade their friends to jump on board too. They take a lot of time for feeding and watering, but the results are well worth it.

If you plan to create a Kickstarter project, I recommend:

1) Come up with a solid and clear rewards schedule that gives people a clear incentive to back your project. This should usually have about five reward levels at the $100 level or less, plus a few premium ones above that.

2) Show your enthusiasm and love for the project. If you can’t get excited about it, who can?

3) Show people why they should trust you to deliver. If you have a track record, promote that. If you have a killer concept and presentation, promote that. If you have both, all the better.

Tony: Your third project is called Dangerous Games, can you tell us a little bit about the story and how you came up with the ideas?

Matt: Besides being a writer, I’m also a game designer and have won a number of awards for my work. I love gaming conventions, and Gen Con is my absolute favorite. It’s the granddaddy of them all, and it brings together something like 35,000 gamers every summer for, as they say, The Best Four Days in Gaming. This will be my 31st year in a row at the show — I started going as a kid — and my 10th as a guest of honor.

The Dangerous Games trilogy is a trio of thrillers set at Gen Con, in which the heroes are gamers that become embroiled in a plot surrounding the murder of a world-famous game designer. Pundits tell you to write what you know, and I know the gaming industry inside and out. I’ve long been kicking around ideas for how to turn that into a gripping story, and when the chance to tackle it came up, I jumped at it.

This is the perfect kind of story for 12 for ’12 too, something that’s personal and fun, but which would be hard to sell to a traditional publisher. Most of them don’t know much about Gen Con or the gaming industry and wouldn’t see that as a huge selling point for the book, but for the people who have been playing my games and reading my novels, it makes for a wonderful combination.

Tony: You are a full-time writer that works from home. You also have five children. I’ve seen you talk about kids being ill and then moan about only writing 3000 words that day, how on earth do you manage not to be distracted?

Matt: Oh, I’m distracted all the time. I just buckle down hard when I need to and get things done as best I can. I write the most when the kids are in school and then again at night when everyone’s asleep. They’re just too much fun otherwise, even (well maybe especially) when they’re behaving.

It may seem strange that I can be productive while at home with so many kids, but I sometimes don’t know how I’d manage a regular job that didn’t give me the flexibility that being my own boss provides. I’m lucky enough to get to do what I love — entertain people, whether with books or games or comics or toys or whatever — when I can. I hold onto that tight, and if it means I don’t sleep much or have to write insane amounts sometimes, I find that a price well worth paying.

Tony: Which is your favourite of your own books?

I like them all, but I’ll admit I have a persona bias toward Amortals. It was the first original novel I had published, but it happened after I’d already written a dozen or so tie-in novels playing in other people’s worlds. I’d been sitting on the idea for the book for close to 20 years, and I just loved cutting loose on it.

For those that don’t know, Amortals is set in near future in which the powerful, wealthy, or connected can have their brains backed up and restored to a clone body in the event of their demise. The hero is the oldest man in the world, a Secret Service agent who was first killed while saving the President. He wakes up in his ninth body to discover he hasn’t backed himself up for months and that the video of his murder has gone viral. It’s his job to solve his own murder, to figure out who killed him and why.

Tony: A radio show over here does something called Desert Island Discs with famous guests. I’m going to twist that a little and ask you which five books would you want with you on a deserted island and why?

Matt: I’d want a survival manual first, then a thick book with thin pages — like the Oxford English Dictionary — that I could use to start fires. Then I’d want three blank books: one for writing my own stories in, another for game designs, and the last for messages I could drop into the sea to beg for help.

Tony: What can we expect from Matt Forbeck in 2013?

Matt: More books, comics, and games, I hope. I’m writing a Leverage novel at the moment, based upon the TV show in TNT, by John Rogers and Chris Downey. That should be out in 2013, along with the final trilogy of 12 for ’12 books, whatever those may be. Plus, I hope to continue writing Magic: The Gathering comics for IDW.

I’d like to thank Matt for taking this time to answer my questions and to also suggest that you might want to have a look at his latest Kickstarter project. Failing that he has a nice and large back catalogue on Amazon that I can’t recommend enough. There are also some really interesting and sensible article on Matt’s blog that are well worth a read.

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