Author Spotlight – Robert Mammone
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Robert Mammone!
Robert Mammone was born in Australia. Robert isn’t to be confused with the other Robert Mammone, the noted Australian television and film actor.
Robert has tried his hand at writing since at least the late 1980s, when he won an encouragement award for a short piece of fantasy whose name he can no longer remember. A long barren period followed until 2009, when Robert decided it wasn’t worth dying wondering, and turned his hand once more to writing, this time, horror fiction. Of late, he has begun writing fantasy, which has always been his first love.
His occult action first novel, Rise of the Dominator, can be found at Amazon. It’s a Doctor Who spin-off featuring Brigadier Alistair Gordon-Lethbridge Stewart from the classic series!
His grimdark novella, Only the Guilty Live, can also be found on Kindle at Amazon. Think Exorcist meets The Dirty Dozen…
One day, Robert hopes to write the great fantasy novel, but for that he needs two things – an idea. And your soul.
You can find Robert on Twitter @dreadsinister.
Welcome to the Hive, Robert. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I recently re-read the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, probably for the first time since I picked up The Summer Tree in the late 1980s. Guy Kay helped Christopher Tolkien assemble The Silmarillion, and his knowledge of European myths, particularly northern Europe, likely came from working on that book. But not only does he know his European mythology, even as a new writer, he could assemble wonderful characters who felt real, and mix literary sensibilities with a cracking story. There are a large number of set pieces in the book that still send a chill through me, and if I didn’t shed a tear every fifty pages at some heartfelt piece of writing, then I’d have a heart of stone. Beautiful and brilliant.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
Berserker dwarf fighter armed with a double-headed demon-haunted axe who has an insatiable thirst for strong liquor and impossible odds.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
I’ve got a rapidly fading laptop I hammer away at in the grim hope that I’ll come up with something new, fresh and exciting. I like to have music in the background and try to match up the music with what I’m writing. At the moment, I’m diving deep into Def Leppard’s Pyromania album from the early 80s, and seem to have Die Hard the Hunter on loop while I work on an extended action sequence. Otherwise I’ve had Metallica also on high rotation for that pulse pounding feel to the action! I’ve yet to work out how to type and perform an extended air guitar solo, but that’s what dictation apps are for! When writing at home, I may or may not begin the writing session with a scotch or two, just to lubricate the mind…
Because my daughters attend dance class a few times a week, I tend to do a lot of my writing in the car, while waiting for them to finish (no scotch involved, of course! Don’t drink and drive and write, kids!) I wrote most of a 45000 novella over the course of a few months, sitting in the car in a parking tower across the road from their studio. Also, fully clothed – we’re not savages down here! Aside from the car, I’ve been known to write at my desk at work during my lunch break and also at 1.30 in the morning with Wimbledon on while scrolling Twitter to discover who the new Doctor Who is (hint: a woman!)
I need at least a broad outline before I start. That gives me a map to the destination, but with sufficient room for diversions and allows the characters to do surprising things I hadn’t planned for, which makes the end product more organic and less mechanical. I can’t not have a plan – I need to have at least an idea of who the main characters are, the background to the world, and a sense where events will culminate.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
While none of them have influenced my style (such as it is), they’ve certainly influenced what I want to write. Lovecraft (for the horror), David Gemmell (a pure sense of good versus evil and men and women doing what they must against terrible odds), David Eddings (for his sense of fun and for fully embracing the hidden king trope which far too many writers sneer at) and Guy Gavriel Kay (not only the best fantasy writer going around, but on pure talent and literary ability, a fantastic writer full stop).
I’m not good enough to shine his shoes, but if Gemmell were still alive, he’d be the writer I’d most love to work with. His first book, Legend, still blows me away, even though it is very much a first novel written by a man grappling with his own mortality. Gemmell’s prose is relatively unadorned, which allows the story and characters to really shine.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
I left games behind when my Atari 2600 went in the bin. A sad day indeed!
You couldn’t say I enjoyed it, because the subject is so horrifying, but HBO’s Chernobyl is a masterclass in brooding horror that mounts and mounts until you fear your head may crack open. I remember watching the coverage at the time, which came at the height of the Cold War. It exemplifies a number of things: godless atheists make for terrible rulers willing to lie and lie and lie while forcing innocent civilians to bear the brunt of their incompetence, and that horror doesn’t need to wield a machete and wear a hockey mask – it can be blocks of radioactive graphite that handled once for twenty seconds can condemn you to die screaming as you vomit your insides out.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Read. I’ve got a garage full of books I’ve built up over twenty years that need reading. Also, sleep.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
So right now, I’m plotting out another novel for Candy Jar – it’s only at the very, very early stage with a number of elements suggested by my editor. I’ll get motoring on that soon enough.
I’m hoping to submit to Cohesion Press for an anthology due in late June. I’ve scrapped half a dozen ideas in the last few weeks – despite the theme, for me, its surprisingly hard to come up with an outline that seems halfway credible once I’ve written it down and returned an hour later to look at it and not despair. However, I think I’ve locked down a plot and some characters – the writing commences shortly!
And I have a short horror story I’m currently writing during my lunch break for submission to another anthology. It’s all about how a young woman survives a Mike Myers/Jason slaughter and the effect it has on her (hint: dire).
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I once reached out to noted horror writer Simon Strantzas and asked for some advice about how to go about submitting short fiction to the huge kaleidoscope of small presses. His advice was simple, but a real eye opener for a naif like me. Simon said to start at the top ie the best paying markets, and basically work your way down the list from there. I took that to mean don’t sell your work short – don’t go for the non-paying website but instead start with your Tor.com or Black Static or Interzone or HFQs – if you think your work is good enough, treat it that way.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I’m fortunate in the sense I have a full time job, so I have the luxury of not having to worry how to put food on the table if I get stuck on a section of story. What I tend to do is move ahead to the next stage in the story, and then work backwards to fill the gap. The great motivator is ego: if I don’t write the damn thing, then no one will be able to read it, and an ego as fragile as mine craves reviews (hint: favourable, please!) Often stumbling blocks are dissolved while I’m taking a shower – the mind drifts combined with all that extra oxygen in a confined space and suddenly the synapses are buzzing. I’ve had plenty of knotty plot/story issues resolved that way.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Constantinople, 1453 – the last day of Christian rule. There’s a wonderful story of the last Emperor, Constantine XII, ripping off his imperial regalia and with his men, plunging into the heart of the Turkish invaders, never to be seen again. I’ll always remember a short story by Harry Turtledove that looks at Constantine’s return in the modern day, a Greek King Arthur in a sense. An awful day for the people in that great city, but a transformative one for Asia and Europe.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Hmm – I’ll give you two. All based on the nostalgia of my teenage years. The Heroes of Zara Keep by Guy Gregory (a pseudonym for a father and son writing team) – released by Bantam Spectra in the early 80s and the perfect portal fantasy for young adults. A group of young Americans, including a Native American, are swept up at the point of death and transferred by a wizard to a fantasy world in dire need of their abilities to defeat the evil threatening the world. It blew my little mind off, and this was before reading Stephen Donaldson’s Covenant books or Guy Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy which covered much the same ground.
And Riders of the Sidhe by Kenneth Flint – a combination of Gaelic myth and fading technology combine to build a really interesting, entertaining adventure fantasy with appealing characters in an interesting environment. Having the evil Fomor be the faded remnants of a previously scientific society and utilising technology they barely understand, up against fantasy magic really thrilled me.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
If you like your sword and sorcery action liberally laced with darkest magics, exciting adventure and horrifying incident, then I’m your man. And if you like your horror grim and dark and full of ancient entities wanting to pull the world down into everlasting darkness, then, I’m your man again!
Thanks again for joining us, Robert, and good luck with the new book!
Robert Mammone is the author of numerous short stories, as well as a grimdark novella (ONLY THE GUILTY LIVE) and occult action debut novel (RISE OF THE DOMINATOR).