Along with decimating the movie industry, and the avocado toast industry, it turns out that destroying Los Angeles would also cause an uptick in the world’s ghost population. Which is a real problem for necromancer Eric Carter, the “hero” (so to speak) of Stephen Blackmoore’s ongoing urban fantasy series of the same name. In the following email interview, Blackmoore discusses what inspired and influenced the latest of this noir novels, Ghost Money (paperback, Kindle).
Photo Credit: © Kari Blackmoore
For those who haven’t read any of your Eric Carter novels, who is Eric Carter, what are these books about, and what kind of world are they set in?
Eric Carter is a morally ambiguous necromancer in Los Angeles who sees ghosts, talks to the dead, and tries to do, if not the right thing, then at least the wrong thing for the right reasons. Often violently. Eric is very much a noir protagonist. He’s not a hero. Not by a long shot. He’s a mage in a secret world filled with magic, monsters, and gods, and mostly he’s just trying to get by.
Having left Los Angeles fifteen years ago after killing a mage crime boss who murdered his parents, he left behind friends and a younger sister who he thought he was protecting by running. But his sister’s been murdered and he’s back to find out who did it and make them pay, kicking off a series of events that lead him into a hundreds-year-old fight between Aztec death gods, an 8,000-year-old djinn, and other such nastiness.
And then for those who have, what is Ghost Money about and how does it connect, narratively and chronologically, to the previous book, Fire Season?
Ghost Money is the fifth book in the series, and picks up after the events in Fire Season where the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, who is none too happy with Eric for defying him in the previous book, Hungry Ghosts, is making good on a threat that he will destroy Eric’s home, by which he means Los Angeles.
He makes good on this threat and by the end of it most of L.A. is just a heap of ash and over a hundred thousand people are dead overnight. With so many dead, the ghost population has skyrocketed. Too many ghosts in one place thins the boundary between worlds and the ghosts can sometimes pass through.
This is a problem as ghosts crave life and the only thing keeping them from feasting on anyone they can get their ectoplasmic hands on is that boundary. To make matters worse, they’re not just passing through, another mage is actively trying to pull them through. Necromancers are thin on the ground, leaving Eric in the unenviable position of being the only one who can do anything about it. And if he doesn’t, the body count will make a hundred thousand dead look like a rounding error.
When in the process of writing these books did you come up with the original idea for Ghost Money and how did that idea evolve as you wrote this story?
I tend to think in three book arcs. Ghost Money came up while I was pitching Fire Season. The story itself hasn’t changed but the ending shifted a lot between the outline and the final draft. I was having trouble with the ending in the outline so I left it alone. As I was writing I realized it could really only go one way. And that’s changed how not only the next book in the series, Bottle Demon, but the ones coming after. I want to explore some of the consequences in future books.
The previous books were urban fantasies. Is Ghost Money one, too?
Urban fantasy is such a broad category, and everyone has their own idea what that means, whether it’s romance, fantasy, crime, whatever. I think the Eric Carter books are definitely urban fantasy, though darker, or at least bleaker that most.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that were a big influence on Ghost Money but not on any of the previous Eric Carter novels?
I don’t remember anything like that, but I’m sure it was. It’s impossible not to soak in the world around us and not have it influence what we’re doing or writing. That’s part of creativity, taking what we know, what we see, what we imagine and throwing them all into a giant sausage grinder.
What about movies, TV shows, and video games; was Ghost Money influenced by any other non-literary, uh, influences?
Same, really. There are things that I’m seeing now that are definitely giving me ideas. I’ve been poking around a lot of horror video games. The one I’m writing now is certainly going to be influenced by some unusual sources, like Downton Abbey. Seriously.
Now, in the previous interview we did about Fire Season [which you can read here], you said that while the Eric Carter books are stand-alone stories, they are connected, and you were setting them up to be a series of trilogies. You also said that Ghost Money was the middle story of the second trilogy, one that would conclude with a book you were tentatively calling Bottle Demon. Is that still the plan?
It is. I turned in Bottle Demon last year? I think? The days sort of blur together. After that will be three new books that I was just got a contract on: Suicide Kings, Hate Machine, and Cult Classic.
As you know, some people wait until every book in a series is out before they read any of them, and some then read them back-to-back. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t wait for Bottle Demon to come out before reading Fire Season and Ghost Money?
I think people should read them however they want. If they want all of them and binge them, great. If they’d want to grab it one at a time, that works, too. I tried to make it so that each book gives the reader enough to know what came before. Not sure I always accomplish it, but it’s the goal. If they want to wait until the entire series is finished, well, they’ll be waiting a while.
Earlier I asked if Ghost Money had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games. But has there been any interest in turning the Eric Carter novels into some movies, a TV show, or a video game?
There was some interest after the first book, Dead Things, came out, but it didn’t go anywhere. Like a lot of books, I think it would be hard to encapsulate the series into a movie, or even a series of movies. Television would be nice.
Finally, if someone enjoys Fire Season and Ghost Money, what novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for Bottle Demon to come out?
Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. His latest, Ballistic Kiss, comes out in August, but there are ten books before it in the series, so start at the beginning and you should be up to speed when Ballistic Kiss comes out.