While many urban fantasy novels are centered around the local wizards and the magical creatures, most don’t concern themselves with the support staff, the working people who make life possible, let alone pleasurable, for the magical folk. But in his Sin Du Jour Affair series of novellas — which includes the novellas Envy Of Angels, Lustlocked, Pride’s Spell, Idle Ingredients, and Greedy Pigs, as well as the short story “Small Wars” — writer Matt Wallace has us spending time with the caterers. With the sixth and second-to-last book in the series, Gluttony Bay (paperback, Kindle), newly released, I did the following email interview as a primer on both this novella and the rest of the heptology.
For those unfamiliar with this series, what is Gluttony Bay about, what is the Sin Du Jour Affair series about, and where does Gluttony Bay fit into the series, both narratively and chronologically?
Sin du Jour is New York City’s premiere catering and event planning company for the hidden world of the supernatural co-existing with our own. The series follows the lives and often ludicrously lethal exploits of the chefs, magic users, and mercenaries who work there.
Gluttony Bay is that last thirty-foot dirt bike jump before the big flaming hoop finale. It’s set just a few weeks after the events of the previous book, Greedy Pigs, and it’s about a notorious supernatural restaurant adjacent to another infamous and deadly bay. This is really the final turning point for the Sin du Jour staff, that ultimate decision point-of-no-return moment.
Gluttony Bay, like the other books in the Sin Du Jour Affair series, has been called a fantasy novella. But there are a lot of subgenres within the fantasy realm. Is there one, or a combination of them, that you think best suits Gluttony Bay and the rest of the Sin Du Jour Affair books?
I think those kinds of labels really only serve the marketing of a book, and even then they can be every bit as detrimental as helpful. I see a ton of horror elements and horror influence in the Sin Du Jour Affair series, but that’s such a specific word when it comes to marketing that we can’t go anywhere near it. And I love the horror genre. There’s also no section in Barnes & Noble for “comedy sci-fi / fantasy / horror” even though I try my best — and often fail — to be funny when I write these things.
Speaking of which, who do you see as the biggest comedic influences on Gluttony Bay and the rest of the Sin Du Jour Affair books?
Like a lot of people, Douglas Adams [The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy] and Terry Pratchett [Good Omens] were the first authors I read who brought sci-fi / fantasy into the theater of the absurd. Adams could make his prose so damn clever and witty and elegant and genuinely funny, and Pratchett just came up with these ludicrous and hilarious creatures and constructions and situations. You see all of that in Sin Du Jour Affair, albeit not done nearly as well.
[Stand-up comedian] Bill Hicks was also one of my biggest, earliest, and most formative comedic influences, and I think his dark edge and cynicism and oddly hopeful cosmic take on things find their way into my stuff a lot.
What other writers or specific novels do you feel had a big influence on this series?
Mur Lafferty’s Shambling Guide series [A Shambling Guide To New York, The Ghost Train To New Orleans] was definitely a big influence on Sin Du Jour Affair. And Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is when I was first fascinated by the idea of the ancillary characters and roles in major works. That idea of what the folks who scrub the palace toilets are doing while all the major plot stuff is happening around them has intrigued me since.
How about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that you think had a big impact on the Sin Du Jour Affair books?
You can definitely see the influence of such movies as The Golden Child and Big Trouble In Little China in Sin Du Jour Affair. They’re two films I grew up with and still two of my all-time favorites. They’re funny and absurd and even parodies in a lot of ways, but they still took the world and their genres seriously, even treated them with reverence, and they subverted expectation, which all comedy should aim to do.
You’ve said in the past that the pastry chef in these books was inspired by your wife. But how much of an influence has your wife had on the character since then? Like, do you ever ask your wife to approve the character’s dialog or ask what she would do in these situations?
Nikki, my wife, would never make me “clear” anything with her beforehand. Though she absolutely could. She just made me go to the dentist today. I’m terrified of her. She trusts me, thankfully, and she loves her literary avatar. Nikki in the Sin Du Jour Affair books is just a slightly younger and much more exaggerated version of Nikki in real-life. But they both speak with the same voice and they both love baking and vintage hairstyles and dogs and wine.
Gluttony Bay is the sixth and second-to-last book in the Sin Du Jour Affair series. Without spoiling anything, what can you tell us about the seventh and final book?
I can tell you not everyone makes it out alive. I tried to make the last book in the series the two-part TV series-style finale I’ve always wanted to write. I also tried to put more of the funny back into the last ride. I got away from out-and-out comedy in the last few books as the storytelling and stakes got heavier, and I don’t regret that, but I wanted to remind everyone why they first wanted to hang out at Sin Du Jour Affair with these characters.
Taste Of Wrath comes out April 10th, 2018.
If someone is just finding out about this series now, would you suggest they wait until that last book comes out and then read all seven in a row, or do you think Gluttony Bay and the other books in the Sin Du Jour Affair series work best if spread out?
I always encourage everyone not to wait to get into a book series until the last one is released, because if they do they might never see the last book released. Authors need readers buying, and especially pre-ordering, each of their books as those books come out. Numbers dictate everything in this industry.
As for reading them, from a creative / reading standpoint, part of the fun of a serial is being cliff-hung and waiting for the next volume, and even in our binge-watching / reading culture I think that still holds true.
So has there been any interest in adapting the Sin Du Jour Affair novellas into a movie or TV show?
I construct all my novella series with an eye towards adapting them to television or streaming series, and that’s still my ultimate goal. I’m also a screenwriter who has worked in television, and I’d like to write books that I then adapt to that medium myself. There was actually a lot of interest in the rights when the first Sin Du Jour Affair book, Envy Of Angels, started getting good advance reviews. Unfortunately, it all cooled before we could finalize a deal with anyone. We got close with Amazon, but they eventually passed, saying it was too “weird” for them. So, yeah, the rights are available if anyone is shopping.
If the Sin Du Jour Affair series was to be adapted into a TV show, who would you like to see them cast in the main roles?
I’ve dream-cast the books with my wife and our friends a lot, actually. My first choice for Bronko would’ve been John Goodman in the early-to-mid-’90s. One of the most underrated actors ever. My wife wants The Rock to play Bronko, but I’m pretty sure she wants The Rock to play every role in every movie. I wish John Leguizamo was age-appropriate for Darren, but I’d still find a role for him because I love John Leguizamo. I’ve been seeing Tessa Thompson as Lena in my head for a while, even before Thor: Ragnarok came out, and I think she’d be brilliant as the lead in a TV series based on the books.
Finally, if someone enjoys Gluttony Bay and the rest of the Sin Du Jour Affair series, where in Los Angeles should they go for lunch while waiting for the last book to come out?
The last time my wife played hooky from work, we went and got crab beignets — and about a million other plates, but those are my favorite — at Bottega Louie. It’s one of the few restaurants where the small plates don’t piss me off. Little Easy has one of my favorite bars — two of them, actually — and really passable New Orleans-inspired dishes, and it’s one of the coolest little hidden spots in the city. It’s also directly across the street from The Last Bookstore, so you can’t lose. Jordan Kahn opened a new breakfast and lunch spot called Destroyer a while back. His Red Medicine was one of our favorite places before it closed. He’s weird and avant-garde and so is all of his food, but he does some truly amazing and delicious dishes. Also, wherever you eat, it’s worth going to get ice cream at Jeni’s Splendid after.