Please welcome RS Belcher to the blog as part of his tour for his debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot! Rod was kind enough to talk about his book, his writing, why he loves The Princess Bride, and much more.
**The lovely folks at Tor also generously provided a copy of the book for giveaway to 1 lucky winner, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Your brand new book, The Six-Gun Tarot, debuted in January! Will you tell us a bit about it and what inspired you to write the book?
Well, The Six-Gun Tarot is set in Nevada in 1869. The book is mostly set in a small town at the edge of a real-life path for western migration, called the 40-Mile desert. The town is called Golgotha and is a very odd place. Weird things just happen all the time in Golgotha and the town folk are a pretty unique breed. There are lots of secrets hidden in Golgotha and the town tends to attract the best and the worst kinds of people to it.
Six-Gun is the story of some of the folks who call Golgotha home, how they deal with a very disastrous situation and why Golgotha is the way it is. It is also the story of how a young man, named Jim Negrey first comes to Golgotha. I tried very hard to not have a single main character, instead working for an ensemble cast, but Jim and his POV is the reader’s introduction and gateway to this very strange place.
I got the idea for Six-Gun Tarot over a long period of time and through a bunch of influences. The story idea I had back in 2000-2001 is very different than the novel I finally had the chance to write in 2008-2009. It was a long process. Figuring out the town was a big part of the whole process- since I wanted Golgotha, herself, to be a character of the novel.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your background?
I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. As a kid, I used to go to work with my mom and she would buy me a pack of paper- it was the best toy ever! I’d draw and write Star Wars and Star Trek and Batman and Justice League and Avengers comics (or whatever geek culture thing I was into that day) and then attach the pages with those little metal twist ties from a loaf of bread and sell them to my mom’s customers for 25 cents, so yeah, I’ve been wanting to write stores for a very long time!
My background led me to writing, kind of the way Jim ends up in Golgotha- it was the last thing in the world I expected to be doing. I’ve written non-fiction and journalism pieces for over 11 years now and been working at writing and selling fiction for the past 7 years. I was the grand prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange new world contest in 2006 and had a story published in that anthology series. I’ve worked as a PI, studied forensic science, owned and closed (ha ha ha) three comic book and game stores and been dad to three amazing children- being their dad is the greatest accomplishment I will ever have.
How did you celebrate when you found out The Six-Gun Tarot would be published?
It still feels like a dream. I read the email from my Editor, Greg Cox, that Tor wanted to buy Six-Gun and I just felt this wave of surreality fall over me. I was at the comic store and I walked outside and it was a Saturday morning and I watched the sky get bright and I listened to the birds and then I walked in and read it again to make sure it was saying what I thought it was saying. I went back outside. I called my girlfriend and told her. She screamed with joy for a good 5 minutes non-stop. I called my mom, and she cried. It was a life-changing moment for me. I still have trouble believing it now. I think my girl and I went out to dinner, the rest of that day is kind of blurry ( ha ha ha ha).
What kind of research did you do for the novel?
Lots of reading, lots of books and on-line resources and a lot of very cool western movies. I love researching books, I love finding out weird little pockets of history and odd people in time and then using them. For example, there is a real-life historical character in The Six-Gun Tarot that I don’t think anyone has uncovered yet.
From start to finish, how long did it take you to complete the novel?
About two and a half to three years. I did it in my spare time and was working multiple jobs and raising my kids while I did it.
What was your favorite character to write, and why?
That is a hard question to answer! I really enjoyed discovering all of them. Even when I write the back story for a character, I still discover they can surprise me, and take on a voice I didn’t expect them to have. In that regards, I’d say Clay was a a lot of fun to discover and so was Maude. I swear when I finished writing Maude’s backstory and those chapters of the book that involve her and her Grandmother and daughter, I felt like I could do a whole series of books just about Maude, her mentor and the society they are part of. I have heard that from some of the reviews as well; Maude seems to be popular.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
In fantasy: Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazny. Fritz Leiber, Robert Howard, Karl Edward Wagner, Ray Bradbury. In SF: Isaac Asimov, William Gibson, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Harlan Ellison. I general literature and classical: Chuck Palahniuk, William Goldman, Ernest Hemmingway, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft ,Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Henrik Ibsen. For other media- like comics and general weirdness: Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Stan Lee and Jack “The King” Kirby, Hunter S. Thompson. I could really do this all day. There is so much cool, weird, beautiful stuff out there. I also am very influenced by music in my writing.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
I LOVE William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. I was introduced to that at a very rough time in my life (well, rough by teenager standards) and it was like being given wings. I loved it. It was magical, the way a good book ought to be.
What book (or books) are you reading now?
Moore and Campbell’s “From Hell” graphic novel, “Flesh & Blood: A History of the Cannibal Complex”, by Reay Tannahill, “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume One”, edited by Robert Silverberg, “Jack the Ripper: Light Hearted Friend” by Richard Wallace. “The Pathfinder Inner Sea World Guide” by Paizo Games.
When you find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I like to read, I love book research. I play board and role playing games with my friends (nerd voice: “I’m casting magic missile!”) I read comics, I like to hike and target shoot; I love to spend time with my kids doing anything.
What’s next for you?
I am very fortunate to now be represented by the Knight Agency, and by super-cool agent, Lucienne Diver. She is amazing!
I’m hard at work on a urban fantasy with a working title of “The Greenway” and a sequel to The Six-Gun Tarot with a working title of “The 32 Killers of Golgotha.”
The Greenway is kind of a mash up of Raymond Chandler, Jim Butcher, The Story of O, and Pulp Fiction. Or, if you prefer, “Harry Potter: the Trainspotting years”.
I’m really excited to be working on both projects and I’m very honored and humbled by the response The Six-Gun Tarot has received. I’d like to say thank you to the good folks who have read the book said they want to revisit Golgotha. I’m very happy to oblige. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. And thank you for welcoming me to your blog and for your time. This was fun.
Keep up with RS Belcher: Facebook
Author comments are in a darker gray color for you to easily identify the posts author in the comments