This is going to be the shortest review that I’ve ever written for a book. Why? Because I don’t want to waste precious time that you could be using to read this book.
There are so many things that I want to say about Superbia, but I truly believe that the best way to experience it is to go into it cold. That’s the way I experienced it. From being a fan of the author, I knew roughly what it was about, but when I began to read, it could not have been any further from my initial expectation.
Hands down, Schaffer is the very best independent author I have ever read. I buy his books with confidence knowing that I’m going to get a quality read. With Superbia, Schaffer has taken his game to an entirely new level. It’s obvious from the first pages of the book that he is very close to the subject matter, and that he’s speaking straight from the heart. He presents the reader with an opportunity to peek behind the curtain of real police work. It’s gritty and hard to stomach at parts, but when it’s over, I can close the book. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to face that kind of evil every day.
You have probably read a police procedural or detective story before. You have never read one like this. Schaffer’s story is dark, intelligent, eye-opening, and if you can believe it, funny. Superbia is somehow both the most somber and hilarious book Schaffer has ever written. I’ve already read it twice and I’m ready to go back again.
I have read all of this author’s books, and Superbia is my new favorite by a wide margin. If I had any criticism to offer at all, it’s that I have no idea how he’s going to top it, but I can’t wait to watch him try.
Welcome back and thanks for dropping by! Let me start off by congratulating you on the release of not one, but two publications over the past few weeks. My God, man, when do you sleep? I feel like I should be warning Sarah Connor about you.
I appreciate the opportunity, David. The question about when I sleep and how fast I write has come up often lately. People who are balancing jobs and families seem mystified at how quickly I write and release products.
I wrote like this when there was no Kindle. I wrote like this when agents and small press magazines were laughing at me.
SUPERBIA is a project that you have been talking about for a long time. You and I touched on it briefly during your last visit to the site. Of all the projects swimming around in your head, why did SUPERBIA rise to the top? Why now?
No matter what book I released, people around me would say, “That’s nice, but when are you going to write a cop book?”
I was afraid to write SUPERBIA. I couldn’t see what they saw. Plus, I was still struggling with the belief that I would be a police officer for the next fifteen years or so. I knew that to really write it, I would have to let go of that belief because the consequences would be potentially disastrous to my career.
SUPERBIA is obviously a very personal story. Was it difficult reliving some of these moments over again for the book?
No. What was difficult was trying to describe them in ways that would not make their source immediately apparent. I know what really happened. I needed to bend the entire story enough that no one could come back and connect reality to fiction, but still resonate.
You have said that SUPERBIA might be the book that ends your police career. Have you shared the book with anyone on the force? If so, what has been their reaction?
I’ve told several people about the book, and heard back from one already. His quote, I believe was, “This was no shot across the bow. This was a direct hit from the Battleship New Jersey.”
Without giving anything away, talk about the book’s ties to Greek mythology. What inspired that pairing?
Completely accidental. I kept struggling with Vic’s last name, doing “Replace All” in the manuscript multiple times, until finally it occurred to me to make it something meaningful. After that, the rest seemed obvious.
Anyone who follows you on Twitter knows that the real-life Bernard Schaffer is often a humorous and jovial guy. As an author, your subject matter rarely lends itself to comedy, but SUPERBIA is surprisingly laugh-out-loud funny at times. Did you base the relationship between Frank and Vic off of real life experience?
I’m doing very limited press for this book, David, but since you’ve been so good to me, I’ll tell you something funny that no one else knows.
SUPERBIA did not turn out the way I originally intended it. I meant it to be my “Beach Read” book, a la John Locke. I read his book How I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS IN 5 MONTHS! and the part about his writing style annoyed me. I think he said it was heavy on dialogue, light on description, and that he didn’t exert much effort.
My reaction was, “Shit, I can do that with my eyes closed.” I sat down and wrote out a few scenes between Vic and Frank that focused on dialogue, getting their back-and-forth conversational style down. Then, the monster kicked in.
I first encountered the monster during GUNS OF SENECA 6. After WHITECHAPEL, I was trying to write a lighthearted little sci-fi western to show people I can do more than just explicit gore, and these psychopathic cannibal hillbillies showed up. I sat there staring at my computer screen like, “You can’t be serious. Don’t EAT THAT GUY.” But they did.
The turning point for SUPERBIA came toward the end of the first draft when I realized what Vic’s fate was. I don’t mean decided, I mean realized. Here I was, motoring along, writing my cute little cop buddy book and it was like someone slammed a gavel down and said, “Vic Ajax is going to XXXX XXXXXXX.”
I was absolutely horrified. Pissed off. I couldn’t sleep.
In that one fell swoop, my funny beach read became a major work. Once you’re faced with that, you can’t back down. I am not sure how many MAJOR WORKS the universe gives you, but when it does, you better be ready.
I know that a magician never reveals his secrets, but I’ve got to know: The bit about the poster-sized African American penis. Please tell me that was based off of a real event. I had tears pouring down my face after that.
The ENTIRE book is fictional. Honest. I swear to God. (If you read the book, I’m hoping you pick up on that one.)
As a policeman, was it difficult to toe the line between authenticity and protecting sensitive information when writing this book? Not just in the crime stories, but also in describing what happens behind the station’s doors?
That was the hardest part of all. I don’t want to give people the impression that I wrote a different book about my real life experiences and then modified it to create SUPERBIA.
If I told you all of the bizarre things that have happened to me during the course of my career, it wouldn’t be readable. It would seem like I was just being outrageous. I grew up as a cop’s kid, and have spent my adult life in police work. Believe me, I’ve got stories out the wazoo.
The trick was to create a fictional world, with fictional characters, who experience real things.
Like a good friend of mine said, “If anybody complains about what they read in the book, they are basically admitting that’s how they act. They won’t make a peep.”
I can’t talk much about this without giving away plot spoilers, but I am very curious to know about the backstory involving the “Truth Rabbit.” I got the feeling that it could have been a tall tale used to spook the rookies, but it also sounded bizarre enough to be true.
The Truth Rabbit is a mythical beast that once reportedly roamed the basements of Philadelphia Police Districts. He’s an urban legend. That’s all I’m allowed to say.
When writing WHITECHAPEL, you talked about how listening to Morrissey for inspiration played a huge part in your process. Did you look to a specific playlist for inspiration for SUPERBIA?
I did, especially once I came to that division bell of the book turning from Beach Read to Major Work. It took me some time to absorb the ramifications of the story, and I relied on Chris Cornell and Hank Williams III to help me understand what it meant. Specifically, “Cleaning My Gun” from Chris’s Songbook LP and “#5” from Hank 3’s Rebel Within album.
Based on the early reviews, how do you feel about the warm reception SUPERBIA is getting?
Grateful. It’s like bringing your girlfriend home to meet your family, and when she goes to the bathroom, they all say, “She’s a winner. Where did a bum like you find her?”
I believe those were my parent’s exact words when they met my fiancée. So, was there any part of you that was concerned that your readers might not “get” your book?
I sent the second draft of the book out to five beta readers. Three of them got back to me immediately and put me to work right away. I sat down and started making adjustments and rewriting the manuscript.
Two of them waited until the last minute to tell me they’d only had time to read half of it and disliked certain things. One said she thought the “weird names were distracting.”
That’s a gut check when you have already finished the book and ready to release it. I stuck to my instincts and people have had no problem figuring out the “weird names.” Thank God.
Are you at all worried about SUPERBIA becoming the measuring stick for which all your future books are judged, or are you looking forward to the challenge of one-upping yourself?
You know, it never crossed my mind until reader reviews started making it an issue. I never set out to write “My Greatest Book” with SUPERBIA. I was just telling a story.
Once you become concerned with the formula for success, it’s over. I’ve been bitten on the ass by too many authors who thought they could crank out another book in a series just to take my money. I’d probably be making a lot more cash if I just wrote just one series. The problem is, I have more to say than that.
You’ve been talking lately about your ambitious plans for 2012: Publishing four books and earning over a million dollars. That seems like a lot of pressure for one writer to put on himself. Care to divulge your strategy?
Write hard and well. So far, so good.
Let’s talk a little bit about your agenda for this year. One of the books on your slate is WHITECHAPEL 2, which surprised me a little bit. What prompted you to revisit this series?
I miss the characters when I’m not spending time with them. Little things remind me of them, like old lovers. Take WHITECHAPEL. It might be a Morrissey song, or a commercial for the new Sherlock Holmes movie. I’ll start thinking about my characters and wondering what they’re up to.
With WHITECHAPEL, I did an enormous amount of research into the times and crimes of London’s East End during that period. One thing that always bothered me was that Scotland Yard missed something incredibly important.
They had a second serial killer at work right under their noses, but were so consumed with Jack the Ripper that they missed him.
WHITECHAPEL 2: INSPECTOR LESTRADE AND THE TORSO KILLER is going to correct that. The Torso Killer has been getting a free ride for over a century. Gerard Lestrade is back on the job, folks. He’s got a little something special planned for the one that got away.
In all the times we’ve spoken, I can’t recall you ever mentioning THE WIDOW SWORD, which is another book you’ve targeted for release. How about a quick overview?
The original WIDOW SWORD manuscript predates WHITECHAPEL, written before anything like Kindle existed. It was too short for me to send to an agent, and I mothballed it. Recently, I was going through some of my older work and found the book. When I started reading it, I was happily surprised at what I saw and decided to try and make a go of it.
The story is a sword and sorcery romp, where a Viking goes off on a journey to rescue his son from an evil sorceress. It’s my next Beach Read. Honest. I swear to God.
I, as I’m sure many of your fans are, am excited to see a sequel to GUNS OF SENECA 6 popping up on your radar. Have you given much thought as to where the sequel will take our favorite characters, or is that one still a ways off?
It is a work in progress. I’m still accumulating ideas for it. All you really need for any book is a decent starting point. I tend to write in spurts, working on multiple projects at the same time, until one really takes hold and everything else comes to a halt.
I love the world of Seneca 6. It is as different and interesting to me as the world of Whitechapel, but in a completely different way. Kind of like my kids. They aren’t alike at all, but I dig them both unendingly.
And lastly, there’s CODEX LEICESTER, which you’ve announced will be a collection of short stories similar to WOMEN AND OTHER MONSTERS. How’s that progressing?
Believe it or not, CODEX LEICESTER almost came out before SUPERBIA. I finished ANCIENT RITUALS and took a hard look at all the material that is finished for CODEX, and was tempted to just finish it. I created a cover and everything. What held me back was the third Sean Price (Agent Omega) story. CODEX LEICESTER won’t be ready until that piece is finished, and I’m not ready to write it yet. At the end of the day, SUPERBIA won.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Kindle All-Stars project. After the successful launch of RESISTANCE FRONT last month, you are now offering professional editing and marketing services to indie authors under that same umbrella. Give me your best pitch!
There are a wide assortment of services available to authors out there now. God only knows what they’ll be getting for their hard earned money. I want to offer them a full service package that guarantees a professional looking product that is marketed correctly. It’s expensive, I realize that, but anyone who signs up with us is going to get the same attention I put into one of my own projects. I’m pretty sure no one would argue with my results.
You know everyone is asking, so let’s close this interview out with a little KAS 2 discussion. The clues are live on your website, and from what I hear, a few people have already cracked your code. So, that begs the question: If there is a KAS 2 coming, when are you letting the cat out of the bag?
A few people have applied themselves and come up with the correct answer. There will definitely be a KAS 2, but before we get there, we’re focused on a release for Worldreader.org. Laurie is hard at work assembling the right team for that project. KAS 2 will just have to wait for now. People need to keep checking the website.
Ah, well. Can’t blame a guy for trying, right?
Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bernard, as always, it’s been a pleasure to talk books with you. I wish you nothing but continued success and hope to see you here again soon. The door is always open to you!
David, you’ve been with me from the very beginning, and I don’t intend on that ever changing. Thank you so much for the chance to come back.