Blog Anniversary Author Post + Giveaway: Matt Doyle
I’d like to welcome Matt Doyle to our 8th blog anniversary celebrations. I’ve read The Cassie Tam Files series in its entirety and enjoyed them all. The futuristic, tech setting of New Hopeland with Cassie, Lori and Bert, and a motley crew of others, makes this series unique, and I like unique. I know this blog is primarily gay romance or MM but this is lesfic and I’m glad I found this series. I like to jump out of genre, thank you to Matt Doyle for giving me that opportunity. Caw, Matt 🙂
Hey everyone! First up, I wanted to give On Top Down Under Reviews a big thank you for letting me be part of the celebrations. It’s a great site, and they’ve always been kind to my work, so it’s really appreciated being able to contribute something today.
As a bit of background on myself, my name is Matt Doyle, and I’m a UK based author. I tend to write novels that blend genres but that usually have a sci-fi grounding, and always feature at least one major character that’s LGBTQ. I’m bisexual and genderfluid myself, and I wanted to see more characters from my community in the cool types of settings that I loved growing up. What you can usually expect is queer leads whose sexual orientation isn’t the focus of the story. I was never really into coming out stories, so it’s all about the cool tech for me.
Today, I’m giving away a complete eBook set of my lesfic sci-fi/mystery series, The Cassie Tam Files. That being the case, I wanted to mostly talk a little about the series, and how it all came to be. Then, at the end, I’ll talk a little about what I’m working on now. So, let’s get to the waffling on!
At the time I started writing the series, I was honestly just looking to try something new. I’d recently finished up a self-published series called The Spark Form Chronicles. That was a weird mix of card gaming and pro wrestling, with a little bit of AI philosophy thrown in. I really love those characters, but it’s definitely a little bit scrappy in terms of the storytelling. It was also a multiple-POV tale. So, this time, I wanted to have a single POV and a more focussed story.
As the story goes, I was gaming one evening (read as getting destroyed on BlazBlue Chronophantasma Extend online), when a thought hit me: You’re going to write a mystery series next. That was literally it as far as getting the wheels turning. So, I spent a day doing a film marathon for inspiration. That included The Maltese Falcon, L.A. Confidential, and Blade Runner. If that all sounds a little crime noir, well… it was. I enjoy hardboiled detectives, so I knew that was the sort of direction I would take. Then, Blade Runner helped get me into my regular sci-fi mindset with it.
After that, I pretty much worked solidly on the first book, and made a few notes for where I wanted to go with the series as a whole. My thinking on it had been to take it slowly, at least to begin with. The Spark Form Chronicles reviewed well, but it didn’t sell terrifically. So, my aim was to push the first book to publishers and agents. If that got signed, I’d get to work on book two. If it didn’t, I’d publish it myself but hold off on book two to see how it sold.
Anyway, after the expected round of rejections, I threw the book into a couple of Twitter Pitch Events. That was when NineStar Press showed an interest. I had a full manuscript request and then, a contract offer. The series has been with NSP ever since, and they’re such a wonderful home for it.
So, let’s look briefly at each book~
Addict introduces us to Cassie Tam, a Chinese-Canadian PI working in New Hopeland, a fictional tech-driven city in Utah. She’s hired by Lori Redwood to investigate the death of her brother, who had died of a virtual reality related drug overdose. You can expect to see a glimpse of the potential downsides of a reliance on VR environments in the workplace, tech-suit shifters, and the beginnings of the slow-born romance between Cassie and Lori.
This one won an honourable mention in the Rainbow Awards too, which was cool. It was actually the second hardest to write because I knew I needed to make it a full story while still leaving some breadcrumbs to pick up again later on. I wanted to leave some throwaway lines and things like that that wouldn’t break the enjoyment if a second book never came.
The Fox, The Dog, and The King sees Lori take Cassie to the theatre as a way to get the PI away from her tendency to overwork herself. While there, a non-binary performer recognises Cassie from the news reports about the case in Addict, and hires her to find their missing dog. This sends Cassie far deeper into New Hopeland’s criminal underworld than she could ever have expected. You can expect criminal conspiracies, a car chase, and Cassie’s first steps towards the series finale.
This one came second in the lesbian sci-fi category in the 2019 Rainbow Awards, and I am so proud of that! The main thing I wanted to achieve here was to start building the bigger conspiracy. I’m a big X-Files fan, so moving towards a ‘there’s someone pulling all the strings’ a feel was right up my alley.
LV48 begins with Cassie and Lori on a date. On her way home, Cassie is attacked by a tech-suit wearing assailant, and she wakes up in the police station. Not only is she not the only victim, but she’s not the first to see the attacked and think ‘vampire’. Expect tech vampires, an action-packed final battle, and the introduction of a major antagonist.
This one came third in the lesbian sci-fi category in the 2019 Rainbow Awards, which is again, awesome! This is probably the closest to horror that the series gets. Cassie is a big horror film fan, though they consistently give her nightmares, and I wanted to place her face-to-face with aspects of this.
Shadows of the Past is a two novella collection. The first story, One Week in New Hopeland is told from Lori’s point of view as she goes undercover on Cassie’s behalf in order to catch a man with a habit of abusing his female staff. The second story, Shadows of The Past puts us back with Cassie as she’s hired to track down a stalker, only to end up having to face her own darkest memories. You can expect some sweet moments with Cassie and Lori, tech produced ghosts, and the set up for the final book.
I really enjoyed working on this one. In some ways, it’s a transition book. The first story introduces some new tech for the second story, and also gave me a chance to let readers see things from Lori’s viewpoint. Everything about her and Cassie’s relationship is usually presented through Cassie’s eyes, so it was nice showing things from the other side. Meanwhile, the second story existed to fill in the final gaps before the big finale.
Half-Light sees Cassie having to make a choice. She has always straddled light and dark in New Hopeland, but now, she needs to pick a side. The problem is, the more she digs, the harder it is to tell which side is which. You can expect the return of some old characters, mass conspiracies, and death.
This was the hardest one to write. Bringing everything back together, killing off characters, and bringing the story to a close was bittersweet. After spending years working on this tale, honestly, I was a little scared. I had the whole ‘you’ll never write anything ever again’ thinking going through my head, and I actually refused to finish the first draft of this until I knew what I was writing next. Still, I’m very happy with how it all turned out.
Let’s Talk Tech
Now, you may have noticed that there are a couple of mentions of tech equivalents of paranormal creatures in there. That’s very much intentional. I love horror, and I love Urban Fantasy, so I thought it would be fun to work some of this stuff into a sci-fi setting.
Tech-Shifters are the main ones that fall under this category. This is a community of people that use expensive, custom built suits to ‘shift’ into an animal, either quadrupedal or anthropomorphic. Mostly, it’s utilised by the pet play community. The general public has a mixed view on it all due to the run of murders that took place when the system was first introduced. Cassie was involved with investigating a few of those cases, which leaves her in a rough spot throughout the series. Lori is a Tech-Shifter who roleplays as a panther called Ink, and Cassie has to really work at getting past her own prejudices there.
Meanwhile, Light Vampires, as we see in book three, came about initially because it’s hard to separate shifters and vamps these days. I’ve always been kinda mixed on vampires too, as their portrayals have been a bit mixed over recent years. They fit though, as there’s a good reason the attacker was stealing blood (though you don’t see that confirmed until book five). What I had to work on here was finding ways to use tech to recreate some of the classic vampire traits. It was actually one of the most fun things to research for the series, and LV48 ended up being my favourite book of the five.
When looking at the tech stuff though, I can’t not talk about Bert. Bert is an AI gargoyle that lives with Cassie. She describes him as a cross between a loyal guard dog and a sarcastic house cat. He’s there to offer a mix of comic relief and some heavy firepower for Cassie when it’s needed. In terms of appearance, he’s a squat, beaked gargoyle that’s small enough to clamber up Cassie’s legs and sit on her shoulder like a mechanical parrot. For what it’s worth, he’s a gargoyle because I love Disney’s Gargoyles.
Bert is easily the most popular character in the series. I still don’t know how that happened. I figured people would like him. He was written to be both fun and cool. Plus, Carnival, the holographic AI in The Spark Form Chronicles was popular, so I had an idea how to make an AI enjoyable for readers. And who doesn’t like a good mascot animal, right?
But, as the reviews for each successive book came in, it became clear that people really love the cheeky little sugar assassin. I’m super glad for that, don’t get me wrong, it just caught me off guard. To the point that I’m still looking into getting plushies made. So, here’s a big “Caw” to you Bert, you memorable little menace!
So. The series is now done. That’s a really odd feeling. I’ve been working on it for over four years now, and while I’m happy with how it all got tied up in book five, it does seem strange to be moving on to a whole new world. Will I return to the Cassie Tam universe? If the right story comes to mind, yes. There’s even the possibility of stories about the supporting cast if I can get a suitable idea in mind. But for now, I’m saying farewell to Cassie, Lori, Bert, and all the others.
The next thing I have coming is Ailuros. This is an experimental story that’s been signed to Fractured Mirror Publishing. They’re a new publishing house, and honestly, their enthusiasm for the story really helped sell me on signing with them for this particular book.
The brunt of the book follows Josh Byrne and his genderfluid partner Alex Holden. The pair lead a far future salvage team to an abandoned microgravity holiday destination in the hopes of finding something valuable. They soon find out that the ‘biological incident’ that caused it to be abandoned was not what they thought it was, and the team becomes the prey for a hostile alien lifeform. Told through a mix of prose and audio transcripts, it’s pretty much a queer homage to Alien.
But… about a third of the book is made of footnotes. There, we see a near future setting where the Government seeks to control crime by vaccinating against negative emotions. Through a mix of this and VR sims that allow the citizens to release their negativity in a controlled environment, it works, but has its risks. So, when Alex thought they found their partner Josh cheating on them towards the end of their vaccination cycle, they drugged him, and placed him in a sim. These notes show Alex’s thoughts as they face both their own and Josh’s inner-demons, and try to unravel what the far future story means, what each character represents, and whether their relationship can be saved. It’s all done through an intentionally loose Freudian analysis.
Oh, and then there’s the seven hidden passages that alter the ending to both stories.
I don’t know yet what the final layout for Ailuros will be in terms of how the notes will be presented. But, the book isn’t due until September 2021, so there’s plenty of time to figure it out. One thing I can tell you for sure though is that I’m excited. This was the most complex book I’ve ever planned, and it’s so different to my other books, while still retaining that ‘me’ feel to the writing and characters. I’m looking forward to getting it in front of people!
This giveaway is now over. Congratulations to Joy.
Today I’m giving away one complete set of the Cassie Tam Tam Files in ebook to one entry. If you don’t win though, and you’d still like to check them out, the books are actually 30% off on the NineStar Press website!
So, thanks again to On Top Down Under. Thank you to everyone that made it this far into the post. And please do grab some books. I’m proud of them all, and I really hope you all enjoy them. If you want to check out my work, feel free to drop by my Twitter page (https://twitter.com/mattdoylemedia). There’s also my website (https://mattdoylemedia.com), where you can find updates on my work, anime, comic and gaming reviews, and more!