Joshua Viola is a four-time Colorado Book Award finalist and co-author of the Denver Moon series with Warren Hammond. His comic book collection, ”Denver Moon: Metamorphosis,” was included on the 2018 Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel. His fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, Birdy magazine, and on Tor.com. He is owner and chief editor of Hex Publishers.
Warren Hammond has authored several science fiction novels, quite a few short stories, and a graphic novel. His 2012 novel, ”KOP Killer,” won the Colorado Book Award for best mystery. His latest series, Denver Moon, is co-written with Joshua Viola. He also co-hosts the Critiki Party podcast.
The following is an interview with co-author Warren Hammond.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
What inspired you to write this book?
My coauthor did. From the very beginning, the Denver Moon series was Joshua Viola’s brainchild. Josh has a talent for bizarre ideas like the one that sprung Denver Moon into existence: What if we wrote a story about a detective on Mars whose sidekick is a talking gun?
The second book, Denver Moon: The Saint of Mars, started the same way as the first one, in a bar, downing a couple beers, and letting the ideas fly…the weirder the better. The result is a novel that contains a beheaded android, a shapeshifting alien assassin, and the sadistic leader of a death cult.
Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?
I decided to start right at the beginning. As a genre Science Fiction can be taxing for a lot of people to read, especially if they’re new to it and aren’t as familiar with the commonly used worldbuilding devices and tropes. So, to be kind to your readers, I figured we should take it from the top so people can ease into Denver’s dark and gritty future.
Another thing I like about this piece is it really sinks you into Denver’s cynical worldview, a staple of detective fiction. At their heart, the Denver Moon books are mysteries.
Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?
Josh and I are both big fans of genre fiction. Although the Denver Moon books would clearly be categorized as Science Fiction in any bookstore, we steal plenty of elements from other genres. We cross over quite a bit into horror for many of our scenes and plot points, and I’ve always been strongly rooted in detective noir fiction so you can see a lot of Sam Spade or Rick Dekard in how our protagonist thinks and operates.
What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
The biggest challenge in writing a novel is finding your focus. Without it, you have no momentum and your writing tends to wander. Ditto for your attention. So, the best advice I’ve probably ever heard on writing is to write every day, even if only for an hour. Doing so keeps you in the right mindset to be productive. Doing so keeps your story brain engaged even when you’re not at the keyboard.
Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet?
My favorite places to write are bars and coffee shops. I much prefer the noise and bustle over the quiet solitude of home. In fact, I’ve never been very productive writing at home. It seems to make me feel trapped and pretty soon I find myself cooking or inventing a house project or trying out a new cocktail in my home bar. I tend to do much better when I leave the house, settle down with a beverage of one sort or another, and then get to work in an environment where I don’t have anything else to do.
As I write this, we’re tragically stuck in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I know many writers are putting the additional stay-at-home-time to good use. For me, it’s acted as a pretty big damper to my creative flow. Let’s hope we’re all in a better space soon.
What’s your next project?
We’re currently working on the third and final book in the Denver Moon trilogy. We don’t have a title yet, but we’ve got a good start on the book. If all goes according to plan, we’ll push the boundaries so much farther than we would’ve thought possible when we started the series a few years ago. So much so, that I’ve been laughingly calling the book Denver Moon Jumps the Shark.
If you don’t get the joke, it’s a reference to the episode of “Happy Days” when Fonzie jumps a shark on water skis. In writing circles, the phrase has become a common metaphor for a writer’s desperate attempt to recapture a flagging audience.
We like to think our audience isn’t waning at all, but we’ve decided it’s always better to leave the stage early rather than stay on too late, so book three will be the last. We’re having a lot of fun writing it, and If we can pull off everything we have planned, it should wrap up the series rather nicely.