5.20.2013

Interview with Matt Forbeck, Author of Dangerous Games: How to Play

Matt Forbeck lives and works in Beloit, WI. I live there too, after moving from Minneapolis, the literary capital of the upper midwest. I am starved, in Beloit, for a literary scene: book events, publisher events, conventions, readings, bookstores (used and new), etc. So, it was nice to meet (online only, thus far) a literary icon who lives just down the street from me. 

Thus, I jumped at the opportunity to conduct an interview (after you're done here, checkout the more formal interview I conducted posted at Fiction Depot) about Beloit and his new novel Dangerous Games: How to Play, his seventh novel in his 12 for 12 Kickstarter.   

Me: Beloit, WI. How do you like Beloit as a working and writing space?

Matt Forbeck: I like it a lot. It's quiet, cheap, and easy here. I grew up in Beloit, and I still have family here, which means I also have free babysitting from people I trust implicitly. It's hard to beat that. 

I left Beloit to go to college and then wandered about for a while. My wife and I moved back here when we started having kids. There's not a lot to do here if you're young and single, but it's a fantastic place to raise a family. 

Also, since I'm a freelancer, I get paid the same no matter where I live. I couldn't survive on what I make in Manhattan, for instance, but I can do well in Beloit. The cost of living here is something like a third of what it is in NYC or LA. 

Me: Favorite restaurant in Beloit?

Matt Forbeck: For some reason I always wind up down at The Rock bar and Grill, but that's mostly for meeting friends for drinks. The food is secondary. When we take my mother out for a birthday dinner, though, it's either the 615 Club or Merrill & Houston's, the new steakhouse in the Beloit Inn. 

Me: Favorite Beloit activities? For kids?

Matt Forbeck: We love taking our kids down to Riverside Park, especially for the Fourth of July fireworks and concert, or for the music or films in the park. We often take them out to the Welty Center on the west side of town for outdoorsy activities too. We have four of them playing softball at the moment, so we'll wind up spending a lot of time out at the Y Sports Complex again this summer, I'm sure. 

Me: Do you have a supportive writing community? Online? Meatspace?

Matt Forbeck: Maybe it's because I work alone, but I'm not much of a joiner. I don't have any sort of official online community, although I have hundreds of friends I interact with online. 

In the real world, I'm part of a writers' group called the Alliterates. It's mostly guys who used to work for TSR, the creators of Dungeons & Dragons, but moved on to writing novels and such. I've known many of them for decades, and I even got the autographs of some of them when I was hanging around Gen Con as a kid. We're more of a beers and burgers group than a writers group most days though. We get together at a bar in Elkhorn once a month, and one of our core rules is, "No homework." 

Me: Where is your writing space? (Can you provide a picture?)

Matt Forbeck: I work in a den in my house. It's actually a pretty cool place, one of the reasons we bought this place. It has oak paneling, a separate entrance, and a fireplace, plus the panels hide two secret closets and a secret bar. I sometimes feel like I should buy a smoking jacket and a brandy snifter so I can better fit it. 

I'll try to shoot you a picture soon. Right now, the place is a mess. :)


Me: Do you have a favorite bookshelf? What's on it?

Matt Forbeck: I have a pair of bookshelves in my office. One is overflowing with things I've worked on, and it's actually starting to take over the bookshelf next to it. That's where I keep all the books either need close at hand (research tools for current or past projects) or want to read soon. 

I mostly read ebooks these days though. They're just so much more convenient, and they take up so little space. 

Me: OK! Dangerous Games: How to Play is a murder mystery that takes place at Gen Con. Tell me more!

Matt Forbeck: That's all there is! Thank you, and good night!

Actually, you got me. There's a lot more to it. Dangerous Games is a trilogy of short novels, each set at Gen Con, one year after another. In the first (How to Play, out now), aspiring game designer Liam Parker comes to Gen Con for the first time to pitch his game design. Early on, he stumbles across the body of a freshly murdered world-famous game designer and becomes embroiled in the mystery about who killed the man and — more importantly — why. 

The second novel (How to Cheat, out soon) is a bit more of a crime novel. It features professional assassins and a higher body count. It all wraps up in How to Win (out a bit later), which I like to describe as Die Hard meets Gen Con. 

Me: Dice. Do you have a favorite die?

Matt Forbeck: I love them all, but I'm partial to the d20. It's the classic gamer die, and it helps break everything down into chunks of 5%. 

Me: As a writer, father, and husband how do you keep pace with your story ideas?

Matt Forbeck: I write them down as fast as I can. 

Okay, really, I don't. I usually figure that if an idea's all that great, it'll come back to me again and again. Coming up with new ideas is easy. It's figuring out which of them are any good that's hard. 

As for keeping up with my writing, I try to be as disciplined as I can when no one else is around. When my wife's at work and the kids are at school, that's my chance to get the most done. The same's true at night once everyone else has gone to bed. That means I can spend time with my family when they're around, which I treasure. 

Me: Besides Dangerous Games: How to Play, what was your favorite story or novel project to write?

Matt Forbeck: I always find something to love in everything I do. I enjoy the actual act of writing, rather than just having written. I like to string together words and sentences and paragraphs and chapters to build stories. 

That said, I'm probably proudest of Amortals, which was my first original novel. I had the idea for that kicking around in my head for something like 18 years, and sitting down to write it was a true thrill. 

Right now, though, I'm excited about the Monster Academy series of YA novels I'm writing and about Loot Drop, a modern-day thriller I just sold to Tor.

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