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The author of "The Six-Gun Tarot" talks about finding a rhythm to writing and how his book titles are a surprise even to him.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Rod Belcher now writes full time and is working on his second novel and a sequel to “The Six-Gun Tarot.”
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
“I’d feel sorry for some poor little old lady who picked up my book thinking it was a religious book,” says Belcher, who wanted to call his first book “Golgotha.”
Rod Belcher's first novel "The Six-Gun Tarot" - a mash-up of Western, horror, and fantasy, with a little romance and steampunk thrown in - was published by Tor, a division of MacMillan, in January.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Roanoke author R.S. “Rod” Belcher’s first novel, “The Six-Gun Tarot” — a mash-up of Western, horror and fantasy, with a little romance and steampunk thrown in — was published by Tor, a division of MacMillan, in January.
The story takes place in Golgotha, a rugged Nevada town just past the 10-Mile Desert where everyone has a secret — but an evil creature, older than humanity, imprisoned deep below an abandoned silver mine, is about to be set free.
Switching from character to character, “Six-Gun” weaves Christian, Chinese and Mormon mythology into a tale filled with zombies and angels and a larger-than-life cast set with the task of saving the world.
“A lot of … my belief system in the book is that different faiths can kind of co-exist,” Belcher explained. “I really like when I can take something from a Chinese myth and something from a Native American myth and they work together.”
“Six-Gun” has received positive reviews from “RT Book Reviews” and “The AV Club,” as well as a starred review from “Publishers Weekly,” which called it “an intense and irreverent exploration of good, evil, and free will.”
Belcher, 46, grew up near Glenvar and graduated from Glenvar High School. He now lives in Roanoke with his two children. The former owner of Cosmic Castle, a comic book and gaming store on Brambleton Avenue, he has been writing full time since the store closed last May. He’s currently working on his second novel and a sequel to “Six-Gun,” both to be published by Tor.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Belcher about “Six-Gun.” During our interview he was generous with his time and answers, coming across as a jovial guy who didn’t mind talking for several hours in a very hot room.
Q: What did you think of “Six-Gun” being described as “Buffy meets Deadwood”?
“Deadwood” was a really cool show. Al, the guy that owned the bar, was my favorite. Some of my characters probably talk a little bit like Al.
But I loved “Buffy,” too. I think the comparison to “Buffy” is coming from the humor. I do have some black humor in the book … .
I’m actually very happy to be compared to “Buffy” and to “Deadwood.” It’s good company to be in.
Q: You mentioned you thought of it more as fantasy, but it has a lot of other components. Who is your audience?
The way I structured the book was, it starts out as a Western and then slowly the weirdness kind of creeps in, and hopefully by the time you get into the really weird stuff you’re so in the world and you’re so into the characters you’re just along for the ride …
It’s a little bit of Western. It’s a little bit of romance. I’d say it’s pretty heavy horror, but then there’s also a lot of fantastic elements. I think it’s also very optimistic.
Q: Was “The Six-Gun Tarot” the original title?
The original title I had for it was “Golgotha,” which is the name of the town. … The folks at Tor, the marketing folks, were not crazy about the title … They were concerned that “Golgotha” might end up getting shelved in the religious section. … I’d feel really sorry for some poor little old lady who picked up my book thinking it was a religious book.
There’s religion in it — there’s quite a bit of religion in it — but I think it probably would be a little bit of a shock for someone who’s looking for something about historical and biblical Golgotha.
Q: How does the name play in with the story?
When I was writing the book, I would try to find a tarot interpretation that would fit with that particular chapter, either what was going on in that chapter or with one of the characters in the book.
For example, there is one chapter called “The Hanged Man,” which is a tarot card, and there’s a character in the book, the sheriff in the town, Jon Highfather. Jon has noose marks on his neck. So the chapter where we introduce Jon is called “The Hanged Man.”
Q: You have a lot of subtle moments in the book.
There are certain things you see in every Western. And I really wanted to keep that stuff in there, but just kind of mess with it just a little bit and turn it on its side just a little bit… .
There’s actually one thing in the book that nobody has mentioned to me. I don’t know if anyone has caught it. There’s a historical figure in the book that’s very prominent in some circles. And nobody has either mentioned him or discovered him yet. A little Easter egg.
Q: The book switches point of view of character from chapter to chapter. How did you put it all together?
I do a lot of my plotting in my head. … There’s a rhythm to writing, like music, and if you have the right rhythm going people will just fall into it. … So I wanted to try to have a certain rhythm to this book.
Q: How does that affect your second book? Keeping everything and everybody straight?
I have a big cardboard box that’s kind of like my war chest from “Six-Gun Tarot.” It’s got the novels and books that I read while I was researching stuff. It’s got a bunch of historical books on ghost towns. … Everything that was involved in researching I threw down in there. And I’ll probably be digging some of that stuff out as I go forward with the new one. And I’ll be starting a new box just like that, full of stuff. …
But yeah, continuity stuff. You do the best you can. You hope to God you have a good editor.
Q: What can you tell us about the book you just finished?
It’s called “The Greenway.” It’s an urban fantasy. I’m pretty sure “The Greenway” is not going to end up being the final title. …
It’s got a lot of mashed stuff up in this. It’s a detective story the same way I thought “Six-Gun” was a horror story. I’m sure other people will get other things out of it than that.
Q: When do you expect the sequel to “Six-Gun” to come out?
My anticipation is they might be trying to shoot for another January or early 2014 release. … The working title for it right now is “The Thirty-Two Killers of Golgotha.”
Visit The Roanoke Times Back Cover blog at blogs.roanoke.com/backcover for more books coverage.
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