This week we are joined by Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee to tell us about their book Untouchable (Saul Imbierowicz Book 2).
Can you describe your world or setting?
The world where Saul’s stories take place is not too different from our world. The stories take place in 1929 Chicago – so near the end of Prohibition. There are gangsters and speakeasies. But there are also vampires, so under the surface there are many differences to what we’d expect to find in the Chicago of our own world. Monsters do stalk the night (and day), though most regular people wouldn’t know it. “Untouchable” is the second book in the series. The story takes place in Chicago but we’re letting Saul get out of the city a bit and by the end of the story he’s traveling to Atlantic City. So, visualize the world of Boardwalk Empire, but with vampires.
How did you build this concept, what research did you do?
We took a trip to Chicago back in 2010 that started the entire series. We got a basic feel for the Chicago of today, but to really make the historical city stand out we did a lot of research, primarily about how Prohibition and Gangsters like Al Capone and “Bugs” Moran impacted the city. Books on these topics were important, but we also found a lot of great online resources that could give me access to photos and newspapers from the time.
Why did you choose this setting?
We wanted to tell a kind of vampire story that hadn’t been told before, one that involved vampires and gangsters. And we thought a historical setting, involving historical characters would be fun in creating a noir/new pulp thriller. We specifically wanted this first trilogy to focus on Al Capone, probably the most notorious gangster known.
What’s unique about your world?
The monsters. The world that Saul lives and works in is pretty much exactly like our world. Our history is his history, and events in our past have happened for Saul. What’s different is that in the shadows and hidden away are monsters. We have vampires for sure. But other monsters exist as well, even though Saul has not (as of yet) encountered them. (We do let him play with a jiangshi – a “Chinese vampire” in “Untouchable” so we’re hinting at a larger supernatural world that Saul has barely begun to understand. Book 3 in the series will continue to add to the mythos.) There are also organizations that fight the monsters. In “Untouchable” we introduce The Night Watchers, though only a little bit at first. They have an interesting history that started during the American Civil War that we plan to explore in a later book.
How do you explain the science or magic in your world?
The great thing about writing something that is primarily historical fiction is that most of that doesn’t have to be explained. The science in Saul’s world is the same as in ours, for that time. Magic though is something different. Saul has not yet encountered any magic, but it does exist (at least in our heads at the moment). It is not flashy, and only those who practice it know about it. In this way it is like a lot of urban fantasy novels where magic is kept hidden away from normal people. (Noir magic could be the next hot thing in urban fantasy sub-genres.) We are continuing to develop stories in this universe, and as we do, we’ll be exploring what magic is there.
What was the most surprising thing you found out while researching/writing your latest book?
Honestly, how easily the “real” history matches up with the history we wanted to create for our story. We take a lot of liberties with some historical events, but even with that we were able to tie in the critical parts of the story that we wanted to tell without making major alterations to “real” history. It helps that while we know a lot about Al Capone, there are still many things about the man that are mysterious and we can play with that. It gives us some freedom to create the world we want. Making him a vampire means we can also write our own history where we need to and ignore events that may have happened. For example, in early 1929 Al Capone spent a lot of time in his home in Florida, but that wouldn’t work for us and our stories. We can ignore this because we can use Capone’s powers as a vampire to create a logical reason for why history is one way and our story is another.
How do you handle the food in your world?
No differently than in our world. Again, there is an advantage to setting a supernatural story in a historical Earth setting. That being said, we handle our vampires and their food sources a bit differently. (Caution, some minor spoilers ahead.) In our first book in the series “Unremarkable” Saul becomes a vampire. In “Untouchable” he’s trying to come to terms with his new “life” and he’s struggling with the idea that he’s now a monster or an abomination. He feeds only on animal blood, stolen from butcher shops, thinking that this allows him to retain some of his humanity. Even though he’s now stronger, faster, and has better senses and reflexes he doesn’t understand why he’s fatigued all the time. What Saul learns is that while vampires can survive on animal blood, only human blood gives them their full strength. There are other aspects of blood that we will continue to explore in this book, and the next book in the series.
Do you have a recipe that you could share, maybe one that our readers could try, based on the food in your world?
Not any that we would want to share. Despite what we write, we don’t recommend drinking blood as any type of diet or meal. And I wouldn’t want to share any recipes from speakeasies for Prohibition-era booze. Most of that stuff was made from alcohol that would kill you instead of giving you a buzz.
What was the most mundane item that you used that really has cool tech or magic behind it?
Unfortunately, nothing really. Saul’s world is a gritty, noir world filled with Tommy Gun-toting gangsters and vampires. The tech of Saul’s world is really no different than in ours (even if it is about 90 years old). On the magic side, there are a few things that Saul’s new partner, Agent Christian Wright, uses that have ‘power’, though I wouldn’t call them magical. Holy water will injure a vampire, and Christian has access to scrolls that – Christian claims – have the power to stop some types of vampires. Part of what we are doing is easing Saul into this new world. He’s experiencing everything for the first time, and without any sort of guide, so there is still a lot about the supernatural world that Saul knows nothing about.
What did you include that you wish was real today?
Man, it feels really lame to keep saying this in an interview about worldbuilding, but nothing. In a historical (albeit supernatural) Earth, there’s not a lot that they had then that we don’t have now, usually better crafted and with more functionality. Plus, our tech level now is so far above what was available in 1929. One of the ‘problems’ of trying to create a gritty and realistic world is that a lot of the more fantastical elements that might get added to a fantasy or sci-fi story are often set aside. Part of the this is also that Saul hasn’t experienced some of the more magical aspects of the new world he finds himself in. As the books are written in the first person from Saul’s perspective, we can only reveal what Saul learns. And Saul is sometimes a slow learner.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
It may not seem like it from this interview, but there’s actually quite a bit of worldbuilding that we’ve done to make a realistic, supernatural, historical setting that keeps our own history intact. We’ve researched radio programs, sporting events (baseball mostly, but also boxing), films, and books, as well as language and idioms to make sure that we don’t add in anachronisms to the story that might pull a reader away from the narrative. (We had some great help in that respect with our beta readers.)
- Amazon author link: www.amazon.com/Geoff-Habiger/e/B002BMERYK
- Goodreads author link: www.goodreads.com/author/show/1007658.Geoff_Habiger
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/TangentGeoff
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/HabigerKisseeAuthors/
- Other: www.habigerkissee.com/