Future Forecast: Matthew B.J. Delaney on ‘Black Rain’ (Q&A)

Today, I am happily joined by Matthew B.J. Delaney.

Matthew is the author, most recently, of Black Rain (47North). He published his debut novel, Jinn, in 2003; that title won the International Horror Guild Award, was optioned for film by Touchstone, was named a People magazine Page-Turner of the Week, and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Matthew received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dartmouth College and a master’s in public administration from Harvard. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, he left a career in finance and moved from Boston to New York City to join the New York City Police Department. Matthew has been a member of the NYPD for twelve years and has been assigned to precincts throughout Manhattan and the Bronx as well as within Police Headquarters and the Intelligence Division. He is currently a decorated special operations lieutenant serving in a Brooklyn violent crime suppression unit. Matthew continues to write in his spare time.

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Author Matthew B.J. Delaney.

Praise for Black Rain:

“I very rarely read a book twice, but when I first finished Black Rain—which hurtles through a breakneck plot set in a near-future New York City and ends with a revelation that casts everything that came before it in a new light—I went immediately back to the first page and dived in again.”—Jason Kirk, 47North Editor

From the publisher:

In a darkly warped near future, lucrative disease cures are brokered on Wall Street’s Genetic Stock Exchange. And the hottest consumer products are artificially synthesized humans that serve as everything from domestic slaves to combatants in savage gladiatorial games. For Jack Saxton, the young heir to genetic design powerhouse Genico Inc., these Synthates are just a fact of life…until the murder of a high-profile genetic scientist leads a pair of seasoned NYPD detectives to Genico’s door.

As a small band of Synthate rebels steps up its attack on the status quo, Jack encounters a pleasure-parlor girl who opens his eyes to their cause. When he dares to sympathize with the rebels, Jack is hunted down and arrested for the murder. Sentenced to die in the brutal games on Bloomberg Island, Jack will be forced to fight—for his life, for the future of all Synthates, and for a chance to uncover the mind-bending secret buried in his past.

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Now, Matthew Delaney takes readers behind police lines …

John Valeri: What first inspired the idea for Black Rain – and how do you see this book as a progression from your earlier works?

Mathew B.J. Delaney: Black Rain was inspired from looking at the world as it exists today and wondering what the natural progression would be for science and for entertainment.  There continues to be a link between the National Football League and traumatic brain injuries, yet the popularity of the NFL rises every year.  People crave violence as entertainment.  So what if we could have that violence, yet somehow not involve humans?  What would that look like?  My first book Jinn was written for an audience of one.  Myself.  I never imagined the novel to end up anywhere beyond the Documents folder in my computer.  Black Rain was created with the hope/prayer that it might be published and read by a wider audience.  I was more careful in writing Black Rain, and also more mature.  I had more life experience which I was able to pour into Black Rain that I hadn’t yet accumulated when I wrote Jinn.  The end result is a story with a more fundamental understanding of the intersection between human nature and greed.

JV: The narrative is set in the future. Why did this appeal to you – and how do you see the premise as being relevant to today’s world?

MBJD: I’ve always loved speculative future narratives.  These stories are bound only by whatever rules the author chooses to create for them.  Humans are fundamentally the same throughout history.  The characters of well written historical fiction express the same emotions and struggle with the same dilemmas as those in contemporary fiction, and it’s fascinating to me to see these same characters react within a totally new future environment.  How would Atticus Finch have led as Captain of a Star Voyager?  What would it be like for Holden Caulfield as a draftee into an international army fighting an invasion of alien robots?  Or, alternatively, what would Rick Deckard do for work in 15th Century Venice?  Regardless of time or place, we are every character and they are all us.  The future, the past, they are all us as characters reacting to different settings and in different worlds.  We are all capable of the same great horrors and the same great achievements.

JV: You have degrees in economics and public administration. What is the relationship between finance and big business – and how is the plot driven by moral and ethical questions stemming from this?

MBJD: Big business and big money will always be intertwined.  Black Rain explores the ethics of business and technology and the commodification of the human genetic code.  These are real issues which I have no doubt will arise sometime within the lifetime of many reading this right now.  Economics is the study of supply and demand.  Demand is driven by our needs as humans, but also by our own moral and ethical laws and codes.  Where there is demand, there will always be supply.  When that demand becomes morally questionable, illegal drugs, prostitution, cheap labor, then conflict exists.  In Black Rain, the demand arises for fabricated humans to serve those born human and science figures out how to make the supply a reality.  This raises questions about the meaning of being human and the dangers of greed and unregulated markets.

JV: You know crime intimately by virtue of your day job. How does that influence your fiction – and what role does creative license play in the process?

MBJD: My day job as a Lieutenant in the New York City Police Department grants me an understanding of the details to make crime narratives realistic, but creative license allows me to strip away the over mundane and streamline scenes for entertainment.  As an author, I can find the balance between giving a story enough detail to make it believable, but not so much to make it tedious.

JV: How do you endeavor to achieve balance between your various obligations – and what advice would you give to those of us who have creative ambitions but struggle to find the time to pursue them?

MBJD: If it’s important to you, just find ways to do it.  Having goals has always helped me.  I divide those goals into short and long term.  Long term.  Write a book by this time next year.  Short term.  Today, I have to go to my day job, but I want to put at least 1,000 words to paper and make it to the gym. Taking an honest look at my life, I realized how much time I was wasting away doing nothing.  Bogged down in surfing the internet.  Watching mindless shows on TV.  I was burning up time doing things I didn’t even really enjoy.  The television or computer turned on out of force of habit.  Focusing efforts on what was important helped me find that time in the day.

JV: Leave us with a teaser: what comes next?

MBJD: I just finished a novel, The Memory Agent, which I’m very excited about.  The plot revolves around a prison of the mind, and the team hired to break out the prisoners.

***

With thanks to Matthew B.J. Delaney for his generosity of time and thought and to Taylan Salvati, Wunderkind PR, for facilitating this interview.

 

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