I wanted to add a new section to this site, of interviews with writers and other creatives, so I created the ‘In Discussion With…’ page. I have many more interviews lined up. But for now, to recap, I have interviewed:

Harry Hunsicker, where he discussed his latest release, THE DEVIL’S COUNTRY.

Bernard Schaffer, talking about his self-publishing career and his novel THE THIEF OF ALL LIGHT, out soon from Kensington Publications.

Dayton Ward, who detailed what it was like writing a tie-in to Star Trek Discovery, and the publication of his latest Trek novel, HEARTS AND MINDS.

I will have news soon of further interviews but for now, if you’ve missed any of the interviews above, why not give them a read?

“Punch as hard as you can. Drive them into the corner and don’t let up.” IN DISCUSSION WITH… BERNARD SCHAFFER

Today I’m in discussion with Bernard Schaffer. I’ve known Bernard for a long time, and we’ve collaborated with each other, and edited each other’s work for years. Not only is Bernard an author, he is a full-time police detective, and father of two kids.

A career spanning twenty years has seen him become a decorated criminal investigator, narcotics expert and child forensic interviewer. Since I have known him, Bernard has been a formidable champion of independent publishing. His experience working the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA is present in much of his work.

It’s that real-life experience that makes his novel, The Thief Of All Light, so vivid and realistic (it’s released by Kensington Publications in Summer 2018). I was fortunate enough to be a beta (and early editor) on that book, and can tell you that it’s no surprise to me that Kensington wanted to publish it. Not only that, but they signed Bernard for a sequel, too. I’ve always been a fan of his work, but The Thief Of All Light is truly his best yet.

You can read the interview by clicking here!

Thoughts On Harlan Ellison

In 2011 I found myself submitting a short story to the anthology Resistance Front featuring none-other-than Harlan Ellison. Suffice to say I didn’t know that much about Harlan, only that he’d written the best of the TOS episodes, City On The Edge Of Forever.

I asked Alan Dean Foster if he would be interested in contributing to it as well, and was surprised when he agreed. I passed him over to Bernard Schaffer, editor-in-chief of the project and set about conducting interviews with all the writers involved. When it came to getting one from Harlan, he told me point blank he didn’t do email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. However he would grant me an interview if I could source him several magazines available here in the UK featuring him. Suffice to say I didn’t bother (sort of walking away from my first contact with the man rather deflated). It wasn’t until I did some reading online that I learned what kind of man Harlan Ellison was, and why it was not out of sorts for him to expect me to send him stuff for an interview.

In early 2013 my good friend Bernard did an interview with Matt Posner (author of School of the Ages), and he had this to say:

Harlan . . . I’ve never spoken openly about what happened with Harlan but I think enough time has passed to do so. Harlan was always one of my literary heroes. He still is. I’d kill for him, so don’t misunderstand anything I say. Over a period of a month or so, I was in constant contact with him. Emails, faxes, phone calls, mailed packages. He is a font of information and even his simplest emails will make you feel embarrassed to call yourself a writer. We talked about life, love, family, politics, his experiences as an author, Dangerous Visions, everything. In the midst of all that, Harlan offered to edit Old-Time Lawmen. I was flabbergasted.

To go from a kid who stood in line at Philly Comic Con to get his signature to an author working on a project with him was staggering. But it gets more amazing. He actually rewrote the first page of my story and signed it. I have, in my possession, a one of a kind Harlan Ellison manuscript that contains my characters and world in his words. He gave me a very honest, and correct, critique of the story and I told him I would get to work right away. I went into a frenzy of writing. It was like his insight to my work unlocked something in me, and I completely overhauled my style. So, it was with great enthusiasm that I sent him the new version. I thanked him for his honesty and told him how he’d helped me, and I waited.

 Now, let me back up a moment.

 Harlan is very ill, and what I think happened was that the month we were in such close contact, he was feeling better. He had some energy. He was excited about the project. That all changed when his illness reared up. The last phone call I got from him was that he’d received my story, and that he could not do anything more for me. I had, to quote, “Gone beyond the boundaries of imposition.” I had no idea what to say. I muttered an apology and he told me to save it. And then something really crazy happened. I knew this was it, so I thanked him for everything. What else could I say? He’s a literary giant and I’m a peon and he took the time to share a little of his insight with me. I told him I would always be grateful.

 He said, “Yeah, I’m just a wonderful fucking human being.”

 And then he hung up. We never spoke again. In more ways than one, it was a definitive experience for me as an author. Probably as a person.

I do believe that after that interview Bernard did have some contact with Harlan again. But that was his experience working closely with the man. Perhaps, reading it, it was not completely out of character.

Side note: Alan Dean Foster did his interview with me to promote the anthology and had the answers back the same day. I’ve had email contact with Alan on and off for years and have always found him very pleasant and approachable.

So I read about his famous bust-ups (including the Sinatra fiasco) and his lawsuits (my god, Terminator?). I found myself fascinated with watching his video clips on Youtube, his interview segments. I read the story he’d contributed to Resistance Front, an original version of Emissary From Hamelin. I grabbed a copy of I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream and read the entire collection. I went on to read Shatterday, Approaching Oblivion and his version of events surrounding the aforementioned Star Trek episode City On The Edge Of Forever.

When Hard Case Crime reprinted his classic crime novel Web Of The City, I managed to get myself an uncorrected proof of it.

Have I known him personally? Apart from two exchanges on his message board, no. My only real connection with him is to be published in the same anthology.

No, I came to know Harlan Ellison the writer, the artist, the champion of short fiction, the uncompromising voice. And I’ve got so many works of his to seek out and devour. I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. But thus far, I dare anyone to read I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream (the story) and not feel dumbstruck by the intense darkness of the piece. Or read One Life, Furnished In Early Poverty and not have your heart broken.

As of this writing, Harlan Ellison is laid up after having had a major stroke. But apparently his mind is still there. Well, I don’t find that hard to believe. The man is an unstoppable force, a creative cyclone. And one day the vessel that carries him will die. But not Harlan Ellison.

That master of words will live on forever.

Get SUN HAMMER PART 1 for FREE all weekend long! RT @ApiarySociety

Bernard Schaffer and I present:


Readers have loved our crossover between the Far From Home universe (mine) and the Grendel Unit universe (his), and to celebrate the fact that Far From Home: The Complete Series has found success in the charts, I’m making Part One: The Eyes Of The Enemy FREE from today all the way up to Sunday!

I encourage you to grab Part 1 for FREE and then get your hands on Part 2: Suicide Planet by Bernard Schaffer to find out how it ends!

You will not be disappointing. And if fans demand it, there will be more teaming up between these two universes in the future . . .



A couple of things.

1) As of next week I will be writing Far From Home 9, 10, 11 and 12 exclusively. This means no more delays, no more long waits. You’ll get #9 in August, and then the last 3 very shortly after that. I think you’re all going to love it.

2) I am really thankful to all of the readers who take the time to a) get in touch and b) leave an honest review. You don’t know how much it means to me that people are enjoying the series. Again, thanks.

3) Which leads me to ask a favor. I recently collaborated with best-selling independent author Bernard Schaffer on a crossover from my series to his. It’s called:






respectively. And both installments could really do with a review or two.

If anyone would be interested in reading the both, and perhaps leaving an honest review afterward, feel free to contact me and I’ll send you copies.

I think it’s a great story that readers of the series will enjoy – it’s a prequel that involves Captain Singh and his second in command Jessica King – and I think you’ll dig Bernard’s series too. There’s a character in Grendel Unit called “Monster” and I for one would like to see him get his own spin-off, but hey, that’s just me.

If any of you kind people DO get in touch, and DO leave a review, I’m sure I can send you something a little special. Such as a signed book . . .

Here’s the link to Sun Hammer Part 1 US or UK

and the link to Sun Hammer Part 2 US or UK

My Superbia 3 Review

Superbia 3 is an absolute tour de force by author Bernard Schaffer. Funny, gripping and at times uncomfortable, the series continues to deal with the realities of Cop life whilst at the same time resolving the plot threads of the first two Superbia’s.

The longest of the series, it doesn’t feel like it. The story cracks along, and Schaffer’s writing has never been better. This is a writer continuing to grow and mature. In a way it reads like a Michael Connelly novel. By that I mean razor sharp dialogue, surprising plot twists and great characterisation. Schaffer is up there with the titans of the industry, and showing no signs of stopping any time soon.

I don’t want to spoil any of Superbia 3’s plot for readers, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Frank, and what a good thing, too. This is one series I don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye to. Now where did I put that The Departed DVD?

YOU CAN BUY Superbia 3 (Book 3 of the Superbia Series) BY CLICKING THIS LINK



(Note that this interview will contain some SPOILERS of Superbia so BE WARNED)

(Please also note that the review I posted on Amazon follows at the end of the interview)

FS: Firstly, congratulations on Superbia. It was a fantastic read.

B: I appreciate it Tony. The early feedback has been amazing. As I write this, the book is finishing up its second day of free promotion on Amazon via the Kindle Direct Select program. So far it’s been downloaded over 17,100 times and reached the #11 spot on all of Amazon. That’s mind-blowing. It goes back on sale tomorrow. Wish me luck.

(Note, Superbia is now back on sale at the regular price)

FS: What are you doing to promote it?

B: The KDS program is my first, best promotional tool at this point. I’m a believer in the program. I never experienced much luck with the Nook or Smashwords, so I don’t miss being able to list my books there. Aside from that, there’s Twitter. One of the best things about being a smaller independent author is that people can reach out to me anytime they want. You can read my book and go right on Twitter and start talking to me. I’m not hard to find.

I opted to only do two interviews for the book, one here, and one with David Hulegaard. I would rather have two heartfelt discussions rather than find myself repeating the same things twenty different places.

FS: I think that Superbia should really reach the widest possible audience, it was such a satisfying read.

B: I’d love to see it happen. I feel a great responsibility for the people I’ve chosen to speak for. It is a very diverse group and some of them might not appreciate what I have to say, but they’re probably the people I took shots at in the book anyway.

FS: It’s one of those things I’d like to see picked up for TV. Wouldn’t that be a boon!

B: I keep hearing the words “HBO series.” I’d like to let the fine people of HBO know, should any of them be reading this, that I’m available to discuss it. Unless Showtime calls first, at which point I will shamelessly deny ever saying anything nice about HBO.

FS: Reading Superbia, I was reminded a lot of John D Macdonald, and some of the different books published via HARD CASE CRIME. I wouldn’t call Superbia pulp, but I would say it was sort of in the same vein. I’d like to say the realistic policing world of LA Confidential, too, but I’m only talking about the movie, not the book. There is certainly something about the way you’ve painted the setting of Superbia that doesn’t leave room for doubt that it’s a real story taking place before your eyes. I explained it to my wife as being “like a documentary, following real cops around as they experience the ups and downs of the job.”

B: My whole intent was to create a fictional world filled with fictional people who experience real things. I’ve been a cop for fifteen years and grew up with a dad who was on the Job as well. I’ve been around it my entire life. It was a matter of referencing all of the stories from all of the cops I’ve ever known.

FS: There were great references throughout to different cop shows and movies. As a cop yourself, how much of what you see on TV today correctly represents what you see day in, day out?

B: As cops we actually reference the movies and TV shows ourselves on a daily basis. That’s all part of the group dynamic. The dialogue in Superbia is something you would hear in any precinct around the world. I’ve worked with cops from the UK, from the Canadian border, and all across the United States. We’re all pretty much the same sort. This is the Cops, mind you. The working man, or woman. Not the REMF’s.

That being said, what you see on TV is total bullshit. The plague of CSI-type shows has completely bamboozled the public into believing we’ve all got crime scene units following us around with NASA-grade technology. I did a temporary assignment with Philly’s Crime Scene Unit for two weeks and met some of the smartest, most dedicated professionals I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Most of them had to buy their own gear.

FS: The scene halfway through the novel, with the guy who hung himself, was another one of those scenes where I thought “He hasn’t made this up.” Is that instinct right? It just didn’t feel like you’d sat at your desk and created that scenario out of thin air.

B: The entire book is completely made up. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t even think I wrote the damn thing. Who are you and why are we talking again?

FS: I’ve read your interview with David Hulegaard, and the subject of the humour present in the novel came up. I found Superbia VERY funny. As David noted, it’s the funniest thing you’ve written yet. Your off-the-wall humour, which we all come across via twitter and your blog, really shines through in Superbia.

B: Writing Superbia was a completely different experience for me. The other books were a matter of building up the worlds and structuring them in a specific manner. Paying attention to every little detail. Were zippers invented in the era of Sherlock Holmes? What was a common expression for people who suffered Tuberculosis in the Wild West? Those sort of things.

For Superbia, it was matter of me getting out of the way. Opening up as a writer and shaking off the fear that I would face serious reprisals for what I had to say. For cops, it is common to crack jokes in the face of danger and horror. Maybe the humor in the book is me doing the same thing.

FS: In my review I say that you have a very British sense of humour, and by that I think I mean that it feels familiar. Vic’s banter back and forth with Frank had me in stitches, really. It was like the banter my Dad and I might have with each other. For example when Vic says something, and Frank says “Vic, you would have been 10 years old” or something to that effect. Vic replies with “Yeah, then I was a 10 year old genius detective.” Amidst the darkness present in the novel, that humour offers a counter-point that I think really works.

B: I’ve literally been standing in rooms that are covered in blood and guts. Brain matter dripping from the ceiling. One eyeball stuck to the television set across the room and the other one under the refrigerator in the kitchen. I’ve been standing in those rooms with other young men who cannot possibly find a rational way to deal with the reality of what we are seeing, so we start to make fun of it.

The thing about most cops is that they’re excellent communicators. They survive on the street by being able to talk to people, by being quick witted and sharp-tongued. If you can talk a guy into putting a knife down and surrendering so you don’t have to shoot his stupid ass, chances are, you’re a gifted bullshitter.

FS: You’ve mentioned more than once that this book could end your career. Surely, releasing Superbia regardless of that possibility means that you’re prepared if that does indeed become the case…

B: I think there are several ways it could end. Some of them are positive, some negative. I would rather leave police work on my own terms than be forced out. Joseph Wambaugh was forced out when people kept turning up at his station house asking for autographs.

FS: The ending was strange for me. It felt concluded, and yet it also felt like there was this whole other book waiting to be written about a man with a mission to fight corruption. Is there a sequel in the works? Perhaps something along the lines of The Insider?

B: Superbia 2 might preempt the other books I have slated for 2012. Maybe. It depends what comes over the telepathic wire. I can tell you I’ve got the second book plotted out.

FS: The sense of there being corruption within and above… is that something you’ve experienced yourself? Surely every organisation has its dark side that the public never see or hear about.

B: Whenever there is a police suicide, there is much discussion about the mental breakdown of officers based on what they see and experience. How the horror of the Job gets to them. How it affects their family life, causes substance abuse, and so forth.

You never see anyone question the workplace’s impact on him. It’s always some nefarious encounter with death or tragedy that pushed him too far. Nobody ever says, “What were his bosses like? How was he being treated?”

FS: I think that the kind of writing you’ve shown in Superbia would go well with other crime fiction, perhaps something along the lines of Elmore Leonard. Can you see yourself dipping your toe in the genre again and incorporating more from a criminal viewpoint? One of the things about that type of fiction is that the bad guys are never a cut and dry case of good and evil. They’re more about people who have made a choice to protect honesty and order (the law) and people who’ve chosen a life that ignores rules and limitations (the criminal element).

B: I’ve only ever met a few evil sons of bitches. I mean, really evil. Most of the people I’ve arrested were ordinary dudes who made dumb decisions either out of greed or desperation. I tend to have good reports with the people I arrest, as long as whatever they did doesn’t violate my moral compass.

I just ran into a drug dealer I arrested a few years ago at the local bar and we sat down and talked about the old days over a few beers. My personal philosophy is that my life could have easily gone in a different direction and I’d be in that other person’s position. The Job does not grace you with any kind of moral superiority. When I see cops who think it does, I could vomit.

FS: You said on your blog that you’re aiming to make a million dollars this year from your writing. Obviously, that is a phenomenal figure to make. Do you think you’ll do it? Is there indication in your sales to date that you will?

B: All I can do is keep plugging away. Hopefully, something breaks loose.

FS: So what do you plan on releasing in 2012, and of those titles which ones remain to be written?

B: The Magnificent Guns of Seneca 6 and Whitechapel 2: Inspector Lestrade and the Torso Killer are two big projects that I intend to tackle. The Widow Sword is already written, but I’ll need to do an overhaul before it gets released. Codex Leicester is a collection of short-stories that are written except for two. And now, while I should be working on all of them, I’m preoccupied with continuing the world of Superbia.

What could possibly go wrong?

FS: You’ve touched on this before, but what’s your work ethic? What is a day of writing look like for Bernard Schaffer? You seem to be able to churn out one great novel after another. And in between that you’re writing short stories and erotic fiction. How do you do it? Or will we see a “How I Sold XXX Books On Kindle” from you similar to what Locke has done?

B: Since I was a child, I’ve always read multiple books at once. Now I tend to write them simultaneously as well. When I finish one project, I’m already tidying up the next one and getting it ready.

Many years ago I saw a cartoon in Mad Magazine of Stephen King racing a word processor to see if it could print the books as fast as he wrote them. My goal is to have them recycle that joke with me and a Kindle.

I can tell you this now, you will never see a “How to Sell” or “How to Write” book from me. The greatest book about writing, ON WRITING, is already written. I have nothing to add to what Steve said. People who want to pretend that the craft has somehow changed because of e-books are delusional. The delivery system might change. The craft does not.

“How to Sell” books on Kindle would be infinitely harder, and it’s not something I’m willing to write. Mainly because it can’t be written or taught. At least, my personal method can’t be. There are people like John Locke who can tell you how they sold books and steps you can take to do the same.

I’m the same writer whether I’m selling a million books or not a single one. I walk it, breathe it, live it, am willing to sacrifice sleep for it, willing to sacrifice my career for it. I have an insanely competitive streak that makes me want prove things to the entire world. Things I can’t explain, let alone jot down for sale.

FS: Do you see yourself remaining Indie? Would you accept a contract from a big name publisher if it was offered? To my eye, it seems like you’re doing okay as you are. And when you’ve got authors like JA Konrath making $100,000 in only 3 weeks at a time, I just don’t think that the big pub houses can offer anything to match that can they?

B: Konrath is like the guy who’s been in the Navy for twenty years and knows you’re getting ready to ship out to Singapore. He puts his arm around you and says, “C’mere kid. When you get to port, go find this one-eyed whore named CiCi and ask her for the Goosegrease Basket Trick. Tell her Uncle Joe sent ya. She’s gonna ask you for twenty, but only give her an extra five. And also, never eat anything called the Beef Special.” Independent publishing is better for having him around. He’s one of the few people in the industry that I’d like to meet.

I think that the future of independent publishing can be found in other mediums. Take music for example. Why can’t an independent publisher have his own imprint at a larger label? A distribution deal for the bookstores and Walmarts of the world, released under mutually beneficial terms. I’d consider that.

FS: Before we finish, I know from your interview with David how you sort of started Superbia as a response to John Locke’s work ethic, whereby he basically writes shit books but somehow markets them just right and gets them selling. Somehow it turned from being a beach read to being, in my opinion, THE Bernard Schaffer book to start with. And yet it wasn’t too long, and felt like a satisfying, quality read that you could take to a beach. So funnily enough, I think you got what you went for in the beginning. Only, your idea of a beach read is a little different to Locke’s. It’s like comparing economy burgers with gourmet quarter-pounders, you know?

B: Funny you should say that. I often think of John as the McDonald’s of the independent publishing movement. Clearly, there is a market for his work. I’m just trying to achieve something slightly different with mine.

FS: You’ve mentioned to me before about Widow Sword. When can we expect that to hit the Kindle Store? And how do you see it faring against the plethora of other Fantasy titles on there?

B: Honestly, I’m hesitant. People seem extremely interested in the book and expectations are high. The fantasy genre is my home turf. I grew up on Tolkien and Mallory and CS Lewis and all of the other amazing authors who inspired and delighted me. WIDOW SWORD is not the next great fantasy epic. It’s a simple story about a father journeying to recover his son. The boy has been stolen, and Treasach is going to do whatever it takes to get him back.

FS: You’ve conquered the Sherlock Holmes category, and are on your way to conquering the Western category with Guns of Seneca 6. Is there another genre, other than what you’ve tackled already (including your book of short erotica) that you’d like to write in? I’m thinking chic-lit myself…

B: If and when I ever make enough money to leave police work and write full-time, I intend to explore America by train. I want to see the country from the ground. There are so many places I’ve never been, so much history that I’ve never experienced. I would write as I went and probably post things to my blog so that people could follow my adventures.

The other super-secret longing is to try my hand at a comic book. I’ve got a kickass comic series inside of me that’s ready to come out whenever the opportunity arises.

FS: Well it’s been a pleasure as always. I can’t wait for Widow Sword. I want to see how you tackle sword and sorcery. I see it as Schaffer v Hicks. The Don v The Demi-God. (The term Demi-God for Hicks isn’t from me, btw…)

B: I can’t argue with that. Mike is an amazing author, teacher, and mentor. Unfortunately for him, I eat Demi-Gods and it’s been awhile since I fed last. I’m just kidding. Swear to God.


Here is the review I posted on Amazon for Superbia. I’d like to take this oppurtunity to say that when leaving a review on I will ALWAYS hop on over to and paste in the same review. Amazon allows you to, so why not? If you read a book you like, leave a review for it, but do so at both sites. Support your indie author’s.

And remember, you don’t need an e-reader to be a READER! Download the Kindle App for your pc, android phone, iphone, ipad or tablet for FREE and get reading!

My review:

Superbia is the best book that Schaffer has written so far, by a mile. Don’t get me wrong, his genre efforts are fantastic, and great fun to read. I loved Whitechapel, and The Guns of Seneca 6… but Superbia takes top spot for me.
I read it in less than 24 hours. I’m quite a slow reader at times, or I can be, but there was something about Superbia that made it stick in my head. It wouldn’t leave me. I literally couldn’t put the book down.
Primarily it’s the story of Frank and Vic, two cops who are thrown together as partners. They have different approaches to their work, however they are both grounded in the same ideals of fatherhood and their mutual disgust of those who bring harm to children. They’re both Fathers who love their children. Frank seems to be in a stable relationship, whereas Vic’s has gone down the toilet, with his children being used as weapons by his ex-wife.
Superbia is brutal in places, and you get the distinct impression that so much of it has a truthful element to it. It’s a case of ‘you couldn’t really make this up’. The idea of reading a fictionalised account of events that may have happened in real life is a major draw to keep reading through it, as you find yourself wanting to know what happened next. In this respect I didn’t want the book to end. I wanted it to keep on going. However that’s not to say that it reached a naturally fulfilling conclusion; I’m merely saying that it is so well written, and so honest in its subject matter, that I didn’t want the experience to end.
I was going to list my favourite scenes here in this review, but you have to go into the book cold. You have to be open to the experience.
Also something should be said here about Schaffer’s sense of humour. It really comes through in Superbia, although it is present in his other work. Strangely, for an American, he has a very British sense of humour. I found myself chuckling along quite a few times. The pitter-patter between Frank and Vic, especially early on, was fantastically written.
Superbia is dark and funny. It is honest. It is literally, as someone elsewhere has said of Schaffer, a ‘cop bearing his soul’.
He says this could be the book that ends his policing career. I say let it. Don’t worry.
I implore you to read this book. If you liked Whitechapel or Guns of Seneca 6, then you’re going to love this book. If you haven’t read either of those two, why not start here? It truly is his best book to date.
I don’t know how he’s going to top it… but the funny thing is, I know he will.
Schaffer isn’t a writer to watch. He’s not an up and coming star. HE IS THE REAL DEAL.
It’s about time you acquainted yourself with him.


Bernard J Schaffer is the bestselling author of Whitechapel: The Last Stand of Sherlock Holmes, Women & Other Monsters, a short story collection, and the newly released The Guns of Seneca 6.
He is also the editor of a short story anthology, Kindle All-Stars Present: Resistance Front, which is his brainchild. Along the way he’s managed to pull in prolific author Harlan Ellison, who is contributing a story. Similarly prolific author Alan Dean Foster is also providing a story.
Resistance Front will be rocking the Kindle Bestseller Charts before Christmas.

Bernard, welcome again. I suppose this constitutes ‘round two’ of our interviews. In my first interview with you, your new novel was mentioned as being in the works. Now it’s finished and out there. How do you feel?

BJS: It feels great to have the book out, but it’s also a bit like sending your child off to school for the first time. You know how smart the kid is, how much you love him, but now he’s going to have to make his own way. Once you release a book, it goes out into the world without you to protect it.

I’ve read 100 pages of Seneca 6 so far. I hope to be able to read the full novel soon. But I have to say that I loved what I read. It’s a real blend of Western adventure, with a SF twist. How did you conceive of the storyline? What made you want to blend classic Western characters and situations with technology and SF concepts? I obviously don’t want to give away too much about the plot itself and spoil it for readers.

BJS: Whitechapel was an intense book in terms of research and structure. It had to obey the timeline of the Ripper crimes and be true to world it existed in. Plus, it was a very bleak story and reflected the dark place I was in when I wrote it. Seneca 6 was me breaking free.

The one thing I wanted after reading that 100 page sample, was to know more about the universe of Seneca 6. In Star Trek we have the United Federation of Planets, and then we have Starfleet, and so on. How does the Seneca 6 universe work? How would you explain it to readers?

BJS: Seneca 6 is a mining settlement on a remote planet that operates under contract with a consortium of intergalactic traders. The settlement is essentially a boomtown, like the ones that popped up during the gold rushes of the US.

I think that by the time this novel hits #1 in the Kindle Store, which I know in my gut that it will, you’ll need to get a website devoted to the universe you’ve created. It reminds me a lot of Firefly and the good work Joss Whedon did with creating that universe. It’s not out-and-out SF like Star Trek or Star Wars, but a blend of genres.

BJS: If the book does hit Number One, you and I are going out for drinks. I’m buying.

Do you plan to revisit this universe at some point?

BJS: The Guns of Seneca 6 will ride again. Trust that. I miss the characters already and have been playing with what would happen to them since we left.

In much the same way that you have spin-off Star Trek novels, Star Wars novels and even Warhammer novels, would you be open to letting other writers fool about within the universe you’ve created? Or collaborate with other writers on stories set within it? A bit like an open-universe concept?

BJS: I think there is way too much going on in that universe for me to cover it all by myself. I’d love to see what other people can do with it at some point.

I know from the KAS project that Harlan Ellison has had a big influence on you. You’ve been in contact with him, haven’t you? What’s that like?

BJS: It is terrifying at first. I refused to call him initially because, really, who the hell am I to just call up Harlan Ellison? Ultimately, he called me, and we spoke several times after that. Harlan doesn’t waste time on pleasantries. You answer the phone and he just goes in. The guy speaks like he writes, which is to say, golden things fall out of his mouth, and I just wanted to listen. There is so much more to tell about my time with Harlan, but maybe I’ll save it for those beers we’re going to have.

Other than Ellison, what other writers have had a lasting effect on you? And in what way would you say they have influenced your work on Seneca 6?

BJS: Ron Hansen (Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Desperadoes) had the biggest influence on me for Guns of Seneca 6. I thank him in the book because I wouldn’t have written it without reading his work. Aside from him, I always take time to give credit to Stephen King. The last time I was here, I called him “My Musashi,” which wound up as a quote on my Wikipedia page. Steve deserves it. I return to On Writing whenever I finish a novel, just to page through it, and always find something that pertains to where I am at that point in time.

In the editing stage of my own story for the KAS project, I had first-hand experience of your editing technique. And it’s brutal! I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s actually refreshing to have someone say “Wait a minute, you mean…” at things you thought would pass. I want to take this opportunity really to say thank you for giving me such a brilliant education. I’m sure all of the KAS contributors would say the same thing, given the chance. We’ve all ended up with far better stories than we did when we first submitted them

BJS: I’ve been edited by the best, including Bill Thompson, Karen the Angry Hatchet, and (sort-of) Harlan Ellison. I’m not as seasoned as Bill, as smart as Karen, or as talented as Harlan, but I know my way around a good yarn. I have a lot to learn in terms of editing. On some of the stories, I was doing more rewriting than editing and that’s not the right way to go about it.
Whitechapel initially had an entire storyline that weaved throughout the book. Bill called me up after he finished reading it and said, “Get a pencil and write this down: Delete that character and her storyline completely.”
I was aghast. It was a brutal process, but ultimately it clarified the story. A good editor trims the fat and is brave enough to tell a friend when they suck.

When it comes to your own writing, do you find it difficult to be as objective about it when it comes to editing it?

BJS: I don’t edit my own work. I rewrite it, of course, but I let other people read it and provide editorial guidance. I’d been working with someone who was very precise and an adherent of Strunk and White, but ultimately that washed out my voice. Writers have to reach a point where they know the rules and sometimes break them anyway. However, having a “voice” is not an excuse to write silly, amateurish things, no matter what anyone says.

I’ve come to realise over the months what a dedicated guy you are. And you’re a quick worker. There’s really no messing about with you is there? In the space of a few months you’ve managed to pull together such a huge project in the Kindle All Stars. Have you always been like this?

BJS: I spent years trying to break into the corporate publishing and literary journal world to no avail. I was trying to conform to all of their rules and guidelines and insufferable pomposity and the only thing I had was my love of the craft. When Kindle came alone and the Rise of the Independent Author began, it freed me. I hit the ground running.
Readers could spend their money and time with any other author in the world, but they chose to spend it with me. I take my duty to rock you real, real serious.

When it comes to writing, do you apply that same self-driven determination to the task at hand? Do you ever falter?

BJS: I’m at my most focused writing. All I need is the time to do it. My father lives a very solitary lifestyle. He has a small house next to a horse farm in the middle of nowhere. There are huge bay windows all along the living room with deer running through the fields right outside of the house. He hates it. He hates being alone and does nothing but watch TV and go on the internet.
I would thrive in that environment. I’d write a book a day with all that peace and quiet. At least, I think I would.

How long did Seneca 6 take to write from conception to publishing? And what tips would you give other writers for achieving that kind of productivity?

BJS: A little over a year, but in that time span I was working on other things continuously as well. I rewrote Whitechapel, wrote or retooled the six short stories in Women and Other Monsters, wrote a short story for the Fiction Noir anthology and two short stories for the Kindle All-Stars Project. I stay busy.

You mentioned in an email the other day about women at your Mum’s workplace wanting to email you about Whitechapel. And you were saying about the importance of leaving reviews. Does it frustrate you when people don’t do that?

BJS: With Whitechapel, the people who love it LOVE it. The people who don’t are very angry about it. They go in expecting just another good old Arthur Conan Doyle rip-off and find themselves dragged through hell. One customer review actually was upset that I “made” Jack the Ripper into a psychopath.

What sort of effect do you think that has on your sales? Surely ideally you want as many 5 star reviews as possible.

BJS: Sales are solid for Whitechapel. I have no complaints. It is not a mainstream book, and certainly not a typical Holmes book, so for it to sometimes be the Number One Sherlock Holmes book on Kindle in the UK or US is an honor.

Does it really sting you when you get one person out of, say, ten leave a 1 star review? I suppose that one hand you’re getting people who love the book yet neglect to leave a review, and then on the other hand you’ve got people who just don’t get what the book is meant to be and leave a bad review.

BJS: I took a personal oath never to respond in public to a review, whether good or bad. I might complain on Twitter here and there, but that’s more of an immediate reaction. I use Twitter for stream-of-consciousness type dialogue. Sometimes it’s rap lyrics. Sometimes it’s me unloading about something that irritates me.
The only thing that really bothers me is when people leave a review without reading the book. There are a few for Whitechapel where they got forty pages in and ran screaming for the hills. I know why they’re upset, and I sympathize, but I don’t apologize for showing Jack the Ripper for who he was. If you are going to leave a review for a book, you should at least have the decency to read it.

I have a Kindle All Stars question for you…

BJS: Good. Enough about me, already.

Who came up with ‘El Presidente’? I used to chuckle at it. Now I’m actually calling you it which is just plain weird. Are you the Hugo Chavez of Indie Publishing?

BJS: My plan is working. I love a good nickname. I felt uncomfortable calling myself the creator or founder of the KAS. Too formal and self-aggrandizing. Telling people I’m the Editor implies that I’m editing the project for someone else and don’t have the ultimate responsibilities.
Here’s a quick behind-the-scenes peek at what went down during the Kindle All-Stars Project that nobody knows about. I’m going to tell you a little bit, without saying any names. The guilty parties know who they are.
In the very beginning of the project, I reached out to anyone I could find to see if they’d be interested in contributing. I didn’t think I’d get many responses. One of the people who initially responded is a successful Kindle fantasy author who I thought would be wonderful draw.
Let’s call him Matt.
Matt agreed to contribute a story that was already appearing somewhere else, but like I said, I still wasn’t sure if I’d get any interest so I gratefully accepted it. When I read Matt’s story, I realized it was the biggest piece of steaming garbage I’d ever seen. I told him it needed to be edited, and he laughed at me and said, “YOU are going to edit ME?” I sent him the edits anyway.
So the Kindle All-Stars begins to pick up steam and I connected with Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster and the structure of the organization started to gel. Matt’s story was always in the back of my mind as a weak link, and I was harboring deep concerns about somebody like Harlan reading it and thinking I was a joke for accepting it. On top of that, Matt was hard to work with.
Luckily, Laurie told me that Matt was giving away his KAS-slated story for free on his Twitter and promoting it non-stop, while not saying a peep about the project.
It was right around that time that the El Presidente persona emerged.

Everyone working on the KAS project is brilliant, in my opinion. But your second-in-command is without doubt Laurie Laliberte. She seems to have done so much to support everyone, and to support you in your vision of what this anthology should be. And I think that perhaps she was calling you ‘El Presidente’ before you even thought of the name…

BJS: Laurie’s official role in the Kindle All-Stars is Consigliere. El Presidente is the Don, but she is the one you need to watch out for. And trust me…she calls me many colorful things. El Presidente is not one of them.
She is who I would trust to run it if I needed to step away.

This last question is inevitable for me, really. What’s next for you personally, all KAS-related projects aside? You’ve done a short story collection, you’ve done a thriller (and a historical thriller at that!) and now you’ve done a SF and a Western rolled into one. What’s next for Bernard J Schaffer?

BJS: Some very exciting things. I’m releasing an Edited Edition of Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes that will let readers experience the story without all of the graphic content. Now my mom can finally read it. After that, the Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front. Both of those projects will be out for the Holiday season.
I’m in the middle of working on “Superbia,” a book about a small-town suburban police department that is guaranteed to single-handedly ruin my police career. It’s fictional, of course. I’m banking that people it’s based on won’t complain about what they see because that would be the equivalent of admitting it’s how they really are.
And, because I can’t just work on one project at any given time, I’m also plotting out another book which is my first sequel. I’m not going to give anything away about it, but it might be called “The Magnificent Guns of Seneca 6.”
As for the Kindle All-Stars, I’ve already got the theme for the next project, which I am going to announce in the near future to give people a head start on preparing for it. They’ll need it. Clues are being posted on under the News section.

Thanks for doing this interview. I’ll hopefully chat with you again for round three. I can’t wait for the anthology to come out. I know it’s going to kick some serious arse.

BJS: Tony, it’s always a pleasure. I love your site. Keep up the good work. “Redd” is a great contribution to Resistance Front and people are going to love it.