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Surrealistic Planet

Interview: Matthew Prindle

If you’ve read my blog recently, you will know how much of a fan I am of Bob The Wizard, MV Prindle’s debut novel and entrant into SPFBO9. Which is why I am so excited to have Matthew as my guest in this interview. So many questions to ask, let’s get started.


1. Tell us about MV Prindle. Who is he?


Well, I suppose I’ll begin to answer this question with the basics. I’m a 38-year-old dude, married for sixteen years with two children, ages currently 18 and 9. I lived in Seattle, Washington for two years in my early twenties while attending the Art Institute there. I thought I wanted to be an audio engineer, but I discovered that no amount of love for music would make me a competent engineer. I spent the next decade or so attending community college and working, until I attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX and graduated their Education program with a focus on High School English.

Now for the good stuff! I am an avid tabletop gamer and unabashed nerd. I belong to many fandoms, including Marvel, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Doctor Who, The Lord of the Rings, Warhammer 40,000 and more. In terms of tabletop games, I am a veteran of card games like Magic: the Gathering, Star Wars: Destiny, and Hearthstone, miniature games like Warhammer 40k, Age of Sigmar, X-Wing, and Marvel Crisis Protocol, and board games such as Settlers of Catan and Dead of Winter. Besides all that, I’m an avid reader of SFF. Some of my favorite Authors include Stephen King, Joe Abercrombie, Stephen Erikson, the James S. A. Corey duo, and Rick Riordan. While I do watch a good amount of SFF television and film, you’re just as likely to find me watching crime fiction, like Breaking Bad, Fargo, and Sons of Anarchy. I listen to a range of musical genres, including, metal, hardcore, punk, rap, pop, and classic rock.


2. Tell us about your writing career. I’ve talked about Bob being a debut novel but your bio on your website talks about other works that belong in a trunk. We want to know about them!


I hope my writing career is just getting started! I’m what you might call a late bloomer. It took me a long time to realize that writing was why I am here. For a long time I considered myself a writer that didn’t write. It took some pressure and encouragement from my family to get me to buckle down and actually work to improve. About fifteen years ago, I began writing a science fiction novel. After a few months of occasional work I simply gave up and moved on to other things. It wasn’t until a decade later that I uncovered the work and began the task of trying to finish it. I researched writing techniques, watched a gazillion hours of Brandon Sanderson lectures on YouTube, and began a deeper dive into modern works of SFF. Finally, eleven years after I began, I finished a novel called The Dim Between, about a group of strangers in a dystopian future that must band together to shut down a building containing a black hole, lest it awaken a primordial god and consume the universe. It's not very good. But I finished it! And the work I put in really paid off. I had learned a lot about myself and my writing process, and I was primed to start another, far better book. The result was eventually Bob the Wizard.

I may one day revisit The Dim Between and give it a full rewrite with the aid of my newly developed powers. For now, though, it will remain where it belongs: in a saved file, somewhere in the cloud.


3. Bob is a unique character in fantasy. He doesn’t fit in any of the traditional tropes. Where did he come from?


Remember when I said I was a game nerd? Well, it perhaps will be no surprise, then, when I say that Bob was originally created decades ago for a series of Mage: the Ascension roleplaying games. Back in the day, I was the Storyteller for our playgroup. (This is the equivalent of a DM in D&D.) In my stories, occasionally a mysterious, chain-smoking, trench-coat wearing traveler would arrive and provide a Deus Ex Machina for the characters. Listen, I was thirteen. Anyway, Bob was extremely popular among my players, and he tended to make at least one appearance in every game session. So, after I’d finished The Dim Between and sat down to write something I knew would be better, I remembered Bob. I thought to myself, “Bob was a beloved character among my friends, so maybe I can make him a beloved character for a new audience.” The Bob, aka Robert Caplan, that we now know is quite different from the original I’d created as a young gamer. The original Bob was simply the grain that the new, improved Bob was built upon. In the game he was a flat character, only there for entertainment value. In the course of writing the book, he became much more. He developed motivations and flaws. His inner world became a layered place, and his place in the universe (and the Astraverse) became a central focus of the narrative.


4. Again, as far as world building goes, you’ve avoided the usual inter-dimensional portal tropes. How did you develop your ‘astraverse’? Perhaps start by explaining what it is (without giving away too much!).


The Astraverse is based upon the idea that there are places in reality beyond what we consider to be the physical universe. This central concept is drawn directly from the Norse Myth of the Nine Realms and the World Tree that connects them. The Astraverse contains the entire physical universe, plus all the additional realms we could never go with only a spaceship. Each realm is connected to the others by a system of Gates. This system is commonly referred to as the Astraverse. So, the term Astraverse can refer to two things: the sum total of all realms in reality, and the traversal system between those realms.

The main reason I created the Astraverse was to provide a setting in which anything could happen. If I want spaceships, there are spaceships. If I want dragons, there are dragons. There could be vampires, ethereal squids, gods and demons. You name it, and its possible in one or more Astraversal realms.

The Astraverse also allows me to marry Science Fiction and Fantasy in a way that feels right. It’s a kind of Science Fiction framework in which any fantasy setting can exist. This is it greatest appeal to me. I know some people like to keep their Science Fiction and Fantasy separate, but I am not one of those people. If I love them both, why not write them both…at the same time?


5. Bob the Wizard has some wonderfully diverse cultures, including a blue-skinned race of elves and reptilian baddies too. Where did they come from? Your elves suggest a connection with Native American cultures. Is that correct?


One of my main goals with Hub (the realm Bob the Wizard takes place in), was to fill it with fantasy tropes and give them a twist. Nothing too major, as I wanted these elements to be familiar to readers, but give them enough of my personal spin to make them memorable. In this vein, I included things like faeires and dragons. Lizard People have always been a favorite Fantasy race of mine, and I feel like they are a little underused, so I really went for it with them.

The En’harae (or if you prefer, “elves”) were a little more difficult. While I did end up taking some inspiration from Native American culture and myth, I want to stress that they are not intended to be an analog for real-world indigenous peoples. The thing is, civilizations tend to behave certain ways depending on their environment. For example, you’d expect people who live in a desert to look a certain way and to have certain practices, because certain physical traits naturally evolve over time due to environmental pressures, and if you want to survive in a desert, there are simply certain things you have to do. Likewise, one would expect a culture that utilizes no metal and communes with nature to look and behave a certain way. Civilizations follow patterns. I simply tried to allow the En’harae to be products of their culture and environment in the most honest way I could.


6. Which character in Bob, is nearest to Matthew Prindle? Who is the antithesis?


The simple answer is Bob is most like me, and Galvidon is least like me. However, the truth is that almost every character is a reflection of me in some way. I think most authors would say that about their characters. I think I can behave like Fulton Mannix, Lord of Swearington, more often than I’d like. Then again, it’s important to note that no character in the book is a self-insert. Bob also incorporates aspects of my wife’s personality and life experience, and some of the characters, like the slaver nicknamed Scarface, that are entirely based on people I’ve encountered and not drawn from myself. Not to mention the fact that Bob is an excellent shot with a firearm, and I can’t even survive a round of Call of Duty. All this to say that there is plenty of me in Bob and in the book in general, but there’s also plenty that isn’t.


7. In my review, I talk about the mystical elements of the story. The idea of elemental spirits influencing the action. Is there a mystical side to you? Which spirit would be the most natural to bond with you?


There is most definitely a mystical side to me. It is constantly getting in arguments with my scientific side. I think Erto the Earth Spirit and I would get along famously, but if I’m being honest, the element that represents me best is probably fire.


8. Your experiences in finding the right cover for you book provoked a lot of interest on social media. Do you want to talk about it?


Sigh. I don’t really want to talk about it, but I suppose I should. I will try to be brief. Bob the Wizard is my first published book, and I’ve had no experience publishing before this…keep that in mind. I hired someone to do the cover art for my book in December of 2022. At that time, I had never heard of AI art and didn’t even know it existed. Also keep that in mind. So, in the process of getting the cover created, I made a rookie mistake and accidentally paid the artist early. I was mortified. What if he simply took my money and ran? But he didn’t. Now, with hindsight, I realize he did this because I was paying him far more than his work was worth, and he was hoping to keep me on the hook so I’d keep overpaying him on future projects. At the time, however, I took this as a sign that I could trust him.

It was about January that I began to see AI art pop up on the internet. I considered it a minor annoyance. Also around this time, the cover artist showed me an Instagram page full of cool images that I realize now (but didn’t at the time) were AI generated. “Wow, you are a very talented artist,” I told him then. That was an opportunity for him to tell me that he’d used AI to generate my cover, but he remained silent. I again misinterpreted this action as him being humble. It was about February, after the book had just been published, that I began to think my cover looked like it might be AI generated, so I asked the artist point blank. “Hey, just wondering, did you use any AI stuff to make the cover?” At this point I just wanted to know. He said no, he hadn’t used AI. Ok then.

I was happy with the cover he made. I entered my book into SPFBO 9, discovering upon entry that there was a cover contest. Well, that’s cool, I thought. Then I stopped thinking about it. A few days later, people were telling me I’d won the cover contest. What a pleasant surprise. Then a lot of people began saying the cover was AI generated. I asked the artist again. “Hey, people are saying this cover is AI. Did you use AI?” Again, he said no. Mark Lawrence got involved. Mark asked him too. “Is the cover AI?” Artist said no. It was about this time that I began to grow pretty darn angry. Here was my artist, who from my (mistaken) point of view had proven himself trustworthy. I knew him relatively well for an internet stranger. We’d been communicating for months. He even sent me a video of him working with his kids burbling in the background. And here come these strangers, talking in a technical language I don’t understand, accusing me of all kinds of strange things in addition to the main issue of the cover. Of course, I stood by the artist. As I’ve said, I trusted him. Why would I believe the word of strangers over the word of someone I trusted? But…as the night wore on, I began to be approached by people with a more reasonable attitude. AI Prompts were explained to me. People showed me the evidence. I still didn’t want to believe it. Didn’t want to believe that this man had so completely and utterly conned me. So I confronted him in chat. I provided some evidence, and I said I thought he was lying. Not only did he not respond, but he erased his online presence entirely. Needless to say, the entire experience was unpleasant. This “artist” had created a huge mess and left me to clean it up. So I began that process. I admitted I was wrong, and I found a legitimate and well-known cover artist name Catrina Barquist to help me create a replacement cover, which I have now done, and I’d like nothing more than to get the entire thing in the rearview with my foot on the gas.


9. You’re an entrant in SPFBO9. Tell us why you chose to enter and your experiences so far.


I entered Bob the Wizard into SPFBO 9 because I wanted exposure. It’s really as simple as that. I wrote a book and I felt like it was good enough to hang with the big dogs. Aside from the cover fiasco, the experience has been very positive. I’ve met dozens of authors who are all very friendly and supportive of me and each other. I’ve made fans, which is something I never really believed would happen. I think SPFBO is a wonderful thing and Mark Lawrence is a wonderful man for putting it together. There are tons of talented authors with compelling ideas this year, and I encourage everyone to check out all the awesome entries.


10. How much of your life is geared towards writing? By that I mean, would you give up your career if you had the chance? Is it a hobby? Is it a need to be addressed?


I try to write every day. I don’t always succeed, but if I could choose, it would be my main career. I like that question: is it a need to be addressed? Most definitely, it is that. If I don’t write, I begin to feel useless, like an unused tool.


11. Introvert or extrovert? How do you cope?


I am an introvert who has developed the ability to pretend at extroversion for short periods. Being on stage in an emo band as a teenager helped, but really it was the seven years spent working behind the counter at a gas station. I can talk about nothing with the best of them, but I’d almost always prefer to be home alone in my cozy cave of electronics, hanging out with my imagination. In terms of coping with stress: reading a great book helps, but there’s nothing quite like a good tabletop game to boost the serotonin.


12. What's your bête noire where writing is concerned? Which part excites you most?


Novels are composed of three main elements: plot, setting, and character. All three are important, but different authors focus more on some elements than others. I am a character-first kind of person. If a book has compelling characters that I want to follow around, I will read any plot and any setting (though obviously there are settings and plot types I prefer over others.) In my own writing, I always start with character. Plot-focused readers might not get what they are looking for from my work, but I hope to please the readers who are like me, readers who latch on to characters and don’t let go.


13. I’m hoping there is a Book 2 for Bob. (At least!) What else is in the pipeline?


Bob 2 is definitely on the horizon. I began writing it shortly after finishing Bob the Wizard. I have a general plan for a trilogy, but the setting and character lend themselves to endless tales, so we’ll see how far we can go with Bob as the future continues to unfold.

However! Bob 2 is currently on the back burner at the moment. I still work on it occasionally, but my main focus is on an Epic/Grimdark fantasy novel currently titled The Outer Darkness. The manuscript is at about 115k words and growing. I’m hoping to release it some time next year. The book is loosely connected to Bob, as it takes place somewhere in the Astraverse, but reading Bob the Wizard will not be required to understand any of its contents. Though, if you’ve read Bob, there will be some easter eggs that you wouldn’t otherwise pick up on.

Once I’ve completed The Outer Darkness, I will go full bore back to Bob 2, and then…only the spirits know what will come next.


14. Let us have your links so we can find out more about you and your work.


Bob the Wizard is available on Amazon in EBook, Paperback, and Hardcover formats. You can find it here. (www.amazon.com/Bob-Wizard-M-V-Prindle-ebook/dp/B0BTFY514V)

You can follow me on Twitter at M. V. Prindle - @prindle_matthew

You can like my Author Page on Facebook - M. V. Prindle

I occasionally post on Instagram - mvprindle

I have a very bare bones website that I’m still working on. It currently has blasphemous AI art all over it, but if you don’t mind that and are curious, you can check it out at www.mvprindle.com

If you have any questions or opportunities for me, please feel free to email me at matthew.prindle@g.austincc.edu


Thanks Matthew! You can read my review of Bob The Wizard here.

No, thank you, Phil!


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