lovecraft country

My next novel will be Lovecraft Country

Since last summer I’ve been working on a new novel. I’ve finished about a quarter of the manuscript and have a rough outline of the rest, and last month I decided it was time to send it to my editor and see whether HarperCollins would commit to publishing it. The answer was a resounding yes, so now I know what I’m going to be doing for the next year and a half.

The novel is called Lovecraft Country. It’s a supernatural historical drama set in the 1950s. The protagonist is Atticus Turner, an African-American soldier just back from the Korean War. He comes home to Chicago and takes a job as a researcher for The Safe Negro Travel Guide, which lists and reviews hotels and restaurants that accept black customers. Atticus is also a pulp-fiction fan, and the novel describes how he and the members of his extended family get drawn into a series of real-life weird tales. These individual episodes fit into a larger arc story about a white-supremacist secret society that wants to use Atticus in its scheming.

My deadline for delivering the book is October of next year, which means it likely will be published in 2015 or early 2016. That sounds like a long time, but I think it’ll be worth the wait.

Fool on the Hill now available on Kobo and iTunes

I announced last month that my first novel, Fool on the Hill, was finally available as an ebook. It showed up initially on Kindle and Nook, and has since appeared on Kobo. This weekend Lisa noticed it was available on Apple’s iTunes store—so if, like us, you prefer the native iPad reader, your wait is over.

Also this month, my current publisher, HarperCollins, renegotiated its ebook contracts with retailers, which means they can now discount the ebook editions of The Mirage, Bad Monkeys, and Set This House in Order. There’s already been a mini-price war as a result—as of this writing, The Mirage is available for just $9.99 on Kindle and iTunes, and Bad Monkeys and Set This House are both around $8.

In other news:

* I’m still hard at work on Book #6, hence the light blogging. I’m somewhat more active on Twitter (as @bymattruff), though I suspect a lot of my tweets over the next few weeks will take the form of cheap jokes about the election, so, fair warning.

* Lisa and I saw The Cabin in the Woods and loved it. Lisa was leery at first, because she’s not a slasher-movie fan, but Cabin is not a typical slasher movie—it’s Joss Whedon channeling the Aaron Sorkin version of The Evil Dead. Worth a look if you missed it in the theater.

* Last night I started watching (alone) La Casa Muda, a more typical horror film about a father and daughter who take a job cleaning up a house in some remote region of Uruguay where they still use scythes to cut grass. The film’s gimmick is that it’s done in one continuous tracking shot, which sounds very Hitchcockian but in practice means that the pacing is slow, and I’ve already taken to livening it up with Cabin in the Woods references, like, “I see Dad just got a whiff of the Let’s Be Stupid gas.”

* Season one of Homeland, now out on DVD, is awesome. It really deserves its own post. When I have time.

* Standing cat stands for you. (via @anamariecox)

Safe Negro Travel Guide, redux

Today’s New York Times has an article about Victor H. Green and The Negro Motorist Green Book, the Jim Crow-era travel guide to black-friendly businesses that served as inspiration for my short story “Safe Negro Travel Guide.” I still think it’s a great hook, so maybe I’ll take another crack at Lovecraft Country once I’m done with The Mirage. In the meantime, author Calvin Alexander Ramsey has written both a children’s book and a forthcoming play on the subject.

“Safe Negro Travel Guide”

The piece I wrote for the Richard Hugo House Literary series, “Safe Negro Travel Guide,” has been posted on the Hugo House website, here.

Some background for the curious:

A while ago I was invited to come up with some ideas for possible TV series. One of the treatments I wrote was for an X-Files/Supernatural-style show called Lovecraft Country, about a black travel writer and pulp-fiction geek named Atticus Turner who drives around Jim Crow-era America doing research for a magazine called the Safe Negro Travel Guide. I knew it was a real longshot to get produced—it’s a period piece with a largely non-white cast—but it seemed like a cool idea and I figured I could always turn it into a book.

For the Hugo House series, whose theme was “Road Trip,” I decided to write a short-story prequel to this as-yet nonexistent TV show/novel. At the reading I described it as a “kind of” prequel, since the supernatural elements are metaphorical rather than literal, but you can get an idea from this how the longer story would work.

Although the latest Hugo House newsletter calls the story “chillingly relevant,” I wasn’t thinking of current events when I wrote it. It just seemed like an interesting character and setting with a different set of dramatic challenges than I’d worked with before.

Guides such as the one in the story really did exist; I first read about them in historian James W. Loewen’s book Sundown Towns. You can download a PDF of the 1949 Negro Motorist Green Book here.

Review of the Richard Hugo House reading

In this week’s Stranger, Paul Constant has some nice things to say about last Friday’s reading at Richard Hugo House:

Aimee Bender took full advantage of the casual feel. Her piece—about a young woman traveling with a boyfriend who loves awkward public sex for the feeling of “things just pushing against the perimeter”—felt more autobiographical than her other work. But Bender is one of America’s greatest fantasists, and the fantastic crept in at the corners—the narrator feels an attachment with dozens of other women through the masses of wadded, moist paper towels thrown into a trash can at a rest stop, and a creepy young girl’s face smooshes through the tiny squares of a tennis racket like the monsters in The Abyss

But the real star of the night was Matt Ruff, who read a prequel for an unproduced TV show of his own creation, an X-Files–type show about two black travel writers exploring Jim Crow–era America called Lovecraft Country. The protagonist mistakes books by H. P. Lovecraft for romance novels—”There was no love in these tales, or even women“— and reads Dracula even as he accidentally wanders into a sundown town.

The piece I read, “Safe Negro Travel Guide,” along with Aimee Bender’s story and Marie Howe’s poems (which I liked better than Paul seems to have) should all be posted on the Hugo House web site sometime soon. In the meantime, many thanks to Alix Wilber and the rest of the Hugo House crew for a fun evening.

I’ll be reading at Richard Hugo House this fall

The folks at Richard Hugo House have invited me to participate in this year’s Hugo House Literary Series. It’s a two-part deal: on the evening of Friday, October 24th I’ll be reading from a new work, and then on the morning of Saturday the 25th I’ll be leading a panel discussion, both somehow involving the Series’ theme, “Road Trip.” Since I never learned to drive, I suspect I’ll be making a lot of stuff up, but that’s OK, I’m pretty good at that.