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Interview – Hugh Sterbakov

The Hungry Monster gobbled up City Under the Moon so fast he bit his little monster fingers off. Well, the Monster got the chance to interview Hugh Sterbakov, author of City Under the Moon, and ask him if he would pay for the medical bills to reattach the Monsters little fingers.

City Under the Moon takes a zombie outbreak approach to the werewolf genre. How did that idea come together for you?

I had a traumatic obsession with werewolves as a child, and I wanted to put that on the page, maybe as a catharsis. I was inspired by the firm grounding Michael Crichton brought to Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, and that blend of fiction and science thematically contextualizes my childhood fears that werewolves were real and my parents’ promises that they weren’t. So City has more in common with Crichton epidemic thrillers, or Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone and Robin Cook’s Outbreak than it does with zombie films. You’re in the moment with the exponential werewolf outbreak and the immediate response from law enforcement, the military, the White House, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You’ve worked on Robot Chicken, sold TV and movie scripts, co-created a comic book and now you’re writing a book. Is book writing just another step on your path to world domination or is this something that you’ve just been wanting to do?

It came out of frustration with Hollywood development. I wanted to do something for myself, and for an audience beyond studio conference rooms. I sat down one day just to see if I could do it, and I realized… yeah, I couldn’t.

So I kept at it, studied narrative prose, rewrote countless times, hired an editor, struggled to overcome fear and perfectionism, and one day my wife told me it was finished. It ain’t perfect, but it’s me.

You have obviously done a lot of research for this book. But I wonder how much research did you do for Lon’s character? Lon is an interesting character and in the novel he’s a ‘nerd’ that loves to play Magic the Gathering, blog, and plays video games. Did you spend a lot of time at Magic the Gathering tournaments researching character traits for Lon?

I’m a lifelong comic book collector, an avid gamer and I’ve spent time at Magic the Gathering tournaments playing Magic the Gathering. Lon is me–or at least he’s the self-destructive misanthropic narcissist I (try to) keep locked away.

What was the one book, movie, song, or Rorschach test that most influenced your work for City Under the Moon?

Probably Michael Jackson’s Thriller–not just the video, but the theme and sensation of the song. It has a nostalgic texture reminiscent of the classic Universal horror films–that tone is important to me, and it’s prevalent in the novel– and it captures both the torture of undergoing the transformation and the helpless terror of watching it happen.

What was your favorite scene in City Under the Moon?

In the middle of the book, as the government, military and scientists are attacking the situation with cutting-edge tactics and technology, our heroes discover that the werewolf curse is rooted in old world superstitions. They travel to Romania–to Transylvania–and it’s like a time warp from Michael Crichton to Bram Stoker. I love that juxtaposition.

Random question: What next generation video game console are you going to get. XBOX One, Playstation 4, Wii U, or decline to comment because it would be too controversial?

Ha! I love that you’ve asked this question. I’m an old-school, hardcore gamer, so there are only a few consoles I never had–relatively obscure ones, like the Amiga and the Atari 7800. I mean, I had an Odyssey 2. So I’m sure that by the end of the life cycle, I’ll have both. I was predominantly an Xbox 360 player in this generation, so I’m used to that ecosystem and I’m dedicated to that gamerscore. But the PlayStation 4 has such compelling advantages over the Xbox One, particularly that $100 price difference, that I’m leaning toward jumping. I have both on pre-order, but I’ll probably cancel one and wait for it to drop in price. It’s only mid-July, and there are still details to be revealed before November. So we’ll see. Ask me again at the end of October.

Available at Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com
Pages: 464
ISBN: 0985245611

Also, be on the lookout for the followup to City Under the Moon called Moonrise Duet that will be available December 2013.

Review: City Under the Moon

cutm 4star

City Under the Moon is a well written action adventure novel, but that’s not surprising considering who the author is. Hugh Sterbakov was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Robot Chicken: Star Wars and Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III. He also co-created the Freshman comic books with Seth Green and also wrote Hell & Back which is a stop-motion feature film. Sprinkle in an MFA in screenwriting and you’re guaranteed the writing is going to be rock solid. Enough about Hugh, let’s focus on his book. City Under the Moon takes an outbreak approach to the werewolf story which, I think, is a semi original plot. The werewolf plague is spreading through Manhattan on New Year’s Eve eventually getting the attention of the FBI, the military, and the President.  In the beginning it starts with one or two cases of werewolf attacks, but that quickly multiplies. The military is deployed to Manhattan to, at first, evacuate civilians, but that quickly devolves into a quarantine of the island where the military is battling huge waves of zombies… I mean werewolves. An interesting idea that comes along with the werewolf outbreak is the fact that werewolves only change when the moon is out. So through the story there are these times during the day when people have time to prepare, sort of like the calm before the storm. But during these times there are people walking around among them that may have been bitten by a werewolf, don’t know about it, forgot about, or are trying to hide it, and when the moon comes  they change into werewolves right next to their loved ones. So it’s like a disease that is only deadly when the moon is out and makes everyone suspicious of each other during the day. Although the story takes on a scientific pretext, the origin of the werewolf outbreak comes straight from werewolf lore and is resolved according to those rules. At one point the characters have to travel to Transylvania to find the werewolf’s lair (the scene does not disappoint). The scene stands in stark contrast to the rest of the book as it seems like it’s pulled from an old Dracula novel. The last half of the book is a race against the clock to take out the werewolf leader before Manhattan is overrun and the wolf plague spreads beyond the island. There are several characters in the book, but I consider Brianna Tildascow and Lon to be the two main characters. These characters have well defined motivations and well developed character traits.  Tildascow is an FBI agent that is part of a secret government program to create super soldiers (which pretty much means she kicks ass), she has some abandonment issues that leads to promiscuity and a need to throw herself into her work. And Lon who is your typical anti-social, self-aggrandizing, misanthropic nerd (I’m pretty sure there ‘typical’…right) who happens to be the world’s foremost authority on the occult, specifically werewolves. There is rarely a dull moment in the novel where you’re not learning about the interesting characters, learning about the werewolf disease, learning about werewolf lore, or where werewolves are either killing or being killed. Now to discuss what I didn’t like about the book….. Well that’s enough about that. LOL. Ok, gun to the Hungry Monsters head, there were a few things that didn’t digest well, but City Under the Moon is a non-stop action packed thrill ride with very few missteps.

ISBN 0985245611
Pages: 464
Published March 1, 2012

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