Interview with A.C. Cross – Author of Robocopter Ski Patrol

Posted by

I think most people would like to know – what’s up with these covers? 

When you first get into publishing, you don’t realize the little things you have to do. Editing. Beta readers. Covers. With the last two books, I tried to find a CreateSpace default cover that fit best with the setting, but for Robocopter, I spent a whole five minutes drawing that helicopter. I keep meaning to change it, but something about it just…fits. The book isn’t meant to be serious at all. A nice, flashy, professional cover may mislead. My dumb-ass looking helicopter just works, I think.

You’ve spent a lot of your life in academia – do you want to take a moment to go into what you study and hope to do with it? 

Sure. I study Communication which, contrary to popular media’s portrayal of it as a joke field, is actually incredibly important in today’s culture. For me, I study a whole range of things, from video games to online identity and trolling. My dissertation, though, was about how and why people feel they can be deceptive online. Long story short, there a lot of things that factor in – it’s not just ‘do I want to lie or not?’. In terms of what I want to do with it, I’d love to be a professor, but the job market right now is…not ideal, let’s say that. At this point, I’m kind of pivoting to more administrative jobs, but I’m open to whatever pays me. Being a hitman, selling organs…it’s a buyer’s market.

What’s the most difficult thing about teaching? 

Honestly, the toughest thing about teaching are those days where you really don’t want to be up there. Especially where I’m living, when it’s cold and snowy and windy, I’d much rather be inside, in bed, sleeping at 1 PM. So, fighting through that is tough. Other than that, it’s making sure that you’re on top of the material. Getting a question or two where you aren’t sure of the answer is fine and part of being a teacher. Getting a ton is a problem.

Do you intend on writing in other genres or sticking to comedy?

I definitely am branching out! My current main WIP is actually a weird Western (I’ll explain in that question) and, while it has moments of funny, is by no means a comedy book. Being able to diversify is important, I think. Not that comedy is bad, but there are a lot of jokes within the community that comedy writing is a dead-end and it can feel that way sometimes.

What kind of comedy works for you, and what doesn’t? Tv shows, movies, books etc. 

Smart comedy definitely works. My books tend to have some references that require either knowledge or a Google search and I’m proud of those. I’m also a fan of dumb comedy. A dude getting hit in the crotch will never, ever not be funny. Jackass does that well, but I only like the stuff where they harass inside their group. Bringing in innocent bystanders bothers me, as does cringe comedy. I know it’s kind of sacrilege, but I really can’t stand The Office. It’s so awkward and so uncomfortable that I get that second-hand embarrassment and that’s not enjoyable. Same with King of the Hill. Basically, I like characters that I can still like, rather than just dislike. I will maintain until the day I get cancelled that Peggy Hill is the equivalent of Satan in cartoons.  

What do you read outside of comedy and academic stuff? 

Outside of comedy and academic, I don’t do all that much reading, though I know I should. Being a part of different Discords has helped. I try to read everything from the Fool’s Guild (Mid-Lich Crisis, Orconomics, Hero in a Halfling, Sir Thomas the Hesitant, Peril in the Old Country, etc.) as well as friends. Things like the Grey Bastards series by Jonathan French (as well as the Autumn’s Fall series he’s done), stuff by Dyrk Ashton, Devin Madson, Kay Villoso, Quenby Olson, Josiah Bancroft, and everyone who I’m friends with and want to support. All of them are good people and deserve attention. In terms of super-duper obscure, though, a college friend named Ashley Wrigley wrote a series called Mesopotamia//Tiamat which is excellent and well worth a read. 

You have cats. Please pay your cat tax and provide pictures, names, and weird stories of shit they do. 

A person holding a cat

Description automatically generated

Hermes is our tawny cat and he’s a little bastard. Adorable, sweet, and needy, he is beyond smart and will open cupboards and drawers if he wants attention. He also insists on getting pets any time anyone enters the house, even if it’s someone he doesn’t know.

A cat lying on a couch

Description automatically generated

Phoenix is our girl cat and she is, beyond all doubt, a chunky little princess. She constantly verbally fusses (her fuss sounds like meh in a kitty voice) and demands attention when she wants it. She has also trained me to carry her – carry her – up the stairs when she requires or simply just doesn’t want to climb. She’s also a cat you cannot not pet because she’s so cute.

A cat that is lying down and looking at the camera

Description automatically generated

Thor is our last cat and, though not fullblood, is pretty close to that as a Siamese. He is constantly cold because he throws up ½ of his meals and talks all the time. You can ask him questions and he will respond. He also has a sacred duty to make sure my mom gets to bed on time every single night.

What’s it like in your neck of the woods, would you recommend living in North Dakota? 

Beyond anything I would have expected, I actually would recommend it. The town in which I live is big and has a lot of neat places around it. It’s relatively safe and calm and the university is top-notch. It’s not a huge city, but it’s big enough. Having lived in Atlanta and Nashville, I can tell you that being able to get across town in a half hour is a luxury at times, especially in winter, which is the downside. Winter in North Dakota is hellish. With the mass snow and wind and cold, it’s just one giant temple of non-Euclidean black stone away from a Lovecraft novel. We actually had school cancelled this last winter for a few days because of cold, if that tells you anything. 

I know you play a lot of video games, which three games do you think you’ve sunk the most time into? 

In terms of the most time, I think it’s The Witcher 3, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and the Ezio Collection, at least according to TrueAchievements, all of which are over 120 hours played. AC:O is close to 200 hours, I think. When I go in, I go hard, although the days of 12-15 hour play times have dwindled as I’ve gotten to be an older man. I like my sleep. 

Who did you romance in Mass Effect? Renegade or Paragon? 

I’m pretty boring here, believe it or not. I went downtown with Ashley Williams in both 1 and 3, Miranda (and Jack and Yeoman Chambers) in 2, and Cora in Andromeda. To be fair, Jack reminds me very strongly of someone I went to college with so that was a weird romance. As far as Renegade or Paragon…I think I went Renegade, if only because that seemed more fun. Although, the older I’ve gotten, the less inclined I have been to take the ‘asshole’ option. Some people deserve jerky behavior, some don’t. The reporter, for instance, I will punch every single time and have zero qualms about it.

If Discord is any indication, you’re fond of beer. Which beer is best? Prepare to defend your answer! 

I am fond of beer as butterflies are fond of the nectar of flowers. In terms of, best beer, I don’t know that I can come up with one! There are a vast range of beers that are incredible. That being said, Dragon’s Milk from New Holland Brewing is amazing and the entire run of Innis and Gunn is fantastic, as is Prairie BOMB!  from Oklahoma. Basically, if it’s thick, heavy, dark, and sweet, I am a fan. Victory Golden Monkey, though, is a bastard drink and absolutely, positively wrecks the rest of my day. I lose any filter on that. Which is bad.

Do you have a writing schedule where you spend X amount of time/day on writing? Or does it come and go in bursts? Something in between? 

I’ve sort of developed a schedule as time has gone on. Usually, everyone at home goes to bed around 10 PM each night and, by 10:30, I am writing until about 1 AM. It’s only a few hours, but it’s enough to really make some movement. That’s been a new-ish development though – the routine, I mean. Usually, it’s been burst writing with massive chunks being done in a day, then nothing for two weeks. I think that this pattern of less per night but constant is better. 

Some authors report that their characters have a life of their own – Do you “hear” your characters in your head and converse with them? 

I don’t necessarily talk to them, but they do have a life of their own. Several times in all of my books, including this new one, characters have said or done things I wasn’t expecting and it’s been fascinating and exciting to see. Case in point, in Robocopter, there’s a character named Ace who is the comic relief (in a comedy book) and the idiot of the group, but he has a moment where he is a complete badass when leaving a cell. That was not planned but the depth that added was immeasurable. I love those moments. I like transcribing what happened, not writing it, if that makes sense.

If you wanted to torture someone by putting them with your most obnoxious character for a fourteen-day quarantine, who would it be? 

The Jaguar. Anyone who’s read my books will know what I mean there. Without a second’s pause. That thing has pissed me off more than I can put into words while writing. I have actually yelled at the screen while telling that thing to just shut up before. I’m pretty sure that putting that damn thing into a cage with a person would count as a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Are you working on anything new? 

I am! The current WIP is a weird Western in a world where thick, gray dust (Dust) randomly appears and blights the land. The MC is an Arthur Morgan (from RDR2) sort of hero, gruff, mean, and violent, but has moments of real humanity due to a few people helping him along the way. Those moments of kindness are interspersed with rough violence, but it works, at least to me. In terms of actual quality of writing, I think it’s my best work to date. I can’t wait until it’s done and people get to read it.

In the last decade, what are some of your favorite fantasy releases? 

  • The Grey Bastards – Jonathan French
  • Mid-Lich Crisis – Steve Thomas
  • Senlin Ascends – Josiah Bancroft
  • We Ride the Storm – Devin Madson
  • They Come at Night – Benedict Patrick
  • Anything by the Fool’s Guild

Who do you think your target audience is?

I think my target audience is anyone who wants to get lost in a book. The way I write, I’m not trying to say anything specific (at least not consciously) – I am trying to entertain. To have people read it and get swept up in the story and dialogue. If someone is up reading my stuff until 1 or 2 in the morning, I am a happy man. The comedy work may be ridiculous and silly and the current WIP may be dark and heavy, but I hope that anyone who reads my work will see that it comes from someone who cares and wants the reader to simply enjoy reading and getting lost in a story.