I’m pleased to say we have a fantastic guest here to talk about his books. Matt Dinniman, author of the DUNGEON CRAWLER CARL and DOMINION OF BLADES. I’m glad he’s decided to answer some questions about his process.
1. Can you describe the premise of Dungeon Crawler Carl?
Sure. It’s about a regular guy who is forced to compete on an alien game show called Dungeon Crawler World. The game set is built using the remnants of Earth, which is destroyed in the opening moments of the book. He, along with the few million survivors of the alien attack are forced to participate in a Dungeons and Dragons style adventure, but they’re playing for real. Also, he has his ex-girlfriend’s prize-winning, Persian cat with him, who is also treated as a contestant by the aliens. Her name is Princess Donut.
2. The story opens incredibly dark, with billions of people killed in an instant then gets into zany comedy. How did you decide to decide on such a juxtaposition?
The stuff that happens is funny partially because the showrunners are producing what’s basically a TV show. They make funny things happen. Carl doesn’t think any of it is funny. But there is a lot of humor in the book, especially because Carl has to also deal with Princess Donut, who is not only given the ability to speak by the aliens, but she also retains all the mannerisms of a regular cat. Plus, she remembers everything that happened from before when she was a regular cat, and she has opinions on everything. There’s a long tradition of horror and humor working together. They go along really well, I think. It’s pretty much what I tend to write, sometimes leaning a little heavier into one side or another.
3. What appeals to you about Lit-RPG as a genre?
I’ve been a fan of this sort of thing for a long time. I’ve been a gamer my whole life. The whole stuck-in-a-game aspect of the story has been something I’ve been chasing since I saw the original TRON movie as a kid. When I discovered there was a whole genre of books that revolved around that premise, I knew I’d found a home.
4. Could you describe Carl to our audiences?
Carl is a regular person. He’s a late-20’s, recently single, Coast Guard vet that works as a marine electrician in Seattle. He doesn’t have a lot of money. He plays video games and goes to work and sometimes hangs out with his friends to drink beer. He’s not complicated. He’s not a “chosen one.” He’s not someone who wants to be, or would even be good at, being a leader. But sometimes we don’t get what we want in life.
5. What about Princess Donut?
GC BWR NW Princess Donut the Queen Anne Chonk is a prize-winning tortoiseshell Persian cat, who comes from a long line of prize-winning Persian cats. Her owner is Miss Beatrice, who is now Carl’s ex-girlfriend. She spent most of her time in her cat tree, waiting for Carl and Bea to come home from work. Carl would always leave the television on, and Donut absorbed all of this while she was a regular cat. Her persona once she gains sapience is a little different. Now everything she sees, she has to filter through her cat-ness, her history of watching television for 15+ hours a day for years, and her newness to the world. She is the most complicated character I have ever written.
6. There’s a strong satirical element to Dungeon Crawler Carl. What are the sorts of things you like to make fun of most?
I tend to poke fun at all sorts of stuff, but most of it focuses on our obsession of keeping up appearances. At social media culture and reality television. And cocker spaniels.
7. Who are your favorite creations other than Carl and Donut?
In this series? My favorite character is probably Samantha, a reanimated love doll head who is trying to get her body back. She just recently escaped from a prison for gods.
8. How has response been so far?
Pretty good. I’ve sold more copies than I can count on my fingers and toes. I have a Patreon and a Discord a and subreddit that are all fairly active. I only get a few pieces of hate mail here and there. And don’t get me started on Dwight.
9. Do you have an end number of books planned?
Nothing is set in stone, but I am envisioning 10 books total. I just published #6, and I know #7 is gonna be a chonker.
10. Why go indie? What’s the ups and downs?
That’s a pretty long subject, and it’s a topic I can talk about all day long. There are literally dozens of factors one must consider before attempting to go the trad publishing route before publishing indie. For this particular book, it was in a niche genre that’s not usually published by trad. The litrpg genre as a whole requires a specific type of book, cover art, and release schedule to be successful, and to this day, I haven’t seen a larger publisher successfully field a litrpg that really hits with the community, and it’s because they don’t understand that community.
There are small/medium publishers that know what they’re doing, such as Mountaindale Press, Shadow Valley, and Aethon. Plus, Podium—an audio publisher—is doing print as well now. But att this point, for me, there’s nothing those guys can offer me what I can’t already do myself. But that’s only with this specific series. For my next one, I may very well attempt to go with a publisher.
11. Can you tell us what your next project is?
I’m probably in the DCC universe for a while, but I have a ton on my plate. I need to finish Dominion of Blades, a series I started before this one. I have a couple standalone stories I need to finish. It’s most likely the next thing you see from me will be a sci-fi novel about a farming community on a pioneer planet, warding off invaders.