the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Sharing is caring!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Monte Schulz talks about the creative process that went into writing his new book, Metropolis.

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Monte Schulz about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the story of his new book, Metropolis.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I’m Monte Schulz and I grew up outside of a small town in the rural Northern California, a county of apple orchards and raspberry brambles, redwood ravines and narrow country lanes. My grandmother read fairy tales to me when I was little, and my father taught me to read and spell by handwritten flashcards.

Monte Schulz, photo credit Tom Vollick, on The Table Read
Monte Schulz, photo credit Tom Vollick

On my own, I read the novels of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, and Hergé’s illustrated Adventures of Tintin. Once I reached college, I discovered music and began to write song lyrics and poetry. By my father’s gentle hand, that led to prose and long fiction. Now I’ve been writing fifty years, both in prose and music. I have a B.A. in English from Sonoma State University and my M.A. in American Studies from U.C. Santa Barbara.

arcstudio 125x125 courier industry s 00

When did you first WANT to write a book?

Although my first writing was, again, in song lyrics and later on in poetry, once my father pointed me toward John Steinbeck and Thomas Wolfe, I decided my goal would be write a big American novel like East Of Eden or Of Time And The River. Back then, my ambition far exceeded my storytelling abilities. I had the ear for poetic language, but dialogue and long narrative was a challenge that took me years to gain a hold on.

Reading lists during graduate school and my own passion for popular fiction taught me how to plot and listen to how people spoke. I guess what I really wanted to do was attempt my own Great American Novel, but I was years from that, and I knew it. So, I decided first to see if I could publish any novel, a crime novel, something heavy of plot and story and character.

At the time, I was reading a lot of paperback suspense fiction, some monster books, rural novels of mystery and mayhem. I thought that was something maybe I could do, too.

When did you take a step to start writing?

My first book, Down By The River, was inspired both by my small-town background and love of rural life, and the paperback novels I’d been reading for the few years after grad school. In fact, I’ve described the book as the grafting of a literary small-town novel onto those supermarket paperback slasher novels I’d read.

That mash-up gave me a commercial piece of fiction with a stylish poetic voice that worked well enough to sell immediately. And it was fun to create the characters and the town and wooded countryside, and the river of the title. I tossed in a vagrant camp of hobos, brought in some wild teens, introduced a drifter with a history of riding the rails, and gave a love triangle between the drifter, my chief of police, and a lovely woman who had returned to Rivertown after the death of her husband.

The book worked. Love, action, mystery. Easy to sell, fun to read. Philosophy and mayhem.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

Down By The River took me five years to write, though most of that time I was involved with other projects – my master’s thesis and a few years of computer game articles and reviews. The actually writing time might have been a year or so, as I recall. I had no regular writing schedule back then, so I presume my hours were random and indefinite. That book was definitely not a five year book, or at least it should not have been.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

Metropolis was an anomaly for me. Although I did write the first fifty pages or so, and some brief notes in 2003, I basically went away from the book for sixteen years. Then, once I came back to it in the summer of 2019, I wrote the rest of the novel, more than six hundred pages worth, in roughly nine months. Much faster than any book I’d ever written before. And I amazed myself by adding pages all but three days along the way. No blocks, no difficulties. At least one page each morning before I ate or drank anything, then another page or more each afternoon. Pages added up, and by April of 2020, the book was done. A miracle of sorts!

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Metropolis?

I went after a novel with big themes and an adventurous plot, with a unique love story bound into it, a coming-of-age novel set against the background of an unthinkable tragedy. A war novel wasn’t enough, either. I decided to name the impetus behind the war a eugenics crusade, where one side saw the other as inimitable to its safety and security, where the very existence and survival of its enemy was deadly to its own society. No plague of zombies or deadly pandemic, but people as existential threat, fellow citizens of a great republic whose very lives were seen as a mortal threat.

In other words, I felt the need to write a novel where the monsters of the apocalypse, so to speak, were us, simply to show how we don’t need any supernatural intervention to destroy our humanity. Yet, I am not by nature a gloomy depressive person, and I don’t favor unrelenting pessimism.

So, my novel does enough humor and intrigue to carry us along, and a satisfying conclusion, a happy ending in its own way, a smile on its last page for my readers because I was reminded once by a writer friend that happy endings are just as inevitable as sad ones. We can have blue skies.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Metropolis?

I think my challenge was to actually write a novel after not having done so actively in six years, and conceive a story that made sense and encompassed all those elements of a big novel, a novel of ideas and emotions and adventure, a story worth telling, a book worth reading to the end. And to write this novel with no outline at all, just make it up as I went.

Fortunately, those muses held my hand from start to finish and guided me along page after page permitting no loss of momentum, nor flagging energy or loss of enthusiasm for the project. If my challenge was to inspire and entertain myself along the way, then the writing of Metropolis met that challenge far more easily than I could have ever expected.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

Honestly, since I began the book initially back in 2003, I don’t remember anymore how I came upon Julian Brehm, a senior in Thayer Hall at Regency College in the time of eugenics. That discovery is just lost in the past, yet once I returned to the book in 2009, I can see how much I liked the idea of character who is both educated and kind, yet more ordinary than heroic.

Some writers prefer to choose as their hero someone bigger and greater than themselves, and I can admire that, but I wanted Julian to be more down-to-earth and humble, perched here and there on the precipice of dangers he can only survive by good fortune and help from others, and with maybe a strong common sense guiding him, and a great college roommate and puzzle whiz, Freddy Barron. But he also has a firm moral compass that allows him to see right from wrong and understand how love of others is a true path forward through the darkness he encounters along his path.

And, of course, I wanted him to fall in love, which he does, and do so with a girl who is quite a bit different from himself, whose perspectives are often contrary to his own, but perhaps proves that old adage that opposites attract. Julian is certainly not Nina Rinaldi’s idea of an ideal mate, either, at least not early on. She sees him as naïve and protected. Later, they both come to see how compatibility can take a circuitous route forward, and matching is not explained so simply.

Metropolis by Monte Schulz on The Table Read

As a writer, then, my own preferences and ideals are split up among many of my characters, which allowed me to explore facets of myself in ways I never could outside the pages of a novel.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

There is no single antagonist in Metropolis, no ideological monster, no authoritarian leader. Instead, I have the faceless “Status Imperium” and “Judicial Council,” whose members appear to be intellectuals and scientists and medical doctors of all sorts, bureaucrats whose decisions determine the lives and deaths of millions. No point in assassinated them since as one goes, another takes his or her place.

I found that structure of a dystopian society more frightening than a monstrous autocrat, because it means the entire order would need to be overturned and done away with for change to occur and, in Metropolis, that order has persisted for hundreds of years. Once the pseudoscientific social engineering of eugenics took hold, that republic is held in its thrall with little or no hope of salvation. That’s the world my protagonist Julian Brehm has been born into, the world he cannot imagine changing even though change it must.

What is the inciting incident of Metropolis?

There’s a short section in Metropolis that describes what I call the “Great Separation,” where the Republic chose mass segregation as the solution to a society filled with what they saw as the criminal and infirm, the deformed and feebleminded who were subverting the good, the healthy and the high-minded. Get rid of them, empty the derelict precincts of the metropolis and send them all away by train, a million invalids and degenerates. Ultimately, that decision led to the deaths of tens of millions and a war that has been fought across the rural hinterlands of the Republic for sixty years. It’s the world Julian Brehm has been born into.

What is the main conflict of Metropolis?

There is a moral puzzle at the heart of the narrative involving not just eugenics but how each person in the Republic ought to live in society, how they must view the value of life, each life. And to see how love is the guiding principle, that life is solely concerned with love.

In its absence, the most horrendous events can occur, and do occur in my narrative. Julian’s conflict lies in coming to the realization that he and his people have, indeed, been living in a soap bubble, as Nina puts it, “a flimsy glistening little orb of insubstantial beauty.”

His conflict is found with the realization that his “soap bubble” cannot exist forever in the society of eugenics if he and those he loves most dearly have any hope of an ennobling future without war and annihilations great and small.

Did you plot Metropolis in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I truly made the story up as I wrote it. I never had any outline or sketched out a plot or held a forward narrative in mind as I wrote. I literally did make it up as I wrote page after page, chapter after chapter, only the end waiting for me as described in a brief prologue.

So, I wrote toward that end in a linear, if somewhat meandering path, holding to Julian’s journey as he chased that dream of survival in the nightmare of eugenics. Yes, I was astounded to create a six hundred-page novel in this manner, something I’d never done before. And yes, even now it feels somewhat miraculous to come about as it did, that I followed such a path through to its end.

That it reads coherently and is entertaining and understandable with emotional resonance astounds me. I suppose sometimes these things do happen for those of us who labor with the written word.

The #1 Writing Tool

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Metropolis need?

Actually, I’ve been pretty good at editing my own work for years now. Probably from reading constantly and comparing my writing to those books I find enthralling. I get an idea what sounds right, how pacing functions and characters come to life. Reading widely in both literary fiction past and present, and commercial novels of all kinds from crime and suspense to science fiction and even romance, I am able somehow to glean the best from each and avoid pitfalls.

I’ve also learned there are many different ways to tell a story, how to begin and end a book, hold a reader’s interest and, artistically, to have fun with language. None of my favorite authors write in the same voice, so I’m able to choose which suits me best.

My editor publishes me, he says, because of my use of language, and he is a lover of that part of the literary art. He told me once it’s how I tell a story, the words I choose, more than my plot or characters that intrigues him. He trusts me and when we do talk about my books, we have a conversation more about why I did this or that rather than him line editing my work. I’m happy with that arrangement.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

I say this all the time, but I encourage any aspiring writer to read as often and widely as possible. Reading offers possibilities for storytelling and voice, that style which becomes part of us, our distinguishing feature. Also, often enough reading leads us in directions we might not have considered when we began putting words on a page. A writer friend of mine once told me that she intended to write literary fiction but discovered that spy novels were her unexpected niche and gave her publishing success she could not have anticipated otherwise. So reads lots of kinds of books of all sorts of see where their stories might lead you.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

First off, I am actively writing a sequel to Metropolis called Undercity that offers a far greater landscape of the society both above and below ground in that sad age of eugenics. The structure is sort of inspired by Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, in having a large part of the narrative told by many different and disparate voices – gypsies, policemen, professors, booksellers, physicians, thieves, and others – while retaining one constant through-line plot told by one of my characters from Metropolis, Marco Grenelle.

This novel is a story of deceit and courage, magic and violence, and love, of course, throughout the caverns and landscape of the Republic we’ve traveled in Metropolis, a world of people caught in an almost unthinkable web of moral disintegration and discovery.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

My experience with Metropolis was immensely gratifying and enjoyable in every sense, both artistically and personally. To actually have attempted and completed another novel after I had convinced myself that fiction for me was consigned to the past became almost a surprise. Maybe because I was able to write it so quickly after my previous novels took so long.

Of course, reading through it now I am constantly reminded of how complex and nuanced it is, and likewise how amazing it is that I was somehow able to write it so quickly. And I still find it fun to read!

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

All about my new book can be found here:

Information about my novel of the Jazz Age, Crossing Eden, can be seen here:

I also write music, songs of many kinds performed by many fabulous singers, musicians, and can be found and listened to here:

I am on Facebook, as well, under my own name, and under Seraphonium!

Donate to support The Table Read
We strive to keep The Table Read free for both our readers and our contributors. If you have enjoyed our work, please consider donating to help keep The Table Read going!

Success! You're on the list.

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc, or its affiliates.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply