An Interview with Satyros Phil Brucato

Last Updated on September 29, 2022

Writer. Game designer. Storyteller. Musician. Seeker of magic. Firebrand. Satyros Phil Brucato (aka Satyr) is all these things and more, and he has had a remarkable career spanning multiple medias and decades. His body of work truly speaks for itself. Perhaps best known as of the primary architects of the World of Darkness series of roleplaying games (originally published by White Wolf), Phil’s creativity, and the passion he brings to every project he gets behind, are inspiring. Recently, I was graced with the incredibly good fortune to spend some time talking to Phil and pick his brain.

[Matt] These days it’s easy enough to look a person up and see what they’ve done, where they’ve been. To start with, if you don’t mind and in your own words, how would you describe your career? You’ve stuck with it for so many years; do you find you still have the same passion for creating and telling stories that you did back at the beginning? How has your path evolved?

Phil Brucato headshot[Phil] My career essentially consists of throwing myself off interesting cliffs and flapping my arms while screaming OHSHITOHSHITOHSHIT until I fly.

Despite a few close calls, I haven’t crashed yet.

In the 33 years I’ve been paid to write stuff, I’ve published comics, novels, games, novellas, political op-eds, screenplays and teleplays, short fiction, self-help, marketing text, poems, songs, reviews, interviews, and more. I began as a film critic but sold my first mass-market fiction a few months later. By the time my college friend Bill Bridges got a job at White Wolf Game Studio, I’d been writing professionally for over two years. I began freelancing for Bill 30 years ago this coming month. The following year, I joined the Wolf Pack full-time. I’ve made money with my words every year since 1989, and my living from them for most of the years since then.

As dark as my work can get, my hallmark is empathy. I write about how things feel, and I strive to share that feeling with my audience. Especially these days, I think we need more empathy. As I wrote in The Book of the Fallen, empathy is the speedbump of evil. The more we consider how another living being feels, the less pain we’re likely to spread around.

Pain is a major inspiration for me. I’ve been through some shit. As much as I’ve experienced, though, I realize I’ve been fortunate. Most people have much harder lives than I’ve had. Recognizing the scars and trauma of my own experience keeps me cognizant of the effects my actions have on other people, and furious about the effects many people’s actions have on the folks they harm. That blend of compassion and rage fuels my writing. Especially now, our world provides me with plenty of inspiration.

My very first published work, which appeared in a school newsletter when I was in 4th or 5th grade, was a poem about skulls that, for such a little kid, revealed unusual insights about mortality. The first thing I published that got a wide audience was a requiem I wrote about a teacher who had died my junior year. That piece got published in the school paper and, later, in our yearbook. The acclaim I got for that poem helped turn me from a shy introvert on the social fringes to a budding extrovert who got invited to parties and stuff. I thought about pursuing English as a college major but had a major obstacle: I’m dyslexic. Until computer technology allowed me to work around that disability in the late 1980s, I had a very hard time writing anything of length. And so, I pursued acting instead – a choice that changed my life and which influences my approach to writing even now.

In hindsight, I realize I’m on the autistic spectrum, compounded by dyslexia, dyscalculia, and a queer gender identity. Back when I was a kid in the 70s, though, they didn’t have names for all that stuff. To the doctors, I had “minimal brain dysfunction”; to other kids, I was “spastic, retarded, and weird”; to my parents and teachers, I “was very smart and just not trying hard enough.” And so, I retreated as far into myself as I could get. By 7th grade, when my parents split up and our household went from “comfortably middle class” to “financially precarious,” I had no idea how to interact with the rest of the world except through fantasy, horror, and occasional bursts of violence.

And then I discovered heavy metal, punk rock, drama class, and roleplaying games.

With those toolkits, I built the rest of my adolescence. Eventually, I built my career with them, too.

The short version of the long story: I started drama class in 9th grade, started acting in 10th grade, and was doing local theatre and films by 11th grade. Senior year, I added writing, music, politics, and photography to that list. Thanks to metal, punk, acting, the creative crowd I hung around with, and – by my senior year – minor-league psychoactives, I built a charismatic persona who punched everyone who gave me a hard time. After graduation, I joined a medievalist sparring group, too. By the time I got to college, I was fit, aggressively social, and powering through every obstacle in my path. Throw in mosh pits, our college’s Gamesmasters society, a brief modeling career, a bit of partying, lots of sex, a DJ gig with our college radio station, malcontent politics, no money, and very little sleep, and you’ve got snapshots of my college years.

I wasn’t writing, though, if I could help it. That shit was hard.

Thanks to my friends John and Laurie Robey, I finally learned how to use the college LAN system around 1987. The ability to spellcheck and edit my work on the fly, then have the printer print it out for me, opened the floodgates for my words.

Which saved my life.

Thanks to an ugly sequence of events, my then-girlfriend moved in with me at the tail-end of my senior year.[1] That didn’t go well. By the following year, we were broke, miserable, in debt, stuck in wretched jobs, trapped in a crime-ridden neighborhood we couldn’t afford to leave, and quickly learning to hate each other.

That’s when my writing career kicked in.

I’d given up on acting but stuck with photography. When the movie critic quit from a newspaper I was shooting photos for, I jumped at the gig. When a story began writing itself in my head at my job, I wrote parts of it down on index cards, stuck them in my pocket, and wrote the story at home on my day off. Marion Zimmer Bradley bought that story for her Sword & Sorceress series, and that acceptance gave me the confidence to keep writing. Bill joined White Wolf two years later, and I followed him in 1993.

After roughly five years on staff, I left White Wolf. Shortly afterward, I co-founded Laughing Pan Productions, which published Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium and several other projects. That was an adventure! I had fun but went bankrupt, quit the company, and rebuilt my career for the third or fourth time. This time around, I focused on journalism, short fiction, ghostwriting, screenplays, and comics. During that period, I met several of my best friends, shared some life-changing relationships and, in 2007, got introduced to my spouse, Belovedest, and partner-in-all-things, Sandra Damiana Swan. Sandi and I formed Quiet Thunder Productions in 2009, and we’ve created numerous projects, including Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy, the landmark benefit anthology Ravens in the Library, my novel Red Shoes, and other publications. In 2011, I returned to the World of Darkness for Werewolf 20th Anniversary Edition. The following year, Richard Thomas founded Onyx Path Publishing, we decided to do Mage 20, and the rest is history. Since that point, I’ve juggled freelance work for other publishers, and self-owned work through Quiet Thunder.

I’d always been a malcontent. My political consciousness began with Watergate; the older I get, the more injustices I see and so the angrier I become about them. Those hard and sometimes violent years after college provided me with enough hate to last a thousand years. It’s one thing to know that rich people fuck us over; it’s another thing to live downstairs from a soul-broken Vietnam vet who pounds his wife into paste in the middle of the night, then go into work where your boss makes millions while paying his workers pennies and putting you all in constant physical danger, then go in to work another shitty job at the mall, ride home on the last bus of the night, go to bed listening to your neighbors fighting in the halls, and repeat that process until you wanna fucking die.

I was lucky enough to get out of that situation. Many people never do. And so, I don’t just write for me. I write to give voices to the people whose voices are seldom heard.

If anything, I have more passion for that mission now than I did in the early days. Back then, I was just telling stories to get myself out of hell. Now, I do it to help other people see the miracles and horrors around us so that maybe a few of them can escape it too… maybe even inspire them to change it so there’s less suffering than there’d been before.

[Matt] You inject a lot of character into your work, create an impressive amount of atmosphere in your worlds and breathe life into them. You obviously draw a lot from personal experience as well as do an extensive amount of research. That, in itself, has got to involve an impressive amount of work. How would you describe your creative process?

[Phil] Thank you! My creative process draws from my training as a Method actor.

The Method crafted by Konstantin Stanislavski and Uta Hagen provides a toolkit for finding and sharing dynamic emotional reality within artificial circumstances. Everyone knows the play or novel or whatever is artificial; nothing within it is real except for the emotions it evokes. The Method helps an actor find the emotional core of the character and situation, connect it with the actor’s own emotional experiences, and express those emotions in ways that, ideally, connect with the audience’s emotions too.

I write like an actor.

Rather than write about which things happen, I wrote about how things feel.

To do that, I combine deep dives into my own experiences, observation of people and other living things, research into media that ties in with the subject I’m writing about, evocative music (usually played loud enough that I feel it rather than listen to it), and a lot of imaginative projection into the physical and emotional sensations experienced by my characters. That last step, I’ll add, can really fuck up your head. Envisioning at 3:00 a.m. how it must feel to get sawed in half is not a great recipe for peaceful slumber! When writing, I get into a semi-trance state where the impressions flow through my mind and fingers into words. Thanks to 30-someodd years of practice (including ego-searing work with my editors), I tend to edit on the fly while keeping that flow going. Early in my career, I didn’t have the luxury of drastic revisions and multiple drafts. And so, I tend to write publication-ready drafts, print them out, and do one or two polish-passes over them to catch mistakes and tighten the prose. By the time I print that draft out, my inner editor and I have already explored that piece for flaws.

As often as possible, I also maintain a brain-trust of people I share my work with along the way.

As I tell them, I’d rather hear about my mistakes from friends while I can still fix them than from strangers after it’s too late. Whenever I’m dealing with people or situations outside my realm of personal experience, I check in with my brain-trust to make sure I’m not fucking it up. Even when I am dealing with my own experiences, I tell my brain-trust to point out the blind spots.

Three rules that guide my work:

Make dynamic choices.

Swallow your ego.

Keep your audience engaged.

My process also involves what I call aspecting and the Four Questions Approach. You can read about those elements of my process here:

https://satyrosphilbrucato.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/aspecting-song-of-my-selves/

…here:

https://satyrosphilbrucato.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/some-writerly-advice-the-four-questions-approach/

… and here:

https://satyrosphilbrucato.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/green-room-writing-the-scenes-they-never-see/

[Matt] You’ve mentioned before you hope for your work to inspire others, for them to build upon it and create even greater things. Hope and inspiration happen to be major themes that weave through a lot of your material. Do you feel they’re more important in the world now than ever, especially in fiction and games?

[Phil] Oh gods, yes.

The last few years have made it hard for me to hold on to hope. Between personal losses, political fuckery, climate change, endless pandemics, and the sheer weight of age, I’ve struggled with depression myself. Thankfully, I have good friends, great fans, and my spouse and business partner Sandi – the greatest mate imaginable. Gradually, I’ve extracted myself from creative malaise. These days, I have a pile of projects in the works, as well as new books like Red Shoes and Fallen Companions, and a bunch of impending publications like Midnight WorldVictorian Mage, and my novella Dream Along the Edge (which is being released under my pen name Cedar Blake).

Seeing younger generations get up and fight back has been a huge boost for me. Too many folks in my age range (Boomers and Gen X) have either joined the enemy or retreated into complacency or despair. As Millennials and Zoomers have grown fed up with their elders’ bullshit, I regain more hope and fire for the inevitable fights.

[Matt] It definitely feels like the world is getting darker lately. The light is harder to find, magic becoming rarer. Where do you go, what do you do to inspire yourself? What are the little magics you fill your life with?

[Phil] Although absurdity rules the current age, I disagree that magic is hard to find. As I reiterate throughout the Mage 20 series, we are living in a magical age. From fantasy media to incredible technology, this era overflows with wonders.

Thing is, magic isn’t fluffy-bunny stuff. Wonder can take really ugly forms, and we’re seeing a lot of that kind of magic too.

There are reasons people fear wizards and witch-types. The ability to take command over another person’s reality is terrifying, and the conviction that the world would be better off if everyone dances to your tune is innately authoritarian no matter how noble your intentions might be. In M20’s Book of Secrets, I wrote an essay called “Magick and the Fascist Urge.” It points out that in both real life and fantasy, occult societies striving to remake our world in their image are seriously fucked up. That element of Mage always bothered me, and so I began critiquing and deconstructing it with my first Mage project, The Book of Chantries. In Mage’s 1st Edition rulebook, which was written before I got involved, the idea of “bringing back the Mythic Age” was presented as an ideal. My take on it, throughout my involvement with the series, has been: “Are you SURE about that? Because I don’t think so.” The Traditions are every bit as capable of evil and tyranny as the supposedly evil Technocracy. As far as I’m concerned, magic demands a sense of responsibility, empathy, and consequence. Otherwise, you become the monster you oppose.

That theme is key to The Book of the Fallen and Fallen Companions. Those books address people who seek power without empathy or constraint, and they point out that such evils aren’t limited to the Nephandi.

In real life, we’re seeing how dangerous metaphysical forces and practices can be. Whether or not one believes in “magic,” the associated archetypes and techniques are deeply associated with philosophy, business, media, religion, and technology. In his book Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, And Mysticism in the Age of Information, Erik Davis explores the metaphysical elements underpinning IT culture and innovation. Gary Lachman’s Dark Star Rising reveals how deeply certain political groups and figures draw from occultists like Julius Evola and practices like Theosophy. You don’t need to chant Enochian and inscribe diagrams from The Lesser Key of Solomon to invoke metaphysical principles and forces. Evangelical Christianity and fundamentalist Islam are magical sects; QAnon employs occult lore, tropes and methods; Trumpism, Brexit and the various anti-vaxxer groups employ magical thinking straight out of Harry Potter, and don’t even get me started on how J.K. Rowling popularized magic before turning her pervasive global influence toward distinctly malignant activities. Whether or not one considers what they’re doing to be “magic” in the popular sense of that word, there are metaphysical forces at work in what such people do. You can consider those forces psychological phenomena or “the madness of crowds” if you like. Their effects on reality are undeniable.

For good and ill, we’re surrounded by magic. You and I are conducting this interview on magical boxes that transform our thoughts into patterns of light dispatched through the air across time and space through streams of electrons and hypermathcodes. Folks will read it these words off enchanted elemental constructs that even their inventors don’t entirely understand. This miraculous technology facilitates global communion, empowerment and awareness in ways that were impossible within my own early adult life. Contrary to popular misconception, technology is not the enemy of magic. Technology is magic, and magic is technology. And despite the fears of older generations (including the first edition of Mage: The Ascension), this magical technology has not flattened humanity into homogenized, dehumanized stasis; instead, it’s made things more colorful and diverse, opening new ideas and languages and conversations and perceptions.

Much of what scares people so much about the current era concerns the ways in which these transformations have reworked “the way things used to be.” Identity, society, commerce, war – they’ve all been altered in amazing and terrifying ways. No one knows what to expect because things have never appeared to us this way before.

Personally, I find it all fascinating.

That said, such miracles cannot exist without cost.

How catastrophic that cost will eventually be is anybody’s guess.

And none of us can say with any certainty whether humanity will be better off in the long run or not.

What keeps me going? Music, videogames, and seeing so many people from younger generations fired up by this era’s magic and willing to fight for a future of their own. I’ve also got more books and other media than I could possibly experience in a lifetime, and more ideas in my head than I have years left in this life to produce. Whenever Old Boney shows up to ring down the curtain on this life for me, my last words will probably be something like, “But I wasn’t finished yet.”

[Matt] What are some foundational works from others that are integral to you? Things you look back on, that you hold dear to yourself. Books, music, games—anything.

[Phil] I could double the word count of this interview with that list. A few notable items from it, though, would include:

BOOKS

  • 33 1/3: Led Zeppelin IV and Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information, by Erik Davis
  • Along for the Ride, Just Listen, and Whatever Happened to Goodbye? by Sarah Dessen
  • Between Lovers and Liar’s Game, by Eric Jerome Dickey
  • Bill Bruford – The Autobiography, by Bill Bruford
  • The Dark Side of the Light-Chasers, by Debbie Ford
  • Feed, Sparrow Hill Road, Middlegame, and Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
  • Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins
  • Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media, by Les Daniels
  • Misery, Lisey’s Story, On Writing, Danse Macabre, Night Shift, and Revival, by Stephen King
  • My Heart is a Chainsaw, by Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Re-Enchantment for Everyday Life, by Thomas Moore
  • Reservation Blues and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie
  • Stalking the Nightmare, An Edge in My Voice, Deathbird Stories, and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, by Harlan Ellison
  • The Spiral Dance, by Starhawk

FILMS

  • Casablanca
  • The Crow
  • Deadpool and Deadpool 2
  • The Fountain
  • Ink
  • Koyaanisqatsi
  • Liquid Sky
  • Mandy
  • The Matrix
  • Rashomon
  • The Road Warrior
  • Repo Man
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • Spirited Away
  • Strange Days

GAMES

  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
  • Age of Conan
  • Age of Empires II and III
  • Assassins Creed Odyssey
  • Bluebeard’s Bride
  • Champions/ HERO System
  • D&D5E
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Monsterhearts
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Rock Band 2 and 3
  • Skyrim
  • Tomb Raider “Survivor” Trilogy
  • Vampire: The Masquerade
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse
  • And, of course, Mage: The Ascension, M20, Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade, and other games I created myself.

MUSIC [2]

  • Laurie Anderson: Big Science
  • Bastille: Bad Blood
  • Black Sabbath: first five albums, plus Mob Rules and Heaven and Hell
  • Kate Bush: The Dreaming, Hounds of Love, and The Kick Inside
  • The Crow (soundtrack)
  • Miles Davis: Bitches Brew and Birth of the Cool
  • Dead Can Dance: A Passage in Time, Aeon, Into the Labyrinth, In the Realm of a Dying Sun
  • Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
  • The Doors: self-titled debut
  • Faith and the Muse: Their entire discography, but especially Annwyn, Beneath the Waves
  • Funkadelic: Maggot Brain
  • Philip Glass: Koyaanisqatsi, Etudes, Solo Piano, and Perpetulum
  • Indigo Girls: Indigo Girls, Rites of Passage, and Indians Nomads Saints
  • Janis Joplin: Best of Janis Joplin
  • Jethro Tull: Aqualung, Stormwatch, Stand Up, and Songs from the Wood (the Steven Wilson remix versions of all)
  • Sass Jordan: Rats
  • Judas Priest: Unleashed in the East, British Steel, Sad Wings of Destiny, Painkiller, and Sin After Sin
  • Killing Joke: both self-titled albums, Pandaemonium, Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, Extremities, Dirt and Other Repressed Emotions, Night Time, Absolute Dissent, MMXXII, and Hosannas from the Basement of Hell
  • KISS: self-titled debut, Dressed to Kill, Destroyer, Double Platinum, Alive and Alive II, and Carnival of Souls
  • Clint Mansell: The Fountain
  • Moby: Play, 16, and Everything is Wrong
  • Motown: Best-Of collections from the Supremes, the Temptations, and the Four Tops
  • The Nails: Mood Swing
  • Oingo Boingo: Nothing to Fear, Best o’ Boingo, Dead Man’s Party, Good for Your Soul, and Farewell
  • Pearl Jam: Ten
  • The Plasmatics: New Hope for the Wretched, Metal Priestess, and Beyond the Valley of 1984
  • The Pretenders: self-titled debut
  • Repo Man (soundtrack)
  • Diana Ross: her self-titled solo album
  • Rush: Every studio album except Vapor Trails and Hold Your Fire
  • Taylor Swift: 1989, folklore, evermore, and reputation
  • The Sisters of Mercy: A Slight Case of Overbombing
  • S.J. Tucker: her entire discography, but especially Haphazard, Sirens, and Blessings
  • Vas: In the Garden of Souls
  • Jamin Winans: Ink (soundtrack)

[Matt] AI art is a hot button topic today (AI in general is becoming more and more of a sensitive subject). What are your thoughts on it? You recently used it to pretty spectacular results in your recent book Among the Masses. Some artists and others decry it as a kind of artistic, philosophical apocalypse even going so far as to refer to it as a kind of “death of the soul of art.” Others see it as the birth of a new tool, something to be embraced and celebrated. It’s a complex topic for sure. Where do you see it going?

Among the Masses by Phil Brucato[Phil] It’s a toolbox. Many artists I know have already adopted it; in fact, I got interested in it myself after seeing the results a few artist friends of mine were getting with the app. It’s limited as hell, lacks soul, and there are many things it cannot do and probably never will be able to do.

That said, it is a damned useful tool for self-publishers and micropress game designers. In a perfect world, I would have tens of thousands of dollars with which to commission artists. That’s not the world we live in. For Fallen Companions, I invested $800 to pay four artists for reprint rights of existing work. How much art did that get me? Eight images. Commissioning original art at even the low end of professional rates would have cost me at least double that amount for the same eight images. As of this writing, I have not yet made back that investment. That’s despite having the #1 seller on the Storyteller’s Vault for four weeks running – which means that every other publisher (including one who released their book the same day I released Fallen Companions) has sold fewer copies than I have. And again, that was for eight images. Fallen Companions has dozens of images. Commissioning that much art would have cost at least $5000 and probably a great deal more.

For obvious reasons, that’s financially impossible.

Now, I can crowdfund original books for which I own the rights. That’s what I do when I’m not using AI art, and it’s what I’ll continue doing for projects when AI art can’t create the images I want. For things like the Storytellers Vault or the Dungeon Masters Vault, however, you cannot, under the current terms, crowdfund those projects. That’s explicitly forbidden in the Terms of Service. If you want to publish on those marketplaces, you have four choices: Use AI art, use existing art, use no art, or pay more for art than you’ll make back from sales.

If not for Midjourney, I’d have needed to re-use a handful of images that were made available on the Storytellers Vault – which is another form of exploitation, as those images were created on a work-for-hire basis by artists who were paid for them decades ago – used stock art (which would not have fit the tone I wanted that book to have), or criminally underpaid artists who were hungry enough to make images for next to nothing.

Those are the economics of the industry as it stands.

I notice that many of the folks howling about AI art on social media are the same folks who howl about how game products cost too much.

A common complaint I’ve seen is that AI art violates copyright law. It doesn’t. Certain images may violate likeness-rights laws; if you feed in, say, “Robin Williams as a wizard” for your prompt, the resulting image of Robin Williams might be actionable by the holders of Robin Williams’ estate. Under existing copyright law, however, works that incorporate elements of other works are not actionable unless they directly reproduce distinct and recognizable portions of that original work. That’s not generally what these AI art programs do. Instead, they scramble a bunch of images from different sources and use them to shape entirely new images. Unless someone runs an AI pass over a single image whose copyright belongs to someone else, that is not a violation of copyright.

Whether or not it’s ethical to scan a bunch of images into a database and then use them as foundations for new images is a subject people can (and will) argue about for ages. Eventually, lawyers will argue about it too. Like audio sampling in the 70s and early 80s, AI art will probably remain a Wild West until someone does the publishing equivalent of what MC Hammer did on “Can’t Touch This” and gets sued by the illustrator equivalent of Rick James. Right now, it’s a useful but extremely limited toolbox whose hype is greater than its utility.

For Fallen Companions, Midjourney’s limitations provided an aesthetic I’d wanted anyway. Back when we did The Book of the Fallen, I’d wanted a surreal nightmare-fuel quality to the illustrations. [3] Samuel Araya, who I hired for Fallen Companions, used that approach. The other illustrators employed a more straightforward RPG-illustration aesthetic. The thing that caught my eye when my friend Madi Huffman (a trained professional artist I’d been planning to work with anyway) posted her experiments with Midjourney was that those images had the nightmarish quality I’d wanted all along. I paid to publish some of the images Madi and her partner had already created, then got my own Midjourney subscription and began experimenting. Because I have a background in art myself, I was able to get some potent images out of it – more, really, than I needed for the book. Between Sam, Madi, Daniel, and myself, we created a visual reflection of a very dark text. That approach certainly won’t work for most projects. It worked wonderfully, though, for this one.

[Matt] What direction do you see yourself moving in the future? What are your plans? You’re obviously firing on all cylinders, and it seems like you’re more prolific now than ever, having just released a new Mage supplement, roleplaying game (Powerchords), and a new novel (Red Shoes) that sounds amazing. What could possibly be on the horizon?

Red Shoes by Phil Brucato[Phil] Thank you! Really, I’m writing and publishing at a much slower rate than I did in the White Wolf years. Back then, I worked on over a dozen books per year. That pace broke me, though, so I’m never doing it again. These days, I take more time for research and experimentation than we ever had in the 90s. That process runs slower than I’d prefer, but the quality is higher both in my work and in my life.

Currently, I’m juggling a freelance career and my own work. My projects include:

  • RPG sourcebooks for several clients
  • The novels Black Swan Blues (the sequel to Red Shoes), Not the Final GirlCrossways, and my perennial problem child Holy Creatures To and Fro
  • The Cedar Blake standalone edition of my paranormal romance novella Dream Along the Edge
  • Two other Mage 20 books for the Storytellers Vault
  • Several short stories
  • Several collections of my nonfiction writing
  • The urban fantasy TV series Strowlers (which I co-created)
  • Revised editions of my microgame RPGs WilderlostStorm ShelterLife Among AliensCreatures of the Wood, and Singles Going Steady (all of which were initially created for my Patreon supporters)
  • Three sourcebooks for Powerchords
  • Three new original RPGs (TBA)
  • A podcast (TBA)
  • Finishing the audiobook edition of my short fiction collection Valhalla with a Twist of Lethe

…and whatever other stuff that life, clients, and my Muse toss into my project queue between now and whenever I get around to creating them.

There are also several projects hovering in various clients’ production queues: Victorian MageMidnight WorldLore of the Traditions, Forgotten & ForbiddenBizarre & Unusual, and some other commissioned projects that I’m not at liberty to reveal. My work on those books is already done. When they’ll show up is out of my hands.

My Patreon supporters receive previews and excerpts from my current projects. Occasionally, I produce things like the microgames mentioned above. For an archive with over seven years’ worth of goodies, check out: https://www.patreon.com/philbrucato

[Matt] To close, I would like to play a couple rounds of a “what if” game. First, what if you found yourself being transported to a deserted island-all amenities are cared for, there’s food and water, shelter, and such-and you only get to bring with you one book, one album, and one movie to keep you entertained for possibly forever. What do you bring?

[Phil] Aside from music, I seldom enjoy revisiting media more than once or twice. For the sake of the question, though:

The Essential Calvin and Hobbs, by Bill Watterson

Farewell, by Oingo Boingo

The Crow

[Matt] Second, what if you were able to travel back in time and talk to one person? Who would it be, and what would you talk to them about?

[Phil] Assuming I could speak Aramaic, I’d probably want to sit down with Yeshua ben Miriam and ask him what he’d had in mind and if he’d had any idea just how screwed up his teachings would eventually get.

That, or spend a long debate with Thomas Jefferson about how the hell a guy could wax so eloquently about freedom and democracy while also owning and raping his slaves.

Seriously, though, I kinda wish I could have spoken at length with Neil Peart or David Bowie. And I still wish I could hang out with Kate Bush or Florence Welsh. It won’t happen, but I wish it could.

[Matt] Thank you so much for sharing and talking with me, it’s been a privilege and a joy. Do you have anything you’d like to wrap up with or share?

[Phil] Thank you, too!

I’m an independent working creator, pushing sixty, whose primary claim to fame is multimillion-dollar Intellectual Property I will never own and don’t receive royalties for creating. As such, I depend on clients, patrons, and the audience for my non-World of Darkness works.

If you enjoy my work, or like what you’ve read in this interview, please join my Patreon, support my clients, and buy Red Shoes, Powerchords, Valhalla with a Twist of Lethe, the Mage books I release through the Storyteller’s Vault, and whatever else Sandi and I publish through our company Quiet Thunder Productions. Unlike my work with the World of Darkness (STV excepted), those projects pay my rent and bills, help feed our cats, and provide for my family.

Thank you, everyone! Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay as sane as you can in a decidedly unsane world.

——

NOTES

1: You can find that story on my blog: https://satyrosphilbrucato.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/good-riddance-you-brutalizing-hag/ and https://satyrosphilbrucato.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/cats-story-straight-inc-and-why-i-despise-nancy-reagan/

2: For a bunch of playlists that I use for work and recreation, check out my Spotify profile: https://open.spotify.com/user/satyrphil?si=718f0b08a62845bb

3: I’d provided a Pinterest page to the art director and illustrators of The Book of the Fallen, and used it for my own reference, too. To see that mood board, check out:https://www.pinterest.com/satyrdance/the-book-of-the-fallen/

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PhoenixReviews

Phoenix Reviews was a GdM reviewer between 2020-23 who loved graphic novels and comics. They have chosen to depart the internet in search of a happier life balance, and requested their profile be hidden.