Interview with author Matt Forbeck


Hello everyone, I would like to introduce you to Matt Forbeck, author, game designer, Kickstarter guru, and Dad to the quad power. Matt hails from the great state of Wisconsin, you know the place with a lot of cheese, or so they tell us. First off I would like to thank Matt for taking time out of his schedule to do an interview with us, The Founding Fields have been a fan of your work since the beginning and some of us even before we joined the website. For those of you who do not know who Matt is, he is a game designer with a tons of games to his credit, including both RPG and CCG games, including Marvel Heroes Battle Dice, The Lord of the Rings RPG, Dreadlands: The Wierdest West RPG, and even more! He is also an author with over a dozen books to his credit, writing the Magic the Gathering comic book, Blood Bowl based books for Black Library, books for Angry Robot, and finally his own 12 for 12 project, which if you did not know, is 12 novels written over the 12 months of the year.

The Founding Fields: Thank you Matt for joining us, we are glad to have you here.

Matt Forbeck: Thanks! You guys at the Founding Fields have always been kind to me, and I appreciate it.
TFF: So after many years in the game design industry, including stints as the Co-Founder and President of the Pinnacle Entertainment Group and the head of Human Head Studios adventure game division, when did you decide to break into writing novels?
Matt: I’d always wanted to be a novelist, ever since I was in grade school. I actually have a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan’s Residential College. However, I got involved in game design and writing straight out of school, and it took me a few years to get back to it, as that really scratched my creative itches well.
TFF: So do you still design games or are you solely a writer now?

Matt: I still do a bit of game design, although most of my work is in writing novels and comics and for computer games. Writing for RPGs sadly doesn’t pay that well, so I can’t make it as much a priority as I once did. I feed my family with my writing, so I need to try to make the most out of it.

TFF: What do you enjoy more, writing for an established franchise, like Blood Bowl, or writing your own materials?

Matt: They both have their advantages. I love coming up with my own settings, characters, and plots, but sometimes it’s refreshing to play in someone else’s treehouse. I just wrote a novel for the TV show Leverage for instance, and it was a blast to put words in the mouths of characters I’d been watching on TNT for the past four years.

TFF: I have a few other author friends who have wanted to write for Black Library, and as a 40k fan, if I ever became an author that is a series of books I would like to write for myself. What is the biggest problem with writing for a franchise?

Matt: First, they don’t want to talk to you until you’ve completed a book of your own or for someone else, or you’ve written a number of short stories for them and built up some trust. Otherwise, they’re taking a huge risk to hand you a contract, not just in terms of the money but in having to recommission the same novel from someone else and watch it get delayed because of that.
The other trick is having to do what the people in charge of the world tell you to do. It’s work-for-hire, which means they own it, not you, and at the end of the day, what they say goes. You can argue with them over whatever points you like, but they hold all the cards.
Normally, that’s not too much trouble, and the approval people are usually happy to help you make sure you get the details of a world right. Just don’t think you’re coming in to shake things up and tell your story. You’re telling their story, instead, the best way you can.
TFF: On your website ( you have said that you like to get 5000 words a day, which seems like a lot, how often do you hit that goal?

Matt: When I’m in writing mode. I hit it regularly, and I often surpass it. Sometimes I go weeks without being in writing mode though, and summers can be brutal for that, between conventions, vacations, revisions, production issues, drumming up new work, and hunting down payments. When I’m in a groove, though, it’s no trouble at all.

TFF: Do you listen to music or do something while you are writing, or do you like dead silence?

Matt: I like to listen to music, and I often try to pick something appropriate to the book to get me in the mood. I prefer either songs I already know well — and so can ignore the lyrics — or instrumentals, like soundtracks. Otherwise the words in the song can distract me.

TFF: Now, rumor has it (as in all over your Facebook page) that you have five children, four of them being quadruplets, I have four kids myself and they all were born at least a year apart and I recall the horrors of feeding times and diapers, I can not imagine having four at once. How did that impact your writing?

Matt: It pretty much destroyed it! Actually, it forced me to back-burner a lot of projects that I had in the works, some of which I’m just getting back to now. However, it was right around then that I started getting traction on writing novels, and I did many of those while sleep-deprived.

However, we had a fantastic army of 30 to 35 volunteers coming in every week to help out with the quads for their first year. We owe those people everything. I don’t know how we’d have made it without their help. Our little city of Beloit really came out for us there.

TFF: In this day and age with vampire books and movies being all the rage, why did you decide to write a vampire novel like Carpathia Especially a more traditional drink blood, blow up in sun light, stake in the heart dead vampire novel when others where doing non traditional?

Matt: Because I love that stuff. Also, you can’t chase trends. Books can take years to go from concept to shelf, and by the time they do there’s little guarantee that what’s hot now will still be then. Plus, because most people had abandoned that style of vampire, that left the field free for me to play in.

TFF: Now tell us a bit about your 12 for 12 that you are doing.

Matt: It’s this crazy plan I have to write a dozen short novels this year. They’re only 50,000 words each, about the amount you’re challenged to write during National Novel Writing Month, but a bit shorter than the standard 80k novel these days. As a working writer, I couldn’t afford to take the year off to write them though, so I turned to Kickstarter to help line up funding for them.

I broke the dozen books up into four trilogies and ran Kickstarter drives for each one of them in sequence. The first three went fantastically well. The first one was based on my old Brave New World RPG, a dystopian supers game that came out from Pinnacle and AEG in 1999/2000. The second is a fantasy noir series called Shotguns & Sorcery. The third is a fistful of thrillers set at Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in North America, called Dangerous Games. 

I’m in the middle of the drive for the fourth one right now. It’s called Monster Academyand its set in a fantasy world in which the good guys won and then set up a reform school for the young monsters that haven’t proven themselves to be evil — yet.
The way Kickstarter works, I only set out to write the novels if we reach our goal of $10,000 or more in pledges by the end of the drive, which is coming up soon. Otherwise, I walk away, and no one’s out a dime. If we succeed, I set to work, and I reward my backers with exclusive, autographed editions, a chance to get their names in the books, and so on.
So far, so good.

TFF: Wow, 12 books in one year? Most authors hope to get one book in a year. So this is all you’re doing right, or are there other projects you are working on as well?
Matt: I’ve also written a few short stories, and I write the Magic: The Gathering comic for IDW too. Plus, I have an indie film I co-wrote and produced coming out in October. It’s based on Jared Sorensen’s InSpectres RPG about slacker ghostbusters, and it’s lots of fun.
TFF: So let me get this right, 12 books in one year, scads of other projects, convention season, five kids in the house… where do you hide the cloning machine because there is no way there is just one Matt!?

Matt: It’s just me, sadly, but I don’t sleep much. I also write as fast as I can, which always helps when you’re getting paid by the word. That’s not true of the novels so much, but back when I wrote lots of RPG materials it was, and that’s trained me to move with clarity and confidence ever since.

TFF: What projects would you love to do work on if you would get the chance?

Matt: I’d love to write a Spider-Man comic someday, and I’d like to dig into a Star Wars novel at some point too. I’ve had the pleasure of working on lots of Marvel materials over the years, mostly games, but it would be wonderful to tackle a comic story for him too.

TFF: Can you give us any hints of what next years has in store for us, after the 12 for 12 is finished?

Matt: I could, but I’d have to kill you. Seriously, I have two or three projects in early stages for 2013 already, in novels, games, and even film, but some of that year will involve me wrapping up the production of the 12 for ’12 books. Plus I hope to keep writing comics for IDW.

TFF: So you have accomplished what many of us have wanted to do for years, game design, author, write comic books, etc, what are some goals that you have and would like to accomplish in the future?

Matt: There’s always a new horizon, no matter what mountain you’re standing on. I’d like to stretch in new directions, perhaps write for film and TV. Design more toys. Come up with more games. Maybe see if I can work up to running a marathon before I’m 50. Who knows?

TFF: With all the success that you have had with Kickstarter, have you ever thought about becoming a Kickstarter consultant? I know from personal experience that having an idea is one thing, getting it typed out and approved is another.

Matt: I often advise people who ask me kindly, but I don’t charge for such services. I like to say that if it all works out, the drinks are on them when we celebrate their success.

On the other hand, I’m just looking over plans and giving first-blush advice. If I was to really dig in and create the drive for someone, I suppose I’d have to charge for my time. I’m enjoying my other work too much to spend a great deal of time on that though.
TFF: What tips do you have for the next generation of game designers out there?
Matt: Keep at it, try new things, and be brave. Also, don’t mortgage your house to pay for a print run, or you may wind up with nothing but those cardboard boxes to live in, and they’ll be full of games still.
More seriously, figure out what you want out of game design and work toward that. If you want to make a career, that’s one thing, but if you want to make art instead, that’s something else. They require different expectations and plans.
And as long as you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.

TFF: What about the budding authors?

Matt: It’s much the same, but with writing we have centuries of experience behind us, while game design is a relatively new field. Hone your craft, be persistent, and finish what you start. Then put it in front of people until you sell it. Also, don’t stop writing. While you’re trying to sell one thing, be working on the next.
TFF: Who is someone that you look up to in your career?
Matt: Everyone! Seriously, I had a lot of great help from a number of people throughout my career. Troy Denning, Will Niebling, and Mike Stackpole probably helped me out the most. I also owe my pals in my Alliterates writers group, most of whom are ex-TSR designers and writers. Their friendship and advice has been invaluable over the years.
TFF: Here at The Founding Fields we are self publishing friendly, which a lot of other review sites are not. Our motto is if we like the idea, we will review it. What do you think of the modern age of digital books and self publishing that has seemed to have exploded almost overnight? What impact do you think it is going to have on the book industry?
Matt: It’s already had a huge effect. I think it’s inevitable that books move toward ebooks, and that lowers the barrier to entry for writers to almost nothing. While that can be messy in the short run, I think it provides all sorts of opportunities for writers to tell their stories to people who will love them, and I can’t see anything wrong with that.
TFF: Now, I see that you have done some editorial work in the past, is that something that you still do? And for any author that might be interested what would you charge?
Matt: I haven’t done much editing over the past several years. It doesn’t pay as well as writing or designing, but on the other hand it’s a lot easier and faster to do. At the moment, I don’t have any time in my docket for such things.
TFF: Do you have anything in the works with Angry Robot or Black Library?

Matt: Not at the moment. I have a standing offer to pitch books to Angry Robot, but I’ve been too busy with 12 for ’12 to get to it. I’m going to be meeting with a bunch of the Angry Robot authors and staff at World Con this weekend, so there’s a chance that might come up though.

As for the Black Library, I wish them well, but I haven’t heard from them for a long while, not since I finished those Blood Bowl comics for Boom Studios a few years back. I still see some of my friends from there on Facebook and Twitter, but we don’t usually talk business. If the right project came along, though, I’d be happy to chat with them about it.

TFF: A question I love to ask because I personally get them myself all the time and probably will forever, but do you still have fanboy moments when you meet people? Give us an example!

Matt: Oh, sure! The best ones are when you go to tell someone you’re a fan and they already know and enjoy your work. I had that happen with John Rogers and Wil Wheaton, both of whom I respected before I’d ever met them, and it was a real kick to see the lightbulb go off in their heads too.

Mostly, though, I just like to tell people I enjoy their work and then be respectful of them and their time. That’s how I’d want people to treat me if they recognized me, which mostly only happens at conventions, of course. Writers and game designers are far more invisible than people with their faces on screens.

TFF: Who do you think is the greatest inspiration for you to continue to write?

Matt: My wife and kids, because I have to keep feeding them! Beyond that, it’s my readers. The fact that I know there are people out there who enjoy my work enough to plunk down their hard-earned cash for it always inspires me not to just continue writing but also to keep pushing myself to do my absolute best every time.

The Founding Fields would like to thank Matt for taking the time in doing this interview with us.  If you have not already check out his final (for this year heh) 12 for 12 on Kickstarter, you can also check out his personal website  The folks here are The Founding Fields have been fans of this author and recommend you pick up his books if you want a good read!

djinn24 is a professional miniatures painter, with an equally strong love of books. His reviews are concise and critical. He’s definitely good at what he does.


  • Michala T.

    As a writer, I always enjoy reading how those who have had success in their writing. I like hearing about all the snags, real life hardshiips, and their voyage to the creation of a beautifully written piece. Djinn24 incorporates all this and more into his interview. I feel as though I have asked the questions myself because those are the type of questions I would want answered. Thanks!!!

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