Archive for the ‘Author Interviews’ Category
Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
THE NEXT BIG THING is a chain of book and author recommendations. One author tags a few others, who then each tag others. The idea is that we all help people out there learn about all the good stuff that’s just out or coming soon. David Wood tagged me on his blog and now it’s my turn.
1. What is the working title of your next book?
Actually, the title of my next book is THE CRYPT OF DRACULA. It’s a little novella I’m putting out before my next full length book. The idea came from some discussions with friends about what was missing from the modern vampire story, and how we fondly remembered older film versions of the vampire story that included strict rules on how the creatures could act and how they could be killed. I love those old films from the 1930s and 1960s and 1970s, so I thought I’d create my own little nostalgia creature mini genre to pay homage to those great stories.
In THE CRYPT OF DRACULA, the fiend is awoken and a new hero takes up the epic struggle against the sinister Count.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wanted to tell a simple nostalgic Dracula tale. I’m not reinventing the wheel with this one. Just including all the good stuff: creepy villagers, crumbling spooky castle, coffins, fangs, and blood, blood, blood.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
No idea. Horror? Adventure? Nostalgia? On Amazon it’ll go under Horror > Vampires and Action & Adventure.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Wow. Tough one. I can easily cast the characters for RESURRECT, my first thriller, but doing Crypt will be tough. For RES, I always pictured Jason Quinn as actor Jason London (as seen on the cover of 2000’s retched Jason and the Argonauts–title completely a coincidence, because I didn’t see the film until years after I had written most of RES), Curtis Johnson is a younger Val Kilmer, and Eva is Kate Bosworth with long curly hair.
For Crypt, I might cast Matt Damon as Andreas, Georgina Moffet (from Doctor Who’s The Doctor’s Daughter episode) as Anneli, and maybe someone young like Kevin Zegers as the Count.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A stonemason and mountaineer takes a job restoring a castle in transylvania, but ends up having to rescue his wife from the resurrected vampire, Count Dracula.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’ll be putting the book out from my Quickdraw Books imprint. It will be in e-book and print.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Still working on it, but not long. A few weeks.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
None, probably. It will be more akin to a Dracula film from the 60s or 70s than to any current horror books, and because I lean toward adventure, there will be plenty of hair-raising stunts and fights in the second half.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I miss the monster craze of my youth in the 1970s. I miss the creepy old castle and spooky fog-infested forests. Sparkly vampires are not my thing–probably because I’m not a teen or pre-teen girl. I like my vampires spooky and creepy. I started watching those old films and re-discovering what I had enjoyed about them in the first place (it mostly was not the acting). I got the idea to find some books that took a nostalgic approach to vampires and Frankenstein’s Creature and the rest of the great monsters and was surprised to not find many. I decided to get some novellas with these public domain characters out.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book starts very slowly, establishing the locale and the players, and introducing heaping mounds of foreshadowing. When it gets going, I hope it will evoke a love of the Dracula of old, while at the same time injecting some of the modern approach to action that we have come to love in modern cinema and thriller novels. If nothing else, I suspect that the hero’s ultimate weapon against the Count might be something we’ve never seen before.
Jeffrey J. Mariotte
Carol “Pixie” Brearley
You can see their answers to the questions above next week, on Wednesday, December 12th.
Monday, September 3rd, 2012
I met award-winning author, Stephen M. Irwin, the old-fashioned way—through strange happenstance. I randomly picked up his first novel, THE DEAD PATH, off the shelf at Barnes & Noble and set it on my bookshelf at home until it insistently called to me and refused to stop calling. Once I got started reading it, I found myself rationing it, not wanting it to end too quickly, and savoring every taste like a fine meal or a swallow of incredible single malt. Before I even finished reading the book, I got in touch with the author on Facebook and haven’t stopped badgering him since. Usually to create more, more, more. We’ve become pals through a shared love of film and fiction, despite living on opposite sides of the planet.
His second supernatural thriller, THE BROKEN ONES, was just released in the U.S. this past week. Number 1 New York Times Bestselling author Lincoln Child says Irwin has a “truly unique and harrowing vision” and Booklist says he “offers cinematic descriptions [with] smoothly incorporated supernatural elements”.
The book description reads as follows:
What happens when every single person is haunted by a ghost only they can see?
Without warning, a boy in the middle of a city intersection sends Detective Oscar Mariani’s car careening into a busy sidewalk. The scene is bedlam as every person becomes visited by something no one else can see. We are all haunted. Usually, the apparition is someone known: a lost relative, a lover, an enemy. But not always. For Oscar Mariani, the only secret that matters is the unknown ghost who now shares his every waking moment . . . and why.
The worldwide aftershock of what becomes known as “Gray Wednesday” is immediate and catastrophic, leaving governments barely functioning and economies devastated . . . but some things don’t change. When Detective Mariani discovers the grisly remains of an anonymous murder victim in the city sewage system, his investigation will pit him against a corrupt police department and a murky cabal conspiring for power in the new world order.
I’ve raved about Irwin’s first book, THE DEAD PATH, in a previous post. I rate it highly and believe it instantly moved Irwin to the top of the class with the latest crop of stunning supernatural writing talent: Joe Hill, Justin Cronin, and Michael Koryta.
Irwin took some time to chat with me about his writing, his various projects, and his love of story.
Kane Gilmour: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Steve. Your new book, THE BROKEN ONES, is out now. Tell us a little about it, what drove you to tell this particular story, and what your process for writing it was like.
Stephen M. Irwin: A reviewer had said about my first book, THE DEAD PATH, that it was ‘crime noir’. That really stuck in my head; I loved the description. So, when it came to thinking what my second book should be, I figured: why not crime? I’ve long been a fan of the great crime and detective novelists – Chandler, MacDonald, Cruz Smith – and wondered if I could mix up a detective procedural with a ghost story. The ingredients came together when I had a random thought about what it might be like if everyone on earth was haunted – what would that do to the sanity of the population? To economies? To crime? That ‘what if’ question, coupled with my desire to write a police thriller-cum-ghost story, resulted in THE BROKEN ONES.
KG: You’re a huge fan of short stories, and you’ve written several yourself. Can you tell us how many you’ve written and what your plans are for collecting them into a single-author anthology? Are you bound by your publisher contracts to publish with them or would you consider putting the anthology out yourself?
SMI: I think I consumed a few truckloads of short stories when I was a teenager, mostly works by Bradbury and Lovecraft and King and Carver. I am a huge fan of the form – there is something honest about a story that says: I only need three hundred words to be told, or three thousand; not one hundred thousand words because that’s what readers expect a retail novel to be. I’ve written a few dozen short stories; some of them were ‘learning billets’ that never really worked, but as I improved, some of them got published and won some competitions, which really gave me the encouragement to write my first novel. My publishers have been brilliant and I like to share with them the opportunities to look at the new things I create, but at this stage the notion of an anthology of short stories hasn’t been raised. I’d love to find six months to tweak some of my first-draft short stories and to put to paper some story ideas that I know will be shorts, but my writing commitments seem to be stretching a ways into the future yet. I hope 2013 will be a year when I can find the time to returning to the short story form, and to poetry, not necessarily with a view to publishing, but because some stories can simply only fit into short form, and I’d like to get them out!
KG: As a follow on to the last, what are your overall feelings on the new wave of Self-Publishing and Indie Publishing? Any plans to put something out yourself at some point?
SMI: The idea of self-publishing intrigues and terrifies me. I have been so fortunate with my relationships with the publishing houses I’ve worked with – my publishers and editors have enriched my work and ideas in countless ways. They also contributed some fantastic cover art, marketing, and distribution. To try and do all that myself would be daunting – I have enough trouble finding the time to write and answer the odd email, let alone create an entire self-promotion machine. In short, I place huge value on my relationships with my publishers and editors, and would feel entirely at sea without them.
KG: As a big fan of short stories and supernatural thriller and horror fiction, have you read Joe Hill’s collection, 20th CENTURY GHOSTS, or any of Simon Kurt Unsworth’s great collections? Who are your favorites for short stories in the genre and why?
SMI: One of my favourite short stories from the last decade is ‘Pop Art’ from 20th CENTURY GHOSTS. Joe Hill is witty, adept, and highly imaginative. Some of it might be genetic, but I think he’s just a hard-working and disciplined wordsmith who knows his onions. I haven’t read any of Simon Kurt Unsworth’s works, and now feel a bit like hiding in a cupboard (I will jump onto Amazon now and buy, buy, buy!). I remain a big fan of the short works by masters like Raymond Carver, Graham Greene, and Shirley Jackson, but recent favourites include DARK ROOTS by (fellow Australian) Cate Kennedy and FRAGILE THINGS: SHORT FICTIONS AND WONDERS by Neil Gaiman. Kennedy’s works are grounded in contemporary truths, and I recognise fundamentally the images she creates; Gaiman’s stories are much more various in tone and content, and always surprise. I think that’s what makes a great short story: you are able to ‘plug into’ it quickly and seamlessly, and it takes you somewhere you didn’t expect to go. Perhaps my favourite collection of contemporary short stories is THE PACIFIC AND OTHER STORIES by Mark Helprin. The mark of a great book is that you will return to it again and again; I’ve read ‘The Pacific’ at least a half dozen times.
KG: There’s a listing on Amazon for THE DARKENING. Is that an alternate title for THE DEAD PATH? If so, why the title change?
SMI: That decision was taken by Sphere, who published the book in the UK. I honestly couldn’t tell you why they wanted to do it, but I deferred to what I hoped was their better judgment.
KG: As an author who prepared for writing across genres by creating a few still top-secret pen-names, I’m fascinated by this sort of thing: What’s the ‘M’ stand for, and why use the initial? You’re the only Stephen Irwin that shows up on Amazon. Distinguishing yourself from the late Crocodile Hunter? Did you give a lot of thought to your author name, or just natuarlly go with what you use?
SMI: M is, boringly, for Mark (my middle name). I could change it to something more intriguing by deed poll (Meringue? Murder? Mood-ring?) but I think I have better things to spend my cash on. The inclusion was, as you rightly suggest, to ensure people don’t mix me up with the late and much-missed croc man. I must say, his name is still well recognised and has its benefits to me: before his fame, I used to have to spell out my surname to people who would instead default to Urwin or Irvine or Erwing; now I just say ‘Like the Crocodile Hunter’. Did it take much thought to include the ‘M’ in my author name? About twelve seconds. I think (and hope) readers care about the work, not the author name.
KG: You are also an actor and screenwriter. What are some of your acting credits? How about your most famous screenwriting credits?
SMI: I used to want to be an actor quite a lot. I was fortunate enough to do some study at the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York many moons ago, but I never quite had enough drive to pursue acting and acting alone – I got too caught up in other aspects of filmmaking, particularly directing and writing. Nevertheless, I’ve kept my hand in to a small extent, with roles in television commercials and small TV speaking parts in drama series (including a tiny role in a US series some years ago called ‘The Starter Wife’) because I think its much easier to write dialogue if you know with some first-hand experience whether or not it can be spoken by an actor. Regarding screenwriting credits, I am a prolifically unproduced writer; I’ve been paid to write a lot of television episodes and feature films, but they are all in pre-production orbit (or limbo!); I’ve certainly had some documentaries televised and some short films produced (look for ‘Ascension’ on Youtube). But this year I am writing three feature films, and it is looking very good that the first – a romantic comedy of all things! – will be in production in December.
KG: You are working on a number of screenwriting projects right now. One of them struck me as something that fans of your supernatural thrillers might want to pounce on: Night Fare. What can you tell us about this project and when can we expect to see it?
SMI: It is a great fun series in the vein of ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’ but with a more robust ‘Last Boy Scout’ energy and irreverence. I can’t tell you much, since the project is currently being developed by the Emmy Award winning cleveries at Hoodlum (who have made a lot of online material for shows like ‘Spooks’, ‘Lost’, and ‘Flash Forward’. I believe it is being marketed to networks in the US as I write this, so fingers crossed I might have some news about production in 2013.
KG: You’ve also got Australian film company, Hoodlum, interested in doing a mini-series of your first novel, THE DEAD PATH. Can you tell us about this project?
SMI: It’s very exciting that Hoodlum have optioned my first novel. This is only a recent development, so I’m not sure yet who might be doing the screen adaptation, or how many parts the work will be. I’m very curious to see what transpires myself – I’ll keep you posted!
KG: Any trunk novels lying around or novels out under any pseudonyms?
SMI: I have a draft supernatural thriller that was almost working for me, and after I finished it I realised I had to change the gender of the protagonist. It is a great story, set in the Antarctic, and I’m at the pleasurable place where I now need to decide if I’m going to do the rewrite as a novel or a feature film.
KG: You are working on your third novel now, is it too early to tell what the project is about or what you are calling it? When will we see it?
SMI: The working title is THE SLEEP, and it’s pretty epic in scale and scope. I can’t really tell you much more, except that it is a bit more of an ensemble piece than my last two novels – if you’re a Stephen King fan, think THE STAND. Big and sweeping and a whole lot of dangerous fun.
KG: Tell us a little about your office and what your writing day looks like. Do you have a routine? Goals for the day? Do you do all your writing on that Macbook Pro you mention on your website?
SMI: I do love my Macbook. I am not an Apple zealot (they do some things that frustrate me!) but I like the machine’s robustness. In the home office, I plug it into a 24” monitor mounted on a standing desk, and that’s where I work. Standing helps my posture (he said, waving his walking stick – ya listenin’, sonny?) and offsets the migraines that I’ve had all my life. I have my fun things in my office – a nice big blueprint schematic of a Supermarine Spitfire, a collection of old stills cameras, my dad’s binoculars, and of course a heavily laden bookshelf. I have a big magnetic whiteboard to which I attach index cards with fridge magnets when I’m plotting. Routine? I have two young kids. I write when I don’t have to look after them! Goals? Well, I like deadlines. Without them, I’d mooch about looking at Triumph motorcycle websites. The goal is, write as much as possible to avoid embarrassment.
KG: Finally, will you be doing a book tour for THE BROKEN ONES? If so, will it bring you to North America?
SMI: Man, I wish I was coming to the US for THE BROKEN ONES. Doubleday are the publisher and they’ve been amazing – and it is great to see the book is now with the Book of the Month Club. But a book tour is a big and expensive exercise for publisher and author, and I think once my readers in the US grow, that might be an option. But right now, the crocodile hunter is still the most famous Steve Irwin. But I’m working on it!
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Steve.
THE BROKEN ONES is available now at the following links:
If you didn’t snatch one up yet, you know you want one now. Go get it.
Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Holy Hannah! Four months have gone by since I last posted here on the blog. In my defense, a lot has happened. First, my daughter, Moira Dawn Gilmour, was born on January 11th, and against my will, I delivered her. Well, I was pretty happy about it, but I had delivered my son in 2004, and I was supposed to be taking care of him while our awesome midwife handled things upstairs, but things went far too quickly and she didn’t make it to the house on time. Oh well. Didn’t drop this one either so I’m two for two. Mother and daughter are both doing fine.
RESURRECT is Out!
RESURRECT has been doing well with e-book sales, and I’ve even had some print sales too. The book has received some great blurbs from fellow authors and some great reviews—about half of them from people I don’t know, so that’s alright. E. Bard did a great review of the book on the ThrillReads and Reviews blog and it also appeared on the Thrillers Rock Twitter blog. The amazing Kent Holloway, publisher and author of THE DJINN, also performed a lengthy interview with me on his blog. Thanks Kent!
I’ve had some requests for a hardcover edition of RESURRECT, and naturally, I’d like my own copy as well. I’m going to try to put one together, and I’ll announce it here when it’s ready. It will likely have a few sample chapters from the next full-length Jason Quinn novel and an interview with yours truly. It might have a Jason Quinn short story too (depends if I can come up with a reasonable idea and if I can fit it into my suddenly busy writing schedule—more on that later). Reader Shannon Marshall suggested I include maps and diagrams—something I had always imagined for the book if I had it published by a New York publisher in hardcover. As it turns out, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get that done if I had gone through a traditional publisher anyway. I hope to implement Shannon’s suggestion too. If the experience goes well, I’ll be doing all my books in hardcover first.
CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE is Out!
The novella I did with Jeremy Robinson for his Jack Sigler / Chess Team series, CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE, is out and has been doing well. I’ve gotten some nice feedback on it, and I’m pleased to say that many of Jeremy’s readers picked up the book, and then picked up RESURRECT too. As it turned out, Deep Blue was the 7th Chesspocalypse novella, being released after CALLSIGN: KING – BOOK 2 – UNDERWORLD, co-authored with Sean Ellis. Edited by yours truly, UNDERWORLD was a great ride and if you haven’t sampled it yet, you should snag it. Which brings me to the next point.
CALLSIGN: KING – BOOK 3 – BLACKOUT is out!
The third KING book, CALLSIGN: KING – BOOK 3 – BLACKOUT again co-authored by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis, passed my editing desk and is now out. The story is pretty great. I think taken together, all three KING books form a pretty fantastic tale. So be sure to pick it up for more blazing King action and adventure.
Warbirds of Mars Update
Along with the writing and editing I’ve been doing, I’m also writing the Warbirds of Mars web-comic, which was created by and is drawn by, my good pal Scott P. ‘Doc’ Vaughn. We’ve been getting some nice response regarding the series, about a Martian invasion of Earth in the latter years of WWII. Stop by and check out the story (and also the excellent ‘radio’ episode podcast that Doc did with some pals). Print versions of the web-comic can be nabbed at IndyPlanet and we’ve also got some pretty sweet Warbirds t-shirts at our swag link. Doc and I are also planning a prose anthology of Warbirds of Mars short stories. Right now, we’ve got some great folks that have agreed to write tales for us, but I won’t name any names until we see the stories. Suffice it to say, you’ll know many of the names. Doc is working on a Hunter Noir origin novella for the project, and I’ll be doing a story with Mr. Mask set in pre-war Japan. More info on this one later in the year.
NEW PULP EXPLOSION!
I was surprised and honored a month or so ago when an editor and writer at one of the companies putting out New Pulp content, contacted me to compliment my work on Warbirds and invite me to submit some prose stories. I have to admit that I really hadn’t known that for the last several years, there’s been a revival in the great old Pulp era stories, with many companies like Altus Press reprinting them, and other companies like Airship 27 producing all new stories featuring many of the characters from the Pulp days that have now fallen into public domain. But man, am I glad my attention was called to this New Pulp (as it’s being called) explosion. I very quickly found some great reprint books (Ki-Gor, the Purple Scar, and the Green Lama) and I’ve been snatching up the New Pulp stories also. I never read any of the reprints of Doc Savage or The Shadow growing up, but I knew friends that were into those characters. I had a working knowledge of the Pulp era and its connection to an era I know more intimately—that of comic books—but I had never really read any of the old stuff. I’m thrilled that this new landscape of publishing (with public domain and print on demand) has made it possible for those with a love of that era to reinvigorate it. If I can work it into my schedule, I hope to join in, and take that editor up on his offer. In the meanwhile, I’ll be reading up on all I can from the old and the new.
So what’s up with my writing schedule being so crowded? It’s because I got an offer from the fabulous Jeremy Robinson to co-author the next full-length novel in his Jack Sigler / Chess Team series. The book is now formally titled RAGNAROK (a reference to the Norse mythological story of the end of the world). Unfortunately, Jeremy’s originally planned release date of the story has been pushed back until October 2012, but the wait will be worth it. The book will now be released by Seven Realms Publishing, and it will be available in bookstores, and wherever books are sold. It’s available for pre-order now at Amazon. This book is Book 4 in the series, coming after PULSE, INSTINCT, and THRESHOLD. The Chesspocalypse novellas all fall between THRESHOLD and RAGNAROK. The cover for RAGNAROK, by Jeremy, is a beautiful thing to behold. I expound upon the way the collaboration works in the interview with Kent, mentioned above. But Robinson fans should rest assured that the book will be full of the same kinds of action, adventure, and antics that the previous three books contained. Whereas Deep Blue was really my story with Jeremy tweaking it in places (to make it more Chess Team appropriate), RAGNAROK is more a case of me constructing the framework and Jeremy will have firm control over how it comes out. We’ve had a great time plotting the story and now the writing is underway. I’ll write up the first draft, and then Jeremy will edit and add description and dialogue as he sees fit. We are both pretty excited to bring you the next chapter in this series.
MONSTER KINGDOM and TROUBLE Update
The result of taking the offer to work on RAGNAROK though, is that my writing schedule has had to change. There’s an actual deadline for it if we want to have appropriate press and reviews in place before the book goes live in October. So it’s coming first. That has meant pushing poor TROUBLE back again (the concept is from 2006!) and also pushing back MONSTER KINGDOM, which I mentioned in the Kent interview as well. Once my part of RAGNAROK is off my plate, I’ll be turning my attention to getting MONSTER KINGDOM done, as well as completing the next full length Jason Quinn novel, FROZEN, which I’ve also already begun. MK dates back to November 2010, when I was going to write it for a NaNoWriMo book. Unfortunately, between freelance work, family stuff, and the push to get RESURRECT out there, MK has been pushed back and back. But this May, it gets finished. TROUBLE will have to wait for later in the year. (That MK art isn’t the final cover art yet, but it’s getting there.)
Appearance in Phoenix (of all places!)
I’ll be at the Phoenix Comicon from May 23 to May 27th. Doc and I will have a table to hawk our wares. You’ll find print copies of Warbirds of Mars, t-shirts, prints of Doc’s artwork, and signed copies of RESURRECT and CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE for sale. If you’re in the Southwest, stop by and say hi.
2012 is going to be a great year, and if the world doesn’t end (stupid Mayans!) then it will certainly be on the brink of it in the fiction I’ll be bringing to legions of readers. Stick around. Great things are coming.
Monday, January 9th, 2012
Winding down the series of Chesspocalypse micro-interviews, today I’ve got Stan Tremblay of Variance Publishing and FindTheAxis.com, the master of formatting on the Chesspocalypse books and other works by Jeremy Robinson (as well as on my own thriller, RESURRECT), and the inspiration for the mighty character of Rook, to talk to us about all the fingers he has in the pie of publishing.
Kane Gilmour: Thanks for interviewing me last time, Stan, and for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Let’s start with you and Jeremy Robinson. You are the inspiration for the character of Rook, in Jeremy’s Jack Sigler/Chess Team series. Can you tell us about the origins of your association with Jeremy and about what it feels like to be the linguistically colorful soldier in a bestselling thriller series?
Stan Tremblay: Not a problem—it was a blast! I love interviewing people actually; it’s interesting to find out where they are from and where they intend to go.
I’ve known Jeremy for quite some time now, nearly 20 years actually. The brother-in-law and I are three-weeks apart in age, so when Jeremy and his wife got together we just naturally bonded. A lot of it was over computer games like Diablo, or NHL 92-93 for the SEGA, but I also looked up to him because he was such a great artist and I always loved art of all types. We’ve been close ever since. As to what it feels like, it’s very…surreal. I never thought being me was fantastical enough to be a character in a book. Sure, some of what you read is embellished, but for the most part, the speech and mannerisms are me to a ‘t’. It’s actually quite fun to see me from a different perspective.
Kane Gilmour: Lately, you’ve become the “Go To” guy for formatting in the Chess Team universe, freeing up some of Jeremy’s time for more writing. Can you tell us about what goes into the formatting process, and how much feedback you end up supplying Jeremy on the content?
Stan Tremblay: Well, most everything was already set up for me since he did the first few novellas himself, I just followed it like a template. I do have to say though, Jeremy has put a lot of time and effort into branding and setting himself up for the long-term. Beyond the standard links for Table of Contents, he puts in a bunch for his other titles so that they can be bought quite easily through Amazon and Barnes & Noble direct to your device. For other books though, like INSOMNIA and TORMENT, he gave me a general idea of what he was looking for and I did up what I thought his vision was through my design skills. I send it over to him and begin designing the rest when it passed his inspection. We’ve always worked well together and have a similar vision for what we want to see in an end result: Success.
Kane Gilmour: Through FindTheAxis.com, you are available for freelance for cover design, art direction, print and e-book formatting, and even website design. How does one man fit so much awesome on his daily plate? What does your freelance day normally look like, and besides the obvious level of high quality, what features set you apart as a provider from others entering these kind of Indie-publisher support areas?
Stan Tremblay: Ha, good question. I have a big plate! Actually, I learned it from the master himself, Jeremy. He took me under his wing and taught me much of what I know today. I’ve picked up my own way of doing things and superstitious habits (like goalies rocking back and forth while hitting the uprights from left to right 3 times each) that have made my way ‘me’, but the building blocks were set in place with his guidance. Just like in anything to do with publishing, you have to be broad in what you know to be able to compete in today’s market. Being a one-stop-shop with competitive pricing is a must until you get so busy that you allow yourself to pick and choose your clients. I’ve been a jack-of-all-trades my whole life—from basic car repair to some plumbing and electrical to computers to quality control and flavor profiling, to now: the many facets of pre-production publishing. A typical day for me usually starts after dinner until I feel as though I’ve accomplished what I was looking to do that night—anyplace from 10pm to midnight. If I run low on work, I’ll either work on honing my skills with some Photoshop fiddling, write up a blog post over at the FindTheAxis Blog, or just be social.
What sets me apart? I would say my drive for customer satisfaction. Sure, while the money helps to pay the bills, I strive to make the customer more than ‘happy’ with the end result. I like knowing when the customer is ooh-ing and aah-ing and takes pride in something I made that they can show off to the world. If you can’t say ‘look at my new cover that impresses me every time I see it’ then I’m not happy.
Kane Gilmour: You are also an integral part of Variance Publishing, where you serve as Assistant Publisher, Webmaster, and a cover designer. Which of your covers are you most proud of, and can you take us through your design process on it?
Stan Tremblay: I love designing covers. I don’t know if a picture is worth a thousand words, but conveying a concise message in that small space is a challenge I embrace with open arms! While it was created to mimic the first book in the series, I love the cover for THE MONGOL OBJECTIVE, by David Sakmyster, along with DARK TRINITY: ASCENDANT, by Sean Ellis. I have to say though, I get many comments on a few of my non-Variance titles—namely Rick Chesler’s kiDNApped, Katie McVay’s THE CITY OF LOST SECRETS, and GHOSTS OF ARLINGTON by D.G. Gass. (Sorry, my covers are like Lay’s potato chips, I can’t pick just one.)
My first question before designing any cover is, ‘does this belong to a series?’ This way if it’s a follow-up, I can see what past titles might have looked like to try and mimic them for author-branding purposes, or if it’s the first in the series and I’m not the one in the future to do the follow-up books, that it can be created so fans who see the next books will associate right away with that author for an instant sale.
My next question is, ‘what ideas would you like to see on the cover (places, buildings, feelings, etc)’, along with any cover you would like to mimic (an action book along the lines of James Rollins and his Sigma series, as an example).
From there I start looking for stock photos I can meld together to make an image worthy of a bestseller. Font choices are always running through my head as well, something easy to read, but stylish is important! Don’t get caught up in the ‘gimmicky’ fonts.
Lastly, once I’ve created a sample, it goes to the author for them to review and suggest changes before they get the final hi-res copy. All-in-all, it can take up to a week to create a cover, but usually only a few days.
Kane Gilmour: I asked you about this when we met in November, but I’ll nudge again. If you have no plans to embark on writing your own novel, do you at least have ideas you’d like to see in print that might lead you to a collaboration with Jeremy or another author in the future?
Stan Tremblay: I still have no plans to write anything at this time. And while I have a sick and twisted imagination that could give Clive Barker a run for his money 20 years ago, no one has yet asked me to collaborate on anything. Jeremy has more ideas than you can shake a stick at, so he doesn’t need my help, though on occasion, he might run things by me and I’ll give my input. If you know of anyone looking for ideas and wants to talk, you know where to find me.
Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
Today we’ve got one of the final Chesspocalypse interviews, featuring, well…me. Stan Tremblay of Variance Publishing and FindTheAxis.com, the master of formatting on the Chesspocalypse books and other works by Jeremy Robinson (as well as on my own thriller, RESURRECT), and the inspiration for the mighty character of Rook, is here today to ask the questions while I answer them for a change.
Stan Tremblay: Considering it’s your blog, there is no need to say thanks to you for joining us, but thanks to you for allowing me to be emcee for the evening! Knowing that you’ve been working with Jeremy Robinson doing the editing for his self-published releases for some time now, what’s the back-story between you two?
Kane Gilmour: No, no, thank you, Stan, for interviewing me! I had picked up PULSE when it came out and I loved it. Then I started reading Jeremy’s backlist books. When he announced he was putting BENEATH out as an e-book, I balked and harassed him over e-mail for a hardcover to go with my collection. We struck up an online conversation and when he was looking for Beta readers for his first horror book under the Jeremy Bishop name, TORMENT, I volunteered. I had noticed that the editing on PULSE was weak in places, and I had seen that the editing on some of his previous thrillers was weaker—but I had expected that because I knew he had self published them (back in the days when that was a whole lot harder than it is now).
When I read TORMENT, I loved it, but I told him bluntly that the editing was pretty bad. I was hoping he had passed me a pre-edited copy. As it turned out, it had already been looked at but it still needed another pass. Jeremy needed someone that wouldn’t charge him a fortune and could turn the project around in a week. My day job is as a technical editor, so I offered, and I guess he liked what he saw. He then passed me THE LAST HUNTER – DESCENT. Over the process of those two books, we got to talking and I pushed him to get a short story collection together. After INSOMNIA, I took a crack at re-editing a few of his earlier thrillers: BENEATH, THE DIDYMUS CONTINGENCY, and RAISING THE PAST. Somewhere along the line, I became his regular editor, I guess. It was pretty organic. I never took it for granted that I was the guy—I just thought “Ah, another project. Cool.” Meanwhile, I was working on finishing edits on RESURRECT, and Jeremy kindly beta read for me, and on the strength of that (and my knowledge of his works and his style), offered me CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE.
The funny thing is that online, we’ve known each other over a year, and we e-mail probably every day, but I’ve only met him face-to-face one time.
Stan Tremblay: Now that you’ve written for the Chesspocalypse series in CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE, do you feel any more vested in the series versus previously doing edits only?
Kane Gilmour: That’s a tricky question. I suppose the answer is yes, but as a reader, I felt very invested in the series first. As I got to know Jeremy, I became a champion for his work, and as his editor I became heavily invested in protecting his work and making him look as good as I can. In addition to copy edit stuff, I’m always quick to point out if a character is acting out of character—whether that character is written by a co-author or even by Jeremy himself. I see it as part of my job to look after the continuity of the series (or even a single book) as much as I can. When you bring other authors into the mix, you get new and interesting ideas, but sometimes a line of dialogue is wrong, or an action is inconsistent or whatever (and I was just as guilty of this on CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE). So I think I became more invested in the Jack Sigler / Chess Team series as I began to edit the Chesspocalypse books with CALLSIGN: QUEEN. I wasn’t expecting to get to work on Deep Blue, but the experience was a whole lot of fun. I’m not sure if I’m any more protective of the characters than I was—although maybe a bit with Matt Carrack, who I brought in. Now watch…now that I’ve said that, Jeremy will kill him in RAGNAROK!
Stan Tremblay: While each character has their own gripping way with the mind’s eye, who is your favorite character of the series (and no, this isn’t a test *wink-wink, nudge-nudge* ROOK *cough*)?
Kane Gilmour: I really don’t have one. That’s weird, but it’s true. I think the team works best as a team. As a reader, I enjoyed each of the Chesspocalypse books and their focus on each character, but I think what I like best about the series is the balance to the team and the way they interact. So while I love to see Rook in his scenes as he blows things up and uses creative language, I also like seeing Knight behind a sniper rifle and Bishop powering into a situation, while Queen slices throats and King kicks down doors and fires 9 mm rounds wearing an Elvis t-shirt and jeans. Oh yeah, and there’s this cool character named Deep Blue that might be seeing some more action in RAGNAROK.
Stan Tremblay: Your own personal release, RESURRECT: A Jason Quinn Thriller, has hit electronic shelves after what you say was a long-awaited 11-year span from start to finish… what took so long? When can we expect book two?
Kane Gilmour: Well, I could make excuses and say I was traveling the world and living in India and Sri Lanka, gathering a Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) and most of a PhD in Education. That I was getting married, having a kid, working full time jobs, and blah blah blah. That’s all true, but the real reason is I didn’t work on typing the book when I had spare time. I watched movies, read books, went hiking, and even started work on a few other books before I had finished RESURRECT. The problem was that I had been living with Jason Quinn in my head for years—and the plot of the story was all laid out in my mind. There was nothing new for me to discover there. I should have sat down and finished writing it around 2002, when I knew how it was going to turn out and after I had visited the Vatican for research. Instead, I did everything else. Finally, in the summer of 2010, I locked myself in a cabin in New Hampshire and pounded out the last third of the book. Then I procrastinated on editing it a bit, and I was completely done at the end of last year.
Then this year (2011) was lost to first trying to find some folks to beta read, and then I had an agent that was interested in the book for a while, so I sat on it waiting to hear back. I had been fence-sitting about Indie publishing versus Traditional publishing until about half way through the time when the agent had the book. I decided I’d prefer to go Indie, but I waited until the agent passed. Then it was full steam ahead to get the book released. As I type this, the print version of the book is still a few weeks away.
That all said, now that I’ve spent 11 years with Quinn and Johnson living in my skull and yukking it up, I feel like I need a creative break. I did CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE, and now I’m working on finishing up a mystery novel in the vein of Robert B. Parker and Gregory McDonald called TROUBLE. After that, I’ve got a YA paranormal adventure book called MONSTER KINGDOM that I want to get out. MK was meant to be my 2010 NaNoWriMo book—but instead I ended up editing TORMENT for Jeremy (no regrets). After MONSTER KINGDOM, I hope to set to work on FROZEN, the next Quinn book, around April. So it should be available around the Summer of 2012.
Stan Tremblay: You’ve had some amazing praise for RESURRECT, by being compared to one of the biggest book-branding entities of our generation in Clive Cussler. You’ve also been enveloped into the Robinson brand—essentially putting you half way up the mountain from day one, congrats—but realizing you still have half the mountain to climb, what sets you apart from other authors and makes people realize that you aren’t just a rehash of some old hat they’ve already read?
Kane Gilmour: Thanks, Stan. I’m hugely flattered by the praise, and three independent sources comparing me favorably to Clive Cussler is all a fledgling adventure author could ask for. But then, as you say, I’ve also been lucky enough to be associated with Jeremy Robinson and adopt some of his fans for my own work. I do feel like that association has helped me maybe more than half way up the mountain.
What I hope will take me the rest of the way is a desire to see some things in fiction that I haven’t seen yet, as an avid devourer of it. As a reader, I’m tired of Arab villains, hackneyed plots involving patriotic heroes taking down the CIA, hard-drinking FBI agents one step away from getting kicked out of the Bureau, or ‘action heroes’ that like to wear the same turtleneck and blazer that their authors wear. When I set out to write, it was to write what I would want to read, but I couldn’t because it wasn’t yet available.
I used to rock climb in Arizona, so I wanted to read about a climber, but there weren’t many books out there with a climber as a protagonist. I also tried to synthesize some of my knowledge from an undergraduate degree in Asian studies and a lifetime of living and traveling abroad. A lot of thriller writers include exotic locales in their work, but having been to most of my locations, I can often chuck in that rare detail or two that you wouldn’t find doing online research. I hope what that will all add up to for readers will be a series of books that breaks a few molds, introduces some fresh 21st century heroes, and offers some unusual locations with authentic detail. And as a rabid fan of Jeremy and Matthew Reilly, I’ll be trying to top myself and them as far as the action goes. One of my first fans for RESURRECT said she thought there was almost too much action in it. I hope not, because the next one will have even more.
Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
Today, we have the fifth installment of the Chesspocalypse micro-interviews! Ethan Cross is the international bestselling author of THE SHEPHERD and a new novella called THE CAGE. He’s now also the co-author of one of the new installments in the Chesspocalypse Series with Jeremy Robinson, CALLSIGN: KNIGHT.
Kane Gilmour: Ethan, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us how you got involved in the project with Jeremy and did you have a specific hankering for Knight or was he offered to you?
Ethan Cross: I’ve known Jeremy for several years. We had initially conversed over social media (I was a fan of his work) and then first met him in person and became fast friends three years ago at Thrillerfest (ITW’s annual conference). Since then, we’ve worked together on projects such as Rooked—the iPhone game based upon the Rook character from the Chess Team. Jeremy did the script and animations, and I designed the game. He had also done a blurb for my book, THE SHEPHERD. Then he contacted me and offered me a place as one of the Chesspocalypse authors. I was thrilled to write a story within a world/series that I have enjoyed so much.
Regarding Knight, I find him especially interesting for several reasons. First of all, we don’t know a lot about him, so it was pretty unexplored territory. But also because I view him as kind of the oddball of the Chess Team. By that, I mean that the others in the group are pretty straightforward, big macho warriors (even Queen), while Knight is smaller and uses stealth and his sniper skills more than brute force.
Kane Gilmour: I had only recently started hearing about the ghost cities in China. What got you interested in that angle in the story? Did you just need a place where a good sized battle could occur? Have you been over to China?
Ethan Cross: I’ve never been to China, but it’s a very interesting country with a fascinating culture. In regard to the ghost cities, I think it’s just fascinating to know that there are massive, empty cities sitting out in the world right now. The thought of them is reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic wastelands that we’re all familiar with, and yet they are different and somehow more eerie because they’ve never been used, as if all the people simply vanished into thin air. Plus, as you said, it was the perfect setting for the level of action and destruction that occurs in CALLSIGN: KNIGHT. If we had set the book in a regular city, the death toll would have been in the millions by the end of the book!
Kane Gilmour: I’m interested in why you chose to bring Anna Beck back into the series. (She appears in CALLSIGN: KNIGHT and chronologically next in CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE, after being absent from the series since the end of PULSE.) Did you just need a foil for Knight or was there something about her character that grabbed you?
Ethan Cross: I had found Anna Beck to be an interesting and important character in PULSE, but then she’s never seen again and we never learn what happened to her. So this was an untapped area of the series that I wanted to explore. Plus, as Jeremy and I discussed the plot of CALLSIGN: KNIGHT, I learned that Beck was originally intended to be a love interest for Knight in PULSE. So things fell into place perfectly to bring her back. And I’m thrilled that Jeremy has decided to keep her on for further adventures.
Kane Gilmour: CALLSIGN: KNIGHT might be one of the most action-packed of the Chesspocalypse novellas so far. Did you approach the story with the intent of just telling a ripping action piece or were you more interested in the character and the setting? (We learn some good bits about Knight’s personality in this story.)
Ethan Cross: A little of both. I have a pretty short attention span and like the books I read to be fast-paced and full of action, so that’s the kind of books I write. But we also don’t care about what happens unless we care about the people it’s happening to. It’s always a balancing act of working character development in amidst scenes of action. But yes, when I set out to write this book, I wanted to drop Knight into a battle with no knowledge of what was happening (and the reader wouldn’t know either) and then throw things at him nonstop without letting up.
Kane Gilmour: Your novel THE SHEPHERD has been a huge success and you now have a double whammy with the release of your novella THE CAGE and the Knight novella. What’s next for Ethan Cross? What does 2012 look like for you and your fans at this point?
Ethan Cross: As you said, I have THE CAGE (a prequel to THE SHEPHERD, but very much a standalone story) out now, and I’m hard at work now on the sequel to THE SHEPHERD, which should be released this Spring. From there, my goal is to write 3-4 new books in 2012. So fans can expect a lot of very cool new things from me this year including more Shepherd books as well as an awesome new series (the details of which are highly classified).
Exciting! Thanks, and here’s hoping we’ll see you in the Chess Team universe again!
Thursday, November 24th, 2011
Today, the fourth installment of the Chesspocalypse micro-interviews! David McAfee is the bestselling horror author of the Bachiyr Series (33 A.D. and 61 A.D.) of vampires in Biblical times, THE DEAD WOMAN (Book 4 in Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin’s Dead Man Series), and a truckload of short stories. He’s now also the co-author of the new installment in the Chesspocalypse Series with Jeremy Robinson, CALLSIGN: BISHOP.
Kane Gilmour: David, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us how you got involved in the project with Jeremy and did you pick Bishop or was he offered to you?
David McAfee: Thanks for having me, Kane.
I’ve known Jeremy for a few years now, ever since I submitted a novel to his independent publisher, Breakneck Books, back in 2006. As a fan, I’ve read just about everything he’s put out, so when he approached me with the idea of doing a novella in his Chesspocalypse Series I was thrilled. I’d never written a thriller before, and the project turned out to be more fulfilling and challenging than I’d anticipated, but working with Jeremy was a real pleasure.
I chose the character Bishop because I thought he was the most interesting of the Chess Team members. His latent anger issues, combined with everything he’d just gone through (The Hydra stuff, the regeneration, etc.) made him a perfect target for exploration, in my opinion. That and his lack of knowledge about his biological parents gave me plenty of gray space to work with, and that’s the way I like it.
Kane Gilmour: As the series editor, I’ve been working on all the books. They all seem to be going for a similar approach to the non-stop action in the Jack Sigler / Chess Team full length novels—all except your installment, which focuses heavily on character development, espionage, foreign culture, and far more than the others, delves into the personality of the main character. Was this a conscious choice on your part? How much of that approach did you hammer out with Jeremy before beginning?
David McAfee: As a predominantly horror writer, I love getting inside people’s heads and tinkering. For me, Erik’s personality was far too fascinating not to explore. I couldn’t help but try and dig in there and bring a few things to the surface. As I mentioned, I’d never written an over-the-top action thriller before, so I had a nice learning curve ahead of me while working on the project. Thankfully, Jeremy was there to help with the action sequences and keep the whole thing from turning into a study of Bishop’s psyche.
I love the final result, though. I think it works very well. Hopefully readers will, too.
Kane Gilmour: The details about Iran in this story really bring the setting to life—almost as a character in the story. Have you been to Iran or to that part of the world? Was your decision to set the story there tied only to Bishop’s origins or do you have a fondness for that part of the world (parts of the Bachiyr Series are also set in the Middle East)?
David McAfee: As a matter of fact, I have spent some time in the Middle East, but not in Iran. My family was stationed in Turkey back in the 80’s. That, like most of my childhood, was a great learning experience, but it’s not why the story is set there. The primary reason for the setting was because Iran is the country of Bishop’s birth, and given the fact that we were exploring his origins, it made sense. It also worked out that relations between Iran and the West aren’t great, which lends a nice air of credibility to the espionage and terrorist parts of the story.
I did a lot of research on Iran while I was writing because I wanted the setting to feel authentic. Things like climate, cities, highways, etc. are details that seem small, but they help to put the reader in the scene, so I consider them important. I also think my experience living in Turkey helped to prepare me for writing a story populated by Muslims.
Kane Gilmour: What’s next for David McAfee? More books in the Bachiyr Series? What does 2012 look like for you and your fans at this point?
David McAfee: At present I’m working on a number of projects, including the next Bachiyr book. I’m also trying to make the rest of my books available in print for those readers who don’t have a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader. Some people prefer paper, and I want them to be able to read my work, as well. Additionally, I just signed with an NYC literary agent, who is pitching my projects to several publishers. We’ll see how that goes.
Thanks, and here’s hoping we’ll see you in the Chess Team universe again!
In other Chess Team related news, the first draft of CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE is done and it’s on Jeremy’s desk for revisions right now!
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
Today I’ve got the third in my series of micro-interviews with the co-authors for Jeremy Robinson’s Chesspocalypse novella series.
Edward G. Talbot is the thriller-author duo of Ed Parrot and Jason Derrig. As Edward G. Talbot, they have authored NEW WORLD ORDERS, ALIVE FROM NEW YORK, and 2012: THE FIFTH WORLD. They are also the co-authors with Jeremy Robinson of the third Chesspocalypse novella, CALLSIGN: ROOK.
Kane: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us. How did you get involved with the project?
Edward G. Talbot: Funny you should ask. Several years ago, Jeremy was promoting ANTARKTOS RISING and KRONOS and I bought both of the books directly from him in a special offer. I enjoyed them, and when PULSE came out, I read it and realized that it was truly a top thriller. We began corresponding via email, and somewhere along the line, I started doing a little beta reading for him and he offered to read one of my books and give me feedback if I gave him enough lead time. Fast forward to this past April and I sent Jeremy my novel 2012: THE FIFTH WORLD, to read before publication. A few days later, he asked me if I was interested in co-authoring the Rook novella. From my standpoint, it came out of the blue, but I didn’t waste any time saying yes. The dude is my favorite character of the Chess team.
Kane: CALLSIGN: ROOK might become one of the more pivotal novellas in the series, because it focuses on a character that was separated from the rest of the team at the end of the last full-length novel in the Jack Sigler / Chess Team series. As a result, were you given strict limitations on what needed to happen in the story and where and how to begin and end it? How much of the next full-length novel in the series, RAGNAROK, were you privy to?
Edward G. Talbot: I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. The answer is that Jeremy told me some of the very high-level plot, because we needed to lay the groundwork for the next book. There’s definitely some foreshadowing in CALLSIGN: ROOK, and while it is a self-contained set of action, we left plenty of things dangling to whet the reader’s appetite for Ragnarok. Having the limitations actually helped me focus, so it wasn’t a problem at all. A couple of times I had good ideas that I couldn’t use because of what was coming up, but I just wound up taking a little more time and coming up with better ideas.
Kane: So you guys are already a writing team with two authors making up the Talbot pseudonym. I’ve heard of other author teams (like Russell Andrews) where the first part of the author name comes from one author and the surname from another. Where did the Talbot part of your author name come from? How does the work break down between you two normally? What was it like collaborating with a third author (and an editor) to make CALLSIGN: ROOK a book that actually had four people working on it?
Edward G. Talbot: Heh, some good questions. I’ll start by saying that it’s Ed Parrot answering these questions. The Talbot name comes from the pen name Jason created for himself before either of us started writing the first book: J.C. Talbot.
Now, the other half of Edward G. Talbot, Jason Derrig, likes to keep a low profile. He also sometimes lacks motivation. Did I say that out loud? Truth is, Jason and I have been best friends for over twenty years, but I’m the more active member of writing partnership. I do most of the writing, as well as the public stuff. Where Jason shines is in plots. He’s constantly coming up with brain dumps of either large-scale ideas or small twists. We’ve just started on our third novel, and I’m certain that any day now, I’ll get an e-mail from Jason with the perfect idea for our next book after that. Jason’s also very good at big picture editing and identifying inconsistencies, so being able to bounce chapters off him as they’re written is really critical. I honestly feel like the process we have results in work that we’re both proud of, that neither of us could produce on our own.
As for adding Jeremy to the mix, actually CALLSIGN: ROOK was pretty much me and Jeremy. It felt a little odd, not having Jason read every chapter as soon as I wrote it, but I pestered Jeremy enough during the process that it worked out fine. Jason did some beta reading, and I got an idea or two from him, but that’s it. I basically wrote the first draft, with a fair amount of correspondence with Jeremy. After that, Jeremy made a bunch of changes to fill in Chess Team details, as well as some editing. Then it went to the editor, who came back with some questions and Jeremy and I reworked and added and removed some things together. I can’t speak for Jeremy, but I felt like it went pretty smoothly; I think we all knew exactly what needed to be done and who was the best person to do each thing.
Kane: Without giving us any spoilers, the end of CALLSIGN: ROOK leads directly into the events of the next full-length Jack Sigler / Chess Team novel, RAGNAROK. How much information did you get about what Jeremy plans for that book to ensure you could make this tale fit?
Edward G. Talbot: Really, Ragnarok is mostly going to be new to me when I read it. Jeremy did have to give me quite a few details, but not anything approaching an outline. There are always creatures in Jeremy’s books, and I do know about one of them in RAGNAROK. Obviously, I have a sense of how the small town in Norway where CALLSIGN: ROOK is set will play into the next book, and I know about some motivations. But I couldn’t begin to tell you anything about character interactions or how he plans to get from one point to the next, and there is a lot of the plot I still haven’t been privy to. To be honest, I’m dying to read it, but I’ll have to wait like everyone else—maybe I can talk him into letting me read the draft.
Kane: You’ve recently released 2012: THE FIFTH WORLD back in July and now CALLSIGN: ROOK is out and doing well. What’s next for you?
Edward G. Talbot: I think we’ll probably put out a few short stories in the next several months, but aside from that, we’re working on our third novel. It will take us into next year at some point to get it done. We decided to try our hand at something funny, so the next one is a humorous thriller revolving around a group of inept domestic terrorists convinced that God has chosen them to help fulfill the prophesies in the Book of Revelations. The protagonist is a surfer, and we wanted to call it Surfing the Apocalypse, but wouldn’t you know, a band exists with that name. So we’ll announce the final title once we’re done. We’re both huge Carl Hiaasen fans, and I also love Ludlum’s two funny thrillers, the “Road” books. So that’s sort of the direction the book is going.
Jason’s got loads of ideas, so it’s a question of what we choose to do in the time we have rather than trying to come up with something. Beyond the humorous thriller, we’ve got some ideas for a sequel to 2012 (and in a shocker, the working title is 2013). And we’d like to get out a sequel to our thriller novella, ALIVE FROM NEW YORK, which at 35,000 words is pretty much half a novel. It hasn’t had anywhere near the success that our two novels have had, but in some ways I think it’s our best writing. It’s the first book in our “Terrorist Chronicles,” and we have a decent idea where Books 2 and 3 are going to go.
Thanks for having us on the site!
Thanks, guys. We’ll keep an eye out for the next Talbot book, and here’s hoping we see you back in the Chess Team universe!
Monday, October 17th, 2011
Today I’ve got the second in my series of micro-interviews with the co-author’s for Jeremy Robinson’s Chesspocalypse novella series.
David Wood is author of the Dane Maddock action/adventure series (DOURADO, CIBOLA, and QUEST) as well as the historical novel INTO THE WOODS and the Absent Gods fantasy series under the pseudonym David Debord. In addition to writing, David is also co-host of the influential “ThrillerCast” podcast. He is the co-author with Jeremy Robinson of the second Chesspocalypse novella, CALLSIGN: QUEEN.
Kane: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, David. Let’s start with how you got involved with the project. Jeremy told us that you gave him the idea for the novella series. Were you hoping for a shot at one of them?
David Wood: I hadn’t really intended to plant a seed in Jeremy’s mind. He was a guest on the podcast I co-host, and he was talking about all his many projects and ideas, which brought to my mind another author who was doing co-authored novels in his own “universe.” I mentioned it to Jeremy, eliciting a “hmm…” and was pleasantly surprised to hear from him not long afterward.
Kane: CALLSIGN: QUEEN hasn’t garnered a lot of reviews yet, but the few I’ve seen were very positive. Queen is a very important character on the team and has had a lot of time on the page in Jeremy’s novels for readers to get to feel like they know her. How hard was it for you to find the right feel for writing the character? Was it more challenging for you to write this character of Jeremy’s that is so well loved, than say, writing any other female character?
David Wood: Queen is a fantastic character, and I think the fact that I’m married to a badge-carrying, black-belt daughter of an ex-Marine helped. The challenge in writing Queen is that we know a ton about how she acts on a mission and a good bit about how she acts around her teammates, but comparatively little about her back-story and what really makes her tick. Part of my research for CALLSIGN: QUEEN was to re-read all three Jack Sigler / Chess Team novels and take notes on everything we know about her past and any insights into her personality, and I was surprised at how much of that story is yet to be told. I brought in a particular secondary character as a reflection of one of those glimpses into her early life. The action sequences write themselves because Queen is so capable and clever. The big challenge for me was her interaction with Deep Blue, which had to go through a couple of revisions before it fit Jeremy’s vision of her character.
Kane: How did you come to the idea of setting the story in Pripyat? Have you been to that part of the world? Or explored any other abandoned sites?
David Wood: The setting of Pripyat was one of the few guidelines Jeremy gave me, along with “Don’t maim or kill her.” It was a wonderful choice though, because I had been researching Pripyat as a possible setting for a Dane Maddock adventure. It’s an amazing place with powerful visuals, and the fact that it literally went from burgeoning modern city to ghost town overnight makes it all the more fascinating. I haven’t been to that part of the world but I would love to go. Abandoned sites are cool, but I’m partial to places like caves, cliff dwellings, and ancient ruins—the older the better.
Kane: Without giving us any spoilers, the end of CALLSIGN: QUEEN leads directly into the events of the next full-length Jack Sigler / Chess Team novel, RAGNAROK. How much information did you get about what Jeremy plans for that book to ensure you ended this tale in the right spot? Was it difficult to write a story like this that had definite constraints on both the beginning and the end of the story?
David Wood: The only constraint (other than the no maiming rule) was that, once the story was over, I had to send Queen off in a certain direction with a particular purpose. No spoilers were necessary, so I’ll get to be surprised by the events of RAGNAROK along with anyone else, which is how I like it.
Kane: You’ve just released QUEST back in July and now CALLSIGN: QUEEN is out and doing well. What’s next for you? Another Dane Maddock adventure? Are you cooking up any more collaborations?
David Wood: I’m in the research and outlining stage of the next Dane Maddock, and I’m also working on a YA novel. As for collaborations, I’m kicking around ideas for a horror project with Alan Baxter, my podcast co-host who writes dark fiction and urban fantasy. Finally, in the deep recesses of my twisted mind, I’m planning more adventures for Queen in case Jeremy lets me have another go with her.
Thanks, David. We’ll keep an eye out for the next Maddock book, and here’s hoping we see you back in the Chess Team universe!
Next up will be Edward G. Talbot, author of CALLSIGN: ROOK.
Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
Today I’ve got the first in my series of micro-interviews with the co-authors for Jeremy Robinson’s Chesspocalypse novella series.
Sean Ellis is author of the Nick Kismet thriller series (THE SHROUD OF HEAVEN, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, and INTO THE BLACK) as well as the ADVENTURES OF DODGE DALTON pulp style series. He is the co-author with Jeremy Robinson on the first Chesspocalypse novella, CALLSIGN: KING.
Kane: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Sean. Let’s start with how you got involved with the project. Can you tell us about that?
Sean Ellis: Short answer? Jeremy e-mailed me with the idea, and I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough. The slightly longer version is that Jeremy is someone I’ve admired professionally for several years. When my novel, THE SHROUD OF HEAVEN was released, I happened to be visiting Jeremy’s website and saw where he was giving away several books from his personal collection in a contest, and I asked if he would include a copy of SHROUD in the prize package. I figured it would be a way to make his readers—which are also my target audience—aware of my name. I don’t know how well that worked out, but Jeremy gave SHROUD a glowing review, and from that point forward, I guess I’ve kind of been on his radar—enough so that I made his short list of authors for the Chesspocalypse.
Kane: One of the compliments that I read on reviews for your novella in the Chesspocalypse series, CALLSIGN: KING, was similar to my own assessment when I read the book—it’s difficult to tell that there were two authors at work on this one. It reads just like one of Jeremy’s full-length Jack Sigler / Chess Team novels. Did you find that your writing style was already very similar to Jeremy’s or did you tailor your writing specifically to match his style for this project?
Sean Ellis: I think I’m very susceptible to suggestion as a writer. Whatever I read tends to unconsciously influence my style and my storytelling process, so I have to be very careful what I read when I’m writing. I think it would probably be best for us all if I steer clear of Jane Austen novels.
The first thing I did when Jeremy e-mailed, was dive back into the world of Chess Team. At that point, I had only read PULSE, so I had a lot of catching up to do just to get acquainted with the characters, but I think the reading also helped me find a narrative voice similar to Jeremy’s. That probably wasn’t much of a leap; Chess Team has always been my kind of story, with a lot of cinematic action and a liberal dollop of sci-fi/paranormal thrown in for seasoning.
Kane: The idea of the Elephant Graveyard was fascinating. I had never heard of one before. Where did this idea come from, and how did you come to the idea to set the story in Ethiopia. Had you been there before, during your time in the military?
Sean Ellis: I came across the idea for the Elephant Graveyard from a text adventure game I played in high school. It was very much in that H. Rider Haggard vein of stories that I had discovered after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark. I hesitate to call it a ‘legend’ since it never really achieved that status, but the basic idea was that African natives told ivory traders about a place where all the elephants would go to die, which would make it a vast repository of ivory. I think that indigenous peoples everywhere liked to screw with colonial era explorers; their version of a snipe hunt. The graveyard was one of the bonus quests—along with Dr. Livingston and King Solomon’s Mines—in a hexagon board game called Source of the Nile, which wasn’t nearly as much fun to play as I thought it would be. In any case, the notion of using it in a story of my own stayed in the back of my head for a long time. I tried to work it into a novella featuring my Nick Kismet character, but that never quite clicked. But when Jeremy proposed a very vague ‘Let’s write novellas about the Chess Team,’ I immediately saw an opportunity to take it out of storage.
I knew, of course, that I would have to tweak it to make it fit the real world a little better, so I decided to tie the graveyard to a pivotal event in human evolution, and there’s no better place to tackle that than in Ethiopia’s Afar Region, where quite a few early hominid skeletons have been found.
And no, I haven’t been to Ethiopia, but thanks to Google Earth, I feel like I took a very low flight over all the locations in the story.
Kane: CALLSIGN: KING introduces a new nemesis for Jack Sigler and possibly for the series as a whole. Without giving too much away for readers who haven’t read the novella yet, what can you tell us about Brainstorm, the creation of the concept, and future plans for the character?
Sean Ellis: I love it when a serial character has a nemesis—Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, Bond and Blofeld—but I also like it when an author changes things up a bit. Chess Team often runs afoul of Manifold Genetics and Richard Ridley, and I wanted to work that conflict into the story, but in such a way that Manifold wouldn’t be the primary villain. That would give King a mystery to solve as he runs around getting shot at.
I think because of the chess association that runs throughout the series, and the fact that King is always presented as a highly-analytical strategic thinker, I knew that I wanted the villain to be cut from the same cloth. I came up with the idea of a puppet-master type entity—called Brainstorm—who controls a vast network of assets and operatives, communicating with them almost exclusively through text messages. Brainstorm has been so successful that there’s no longer any potential for growth; the economy is more or less at a standstill, and Brainstorm knows there needs to be a shakeup before things can start moving again.
That touches on the topic of the villain’s motivation. What do bad guys want? Money? Power? One look at the world around us reveals that diabolical schemes to hold the world for ransom are not nearly as efficient at achieving those goals as starting a hedge fund. Ridley, from PULSE and THRESHOLD, aspires to have immortality and god-like powers. I knew that I’d have to find a different motivation for Brainstorm, and that led me to think about the fundamental nature of his humanity.
Now, that probably won’t make any sense to people who haven’t read it, but I think that’s a spoiler free breakdown.
Jeremy really loved the idea for Brainstorm, and he made it clear that he wants me to explore this in future novellas. So, yes, look for another run in with Brainstorm in the next Jack Sigler novella, CALLSIGN: KING—UNDERWORLD. Speaking of which…
Kane: Right, you are hard at work on another Sigler novella with Jeremy Robinson called CALLSIGN: KING—UNDERWORLD. What can you tell us about this sequel novella and when we can expect to read it?
Sean Ellis: Even before I was done writing KING 1, the wheels were turning for another novella. I wasn’t sure if Jeremy would want the Chesspocalypse co-authors to switch characters, so I focused more on the concept. In this case, I wanted to stay closer to home.
Through no fault of my own, I live in Phoenix, Arizona. Last year, I picked up a book called Weird Arizona, which is chock full of myth, legends, and roadside attractions that make living here a little more tolerable. I’ve always been fascinated with the treasures that are supposed to be hidden in the area—the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, the Lost Dutchman Mine—and a lot of those things are tied to the Superstition Wilderness just east of Phoenix. But Weird Arizona revealed a whole bunch of other phenomena associated with the Superstitions—energy vortices, a massive cave network, as well as a slew of mythical monsters—and I knew that I had lots of material for another go at a Chess Team novella.
Whenever possible, I try to follow James Rollins’ idea of taking one thing from history and one thing from science, so if the Superstitions were going to be my ‘historical’ piece of the puzzle, I knew that I needed something more grounded in reality, and I got that when I read a science news article about the discovery of a layer of anti-matter in the Earth’s magnetic field. Everything clicked, and I sat down and cranked out the outline.
I really wanted this novella to be more of a creature feature. Cryptids and mythical monsters are a big part of the Chess Team novels, and I kind of felt like I didn’t do full justice to that concept with the first book. So this one will make up for it and then some.
I think CALLSIGN: KING—UNDERWORLD will be out sometime in December.
And as I’ve said before, I hope this isn’t the last time I go for a ride with the Chess Team.
Seconded. Thanks for talking with us, Sean. We’ll try to have him back here when the next King novella hits the digital shelves.