Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
I add depth and shading to give the image more definition. Only then does the drawing truly take shape.
If you’re not familiar with the quote in the title, it’s from the Kevin Smith film, “Chasing Amy”, in which a comic book inker, tired of his fellow comic-book penciller getting all the love, finally snaps when an obnoxious fan tells him he’s only “a tracer.”
As a co-author with Jeremy Robinson on his excellent Jack Sigler/Chess Team series, I might feel the same way, *except* that the fans have been overwhelmingly fantastic. Out of the very few negative comments and feedback we received for our collaboration on 2012’s RAGNAROK, only one person pointed an accusing finger at me. And on the other side of that coin, the book became a bestseller on Amazon. Apparently loads of people loved the book. So ultimately, even though the co-author gets less of the accolades, I certainly don’t feel like Banky in “Chasing Amy”. I might be a tracer, but I take my work seriously.
Today, the sequel to RAGNAROK, the 5th book in the series, OMEGA, is out everywhere. I wanted to take a moment to talk about what it’s like to be a co-author with Jeremy Robinson, why I was happy to do so, and how proud I am of our achievements.
The first thing to know is that I am very protective of Jeremy and his work. As his editor on some 20 book projects at this point, I’m very familiar with his style, and I’ve certainly influenced it in grammatical ways. I count Jeremy as a friend as well as a colleague, and I’m honored that he often asks for and trusts my judgment on things ranging from story ideas to cover art and formatting. My ultimate goal, whether just offering feedback, performing edits, or co-writing with him, is always to make him look as good as possible. (He rarely needs that help from me, but the thought is ever-present in my mind.)
When Jeremy first asked me to co-author one of the Chesspocalypse novellas (CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE), I was honored and thrilled. At the time, I was editing the rest of the series, and I was possibly more familiar with Chess Team continuity than he was, as it had been a while since he had written THRESHOLD but I had read all the books recently. My goal for Deep Blue was for us to come up with a killer action piece that was as nutso as it could get. I think we came pretty close. Fans enjoyed the novella, and when Jeremy asked me to work with him on RAGNAROK, a full-length Chess Team adventure, I was stunned and a lot nervous. I wanted to make sure I brought my ideas to the table, but most of all, I wanted for the story to *feel* like a Jeremy Robinson story—both in the things I wrote, and later in the process of editing, as well. And I was ruthless with that. If something didn’t sound like a Jeremy thing (regardless of which of us had written it, I was in favor of changing it).
Our process for that book, and also for OMEGA, went like this. I went to his place in New Hampshire for a day and we talked about plot, and I made copious notes. I then went back home to Vermont and worked on a first draft, realizing as I did, that even though we both thought we had the full story in our brainstorming session, we had between 1/3rd and 2/3rds of the book instead. So I came up with other things and asked him in e-mails about things until we had the rest. That first draft was like the metal skeleton of an artificial Christmas tree. I passed the book to Jeremy and he would then go through it, adding pine needles, trimming off unnecessary branches, and shaping the thing into the finished product. He also ask me for new chapters, or ask me to cut things. We would both add a few ornaments along the way, and in editing, the book would ultimately get its string of lights and an angel on top. By the end, we could each probably remember most of what one of us wrote or the other wrote—for a few weeks. Then it would all blur, as to who wrote what.
It was a fun process, and the finished product was pretty great. But the key time to the process, really, was in editing, when I would change lines of mine that didn’t sound enough like Jeremy, and he would alter things that sounded out of character for a given character. In the end, I felt confident with RAGNAROK, as I feel with OMEGA, that we had the best possible Chess Team book we could make. I’m sure with Jeremy’s other co-authors, that the feeling is similar. Those excellent guys (Sean Ellis, David Wood, Edward G. Talbot, David McAfee, and Ethan Cross) all had their visions for what they wanted to do with their collaborations, but they all also wanted to keep Jeremy’s world his. And with all of those projects, right down to the recent prequel novel PRIME (by Jeremy and Sean), Jeremy would have such a significant input into the book that it became impossible to say at the end who did what. He quality-controlled for adherence to his style and his vision for the series. And then…I came in at the end with edits, making sure the style was as similar to Jeremy’s solo books as possible and making sure that Chess Team continuity was intact. As always, I was protective of Jeremy and the Team. And I hope that love shows through.
OMEGA, out today, is a hell of a ride. I’ve included a little graph I did, which shows the reading order for the series. If you’re thinking of giving the series a shot and want to know where to start to read them all in order, this graph is for you. You could just start with OMEGA, too. But if you do, I guarantee you’ll want to go back and read the rest of the series.
Will OMEGA be the end of the series? Officially the answer is ‘you’ll have to read it to find out.’ Does King really die? Again, read it and see. I promise you won’t regret it.
OMEGA by Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour
Jack Sigler, Callsign: King, field leader for a black ops organization known as Endgame, is accustomed to feeling capable of handling most any situation. It is a confidence forged in the fires of battle against both monsters and madmen. But the introduction of Asya, a sister he never knew existed, and the kidnapping of his parents has him reeling. Using Endgame’s resources, King and his “Chess Team” (Queen, Rook, Bishop and Knight) scour the planet for his parents, tracking a man known to the world as Alexander Diotrephes, but known to King by another name. The legendary Hercules is alive, well and plotting something beyond imagining—something that will affect two thousand years of history.
While the team is spread thin, an intruder walks past their secret headquarters’ defenses, sits himself down in the director’s chair and waits. When he’s discovered by Endgame’s coordinator, Tom Duncan, Callsign: Deep Blue, he’s easy to identify—Richard Ridley, the team’s oldest and most dangerous enemy, who is supposed to be dead.
But he isn’t Ridley. He is a clone in search of his master, the real Ridley, who yet lives and is being held captive by the same man holding King’s parents. Believing Ridley is the only one capable of stopping Alexander’s plans, a temporary and tenuous alliance is formed, and Alexander’s location is soon uncovered. The team, along with three clones, heads for a citadel buried beneath the ruins of ancient Carthage. Already in the area, King and Asya arrive first to find their parents and a staggering family secret that leads to the end of King’s life as he knows it. The rest of the team arrives to find Richard Ridley free to act, an army of high-tech mercenaries bearing down on their location and evidence of their leader’s demise.
King is dead. Long live King.
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/16FqGXu
Thursday, February 28th, 2013
Post 1: Where to Begin
I was going to start the series talking about inspiration versus distraction. Procrastination and how to avoid it. That sort of thing. Instead, I thought I should focus on how to begin. I get a lot of questions from people telling me they’ve started writing a book (fantastic! First hurdle accomplished—you started!), but they really don’t feel like they know what they are doing and they don’t even know what kind of font to use of how to format the manuscript. It’s this last bit that I’ve noticed creeping in again and again.
We get hung up on the details. “I can’t write book! I don’t even know what font to use.” Never mind that it’s your subconscious telling you “Damn, this book-writing thing is going to take a looooooooong time. Maybe I should find some reason not to do it.” Getting hung up on the details is easy to do.
Writing a novel takes time. And it’s not easy. If it was, then all the thousands (or maybe millions) of people who always say “Oh, I’ve got a terrific idea for a book,” would actually write it. But they don’t. Having an idea is pretty easy for some people. Typing for several hours a day for weeks and weeks? Not so easy. Even typing for a half hour a day every day in a year isn’t easy. You can type a book either way, but few people will ever do it.
For the time being in this series, I’m going to assume you have inspiration. You have ideas. You’ve already decided you want to write a book (or better yet, several books). But you are confused about how, or what comes next.
So let’s dispel some myths and get down to actual things you can do. First off, there are great books about how to format manuscripts. But every single one of them will tell you to do it differently. So how does that help? If you know you plan to submit your book to agents, and eventually to big publishers, it’s probably best to follow their rules. Start with buying Chuck Sambuchino’s book Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript. Actual samples, and he explains what most agents and publishers will be looking for. Even still, once you find an agent, they might tell you to change things. Once you find a publisher, they’ll tell you to change things. Are you getting the idea how mostly unimportant formatting is until the book is about to go into production?
But that’s all if you want to go the old traditional route. The bulk of my advice in this column will be geared toward those looking to self-publish or “indie publish”. If you are confused about the difference, my definitions are simple: self publishers are authors that write a book, slap a cover on it, and release it as an e-book, probably just through Amazon. If they get out a print edition, chances are good it’s through Createspace, and it lists Createspace as the publisher. An indie-published book can still be from a single author, but they took the time to form their own publishing imprint, they paid for proper editing and have a professional looking cover and flawless formatting. In other words, a typical self-published book might look just like what it is. An indie book will be indistinguishable from a book published by a Traditional publisher in New York—unless you know what to look for.
So if you plan to put the book out yourself, here’s a helpful thing to know: you’ll need to format the novel at least four different ways when you are done. That’s right. Four. One for Kindle, one for Nook, one for Smashwords (which will spit the book out in an additional 8 or 9 ways), and one for print. You might even need an additional way for Kobo now. Not sure yet. So what to do? Where to start?
Ask a dozen self-published or indie-published authors and you might get that many answers. (Noticing a trend when it comes to formatting yet?) My preference is for the Kindle format. Keep it simple. In my opinion, the Kindle format is pretty simple, and I make more money off Amazon than I do from Nook or print or anything else, so for me, I want that format to go live first. Makes sense to write the book in that format.
But make no mistake: you can write the manuscript in any format and just get it ready for Kindle (and all the other delivery styles) later on. But for me, I try to keep the book in the right format as I go. Saves me a step later on. Here’s what I do.
1: Use Microsoft Word. The rest of this info is geared toward its use. If you want to use something else, you can, but Word is the standard.
2: Use the default page margins.
3. Familiarize yourself with the Show/Hide Formatting button, and learn what the formatting symbols look like. There are really only a few you’ll need to use, but you should know what the others look like for when you encounter them.
- You’ll get a black dot for each time you hit the spacebar.
- If you hit Ctrl and Shift and keep them depressed, while you hit the spacebar, you’ll get a non-breaking space, which looks like a little raised circle (like the symbol for degrees in temperature).
- There’s a pilcrow for every time you hit enter—looks like two very tall, skinny capital letters T, joined at the top and with a big black ball lobbed onto the left side.
- If you hit Shift while you hit enter, you get a Soft Return. Looks like a little black hooked arrow pointing left.
- Finally, the tab key will give you a straight arrow pointing right. There are more, but these are the main ones with which you’ll need to deal.
4. Now that you know what a Tab looks like in the formatting view of Word? Don’t use it. Ever. When you want to indent a paragraph at the start, you go to Format Paragraph (different ways to get there depending on which version of Word you are using) and under Special, select First Line and a measurement of .3 inch. Ignore what you’ve heard about needing a full half inch indent on paragraphs. That was for print books—not e-books. If you’ve seen any e-books with a half inch indent, you’ll know how ludicrous it looks. For the first paragraph of a chapter (or of a new scene in a chapter where you have a break just before it) don’t indent the paragraph. You can, and I’ve seen it, and it looks fine, but you can not indent the first paragraph too. It looks fine, professional, and it’s one less step. Plus it visually sets that section aside for readers and subtly indicates to them: “Hey! New section here.” The nice thing about the setting is Word remembers it and applies it to every new paragraph for you, so you don’t have to set the first line indent all the time. Only on new chapters or new scenes within a chapter.
5. Speaking of new scenes within a chapter…how about those? I leave two pilcrows, each with a non-breaking space, between sections within a chapter. If you don’t include the non-breaking spaces, you can’t guarantee what Kindle will do with it. If you include the nonbreaking spaces, you’ll get the spacing you want. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here? I mean sections you’ve seen like this in books in the middle of a chapter:
Traditionally, publishers left a little break like that with some kind of symbols like the asterisks above, to indicate to the reader that the chapter is starting a new scene. Why would you do this? Mostly to introduce a new POV from a different character, or to show the passage of time. Why not use the asterisks or some other symbol? Not needed. What you see up there is three lines: two blank and one with the asterisks. Instead, just go with two lines (so hit enter for each) and put a non-breaking space on each (Ctrl and Shift while hitting spacebar). Another example in the next point.
5: For new scenes after the break? Bold the first few words of the new scene. You can, so why not? Looks nice:
You can be anal about it and make it always three words (which I do), but sometimes it’ll look nicer to bold more words than just the first three. Up to you how you do it, but be consistent throughout the whole book.
6: What about chapter heads? Be consistent and simple for the Kindle. Here’s an example of one of mine:
What is that actually? Two lines with a non-breaking space each, followed by the line with CHAPTER 1. Note that I made those letters caps the old fashioned way: by holding the shift key. For one thing, I disabled the bastard Caps Lock button on my keyboard (Google it). I now never accidentally hit it, which is nice. But the important thing to note is that if you use Word’s fancy Format Font technique to make the letters capitals, it will play hell with Kindle’s formatting engine. Don’t do it. Just learn to use the shift key.
Next, you’ll note another blank line. That’s again a non-breaking space and an Enter. Then the location line, because it’s a thriller and I use a lot of locations, so I throw in a location line. I make these bold. Again, not with the Format Font technique, but by using the keyboard command for it: select the line by clicking in the left margin next to the word Dorna, and hit Ctrl and the B key. Boom. Done. Then another non-breaking space on the next line, then I start the chapter.
Here’s what the same thing looks like with formatting marks:
See the pretty format marks? Learn to love them, and keep them visible as you type. Helps to prevent making mistakes that you’ll just have to correct later.
7: Then how do you end a chapter? Two ways. Either add a set number of lines with non-breaking spaces (like four) and then start the next chapter, or do like I do. Insert a page break at the end of the chapter. That way the next one starts at the top of the following page. Two schools of thought on which is better, but I like the breaks because I’m going to be using breaks in formatting the print edition anyway, and I can use a search and replace function to change all the Page Breaks into Next Section breaks for the print edition. Plus I like the look of the blank space you’ll get at the end of the section, and that the new chapter always starts at the top of a page. In Word, you select Insert > Break > Page Break.
8: Keep all your chapters in one Word file. Don’t mess around with a different file for each chapter. It’s a pain to slap it all together at the end, and invariably you’ll have different formatting at the end. One file, but make sure to back it up in a few places. I keep my files on my hard drive, on Dropbox, and on an external hard drive. I only ever work on the one on my computer, and then over-write the versions on Dropbox and the external. Come up with a system you like but back up to at least 3 places—and one of them should be remote. If my house ever catches on fire, my files are offsite on Dropbox at least.
9: Use Times New Roman 12. You can use other things, but older Kindles only handle a few fonts, so don’t get wacky. You’ll want single line spacing for your finished Kindle file, but while you are writing, you’ll find that a 1.5 line spacing will be more comfortable to read through. You’ll change the line spacing back to single when you format for release. Also, if you can afford one, a mouse with a fast scroll wheel, is really useful when working on long documents like a novel.
And that’s it for basic formatting. We’ll revisit formatting later in the series, when we talk about actually doing it for all the delivery systems, but for now, you have all you need to get started. And that’s the main thing. Get in the chair and bang out the first draft. It all gets easier from there.
Friday, February 8th, 2013
Post 0: Prologue
This is going to be a series of posts. I see a lot of fellow new authors struggling with certain things, and I see myself struggle with them as well. I hear from unpublished authors frequently, asking questions about one thing or the other. There used to be books you could point an up-and-coming author to, and then there were blogs that were vital. Even taken holistically as a historical exercise, much of that information wasn’t filled with the specific: “Here’s how to do X” kind of information writers always want.
I know it used to irk the hell out of me when I would read about some author’s reply to simple “well, how do you do it” sort of questions, and their answers would always be along the lines of “It’s takes a lot of luck”, and “my path was unique to me”, and blah blah blah, but they never answered the question.
In this series of posts, I hope to answer some questions. As a whole, it’ll be a living and changing document, because by the time I post some of these ideas, I might have better ones, or the industry might change again. But still, my mission here is clear: to set out specific tasks that you can do, and show you how to do them. These things will make you a better author, make you a better marketer, and show you a step by step process for how you write your books, and independently publish (read: self-publish) them, while not sucking. Hopefully along the way, you’ll make some money doing it too.
What qualifies me to do it? Not much. I have a few books out with my name on them. They make some money (but not nearly enough). I don’t spend nearly enough time marketing or nearly enough time writing as I should. But I will have put out (or had published) four books in fourteen months. And I’m finding more and more authors with as many books out as I have or fewer turning to me for advice. I clearly don’t know everything, or I’d be retired and living like a king in Patagonia. But I must know a few things, because people keep asking me. I won’t tell you it takes luck (although that plays a part). I will tell you that you probably won’t follow my path exactly. (Who the hell wants an M.A. in linguistics just to write a YA fantasy novel?) But I will tell you exactly what I have done, what I do, and what I hope to do. I’ll tell you about some things you should be doing that I haven’t even done yet. I’ll try to keep it light, and funny, but unlike all those vague authors who say “my path isn’t for everyone”, I’ll give you concrete things you can do, and the sequence in which you should do them.
Over time, you can become an author, and a paid one at that. You might even make enough to live. You’ll build up an audience and a fan-base. You’ll form alliances with other authors, and you’ll learn how to manage your business. You’ll learn to treat your work like a business, the same way a small business owner like a corner grocer treats their business. You’ll learn that it really isn’t all about getting that first book written and published—it’s about getting the next one written and published. And the one after that.
I’ll point you to blogs by other people that you should read, and I’ll point you to books. I’ll tell you how to write a story and how to revise it. We’ll talk about editing and formatting, how to get the perfect book cover, how to deal with Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and all the other vendors out there. Social media strategies, and all the rest.
But we’ll start with something simple for this prologue blog post: get your ass in the chair. That’s how it all begins. You have an idea for a novel. “I’m going to write a book,” you say. Great. Sit down, shut up about it, and write it. Don’t worry about anything to do with anything while you are working on it. No publishing stuff or editors or agents or any of that stuff. Sit in the chair, every day (or stand if that’s your preference, and we’ll even talk about desk arrangements at some point), and write the story. Don’t worry about whether the story sucks. Just write it. Don’t worry about how long it’s supposed to be. Just type (or hand-write, or dictate. Whatever.) Just get the story from your head onto paper or screen somehow. That’s the first rule of building your e-book empire. Your print book empire too. You want to write? Write. That’s it. There’s no more secret than that one. I’ve taken ten years to write a novel and two weeks. Guess which is better.
This series is called Ass in the Chair because that’s the most important part. I’ll talk about where ideas come from, what to read for inspiration, how to deconstruct what you read and learn how an author did X in their book, and so forth. Here’s the secret to all that: you can implement all that stuff on your book after you write it. You are going to have to rewrite some things anyway. You’ll have to make fixes and changes. You might need to cut stuff. You might have to add three chapters once you finish. So? Don’t worry about all that, and instead focus on getting the story out of your head and onto the screen.
Until you do, you’re just wishing. Might as well wish to be an astronaut. Get the story down. We can talk about all the rest over the coming weeks. But you have to do the work. It’s the single reason that most people who say they want to write a book never do. They don’t put their ass in the chair and type it. I’ll tell you another little secret. Most of them “want to write a book someday”. That’s not what you should want. You should want to be an author. They don’t write a book someday. They write on a book every day. And they end up with more than one book. There’s a reason. It’s hard to make a living on one book. Stephen King isn’t a gajillionaire because he wrote Carrie. He wrote over 60 more books after that one (and he had completed several by the time Carrie was published). If you want to live as a paid author and build your e-book empire, you need to plan to write more than just one book. When you start thinking that way, your first book becomes an obstacle to overcome, and less of a baby to perfect and polish. Yes, it needs to be good, but don’t twiddle with it forever, or you won’t get Book Two done. Same story for Book Two. Get it done and move on to number three.
We’ll talk about how to make them good, and how to tend them once you release them into the wild. But first things first—make them exist.
Get your ass in the chair.
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.
Saturday, August 11th, 2012
Been a while since I update the site. Figured I’d start off with a review of a spectacular book, THE DEAD PATH, by my Australian friend, Stephen M. Irwin. Read on.
Stephen M. Irwin’s supernatural thriller debut, THE DEAD PATH, is without a doubt one of the finest things to come out of Australia in the last twenty years. With a slow, considered burn of a beginning, the story twists a few times before it really gets rolling, and you think you are in for a predictable The Sixth Sense kind of “I See Ghosts” tale. But Irwin has loftier things in store for you. The story moves effortlessly into different territories than where you thought you were heading, and it sucks you in so deeply, that when it returns to issues brought up in the early part of the tale, you had completely forgotten about them, and the resulting impact is just what a terrific spookathon requires. The tale twists and turns, moving in directions you don’t see coming until they are upon you. And by that point, the new direction is so wonderfully obvious, you question why you didn’t see it coming in the first place. Because you are in the hands of a master, that’s why.
This novel was also a surprise for me in another way, unrelated to the excellent tapestry of woven plot. The prose is lush, exotic, and so concise, that Irwin can evoke the heebie jeebies as easily as he evokes your misspent childhood with a simple sentence about the weather. I found, for the first time in 15 years, I was savoring the prose of a novel, dipping into it like a fine single malt whisky, letting each sentence roll over my tongue, and feeling the delicious burn of each chapter. I found myself going back and re-reading a sentence to marvel at its construction—at how perfect it was, and yet how simple. Like any master of a craft, Irwin makes it look easy. I made the first third of the book last weeks, because I refused to barrel through it at the pace the plot demanded. I wanted it to last. I hadn’t done that with a book since I read John Banville’s lavish espionage drama, THE UNTOUCHABLE, over a decade ago. There’s a reason why, like Banville, Irwin is an award-winning author. He’s just that good. After my fine sips began to come one after the next, with a delicious warm intensity, I started gulping, until I finished the book in a staggering bender of intoxicated reading.
We are living through a new renaissance of supernatural horror thriller fiction at the moment. Stephen M. Irwin is joining the ranks of the other new maestros: Joe Hill, Michael Koryta, and Justin Cronin. As the illustrious Stephen King spends more time tinkering with his magnum opus and knocking baseball novellas out of the park, these four authors are forging ahead with the genre, taking us places we’ve never been, but where we have been yearning to go. Any one of these authors could carry the legacy of Stephen King, with the fine chilling tales to which we have become accustomed. With Irwin’s addition to the new spookmaster’s club, readers of the genre are in fine hands.
The book was actually released in the Fall of 2010. I snatched it off the shelf and it took me a while to get around to reading it, but I really loved it. Steve and I have become pals through Facebook since. His new supernatural thriller, THE BROKEN ONES, just came out. You’ll want to go grab that one too.
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.
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!
Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
December 6th, 2011. This book is finally available! Read on below the pic!
11 years after I started the book, it is now available on Amazon here. It should be up on B&N and Smashwords soon. Available in print in a few weeks.
In the 1850s, a madman proclaims himself the Son of God and raises an army, taking over half of China.
A century and a half later, his descendent and legions of devoted followers plan to take over more than just China.
When alpine engineer and mountaineer Jason Quinn, a man with a past mired in tragedy and violence, meets archeologist Dr. Eva Rayjek after a plane crash in the high Himalaya, neither of them are expecting wave after wave of Chinese assassins. Pursued to America, the frozen ice of the Gulf of Finland, and the heights of Hong Kong, Quinn and Eva connect her investigations with the machinations of charismatic shipping magnate and cathedral-builder, David Hong. As a scheme to obtain a private audience with the Pope at the Vatican comes to fruition, Hong’s fanatical followers are preparing for global warfare.
If Quinn fails to stop Hong’s plan, the entire Catholic Church just might crumble.
RESURRECT is the first book in a series featuring mountaineer Jason Quinn. It’s 96,000 words and fans of Matthew Reilly, Jeremy Robinson, James Rollins, and Clive Cussler will probably enjoy it a lot.
In fact, here’s what Jeremy Robinson, bestselling author of INSTINCT and THRESHOLD, had to say about the book:
“RESURRECT by Kane Gilmour is a smart, taut thriller
that takes the genre forged by Clive Cussler
and makes it fresh again. The combination of history,
conspiracy and explosive action
makes the book impossible to put down.
High praise, indeed. The launch day was pretty busy, and I was inundated with congratulations, “Like”s, tweets, compliments, sand sales. Thanks to all that made the launch a success!
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!