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!