Science Fiction always spoke to my creative side, especially as it pertained to asking big ‘what if?’ questions and imagining worlds beyond what we’ve seen. I also like the freedom it’s provided authors and readers alike to let go of their restraints and explore environments and technologies that are generations ahead of their time. In some ways I feel that science fiction provides the first step towards new scientific fact; I’ll occasionally stop myself and be lost in the magnitude of what I’m working on, that if we’re around long enough we’ll find out for certain whether what I’m dreaming up turns out to be true.
Tell us a little about the Mission:SRX series.
Mission:SRX is my take on classic galactic warfare, or as I like to call it, the future the way it used to be. I’ve worked in research and development for the Air Force and it’s given me a cynical strain that makes me reject a fair amount of science fiction works that are out in the world. There’s no shortage of stories where the technology just doesn’t make sense and the characters play to tropes instead of realistically portraying the people who would likely be involved.
The series bridges the gap between early ‘hard’ space exploration adventures and the universes where Earth is cemented as a galactic civilization. I found this setting to be interesting because while the technology is obviously ahead of the present, it nevertheless serves up problems where ships and equipment break down without warning. Beyond the ships and weapons being inadequate for their functions and the leadership often making things up as they go, my professional side allows for some nostalgia as well. Many of the units and activities are meant to be a reflection of the WWII/Army Air Corps days and it’s my way of showing respect to a generation of heroes that won’t come our way again.
Throughout the series, we follow a small team of characters led by Commander Grant, a bitter soldier/pilot of single-minded purpose, as they inadvertently draw humanity into the service of an alien race fighting for their own survival. Beginning within our solar system, the war spreads across the stars as the team seeks to establish their forces and learn the enemy’s plan before [Classified].
As shameful as I now consider it, the characters I envisioned at the beginning (while still in high school) was more of a Star Trek away team which ran around planets and completing various quests. This changed as I continued to write and each of the characters took on their own personalities. We’ll find as the story progresses that each one is running from a dark past and using the trials of the present to forge within them a renewed sense of purpose. This theme will culminate in the rebirth of Commander Grant himself, who slowly realizes his own value as a leader of humanity as it’s reflected in those around him.
If you could live the life of one of your characters, would you?
Possibly, but I tend to treat them poorly and there’s no way I’d want to go through half the suffering I inflict upon them.
If I had to pick just one, I'd probably go with my engineer. More on him below…
What's your favorite character that you have created and why?
My engineer, Major Scott Ryan. While I hold more respect for Commander Grant, Scott has more of my skills and personality which makes it easier to commiserate with him. He feels drawn to danger out of a sense of responsibility, although his inexperience and exuberance often get the better of him. This makes him fun to write and easy to relate to as I’ve often felt left in the gap between technical supporting roles and genuine warfighters.
Do you have any real-life stories that you have incorporated into one of your books?
Not so many personal stories, but I have weaved a few retellings of Medal of Honor citations into my battles. Audie Murphy’s appears in Ephemeral Solace and Lawrence Joel’s will be part of an opening in a future installment. Reading the citations still takes my breath away as I have a hard time making up situations even half as harrowing.
More than stories, I’ve used a number of my associates as characters over the years. Suffice to say, if there’s an inappropriate one-liner or remark, it was inspired by a true story.
If you had to choose a different career other than writing, what would it be?
Right now, writing is one of my hobbies as I still have my commission with the Air Force. I do enjoy the creative aspect of writing which I lack in my normal profession so that would need to be replaced one way or another, even if I got the call that said I no longer had to worry about collecting a check.
What is your favorite book that you have ever written and why?
At this point, it’s likely Deep Unknown, the 3rd book of the series, due to both the way the plot came to be as well as the narrative itself. I’ve got a running outline for what I’d like to cover for the series, but when I started Deep Unknown, I had little more than the opening and a vague sense as to where it needed to end up. It strikes a good balance between battlefield heroics and character development and for the first time we begin to see the motives and echoes of their past lives. There was also a wide range of interconnected events and settings to keep things interesting and build a foundation for the rest of the story.
What do you like to do with your time when you're not writing?
More creative stuff, of course. I have an overfilled woodworking shop and I like to build furniture and other cool projects. Among them has been upwards of a hundred flag boxes for military retirees around the world.
What's a fun fact that your readers might not know about you?
Hmmm…I was a drum major in college. Since then I ran the Air Force Marathon twice along with a Spartan Trifecta. It was once my job to play with Legos. I wrote the last chapter of Confessions of the First War while sitting against a T-wall in Afghanistan. Does that count?
What do you have in store for your readers next?
In August I’ll be releasing a new standalone hard exploration story that’s a significant departure from my previous work. No news yet, but it will seek to capture the vastness and loneliness of space against its spectacular wonder and the immutable nature of the human spirit.
Beyond that, there are more stories to tell in Mission:SRX, both in the series and as standalone adventures. There will also hopefully be a grand conclusion to the Deftly Paradox and a [Classified].
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