Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wonder Wednesday: Myke Cole, author of CONTROL POINT (Shadow Ops, #1)

Hello everyone, and welcome to Wonder Wednesday! Today I have a special treat for all of you. As you all have probably already seen, I reviewed an excellent military fantasy novel called Control Point by author Myke Cole last week. (You can read the review by clicking here.) I have to say that this is one of my favorite science-fiction/fantasy books I've read within the past few years. The magic system is great, the main character is perfectly flawed, and the world-building is absolutely amazing. I was more than honored to give it five stars.

Today, Myke is stopping by the blog to answer some questions about his writing, his novel Control Point, and what the future holds for his career.

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Fabled Crossroads: The opening scene in your novel details two children (Selfers who, in this case, are considered terrorists by the United States military) wreaking havoc upon a school. What inspired this grisly opening image, and were you hesitant to write it given horrific events like Columbine, the instatement of the Patriot Act, etc.?

Myke Cole, author of Control Point
Myke Cole: High school aged kids are just beginning to come into their own and developing the power to genuinely defy adults who can no longer physically restrain them. It's also the age where kids develop enough brain power to perceive adult hypocrisy and to truly question authority (teachers, police, the government). National Geographic recently published a great article (opens new window) about how the makeup of the teenaged brain makes adolescents more prone to risk taking.

What happens when you add magic to that mix, especially under a military regime that forbids its practice outside of extremely controlled conditions? Wackiness most definitely ensues. I wanted to explore that. I didn't hesitate at all. I wrote a few different prologues and opening chapters for CONTROL POINT, and all of them centered around Sarah Downer going Selfer in the middle of her high school.

FC: Your debut novel features a powerful authoritive black military officer named Oscar Britton. What inspired him, his ethnicity, his backstory and his position in the military?

MC: I never conceived of Britton as "powerful" and certainly not "authoritative." I get tired of heroes who are always certain, always strong. Real people blunder through to success. They try, then fail, then try something else. One of the most common answers I get from mentors when I ask how they made it to where they are now is: "Honestly? I have no idea." I wanted to portray that. I wanted Britton to be a *genuine* hero - a man with good intentions, conflicted, confused and making mistakes as he pushed his way toward the ultimate goal of what he knew in his heart to be right. Real heroism comes from messing up and course-correcting as you go. There are people who get it right the first time, I suppose, but they bore the hell out of me.

His ethnicity was inspired by the need for him to feel unmoored. I needed him to really be invested in the army so that it would a devastating loss to him to have to go against it. He already had a rough relationship with his family, and I was considering what else I could do to make him feel disconnected from his surroundings. Growing up African-American in Vermont would definitely have that effect. And once I imagined him as an African-American, that was it. It crystalized and became who he was.

What gave you the idea to combine military fiction and fantasy fiction?

It grew naturally out of the the two great loves of my life. I have served either as a mercenary, government civilian or uniformed officer for almost the past fifteen years in a range of warfighting, law-enforcement and disaster response roles. At the same time, I am an avid science-fiction and fantasy nerd. I never grew out of my love of gaming, comics, novels and nerd TV and movies. Blend those two and it's no surprise that I came up with the SHADOW OPS universe.

US Cover
What inspired the ‘Source,’ and why did you choose to make the technology and aesthetic of the world more like medieval fantasy than that of something more modern?

I was reading Bestiaries based on the writings of Pliny the Elder and Isidore of Seville. Like any good nerd, I kept wondering "What if these creatures were real? What if those ancient/medieval writers were accurately describing what they saw?" They would have had to have . . . migrated onto our world from some parallel universe and that universe would have to now be cut off from us. I began thinking of that universe as a fantasy land where all the medieval monsters of legend were real (and thus, existing at a medieval level of technology). And when you think of it logically, magic does a lot of things that technology does for us. When you can heat your home with Pyromancy, there's less of an impetus to develop steam heat. When your village Physiomancer can heal with a touch, you're not as pressed to come up with modern medicine. When Aeromancers can fly, you don't need to come up with an airplane.  

Within the ‘Source’ are a multitude of different fantastical creatures which appear to have been inspired by or are taken from various mythologies. Did you go about choosing a particular mythology or group of mythologies to base your groups around, or did you just use what you thought worked with the world?

Every creature you meet in CONTROL POINT is taken directly from medieval or ancient bestiaries inspired by Pliny or Isidore as I mentioned above. FORTRESS FRONTIER expands into Hindu mythology. I deliberately only selected creatures that I felt would have been observed by "naturalists" during the last Reawakening around 1000 AD.

If you had to Manifest in any of the magic classes in your novel, what would it be?

None. To Manifest in a magical school is to be forever outside society. The SOC is revered and respected, but also feared. To be a Selfer is to occupy the same social strata as a member of al-Qa'ida. I am an incredibly social person. I couldn't function as a pariah.

If you were forced to Manifest as one of the four ‘forbidden’ classes in your novel, which would you prefer and why?

That would be my worst nightmare. To be a Probe is even worse than a regular Latency, as you are now beyond even the embrace of the SOC. I suppose I'd have to learn to Whisper (a Probe discipline inside Terramancy). At least then I'd have animals for company.

UK Cover
What kind of fiction did you grow up with? What inspires you as a writer? Any particular methods you go about using when sitting down to write?

That's three questions. Let me try one of them: I draw my inspiration mostly from other media. It also informs my craft. The downside is that it seriously dampens my enjoyment of books, film and television. When you're consuming media analytically, looking for the HOW and WHY of the work, it kills the sense of...  transportation, of getting lost in the story, that happens when you're just letting it carry you along. But it's the only way I can really see what other writers are doing, and how they're doing it. In the worst scenarios, it leaves me discouraged, feeling like I'll never equal the best writers out there. In the best scenarios, it gives me ideas and shows me the way forward.

Do you write while you’re on duty? If so, how do you manage recreational/hobby time with your professional working life?

I wrote every night during all three tours of Iraq, even though I was only sleeping a few hours a night. When you want something badly enough, you find a way to make it happen. I just got off a stint of active duty time (4th of July is a busy time for the Coast Guard in New York City), and even when I was exhausted, I found time to write in the barracks before hitting the rack for the night. Finding recreational/hobby time is easy. Science-fiction and fantasy *is* my recreation and hobby. Going to cons, reading books, gaming, etc . . . all those things *are* my job, so there's no conflict with finding the time. I used to go to cons as a fan. Now I go to cons as a pro. I'm still going to cons.

Do you see yourself continuing the world of Control Point beyond the projected trilogy, or do you plan on moving on to other types of fiction once you finish the Shadow Ops trilogy?

I have a new series pitch that my agent is very excited about that I am in the process of refining, and hope to get it to the point where he'll take it out to market soon. It's modern (AKA urban) military fantasy, but lower magic than the SHADOW OPS series, with more of an occult feel. I think it should appeal to fans of the SHADOW OPS series and hope it will bring in new readers as well.

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About the Author: As a secu­rity con­tractor, gov­ern­ment civilian and mil­i­tary officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from Coun­tert­er­rorism to Cyber War­fare to Fed­eral Law Enforce­ment. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deep­water Horizon oil spill. All that conflict can wear a guy out. Thank goodness for fantasy novels, comic books, late night games of Dungeons and Dragons and lots of angst fueled writing.

Myke Cole Online

Get Control Point in paperback (left) or on Kindle (right)!

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