Interview – Myke Cole
Bane of Kings and Djinn24 both interview Myke Cole, author of the awesome debut novel Control Point, published in the US by Ace and in the UK by Headline. Bane of Kings’ review of Control Point can be found here, whilst Djinn24’s review can be found here.
Bane of Kings: So, let’s start this off with something simple. Who’s Myke Cole?
Myke Cole: I’m just this guy, you know?
If you must have more detail, I’m a military officer who never shed his nerd roots. I grew up on comic books, role-playing games and fantasy novels, and when you combine that with my life of work in/around/for the military, it was sort of inevitable that I’d write something like the SHADOW OPS series, which revolves around military Sorcerers.
Myke Cole: With the greatest blurb ever written. Fantasy author Peter V. Brett calls SHADOW OPS “Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men.” There is no better or more succinct description of the core concept.
Bane of Kings: Is there anything you can tell us about future instalments to the Shadow Ops series?
Myke Cole: Well, the jacket copy for FORTRESS FRONTIER (book 2 in the series) has been released now. I don’t want to provide any spoilers for BREACH ZONE (book 3 in the series), so I’ll just say that it draws a lot from Joe Abercrombie’s THE HEROES, which is a book length dissection of a single battle.
Bane of Kings: Which authors would you say were your biggest influence on the writing of Control Point?
Myke Cole: Peter V. Brett is my biggest writing influence bar none. If you haven’t checked out his DEMON CYCLE series, you are missing a treat. In a recent review of one of Pete’s novellas, the Staffer’s Musings blog says “In simplicity Brett finds a clarity of purpose often absent in complex and longer forms, making the reads compelling and satisfying despite their brevity.” There is no better summation of what makes Pete’s work so great (even in the longer form). Tight narrative, crisp prose styling, every word moving plot or developing character. It’s something I work overtime to emulate in my own writing.
Bane of Kings: If you had to read novels from one genre for the rest of your life, which genre would it be and why?
Myke Cole: Fantasy. Because . . . because I pretty much already do.
Bane of Kings: Which novel do you wish you could have written, and why?
Myke Cole: James Clavell’s SHOGUN. That book is so incredibly intricate, doing what George R. R. Martin is constantly praised for (keeping track of dozens of incredibly well realized and diverse characters as they weave the threads of an impossibly complex plot and still bringing it all to a satisfying conclusion). It’s one of those books that made we want to give up writing, because I thought I could never be that good. If that was the standard, then I was doomed to fall short of it. My own work tends to be simpler, but I’ve always enjoyed books of epic scope, and might work on my own some day.
Myke Cole: I am currently pitching my publisher on a new series, also military fantasy. It’s close enough to the SHADOW OPS concept that fans will like it, but different enough to bring in new readers. More on that as it develops.
Bane of Kings: What are you currently reading at the moment?
Myke Cole: The US Coast Guard’s Personnel Manual COMDTINST M1000.6A, Being in my current reserve unit is a full time job for which I receive part time pay.
Bane of Kings: What are your favourite activities outside of writing?
Myke Cole: Serving in the reserve, keeping fit (which is a requirement of my commission), reading, going to cons and gaming (which all sort of surround writing). So, the bottom line is that all of my activities outside of work are work-related. I’m afraid I’m one of those people who really isn’t a whole lot of fun.
Bane of Kings: As a fellow fan of the Warhammer 40k Universe, I’m going to ask, have you read any Black Library novels and if you have, what would you say are your favourite novels in that universe?
Myke Cole: I’m an Imperium guy (I know you’re SHOCKED to find that a uniformed officer of major state-based military would support the Imperium), so I guess I have my favorite Adeptus Astartes book and my favourite Imperial Guard book. I’d say Aaron Demski-Bowden’s HELSREACH tops the pops for the Astartes, and Steve Parker’s GUNHEADS is the best Imperial Guard piece. Both do what pretty much all 40k novels do (pit beleaguered Imperium forces against impossible odds in a rapidly shrinking universe), but these two do it with extra flair. That speech Chaplain Grimaldus gives on the city walls? Awesome.
Bane of Kings: If you could be any supernatural creature, which one would it be and why?
Myke Cole: Man, that’s a tough one. The two abilities I have always wanted to have are flight, and the ability to comprehend/speak all languages. I guess the only fantasy creatures that can do both of those are powerful psionics. Which means . . . Illithids? But they’re lawful evil. Oh, well. I guess so long as it’s lawful, I could handle it.
Bane of Kings: Do you listen to music whilst you’re writing, and if so, what music do you listen to? If not, why not?
Myke Cole: I find that I become anxious/lonely if I spend too much time by myself. I combat this by writing in public places (coffee shops, public library branches). I want to be around people, but I don’t want to be interacting with them (which will keep me from writing), so I drown them out by listening to movie soundtracks. This puts me in a cinematic mood, and also doesn’t distract me with lyrics (which is the same thing as being distracted by the conversations around me in the coffee shop. What can I say? I’m a natural eavesdropper).
Bane of Kings: Which novels are you most anticipating in the rest of 2012?
Myke Cole: Not sure if it’s happening this year, but I can’t wait to read Scott Lynch’s REPUBLIC OF THIEVES. Ditto (both on release date and wanting to read it) for Peter V. Brett’s THE DAYLIGHT WAR and whatever sequel Richard K. Morgan writes for THE COLD COMMANDS. Joe Abercrombie’s RED COUNTRY tops my list.
Bane of Kings: What would you say is your most anticipated event in the rest of the year?
Myke Cole: I leave for London tomorrow, where I’ll be doing a joint signing with Peter V. Brett and Joe Abercrombie, as well as my own signing, touring the area bookstores signing shelf-stock, hanging with Marc Aplin from Fantasy Faction, and visiting the London Coastguard. I know this is happening right away, but I am having a tough time seeing how anything else in 2012 is going to top it.
Djinn24: How much did your experience in the military and overseas play into the character development?
Myke Cole: It was seminal. My experience in the military and overseas has absolutely formed the person I am. The how and why of my writing is steeped in that ferment. Without the military, without Iraq, I am convinced I would never have become a professional writer.
Djinn24: Other reviewers have dogged you’re character development, especially that of Oscar Britton. How does that make you feel?
Myke Cole: This is a GREAT question, and one I’ve wanted to address for a while. When folks first started dinging Britton as “wishy-washy” or “cowardly” I tried to shrug it off as just one person’s opinion. But the sheer volume of sentiment was undeniable. It wasn’t a couple of anecdotes, it was a trend. That caused a period of soul-searching for me, as I thought carefully about the character I had created and why I had built him that way. In the end, I concluded this: My favourite stories involve protagonists who manage to behave heroically (including making mistakes of heroic proportions) in spite of their all-too-human frailty. I’ve always been frustrated by the “chosen ones” of fantasy, protagonists that are special just because they are, who act with a firm level of certainty that I could never muster. I can’t identify with those people. I was always more moved by Catelyn than Ned Stark. I identified so strongly with a broken, murderous Glokta or a petulant, drug-addled Ringil.
Because I’m uncertain. I’m weak. I make mistakes. I seesaw back and forth when faced with tough decisions. And I want to believe that I can be a hero too.
Are there people who, faced with Britton’s challenges (having to choose between everything he thought he belonged to and what he knows is right), could make solid, quick decisions with good outcomes? Sure there are. But I don’t know many of them, and I sure as hell can’t identify with them. In Britton, I tried to create a character who was truly, deeply human, and hoped the reader would sympathize with his struggle.
Some did. Others didn’t. I thought carefully about that as I created Alan Bookbinder for FORTRESS FRONTIER. Really interested to see what folks think of him.
Djinn24: Who is your favourite character of the series so far?
Myke Cole: It’d have to be Harlequin at this point. He can fly, for one thing, but he’s also got that lawful-good/boy scout quality to him that, while occasionally irritating, resonates so strongly for me with the best military officers. He changes in great ways throughout the series, and I love seeing his character arc unfold.
Djinn24: How’s life as a professional author so far treating you, what are the perks and downsides of doing it full time versus having a regular job and writing on the side, and are you tired of ramen noodles yet?
Myke Cole: On the one hand, I am absolutely living my dream. As I said, I’m off to London tomorrow. I’m rubbing elbows with all my literary heroes (I handed Neil Gaiman his Nebula down in DC a little while back). I’m doing only the things in life that I want to. On the other hand, writing is the most fraught occupation I’ve ever experienced. It combines everything that’s rough about being an artist, running a business and being a politician all rolled into one. The pressure to produce ever better work, be cool on social media and be smart about your marketing decisions is intense. That is stressful as hell, especially when you’re working twice as hard as you ever did at a day job to make just enough to starve more slowly. But being a fantasy novelist was my first real life-goal, the first dream I can ever remember having when I was a little boy. Now that I’ve achieved it? Yeah, that’s worth limiting your dietary options a bit.
Djinn24: Have you had any fanboy moments?
Myke Cole: Good lord. Practically every time I go to a party. The best one was the first time I met Joe Abercrombie, one of my favourite fantasy authors. He was having a drink with Peter V. Brett at a restaurant in New York City when I arrived after having a rough day and a rougher trip up from Washington, DC (where I was currently living).
I sat down at the table and Pete passed me a gin and tonic, saying “Myke, this is Joe Abercrombie.” “Really!?” I said. “Dude! I loved the First Law Trilogy, and I want to tell you all about it, but first? Alcohol!” And then I chugged the G&T.
What can I say? My fanboy squee moments are atypical.
Djinn24: Some people have said that you are sexist, citing the lack of female characters, and that who are there are evil or submissive. How does this make you feel and what do you have to say about it?
Myke Cole: I’m willing to cop to the judgments of Oscar Britton, but not this. Therese Del Aqua is a caring person, an empathetic person, but she is not a submissive person. Sarah Downer is an adolescent, still finding her way in the world and beginning to assert herself as a young adult. But that doesn’t make her submissive (far from it). And Scylla is not cartoonishly evil. There is a method to her madness, a rationale behind the choices she makes and the path she follows. The best antagonists make choices you don’t agree with based on reasons you do agree with. I strove hard to do that with Scylla, and feel after careful rereading of the story, that I was successful. Readers may disagree, and I respect that.
I value reader opinions. There is no “wrong” interpretation of my work. What a reader takes away from it is what they take away from it, and once the manuscript hits shelves, that’s no longer under my control. All I can do is listen to what my audience is saying and make my best decision about how to incorporate that into future manuscripts.
I do prefer it when people stick to judging my work, instead of using my work to make judgments of me (especially when they’ve never met me), but I also understand that’s life in the public eye. I don’t like it, but there’s no use in whining about it. The people who know me know I’m not sexist, and that’ll have to be enough. If those who bandy about those kind of ad hominem attacks ever want to grab a drink with me at a con, I think they’ll find that they were wrong.
If you want to find out more about Myke Cole, you can do so with the links below.
Follow Myke Cole on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MykeCole.
Myke Cole’s Website: http://mykecole.com/.
Add Control Point on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15705510-control-point.
Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer