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. He is the bestselling writer of SHADOW OPS series. Visit him here.
NAW- Tell us about your book, Breach Zone. How did you get the idea for it? How difficult (or easy) is it penning down a book series?
BREACH ZONE is the third novel in my military fantasy SHADOW OPS series. It is my most ambitious published work, and shows a lot of the progress I’ve made in honing my craft. It’s the first of my books with a female Point-of-View character and my first on-screen romance. It borrows the structure of Mark Lawrence’s KING OF THORNS, weaving a non-linear, double-helix narrative overlapping chapters that occur in the past and the present. Its part siege, part sea-story, and I got to burn large portions of New York City to the ground, which I can tell you is very satisfying.
Writng a series is both difficult and easy. Difficult in that you have to be consistent across novels, but easy in that you don’t have to rebuild your entire world from the ground up each time. There are many noveilsts who do really well with long series (we’re talking 20 books or more with the same protagonist), but I’m not one of them. SHADOW OPS is a trilogy and BREACH ZONE is the conclusion. My next book, GEMINI CELL is set in the same universe, but I deliberately set it long before the 1st novel in the series, CONTROL POINT, and feature an entirely different cast of characters.
NAW- How long did you take to finish the book? How do you decide the titles for your works?
It took me 15 years to learn how to write well enough to sell CONTROL POINT and launch my professional career. Now that my books are under contract, I put out a book a year, reliably. I currently write about 2 books a year, with some short work thrown in for good measure.
It’s funny, the original titles for the books in the SHADOW OPS series were LATENT, RIVEN and UNION, but Ace/Roc rejected them as too passive. They offered to title the books themselves, but I refused. I think titles are really important and I wanted control over that. Ace/Roc did pick the SHADOW OPS series title.
NAW- Tell us about the character of Oscar Britton. How did you develop the character?
With Oscar Britton, I wanted to push back against the stereotype that all military members are confident, strong, certain and assertive. People in the military are like people everywhere else. SOME of us are strong and confident, and some of us are weak and indecisive, and everything in the middle. With Oscar Britton, I wanted to show a character who was a “good” soldier, and also a deeply flawed human being prone to the kinds of horrible errors in judgment that dog all of our lives. I wanted a hero that I could relate to, and for that to happen, I needed him to be a screw-up, blundering his way to what little glory he achieved.
NAW- Do you carry out a lot of research for your books? If yes, how do you go about it? I mean, do you do it largely on the internet or meet actual people? You must also draw inspiration from your own life, right?
I serve in the US military and work for a major metropolitan police force. Those two occupations provide most of what I need to get voice and tone right, but I also do a ton of research the same way all writers do: on the Internet. My friend Ron Collins has a great quote I like to repeat to all writers: “Writers have to live life like they’re hunting it.” It’s true. There is absolutely no substitute for seeking out and immersing yourself in new and challenging experiences. This isn’t a job for shut-ins.
NAW- You have presented each character as a multi faceted personality and I think that works well as war is never a one sided story. There are always two sides to it, right?
Absolutely, and this is exactly what I was aiming to do with Oscar Britton (and later with Allen Bookbinder and Jan Thorsson). War, and the motives and effects of war, is one of the most complicated endeavors humans can engage in. It’s impossible to distill it down to something binary. Trying to make sense of things like this is what artists do. It’s why we’re here.
NAW- What drew you to the thriller genre?
I wouldn’t call myself a thriller writer. I always wanted to write fantasy novels a la my childhood heroes like Tolkien, Lewis, Brooks, Anthony, Alexander and Christopher. When you add in my life experience as a military officer and law enforcement officer, it seems almost inevitable that I’d wind up writing a series that combined gunfights and magic.
NAW- Tell us about your other works.
I’ve just gotten beta-reads back on a “grimdark” fantasy novel I’ve written called THE FRACTURED GIRL. It’s completely new for me, a story with a 13 year old gay female protagonist in a medieval world loosely based on Merovingian France. I really like it, and so do my beta-readers and agent, but it still needs a lot of work. I have to get it exactly right, because it’s going to be an uphill fight convincing publishers that I can write outside the military milieu. Done right is always better than done fast, so I am going to take my time perfecting it.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I work. I’m not kidding. If my eyes are open, I’m working. It’s all I do, ever.
NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?
The first and foremost is my best friend Peter V. Brett, whose DEMON CYCLE series remains an example to me for prose styling and character development. I’m also a huge fan of the latest crop of “grimdark authors” Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Mark Lawrence and George R. R. Martin (of course). Big Patrick Rothfuss fan, as well as Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik. For science fiction, you can’t go wrong with Jack Campbell, Robert Buettner’s early stuff or Orson Scott Card (though I am just talking about the writing, not the man. I have some serious problems with who OSC is).
NAW-What are you currently reading?
Peter V. Brett’s THE SKULL THRONE, which is the next novel in his DEMON CYCLE series. It’s amazing so far, and I’m very lucky to get to beta-read for Pete. When I’m done, I will be finishing James S.A. Corey’s CALIBAN’S WAR, which is amazing science fiction written by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham under the Corey name. Next up after that is Joe Hill’s HORNS. I loved N0S4A2 and his comic LOCKE AND KEY.
NAW- What will you be working on next?
I’ll be editing THE FRACTURED GIRL and working on JAVELIN RAIN, the 5th novel set in my SHADOW OPS universe. It’s a sequel to GEMINI CELL and also takes place many years before CONTROL POINT.
CONTROL POINT (Excerpt)
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.
Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.
Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.
The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.