Myke Cole is the author of Shadow Ops, a new series that blends magic and military special ops units, and it kicks off with the first book, Control Point. Myke is an interesting guy, and with his background as a military reservist, I was excited to ask him a few questions about his book and how his deployments influenced his writing.
[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Myke Cole] I’m a military reservist and fantasy novelist. I’ve done 3 tours in Iraq and responded to Deepwater Horizon and Hurricane Irene.
[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, Shadow Ops: Control Point?
[Myke Cole] I won’t repeat any of the jacket-copy, but I will say that it’s a story about modern military special operations units that use magic. When the direct action team kicks in the door, the guy bringing up the rear of the stick is a Sorcerer. That’s cool as hell (as are the scenes matching modern military hardware up against the monsters you know and love from Dungeons & Dragons), but the book is also asking deeper questions. It examines how the giant bureaucracies we charge with keeping us safe react when they are forced to choose between regulations and individuals. It also looks at what responsibilities individuals have when they’re faced with similar dilemmas.
[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Myke Cole] I was working in the Pentagon back in 1998, and just blown away by how process-focused everyone was. They had a rule for every little thing from wearing a uniform to brushing your teeth. I kept wondering "if magic were real, if magical creatures were real, how would this web of rules adjust to handle that?" That question became the basis for CONTROL POINT and the whole SHADOW OPS series.
[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?
[Myke Cole] Getting the voice of the characters right. The male lead is an African-American army aviator from Vermont. The female lead is a Puerto Rican woman from Los Angeles. I am nothing like either of them, and I worked really hard to make sure their distinct voices came through in a way that will be authentic to readers.
[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things Britton would never have in his pockets.
[Myke Cole] 1.) A nickel-bag of marijuana.
2.) A loose 9mm round.
3.) A Hello Kitty keychain-charm
[Manga Maniac Café] How did your military career help you become a better writer?
[Myke Cole] I wrote an entire blog post on this very topic here: http://johnmierau.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/want-to-be-a-pro-writer-soldier-up/
In short: the military taught me the value in accepting misery, learning to love mud and pain and all the hell that attends life’s toughest crucibles. Being a professional artist is harrowing, and it bears so many similarities to warfighting that I am surprised more people don’t immediately draw the comparison. When you commit to professional writing, you are throwing yourself into a maelstrom of public scrutiny, judgment and (most likely) poverty. It’s a different kind of hell than war, but all hells have this in common: you’ve got to be tough as nails to walk into them willingly. The military taught me to do that.
[Manga Maniac Café] What’s a typical day like in the life of Myke Cole?
[Myke Cole] I wish I knew. I’ve been a full-time writer/reservist for 9 months now, and I’ve yet to have a typical day. Between interviews, guest blog posts, writing my fiction, doing odd-jobs to bring in extra income, working social media, attending conventions and trying to have a social life, I keep the most random schedule in the world. Thank god for the reserve. It is the one stable force in my life. I know that, guaranteed, one weekend a month, I will get up at the appointed hour (too damn early), put on a uniform and have a regular working day (if you count working all night as "regular").
[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Myke Cole] Too many to name, so let me pick out a few of the most important. My friendship with Peter V. Brett is pretty common knowledge, but even if he was my bitter enemy, I’d still be in awe of his writing. His Demon Cycle is the single greatest influence on my writing in all arenas (prose-styling, plot arcs and character development). In comics, I’d have to credit Frank Miller (much as I think he’s gone insane lately and Holy Terror was really not to my taste) as having the most powerful impact on me. He brought a gritty darkness to comics that really brought the medium into a form that adults could enjoy. In film, it won’t surprise you to know that I’m a George Lucas guy, with Peter Jackson as his worthy successor. Boring, I know, but the truth is the truth.
[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Myke Cole] A laptop. I can’t write by hand and after giving it the ol’ college try, I am giving up on the iPad as a writing medium. Even with the bluetooth keyboard and Documents-to-Go, the applications/interface aren’t there yet.
Movie soundtracks. I get really lonely/maudlin writing by myself in my dump of an apartment. I either go to a coffee shop or the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library. I listen to movie soundtracks while I write. It drowns out other noise and puts me in a cinematic mood and won’t distract me with lyrics. This way, I can be surrounded by people and still get writing done.
Coffee. Buckets and buckets of coffee. Not only do I have horrible sleeping problems, but I have found that I’m a lot more focused and creative while caffeinated.
[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Myke Cole] Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three. I picked it out of a Scholastic catalog when I was in elementary school. The image of the Horned King on the cover absolutely captivated me. Fortunately, Alexander followed up the image with a book that gripped me and hauled me in. I’ve been a fantasy dork ever since.
[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Myke Cole] The ugly truth is that I’m officially NO FUN AT ALL. When I’m not writing, I’m either promoting my writing or on duty with the guard. Most of my social life is with publishing people or other writers, and we’re usually talking about the business or writing. I try to hit every convention I can, and I guess there’s some downtime there when I get to hang out in the game room and play D&D or Warhammer 40K. Again, thank goodness for the reserve, because it provides the one break from this. I’ll never forget when I asked to be excused from drill weekend so I could go to New York Comic Con. My commander said, "Let me get this straight. You want me to let you out of drill. To go to a COMIC BOOK CONVENTION!? Are you serious!?"
But she let me go, and it was awesome. I guess I’ve hit on the two things I want to do with my life: write stories about magic and serve my country. That’s pretty much all I want to do. If that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
Have a great weekend!
[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!
Shadow Ops: Control Point hits stores tomorrow in print and digital formats: