Monday, April 28, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Chris Kennedy, Author

Chris Kennedy, Author
Amazon-Top-100-Science-Fiction author Chris Kennedy describes his books as “not your traditional sci-fi.” Rather, he says, they are more “speculative fiction with a side of fantasy.” His just-released novel, WHEN THE GODS AREN’T GODS, is the second story in The Theogony trilogy. Reviewers tout his action scenes and suspense, which he credits to his “keeping the action true to life.”

Kennedy has also published the Occupied Seattle duology concerning the invasion of Seattle by the Chinese. He is currently working on the conclusion to The Theogony trilogy, which he plans to release in late summer. In addition to writing, he works a full-time job, spends time with his family, and tries to manage to get in an occasional round or two of golf.

Don't miss the excerpt from WHEN THE GODS AREN'T GODS immediately following the description of the book at the end of the interview.

Q: How did you conceive of your “worlds” and “aliens” for your science fiction stories?  

Chris Kennedy: Before I answer that, Joyce, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to interview me.  I greatly appreciate it.

Looking at the question, I think it’s important to note at the start that the trilogy I am currently working on is not your traditional sci-fi story. It’s more speculative fiction than straight sci-fi; I like to think of it as “science fiction with a side of fantasy.”

The universe in The Theogony trilogy is built on science (‘what is’) with an overlay of fantasy (‘what may be.’) As far as the “worlds” go, the star systems in the books are stars that exist in our galaxy and the actual planets that our astronomers have found orbiting them. I had to add a few planets that scientists haven’t found yet, but that is mainly due to the imprecision of the instruments that we are currently using. I think that when we get out into space, we will find a lot more planets than we are able to see from Earth.

With regard to the “aliens,” I started with the premise that Earth’s folklore and mythology came from somewhere. As we haven’t found historical or fossil data for many of the creatures in our historical tales, they must have come from somewhere else…off planet…and they are still out there, just waiting for us to come find them again. For example, why does every Martian trope depict them as being short with a big head? There’s probably a reason. Maybe it leaked out from Roswell or Area 51…

Q: Your newest book WHEN THE GODS AREN’T GODS was just released and is a continuation of a previous book JANISSARIES. Why do you write in a series rather than standalone books?

Chris Kennedy: That’s a great question, Joyce. Although I’ve always liked series books the best, I know there are many readers out there that would rather have the whole story in one standalone book. One of my proofreaders, for example, prefers standalone stories. When she got to the end of my first book, RED TIDE: THE CHINESE INVASION OF SEATTLE, she called me up to ask, “Where’s the rest?” When she found out that she’d have to wait for the conclusion in the second book, she was NOT happy. 

The answer, though, is that the story in The Theogony trilogy was too big for a single book. JANISSARIES was about 105,000 words, WHEN THE GODS AREN’T GODS is over 109,000 and the conclusion, TERRA STANDS ALONE, will be the biggest one yet. It’s not quite WAR AND PEACE if you put them all together, but it isn’t too far off, either. One book couldn’t contain them, nor the books in the series that will follow The Theogony. It required a series.

That being said, I made a conscious effort to try to make each of The Theogony books a standalone story, where you can read it and feel that you read “a story,” even if it is part of a story on a much grander scale. I very much hope that I succeeded in this area, but will leave it up to the readers to decide if I did or did not. One Canadian reviewer seemed to think that I did, as he said, “So many of these trilogies or hexologies leave the reader feeling cheated at the end of a book, as there is no finish of the book, just a sudden stop. This book left me feeling good about the story I had read, and willing to wait for the author to complete the next one.” I hope everyone feels this way, including the readers that normally aren’t fans of series. I know that I’ve converted my proofreader; having read WHEN THE GODS AREN’T GODS, she can’t wait to find out what happens in TERRA STANDS ALONE. Maybe that’s why I always liked series books the best—it’s the anticipation of looking forward to the next one.

Q: In creating future worlds, how do you make them credible and believable? Does your background as a pilot help to create credibility? How important is back story?

Chris Kennedy: I think that each world and culture has to be developed in its entirety so that the author knows how members of that civilization are going to react to external stimuli. What makes sense from their viewpoint may make little or no sense from ours. The back story is important for developing the consistency necessary to keep them credible…but it isn’t always something that the reader is going to know everything about, any more than the characters in the story know about it until it is revealed. I don’t think that being a pilot helped with that. If anything, my credibility comes from the hundreds and thousands of science fiction and fantasy books that I’ve read over my lifetime. My books attempt to recreate the feelings of wonder and awe that I got from reading the masters that went before me. I’ve had a couple of reviewers compare me to some of them and it is humbling. I know I’m not there (yet), but it makes me want to make each book better than the one that preceded it, so that eventually I AM worthy of that compliment.

Q: Why do readers care about your characters?

Chris Kennedy:  I can’t say why every reader cares about the characters, but I know of at least a couple. First, I hope they care because they can see themselves in the place of the heroes. While some may be slightly larger than life, they are normal people trying to make the best they can out of bad situations, and they have personalities which readers can relate to and pull for.  The other reason is that there is a liberal use of “red shirts” throughout the books, where people have signed up to use their names as characters. These people, as well as their friends and relatives, are pulling for their favorite red shirt to make it out alive…or at least to have them die gloriously.

Q: Does the concept of “hero” versus “villain” apply to your books? If so, do you believe you need a villain to have a hero?

Chris Kennedy: Although there are enemies in my books, the stories have not revolved around the traditional “hero” versus “a villain.” The books do, however, periodically allow the reader to experience passing events through the eyes of the enemies, so that the reader understands that they do have a plan that the hero has to overcome. I don’t think that you have to have an individual villain, per se, but I think that it’s important to at least show scenes from the enemy’s perspective as a foil to better appreciate the hero’s actions. Without knowing the evil, you cannot appreciate the good.

Q: Reviewers appreciate the action scenes and suspense in your books. How do you create action and suspense?

Chris Kennedy: I try to create action and suspense by keeping the action true to life. Like the GAME OF THRONES books, by now my readers know that some of the characters in the book are going to die. Not all the enemies are storm troopers; enemies in my books have a distressing ability to shoot/claw/stab effectively that mirrors real life. There are also many times where several battles are happening simultaneously, and suspense builds as the scene is shifted through a number of different characters’ perspectives.

Q: Do you write your books strictly to entertain readers, or do you try to deliver a message or educate them?

Chris Kennedy: The books are written to entertain, because I know that people’s entertainment time and money are limited. When I read, I want to enjoy what I am reading. I have never enjoyed being preached at, so I won’t do it to anyone else. I don’t have any soap boxes to stand on; I am just trying to craft stories that people will enjoy reading. There may be some educational nuggets scattered throughout it, but the focus is on the story.

Q: You set your earlier books in Seattle. How helpful is setting your story in a familiar city or place like Seattle?

Chris Kennedy: I think that it is very important, because it taps into the reader’s connection with the location. For the American readers, the story doesn’t take place in a far off land, it takes place in a spot that they are emotionally invested in; the Chinese are invading the U.S.! To arms! To arms! The readers from other countries are able to connect as well, wondering when the Chinese will topple famous landmarks like the Space Needle. Seattle is a major iconic city that conjures up pictures in people’s minds, pictures that the readers are then able to connect with.

Q: What’s next?

Chris Kennedy: Next up is the conclusion to the trilogy, TERRA STANDS ALONE, which will be available later this summer. It already has 70,000+ words into it and will be larger than its predecessors. After that, I have several other books planned. Let’s face it, Joyce, it’s a big galaxy out there and civilization is struggling to hang on in many places. All of them could use a hero right about now.

Q: Tell us about Chris Kennedy. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?

Chris Kennedy: Working a full time job and still finding time to write take up a lot of my time. When I’m not doing one of those things, I try to spend quality time with my family, whether that is doing something with my kids or having a quiet meal out to connect with my wife. They are truly the center of my life. If I can sneak in a round or two of golf here and there, too, that’s just icing on the cake!

About Chris Kennedy

An Amazon Top 100 Science Fiction author, Chris Kennedy is a former aviator with over 3,000 hours flying attack and reconnaissance aircraft for the United States Navy, including many missions supporting U.S. Special Forces. He has also been an elementary school principal and has enjoyed 18 seasons as a softball coach. Chris is currently working as an Instructional Systems Designer for the Navy.

Chris has published two series. The first, the Occupied Seattle duology, contains RED TIDE: THE CHINESE INVASION OF SEATTLE and OCCUPIED SEATTLE the conclusion of the series. Both books are currently available. He is currently working on his latest series, The Theogony trilogy, of which JANISSARIES and WHEN THE GODS AREN'T GODS have both been released. The conclusion to the trilogy, “Terra Stands Alone,” will be released later this summer.

Lieutenant Commander Shawn ‘Calvin’ Hobbs and his special forces platoon just returned from a three-month mission to the stars. The technology they brought back will help, but it won’t be enough to hold off the alien menace headed their way. Although they returned alive, they returned without finding any new allies or help in building the fleet necessary to ensure the Earth’s survival.

They’ve got to go back.

What do you do when myths become reality, and nothing you have ever been taught about history turns out to be true? How do you find the truth when everything you know turns out to be a lie? What is there left to believe in, when even the gods aren’t gods?

Seacon Towers Apartments, London, January 12, 2020

       Master Chief O’Leary kicked in the door of the East End apartment and was greeted by a hail of bullets that hit him in the chest, despite his invisibility. “Damn it!” he grunted, as the impact of 12 bullets drove him back into the opposite wall. While the terrorists focused on O’Leary, other members of the platoon crashed through the back windows of the 4th floor apartment, taking the terrorists by surprise. The fight was over in less than a minute, the terrorists dead and Ryan with an expanding bruise on his chest. Although the suit stopped the bullets, as advertised, it did nothing to absorb the impact. Someone else gets to kick in the door next time, he vowed.

       Ryan surveyed the dead. No prisoners were taken, but then again, the terrorists hadn’t given them the chance...and the soldiers hadn’t really wanted to take any in the first place. The terrorists had nothing they needed, and to have to go through the motions of a trial was just...inconvenient. Besides, the terrorists shot first, and to come back to London when they were already wanted there was just stupid. Ryan shrugged. Just another example of Darwin’s rule of natural selection; they were obviously too stupid to live.

       Scattered among the remains of the bomb making materials, he found the jihadi bomb maker Samantha Lewthwaite, the notorious ‘White Widow’ that terror agencies in the U.S., U.K. and Kenya had been looking for since the Nairobi shopping mall terror attack in 2013 that killed more than 70 people. A key member of Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants, her career as a terrorist was over, courtesy of three laser blasts to her chest. Good riddance, he thought.

       Sirens wailed as the local police made their appearance. Ryan looked at his watch. If the shuttle wasn’t late coming down, they could still make it back to Moon Base Alpha in time for Happy Hour at the new bar that had just opened.

       Life was good.

The war with China was over and Lieutenant Shawn ‘Calvin’ Hobbs just wanted his life to go back to normal. The hero of the war, he had a small ream of paperwork to fill out, a deployment with his Navy F-18 squadron to prepare for, and a new girlfriend to spend some quality time with. Life was good.

Until the aliens showed up.

They had a ship and needed to get to their home planet, but didn't have a crew. They had seen Calvin’s unit in action during the war, though, and knew it was the right one for the job. There was just one small problem—a second race of aliens was coming, which would end all life on Earth. Calvin’s platoon might want to do something about that, too. Having already won a terrestrial war with 30 troops, winning an interstellar war with nothing but a 3,000 year old cruiser should be easy, right?

“Janissaries” initiates “The Theogony,” a trilogy that takes Lieutenant Hobbs and his Special Forces platoon to the stars where they will learn that there’s much more to Earth's history than is written in the history books!

We thought the war against China would be fought in Asia, not Seattle. We were wrong.

Analysts have long forecast that China would go to war to reintegrate the province of Taiwan. It isn't a matter of "if;" it's a matter of "when." For decades, the only thing that has restrained China from taking Taiwan by force of arms is the American promise to defend it, even if that meant World War III. To date, China has not been ready to go that far. But what if China figured out a way to put the United States on the sidelines of their fight to regain Taiwan?

Drawn from today's headlines, "Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle" is set in a not-too-distant future where China decides to invade Seattle to use American citizens as high-stakes chips in a game of nuclear blackmail. Will the United States get Seattle back?

Written by a former aviator with over 3,000 hours flying attack and reconnaissance aircraft for the United States Navy, including many missions supporting U.S. Special Forces, Red Tide is a look at one possible future that isn't as improbable as you might think. Events in it are not only possible, they're already happening. Could China attack the United States to get back Taiwan?


The Chinese Have Captured Seattle!

In 1949, the government of the Republic of China fled to the island of Taiwan. For nearly 70 years, the People's Republic of China has wanted to take the island back and unite the nation under one flag, the Communist flag. Their desire was thwarted by U.S. support for Taiwan, until the Chinese conceived and executed the perfect plan to keep the U.S. out of the war for Taiwan, an invasion of Seattle!

Yesterday, China captured the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, in a Pearl Harbor-like surprise attack. The Chinese also captured six American nuclear warheads and are not afraid to use them on American soil, if necessary to keep the United States 
out of the war in the Pacific. Without U.S. aid, the fall of Taiwan seems imminent, and now even Seattle seems lost to the Chinese.

America's hopes are riding on a shot-down F-18 pilot, a retired Navy SEAL, and a platoon of Army Rangers. If that's all America has going for it, all hope seems lost!


Twitter address: @ChrisKennedy110

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