Wednesday, August 30, 2017

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Chris Kennedy & Mark Wandrey, Science Fiction Authors

Chris Kennedy, Author

Science Fiction authors Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey teamed up to bring us THE REVELATIONS CYCLE, a series of military science fiction novels. The two authors write what they like to read—real-life characters, rather than bigger than life heroes, and a “fun, imaginative, but credible read” free of messages. Villains we can relate to, but hate.

Chris Kennedy, former naval aviator and elementary school principal, has also written the "Theogony" and "Codex Regius" science fiction trilogies. In addition, he is a publisher and is currently working on his next book, The Progenitors’ War.

Mark Wandrey, whose diverse background he believes contributed to his writing, has also written the Turning Point series, a zombie apocalypse book with a twist and the Earth Song series, five space opera books. Next up is Four Horsemen – Alpha Contracts.

Don't miss the two excerpts following the interview.

Mark Wandrey, Author
Q: I’m always fascinated with the origin of Science Fiction plots, which typically seem so creative. Your five-book (so far) series THE REVELATIONS CYCLE has been described as “military sci-fi, powered armor squaring off 
against advanced alien technology, and a little bit of skullduggery and cloak and dagger…” How do you conceive of these plots? What inspires them? Do your backgrounds have any influence on plot-creation?

Chris Kennedy: As a former naval aviator, I would have to say that my background plays pretty heavily in influencing my stories, and I am drawn to stories that involve flying, at least a little, whether that is in atmosphere or in space. Regarding THE REVELATIONS CYCLE, though, Mark is the main creator, so I’ll let him take it from here.

Mark Wandrey: I’m inspired greatly by what I consider the golden age of mil-sf, the 60’s and 70’s. Hammer’s Slammers, Starship Troopers, Asimov’s Foundation. I wanted to create a universe with some pretty tight rules, which I believe goes against the current tenants of SF where there are planet-killing energy weapons, super-powerful inertial compensators, and faster-than-light communications. If you’ve read any 4HU (Four Horsemen Universe), you know we have none of those. I believe these tighter rules have actually given us a deeper playground, instead of shallower. Yes, it makes it a little tougher for the writers—you can’t use as much handwavium—but the stories are more colorful and down to earth.

That said, the stories tend to be what I’d like to read, and influenced by what I have read. A lot of times I’ll just create one from whole cloth, and it works, or it doesn’t. The main story line for THE REVELATIONS CYCLE (4 books and 2 anthologies so far) is based around a primary plot I came up with, heavily influenced (and improved) by Chris Kennedy’s input.

Q: I assume that you are both readers of science fiction. Who are your favorite authors? Why? What other genres do you read?

Mark Wandrey: Robert A. Heinlein by a long shot. Behind him, and equal in many ways would be Gregg Bear, Ben Bova, John Varley, Alan Dean Foster, Orson Scott Card (influence for my Earth Song universe), and Larry Correia (for action and fun). I mostly read SF, but I’m also a huge fan of ZA (zombie apocalypse), which influenced me to create my Turning Point series, last year’s Dragon Finalist A Time to Die. I’ve just felt ZA books needed a little realism, and tried to incorporate it into my series.

Chris Kennedy: My favorite authors are David Weber and John Ringo. I love Weber’s space opera and Ringo’s gritty combat. They say that an author is the sum total of every author he/she ever read; if that’s true, you’ll see an awful lot of Weber and Ringo in my writing.

Q: How do you decide who will write which books? Do you review the plot and characters with each other?  Do you have any “will not include” characters or scenes that you’ve agreed never to use?

Chris Kennedy: Mark had almost completed the first book, Cartwright’s Cavaliers, when I agreed to team up with him, so alternating books was an easy way to start since we live in different states. As we’ve written them, we’ve developed a number of support mechanisms, like sharing information on a Google drive and over Facebook, which will help us as we begin to write the next books together. Our next book, The Four Horsemen – Alpha Contracts, will see us together for the first time under the same cover (besides the anthologies), and then the next series, the Omega Wars, will be completely co-written. After that? We’ll see what fans think.

Q: How do you make the stories credible? Do you create rules within the worlds that you build? What will cause a reader to stop reading a science fiction story?

Mark Wandrey: Credible fiction has always been a must for me. The best written books that can’t maintain that necessary edge of believability, and avoid completely shattering your level of disbelief, are not readable to me. I think that’s a number 2 killer for most readers, right after horrible editing, and excessive ‘message fiction.’ Chris and I strive to give our fans a fun, imaginative, but credible read. As credible as giant robots, kaiju, and fusion powered starships can be, anyway.

Q: Speaking of messages, do you find that science fiction enables you to deliver a message or do you write strictly to entertain your readers? What kinds of messages do you want your reader to walk away with?

Chris Kennedy: We made a conscious decision early on that these books would be “message free.” There is too much message fiction and too much in-fighting in all aspects of society at the moment. We wanted a universe where readers could get away from all of that and just enjoy the ride. Based on the series’ reviews, I think we’ve been pretty successful in creating that environment—Mark may have been too modest to mention it, but Cartwright’s Cavaliers is a finalist for the Dragon Award for Military Scifi this year.

Q: What makes an effective villain in science fiction and in THE REVELATIONS CYCLE books specifically? Who is your favorite villain of all time?

Mark Wandrey: The best villains are the ones you can both relate to, and hate at the same time. My favorite is actually two, Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace because he was just a glorious pit bull of a bad guy, and the other is Jenner from The Secret of Nimh. He’s a classic ‘my way is better’ back stage manipulator, but when faced with that grand choice, doesn’t mind getting his hands bloody.

Chris Kennedy: With Revelations and into the next series, we’ve intentionally limited how much the readers know about the villains, and have introduced them, little by little, lending an aura of mystery to them. Now that the readers think they know who the villains really are, they may find out that they don’t know as much as they think they do…

Q: How do you engage your readers to care about your characters? Do you prefer “comic-book super heroes?” or everyday people placed in extraordinary circumstances? If the latter, what gives them the ability to fight off the villains?

Mark Wandrey: I make my characters as real as possible. In  CARTWRIGHT'S CAVALIERS the hero is an overweight teenager who inherits a merc company. He’s also into 20th century pop culture and is a bit of a brony. I’ve caught heat for that, but I’ve also had a huge swell of approval for a ‘non standard’ hero. But you can relate to him, and that makes you care. I don’t like larger than life heroes, they might well be one of those elements you mentioned earlier that ruin a story for me. Since it’s the latter, I’d say the good guy’s ability to win is usually because their cause is just, and they have a firm will and noble heart. Okay, right, sometimes it’s just luck and picking the right friends.

Chris Kennedy: I don’t think any of our main characters have been superheroes—all four have their own failings that they will have to overcome as the series moves forward. Personally, I think that makes them more relatable to readers. That said, one of the characters I wrote has been the least liked of any of the Horsemen, because of his imperfections. I tend to look at it from the other side though—who else has the greatest potential for growth?

Q:  Are you able to use your settings to drive the story or develop your characters? How valuable is the use of humor to create your characters?

Mark Wandrey: The settings are just as useful in character development as situations. I believe that using one and ignoring the other contributes to a 2-dimensional character. Humor can be quite valuable, if the story calls for it. I try to interject at least a little into even the most somber scenes, but sometimes grim is best. So I guess the answer is ‘sometimes.’

Chris Kennedy: You learn a lot more about someone through adversity than you do when the times are good. So far, there’s been a lot of adversity for the Horsemen, which has allowed us to develop the characters and has given readers some good insight into what drives them. As far as humor goes, most people read because they’re looking for some form of escapism from their daily problems; if you don’t have some humor in the story, it won’t be as much “fun” for the readers. I’m a fan of humor.

Q: What’s next for both of you?

Mark Wandrey: Next up is Four Horsemen – Alpha Contracts in the 4HU. For myself, I’ll be relaunching my Earth Song series with the release of Overture, a book I first wrote nearly 20 years ago. It needed updating. After Alpha Contracts comes Omega Wars, and several other standalone books in the 4HU as well such as Peacemaker by Kevin Ikenberry. The skies are the limit just now, and I love this business.

Chris Kennedy: In addition to working with Mark on the 4HU, I am also the publisher for a number of other authors, which keeps me pretty busy but lets me produce some great scifi and fantasy. In addition to that, I’m also working on the next book in my own series, The Progenitors’ War.

Q: What do you both like to do when you’re not writing?

Mark Wandrey: Right now I have a day job as a US Customs Broker. I’m an avid shooter and love to travel. In mid-September, Chris and I are going to New Zealand for a signing tour.

Chris Kennedy: In addition to writing and publishing, I also work as the curriculum manager for enlisted sailors who are learning to maintain the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet fighters. Yeah, that’s a lot, but I have three kids in college, so…I just don’t sleep that much. When I get the time (or make it, more like), I love to play golf and travel. After the book tour of New Zealand this year, we’re setting our sights on the UK for next year’s book tour. I can’t wait!

About Chris Kennedy
A bestselling Science Fiction/Fantasy author, speaker, and publisher, Chris Kennedy is a former naval aviator and elementary school principal. Chris' stories include the "Theogony" and "Codex Regius" science fiction trilogies and stories in the "Four Horsemen" military scifi series.

Chris is the author of the award-winning #1 bestseller, "Self-Publishing for Profit: How to Get Your Book Out of Your Head and Into the Stores." Called "fantastic" and "a great speaker," he has coached hundreds of beginning authors and budding novelists on how to self-publish their stories at a variety of conferences, conventions, and writing guild presentations, and he has published six authors under various imprints of his Chris Kennedy Publishing small press.

Chris lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he manages the curriculum for sailors learning to maintain the Navy's F-18 Hornet. He is the holder of a doctorate in educational leadership and master's degrees in both business and public administration.

About Mark Wandrey
Located in rural Tennessee, Mark Wandrey has been creating new worlds since he was old enough to write. After penning countless short stories, he realized novels were his real calling and hasn't looked back since. A lifetime of diverse jobs, extensive travels, and living in most areas of the country have uniquely equipped him with experiences to color his stories in ways many find engaging and thought provoking. 

His current work is the Four Horsemen Universe, centering around the recently released Cartwright's Cavaliers, and coming soon Winged Hussars. The Four Horsemen Universe, 4HU, is full of aliens, mercenaries, and adventure. Placed just a hundred years in the future, humanity finds itself part of a Galactic Union filled with thousands of races, and the only thing we have of value to trade is our time honed ability to kick butt. 

His other series include the Turning Point series, a zombie apocalypse book with a twist. A Time to Die (2016 DragonCon Dragon Award finalist) was released in May 2016, and the soon to be released sequel, A Time to Run. He also has the Earth Song series, five space opera books placed in a future where an orphaned mankind must fight for its very existence in a hostile galaxy.


Book 1: CARTWRIGHT’S CAVALIERS by Mark Wandrey

Heir to one of the leading “Four Horsemen” mercenary companies, Jim Cartwright is having a bad year. Having failed his high school VOWS tests, he's just learned his mother bankrupted the family company before disappearing, robbing him of his Cavalier birthright. 

But the Horsemen of eras past were smart—they left a legacy of equipment Jim can use to complete the next contract and resurrect the company. It’s up to Jim to find the people he needs to operate the machinery of war, train them, and lead them to victory. If he’s good enough, the company can still be salvaged.


The last two operational tanks were trapped on their chosen path. Faced with destroyed vehicles front and back, they cut sideways to the edge of the dry river bed they’d been moving along and found several large boulders to maneuver around that allowed them to present a hull-down defensive position. Their troopers rallied on that position. It was starting to look like they’d dig in when Phoenix 1 screamed over and strafed them with dual streams of railgun rounds. A split second later, Phoenix 2 followed on a parallel path. Jim was just cheering the air attack when he saw it. The sixth damned tank, and it was a heavy.
“I got that last tank,” Jim said over the command net.
“Observe and stand by,” Murdock said.
“We’ll have these in hand shortly,” Buddha agreed, his transmission interspersed with the thudding of his CASPer firing its magnet accelerator. “We can be there in a few minutes.”
Jim examined his battlespace. The tank was massive. It had to be one of the fusion-powered beasts he’d read about. Which meant shields and energy weapons. It was heading down the same gap the APC had taken, so it was heading right towards that APC and Second Squad, and fast.
“Shit,” he said.
“Jim,” Hargrave said, “we’re in position. What are you doing?”
“Leading,” Jim said as he jumped out from the rock wall.

Book 2: ASBARAN SOLUTIONS by Chris Kennedy

Nigel Shirazi was first in line for the chairmanship of Asbaran Solutions, one of the prominent “Four Horsemen” mercenary companies. First in line…until his drinking and temper caused him to fail out of college and get disinherited by the family.

Now he leads the life of a playboy. Nigel will have to learn to control himself if he’s going to take the reins of the company, figure out who’s behind the vendetta against Asbaran, and work out a way to stop them. But they’ve taken his sister hostage, and that makes him a very, very angry man!

Planet Moorhouse, Kepler 62 System
“This is bullshit,” Sergeant James Wilson said. The tall, dark-haired trooper spat, the betel nut chew making his spittle a bright crimson on the sun-bleached sand.
“What’s bullshit?” Private Dave Daniels asked, his pale brows knitting. “This is only my second contract, but it seems like pretty good duty to me. Walk some fence line, guard a mine, and get paid a ton of credits? Seems pretty soft. No one’s trying to kill me, and I can go down to the bar after my shift. Sure, the locals look like anteaters, but they pay well enough so I can afford some of the overpriced beer they’ve imported.”
“Naw, that ain’t what I’m talking about, at all,” the sergeant replied. He spat again. “Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy not getting shot at as much as anyone. Having actually been hit a couple of times, I may even enjoy it more. What I’m saying is that this whole contract’s fucked up.”
“Why’s that?”
“Do you see the bird on our crest?” Sergeant Wilson asked, pointing to where the Asbaran Solutions company flag hung limply from the staff in the humid, breezeless air.
Private Daniels nodded his head, then wiped the sweat from his eyes the motion caused. “Yeah. There’s a bird with the company’s motto, ‘Kill Aliens. Get Paid.’”
“Do you know what kind of bird that is?”
“Nope; it looks like some sort of griffin.”
The sergeant stopped and glared at the junior enlisted. “Do they not teach unit history at basic any more, or are you just too fucking stupid to remember? It ain’t no damn griffin, boy; it’s a huma bird.”
“A huma bird?”
“Yeah. It’s a type of bird that never lands; it lives its entire life flying above the clouds where you can never see it.”
“Wow, that’s pretty cool. I’ve never heard of a bird like that.”
“That’s because it doesn’t exist, you dumbass,” the sergeant said, cuffing the private in the back of the head. “It’s myth-o-logical. The point I’m trying to get through your stupid fucking head is that us Asbaran ain’t for sitting around guarding shit. We’re mobile; we strike from above and crush our enemies. We don’t hang around waiting for them to hit us while we’re sitting on the damned toilet in a guardhouse on some godforsaken planet at the ass-end of the galaxy.” He spat; another red stain marked his passage. “If the Founder could see us now…”
“What? What would he do?”
“If the Founder could see us now, he’d probably come back and kill every single mother fucker in management. This ain’t how we’re supposed to be used. It don’t play to our strengths…and it just ain’t right!” He sighed. “It ain’t what I signed up for anyway.” He spat again, hitting his first mark dead center. “I signed up to be up there,” he continued, pointing up to the sky.
Daniels looked up to where the sergeant pointed and squinted. “Hey, what’s that?” he asked. “There’s something up there.”
Sergeant Wilson looked up. A miniature boomerang shape could just be seen, silhouetted against the clear green sky. “Fuck!” he grunted as he broke into a run back toward the shelter. “Incoming! Get under cover now!
He had only covered half the distance to the bunker when he heard the tell-tale shriek of the banshee bombs, and he knew they weren’t going to make it.

Book 3:  WINGED HUSSARS by Mark Wandrey

For more than a century, Winged Hussars has been the richest of Earth's mercenary companies, as well as the only one to specialize in space warfare. Led by Alexis Cromwell, they have carved out a reputation in the galaxy for being dependable, unflappable, and lethally efficient. Until people began shooting at them everywhere they went.

The Four Horsemen are being hunted, and the Hussar’s future is dark. But there’s one thing Alexis’ enemies didn’t count on—Alexis Cromwell is nobody’s prey.

Book 4: THE GOLDEN HORDE by Chris Kennedy

The slaughter is on! Across the galaxy, Human mercenaries are being ambushed, and an ever-increasing number of companies aren’t returning from their contracts. Someone even appears to be plotting the demise of the premier Four Horsemen companies, and disaster for the other three companies has only been averted by the narrowest of margins.

The fourth horseman is in play, and time is running out to save the Earth and everyone on it!

Book 5:  A FISTFUL OF CREDITS – Anthology edited by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey

Fourteen outstanding authors. Fourteen extraordinary stories. One bestselling universe.

It’s the Twenty-Second Century. The galaxy has opened up to humanity as a hyperactive beehive of stargates and new technologies, and we suddenly find ourselves in a vast playground of different races, environments, and cultures. There’s just one catch: we are pretty much at the bottom of the food chain.

Enter the Four Horsemen universe, where only a willingness to fight and die for money separates Humans from the majority of the other races. Enter a galaxy not only of mercenaries, but also of Peacemakers, bounty hunters, and even a strung out junkie in the
way of a hired assassin.

THE REVELATIONS CYCLE (Four Horsemen) Series Page 

Mark Wandrey

Chris Kennedy

Twitter: @ChrisKennedy110

No comments:

Post a Comment