Interview with Michael Z Williamson aka MadMike.
TheCO: What can readers of the first book expect in this one?
MZW: It’s more streamlined. Freehold had too many plot elements–it was my first. This has a better focus.
TheCO: Who is the main character of this novel?
MZW: Cpt Kenneth Chinran, who led the Freehold ground attack on Earth.
TheCO: What is the ‘point’ of this novel? Is it just good escapist brain candy, or is there some underlying ethical imperative?
MZW: I’d actually written a large part of it before Sept 11. The cautionary tale therein is even more important now. It’s a comment on the fragility of large systems. To an extent, they are self-repairing around accidents, much like any organism. But a sufficiently large attack requires external medicine to prevent maiming or death.
TheCO: What were some of the differences you noticed writing structure wise between this and the first novel?
MZW: I switched to first person for this one, to capture the flavor of the character. There are lots of things that can’t be covered from a
single, focused POV, but it also gets the single point emotions to hit
harder, I think. Some writers caution against it, and I even had one
tell me that nothing good had ever been written first person. I guess
Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Double Star and The Moon is a Harsh
Mistress are no good then, not to mention a large number of Ellison’s
work, Niven’s, Donald Kingsbury and Dean Ing…
TheCO: As you write more is it getting easier for you to drive the plot and keep things moving?
MZW: I’ve never had a problem with that, actually.
TheCO About how many words do you do per day?
MZW: I try for at least 1000. Some days I do 5-7K. More than that and I think any writer loses focus and is just filling space. Fine for roughing things on a deadline, not good for a self-consistent, polished final product.
TheCO: What if any book that you’ve read would you compare this to?
MZW: I hate doing that. I’m not trying to be anyone else. I’m trying to be
me. There are obvious Heinlein influences in all my stuff, and Pournelle. But I don’t want to be compared to them as far as style.
TheCO: Can you describe your typical workday writing?
MZW: I either write very early or very late, when my brain isn’t engaged in mundane matters like bills and such, so right after my daughter leaves for school and my son isn’t awake, or after 11pm until whenever. Unless the bug bites me and I pick some other time.
TheCO: What does the future have in store for this world? And for this character?
MZW: This character? A very, very busy life. First as ultimate killer, then as ultimate target for the threat he is, then a frustrated attempt to be normal. Lots of stuff in the Freehold universe-development and basis of it, the war, eventual decline and stagnation, numerous side issues, human stories and economic and political matters.
TheCO: What authors do you admire most among the current crop of
writers? Among the “classic” writers?
MZW: Eric Flint is a very good writer, but I haven’t read much of his. Lars Walker is grossly underrated and a fantastic writer for moral discussions. Steven Barnes. David Weber is vastly entertaining. Bujold can always tell a good story.
Not “classic,” but David Drake not only defined a genre, but has a
spare yet vivid style everyone should take a look at. Niven, Pournelle, Poul Anderson, Ellison for human effect, Pierre Boulle, Edgar Pangborn, occasional John Brunner.
TheCO: You collaborated with John Ringo for a novel, how was that?
MZW: Interesting. I had to explore that universe, and I had limited ways to adapt it, but greatly enjoyed them. We started with the rule that the Darhel character couldn’t kill, yet he’s a soldier. “Well, dammit, how the hell is the Darhel going to kill?” That was entirely up to me. I had a lot of fun with it.
TheCO: How much did it affect your writing style to be working
TheCO: Not so much. John insisted on a couple of dialog style issues that I largely agree with now–I’d never seen them. I insisted a couple of parts were flat out unrealistic and he let me change them from the rough draft. I tried to sink into the feel of the outline I had, and as it was set in rough terrain with predators, I used a healthy dose of Peter Capstick for creating mental images. He wasn’t SF, but he’s still well worth reading.
TheCO: Is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future?
MZW: Several come to mind but I wouldn’t want to jinx anything or create any rumors.
TheCO: Thus far you’ve written near future semi main stream mil-fiction, and slightly more traditional far future sf, what other branches of writing can we expect to see you explore?
MZW: I’ve also written political satire, technical non-fiction, erotica. I keep pushing to get more human interaction (“politics”) and emotion into things. At the same time, a part of me keeps trying to up the physical struggle (“fighting”) when I do. I’m working on a near future SF now with a collaborator–and hoping for it to be picked up soon–with what I call the “kitchen sink battle”: An absolute desperate fight for survival with totally non-military hardware and improvised weapons galore. Just what are people capable of with good non-military resources and a threat of extinction? It’s also far deeper into contemporary politics than I’ve gone before. There’s an immoderate dose of sarcasm in it, too.
TheCO: What other works should people look for with your name on
MZW: Currently, Freehold, The Hero and The Weapon from Baen, The Scope of Justice and Targets of Opportunity from HarperCollins’ Avon imprint,
with Confirmed Kill pending, a short story in the next Valdemar anthology, assorted comments and articles on my website and at www.keepandbeararms.com, a pending illustrated article about the US
Army Sniper School, and I’ve got 4-6 more in negotiation. Sooner would be better. I’m in the famine stage of Feast or Famine.
TheCO: What works are forth coming from you?
MZW: The Weapon and Confirmed Kill. Depending on when this interview us published, Targets of Opportunity will either be out or just about to hit stores.
TheCO: Is there anyplace your fans can find you on the web?
MZW: www.michaelzwilliamson.com www.sharppointythings.com
www.thehighroad.org (firearm forum, as madmike) www.bar.baen.com (Baen
Publishing’s online forum, as madmike), www.keepandbeararms.com and
anywhere I’m quoted by others.
TheCO: You’ve been quite generous in discussing your forthcoming
sequel to Freehold, now lets switch gears and talk about
your other work. What makes Scope of Justice and Targets of
Opportunity different from Freehold and The Weapon?
MZW: There are the limits of the contemporary world, and the further limits of military operational policies and regulations to keep (mostly) in mind. This affects how the story is told.
TheCO: Can you introduce us to some of the people we’ll meet
within the pages of Targets?
MZW: Kyle Monroe and Wade Curtis, experience and professional Army snipers. My goal was to keep the story exciting but try to be realistic as far as operations. There aren’t firefights on every page, and their goal is to be discreet. They start out barely knowing each other, but by the end, Kyle with his professional pessimism and determination, and Wade with his sarcastic sense of humor are good friends and work well together.
TheCO: Do you find writing the sequels more or less fun than the
original books in a series?
MZW: There’s usually another story behind everything. The trick is to tell THAT story and not rehash what’s been done already.
TheCO: What three words best sum up Targets?
MZW: Sheesh, most editors ask for a 20 word description.
TheCO: How do the politics differ, or over lap between the
Scopes/Target world and the Freehold/Weapon world?
MZW: The Freehold universe is more libertarian. I can’t make all my
characters that way, nor is it realistic for most contemporary
characters. Kyle and Wade have a strong streak of American
independence but are more on the traditionally conservative side.
TheCO: How many more installments can we look forward to in this
MZW: Just the three for now. If you all buy copies, the contract can be extended and I’ll write more. Hint, hint.
The CO: And last, thank you for the interview, and is there
anything you’d like to say to your current and future fans?
MZW: Thanks for the trip so far. It’s been a hell of a ride.
And that ladies and gents is MadMike Williamson. A man I’ve now met in the flesh twice, played with his kids, met his wife, and had the pleasure of buying both books and blades from. Mad Mike is “good people”. Until next time, stay casual, you know I will.
(edited to add link to The Hero)