Interview – Ian J. Malone, author of MAKO
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Ian J. Malone, author of the Science-Fiction novel MAKO, book one of the Mako Saga. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Ian. Make yourself at home.
Ian J. Malone: Thanks guys. Glad to be here… Ooh, coffee! Awesome! 😉
SPS: Before we talk about MAKO and your current progress with book 2, can you let our readers know a little bit about yourself?
IJM: Hmmm. Well, for starters I’m a 36 year old Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State, now living in the heart of ACC country in Raleigh, NC. So suffice it to say, that makes the Malone house a pretty interesting place to be during basketball season, particularly since I met and later married a die-hard NC State fan shortly after moving here. LOL
Literarily speaking, I’m a huge fan of anything with good characters. Regardless of genre, I’m a firm believer that any story — no matter how crazy or far-fetched — can be told, and told well provided that we as readers care about those affected by its outcome. So whether it’s a quaint little love story about long-lost souls finding their way back to each other after years of hardship, or an epic SF geek-a-thon with zombie armadas and pulse rifles, I’m all about giving it a go as long as I connect to the people.
Beyond books, and as my blog readers will tell you, I’m an avid fan of music, movies, cooking, the beach, and of course… college sports!!!
SPS: Where did your love of writing come from and when did you realize that you wanted to produce a novel?
IJM: I’ve been writing since middle school, really. As a kid raised on Star Wars and Star Trek: TNG, it only made sense that I’d eventually start penning stuff of my own, if for no other reason than to score an easy A in English class. Then, somewhere around my senior year, I shifted to journalism after interning for a local radio station, and that pretty much set the tone for my career moving forward. As a matter of fact, I’m still in public affairs today.
In the spring of 2009, however, after six months of unemployment (and on the heels of a divorce), I’d reached my wits-end with resume and cover letter writing, and it was then that I found my way back to fiction as a means of escape. I’d had this crazy little story in mind for a while about a group of old friends — all far from enamored with life after college — reuniting back home for drinks and nostalgia only to be swept up into a grand adventure where they’d not only ban together for the greater good, but in the process, find those pieces of themselves that they’d always been searching for.
In total candor, MAKO was always a fun, “feel good” piece to me, in part because that’s very much what I enjoy reading, though largely because that’s what I needed in my life at the time. As anyone who’s been unemployed will tell you, it’s quite the depressing experience, and this little story — while somewhat zany at times — allowed me a platform to vent some of that emotion and channel it into these five characters. As such (and as many of my Amazon reviews would suggest), this brought a real humanity to MAKO that made it accessible to a lot of people who wouldn’t ordinarily read speculative fiction, but who know all too well what it means to be down on your luck in life and dreaming of something more.
SPS: The first book in the series is MAKO, where we discover the main characters defeating the revolutionary new online game MAKO ASSAULT. Can you tell us about the game?
IJM: The actual game, MAKO ASSAULT, was really just a means of connecting our world on Earth to that of the Aurans, and to explain how and why these five “ordinary people” could hone their skills on such an expedited timetable. Beyond that, it’s really not a crucial component of the story.
As for its inspiration, I grew up on films like Tron and The Last Starfighter, and while I always thought the whole “video game to reality” thing was a neat plot device, that really began to hit me as I got older and gaming evolved from titles like Contra and After Burner into what it is now with Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. I mean, it’s practically VR now. Then, one day I watched a story on CNN about how various branches of the military were using sims as training tools for real-life soldiers, and that’s when I decided to put pen to paper.
SPS: All is not as it seems though, as it turns out the game was in reality a way of training people; but what are the reasons behind the training?
IJM: Basically, the Aurans are losing ground by the day in their decade-long war with Alystier, mostly because their military (the Auran Star Corps, or ASC) was never built to sustain a conflict for this long. Frankly, they just don’t have the numbers to continue the fight.
The Mimic Project represents a chance to change all of that. In spite of its potential, however, the program signifies a radical break from conventional training which makes it quite the controversial matter among the brass. Combine that with the ASC’s intelligence system which is riddled with leaks and it only made sense to beta-test the protocol off-world and off the books.
SPS: How do the main characters react to this new and unexpected development?
IJM: Like anyone, I suppose; with mixed emotion. On one hand, there’s very much a sense of “Screw that! This ain’t our war!” but at the same time, there’s very much the allure of deep space and the moral drive to want to help these people. Add to that the total state of lethargy surrounding their lives on Earth plus a sizable fortune in exchange for their efforts, and grudgingly, they agree to go play lab rat for a while.
SPS You’re currently working on Book 2, RED SKY DAWNING (RSD). How is it coming along?
IJM: Pretty well. I hope to have draft one done in the next few weeks, with beta reading set to get underway sometime by Christmas. Assuming all goes to plan, that should put us on-track for spring editing and a summer 2014 release.
SPS: You get to introduce some new characters in this next installment in addition to the returning cast. How much are you looking forward to it?
IJM: A lot. Developing characters is, without a doubt, my favorite part of writing fiction. Don’t get me wrong, as an SF guy, I love starfighters and tech as much as the next red-blooded fanboy. But at the end of the day, I love writing people. Who are they? Where do they come from? What makes them tick as individuals?
Applying that now to series writing, new characters are great because they serve as a conduit for new readers who skipped book one while also keeping things fresh for returning readers and the author.
With respect to RSD (and sort of letting the cat out of the bag a bit), one of the newbies we get to meet is Lee’s big sister, Katie. For reasons revealed early on in the story, she finds her way onto the team and, just like the others, is blown away by the revelation of human life on other worlds, to say nothing of her little brother’s involvement with them. As was briefly mentioned in MAKO, though, Katie is quite different from the others in that, professionally speaking, her background is anything but blue-collar. She’s a world-class surgeon whose medical knowledge and research training make her infinitely more suited to handling this kind of discovery. So while initially she’s as shocked as anyone, she’s able to transition pretty quickly by virtue of her scientific point of view.
SPS: We understand that you even got to invent your own version of an MMA (Kachuro). That’s every man’s dream, right?
IJM: Haaaa!!! Yeah, good times! This was also touched upon very briefly in MAKO with references to amateur fights and an Auran sport that’s “something like boxing,” though it really started with Danny Tucker’s Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Unlike the others who opted for focused studies in flight school, engineering, etc., Danny was always a grunt at heart, and that showed through in his mastery of hand-to-hand combat skills during Mimic training. Moving forward, then, and having already laid the groundwork for a corresponding sport, it only made sense to plug Danny into that world which meant having to actually create it in detail for the next book.
SPS: How far do you plan to take the series? Do you have future novels and an ending planned out?
IJM: MAKO will be a three-book series. That much is known, and while I’ve got a pretty good idea of the major events that’ll transpire throughout, I’m still every bit as clueless as you are regarding how those things come to fruition. That’s part of the fun of writing fiction.
At the risk of sounding corny, the fun of writing a story isn’t in the destination… it’s in the journey.
SPS: Other than the Mako Series, do you have plans to work on anything else?
IJM: I’ve got a few ideas stewing on the back burner, but for now it’s pretty much all Mako. As it stands, with a full-time day job and a family, one book per year is about all I can handle which means I won’t be done with this series until 2015.
SPS: Do you think that you will always write Science-Fiction or do you aim to produce in other genres?
IJM: Hard to say. Initially, my thought was that I’d always be an SF guy in some capacity since that’s what I grew up on. Then I took a writing workshop with Timothy Zahn earlier this year in Atlanta, and that got me thinking of maybe doing something in urban fantasy. At the same time, I spent four years in crime scene unit and have loads of cop buddies to lean on for research, so maybe a crime thriller? Who knows?
Again, as long as the characters are there, anything is possible!
SPS: Describe your perfect writing conditions.
IJM: I LOVE my mornings. Gimme a quiet house, pre-dawn, with sweatpants, a baggy t-shirt, and a piping hot cup of coffee and I’ll show you gobs of productivity!
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
IJM: Oh, have no illusions, I tried like mad in the early-going to garner attention from the big boys of publishing. I only started investigating indie publishing as a Plan B of sorts, but the more I read about it the more it began to intrigue me. As it turned out, “vanity publishing” as I knew it had been completely transformed by the internet, thus leading to the rise of an entire legion of authors who were not only available for sale in all of the usual hotspots (Amazon, B&N, and even Audible) but were also retaining the vast majority of their royalties as well as sole ownership and creative control of their properties. That, friends, was VERY tempting.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
IJM: Three things, actually:
- Manage Your Time: Indie writing is hard because, like most of us, you’ve got to juggle a career and family time with your writing which can be a huge challenge. Therefore, learning to balance your time wisely to maximize productivity is critical to success.
- Design a Quality Cover: It goes without saying that everyone should pay for editing, but trust me when I say that a quality cover is every bit as vital. After all, your story could be the greatest thing since Tolkien, but what does that matter if no one takes it from the shelf?
- Diversify Your Platforms: Once it’s done, offer your book in as many platforms as you can. First and foremost, that starts with ebooks (namely Kindle) which is where you’ll make the bulk of your sales. After that comes audio, and Amazon offers a fabulous $0-overhead service called the Audiobook Creative Exchange to help you with that. Then finally, offer a print-on-demand feature for those who still want a paperback.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
IJM: As kudos go, I’ve got to thank my wife, “Smalls,” for all of her support. Particularly when I’m under deadline, there are a lot of times when I have to bunker down in my office to get things done, and she’s always super-understanding of that. On a related note, she’s also a world-class wingman at a Con which just, plain rocks!
As far as stuff I’ve read lately, that’s kind of a tossup between Lisa Gardner’s TOUCH AND GO, and Drew Karpyshyn’s STAR WARS: PATH OF DESTRUCTION. The former is hands-down the best thriller I’ve read all year (with an opening chapter that’ll take your breath away) while the latter is an amazing look into the untold history of the Sith (a history they’d be wise to reference for the new Star Wars films, IMHO).
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Ian, and good luck in the future.
IJM: No worries, guys, thanks again for having me. FYI, this is a fantastic service you’ve got here, and we as indie authors really appreciate all of the hard work and effort you put forth to connect readers with our stories.
SPS: For more information on Ian and his work, please visit his Author page, and if you are looking for a great new Science-Fiction read, we highly recommend picking up a copy of MAKO. Then you’ll be primed and ready for when RED SKY DAWNING is released…