CK: I read somewhere that 83% of people have stories that they want to write. This wasn’t me. In fact, I never saw myself as a writer (and people that knew me a while ago are shocked when I tell them I have three published books). I do, however, like to keep up with the news, and I became very dismayed last summer at the effects that the budget sequestration was having on the military. Here in the Tidewater area of Virginia, it was significant. While I saw our military being driven into the ground by the budget dispute, I saw China becoming more and more our equal. They’re not there yet, but you could see them flexing their muscles. China has always wanted to get Taiwan back, and one day while I was driving I thought, “What if they decide we’re too weak to stop them? All they’d need is a way to keep us out of the war in Asia.” There were many things going on in the news at the time, and they all jelled in a moment of clarity; Red Tide: The Chinese Occupation of Seattle was born. When I got home, I started writing down my thoughts, and the story just kept coming. I found that I did have a story to tell...not only that, but I’ve got at least another dozen or so that are already in my mind. I love it!
CK: It’s funny you would key in on that, Stacie. If I never considered myself an author before last year, I probably considered myself even less of a poet. I don’t want to spoil the book too much, but one of the themes in Janissaries is that some of the characters believe in the Hindu/Buddhist concept of reincarnation. One of the characters, Captain Imagawa Sadayo, has an ancestor that was a samurai poet, and he writes poetry because he thinks that he is that person reincarnated. I wanted to keep the poems consistent with Japanese samurai poetry, so I read a lot of poems by the real Imagawa Sadayo (a samurai poet of the late 14th century). Imagawa Sadayo felt that poetry should be a direct expression of personal experience, so I tried to use what the character was experiencing in the book as a basis for the poems, while remaining true to the real poetry formats. Writing them turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. I think everyone has probably written a haiku before, but there is a lot more to it than just stringing together 17 syllables. Encapsulating everything that is supposed to be in a “real” haiku, and painting a picture with it at the same time, is a lot more difficult. Writing the non-haiku poetry was similarly challenging...but also a lot of fun.
BBB: Tell us about your main character, Shawn Calvin Hobbs.
CK: Lieutenant Shawn “Calvin” Hobbs is a junior officer in a Navy F-18 squadron who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in Red Tide, and ends up getting shot down. Readers of the two books prior to Janissaries, Red Tide and its sequel, Occupied Seattle, will know that through personal sacrifice he makes the most of this bad situation. He is the same as most of the naval aviators I have known in my life; he works hard, plays harder, and if he’s called to, will do whatever his country needs of him, including sacrificing his life, if that is what it takes. There may also be a bit more to him than meets the eye, even if he isn’t aware of it yet...
BBB: What do you think readers will enjoy most about your book?
CK: I think that readers will enjoy the integration of mythology, military and space opera, with a dash of fantasy thrown in, as well. There are also plenty of idiosyncratic minor characters and “what ifs” to explore (and a lot more of both coming). Even though the main character may be slightly larger than life at times, he is not so much so that the reader can’t identify with him. And besides, as Grig said in The Last Starfighter, who wouldn’t want to fight a desperate battle against incredible odds to save the world?
One other thing that many people have enjoyed is that I’ve let people sign up to be Red Shirts in future books. Like the Red Shirts in Star Trek, their chances of survival are slim. One actually makes it through the second book of the trilogy, so I can’t say that they are zero...but they are pretty low. So if one of the characters has a name like someone you know, even a blogger that is recognized world-wide, it may very well be him or her! The response to this has been overwhelming!
CK: I am working on several new books. The second book of the trilogy, When the Gods Aren’t Gods, is already written and is currently being edited. It is on track for its scheduled April 25th release date. The final book of the trilogy, Terra Stands Alone, has over 51,000 words written so far. I also have a few words written down for the next series after this. The galaxy is a big place and it really needs a lot of help...the Aesir, in particular, are in the middle of a desperate struggle of their own...
CK: Readers can catch up with me on my blog at http://chriskennedypublishing.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/chriskennedypublishing.biz. Instructions for signing up to be a Red Shirt are on the blog, as well as a picture of the real USS Vella Gulf, among other things. If readers like my Facebook site, they will be able to keep up with book releases, signings and conventions I’ll be attending in the future. Readers can also follow me on Twitter at @ChrisKennedy110. As a “Thank you” to you and your readers, I will give away a copy of my next book When the Gods Aren’t Gods to one reader at random who emails me at firstname.lastname@example.org and says they saw this interview. The copy will be in the winner’s choice of format, to be awarded on April 24th, before the book goes live on Amazon.com on April 25th.