Friday, April 12, 2013

Meet David VanDyke, Author

David VanDyke is a former US Army Airborne enlisted Soldier and US Air Force officer. He served in and out of combat zones all over the world in the 1980s through the 2000s. He lives on the East Coast with his wife and three dogs.

To get a taste of David's writing style, check out his blog, and keep up with him on Facebook and Twitter. He's the author of several novels, his latest being The Eden Plague, described on Amazon as a "science-fiction military techno-thriller."

1. What inspired you to begin writing your Plague Wars series?

Frankly it was all a bit hazy at the start. I began with an exercise where I just imagined what would happen if a guy something like me came home and found armed intruders in his house. After about twenty recastings and false starts I had half a plot and some pretty good characters, backed up by a lot of knowledge from my time in the military, and it all went from there to the middle of the first book, The Eden Plague.

Another idea I'd always liked was the concept of extraterrestrial meddling in human affairs. I introduced this as the end of book one and it becomes an important theme in the rest of the series, even while most of the story revolves around the people on Earth and how they deal with plagues, nuclear holocaust, and their personal and political problems.

2. How much did you plan out early on in terms of how your characters and plots would develop over the course of the series, and how much has evolved over time during the process of actually writing the books?

I often write some scenes before I ever write an outline. I don't want to lose the muse if I am inspired. But once I get that out of the way I usually outline the novel very roughly. Later on I may fill in those pieces. Then I start writing threads--storylines. For example, if I have three threads--protagonist, antagonist, side plot--I will write one until I am written out, then pick up another, and so on, writing in parallel. Then I will start fitting the pieces together like a puzzle, often based on the chronology of the events.

3. How has your experience in the military informed your work as a writer?

Very much so. In fact, sometimes too much for some genres. Along with thrillers with a strong military element, I write military science fiction, for example. In that genre my real-world military knowledge can get in the way of the expectations of the genre. For example, the real world specifies certain roles for certain ranks of the military, but often those roles are warped in the genre--yet they are expected. That's how you get oddities. Let's use Stargate for example. Colonel O'Neil, at that rank, would never be just leading a handful of guys. He'd be promoted to something in charge of more but getting in the action less.

On the other hand, I get the details right, as far as I can, on weapons, tactics, etc. Sometimes I read thrillers by people that don't know some obvious things--like modern soldiers don't use M16s any more, or that a 5.56mm rifle isn't something that snipers would use, or they have their heroes charging straight into a hostile room instead of using proper breaching and entry procedures. If I have my heroes doing something crazy or non-standard, there has to be a reason, or I just can't write it.

The final answer to that question is more general--living overseas for 12 cumulative years has given me a breadth of experience that others simply might not have. The settings in my books already range from the US to Central America to Africa and Europe, and because I have been there, I can write with some authenticity. I will use more settings of places I have been in the future, I am sure.

4. In addition to your Plague Wars books, would you tell us about some of your other published writing--and what you're working on now?

Right now, and this is very exciting to me, I am finishing up a novella that will launch a new military sci-fi series. This is what I was referring to above. While my first series, Plague Wars, is really a mixture of the thriller and sci-fi genres with lots of action, these will be more straightforward combat sci-fi. The first piece is called First Conquest, and the new series is titled Stellar Conquest.

The novella is set a century after Plague Wars but continues the storyline. Earth is under constant attack by aliens, and they have sent out a task force to attack the enemy in a star system nearby--well, in interstellar terms, nearby. It takes 40 years to get there, and there is no warp travel or anything like that--just good old-fashioned physics. The people use the "coldsleep" technique that many people know from movies like the Alien series or Avatar, and they wake up on getting to their destination.

So now it's do or die time. Without some fancy high-tech way to escape, they have to beat the enemy defenders and conquer the planet, and for the readers who like the combat sci-fi genre, I think I've written a damn fine story that will get their hearts racing: action, cool tech, creepy aliens, self-sacrifice, and the warrior ethos.

This novella will be published in an anthology alongside stories from bestselling authors BV Larson and Vaughn Heppner. These guys are childhood friends of mine who genuinely make a living by writing, and so they are doing me a great favor by allowing me to join them, and hopefully it will help some of their fans discover me and like my work. Look for that sometime in April, or perhaps early May.

To capitalize on this release, I have already finished book 2 of the series. Called Desolator, its story takes place three years after the first, and according to my beta readers who have seen it, may be my best work yet.

5. What advice would you give to authors who want to break into writing science fiction / techno-thriller novels?

The best advice is something I did not do. I wrote a cross-genre book--a thriller that morphs as the series goes on into a science fiction technothriller series. Imagine if Michael Crichton has written a sequel to Jurassic Park. How well would that work out?

Oh wait--he DID write a sequel, and you know what? It did not do well. Because the first one was a thriller, and the second one settled into science fiction. It just seems to be part of the landscape that if you have one techno-twist in your story--a disease, a nuke, gene splicing (like Bourne 4)--it's a thriller, but if you do a sequel that incorporates that sci-fi element into it, it's viewed as sci-fi.

So I'd say, pick your genre and stick with it. Cross-genre books are great when they work but they are very risky, so for the new author, establish yourself in a genre and stick to the conventions of the genre until you get some experience under your belt. I didn't do that and have had perhaps a slower start on success than I had hoped. People read Eden Plague and they don't exactly know what to make of it. The reviews have been good but it's hard to build a fan base out of such diversity--I feel like it's very broad and shallow.

Thanks, David!

No comments:

Post a Comment