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David Sherman
David Sherman

Starfist: Force Recon

Dan Cragg

Dan Cragg


08-31-07: interviews Dan Cragg, co-author with David Sherman of the Starfist and Starfist: Force Recon series.

MilSciFi: "Welcome. What was your inspiration for your story?"

Cragg: "Since I am writing a series (we're working on Book No. 13, WINGS OF HELL, right now) with a partner, David Sherman, the plots for these stories are very much a joint effort.  We like to brainstorm the plots in person which sometimes makes it difficult since David lives in Florida and I in Virginia, but writing the plots together in person we've found is the quickest and most successful way to handle the process.  We can usually plot a 120,000-word novel in the space of a morning, sparking off each other as it were, tossing ideas around.  Once we've begun we'll assign each other chapters and characters.  The same main characters appear throughout the series so we've long ago developed them fully; new characters we handle according to how either of us see them moving the plot line along.  We do an outline, of course, but our rule of thumb is that as we write we can alter the contents of the outline as the stories move along so we're not writing cookie-cutter chapters.  It's surprising how once you start writing the story just seems to take off on its own course and you just follow it along."

MilSciFi: "Do you have any future plans for stories set in the same universe?"

Cragg: "Yes.  Our present contract with Del Rey is for two books.   After we turn in the second one we hope to keep the series going.  Early next year Book No. 3, RECOIL, in the force recon spinoff series is to appear and then afterward we'll see if our publisher wants to continue that further."

MilSciFi: "What would your ideal project be if you could plan your own anthology?"

Cragg: "Military SF, of course!"

MilSciFi: "What other upcoming works are on the horizon for you?"

Cragg: "Both David and I are writing other books but I do not feel ready to discuss mine in detail yet.  It's an action-adventure story.  But let me tell you now, switching from a genre in which you've been very successful, milSF, to another in which you've never published anything before, is very difficult.  Publishers like sure things and once you write in a golden vein they're reluctant to take a chance on putting you into another."

MilSciFi: "How would you describe your experience working on the book?"

Cragg: "When you're writing what you want to and you like what's coming out of your imagination, it is awesome, you actually begin to live in the story with your characters.  When that doesn't happen writing is sheer drudgery and every five mintues you look for an excuse to stop for the day."

MilSciFi: "If you had a chance to write one story just because you wanted to, and didn't have to worry about if it would sell or not, what would it be about?"

Cragg: "Well, frankly, Nazi Germany, as incorrect as that may sound.  I've been fascinated by that era ever since I lived in Germany back in 1959 and knew people who'd lived through it.  The fact that naturally decent people can be led to participate in terrible things is a question I'd like very much to deal with in a literary format, the distillation of more than 45 years of study and thought."

MilSciFi: "What is your favorite story you have ever written and why?"

Cragg: "Now, hold on just a minute there!  That's like asking a mother which of her children she loves best!"

MilSciFi: "What are you working on next?"

Cragg: "Book 14 of the Starfist series."

MilSciFi: "Give us the details on your upcoming author appearances."

Cragg: "Tentatively, Philcon this November and Balticon next May."

MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the aspiring military science fiction writer?"

Cragg: "Get and keep a day job.  Not even successful writers, and David and I consider ourselves if only by the number of books we've published in this field (12 in Starfist (two more in press), 2 in the spinoff series (No. 3 is out next spring), one for LucasFilm (JEDI TRIAL), and David's 3 Demontechs), make more than starvation wages if they have to live on that income.  With all the time and energy you put into writing a book you wind up earning, over time, maybe $2-$3 an hour.  You can't live on that.  Oh, advances and royalties come in periodically and they can be very nice when they do, but unless you live in a hovel & subsist on turnips in Lower Slobbovia, that don't last long.  But once you decide to stick your foot into the boiling cauldron of writing fiction, write, write, write, read, read, read, and never give up hope no matter how many rejection slips you get.  And learn to accept advice and criticism without percolating yourself to death because your muse has been insulted."

MilSciFi: "Who is your single-most influence in science fiction and what impact have they had on our own work?"

Cragg: "I really don't know and I've read all the greats.  I know which of those geniuses I like but I think what's influenced me most in my writing SF is what's happened to me in real life.  Oh, as a lad, H. P. Lovecraft and William H. Prescott impressed me a lot.  I was fascinated by Lovecraft's cold, inhuman universe where mankind is not at the top of the evolutionary ladder and has to live with Ones greater than himself, and Prescott's ruthless conquerors who risked everything opening new worlds."

MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the most difficult about writing military science fiction?"

Cragg: "Getting started.  Once I break that mental log jam everything flows nicely."

MilSciFi: "Do you have any awards you would like to share with us?"

Cragg: "Seven awards of the Army Good Conduct Medal.  I got them for coming to work early and staying late.  Oh, you mean for writing?  Yes, royalty checks.  And I ain't sharin'  them shekels with anyone else."

MilSciFi: "Do you have a website where our readers can go to fine more information about your work?"

Cragg: "No, and I never will.  But David does,"

MilSciFi: "Do you write under any other names?"

Cragg: "No, I'm still amateur enough to think if I write the damned thing my real name goes on it.  Or should I say I'm egotistical enough not to be ashamed my name's on something I wrote?"

MilSciFi: "Is military science fiction the only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking for?"

Cragg: "The one book I wrote, also with a co-author, Michael Lee Lanning, is the book I think will live on for a long time after Starfist is forgotten and it's the one thing I've ever written that I think added something truly worthwhile to the history of the United States in the 20th century, INSIDE THE VC AND THE NVA, THE REAL STORY OF NORTH VIETNAM'S ARMED FORCES.  Originally published by Fawcett-Columbine, it'll be reprinted by Texas A&M University Press early next year."

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Copyright 2007 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved.


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