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Author Mike McPhail

Mike McPhail

"Wayward Child"

09-03-07: interviews author Mike McPhail, editor, illustrator and contributor to the upcoming military science fiction anthology "Breach the Hull".

MilSciFi: "Welcome. How did you come to be the book's editor, cover artist, and interior illustrator?"

McPhail: "I was asked. Both the title and cover image concept was theirs (no doubt based on some of the CGI artwork from my website), but it was up to me to work out something special for the interior. The one thing that makes a military unit unique is its Standard (such as a flag or unit patch), so I had the bright idea to work with each author to design an icon (based on some element from within his story) as the opening illustration. As for the cover; my software is from 1994 (Corel Dream 3D and Raydream), which works great with primitives, but lacks in the organic and mesh department, so building the space helmet--then the ships battling to reflect in its visor--was an adventure in and of itself (can't afford Lightwave yet)."

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

McPhail: "It was less of an inspiration, and more of an assignment. I was invited to submit to Hear Them Roar - an anthology about strong women - but life got in the way, and I missed the submission date. The title_Wayward Child_ was inspired by the Kansas song _Wayward Son_. The lyrics (at least to me) told of a soldier returning after having experienced war. I had plans for a series set within the realm of the _Time of the Alliance (Alliance Archives circa 2045)_, which focused on a character that embodied the virtues and frailties of the Ty'Pherrien; this set against the backdrop of an off-world colonial war.

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

McPhail: "Yep. Right off the bat, _Chimera II_, (from _Chimera_, first seen in _No Longer Dreams_) for the upcoming anthology _Cry Havoc_. Plus this storyline appears within the _Martial Role-Playing Game (MRPG)_ series, hopefully coming soon from Monolith Games."

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

McPhail: "A shared universe anthology of five stories, joined together by one running story. Niven did that a few years ago and I really liked the idea."

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

McPhail: "It's either feast or famine, and for now we eat. I had proposed to "Bob", possible sequels to_Breach the Hull_, but hadn't planned to broker it to the others until after BTH was launched; but "Bob" let it be known, and now we already have several authors onboard for_So It Begins, BTHII_ (I'm not really complaining, I should only be so lucky). So now I need to have a new cover mockup, and book proposal by Philcon. On the net, we have become involved with _MilSciFi.com_, a new site on the internet intended as a catch-all for media, books, games, TV and movies based on military science fiction; and there are real-world inspirations, such as the men and women of the armed forces, and the military science and technology behind the hardware."

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

McPhail: "A year of frustration and disappointment--not with the authors mind you, working with them was the real reason I agreed to do this--no the problem was our luck with the small-press publishers. The one that asked me to do the project just disappeared when the time came. The jinx seemed to continue on through two other publishers, until our luck turned around when we hit our current publisher, Marietta Publishing, who has been behind us completely and plans on publishing a hardcover edition of the book right off the bat (something that normally doesn't happen in small-press due to the expense)."

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?"

McPhail: "I had proposed to my counterpart a military anthology that would progress along a timeline from fiction - or even fact - to science fiction. I've been told that it crossed too many genres, and would have problems finding its fan base."

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

McPhail: "I haven't written it yet."

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

McPhail: "In November we have a pre-launch at Between Books in Delaware, followed by the launch at Philcon that same month."

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

McPhail: "Be respectful of the subject. Now that doesn't mean not to have any humor in the story--just the opposite would be true--but do your homework and get the facts straight. Even in a completely fictional Army, the basics of maintaining your soldiers (training, food, equipment, etc) and how they operate (chain of command, division of duties, and what skills they need) are still the difference between a great MilSciFi, and crappe."

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

McPhail: "Easy, Arthur C. Clarke._Rendezvous with Rama_ was the very first science fiction I ever read; it firmly set the pattern--in my mind--of what a good Sci Fi should be. Now-a-days, Timothy Zahn does that for me."

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

McPhail: "I've never been in combat (Queens, New York during the drug wars, really doesn't count), so that whole interplay of fighting to accomplish the mission, while staying alive, is just not part of my programming. For that, I look to the veterans for their first-hand accounts; that look in their eyes, and the emotion when they recall the events, is the very soul of writing any military story. The military terminology and technology is almost second nature to me (I'm a NASA-want-a-be), and what I don't know I've learned to research."

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

McPhail: "Michael Donovich, but his stuff is still on the drawing boards."

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Copyright 2007 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved.


The views contained in this interview are those of the author, and
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