10-17-07: MilSciFi.com interviews Will McDermott, author of Lasgun Wedding.
MilSciFi: "Welcome. What was your inspiration
for your story?"
McDermott: "This is the third novel in a
series set in Games Workshop’s Necromunda universe. While working on the second
novel, Cardinal Crimson, my editor suggested we end the novel with the main
character, Kal Jerico, receiving an invitation to his own wedding. I loved this
idea, and immediately started hatching plans for the follow-up novel, which in
the grand tradition of SF television cliffhangers, picks up from that exact
moment and rushes headlong into the new plot.
The basic plot of Lasgun Wedding was hammered out between me and
my editor (this is shared world writing, and very collaborative), but all of
the various political maneuverings in the book and the related thematic
overtones of the inequities between the haves and have-nots in this universe
were all me, and were very much influenced by the current political climate of
the world we all share.
On a more humorous note, the subplot of Kal Jerico’s metal
mastiff, Wotan, who valiantly pursues him throughout the novel, was very much
influenced by my own dog, a large, Golden lummox. I wrote the scene where Wotan
howls at the sirens blaring the same day my dog woke me up howling at a police
MilSciFi: "Do you have any future plans for
stories set in the same universe?"
McDermott: "I would love to continue writing
Kal Jerico novels, but, alas, it is not to be for the foreseeable future. My
publisher, Black Library, has decided to put the Necromunda line on hiatus for
now. I do get a kick out of the fact that I left their iconic, roguish
character married at the end of the novel, though. I had planned to rectify
that situation in the fourth novel, but for now, Kal remains married in the
At the moment, I am mostly concentrating on individual short
stories set either in the real world with a fantastic or futuristic bent to
them, as well as the odd licensed story that comes my way. I have a My day job
now (writing dialogue for the online roleplaying game, Guild Wars) keeps me
MilSciFi: "What would your ideal project be
if you could plan your own anthology?"
McDermott: "My writing has had a dark tinge to
it lately and I think it would be fun to create a “Dark Futures” anthology with
lots of tales of how the world or a life can go horribly wrong in man’s future
out in the stars (or perhaps even stuck here on Earth too long?). I envision a
lot of hard-hitting, Twilight Zone-ish stories. I’d definitely want to submit
to that anthology."
MilSciFi: "What other upcoming works are on
the horizon for you?"
McDermott: "I have a story submitted for a
fantasy anthology, and am currently writing a story for a Magic: The Gathering anthology. After that, I hope to work on my
first, non-licensed novel, a thriller centered around the apocalyptic visions
of a schizophrenic fortune-teller."
MilSciFi: "How would you describe your
experience working on the book?"
McDermott: "It was interesting. This was the
first (and only) novel I have written while holding down a day job. It never
would have gotten finished if I hadn’t been living alone at the time. You see,
I was across the country from my family for six weeks with no phone and no
television. I got up at 5 a.m. (when the dog started barking at cats or
howling at the sirens), ate, showered, and dressed, and then wrote until about 9 a.m. and then drove to work. I would come
home, walk the dog, eat, and then go to sleep. Rinse and repeat for 6 weeks and
voila, a novel.
I am a very streaky writer. I will mull over a story for weeks
sometimes, only to write the entire thing in one go. At the end of that six
weeks, I spent three consecutive weekends, cranking out close to 15,000 words
over the course of two days each weekend. It was crazy."
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?"
McDermott: "I have always wanted to write a
modern sports fable. I think “The Natural” is one of the best movies ever made
because it’s a great, dark fairy tale set in an imaginary world of baseball. I
love sports fantasy stories (Rocky, Field of Dreams) and would really like to
try my hand at creating a new sports fable in that tradition."
MilSciFi: "What is your favorite story you
have ever written and why?"
McDermott: "I will almost always say it is my
most recent story. I think this is because, like any writer, my skill improves
by the simple act of writing. So, every story (I hope, at least) is better
written than the one before. For now, my
favorite story is “Resurrection Man” In the Visual
Journeys anthology, edited by Eric Reynolds. This story is based on a painting
by Frank Wu, also titled “Resurrection Man.” When I looked at the painting, I
came up with the idea of writing a story about zombie astronauts. It got a lot
darker than I had intended and I really like the way the plot of the story and
the themes I wanted to hit upon really came together."
MilSciFi: "What are you working on next?"
McDermott: "I am currently working on Guild
Wars 2 at the office and a short story set in the Magic: The Gathering universe
in my copious spare time. My next big project will be a novel of my own
devising set in Seattle with a schizophrenic fortune teller as the main character.
This will be new territory in many ways for me. I don’t often set stories in
the real world (what I like to call the largest shared world of all), and I
have never written a novel without a contract in hand before I started writing.
It’s scary and exhilarating all at once."
MilSciFi: "Give us the details on your
upcoming author appearances."
McDermott: "I will be at the following
conventions in the near future:
Orycon – Portand, Oregon – November 17-19, 2007
Norwescon – Seatac, Washington – March 20-23, 2008
MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the
aspiring military science fiction writer?"
McDermott: "Write. And Read. This is the
advice I give to all aspiring writers. The absolute best way to improve your writing
is to write as much and as often as you can. Whether you are writing for
yourself, or your work, or for publication, or for a fanfic site on the
internet, it doesn’t matter. Just keep writing.
The second best way to improve your writing is to read. A lot! And
don’t just read to enjoy the story. Read each story critically. What is the
writer trying to achieve with the story? Why did he or she choose that word,
that phrase, that part of the story to emphasize? How are the characters
described? More importantly, how is the “character” of each character shown and
developed? How does the author pull you into and through the story? Why did the
author start and finish the story where he or she did? Were there better
If you write a lot and read other author’s works critically, you
almost cannot help but become a better writer."
MilSciFi: "Who is your single-most influence
in science fiction and what impact have they had on our own work?"
McDermott: "Many, many authors have influenced
me over the years. Early on I read every book and story written by Larry Niven
that I could get my hands on, as well as tons of Isaac Asimov and Harlan
Ellison. I had somewhat eclectic tastes. But at that point, I was still just
reading for pleasure and not really examining their work with a critical eye.
Later on, as I began to envision a life as an author, I was
reading more fantasy, including the works of R.A Salvatore, Roger Zelazny, and
eventually Terry Pratchett, whom I think is one of the best storytellers of our
age as well as one of the funniest men in the genre. I think Bob Salvatore had
a great impact on my early writing, and I think I owe a great deal of the
success of my battle scenes to his works.
But, right now, I would have to say that the two biggest influences
on my writing are Robert J. Sawyer and Tim Powers. Sawyer is a master of
character and plot and I have learned a lot about both of those things from
reading his novels. Tim Powers, on the other hand, just writes with the most
amazing command of words and phrases. I know it’s a cliché, but he really does
paint with words. Plus, he goes deeper into character and theme than just about
any writer I know.
MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the
most difficult about writing military science fiction?"
McDermott: "Well, I don’t actually write
military SF. In fact, probably the only story I have ever written that could be
placed in that category was called “Adrift in the Maelstrom,” which appeared in
the No Longer Dreams anthology, and I
would categorize it more as horror (it had a bit of an Alien/Aliens vibe to
But for me, it would have to be the military structure and getting
the hard science just right. I have no background in either hard science or the
military, so I’m always worried that I will get tripped up by this as both are
highly technical subjects and fans of this genre are generally experts in both
(and they will let you know when you screw up).
One other story I wrote that hits at the fringe of military SF was
called, “On the Off-Ramp of the Inter-Galactic Superhighway.” This was a story
for an anthology titled Golden Age SF:
Tales of a Bygone Future. We were all supposed to write stories in the vein
of the golden age – as if we were writing in the 40s or 50s and the last fifty
years of science hadn’t happened yet. My story was about a young boy who works
the pumps at the refueling station around Earth, but dreams of a bigger future.
I was quite pleased when a member of the Analog Mafia came to a reading and
remarked that he liked the way I described FTL travel in my story. I guess I
did something right in that one."
MilSciFi: "Do you have any awards you would
like to share with us?"
None so far, but a writer can hope. The closest I ever came was
when the magazine I edited got nominated for an Origins award. We lost to a
MilSciFi: "Do you have a website where our
readers can go to fine more information about your work?"
McDermott: "Hah! My website is woefully out of
date. I could give you a lot of reasons like, “the computer with my web editor
died,” and “My day job keeps me too busy nowadays,” but it’s really just a
matter of making time to get it updated.
Anyway, if you want to see some of the work I have done (up to
about a year ago), go to www.willmcdermott.com. Who knows, maybe by the
time this interview goes live, I will have updated my site."
MilSciFi: "Do you write under any other
McDermott: "No. I have toyed with the
pseudonym idea, and sometimes I wish I had started writing under the name Liam
Riley (my first name in Irish along with my grandmother’s maiden name), but for
now, I will be sticking with what my parents gave me."
MilSciFi: "Is military science fiction the
only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking
McDermott: "I write stories. So far, most of those that I have published have
been under contract for game-related novels and anthologies, but even then I
like to go where the story and the characters take me. I have written epic
fantasy, space opera, science fiction thrillers/mysteries, space operas and
pulp SF stories, and even magical realism. But at the center of each story was
a character I found interesting and a story I wanted to tell. Oh, and during
the day, I write dialog for an online fantasy roleplaying game called Guild Wars."