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Toonari Post, in addition to talking to Myke Cole about his first three books, also answered questions about his developing author experiences and growing fan base. Included in the interview is information about Myke Cole as an author, fantasy nerd and military officer. Spanning three tours in Iraq and plenty of dungeons in MMORPG games, Myke Cole now writes for a living while keeping an eye on the state our country. If current affairs make it into his books, it is because he has a keen eye for details and talent for articulating a situation.
Toonari Post (TP): The magic system in Shadow Ops covers many of the standard and even substandard schools of magic in the fantasy genre but is there one that you wanted to add or change after the first book was published?
Myke Cole (MC): There is, and I added it. You’ll find out more about that in the second book in the series, Fortress Frontier. The thing you have to remember is that the system of “schools” currently used by the government is just a way of trying to categorize a phenomenon that nobody fully understands. But magic in the Shadow Ops universe isn’t interested in being categorized. It’s an iceberg that runs very wide and very deep beneath the surface. We only see the tip.
TP: I laughed myself hoarse when I saw “Gate-Fu” for the first time, what other funny titles for powers in the series might have been held back in order to shape a more gritty and realistic portrayal?
MC: I don’t know about gritty and realistic, but I did hold one back because it sounded silly. Hydromancy, the magical school that governs water, used to be called Aquamancy. Ahem. How I missed that is beyond me, but fortunately one of the beta readers gently noted that I might want to change it . . .
TP: Looking at the combat now and its plausible applications in a real world environment, are there times in the book where your training has warred with your instinctive ideas on how to make the characters more appealing?
MC: Military training, done right, results in instinctive reactions to crisis where military members act according to policy. That’s efficient, that’s predictable, that’s safe. It’s also incredibly boring. Good stories hinge on conflict. They revolve around the times when things go wrong. “The enemy came over the hill. We were ordered to fire. We fired. After the battle, we accounted for spent rounds and cleaned our weapons.” Not a whole lot of drama there. The story gets interested when the guns jam, or when the soldiers refuse to fire, or when one of the enemy turns out to be a relative, etc . . . My training informs my writing, but in the end, I have to be “less military” in order to be more dramatic.
TP: The application of gate powers and many of the other Shadow Ops powers certainly changes the logistics and tactics of the military; Oscars is essentially a very ground combat capable pilot, was that a conscious move to make him both support and frontline fighter right off the bat?
MC: It was definitely a nod to the all-important power of logistics and maneuver in battle. We spend a lot of time ooohing and aaahing over the latest technology (this new fighter jet, that new anti-missile laser, etc . . .). Cyber warfare is the new sexy that everyone is obsessed with lately. But the truth is that all of this pales in comparison to the all important, but far less sexy bedrock factors: Relative position. Supply lines. Terrain. Portamancy speaks directly to that stuff.
TP: Additionally will Oscars set of skills grow with the next two books? What can readers expect as far as character skill and personality development?
MC: I want to remind folks that while Oscar Britton is a major character in Fortress Frontier, he is not the main character. I think he’s coming more into his own in book 2, beginning to realize how he can best further his goal of finding a new path for Latent people, one where they don’t have to choose between being either criminals or government agents.