Christopher Hoare is the author of a science fiction adventure series which revolves around the lives of the people of the stranded starship, Iskander.
The series is set in a 17th century alternate world and is made up of three books, so far: Deadly Enterprise (Double Dragon Publishing, 2007), The Wildcat’s Victory (Double Dragon Publishing, 2008) and Arrival (Double Dragon Publishing, 2008).
In this, the last of a two-part interview, Chris Hoare speaks about The Wildcat's Victory, the process behind its creation and publication as well as the advantages and disadvantages of publishing e-books.
How long did it take you to write The Wildcat’s Victory?
The Wildcat’s Victory is about war, loyalty, true love, greed, and ambition -- all the classic ingredients. The Iskander stories concern the forces one sets against one’s self by trying to change or create new things -- I just bring the pot to a boil by having this group of modern people attempt to run an Industrial Revolution in a world not ready for it.
I believe this novel took about a year to write and was accepted in 2006 by Double Dragon Publishing as the sequel to Deadly Enterprise, that they had already accepted.
What did you find most difficult when you were working on The Wildcat’s Victory?
The novel actually blends two simultaneous actions, a spy story and a military action.
I think the hardest part was to keep both parts progressing to a satisfactory conclusion while retaining some degree of unity. The two threads were not unique to this novel in the series, but grew from events set in motion by the previous novel, so I could not drop one in favour of the other. While I mostly followed my protagonist Gisel Matah, I also had to show people around her performing actions which she either guided or inspired to reach a closure in the action she initiated and was then called away from. I don't think the procedure is advised by any writing schools, but I think it works.
What did you enjoy most?
To tell you the truth, I found the military action -- dashing about in dangerous cavalry action -- much more fun than looking for the murderer of an agent and finding a replacement for him. I believe keeping that part of the novel going with proxies who were challenged was more interesting than having Gisel do it, and meanwhile I could indulge myself in the military what-if of using modern tactics against a huge enemy force trained and equipped as a 17th century army.
What sets The Wildcat’s Victory apart from the other things you've written?
It follows Deadly Enterprise, but where Gisel was a fugitive for much of that action, trying to evade enemies while accomplishing her mission, here she begins in a position of authority and encounters ever more dangerous situations to cap every success. The plot flows are reversed.
Arrival, the prequel, will have another different plot scheme -- this time the classic coming of age, when during the first hectic five months of the Iskanders' arrival on Gaia, she grows from a cheeky starship brat into a valued warrior. I'd hate to be expected to write novels to a constant plot structure.
In all my novels I prefer to set up my characters and the situation and let them resolve their problems in the way real life plays out, as the result of a mutual interplay between unpredictable forces.
How did you find a publisher for the book?
I had originally found the publisher while looking for a small, independent publisher who would consider handling novels that were significantly cross-genre. Double Dragon has the largest list of any e-publisher today, which draws more readers to its imprint, and its authors and publisher make a fine community of helpful and cooperative brothers and sisters.
E-publishing in itself has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is being able to maintain titles on sale to the reading public without running the gauntlet of the deadly ‘return’ syndrome of paper printing. I have a small interest in an indie publisher that was crippled by the cost of returns.
The only sensible way for a new author to establish a place in the writing world is by having a growing list of titles for the public to encounter, and this is only possible electronically.
The disadvantages are generally in the direction of having paper books available as well. While the quality of POD printing is the equal of anything in the marketplace, the books are derided as being some form of self-publishing -- implying lower quality. While I agree that most self-published fiction I've read fails through having no competent editing, those POD titles put out by royalty-paying publishers are very often of the same standard as anything from New York.
Which leaves the cost of moving a smaller quantity of print books for the author’s own readings and signings as the biggest financial disincentive for continuing to use dead trees to read on. I look forward to the day when reading from actual paper is regarded as being as out of step with the world as reading electronically is today. Meanwhile, I strive for the best in both worlds.
What will your next book be about?
The next novel in the Iskander series has Gisel married and expecting her first child, while simultaneously fulfilling the position of military governor of the most dangerous city in the world. This time, in a complete break from the classic plot, of character acting to solve a problem that hits them, Gisel is at ground zero with room to use only her wits and her integrity to defeat a host of different enemies. I think it's going to be difficult to hold it together, I'm barely beyond the first crisis, but am looking forward to the process of keeping the pace moving and bringing everything to a single, climactic, fitting conclusion.
What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
I think finding a way to write fiction from inside myself that touches others in a way that has them say, “I'd read another of these stories.”
The objective is not just to weave words together on the page, but to have them span the gap between one being and another.
How did you get there?
Via a few million words -- most tossed away as mere practice. Whole stories laboured over, loved, and then let go. Cherished opinions tested, found wanting and discarded. Being an author is not the ending of a process, it is the process -- every moment of it. Unless a writer writes to become, and becomes to write, the whole journey is wasted.
Chris Hoare [Interview_1], Conversations with Writers, March 6, 2008