Tuesday, February 5, 2013

David VanDyke: The IAN Interview





 David VanDyke


I grew up in California with bestselling authors BV Larson and Vaughn Heppner. We were together from junior high to college, but after that, while they were working and writing on the side, I took a detour though the US military for more than twenty years. First I joined the Army and spent five years jumping out of airplanes before returning to school, graduating with a BA in History and a commission in the Air Force. I loved the military life, and I lived all over the world – Japan, Germany, Italy, Belgium, visited many more places, and served in combat zones in Turkey, Iraq, and the Balkans.

Once I retired from the military I was casting about for something more interesting than the corporate grind. I’d always wanted to write, and after I got back in contact with my childhood friends that were now authors, it sparked my imagination, so I took the plunge, publishing my first novel, The Eden Plague, in June of 2012. My lovely wife is my publicist and proofreader, and any success I have I owe well over half to her.

My wife and I now live near Washington, DC now with our two and a half Pekingese, but we hope writing will turn from a paying hobby into a portable career so we can move back out West.


IAN. Please tell us about your book.
DVD. My latest book is titled The Orion Plague. It’s the fourth in the Plague Wars series of sci-fi thrillers that started with The Eden Plague and went on to The Demon Plagues and The Reaper Plague.

The first three books take the reader from present day through about twelve years in the future. I deliberately do not use year dates so that it won’t become suddenly obsolete (1984, anyone?). Those books tell the story of an apocalypse different from most.

The first story element is the Eden Plague, a healing and immortality virus that turns into a sociopolitical wrecking ball. It destabilizes world politics as people fight over it, resulting in sporadic conventional and nuclear war.

The next element is an alien race that has been watching Earth for many years and has become concerned about human progress, and so decides to “help” us destroy ourselves by dropping deadly plagues onto Earth.

It’s against this backdrop the stories take place as the characters struggle to cope with moral and ethical dilemmas at the same time that they must deal with the physical consequences. All the books are packed with action, tension and conflict – physical, psychological, emotional and political, and the story lines branch out and become more complex as the series grows.

Book 4, Orion Plague picks up right where Reaper Plague left off, with the main protagonist, US Marine Corps Master Sergeant Jill Repeth, searching desperately through the post-apocalyptic landscape of the US East Coast for her fianc√©, Rick Johnstone, a cybernetics expert. He’s been kidnapped and enslaved for his skills, and Jill, a normally upbeat and cheerful warrior, warps ever darker as the frustration of her search and fear for his life twists her up. Most of the first part of the book revolves around this search and rescue.

As for the other main story line: In previous books, one of the extraterrestrials defected and brought information that Earth would soon be attacked by methods even more devastating than bio-warfare: in less than a year, a ship would arrive in the solar system intending to drop asteroids onto the Earth, to wipe out all human life.

Australia is now an economic powerhouse and world leader because it was largely spared the plagues and nukes. One protagonist there, covert operative Tran Pham “Spooky” Nguyen, uses his connections and growing influence to set that nation on course to build a radical space warship design before the aliens come. Many nations contribute, and the ship is launched just in time to meet the alien attack.

Of course (spoiler!) humanity is not destroyed, but there are sacrifices and there is cost, and discoveries that set up the next and final book in the series: Comes The Destroyer.


IAN. How long did it take to write The Orion Plague?
DVD. It’s taken me about two months to write each book, which range from 70K to 100K words. Then it takes a few weeks to edit, get feedback, format etc., but during that time I work on the next book.

IAN. What inspired you to write The Orion Plague?
DVD. I had always intended the series to progress from post-ap into space, and the story just seemed to go there. The second half of Orion Plague contains the first space battle – first in the series, first I ever wrote – and I think it’s a good one, a real white-knuckler.

IAN. Talk about the writing process.
DVD. Because I still have a day job, I write after work in the evenings. I usually write for 2-6 hours depending on my muse, and spend the rest of the time on “notwriting.” That’s all those other activities that support authorship – marketing, corresponding, doing interviews, *cough* – all that stuff independents have to do to keep in the game. I do this seven days a week if I can, though occasionally I’ll just take a night off and chill.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?
DVD. My process is pretty organic. I think in scenes, so I start by writing the scenes I have thought of, even if there is no structure yet. For example, if I know there will be a confrontation between two characters, I will write that scene. Once I run out of ready-made scenes, I try to do an outline of the main story, sometimes a dramatis personae, and some random notes for where I want the thing to go.

Only at this point do I usually try to start from the beginning and draft my way through. Often this process has me writing one thread all the way through, then writing another thread in parallel – usually my main protagonist first, then secondary protagonists, then antagonists or side character/supporting threads.

IAN. How is the Plague Wars series different from others in your genre?
DVD. A piece of advice I’ve always taken to heart is “write the book you want to read.” I’m a longtime reader and so I try to emulate beloved elements of my favorite books.

One thing I seldom see is the genuine military culture and feel translated into science fiction. There are a few authors that do this well – David Drake and John Ringo come to mind – but many writers have never spent a day in the military and only know from Hollywood. It’s not about detailed action scenes – it’s that ineffable something, that esprit de corps and that genuine camaraderie that are hard to capture. Fortunately I lived through enough real life in the military that I believe I can.

On the flip side, I think my books strike a great balance among different types of tension, in a manner that I don’t see much. David Weber did good work with his early Honor Harrington books in this way – interpersonal conflict, both psychological and physical, set against a backdrop of political, economic and military conflict – and I aspire to replicate this feel, if not his style.

IAN. Is your book published in print, e-book or both?
DVD. Right now the series is all available for Kindle ebook. We are working on getting them all loaded on the smaller sites – Kobo, B&N, Smashwords etc. – and at least Eden Plague should be on those soon. We are also in the final stages of getting Eden Plague loaded onto CreateSpace for print availability, and that should be done by the end of February at the latest. As my wife is my publicist, a lot of this has been learning curve and now that she is getting up to speed, within the year everything should be available everywhere.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your books?
DVD. First I want them to be entertained – to say, “Wow, what a book. Where’s the next one?” Second, I hope I gave them something to think about. Some of my favorite books raise question that don’t have easy answers, and I like to do that too.

IAN. Where can we go to buy the Plague Wars series?
DVD. Amazon is the best place right now. You can always go to my website, though not all buying avenues are yet loaded – we have many balls in the air. Kobo and BestIndieBooks have book 1, The Eden Plague, available right now. We are adding venues all the time.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
DVD. Obviously book 5, Comes The Destroyer, is in the works, but I am even more excited about a novella that I am working on to be included in an anthology with bestselling military sci-fi authors BV Larson and Vaughn Heppner. This ebook will come out sometime in March or April and will feature a novella by each of us, with the theme of “Planetary Invasion.”

My piece is called First Conquest, and will be a tie-in and launch for a new pure mil-sci-fi series of short novels, set 100 years after the events of the Plague Wars series, as EarthFleet takes the war to an alien star system for the first time. Because the Eden Plague confers immortality, I am able to seamlessly bring favorite characters from the earlier series into this one.

It’s going to be a real nail-biter, full of pathos, action, danger, honor and sacrifice.

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?
DVD. You can contact me directly though my website.






The Orion Plague (Plague Wars series)
283 pages
Thriller, Military Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
Publisher: David VanDyke on KDP, Createspace, Kobo, and others.



From The Orion Plague:

 “Lock and load,” Repeth ordered.
“Guess I'm Lock,” joked Lockerbie to Butler at the gun, “and you're Load.”
Grusky didn't laugh but instead looked askance at Repeth. “We’re kicking in the front door?”
She swiveled her head around to stare at him with dead eyes. “You got a problem with that?”
He blinked. “None whatsoever. Just want to be clear on the plan, boss. No recon means we go in blind. Doesn’t seem your style.”
Repeth gritted her teeth. What the hell do you know about my style? “It also means we go in with maximum surprise. The plan is shock and awe. Butler, use whatever kind of shells you need to cut our way in. We may end up driving The Beast straight into a building to start the extract.” She reached down between her knees and hefted a rotary grenade launcher, loading it with baseball-sized shells.
“You think Rick is in there?”
“I’m hoping. And if not, they’ll damn well tell us where he is.”
“Understood.” When Repeth faced back to the front, Grusky exchanged glances with Donovan, who shrugged.
“Let’s go.”
***

“I got targets, Top, want me to light them up?” Butler asked, sounding eager. His incredible weapon quivered like a live thing, pointing toward the dozen or so vehicles parked in front of the office building.
“By all means,” Repeth replied in a droll voice, “but spare your ammo.”
Butler thumbed the selector switch that chose his burst length. The electric Gatling fired much too fast for mere human control; at 150 rounds per second, he would be lucky to guess burst size within 20 shots. So he clicked on “10” and put ten rounds into each vehicle in turn. “There’s an underground parking garage,” he warned as a tunnel leading down hove into view.
“Lockerbie, as soon as we dismount, push some of these hulks to block that tunnel. Butler, I see windows. I don’t like windows.”
Butler grinned. “Roger that, Top.” He flipped the gun back to full auto and walked a stream of rounds from the building’s corner to corner, holing every window and the front glass doors as well. They didn’t come apart the way they should, though. “Armored glass. Bulletproof. Good thing these ain’t bullets,” Butler muttered.
Profligate with ammo this time, he sprayed the penetrators along the top and bottom of the window line, and great gaps appeared as chunks of the hardened crystal fell to the ground by the hundredweight.
Without windows the rooms beyond were visible, well-lit offices with computers, shelves, desks, chairs. Tiny blue lightnings popped from broken electronics. Here and there a small fire started, smoke curling up toward the ceiling to activate the suppression system. In several places inverted fountains of halon gas poured down, obscuring their view.
And a few things, once human, twitched redly in the wreckage. The hundreds of penetrators had probably sliced all the way through the building to burst out the other side, slaughtering everything in their path.
Jill’s conscience banged on its box lid, trying to get out. Shut up, she said to that piece of herself. I’m not wrong about this place. Whatever is going on here, it’s evil. The only thing I am going to regret is if there’s no one left to give me intel.
“Hurry up!” she barked as she shoved The Beast’s heavy door open and dismounted. Her PW10 snugged on its retractable sling under her right arm, and in her hands she hefted the rotary grenade launcher. “Butler, finish loading the Vixen yourself, and keep an eye on that jail. There may be armed guards in there, but there may also be prisoners, so don’t perforate it. Grusky, Donovan, you’re with me. Get moving, go go go!”
The three burst out of the vehicle and followed Repeth as she jogged toward the shattered front door of the office building. Behind them, Butler reloaded his depleted bin as Lockerbie bulldozed wrecked cars to block the underground garage.
Repeth saw movement in a gutted room and resisted the urge to fire a grenade. I need information, not revenge, she scolded herself. For now, that other self listened. She clambered over the sill into the office and through the mess.
Legs struggled weakly beneath a heavy overturned desk. Repeth pointed and the two men heaved the thing off the body while she covered them. Beneath the wreckage lay a man in shirt and tie, bloodied and dazed. She reached down to haul him to a seat in a surviving chair. Grabbing his hair to look him in the face, she lifted an eyelid. Running her half-gloved fingers over his torso, she searched for the wound that had produced all the blood.
She found a moist, bloody but rapidly-closing hole in his abdomen, and she put her grenade launcher down on the desk behind her to pull up her PW10. She set its muzzle to his head. “He’s healing. Nano or bio of some kind. That’s good, he won’t die on us. Cuff his hands, then tie his feet with that lamp cord, Donovan.” Once he was secured and his eyes were starting to clear, she slapped him gently. “Hey, you. You. What’s your name?”
They heard a burst of Vixen fire, then silence. The man looked around wildly, realizing his predicament.
“Hey you. Focus. What’s your name?”
“Bill,” he said dazedly.
“Okay, Bill, are you an Eden?”
A sly look crossed his face before it smoothed. “Yeah, Eden. It’s legal now, you know.”
“Liar.” Repeth kicked him in the stones, her heel crunching down on his groin.
“Top!” cried Grusky as the man choked and gagged in pain.
“Shut up, David. He’s healing, but he’s not an Eden. He doesn’t deserve your sympathy. I told you, what’s in here is evil.”

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