2009-05-28: An interview with James Daniel Ross, author of the Radiation Angels novel, The Key to Damocles.
Welcome back Mr. Ross, we understand it
you have been quite busy.
are correct. There has been a lot of movement in Radiation Angel properties. Snow
and Steel, a collaborative effort, was released by PP press, The
Radiation Angels: The Key to Damocles is slated for release at Balticon
2009, First Drop is about to hit the internet through Mundania Press, So
it Begins also continues the tradition of containing Radiation Angels
short, and it looks like another has been accepted into the anthology Barbarians
at the Jumpgates."
I’m a busy, but I love it.
Anyone we’d recognize in these short
Yes, sir. I have been trying an experiment with my writing and marketing."
Marketing? Please explain.
Unless it is oppressively pervasive or shocking most conventional advertising
is swallowed up in the rest of the ad noise. Yet everyone always says that the
best marketing is word of mouth. I needed people to talk about The Radiation
Angels, and I needed to provide entertainment that would have them looking for
me. Unfortunately there was no time to release a dozen novels in the first year
in order to generate that buzz—"
Which brings us to your short stories?
I started by writing a short story for and anthology being released by Mundania
Press. Somewhere in there Danielle Ackley-McPhail found me on a street corner
writing love poems for scraps of bread and asked me to write for Bad Ass
Faeries II. Then I was kindly given an opportunity to write a short story for
Breach the Hull, So it Begins, Bad Ass Faeries III and Barbarians at
So how does this all tie together?
with the stories for Bad Ass Faeries I just tried to do the best I could. I
wanted fresh stories with new takes on old tales; REPOstiltzkin and The Natural
Born Spy. But with The science fiction anthologies, I largely wrote in the
Radiation Angels universe, allowing people to get a taste of what the stories
were like. I wanted to, again, do my best to tell an entertaining story, but
also to hook them into the larger world."
Were there other elements for marketing?
yes. One of the ideas I am proud to say I stole wholesale was of unit patches."
But you already have a unit patch.
and that was convenient when Mike McPhail, Editor of the Breach the Hull series, asked for unit patches for his stories. As
time went on, however, I saw all of the stories as new events, new moments that
the reader would experience as a member of the Radiation Angels. I began to
toss around ideas of modified unit badges for use as campaign badges."
So you are working on them now?
the help of some friends, yeah. I have the work done on several of them
already. Each one relates to the story as a whole. I hope it will give fans a
greater sense of community."
So there are many short stories, can we
explore them one at a time?
course. Snow and Steel is part of what we hope will be a series called The Red
Soldier, detailing the exploits of Soviet soldiers in various conflicts.
And Snow and Steel covers...?
Like "Enemy at the Gates?"
yes and no. Enemy at the Gates focused on one guy: Korsikov, a sniper. Snow and
Steel is much more like classic representations of World War II fiction as it
deals with a unit of men. These guys are in one of the worst meat-grinders of
the WWII, an event filled with them. We took great pains to make the tactics,
the attitude, the plot, timing, characters, and location realistic."
But it is still fiction?
My partner actually found old maps detailing where units were deployed in Stalingrad for both the Nazis and Soviets. Our units sit smack dab in the middle
of two major fronts, and while both are fictional, they are affected by real
world events and movements of the front lines as if they were."
So this was written with someone else?
I have to humbly admit that it was mostly written by someone else. Snow and
Steel is the brain child of Joe Cowels. He had the concept, wrote the first
draft, and then set to polishing the story until he was somewhat stumped. Being
friends he brought it to me to get an outsider’s perspective. I took the book
and ran with it, to the point where Joe has insisted that the book is now, and
will forever be, ours. I was, and am, supremely honored."
This was your first foray outside of
actually. I have an Urban Fantasy short story in Bad Ass Faeries #2, and one
accepted for Bad Ass Faeries #3. Bad Ass Faeries #2 actually won a ‘Best Anthology’
Eppie award. If you aren’t into machine guns in Russia, or laser pistols in space, those are a great place
to get a taste some of my work."
Beautiful! Three shorts? Radiation
First Drop, as the name implies, is the very first job for the newly minted
mercenary Todd Rook."
The captain of The Radiation Angels?
not yet. It is a prequel to the first novel, explaining how he got his start
and the environment that spawned the master tactician. Chronologically next
comes Not One Word in Breach the Hull."
Not One Word, as in ‘we don’t negotiate
Not One Word as in no time to talk. This short is very, very fast. It’s like
jumping into a sports car and jamming the throttle all the way down, only
pausing to shift into a higher gear as you weave through midday traffic. It
follows Rook as he dodges gunfire, rocketfire, mutilation and dismemberment. He
jumps buildings, leaps down stairs, falls in love, and barely, barely… well,
read it and see."
But why Not One Word?
are no spoken words in the story. It is a complete tale with no quotation
He covers a city?
And he gets into combat?
And he falls in love?
and totally head over heels."
And there are no words?
spoke dialogue, yes."
And that worked for the story?
the Hull won the Dream Realm Award for Best Anthology, so I’m
going to guess: yes. At least I hope so, the true judge of anything like this
is the fans, and they seem to really like it. Breach the Hull has done good things helping Gambit to move and visa
Wait, that makes you a two-time award
winning author? Very nice.
you, I am very proud. I hope that So it Begins, which contains The Nature of
Another Rook story?
no. This one follows a minor member of the team that retired pre-Chimerium
Gambit. It follows him and his son as they discuss deep things in a frozen
That’s a lot fewer explosions than
usual for you, isn’t it?
might think that, but all is not what it seems. Rook makes an appearance by the
end of the short playing cavalry. I just hope the book is as fantastically well
received as Breach the Hull."