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Editor Mike McPhail's So It Begins reviews

Editor Mike McPhail's Breach The Hull

Interview for Breach The Hull


Author Mike McPhail

Mike McPhail

Cling Peaches

Biography of

2009-05-18: interviews Mike McPhail, contributor to the military science fiction anthology, So It Begins, book two in the Defending the Future series.

MilSciFi: "Welcome back. With the releases a So It Begins we find you once again as the book's editor and cover artist."

McPhail: "Unlike BTH (Breach The Hull), which was basically assigned to me, I had much more control over this project, and in all honestly I've learned a great deal (both good and bad) from the first book, and hopefully I've put that knowledge to use.

The biggest change was the demise of Marietta Publishing. Literally we were ready to go to press, and where looking for the contracts to go out from the publisher, when he announced that he was out of the book-business. Fortunately, within 12-hours we were picked up by Dark Quest Books, a company that had first approached me to do my Alliance Archives Martial Role-Playing Game manuals. Well, so far so good, I know that Dark Quest has high expectation for this, and the other related project we have brought to the table."

MilSciFi: "Is the new publisher going to re-release Breach The Hull?"

McPhail: "Yep, we have just finished converting the old Marietta files to the new DTF (Defending The Future) series format; with luck it will physically be available by Balticon for the launch party for So It Begins.

In addition, Dark Quest has also given us the go-ahead for DTF book three, By Other Means, scheduled for release in late 2010/11."

MilSciFi: "What is a launch party?"

McPhail: "In short, it's just a get-together (party) among the authors, their friends, and fans to celebrate the publication and/or first printing of a new book. In our case, Danielle (of Ackley-McPhail fame) also likes to hold a raffle, and this year the grand prize is a walk-on part in a future Lost Fleet novel by Jack Campbell."

MilSciFi: "What was the inspiration of So It Begins' cover?"

McPhail: "I was watching Dreamworks', "Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima", when the idea hit me, stage an invasion from space--so it (the final battle) begins--have an armada of ships ring the planet, with a battleship in the foreground pounding away at the surface--it sounded hot at the time--but as the movie went on, it wasn't the sight of the big-guns that told me that the 'U.S. Marines was here to stay,' no it was the landing craft coming onto the beach. So I changed the primary ship to a troop carrier launching its orbital Landers toward the planet. I also put the planetary horizon on its side for a more dramatic effect."


MilSciFi: "Are there interior illustrations again?"

McPhail: "Just as with BTH, each story has its own custom black-and-white chapter icon, based on some aspect of the story. This time around I had a few carryovers, but mostly they (the authors) kept me on my toes trying to be an artist instead of a graphic designer; don't get me wrong, in the end I was proud of the work, but it definitely took time and several emails to get it right."

MilSciFi: "You’re also a contributor to So It Begins, isn't that a bit unusual, that is to have the book's editor also in the work?"

McPhail: "In the case of working for one of The Great Publishing Houses of the Landsraad that would be true, but with small press (in general), it's often the only way to get a share of the sales. Beside, my story still had to be approved by the other editors; plus, if the book ran long, mine would have been cut for space."

MilSciFi: "Please tell us a little something about your story."

McPhail: "It’s a gremlin story set on a starship in hyperspace--instead of a B17 flying over Germany--and the poor engineer who has to deal with the related problems."

MilSciFi: "Is this part of a large series or universe?"

McPhail: "It takes place within the universe of the Alliance Archives series, but is not as part of any current story-arc or timeline. It's kind of like playing with toys, you can recognize what and where they’re from, but the kids are just making it up the story as they go along. Many a good story (mostly by Danielle Ackley-McPhail) is set within such a realm."

MilSciFi: "What inspired you to write this story?"

McPhail: "The story is based on an old Star Trek RPG I used to run back in my Academy days. The intent of which was to isolate a player and drive him to step outside the normal chain of command in order to come to some resolution. Usually I managed to get the player to start rambling about "some hotdog headed alien" as security dragged him off to sickbay."

MilSciFi: "Does science and technology play an important role in this story (or in your work in general), or is it secondary to the story telling and characterization?"

McPhail: "The sci-tech should only be a tool to help frame and work through the story. After all, we general need a point of reference--a character--we can relate to (or dislike and hope for their inevitable downfall) in order to become part of the story. Even when the characters are not human--aliens, machines, etc--we almost always make them anthropomorphic, or at the very least give them some level of personality."

Although it must be said that bad sci-tech can take a good story and run it straight into the ground, as the reader loses faith in the author's ability to weave a convincing story."

MilSciFi: "Do you have plans to expanded upon, or write other works based on this story?"

McPhail: "Maybe. There's definitely a plot point that would allow for a follow up story."

MilSciFi: "Most authors we encounter write novellas/novels, do you find it a challenge to write short stories?"

McPhail: "To date, I've only written shorts and novellas, I'm not at the point where I have a novel hiding within me, scream to get out. When a story ends usually is not up to me--I'll just be writing along when suddenly it's over--sometimes I've hit all the key points I've outline, but often, it just ends. So if the concept is straight forward, with a clearly defended outcome, the story can wrap up pretty quickly."

MilSciFi: "Since time is of the essence for getting a reader up to speed in a short story, do you have a strategy, or preferred method for doing this?"

McPhail: "You need to drop them (the reader) into the action; let them get to know a character or two, and then use them as your gateway to the rest of the story's universe."

MilSciFi: "Do you have any other projects in the works?"

McPhail: "Currently I'm working on an illustrated article about the physics of hyperspace, and the engineering of a starship's hyperdrive (based on the Alliance Archives series)."

MilSciFi: "Do you have any upcoming author events?

McPhail: "Right now, Balticon is on the horizon.

One more very important note in closing. All of this effort is underpinned by the hard work and dedication of my loving wife Danielle; the person who makes all this possible. Thanks'love."

MilSciFi: "Thank you"

Mike McPhail's website is:

Alliance Archives' Martial Role-Playing Game

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Copyright ©2009 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved.


The views contained in this interview are those of the author, and
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