This one time at Writer's Camp…
Category Archives: Interviews/Guest Blogger
I sent off Homeworld: Rockfall to my coauthor Eric Brown yesterday afternoon. The first draft is done (yeah, I was slacking) and though it “only” took about 5 weeks to write, that was a rough five weeks.
While the book itself isn’t the longest thing I’ve ever written (I’m looking at you, Corruptor) it is, by far, the grimmest. I don’t think I’ve ever dug that deep into the MilSF genre before when writing. Not even Wraithkin went that dark, and considering what Wraithkin is all about, that’s saying something. To match Eric’s style, you need to channel your inner David Drake (if you have one of those) and try to keep up. Eric’s a very talented guy who is more known for horror than MilSF (at least, for me in any case) but when he wants to, he sure can imitate Drake nicely.
That’s not a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong. There are thousands of writers out there who wish they could sounds like David Drake. Eric’s one of the few who can pull it off.
My poison ivy is finally clearing up. My right side of the face is cleared at last, though the skin is extra dry (and flaky… ewwww), I can see my eye now without having to search for it. It still “feels” a little weird, like I still have some swelling around the zygomatic area, but all in all I call myself “healed”.
Still haven’t gotten my deer yet. I’m… perturbed by this. Of course, last time I didn’t get my deer until the last day of hunting season, so if the pattern continues… man. I’m going to be out there freezing my butt off again. The good side to that, though, is that if I get my deer at dusk, then I’ll be able to just hang it up in the shed and finish skinning it the next day. The downside? Skinning it the next day, when the deer is nice and cold and stiff.
The things I do so I can make my chili…
Okay, so I need to rehash my brain and get out of the MilSF set that it’s is. While I should buckle down and finish Wraithkin, Rockfall is still stuck in my mind and I really am worried that the two will seem too similar if I try finishing Wraithkin now. So I’ll need to get something “fun” written, like a Tobias Fox story (which I owe 6 of right now) or my little short, I, Godslayer. This should allow me enough time to “reset” and get the right frame of mine back for wrapping up Wraithkin and shooting it over to the agent to see if he likes it. I originally thought that I would have Unholy Vengeance done before October 31 but since I’ve barely cracked 10,000 words… I think it’s going to be closer to February by the time that one gets done. But still, at least I have some sort of time frame now as to when I hope to get things done.
“Hope” being the key word here.
Next week over at Shiny Book Review, my interview with author Kal Spriggs will be going live. Kal was a good sport about being interviewed, and barring some technical difficulties, his interview should be up on Monday. Barb is interviewing the polymath/rocket scientist/author Stephanie Osborne soon as well, and then there’s going to be one other interview going up a few weeks after that. Yes, we’re still doing book reviews, but right now interviews are easier on us (mostly). I still have three books I need to review (Mike Resnick’s The Doctor and the Dinosaur; Seanan McGuire’s Discount Armaggedon, and Misty Massey’s Mad Kestrel (which I’d been meaning to review for monthsnow). Barb’s got a full plate on her hands as well, so bear with us.
Other than that, my con schedule for 2014 is starting to fill up. I have a secret desire to attend Worldcon next year but unless I come into a lot of money, I doubt I’ll be making the flight to London, no matter how much I’d love to go. I’ve never been to London (or England) and it’s on my bucket list. Yeah, it’s weird that I’ve been throughout the Middle East and Eastern Europe, but haven’t gone to London. NASFic is a possibility, since it’s in Detroit and is close enough-ish to drive. But for right now, I’m only attending Mysticon, Ravencon and Libertycon. I had to turn down an invite from MidSouthCon since they are too close to Ravencon, and I usually give con preference to whoever asks me first. I’m still toying with the possibility of Congragate but since they’re very close to Libertycon, that might present some problems.
I’ve already seen people gearing up for NaNoWriMo, which is always confusing for me. I mean, while you’re “prepping” for NaNo, you could be, oh I don’t know, writing? I understand that a lot of people enjoy the support of other writers during NaNo, and I guess that makes a lot of sense, since everyone wants to be told that their writing is awesome and that they can do it. But I think that’s also a potential downside to NaNo as well. Everybody is so busy cheering one another on that, somewhere in the mist, the entire goal of “writing” gets lost. Skewer me all you want (I know you will, Mandi) but if you’re too busy applauding and cheering everyone else, then when do you have time to write for yourself?
Writing is a job. That’s the mindset that anyone wishing to be a writer full-time has to accept. There’s a set time you write, and you stick to that. For me, it’s from 9am-1 or 2 pm, depending on what my deadline is. I do this every day, Monday through Saturday, unless I’m out of town on Saturday. It sucks writing in the mornings, because my brain is fragged and I haven’t really woken up yet. But it’s beneficial as well, because I’ve now established a pattern of consistency and, as you may have read up top, my coauthor and I wrote a novel in 5 weeks. That’s… insane. Really.
Set your writing goals, then stick to them. It gets easier.
Wow. This got long in a hurry. And I got to lecturing. My apologies. Here is a picture of my cat.
How is Man to be well-governed? How is he to govern himself? Many approaches have been tried and many more proposed. Some of these have been, in the words of a philosopher of Old Earth whom we know of only as R.A.H. , “Weird in the extreme.” None have worked; none have lasted. All have ultimately failed and usually in the most disastrous ways imaginable.
So opens Colonel Tom Kratman’s latest book, The Lotus Eaters, from Baen Books. Delving into the philosophical for a moment, this is one man I can never call “Tom” to his face. He’ll always be Colonel to me, despite assurances from unidentified sources that it is quite okay to call him “Tom”. I refuse, maintaining the officer-enlisted mentality (which may, or may not, ensure my survival). There’s a lot to be said about a man who can stare down a zombie and force it to spontaneously combust with naught but a withering glare.
Beyond the norm, Colonel Kratman’s novels tend to remind one of the gritty, hard-hitting realities of life while throwing everything which can be labeled “politically correct” in your face. He’s agreed to an interview, and while many of you may or may not see eye to eye with his politics or views, one thing can be certain: he writes damn good books. And I, curse the talented man, have spent quite a bit of money on his books over the years.
Me: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Colonel. First question I’m going to ask, as it relates to The Lotus Eaters and the two books preceding it, A Desert Called Peace and Carnifex: Where did you come up with a character like Carrera?
Colonel Kratman: Carrera’s existence actually arises from a question, or two of them; what kind of man would be required to do the things, and succeed in the things, he does and succeeds in, and what would spark him to do that. That was true even in the original version I wrote back in the 90s, mostly while in law school, which version wasn’t remotely science fiction.
As for his attributes and talents, those are composite. Some came from me, yes. Still others came from people I’ve known. Some more came from historical characters. And one particular one, the spark of madness, came from losing his family in the way he did.
There was also a fictional character, Clancy’s Jack Ryan, who is a negative part of Carrera’s make up. See, whenever I had a moral problem for him I asked myself, “What would that goody-two-shoes, failed to kill the man who shot his wife and little girl, failed to nuke the Iranian city under the full provocation of a biological attack, wimp Jack Ryan do?” And then had Carrera do the opposite.
Me: So you’ve got a series which starts off similar to the September 11, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers. I know how hard that day hit me, since I’d only been out of the military for a year and had been to New York shortly before the attacks happened. When A Desert Called Peace was first released, I remember some people complaining about the resemblances. It was a difficult read for me, but it also opened my eyes to just how some people are horrible beings and others can be true heroes are in our every day life. How hard was it to write the scene where Hennessey’s family is trapped in the building right after the attack?
Colonel Kratman: A few complained, apparently because of the political incorrectness of reminding people we are at war, with bad people. More thought it was just fine to remember and remind. One comment sticks with me. It was to the effect that, “I didn’t cry when the towers fell. But I did when I read about Linda Hennesey.”
It was, in any case, harder than you might imagine, because, while Carrera is not me, his first family is basically mine. Using them – and no, neither my wife nor daughters were especially pleased about that – was the necessary spark for me to delve into his madness.
(Oh, and by the way, yes, I have seen my wife, Yolanda, cause traffic jams and accidents by walking along the sidewalk. I have seen restaurants go quiet as a churchmouse upon her stepping through the doors. She was younger then, and the absolutely most beautiful person, place, or thing I have ever seen in my life. The pics on my site don’t do her near justice. And, though I married her when she was 17, she got progressively better looking for the next 20 or so years. She’s still good looking, if a bit thin, and she’s pushing 50 now. She was painful to look at it, and more painful not to be able to look at. The amusing rumor when I was in law school was that she was a Saudi princess. But, no, she’s Panamanian.)
In any case, it was necessary for me to write those scenes in a way that was extremely painful, for me, in order for me to give Carrera the motivation to do what he does.
Me: I would say you’ve touched on extremism of different types of Islam in your books, but that would be an understatement. One of my favorite books you’ve written, Caliphate, describes how the Caliphate of Europe came to be in the guise of tolerance and progressiveness. Do you really believe that the situation will be turning as dire as you portray it in your book?
Colonel Kratman: I think it’s more likely than not that Europe will at some point in time become as I portray the Caliphate. But I can’t say it’s inevitable. As for the US turning into a nasty, genocidal dictatorship? Much of that depends on how we react to a really mass casualty, megadeath event on our soil, directed at us. As, by the way, I fully expect to happen.
Me: Your first book (A State of Disobedience) was about a second revolution starting in Texas. Your following book, for me at least, was Yellow Eyes with John Ringo. I really thought Yellow Eyes was your best work until I read A Desert Called Peace. Was it difficult for you to play in somebody else’s sandbox in Yellow Eyes? Do you have any other projects in the works?
Colonel Kratman: I don’t play well with others. Just ask my first grade teacher, Mrs, Skirsky, if she’s still alive.
Jim Baen, ere he passed, had a sort of battle drill for new authors. This consisted of linking up the new guy with an older, more established author, where older author writes up an outline, new guy writes the book from that, old guy edits and embellishes, both names go on the cover, and they basically split royalties. Allegedly, he thought about pairing me with several different ones, but – “No, not Drake…the books would bleed if squeezed…No, not Weber; they’d never get along and Tom is less even tempered than John Ringo, and has more guns…aha, Ringo!”
So John did up an outline for what amounts to “Mongols in Space,” under the series title: The Drift Road Wars. I tried, I really did. But in fourteen months I managed to write about fourteen thousand words, every one of which I loathed separately but equally. Note that, when I’m really going, on things I want to write, I’ve done close to a million in a year.
Finally, John called me up and said, “You can’t do this, can you?” Me: “No. The problem is not with the outline or the story; it’s with me.” “Well, what can we do?”
That became Yellow Eyes and, since I could use my own story, I didn’t have the “don’t play well with others” issue.
Me: So what’s coming up next, besides Countdown: The Liberators?
Colonel Kratman: Right now, I’ve got several things going. I’m currently writing the follow on to Countdown: The Liberators, which is, tentatively, Countdown: M Day. Where The Liberators focused on creating a smallish military force for a limited project; in M Day that force is well established and much expanded, about to the size of a regiment, based in Guyana. Then Venezuela attacks. Yeah, one private regiment against a country, and where I am right now the regiment is getting its rear end kicked. It’s fun.
Beyond that, I’ve still got to do somewhere between one and three more Posleen books, depending on whether John does one, two, or none. He’s supposed to lead on two, under both of our names. I’ve got to finish M Day and do the next one in that series, H Hour, by January. I’ve got to do another contract with Toni Weisskopf for about five more volumes in the A Desert Called Peace series, covering the defense of Balboa against the Tauran Union and then the war with and liberation of United Earth from the Kosmos (read: Tranzis). Then, too, I get pestered regularly for a sequel or two to Caliphate. And I probably will, at some point in time, write those. There are a few alternate histories I might like to do that I research as time permits, one on the civil war, one of Germany winning the First World War, and one on Hitler succeeding in conquering England in 1940. That last would be particularly fun. I call it SeeAdler: The Oxford Pledge, and pin the blame on the people who deserve it, the left and the pacifists who were Hitler’s unwitting, indeed witless, partners in crime.
And then, a number of people think I should actually write the fictional book I allude to in The Lotus Eaters, Historia and Filosofia Moral (History and Moral Philosophy, a la Heinlein’s Starship Troopers).
Me: Despite your rabid fan base, you still have the moniker of being a “new” author. I think that’s unfair ( no new author can piss off as many people and still get contracts if they were “new”, but I digress), but at least the folks at Baen Books have been extremely supportive of your writing. Have you had many people try to come up to you and say “We should write a book together”?
Colonel Kratman: Oh, I’m kind of new, still. I didn’t begin getting hot and heavy about it until I retired from the Army, about four years ago. Since then, I’ve gotten out…hmmm…lemme think…five books. And have two more done and in the editorial queue.
But I do have a pretty loyal fan base and, better still, it’s growing. It may even be growing substantially. The Lotus Eaters, while not the first time I ever hit anybody’s best seller list (I’ll never hit the NYT, I think, and not because of sales figures), was the first time I ever did so purely on my own ticket. And that was the Wall Street Journal’s, which is way better than getting hit in the face with a wet fish, no?
Yes, people ask with some regularity. I tell them what I said above, “I don’t play well with others.”
Me: I’m not surprised. Your writing is just that damn (excuse my language) compelling. How hard is it to tell them no?
Colonel Kratman: Hard, because I remember how miserably difficult and demoralizing it is to try to break into writing. But I still can’t help it; I don’t play well with others.
Me: So are you going to be doing any book signings or appearances in the near future?
Colonel Kratman: I used to go to cons quite often. Two things happened to interfere with that. One is that my life sort of entered the world of the surreal, almost exactly two years ago. No, I’m not going to talk about it except to say that I was somehow involuntarily enrolled in the Disaster of the Quarter Club. I’d have had, oh, two more books out, I think, but for that.
The other thing was I had started growing uncomfortable with cons. More specifically, I am not without a fairly solid, but not, I think, arrogant, ego, hence don’t need or want the egoboo that comes with making an appearance. The short form of that is that I am, personally, too egalitarian in social matters to be comfortable with the distance fans seem to assume is natural. “Well, it ain’t; see?”
That said, with disasters fading into the background, I might start up with cons again in the next year or so. Not sure which ones, though. And I have to be careful about attending in states where I can’t carry and where, disarmed, I might get lynched.
Me: Well we can’t have that. Thank you, Colonel, for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to do this interview with me.
Be sure to pick up Colonel Kratman’s latest, The Lotus Eaters, as well as his next book, Countdown: The Liberators, due out this coming February 2011 from Baen Books.
Jason: All of us who have read Monster Hunter International are eagerly waiting for the release of the sequel, Monster Hunter Vendetta, coming out this September from Baen Books and is also available at for pre-order right now at Amazon. The electronic Advance Reader’s Copy (i.e., pre-released word crack) is available now at Webscriptions for only a pittance. Monster Hunter International is an amazing book. I mean, come on, it’s a great story with lots of action, a love story (for the female readers out there) , gun pron (for the gun fans), and B-movie horror creatures straight out of Blackula (for those of us who just love zombie-ninja-Nazi bad guys). Well, I might have stretched the truth on that last bit. Sort of. So Larry, I have to ask, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before, how in the hell did you come up with Owen Z. Pitt? Is it your biography of those wild years in Singapore?
Larry Correia: I get asked a lot if Owen is me. Not really. He’s way cooler. I was more comfortable writing in the 1st person with MHI, and since it was my first novel, I stuck with the rule about writing what you know. It keeps Owen’s voice fun and easy to write. So we’ve got a lot in common, background wise, with being gun-nut accountants who have to shop at the XL Casual Male Outlet. Much of his background is strangely like mine, and we share the same opinion on most issues. However he is braver, smarter, and in a lot better shape.
Jason: So we’ve had B-movie demons, chupacabras, vampires, ghouls, zombies and countless of other creatures. Do you have a library in your house full of info on such creatures, or has the internet been your loyal and faithful friend? It’s okay to lie, by the way, if you actually have a massive B-movie collection in your garage. Nobody judges here…
Larry Correia: I am a B-movie geek. I love them. Seriously. If it has monsters in it, I’ve probably seen it. I don’t care for slashers, or the Saws or Hostels or anything like that, but dude in a rubber suit and a cast that was paid in beer? I’m so there. Honestly, I’ve watched hundreds of low budget monster flicks. I’ve always had a soft spot for monsters and one of my favorite thing about writing Monster Hunter is messing around with all the various monster tropes.
Jason: You are one of the few tremendously successful self-published authors out there. Given the current publishing environment in the industry, do you feel that the traditional “agent-publisher” route is going the way of the dodo? Why or why not?
Larry Correia: I’m not smart enough to figure out what is going to happen yet. The e-book revolution is changing publishing and it is making publishers very nervous. You’ve got publishers out there trying to keep the price of their e-books on par with a hard cover, and that’s just absurd. I’m lucky in that Baen is a forward thinking publishing house in this respect, and prices their e-books at $6 and without all that stupid DRM. (Digital Rights Management)
For most authors, we really need publishers because it lends us legitimacy over self publishing, as in it gets us on bookstore shelves. The real change is for authors that have lots of entrenched loyal fans already. I know of several that are asking themselves “what has my publisher done for me lately?” Authors like this can just cut their publisher out entirely, post their book to the I-Book store, sell to their hardcore fans, and keep 70% of the money, instead of the 8-10% they are getting now.
The thing that I’m wondering about is if the I-Pad will do to books what the I-Pod did to music.
Jason: I follow your blog at Monster Hunter Nation and have read your “Ask Correia” columns with interest. Can I cut to the front of the line and ask something? Why, after reading and experiencing just how hard it is to co-author, do authors like us continue to do so? Is it really that rewarding?
Larry Correia: As you are well aware, co-authoring is a lot more work than just writing. However, in my particular case, I started playing around in a world created by someone else. Back before I was published, Mike Kupari was writing an online serial that I was really enjoying. I thought it would be fun to do a stand-alone scene from one of the villains perspectives. He agreed. I posted it, and the fans loved it. So we kept going, my POV character got his own arc, and the serial turned out great.
Now we’ve taken that serial, tripled it in size and complexity, and have written a thriller called Dead Six. It isn’t sold yet, but it came out really well. In this particular case, Mike and I were able to turn out something entirely different than something that either one of us would have created on our own. So that makes it worth it.
Jason: Let’s say we met at a convention and I wanted to get you a beer for writing such a kick-ass novel in Monster Hunter International. How do I pronounce your name? Is it like the country?
Larry Correia: Yep. Just say Korea. Once my family hit Ellis Island you no longer had to roll the Rs. That’s why I get to say Sonya Soto-Meyer. None of that Sotomeeeyyooooooorrr crap for me.
Jason: Last question before I stop bugging you. I read the seven sample chapters of The Grimnoir Chronicles: Hard Magic you posted up on Monster Hunter Nation and I thought it was the coolest new world building I’ve seen in years. I know how you came up with it, but where did the varying magical talents come from? And how many more of the Grimnoir Chronicles do you have written or planned in your head?
Larry Correia: I wanted to write epic fantasy with a magic system that had rules. I don’t like fantasy where the wizards can just whip out a spell to do whatever the plot requires them to do at any point in time. So I made it so that each individual with magic was only able to manipulate one very specific area of reality. I divided the magic users into groups, and then gave each group a 20-30’s style slang pulp name. That’s why your gravity manipulators are “Heavies” and the guy that can walk through solid objects is a “Fade”. You’ve got Travelers, Mouths, Movers, Brutes, Finders, and a tons more.
I can’t say where magic comes from, or what it really is. That’s way after the sample chapters, but I believe it worked out in a pretty interesting fashion. It got pretty complicated, but I also wanted to write something with a glossary… It even has pictures!
It worked out well, because then the characters had to get creative to solve problems, or in some cases, they had to work with someone else with a different type of magic to change the effect. My publisher looked at it and decided that it was kind of “super heroes” which I’m also okay with, because she’s the boss and writes the checks. The guys at Elitist Book Reviews got to see an early copy, really liked it (and they pull no punches) and they dubbed it “The League of Extraordinary X-Men meets Dick Tracy. I would agree, only mine also has ninjas.
I have several other Grimnoir novels planned. The next one takes place a year later. I’ve also got plans for one set in 1908 called Knights of New York and an untitled project set in the 1870s.
Thanks again, Larry, for taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview. Be sure to catch the next stage in the Monster Hunter universe, Monster Hunter Vendetta, out this September from Baen Books.