Yes, I’m late on this. Sorry about the delay.
Day 1: who are you, and what are you writing?
Since you’re here, I imagine you have some idea as far as the first question goes. If not, there’s an ‘About’ page.
I’m writing a novel-length piece called The Star-Studded Black, set in the same universe as my debut novella We Sail Off To War. They take place in a hard science fiction universe in the middle of an all-out war, and both focus on characters’ experiences rather than the grand sweep of things. I find that the most relatable military history and military fiction does the same.
Day 2: describe your protagonist in seven words.
Lloyd Church, war correspondent: old-school. Trilbies, pen and notepad, newsprint.
Day 3: what was your first inspiration for this project?
I’m going to cheat and cite two.
First off, the setting for The Star-Studded Black features the Naval Arm of the Confederacy of Allied Worlds experimenting with a new class of ship: the gunboat. Small but heavily-armed, agile, and cheap, they’re well-suited to commerce raiding, fleet reconnaissance, and a number of other tasks, which our heroes discover over the course of the story. The idea for a gunboat story came from some reading about the Civil War. The Union had a fleet on the Mississippi River; at the outset of the war, they were all ironclad gunboats of idiosyncratic design. I wanted to do something similar, so I spent some time thinking about what sort of space terrain mirrors a river, and came up with asteroid belts and planetary ring systems. Both are constantly changing in terms of navigational hazards (though an asteroid belt isn’t much of a hazard). A working ship in such an environment should be small and have powerful engines, given that the obvious kind of work to be done is moving objects around. I won’t say any more, because doing so would give away a plot point.
The inspiration for Lloyd Church, war correspondent, comes from something I’m reading right now. A year and a half ago, I was at the local library’s used book sale. I came across a volume called William Russel, Special Correspondent of the Times. Active from about 1850 to 1890, he was the first true war correspondent and a roving journalist for the Times of London. Through his descriptions, the Victorian world comes to life, and I wanted to write a similar figure.
Day 4: what are three books which go well with your work in progress?
1. Master and Commander, or any Jack Aubrey book: although I don’t go quite as far as David Drake in writing seafarers in space, I do aim for that aesthetic in many ways. The classics of the genre deserve a spot on your shelf.
- Red Storm Rising: Tom Clancy is basically the Rembrandt of military fiction. I don’t delve as deeply into politics in The Star-Studded Black, but I hope to write something similarly thrilling.
Mr. Lincoln’s Brown Water Navy: an interesting read on a frequently-glossed-over topic in Civil War history, and the best source on the gunboats I mentioned in the previous answer.
Day 5: share a line where your story comes to life.
Lloyd Church was in the dark. He hated being in the dark.
For the last four weeks, he had been all but confined to his spartan quarters in the Caledonian freighter Katherine Anne, where his chief at the Confederate Press had booked him passage to Odyssey.
Life in Katie, as her crew called her, seemed normal enough at first, but Church had since compiled a long list of suspicions about her true purpose. For one, the crew were far too deferential to be merchant sailors. In his experience, only career Navy men could be so polite while saying so little.
Day 6: would you rather spend a week in your universe, or have your antagonist spend a week in ours?
Well, the antagonist in these naval war in space stories is “the horrors of war”, and as far as its presence in our universe goes, that ship sailed quite a long time ago.
To pick a more concrete antagonist, though, the warship commanders opposite our heroes are upstanding, gentlemanly sorts. I wouldn’t say no to having them stop by so I might pick their brains.
On the other hand, spending a week in my universe basically means I get to spend a week IN SPACE, which is pretty cool. I have to say I pick that one.
Day 7: share a line in which the plot thickens.
In which our intrepid correspondent is surprised:
In the belter hangar was what Church took to be a warship, but it was like no warship he had ever seen.