Author Essay and Excerpt from Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier, by Myke Cole
Myke Cole talks switching protagonists in his Shadow Ops series
Writers are full of advice. As a profession, I’d say we’re second only to therapists in our desire to tell others how to live their lives. “Write what you love,” “Write what you know,”“Stay up all night,” “Get lots of sleep,” “Get a master’s in English,” “Drop out of college.”
The advice got so thick (and so contradictory) in my first year as a full-time writer, that I did a blog post about it - MykeCole.com
The one thing that was fairly consistent (and by “fairly,” I mean “just slightly more than the rest of the advice”) was that we were *not* supposed to write to market.
That’s great advice. Now, go try to do it.
We don’t live in a vacuum. If we’re trying to get books published, that means we want to sell them, and that means we are most certainly paying some degree of attention to the market around us.
My SHADOW OPS series is direct to mass-market high-action “urban fantasy.” If you look at the marketplace for that kind of book, you’ll see the bigger successes of Harry Dresden, Charlaine Harris or Patricia Briggs. They are series, following the adventures of a single protagonist that the reader gets to know really, really REALLY well. It’s a tried and true method that, in the hands of a great writer, can seriously bring home the bacon. You cannot look at the enormous and passionate fan base of any of these writers and say they aren’t stunning successes.
And that’s fantastic. But I can’t do it.
If I had to list the most influential writers in my career, they’d be Peter V. Brett, China Mieville, George R. R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie (and that’s just off the top of my head). And what do these writers all have in common? (besides being awesome) They use ensemble casts, a broad palette of multiple points of view.
It may be an attention span issue. In my long, dark nights of the soul, I sometimes wonder if I just don’t have the empathy to truly understand another person with the kind of depth and completeness to follow them for over ten novels.
But you finally reach a point where you shrug your shoulders and accept what is.
Here’s what is: I never intended the SHADOW OPS series to be a string of Oscar Britton stories. You’ll meet a new Protagonist in FORTRESS FRONTIER, and follow another one in BREACH ZONE. I’ve been fortunate enough to get signed up with Ace for another three SHADOW OPS books, and at least two of those will follow different protagonists as well.
They’re fascinating people, and I’ve come to love them as I dreamed them up. In the end, whenever I tried to cast them in supporting roles, they banged on the bars of the cage until I shined the spotlight on them.
Fictional characters can be demanding that way. After years of struggling, I’ve learned it’s best not to fight them.