Talking ‘Overdraft’ and ‘Kenobi’ with John Jackson Miller

April 5, 2013 at 8:20 am | Posted in Books, Del Rey, eBooks, Interview, Sci-Fi, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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Author John Jackson Miller kicked off his new sci-fi project this week with Episode 1 of Overdraft: The Orion Offensive, an eight episode science fiction story full of aliens, action and humor. We interviewed John about Overdraft and the colorful characters therein, plus we squeezed in some questions for the ever anticipated Kenobi which will be out later this year.

First off, lets cover your new original science fiction story Overdraft: The Orion Offensive. How did the idea for the project begin?

John Jackson Miller: In 2011, I had been invited to write a short story for John Joseph Adams’ anthology Armored. At the time, I had done nothing but licensed work for eight years, and felt like it would be a good change of pace to create something that was all my own. The story I wrote for the book — which Baen published in 2012 — was “Human Error,” an extended, humorous anecdote about a group of space marines who get sent the wrong species’ armor by mistake.

But in creating Bridget Yang and her surgical strike team, I also needed to develop rules for their world and some background on what their universe was like. A lot of material never made it into the short story, and I realized I had the makings of a continuing series of short stories. That was when Jamie Sturm, the conniving stockbroker who gets drafted into service as an interstellar trader, entered the picture. Jamie and Bridget — or Sturm and Yang, to coin a phrase —are a really fun team. He absolutely doesn’t want to be out there on the frontier, and she’d rather be protecting anyone else. But they manage to succeed in spite of all that, and in entertaining ways.

At what point was it decided to break the story up into a serialization of eight episodes which would then be gathered together later as a collected print and eBook release?

JJM: At San Diego in 2012, I had a conversation with David Pomerico, who had been one of my editors on Lost Tribe of the Sith — and who had since become acquisitions editor for 47North, Amazon’s horror, science fiction, and fantasy imprint. David mentioned that he was managing a Kindle Serials line that was about to launch — taking projects that were bound for novel-length books and serializing them in healthy chunks. The more I thought about it, the more it looked like Jamie and Bridget’s stories were perfect for this kind of treatment. They’re very episodic — going from one planet and predicament to another — and so it was just a matter of placing the cliffhangers and reworking the pacing.

There’s a larger storyline, too, that is developing as the individual episodes go along — mysteries to be solved. And we learn some more each episode about Jamie and Bridget and their past, and about what the world is like in this new future.

 

There’s a rather interesting scene depicted on the cover art. Can you tell us who those people are?

JJM: I was thrilled that 47North got Paul Youll — artist of the Star Wars: Scoundrels and Star Wars: Essential Reader’s Companion covers — for the cover art. The image depicts Jamie with the briefcase, out front and terrified, with Bridget smirking behind his left shoulder; behind his right shoulder is Victor Gideon, one of the squad leaders. Behind is Cathe Wu, one of the members of Bridget’s first team. Surge Team Sigma is made up of three squads and different ones go on each mission, so we find out more about them all as we go along.

Gideon is a blast to write — he’s a crazed gung-ho character that no other expedition would hire. Jamie discovers there are an awful lot of people like that. It’s not a total bunch of misfits and screw-ups — they are effective at what they do — but they’ve had a lot of bad luck, individually and together. And Jamie is the latest piece of bad luck.

I was happy to see that Bridget Yang and her Surge Team were back in action in Episode 1: “Greenmail” but I have to say Kolvax is my new favorite character. Where can readers expect to see this wily, ruthless alien prophet heading in the series?

JJM: Kolvax is a fun character. He’s like Jamie in some ways: a fraud who believes only in himself and ways to advance himself — but among the Xylanx, his people, that can take someone a long way.

Kolvax goes from being exiled in the middle of nowhere to suddenly being on the brink of great power, thanks to his meeting with our heroes. They’ve handed him what may be the key to political power among his people just by existing. As the story goes along, we realize what he has up his sleeve — and how it would have been much better for humanity if Jamie Sturm had just stayed home.

Will there be other major characters showing up as the series goes forward?

JJM: Definitely. In addition to the other team members and principles with the Xylanx, we meet representatives of the alien species that Jamie’s trying desperately to sell to. The nature of interspecies communication is such that words get translated into human voices selected by the team’s computers — and these voices are all plucked from the database of known human speech. So it’s not unusual to run into an alien who speaks like Richard Nixon, if that’s who the computer selects as its personality analog.

The milieu itself is a lot of fun because of that and other factors defining the universe. Interstellar travel, for example, is limited to objects about twice the size of a railroad car — which means large ships have to be disassembled and reassembled for shipment. We’re in Legoland, basically! And there’s no instantaneous communication across the stars, so there’s a definite information gap between systems. That makes for some important dramatic moments.

Will the stakes be getting higher as Jamie Sturm, Yang and her Surge Team venture further into the unknowns in a desperate attempt to save Altair Station?

JJM: Absolutely. Kolvax’s plan is huge, and there are forces at work that will make Jamie’s initial, impossible challenge seem easy by comparison. I think readers will really dig the series.

It’s available during the serialization period for just $1.99 — http://amzn.to/overdraft1 — that one price gets all episodes downloaded to your Kindle, a new one every two weeks. If you come in late, you get everything to date. At the end of the period, it becomes a full print and e-book at regular pricing. So it’s a bargain and a fun way to tell a story.

Changing gears, the other big project you have in the works that a lot of people are excited about is Kenobi. We know you can’t go into any specifics for Kenobi so we’ll keep the questions general. Will there be sand? Just kidding, seriously though, will Kenobi be playing pinball at the local cantina?

JJM: He might like to, but he can’t. This is going to be part of the big challenge for the character — Obi-Wan Kenobi was a man of the galaxy, always near where the action was going on. But now he has a mission that requires him to stay unseen as much as possible. He’s in witness protection, so to speak. That’s tough, for a Jedi.

That doesn’t mean that we leave him alone, or that he doesn’t have the impulse — and opportunity — to act as a Jedi. But it’s like when Yoda advised Luke about what his best course of action should be. There are times when reacting to situations the way a Jedi would is actually contrary to the greater good. Obi-Wan has a right to worry about his own situation.

Del Rey’s Frank Parisi mentioned on Facebook a few weeks ago that Kenobi delves a little into the culture of the Tusken Raiders. Will we finally find out what they look like under those masks?

JJM: We definitely get into the Tusken mind, at least — and it’s a very strange place to be. I tried to absorb everything I could about their world before starting.

Can you tell us what kind of time span can we expect Kenobi to cover?

JJM: I think we’d rather have readers find that out as they go.

Kenobi has been likened to a western. While this might be taking the idea a bit too far, if you had to pick a particular western, would it be more like Unforgiven, The Magnificent Seven, or something else?

JJM: Heh! I can think of a number of comparisons readers might draw, so I won’t try to limit that by picking one.

I will say, though, that I’m a fan of writers like Larry McMurtry, who show you not just the action heroes, but also the innkeepers and the farmers and the natives — the people who make up a place. My intention all along was to do the same here. We really worked to build a world for Obi-Wan to encounter and interact with — an immersive experience for him and the reader both.

You’ve done quite a bit of Star Wars work: the Knight Errant novel, the Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories, and countless comics. What was it like to get the greenlight for the project, and where would you rank Kenobi both on a personal and professional level?

JJM: Kenobi has been one of the dream projects from the start. I’ll be able to get more into the details of it later on, but this is a story I first conceived several years ago, and it took me time to mature as a writer to do it justice. I’m thrilled to have gotten the chance to do it now; I think folks will like the result.

We want to thank John for taking the time to answer our questions. Readers can pick up Overdraft: The Orion Offensive on Amazon, and pre-orders are already up for Kenobi on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. As always, you can find out more about John and keep up with his latest announcements via his website, farawaypress.com.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.
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