MM: So, word has it you have a complete science fiction trilogy due out next year. The concluding book in your third fantasy trilogy is also coming out next year. How did your transition to science fiction come about?
ML: It mostly stems from the fact that I write at a rate that produces more than one book a year. Publishers typically like to put out a single book each year from each author. By writing in a different genre I address a new audience (obviously with some overlap), and can find another outlet for my restless imagination. It also meant that if my current publishers didn’t have a slot for my science fiction in their schedule then I could sell the work to another publisher without upsetting them because I’m not “sleeping with the enemy” in the same way I would be if I sold a fantasy book to a rival. And in the end that’s what happened, the trilogy is coming out with 47North, an imprint owned by Amazon, whose non-traditional publishing model is allowing all three books to come out in the same year.
MM: How would you describe your new series in terms of tone? Is it hard sci-fi? Military? Space opera?
ML: That’s a little tricky. It has nothing to with space ships or military. It’s more “cross-over” than scifi in a lot of ways. It’s set in the 80s and focused on a group who play D&D together. So that all sounds rather “soft”. But where the scifi comes in then the scientist in me does make an effort to inject as much consistency as can be fitted around fiction in science. There’s discussion of quantum mechanics, and I do my best to have characters ask the sort of “why?” questions that a reader might have.
MM: It seems to me that in your fantasy novels you utilize technology and science as a sort of magic to those who don’t understand. Was writing science fiction so openly a positive change of pace? Were there challenges writing in another genre?
ML: The big change was writing in the real world. A different skill set is required to show the reader the real world in a convincing manner than to show them an invented one. The invented one requires much more information to be injected into the text, and imagination to make it interesting. But nobody can tell you that you are wrong. The real world representation has to mesh with the reader’s own knowledge and experience or risk ringing hollow and losing their engagement. The characters also have those constraints. They have to be believable products of a time and place that many of the readers will know well and all of the readers will have assumptions about.
MM: Did your former day job as a research scientist impact your writing a science fiction trilogy?
ML: Not in terms of the work I did in my day job, but definitely in terms of being a scientist and approaching problems in a logical manner. I’m not the nit pickiest of nit pickers, I can shove my scientific and logical objections to one side and enjoy a superhero or scifi film where fundamental physical laws are run over roughshod more out of laziness or ignorance than because the story demands it. And in science fiction you need to make shit up, otherwise it’s just science. But I did try to make sure that the stuff I made up was well defined and that what followed was the logical conclusion of that “fact”.
MM: Which genre did you have the most fun with?
I have fun with story and character, the genre isn’t that important to me. Rockets, spells, real world thrillers … all good. I do like there to be action and danger though.
Thank you for your time!
You can find Mark on: