Author Spotlight: MIKE BROOKS
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Mike Brooks!
Mike Brooks was born in Ipswich, Suffolk and moved to Nottingham when he was 18 to go to university. He’s stayed there ever since, and now lives with his wife, cats, snakes, and a collection of tropical fish. He is the author of the KEIKO novels, sci-fi adventures that follow the escapades of those crewing the spaceship of the same name. DARK RUN and DARK SKY are out in the UK and US, while DARK DEEDS is out in the US but can be purchased in the rest of the world via the magic of the internet.
Mike also writes for Games Workshop’s Black Library. He has short stories available on the Black Library website and in Issue 1 of the relaunched Inferno! magazine. His Necromunda novella WANTED: DEAD is out now, and his first Warhammer 40,000 novel RITES OF PASSAGE will be out later in 2019.
Welcome to the Hive, Mike. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I’m going to go with The Phoenix Empress by K Arsenault Rivera, the sequel to The Tiger’s Daughter. It’s a story about two women who’ve loved each other since they were children, but they’re also quite possibly gods, and they have to lead their countries against a demonic invasion. It’s a very Eastern-influenced world, and feels (to me, anyway), like it’s the novel-length story that a folktale is distilled out of, if that makes sense.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’ve never played D&D! Unless you count being on the live panel of Dave Moore’s ‘Dungeons & Disorderly’ at FantasyCon last year. The sensible answer would be “something with ranged attacks”, but since I’m very much an ork player in Warhammer 40,000, the probable answer is “something that charges, shouting loudly, and swinging a large weapon”.
When you’re not charging through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
I tend to write in my “study” (look, it’s a spare bedroom with a desk and chair instead of a bed), which looks over my back garden and a some trees, which is actually quite nice. I usually work in silence these days (easy to manage, when you’re partially deaf), but will also listen to film soundtracks sometimes: not anything with words in, since that’s distracting. I’ll generally go for things scored by Ramin Djawadi, Tyler Bates, or Steve Jablonsky. I’m definitely a typer: I can type far faster than I can handwrite, plus my handwriting’s appalling at speed, and it’s going to need to be typed up anyway! In terms of the whole plotter/pantser debate, I’m somewhere between the two. I’ll have the main beats of a story mapped out, but the detail on how I get from one part to another is something I’m more likely to discover as I write it. Also, if it seems that the story really needs to change, then I’ll change it.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
It’s hard to say who my most significant fantasy influences are, given that I’ve read so much! And while things I read when I was younger might not be what I’d want my writing to be compared to today, that’s not to say that they didn’t influence me. I guess in terms of longevity, influences like Tolkien, Tad Williams, Pratchett, and Martin are writers that I’ve loved for twenty years or more. However, that is all very white male, and in recent years I’ve been making a conscious effort to read more widely, from more diverse authors, and there are some truly brilliant ones out there: yet still, it’s the older white male authors who dominate conversation when most fantasy fans gather together.
I’m honestly not sure if there’s anyone I’d dream of working with, as such. I’ve never tried to co-write something and the notion appeals, but it’s not a goal of mine.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
Good Omens, because I absolutely love the novel. I found the TV series quirkily amusing, but it lacked the laugh-out-loud hilarity of book, for me. I think part of that is that Pratchett in particular is so hard to adapt to television, because so much of the magic is caught up in the written descriptions or narrative voice.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
This is actually Sunday for me: I’ve made a rule recently that (unless there’s a really urgent deadline) I don’t write one day a week, since I currently work part-time and write part-time, and I felt it was good to get into the habit of having one day a week where I don’t work at all. So I’d use it to spend time with my wife, or friends, or play computer games, or go walking (which would be with my wife), or painting and modelling for my Games Workshop hobby.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I currently have a couple of things in the pipeline. Later this year my first novel for Games Workshop’s Black Library is coming out, which is called RITES OF PASSAGE and is about Navigators (for those of your readers who know who/what they are). Then there’s a bunch of other stuff for them about which I am technically still under a Non-Disclosure Agreement, but Twitter has leaked that there’s a Necromunda novel from me coming early next year, and I can tell you that there’s a third novel coming too, which is the one I’m actually working on right now, plus a few short stories in the pipeline.
Then I have my current fantasy project, the first novel of which is called THE BLACK COAST, which I’m delighted to say has just been signed up by Orbit for distribution in the UK, and Solaris for distribution in the US! That’s an epic fantasy series, and was my attempt at writing something where a culture clash results in people learning how to tolerate and appreciate difference rather than it inevitably leading to hatred and bloodshed (I mean, there is bloodshed, but in a slightly different context).
Finally, my short story ‘The Silence Of Sound’ will be in TransLunar Travellers’ Press’s first issue, which should come out in August. That’s a post-apocalyptic short story about a book thief with hearing loss who’s hunted down by a combat-trained librarian.
Congrats on the Orbit deal, Mike!
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I think it was probably when Gav Thorpe told me how to do an invoice as a freelance author. And that counts, because making sure you get paid as a freelancer is absolutely a part of writing. In terms of advice about putting words on the page, or stuff like that… eh? No piece of advice is universally good or bad, it’s just that some are so specific that they’re largely useless to most writers.
Well, except “get words down”.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I don’t tend to have them, luckily! Every now and then there’s a day where it’s a bit harder than usual, or I can’t seem to focus, and so sometimes in cases like that I’ll go “sod it” and do something else instead. But the vast majority of the time, I want to write, and I don’t find it hard to do so. If I found writing hard, I’d be doing something else…
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
I have a shocking lack of imagination in these regards, but I can’t really think of anywhere that appeals. I’m not a great traveller anyway, since I far prefer routine and familiarity, and there’s only a time period of a couple of hundred years backwards, and an incredibly small number of countries, where modern English would actually serve me. And what about diseases, and war, and fear of outsiders? Like, it might be impressive to go and see Machu Picchu in the 15th Century, but I also might well die.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Ooh. Well, I don’t know whether this counts as ‘obscure’, but Claire North used to write as Kate Griffin, and her ‘Urban Magic’ and ‘Magicals Anonymous’ series is/are brilliant. I really regret that she hasn’t written any more of them, but being Claire North is selling a whole lot more books, so I can’t really blame her!
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
Well, my work varies a bit since it covers the Keiko series (described as “If Firefly and The Expanse had a lovechild” by BookRiot), work in Games Workshop’s IP, and now my own forthcoming fantasy series. However, as a rule you can expect fast-paced action, snappy dialogue, and imperfect characters trying their best to Do The Right Thing (and only sometimes failing).
Brilliant. Thanks for joining us, Mike, and good luck with the new series!
Mike Brooks is the author of the Keiko novels DARK RUN, DARK SKY and DARK DEEDS. His first Warhammer 40,000 novel RITES OF PASSAGE will be released later this year. Check out Mike’s books here.