Thursday, May 12, 2016

Interview with Marko Kloos

Please welcome Marko Kloos to The Qwillery. Chains of Command, the 4th novel in Marko's Frontlines series, was published on April 19th by 47North.

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Chains of Command (Frontlines 4), was published on April 19th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines 1) to now?

Marko:  Thank you! My writing process is still largely the same—I work off a chapter outline that hits all the major plot points, but leaves me some elbow room along the way. It’s a sort of pantser/plotter hybrid method that works well for me. The only difference between the processes for Terms of Enlistment and Chains of Command is the medium—I wrote the first draft of Terms mostly in longhand, but because of the time constraints of the series, I write my first drafts mostly on the computer now.

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Terms of Enlistment came out that you know now?

Marko:  I knew practically nothing about publishing when TERMS came out. My agent, the hyper-capable Evan Gregory with the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency, guided me through the process and made sure I don’t sell my stuff for the royalty equivalent of a handful of inert magic beans. The biggest revelation was that landing an agent and a book deal isn’t the finish line, it’s just the starting line. Then you have to keep turning in manuscripts, do developmental edits, be available for side projects and interviews and fan mail, and so on. Before, when I was still looking for an agent and a publisher, I was working on my own schedule. Now I am on someone else’s schedule, and the process involves a lot of people. It’s a much busier life now, but it’s amazingly fulfilling.

TQTell us something about Chains of Command that is not found in the book description.

Marko:  First off—it wasn’t supposed to be its own book. The events of CHAINS OF COMMAND were originally part of the outline for ANGLES OF ATTACK, the book that came before it. It’s pretty safe to say that my outline may have been a little ambitious in scope.

I also had a certain Russian battlespace coordinator on the mission with Andrew in CHAINS OF COMMAND, but having him in the story didn’t quite work, so I had to put the poor guy back on the shelf, to return in style for FIELDS OF FIRE.

TQWhich character in the Frontlines series (so far) surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Marko:  Andrew is easy to write because we share a few character traits (and because I get to spend my time in his head a lot), but his character arc is still positively surprising because his outlooks and ethics kept evolving organically with the story. He’s a different person in book 4 than he was in book 1, but everything was a logical consequence of his slowly increasing experience and responsibilities.

The hardest to write well is probably Andrew’s wife, ace drop ship pilot Halley, because she is a different personality altogether. She’s a goal-driven Type A who excels at most everything she does in the military, and she doesn’t have the mushy sentimentalism that afflicts Andrew on occasion. It’s harder to write someone who’s not the same gender as you are, with a different personality that takes more empathy to discover, and a different cultural and social background, without making her sound contrived or artificial—or unsympathetic.

TQHow do you keep track of characters, plot lines, etc. in the Frontlines series?

Marko:  I write chapter outlines for each book which sketch the plot for the novel in rough brush strokes, so to speak. Because the Frontlines novels are all written in first person POV, I don’t have to juggle character viewpoint chapters. The supporting cast drifts in and out of the narrative as required, and I’ve managed to keep the cast manageable enough to keep track mostly in my head. I do have a notebook “bible” of the series that lists all the nuts-and-bolts stuff so I can keep the continuity straight—ship classes, hull numbers, character timelines, and so on. But I don’t do elaborate Rowling-esque spreadsheets or anything like that. I can keep it all reasonably straight with just a little leather-bound notebook with replaceable inserts, and a good mechanical pencil.

TQWhich question about Chains of Command or the Frontlines series do you wish someone would ask?  Ask it and answer it.


Q: What do you do to maintain the realistic feel to the military culture a lot of reviews have commented on?

A: I draw on the memories of my own service time, but I also stay on top of military culture and consult active-duty friends and veterans a lot to make sure I keep Andrew grounded and realistic. For example, I want to avoid Protagonist Power Creep, something that’s very common in military SF—by book 4 or 5, the protagonist has a staff or general officer rank and a chest full of medals, and a grudgingly respectful nickname bestowed on him/her even by the enemy. In contrast, Andrew starts as a recruit, and it takes him four books to even make it to O-1 (and that only because there’s a personnel crisis, and they are short on qualified pod heads.) He’s also never the deciding factor in a battle, only one part of the machine trying to do his job with what he has.

TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Chains of Command.


For a few moments, there’s silence in the cargo hold as everyone looks at the TacNet screen,as if we’re all waiting for it to unlock some previously invisible secret. Then Sergeant Fallon clears her throat, and all heads turn in her direction.
“That would be an incredibly aggressive and reckless thing to do. And only a totally irresponsible gung-ho podhead moron with more balls than brains would even think about it.”
She smiles grimly.
“Naturally, I’m very much in love with that plan, Lieutenant.”
Halley lets out an exasperated little huff, but she smiles as she does it.
“All right, gentlemen,” she says. “Let’s put the Lieutenant’s aggressive and reckless plan to a vote. Who here also has more balls than brains and thinks we should go out with a bang?”
Lieutenant Dorian and Sergeant Fallon both raise their hands. Lieutenant Wolfe follows suit after a few seconds. Lieutenant Hanscom only shakes his head with a frown.
Halley raises her hand as well.
“Oh, goddamn it,” Lieutenant Hanscom huffs. Then he raises his hand too.
“We’re all a bunch of idiots,” Halley says. “Now that we settled the if, let’s get to work on the how.”

TQ:   What's next?

Marko:  I’m currently finishing up the fifth novel in the Frontlines series, which will be called FIELDS OF FIRE. After that, there will be a sixth Frontlines novel, and then I am going to start a new military SF series with 47North that may run concurrently with future Frontlines stories. I also have ideas for a few more Frontlines short stories and novellas, so be on the lookout for those before too long. It seems there are still lots of stories to be told in that universe.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Marko:  Thanks for having me again, and I hope we can talk again when FIELDS OF FIRE gets released!


Chains of Command
Frontlines 4
47North, April 19, 2016
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 384 pages

The assault on Earth was thwarted by the destruction of the aliens’ seed ship, but with Mars still under Lanky control, survivors work frantically to rebuild fighting capacity and shore up planetary defenses. Platoon sergeant Andrew Grayson must crash-course train new volunteers—all while dulling his searing memories of battle with alcohol and meds.

Knowing Earth’s uneasy respite won’t last, the North American Commonwealth and its Sino-Russian allies hurtle toward two dangerous options: hit the Lanky forces on Mars or go after deserters who stole a fleet of invaluable warships critical to winning the war. Assigned to a small special ops recon mission to scout out the renegades’ stronghold on a distant moon, Grayson and his wife, dropship pilot Halley, again find themselves headed for the crucible of combat—and a shattering new campaign in the war for humanity’s future.


Terms of Enlistment
Frontlines 1
47North, January 28, 2013
Trade Paperback, 346 pages
Kindle eBook, May 8, 2013

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you're restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day:

You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.

With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

The debut novel from Marko Kloos, Terms of Enlistment is a new addition to the great military sci-fi tradition of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and John Scalzi.

Lines of Departure
Frontlines 2
47North, January 28, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 328 pages

Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the Solar System…

Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is North American Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go.

After surviving a disastrous space-borne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony—and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun.

In this sequel to the bestselling Terms of Enlistment, a weary soldier must fight to prevent the downfall of his species…or bear witness to humanity’s last, fleeting breaths.

Angles of Attack
Frontlines 3
47North, April 21, 2015
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 350 pages

The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system’s edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.

Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time, the struggle for humanity’s future can only end in either victory or annihilation.

And there is a comic series! Note that the comic takes place concurrently with Angles of Attack (Frontlines 3).

Frontlines: Requiem #1
    Marko Kloos (Author)
    Ivan Brandon (Author)
    Gary Erskine (Illustrator)
    Yel Zamor (Illustrator)
Jet City Comics, April 20, 2016 (digital)
Jet City Comics, May 18, 2016 (print)

From acclaimed writer Ivan Brandon (Drifter, Viking), this four-issue comic book series features a new stand-alone story set within the action-packed military sci-fi world of Marko Kloos’s bestselling Frontlines novels. Includes stunning artwork from Gary Erskine (Star Wars, Dan Dare, Doctor Who, Judge Dredd).

Colonel Soraya Yamin, commander of the battle-ravaged space control cruiser Phalanx, engages the Lankies, a merciless alien species, in an apocalyptic assault over Mars. The Lankies, who have outgunned, outmaneuvered, and outfought humanity at every turn, have been menacing Earth’s colonies. But now they’re suddenly in our solar system, decimating the NACS fleet and swarming toward Earth itself. Facing insurmountable odds, Soraya must make a fateful choice between her sworn duty and the loved ones she desperately wants to protect.

Frontlines: Requiem #2
    Marko Kloos (Author)
    Ivan Brandon (Author)
    Gary Erskine (Illustrator)
    Yel Zamor (Illustrator)
Jet City Comics, May 18, 2016 (digital)
Jet City Comics, June 15, 2016 (print)

Dealt a crippling blow, the Phalanx floats lifelessly in space. Commander Soraya Yamin and her crew watch helplessly as their friends and soldiers-in-arms are destroyed by the Lankies, an unstoppable alien force. As unanswerable distress calls blare, Soraya turns her thoughts to her family on Earth, the next planet in the Lankies’ crosshairs.

From acclaimed writer Ivan Brandon (Drifter, Viking), this four-issue comic book series features a new stand-alone story set within the action-packed military sci-fi world of Marko Kloos’s bestselling Frontlines novels. Includes stunning artwork from Gary Erskine (Dan Dare, Judge Dredd, Star Wars).

About Marko

Photo by Al Bogdan (2014)
Marko Kloos is the author of the Frontlines series of military Science Fiction.

Born and raised in Germany, Marko now lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children. Their compound, Castle Frostbite, is patrolled by a roving pack of dachshunds.

Website  ~  Twitter @markokloos


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