Q: What is your background as a writer? What are your influences?
I started out entering short stories to the first STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS anthology contests. From there I moved to writing STAR TREK novels (along with novellas and more short stories) before branching out into my own original science fiction. I've also cobbled together a decent resume of writing for magazines, web sites, and so on.
As for my influences, they're all over the map. I read whatever looks interesting - science fiction, horror, mystery or thriller/suspense, history, biographies. I usually have two or three different books going at the same time, from different genres and topics (example: right now, I'm reading a science fiction novel, a biography, and a military history book). That doesn't even count magazines, comics, what I find on the web, the stuff I read to my kids before bedtime, and anything else that might cross my path.
Q: Obviously, you're a STAR TREK fan, as your first published work was in the STRANGE NEW WORLDS series. What is the appeal of Trek, to you? What are your favorite Trek stories that you've written and why?
I've been a fan, particularly of the original series, my entire life. When I was a kid, it was a fun action-adventure show with cool space ships and ray guns and Captain Kirk laying the smack down on a Klingon or a giant lizard or whatever. Now, after all these years and the different sequel films and series, STAR TREK is this universe in which you can tell just about any kind of story, pose any kind of question or examine whatever issue or topic happens to tickle your fancy. There is no one single kind of STAR TREK story and if treated properly with that in mind, you can keep things fresh and interesting.
As for favorite STAR TREK stories I've written, I loved writing for the STAR TREK: CORPS OF ENGINEERS and VANGUARD series because they offered what I see as the "best of both worlds" so far as writing tie-in fiction is concerned. For these series, we were able to use the familiar STAR TREK setting as the launching point for a host of new characters and situations which aren't directly beholden to the "canon" of a specific television series or film. Since we're using characters that aren't from one of the shows or movies, we enjoyed a greater degree of freedom so far as character development, planning larger and longer story arcs, and so on.
On the other hand, one particular project of which I remain very proud is the tremendous collaboration which produced STAR TREK: MERE ANARCHY. This story was a set of six novellas featuring Kirk and his Enterprise crew, telling different chapters of a tale spanning almost thirty years and weaving in around their various adventures from television and film. The cooperative spirit among everyone involved-myself and Kevin Dilmore, Mike W. Barr, Dave Galanter, Christopher L. Bennett, Howard Weinstein, Margaret Wander Bonanno, and editor Keith R.A. DeCandido-and which permeated that mini-series from conception all the way through the publication of the final novella is a high-point of my writing career.
Q: What is your favorite original series episode and favorite TNG episode and why?
I don't have a single favorite episode from any of the series. From the original series, I love episodes like "Balance of Terror," "The Doomsday Machine," "Arena," "Mirror, Mirror," and "The Tholian Web" just to name five off the top of my head. For TNG, "Yesterday's Enterprise," "The Measure of a Man," "The Inner Light," "Tapestry," and "Darmok" come to mind, but we're just getting started.
Q: The VANGUARD book series is interesting, as it takes place in the same time period as the original five-year mission.
Yes, VANGUARD unfolds largely in parallel to the original STAR TREK series. In addition to telling its own story, the idea behind the series is to add new context to many of the concepts and events we were shown during Captain Kirk's five-year mission aboard the Enterprise, and also how things from the show also influence our "spin-off" series. VANGUARD's central storyline revolves around a top-secret mission to uncover and unlock the mysteries of an ancient civilization that once ruled the "Taurus Reach," a wedge of space crammed between territory claimed by the Federation and two of its principle rivals: the Klingon Empire and the Tholian Assembly. This heretofore unknown alien civilization, believed to be extinct, is shown to have commanded a level of technology far above anything we've ever seen. This, of course, presents a concern that a Federation enemy might discover such technology and find a way to exploit it. Hilarity ensues from there.
So, Starfleet is charged with getting to the bottom of this mystery ahead of everybody else. At the center of all this secrecy and mystery hunting is a massive space station that's been constructed in the Taurus Reach: Starbase 47, aka "Vanguard." The series features a very large cast of "regular" and "supporting" characters - those living and working on the station as well as those serving aboard starships assigned to it. It's from here that most of the missions and storylines originate. Our aim is to tell traditional STAR TREK stories with the "look and feel" of the original series, yet providing an additional level of sophistication and long-form serialization that you'd find in something like STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, or even something like LOST or ALIAS.
Q: I recently read your original book, THE GENESIS PROTOCOL. That's such a great idea, creating new life to clean up man's messes. I'm sure you get this all the time but it reminded me of "JURASSIC PARK meets ALIENS by way of SPLICE". What prompted you to write that book?
John Ordover, who at the time was the editor-in-chief at Phobos Books and who had bought my first STAR TREK stories for Pocket Books (including my first STAR TREK novel) as well as my first original science fiction novel, was setting into motion a plan whereby he developed several high-concept ideas for a novel or series of novels, and then hiring the writer he wanted to flesh the basic notion into a full-blown story. He called me and, basically, asked, "I've got this idea about genetically-engineered animals or creatures in an artificially-created environment, and some kind of special-ops military unit going into this hostile, "alien" world for some reason. Chaos would then ensue. Think you can do something with that?" That was pretty much all he gave me, and I spent about a month or so figuring out everything else. We sent a lot of e-Mails back and forth as I worked out this or that plot nugget, until I had an outline for what became THE GENESIS PROTOCOL. As he had during the outlining process, John gave me enormous latitude and pretty much told me to "Go, blow up stuff, and have fun," and I did exactly that. It was a blast to write, and I've even given thought to adapting the story for use as one of those Saturday night "Creature Feature" type movies on the Syfy channel. Of course, I'd have to change the title, but I've already thought of that: MEGA-LIZARD DEATH SQUADS.
Q: Also, I liked the PLANET OF THE APES references in PROTOCOL, like with two of the security guards being named after the astronauts from the television series. Are you a big Apes fan?
Oh, yes, I am a complete, unapologetic nerd for all things PLANET OF THE APES. I've loved it since I was a little kid. I remember watching the first episode of the television series when it premiered back in the 70s. Until then, my only exposure to APES had been the versions of the first two films shown on TV, but I also had some of the Mego action figures, the bubble gum cards, and other toys. Later, I managed to acquire all of the various novelizations as well as the complete run of Marvel Comics magazines. Later, when other companies started publishing APES comics, I got those, too. Now BOOM! Studios is publishing a monthly APES comic, and I am completely envious of the folks who get to work on that. If the chance to write an APES tie-in novel presented itself, I'd be all about trying to get that editor's attention. In addition to that reference in THE GENESIS PROTOCOL, I also have somebody in one of my STAR TREK stories with an authorization code of "Alpha Omega Three Niner Five Five." True APES fans will get that in-joke with no trouble.
Q: What are your upcoming projects?
My latest novel is a collaboration with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore, WHAT JUDGMENTS COME, the sixth and penultimate novel of the STAR TREK: VANGUARD series. It just came out at the end of September, so I'm sure everybody reading this is heading out to buy their copy right now. Next up for me is a STAR TREK original series novel titled THAT WHICH DIVIDES, which will be out in late February 2012. In and around those, I recently had a story published in the anthology ZOMBIEFIED, edited by Carol Hightshoe at Sky Warrior Books, and I'm continuing to do the occasional work for STAR TREK MAGAZINE as well as guest blogging spots at StarTrek.com and Novel Spaces (novelspaces.blogspot.com). As for what my next novel project might be? At the moment, I honestly have no idea...but I'll figure out something.