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Interview with M.C. Planck, author of Sword of the Bright Lady and The Kassa Gambit - September 10, 2014


Please welcome M.C. Planck to The Qwillery. His new novel, Sword of the Bright Lady, was published by Pyr on September 9, 2014.



Interview with M.C. Planck, author of Sword of the Bright Lady and The Kassa Gambit - September 10, 2014




TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. How has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote your first published novel, The Kassa Gambit, to Sword of the Bright Lady?

M.C.:  Not so much, as I actually wrote Sword of the Bright Lady years before The Kassa Gambit. It just need a spit, polish, and 30% trim. Ten years of spit and polish, that is.

However, I am finding as I progress through the sequels that I need to do more planning and less seat-of-the-pantsing.



TQ:  In a January 2013 interview you described the most challenging thing about writing as "Escaping the whirlpool of distraction that is my two-year old daughter." What is the most challenging thing for you about writing now?

M.C.:  Escaping the articulate whirlpool of distraction that is my four-year old daughter; specifically, the requirement to act out the entire script of “Frozen” three times a day.



TQ:  Please tell us something about your newest book, Sword of the Bright Lady, that we won't find in the book description.

M.C.:  I really, really wanted my protagonist to be born in Connecticut. But my wife wouldn’t let me. She wouldn’t let me name him Samuel Clemens, either.

Although I’ve borrowed Mark Twain’s central idea from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, my book takes it in a rather different direction. And I promise that in the end it doesn’t turn out to be a dream. Twain was probably the last author in the English speaking world who could get away with that plot device. Try it today and your editor will send you anthrax by return post.



TQSword of the Bright Lady has a very medieval feel to it. What sorts of research have you done for novel?

M.C.:  I’ve read about medieval history for a long time – one excellent starting point I can’t recommend enough is Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. It’s a piece of history written almost like a novel, and it gives you a real sense of how life was back then.

For this book I did google a lot about medieval iron-making. And how to make ball-bearings, a process I still don’t fully understand. The most interesting research, however, was making gun powder. My father-in-law is a chemical engineer and an old hand at making black powder (which he did as a boy in post-WWII England). Under his tutelage, and starting with modern refined chemicals, I managed to create a substance that was literally inflammable – as in, it extinguished the match. Apparently it’s not as easy as all that.



TQ:  Please briefly describe the magic system in Sword of the Bright Lady.

M.C.:  It’s a bit unique in that everything is spelled out in very fine detail. You gain discrete ranks and you get specific abilities and spells for each rank. To some extent that removes the sense of wonder and mystery; but the power magic brings is far too important to be left to the kind of airy-fairy feeling-based enterprise typical of fantasy stories. In real life, people would study the heck out of this stuff. All art that can be turned to a profit eventually becomes a science.

The other thing that you discover very quickly is that all of this power comes at a price: ranks are bought by killing people and eating their brains. Of course the civilized folk have made it look a bit more refined, but essentially you can’t have power without death. For psychopaths and monsters this is not really a problem, but for ordinary decent folk it’s a tough line to walk when all of your strength to fight evil stems from eating Uncle Alfie’s soul.



TQ:  Which character in Sword of the Bright Lady surprised you the most?

M.C.:  Karl, one of the common soldiers who serves the Saint. As I was writing the book I realized I needed a minor officer, and suddenly this guy walks up, introduces himself, and starts telling his story. As I was writing him, I did not feel like I was making him up; instead, I just knew his history, his actions and attitudes. I couldn’t have made him do something out-of-character if I tried. I never had to think about what he would do or say in any scene; it was just always obvious. I’ve never quite had that sense of presence from any other character, although they all seem quite real to me.



TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite lines from Sword of the Bright Lady.

M.C.:  This is the best line in the book, and probably the best line I’ll ever write in my life:

He could see she was struggling with the concept, but it looked like a fair fight.




TQ:  What's next?

M.C.:  The sequel (Gold Throne in Shadow) is already in my editor’s hands, and the third one is almost finished. After that I think there are two more.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

M.C.:  Thank you for having me back.





Sword of the Bright Lady
World of Prime 1
Pyr, September 9, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 440 pages

Interview with M.C. Planck, author of Sword of the Bright Lady and The Kassa Gambit - September 10, 2014
Christopher Sinclair goes out for a walk on a mild Arizona evening and never comes back. He stumbles into a freezing winter under an impossible night sky, where magic is real-but bought at a terrible price.

A misplaced act of decency lands him in a brawl with an arrogant nobleman and puts him under a death sentence. In desperation he agrees to be drafted into an eternal war, serving as a priest of the Bright Lady, Goddess of Healing. But when Marcius, god of war, offers the only hope of a way home to his wife, Christopher pledges to him instead, plunging the church into turmoil and setting him on a path of violence and notoriety.

To win enough power to open a path home, this mild-mannered mechanical engineer must survive duelists, assassins, and the never-ending threat of monsters, with only his makeshift technology to compete with swords and magic.

But the gods and demons have other plans. Christopher's fate will save the world…or destroy it.





Also by M.C. Planck

The Kassa Gambit
Tor Books, May 27, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages
Published in Hardcover, January 8, 2013

Interview with M.C. Planck, author of Sword of the Bright Lady and The Kassa Gambit - September 10, 2014

Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe.

Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run for years. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime. He’s been undercover so long he can't be trusted by anyone—even himself.

While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack.

But in The Kassa Gambit by M.C. Planck, there is more to the story. Together, they discover the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and that an imminent alien invasion is the least of humanity’s concerns.





About M.C. Planck

Interview with M.C. Planck, author of Sword of the Bright Lady and The Kassa Gambit - September 10, 2014
M.C. Planck is the author of The Kassa Gambit. After a nearly-transient childhood, he hitchhiked across the country and ran out of money in Arizona. So he stayed there for thirty years, raising dogs, getting a degree in philosophy, and founding a scientific instrument company. Having read virtually everything by the old masters of SF&F, he decided he was ready to write. A decade later, with a little help from the Critters online critique group, he was actually ready. He was relieved to find that writing novels is easier than writing software, as a single punctuation error won't cause your audience to explode and die. When he ran out of dogs, he moved to Australia to raise his daughter with kangaroos.


Website  ~  Blog


2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January 2013

It's time for the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for January 2013!



Since Cover Wars was so much fun as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge, we're doing it again for the 2013 Debut Author Challenge. Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from each month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2013 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is released in the US.








Cover Art: Raymond Swanland





Cover Art: Argh! Oxford










Cover Art: Gregory Manchess






Cover Artist: Larry Rostant







Interview with M.C. Planck, author of The Kassa Gambit - January 7, 2013

Please welcome M.C. Planck to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Kassa Gambit will be published on January 8, 2013 by Tor Books.



Interview with M.C. Planck, author of The Kassa Gambit - January 7, 2013



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

M.C.:  Thanks for inviting me.


TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

M.C.:  About twenty years ago I took a short-story writing class at a community college. I felt I had read enough sf & fantasy that I was ready to write some. Ten years later I managed to actually produce a novel. Ten years after that I managed to sell a novel.


TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

M.C.:  Alliteration. I like sentences that have the same sounds in them. For some reason, it makes me think of classical guitar.


TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

M.C.:  I have to know how it begins and how it ends. Everything else writes itself; I just have to pick a level of detail to fractally extrapolate down to. Which turns out to be trickier than it sounds, as the 200-odd pages of my fantasy novel sitting in the bin testify.


TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

M.C.:  Escaping the whirlpool of distraction that is my two-year old daughter.


TQ:  Describe The Kassa Gambit in 140 characters or less.

M.C.:  Aliens attack! Followed by much heroic brooding.


TQ:  What inspired you to write The Kassa Gambit?

M.C.:  My wife doesn't like fantasy. So I wrote her a sci-fi story where everything was exploding on the first page.


TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Kassa Gambit?

M.C.:  Mostly, reading my wife’s book, Song of Scarabaeus. Also, watching Firefly. I did have to look up some star names, which I then proceeded to misuse.


TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

M.C.:  Easiest – The old professor, because he was inspired by a real person I admire.

Hardest – The junk dealer, because he was inspired by a real person whom I don’t like.


TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Kassa Gambit?

M.C.:  When she rents a pair of party shoes. Although it’s a trivial scene, it’s probably the most original idea in the book.


TQ:  What's next?

M.C.:  I have a finished fantasy manuscript in my agent’s hands (hence the previously mentioned page slaughter). It’s a trilogy, which can be described as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court + Dungeons & Dragons, but without the snark. I am also working on another sf novel set in contemporary times, with a yet another dark and brooding female protagonist. It has a tricky ending, though, and I’m not sure I can land it.


TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

M.C.:  It’s great to be here!





The Kassa Gambit

The Kassa Gambit
Tor Books, January 8, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Interview with M.C. Planck, author of The Kassa Gambit - January 7, 2013
Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe.

Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run and living job to job for years, eking out a living by making cargo runs that aren’t always entirely legal. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime, working undercover as a double agent against the League. He’s been undercover so long he can't be trusted by anyone—even himself.

While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack.

But something tells them there is more to the story. Together, they discover the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and that an imminent alien invasion is the least of humanity’s concerns.




About M.C. Planck

Interview with M.C. Planck, author of The Kassa Gambit - January 7, 2013
After a nearly-transient childhood, Micheal hitchhiked across the country and ran out of money in Arizona. So he stayed there for thirty years, raising dogs, getting a degree in Philosophy, and founding a scientific instrument company. Having read virtually everything by the old Masters of SF&F, he decided he was ready to write. A decade later, with a little help from the Critters online critique group, he was actually ready. He was relieved to find that writing novels is easier than writing software, as a single punctuation error won't cause your audience to explode and die. When he ran out of dogs, he moved to Australia to raise his daughter with her cousins. Now he is a father, author, and immigrant. Fitzgerald was wrong. There are second acts to some American lives, even if they start in other countries.


Website : Blog


Guest Blog by M. C. Planck - Intergalactic Exploration - December 10, 2012

Please welcome M.C. Planck to The Qwillery with the very first 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blog! The Kassa Gambit will be published on January 8, 2013 by Tor Books.


Guest Blog by M. C. Planck - Intergalactic Exploration - December 10, 2012



Intergalactic Exploration


Science fiction suffers from a constraint that Fantasy escapes: namely, the suffocating blanket of civilization.

Having your wizards and knights wander off the beaten track and discover a eons-old artifact lying around in a cave, or perhaps an entire civilization of weird monsters, elicits not so much as a twitch of an eyebrow. The scholars of a fantasy world spend their time studying dusty archives in ancient libraries, just as we imagined the monks of yore did. Exploring is only for the brave, the dispossessed, or the quest-infected.

But in science fiction, the scholars are replaced by scientists. How could that mysterious artifact not already have been the subject of some eager young PHD’s thesis? And how can whole societies escape the penetrating gaze of radar, thermal imaging, and modern marketing research?

The classic SF solution is deep space: the planets are separated by gulfs of void, and the intrepid explorers sail in uncharted seas, like Columbus. Except, those intrepid explorers always seem to be only a few days away from the nearest starbase (Star Trek Voyager excepted), so really, why are our heroes the first ones on the scene? Although Serenity is one of my favorite films, I have to put my suspension of disbelief in suspenders when Captain Mal flies from the Reaver’s secret home planet to the heart of the intergalactic internet in less time than he usually spends delivering cows.

And even the Age of Sail was less mysterious than we remember it; the average life expectancy of a pirate in the golden age was eight months. Despite the lack of radio, radar, or propellers, the English Royal Navy routinely learned about, hunted down, and executed rogue adventurers.

Writers sometimes respond to this by making the distances traveled so vast and difficult that no one else would make the journey. Unfortunately this usually begs the question of why the protagonists are making the journey. Who funded this unlikely exploration into deep space for no good reason, and why do we care about the antics of a lunatic? (Prometheus, I’m looking at you!)

Jack Vance took a middle road: he is justly famous for his bizarre planetary societies, and he sells their quirkiness with the same conviction he sells his character’s quirks. The effort of traveling between space is like going to Greece; not so difficult an ordinary person can’t do it, but trouble enough that when you get there, you can expect different customs and laws. He has, however, the Beyond, where his villains live: the edges of civilization where anything goes, like the old Wild West (which of course, actually was never that wild, and only lasted from the Gold Rush of 1846 to Transcontinental railroad 1869).

The writers of Stargate developed a brilliant alternative: by limiting travel to predefined gates, exploration was limited to whatever idea the writer wanted to talk about that week. This all went to pot once they had their own spaceships, so much so that the next iteration (Stargate: Universe) had the ship’s controls locked down.

Lacking Vance’s mastery, I went with the Stargate model. The world of THE KASSA GAMBIT is determined, in no small part, by capricious nature: the nodes that tie the planets together are arbitrary and irrational. Humanity lives on this web like an archipelago, with neighboring islands sharing cultural ties that gradually fade with every discrete step. The key that makes it work is the absence of instant communication; like the Fantasy kingdoms, news travels only at the pace of the fastest traveler. This leaves room for mystery even while it makes interstellar travel accessible to my ordinary heroes.




The Kassa Gambit

The Kassa Gambit
Tor Books, January 8, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Guest Blog by M. C. Planck - Intergalactic Exploration - December 10, 2012
Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe.

Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run and living job to job for years, eking out a living by making cargo runs that aren’t always entirely legal. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime, working undercover as a double agent against the League. He’s been undercover so long he can't be trusted by anyone—even himself.

While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack.

But something tells them there is more to the story. Together, they discover the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and that an imminent alien invasion is the least of humanity’s concerns.





About M.C. Planck

Guest Blog by M. C. Planck - Intergalactic Exploration - December 10, 2012
After a nearly-transient childhood, Micheal hitchhiked across the country and ran out of money in Arizona. So he stayed there for thirty years, raising dogs, getting a degree in Philosophy, and founding a scientific instrument company. Having read virtually everything by the old Masters of SF&F, he decided he was ready to write. A decade later, with a little help from the Critters online critique group, he was actually ready. He was relieved to find that writing novels is easier than writing software, as a single punctuation error won't cause your audience to explode and die. When he ran out of dogs, he moved to Australia to raise his daughter with her cousins. Now he is a father, author, and immigrant. Fitzgerald was wrong. There are second acts to some American lives, even if they start in other countries.


Website : Blog
Interview with M.C. Planck, author of Sword of the Bright Lady and The Kassa Gambit - September 10, 20142013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January 2013Interview with M.C. Planck, author of The Kassa Gambit - January 7, 2013Guest Blog by M. C. Planck - Intergalactic Exploration - December 10, 2012

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