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[GUEST INTERVIEW] Military Science Fiction Author Andrew P. Weston on the “IX” Sequel EXORDIUM OF TEARS and More

Andrew P. Weston is a Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.

An astronomy and law graduate, he is the creator of the international number one bestsellers, The IX, and Hell Bound, (A novel forming part of Janet Morris’ critically acclaimed Heroes in Hell shared universe), and also has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Fantasy Society and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with two of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for and Amazing Stories.

Fans of military science fiction and fans of Andrew Weston’s debut novel The IX will be pleased to know that a sequel, Exordium of Tears was released in February, 2016.  The IX was on the bestseller list for 6 months.  Fans of dark fantasy and fans of Jane Morris’ Heroes in Hell series will pleased to know that the latest in the series, Hellbound by the same Andrew Weston, was released in November 2015.

Weston did 3 months of research on his ensemble group of warriors.  But he also drew on his extensive experience as a British Marine:

“Battle brings with it an altered, heightened sense of reality. There’s an odd sort of detachment that takes over as your training kicks in.  A slow motion hyper speed, where certain sights, sounds and perceptions become heightened, and other senses sink into obscurity.  Your vision is sharper; hearing more acute; you can smell the munitions and dirt; taste the blood in the air; and although you cease to register pain as you would under normal circumstances, you can actually feel the conflicting pressure changes propagating the ether as you lay down fire and endure an onslaught in return.”

Author links:

CARL SLAUGHTER: How many military teams are in The IX? Which are the main focus and how do the various teams fit into the plot and contribute to the victory?

ANDREW WESTON: The IX introduces us to three main fighting units. By far the largest element belongs to the legion which inspired the concept behind the story itself: the legendary “lost” 9th legion of Rome. They are joined by the 5th Company, 2nd Mounted Cavalry Unit, and a near future Special Forces antiterrorist troop.

Remember, they have been snatched away from earth to aid a dying world. The manner of their abduction – i.e. along with their enemies – means that a whole bunch of disparate people end up being thrown together where survival depends on them working in concert. Therefore, we focus on what each contingent brings to the table. As you go on to see, although the Special Forces team possesses far superior firepower, it is often the resilience and tenacity of those from earlier, simpler times that wins the day.

CS: All circumstances considered, which groups are best prepared for the task and which are the least prepared?  Which make the most contribution to the fight and which make the least?

AW: Roman legions were renowned for their tenacity and adaptability. They worked and operated under all sorts of conditions in all sorts of theaters around the world. There simply wasn’t anything else like them in the world at the height of their strength. As such, Marcus Brutus and his men bring that dogged resilience to play. Their honor doesn’t allow them to give up. Which is just as well, for they face an enemy that refuses to quit.

The US Cavalry unit displays the gritty determination of temperaments forged at a time of expansion and exploration. They had to be rugged and enduring to remain effective over vast distances. They never knew what to expect. Just the thing you need when death lurks at every turn.

The Special Forces unit posses a unique perspective. Highly trained and motivated, they are the epitome of controlled, lethal aggression. What they can’t attain by strength, they achieve by guile. In battle, they will not stop until their objective is secured. They prove brutal adversaries against an unstoppable foe.

If I was to look into The IX as an outsider, I’d say the best prepared would be the Roman Legion. They were an entity unlike any other in history, as a legion’s strength lay in its ability to meter out combat power over protracted periods by adopting formations which allowed the troops to rotate and tactically redeploy to different positions, thereby conserving stamina and extending fighting efficiency. They adapt, improvise and survive. Just what’s needed in the world of woe our protagonists find themselves in.

CS: Who emerges as the leader and why?

AW: Although Lieutenant Alan “Mac” McDonald is a prominent figure, much of his success relates to his command ethic as it does to the weapons he has at his disposal. As the story develops, we see that it is Marcus Brutus who emerges at the true leader of those taken to Arden. His story continues…for a little while, at any rate.

CS: You’ve compared The IX to Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Julian May’s Saga of the Pliocene Exiles, and Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries series.  What are the similarities?

AW: I must clarify one thing. I didn’t compare The IX to the above authors. My critics and reviewers did, and I merely referred to some of their quotes in marketing. The references above were made by the likes of Black Gate Fantasy, Amazing Stories, Fanboy Comics, etc., some of the most widely respected speculative fiction magazines and ezines in the business. Other reviewers have likened my writing style to Stephen Donaldson, Poul Anderson and Joe Haldeman to name a few. It’s a great honor to be associated with such giants, though in all reality, it terrifies me too, as I feel I have to do everything in my power to continue improving my craft…or else.

As to the similarities in the examples you quoted:

Jerry Pournelle hit on the concept of CIA mercenaries being kidnapped just before they were about to be wiped out by a Soviet task force. They are taken to another world where, in return for their lives, they are put to work, cultivating a recreational drug for heartless overseers. Although I’ve never read this series, I’m determined to do so in the near future as the broad similarity sounds intriguing, and Jerry is a well respected guy.

Robert Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel was similar in some respects, although from the viewpoint of a child. I remember reading this story as a boy and thought it was brilliant. The young Hero, Kip Russell inherits a space suit. While he’s wearing it one day, a flying saucer almost lands on top of him and captive alien creatures try to flee. The evil “wormface” overlord captures them all – Kip included – and whisks them away. The great thing about that tale is that the antagonist eats humans. If I remember correctly, when our protagonists escape, their respective civilizations are put on trial in order to determine a reason for their continued existence. When the comparison was made, I thought… “Yes, I can see how some might view a connection” especially as one of the witnesses in that trial was an ancient Roman centurion.

As respects Julian May? The Saga of the Pliocene Exiles is an epic, detailing the exploits of one group of misfits from an ultra-sophisticated future earth (which is now part of a Galactic Mileau including other sentient, telepathic races) who choose to maroon themselves six million years in earth’s past. To get there, they journey through a one-way anomaly, a time gate that should lead them to a simpler life away from all the hustle and bustle of hi-tech wizardry. Unfortunately, they discover their dream turns into a nightmare.

I can see why some would make the link, as the heroes in The IX are snatched away from earth by a temporal anomaly, a quantum gateway that not only relocates them through space, but time as well.

CS: How do you set up the sequel?

AW: This might surprise you, but when I originally devised the concept that became The IX, I built it around the premise it would be a one-off story. I never intended it to go any further.

Fortunately, I’m something of a detailed worldbuilder. My preparations involved several months spent researching and constructing the makeup of all the various units that would be involved, along with the history of the world where the story would take place. (Where in the universe it would be; what kind of sun it would have; the size and composition of the planet, and its continents; its flora and fauna, and of course, who the people were that would populate it). I also gave the antagonists of our tale – the Horde – similar consideration too.

(I think it’s important we authors do that, so – although we don’t go into infinite depth as the plot evolves – we nevertheless have something available that we can dip into to add a touch of spice here, a spot of seasoning there, you know, those little details that add to their races’ character).

Needles to say, by the end of my preparations, I had a great deal of material to play with, and not all of it got to be included within The IX.

Just as well, because when Janet Morris and agents read the story, they immediately saw value in making my “one off” into a series.

When I got over the shock, I was then hit with the realization that I needed to expand my concept in a way that would blend smoothly into the already established events of The IX itself. Thinking about how The IX began, and especially how it ended, I started to look back through my Plot Book – a catalogue I compile for each novel, containing the names, descriptions, histories, character traits, phrases associated to each person, maps, sketches, etc.)… you get the idea – and eventually realized I’d been extended a wonderful opportunity to tell the readers a bit more about the Ardenese culture, and how their technological sophistication came back to bite them in the ass, as it would allow me to reveal more about the Horde themselves.

That’s why the sequel is entitled, The IX – Exordium of Tears. “Exordium” means origins, and this story relates to the discovery of more about the beginning of all their troubles.

CS: How long will the series continue?

AW: To be honest, I don’t know. As I mentioned above, The IX was supposed to be a self-contained adventure. For the time being, I think the trials and tribulations of the Ninth will end after the third novel. But, if the fans crave more…?

CS: In the setup of the original, you depict soldiers who are kidnapped from their homelands and forced to fight someone else’s battle.  Why did you choose to write a story about reluctant heroes rather than eager heroes?

AW: For several reasons:

The concept naturally lent itself to unwilling heroes. As many already know, I undertook the writing of The IX following an animated discussion during a Royal Marines veterans’ reunion dinner in the early part of 2013. Military history has always been a hobby of mine, and several ex-colleagues started a debate as to the true fate of the legendary lost 9th Legion of Rome. Five thousand men marched into the mists of Northern Caledonia (Scotland) around AD100 – 120 and were never seen again.

That conversation stayed with me for several months until I happened to catch an old movie on TV, Millennium. In that film, time travelers visit the present day and steal passengers from doomed aircraft with the intention of repopulating a barren world of the future.

I am an avid science fiction buff, and the conversation from the reunion dinner immediately sprang to mind. Obviously, I began to imagine what if?

What if they were taken? Not into our future…but somewhere and somewhen else entirely. And what might it be like if their antagonists were also snatched away with them?

I started to let that though roll, and came up with a nice twist. Would it be a good idea to include other groups of refugees from varying time periods, and throw them together into a nightmare scenario where they had to face the very real prospect of death all over again?

In itself, that presented a wonderful opportunity to portray a real-life conundrum. One that most readers would be able to relate to: Sometimes, we face challenges in life that seem overwhelming. Then something bigger and nastier comes along that makes you realize, wow, my problems seem so small. In The IX, former enemies who hated each other with a vengeance are thrown into a situation where their choice is really simple.

Forget your former animosities, and pull together against a greater enemy…or you simply won’t survive.

Being a military veteran who has seen action in a number of theaters around the world, it’s a premise I pondered on for quite a while. You know…what would I do in a situation like that? Remembering some of the people I’ve had to fight against, would I really be able to put aside my feelings and concentrate on staying alive, especially if it was against a relentless, remorseless nemesis who wanted all life extinguished?

The survivor in me answered the question quite easily…Hell Yes!  As the tagline of The IX says, Fight or Die!

And really, aren’t reluctant heroes more realistic and memorable? I think many will agree with me when I say, one of the most powerful antitypical heroes ever created was Steven Donaldson’s character, Thomas Covenant. (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever). He’s a normal guy, snatched from the real world and dumped into a magical place where even the air and water brings healing. But it’s in trouble and desperately needs help. Covenant is an irritating; narrow-minded swine who frustrates you over and over again by his refusal to believe or participate as “the Land’s” savior. But there’s a reason for that. His personal experiences in life have made him insular and withdrawn.

Donaldson was able to exploit the paradox of this antitypical character in such a way that it engendered a series that has enthralled readers – myself included – for more than thirty years. That’s the kind of impact I wanted. And in The IX, I get to play with a whole host of unwilling so-and-sos, one of whom continues to be a thorn in everyone’s flesh. (You’ll see).

CS: How much research was involved in studying the warrior cultures?

AW: In all, I completed roughly three months study regarding the various cultures I’d be incorporating into the framework of the plot. The Ninth Legion and Celtic tribes of the time comprised the bulk of that. Think about it. These guys were from an entirely different era. How were they structured? Who did what? How did they march, set up camp, and operate? What did they wear, and what weapons did they use. The Caledonian tribes of that time were vicious, savage, and experts in jungle style hit-and-run warfare. However, where did this strategy come from? How did they fight? How far would they travel to engage in combat, and what made them capable enough to defeat entire legions?

All this before I even started on the composition and function of the many U.S. Cavalry companies and the Native American tribes of the eighteenth century. (Thankfully, I had a friend to assist me on that aspect – she’s of Cree descent, and proved to be a goldmine of information.)

By far the easiest aspect related to the Special Forces unit. For that, I drew on firsthand experience of my time in the UK’s special and elite forces.

Once that was done, I then had to make certain the futuristic/scientific Tec referred to within the story had a basis in fact. But that’s another story…

CS: How did your background as a soldier and a police officer prepare you for this series?

AW: There’s a saying that always rings true in these circumstances: Write what you know.

A picture might paint a thousand words, but when you have firsthand experience of the events you wish to portray, it adds color to the word picture you create, especially when you engage all the senses.

Veterans will know what I’m talking about. Battle brings with it an altered, heightened sense of reality. There’s an odd sort of detachment that takes over as your training kicks in…How can I describe this…? A slow motion hyper speed, where certain sights, sounds and perceptions become heightened, and other senses sink into obscurity.

Your vision is sharper; hearing more acute; you can smell the munitions and dirt; taste the blood in the air; and although you cease to register pain as you would under normal circumstances, you can actually feel the conflicting pressure changes propagating the ether as you lay down fire and endure an onslaught in return.

Needless to say, when you then write about what you know, that realism shows.

As for the police aspect? I’m rather good at collating evidence and making sense of it. That was vital for the various elements included within a complex plotline. Put the two together, and you get the roister-doister action-packed adventure that people seem to love so much. Remember, I’m not with one of the “Big 4”sci-fi houses. Nonetheless, Perseid Press is known for its professionalism and quality. A pedigree that helped The IX hit the international #1 spot for more than 6 months during 2015.

CS: How did you get involved in Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell series?

AW: By invitation. Janet had seen some other examples of my work as I broke into writing, liked what she saw, and after offering a deal with The IX, felt I would make a valid contribution to the Heroes in Hell Universe.

CS: She’s done Doctors in Hell, Prophets in Hell, Lawyers in Hell, etc.  Who is depicted in your addition?

AW: I have a number of characters devoted to the Heroes in Hell universe, all of whom gravitate toward and orbit around one main anti-hero: The Reaper, Daemon Grim. Grim is Satan’s chief bounty hunter and leader of the Hell Hounds and special interrogators, the Inquisitors.

As readers will have noted, the man himself was introduced in “Grim”, a short story within the Doctors in Hell anthology. You saw him next in, Hell Bound, a novel dedicated to his continuing mission to keep the despicable streets of hell as clear of vermin as possible. As you can imagine, it’s a never-ending, thankless task, bringing Grim into contact with the worst dregs of infernal society.

CS: Do you plan to write any more Heroes in Hell stories?

AW: Yes. But to make things special, I thought it would be a great idea to leapfrog Grim’s adventures with the anthologies. Fans will have noticed that Hell Bound picks up where “Grim” (the short story) ended. The next anthology – coming out in the summer of 2016 – continues several months after the conclusion of Hell Bound.

I initially discussed the idea with the franchise’s creator, Janet Morris, and she thought it would be an excellent way of weaving Hell’s newest bad-ass into an already existing and long-established playground. And it seems to be working. As with The IX, Hell Bound is attracting rave reviews from the stalwarts of fantasy fiction.

CS: What experiences did you have breaking into writing?

AW: My experiences were quite straightforward. I’d wanted to write for years, but a busy lifestyle prevented me doing that. It wasn’t until I was injured on duty and forced to retire early that I had time to commit my aspirations to paper/print.

After completing a great deal of research, I started writing at the end of 2010. By mid 2011 I’d finished my first novel, and started to polish it through. Then I did some more research, and in the November of 2011, started to apply to a number of independent publishing houses with successful writers on their books.

Would you believe it, three expressed an interest all at the same time, and in 2012 I became published. As I cut my teeth, I determined to improve my craft by delving into categories that made me extremely uncomfortable. But it worked. It gave me an appreciation for a wider audience, and I used that experience to hone my preferred genres of science fiction and paranormal fantasy.

Because of this, my work came to the attention of Janet Morris at Perseid Press. Needless to say, I’m delighted to have found a home with such a solid pedigree. So far, each of the novels I’ve completed for them have become international bestsellers. Just the incentive I need to keep improving.

CS: What advice do you have for aspiring speculative fiction writers?

AW: I can sum it up in a few words: As you learn what works for you – stay true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to develop your own style and voice. Learn from those who have more experience and incorporate what they have to say into your own unique style. Work closely with your publisher and editors. And always, always strive to be the best you can be.

Carl Slaughter wrote many reviews for Tangent before moving to Diabolical Plots as a reviewer and later an interviewer. He conducted 50 plus interviews for Diabolical Plots. For the past 14 years, he has traveled the globe teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in 6 counties on 3 continents. Carl has traveled to 18 countries and counting. (He’s tired.) In college, Carl studied journalism, broadcasting, advertising, English, speech, and history. For several years, he was a stringer for the Associated Press. His essay on Chinese culture was published in Beijing Review. His essay on Korean culture was published in The Korea Times, as was his expose on the Korean ESL industry. His travel/education reports about Thailand occasionally appear on the Ajarn website. Carl subscribes to the Mike Resnick philosophy of fiction: It’s all about the characters. Check out Carl’s Diabolical Plots interviews, his Facebook photos with his students of all ages from around the world, and a short Youtube video of Carl with some VERY excited Thai kindergarteners.

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