Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Kieran Shea Interview: Koko2

The lovely and talented Kieran Shea had great success with his first SPACE OPERA -- Koko Takes a Holiday -- not long ago. Then there was another Koko book. And now, the galaxy is blessed with new Shea -- Off Rock, coming next month.
Already picked by io9 as one of the best upcoming books, Off Rock is a space heist story you'll dig.
In the year 2778, Jimmy Vik is feeling dissatisfied. 
After busting his ass for assorted interstellar mining outfits for close to two decades, downsizing is in the wind, his ex-girlfriend/supervisor is climbing up his back, and daily Jimmy wonders if he’s played his last good hand. 
So when Jimmy stumbles upon a significant gold pocket during a routine procedure on Kardashev 7-A, he believes his luck may have changed—larcenously so. But smuggling the gold “off rock” won’t be easy.
To do it, Jimmy will have to contend with a wily criminal partner, a gorgeous covert assassin, the suspicions of his ex, and the less than honorable intentions of an encroaching, rival mining company. As the clock ticks down, treachery and betrayal loom, the body count rises, and soon Jimmy has no idea who to trust. 
I recently had the chance to chat with Kieran Shea about his upcoming novel.
Steve Weddle: In 2009, you said you were out of your mind for writing P.I. fiction with your Charlie Byrne stories. “All that dead genre nonsense, the giants who have walked before, and yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. But I can't help myself. I've kicked open a box and I can't close the lid, at least not yet.” You wrote story after story about Charlie Byrne and seemed to be on the way to a Charlie Byrne novel, maybe even a novel series. Did you get the P.I. itch taken care of? Is there a Charlie Byrne series out there somewhere? 
Kieran Shea: While I miss Charlie and his cohort Stevie sometimes (and even Morgan, the ex-AHL hockey bruiser who works for mob captain Dante Donofrio) I think writing all those shorts served a purpose. I’m so grateful for those who published any Charlie story because it was immediate feedback and it helped me find the rhythm of my own voice. And for the record, I actually I did write a Charlie Byrne novel which will never see the light of day. 
SW: You’ve moved your fiction from the east coast to outer space. What happened?

KS: Well, Koko Takes a Holiday is what happened. As I worked on that novel, I started to enjoy the satirical potential of speculative fiction. I still write terrestrial stuff. Little things. I have a western in a pot on the back burner.

SW: You seem to be writing sci-fi crime fiction. Do you have any models for this? Harry Harrison? Philip K. Dick? Do you enjoy Dick?

KS: Truth is, only recently did I discover Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat series. As for PKD, that mother is in a class all by himself. Again for me it always goes back to satire. Stanislaw Lem, Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Mikhail Bulgakov, David Gunn’s Death’s Head series, Rudy Rucker, and so forth. Somebody once told me that all stories have a touch of crime in them in some way. Greed. Betrayal. Sometimes murder, sometimes not. We repeat ourselves as a species, only the technology changes.

SW: From Koko to Jimmy Vik in Off Rock, what did writing Charlie Haden teach you about creating characters?

KS: Charlie Haden? You mean, the jazz bassist?
Kieran Shea (r) stalked by a hobo in Philly.

SW: BYRNE, dagnabbit!

KS: I think doing all those Charlie stories made me more aware of how little things define a character. What pastry he orders with his coffee, what music he listens to in his downtime, or like how he mixes mustard into his tuna fish instead of mayonnaise. With characters, it's kind of a thrill when everyday happenstance or a habit can touch a nerve. Oh, yeah...I forgot another thing that I miss about Charlie. Somehow I wish I could bring back Chomsky…his one-eyed, three-legged cat. Chomsky disappeared after Superstorm Sandy.

SW: Both the first Koko book and Off Rock start off by establishing past relationships early on, but the newer book seems more devoted to spending a little time on the slow burn, whereas Koko Takes a Holiday started with a bar fight and never let up. Was this change a conscious choice or was it how the story developed?

KS: Conscious? Yes. Dickensian, hand-holding narratives bore me, I mean, why screw around, right? Show the reader some respect. They want to be dropped into a new world? Fine, drop them and slam the door shut. They're smart. They'll figure it out. Both Koko Takes a Holiday and Off Rock kick off with a bang, but with the latter instead of racing ahead I employed a flash-forward opening. When you shift back from that kind of stutter-step opening, a sense of peril is established and the reader has an idea where they are going. Like the opening of James Sallis's novel Drive or films like Memento and Michael Clayton. You're pulled into the story thinking, "Whoa, wait a minute. This is majorly messed up..." and the next thing you know your reader is invested. You can roll out the details from there more methodically. 

SW: I’ll take your for that. I can’t stand movies, so whatever. Look, as a human, you seem interested in the power of corporations and the misuse of military force. How do you use that in your novels, particularly Off Rock, without becoming preachy?

KS: As humans are inherently flawed, it follows that whatever we touch or attempt to master will also be flawed. You get into preachiness when you go for unrealistic, moral absolutes or when you expect fairness. Even with the most noble of our intentions, just under the surface are persistent, poisonous notions like greed, lust, wrath, piety, fear, solipsism, or whatever. Is this a grim outlook? Sure, but it's reality and you better have a sense of humor about it or you're doomed. We also cope by sublimation. I don't know about you but I have yet to meet an adult who hasn't been subjected to or victimized by corporate power. There's a surrendering of our nature just to make our way in the world and you can't usually stop to point out this madness or you'll be run over or shunned. Writers, however, can suspend time for a while and lash out via satire. And misuse of the military to advance gain? Sean Penn has a line in Terrence Malick's underrated war movie The Thin Red Line. Penn plays First Sgt. Ed Welsh, and after he tries to save a member of his unit and barely falls back to safety he says, "Property. The whole fucking thing's about property." Yep.

SW: You have weird tastes in reading. What do you have going on lately that you’re interested in?

KSNot weird, maybe just broad. Right now I'm reading Carl von Clausewitz's On War, but I just finished Joe Ide's IQ which has to be the best fucking detective debut since Bob Crais's The Monkey’s Raincoat or Lehane's A Drink Before the War. Next though I'm pretty psyched for Ron Currie, Jr.'s new novel The One Eyed Man. If you haven't read Currie's Everything Matters! or God Is Dead do so. The guy is a flat-out genius. I might reread Titus Andronicus for a laugh this weekend. It's a shame Monty Python never staged that.  

SW: I’d love to write erotic space opera, but probably never will. What’s a book you want to write or a story you want to tell, but probably never will? 

KS: A young adult adventure book about weather systems, pirates, and the Bermuda Triangle. There's also this thing with 50's surfers and greasers teaming up to fight evil with souped-up, hotrod submarines.

SW: Can people catch you on tour or at readings coming up?

KS: Nope. Maybe. Nah.

Pre-Order Off Rock, available April 18, 2017

And check out the excerpt over at B&N, where you can also pre-order ->

In the Kappa Quadrant on a Cyclopean-Class moon known as Kardashev 7-A, Jimmy Vik was busy planting the initial hardware for a controlled mineshaft demolition and idly considering the merits of offing himself.
Soloing in small planetoid mineshafts made you ponder all sorts of odd things. Deliberately sabotaging your own spacesuit, inexplicably releasing an airlock… strange, meaningless snippets of bizarre android porn. Still nursing the tragic resonances of a hangover and dehydrated, Jimmy pushed these dark introspections aside and tried to focus on the work at hand. Being seven hours into his shift, he was cold and way past cranky. Anyone would be hard pressed to argue against it: solo rigging demolition inlays for mineshaft closure just plain sucked.
But then Jimmy found the pocket.
At first he thought—no way. No freakin’ way—he had to be seeing things. >>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed one of the KOKO books and this sounds good too.