Greetings, fellow bibliophiles! Today I have the pleasure of introducing you all to Mike Gullickson, author of The Northern Star: The Beginning. You can read the Bookworm’s review of The Northern Star: The Beginning by clicking here.
Bookworm: “Thank you for agreeing to do this interview! First, Tell us about what inspired the story?
Mike Gullickson: “A lot of my novels start with images that pop in my head. I wish I could draw. My mom insists I can, but she’s referencing dinosaurs from 4th grade and that’s when I peaked.
For The Northern Star, I distinctly remember when it came into existence. It occurred about ten years ago while I was listening to Radiohead’s “I Might Be Wrong.” There’s a line in the song:
There is no future left at all/That I know
(I checked. It’s actually “There is no future left at all/That I think,” but it’s too late to go back, I heard “that I know” for the last decade.)
And that line haunted me with imagery that became The Northern Star. The story changed significantly since those first images, but that’s how it began. An inconsequential fact: I first wrote The Northern Star as a screenplay. It was horrible.
Other external inspirations that shaped me are Stephen King (like many authors, On Writing is my bible), Guillermo Del Toro, and Terminator 2, because as a kid, I wanted to be one.
Bookworm: “So you are a RadioHead fan? What are some of your favorite songs? Any other music inspire your writing?“
Mike Gullickson: “It’s funny. Just by volume of listening, I’d be considered a huge radio fan (I’m 100% certain I’ve listened to “I Might Be Wrong,” more than anyone else in the world. I wrote the first two novels of The Northern Star with it looped), but it’s become almost a workman-like relationship. For whatever reason, Amnesiac and Kid A (two Radiohead albums) transport me to the place I need to go in order to write this stuff. It’s almost Pavlovian.
If you want to know what songs are “The Northern Star,” they are:
You and Whose Army? (Radiohead, Amnesiac)
The entire song reminds me of the latter half of the series when most of the characters, especially the bionics, are nearly unrecognizable from where they came. You forget so easy, is a line in it that still gives me chills.
I Might Be Wrong (Radiohead, Amnesiac)
Previously discussed. The catalyst that started the whole series. I don’t think the novels would exist without this song, which is kind of weird.
The National Anthem (Radiohead, Kid A)
This is the song I play before I start writing anything to do with the series. Jeez, I’m starting to sound weird, but if you meet me, I’m super normal. No matter what city I’m in, people always ask me for directions. That’s how normal I am.
How to Disappear Completely (Radiohead, Kid A)
A song of intense loss and tragedy, which this series has in spades (Lyric: In a little while . . . I’ll be gone). So many of the characters lose themselves in this story, and some of them know that to make right, their sacrifice will be even greater. One of the characters is a sociopath, and I think, as the story progresses, he may be the most tragic of them all. I’m listening to it right now, and I can feel a swell of emotion for them.
I can’t think of any other music that’s inspired my writing, but I do listen to AC/DC a ton.“
Bookworm: “Who was your favorite character you’ve ever written? Why?“
Mike Gullickson: “This is a great question because my gut reaction surprised me. Intellectually, it would be John Raimey (the character that ties the entire series together), but emotionally it’s Jeremiah Sabot, Cynthia Revo’s bodyguard/lover.
He’s loyal to Cynthia without being weak. And while most people in that situation (she’s the smartest, wealthiest, and most powerful person in the world) would wilt and lose their identity, he’s etched out clear boundaries. In her expertise, she’s the boss. But in his (war) he gives her no quarter. In one situation, he doesn’t even let her speak. Of all the characters, he knows exactly who he is and what he must do, and there’s something admirable about that. And his love for Cynthia is absolute.
Incidentally, Sabot is my wife’s favorite character, too.“
Bookworm: “I love how the characters of Evan and Xan play off each other even though they never meet. I’m sure most readers would characterize Evan as a “villain” character but would be a little troubled by where to place Xan. We certainly can’t characterize him as a hero. Would you characterize him as an anti-hero?“
Mike Gullickson: “One of the editors, Justin, asked the same thing, “ugh, is Xan bad?” No. He isn’t. He’s looking out for his country, and their interests aren’t our own. I don’t like ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ I think it’s boring and simplistic and not true to life. I’m not the first to say it, but bad people don’t think they’re bad. It doesn’t mean their not, just that there’s an impetus for their actions.
I have a soft spot for Xan. Subterfuge takes on a whole new meaning when powerful Sleepers (cyberspace hackers) can read a person’s mind and even sway their predilections. It makes spying look like patty cake, and he is aware that his kind (in the book, I call them ‘shadow men’) are a detriment. He surprised me a bit.
The difference between Xan and Dr. Lindo rests in their motives. Dr. Lindo wants power. His end game is for him alone. Xan desires a sane world. It’s like divergent evolution. Their end goals are similar, but their reason for getting there is completely different.
Aside from Sabot, I think most of the characters are anti-heroes. You can’t help but be flawed in their circumstances. “
Bookworm: “Who are some of your favorite authors?“
Mike Gullickson: “Stephen King is a huge influence. Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle (Inferno, Lucifer’s Hammer, Mote Series), Joe Halderman (Forever War), Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box).
My guilty pleasure is John Sandford’s Prey/Virgil Flowers Series.”
Bookworm: “Tell us about your upcoming book.“
Mike Gullickson: “The Northern Star: Civil War takes place ten years after The Beginning. While the world governments have calmed, they are increasingly wary of MindCorp’s jurisdiction over them, as their citizens reside almost completely on-line, turning national borders into lines on a map.
Raimey is sent to the Congo to confront a warlord who is raiding valuable mineral mines that MindCorp needs to maintain and grow the network. Tank Minors (infantry-based bionics) have been in service for three years. Mike Glass is the first of that kind, and by the Civil War he is the most advanced. Always cold, he has found someone that he connects to, and even for him, loves.
Dr. Lindo, now the Secretary of Defense, manipulates the world’s leaders for his final plan. The corrupt he blackmails, the righteous he threatens what they hold dear. MIME CPU’s whisper his will in cyberspace. “The Twins” – two advanced Tank Majors – enact his will on earth. And only Cynthia Revo stands in his way.
I thought it’d be an easier re-write than The Beginning. I was wrong. But if I can pull it off, I think this will be an excellent addition to The Northern Star series. The last book, The End, is gonzo.“
Bookworm: “James Bond or Ethan Hunt?“
Mike Gullickson: “Bond, even though I think Bourne would take him.”
Bookworm: “What is your favorite scene that you have written?“
Mike Gullickson: “It’s a pretty ghastly scene in Civil War. In a memory about a war in Israel, Raimey recalls a young military recruit vomiting while he power washes the dead out of Raimey’s fists and gears. Gross, but I love it!“
Bookworm: “If you could take one book on a desert island, what book would it be?“
Mike Gullickson: “The Stand. It’s long and every time I read it, I’m entertained. “
Bookworm: “Do you have any advice to other authors who wish to self-publish?”
Mike Gullickson: “That’s a tough one. I’m so new to the game. I think a lot of authors (myself included) view self-publishing/traditional publishing and lit agent/no agent as the same thing, when really that isn’t the case. They’re distinctly separate conversations.
I self-published because I had a bad experience with an agent a few years ago and I was tired of waiting for someone to ‘like’ me. Having said that, as an author, it’s easy to get bitter about the process, but with a little empathy, you can see what a daunting task lit agents have in front of them. A music agent can know in ten minutes if they want to sign a band. For a lit agent, one novel may take them days.
So even though I had a bad experience, I think even if you self-publish, a good agent could be a valuable asset. To have an advocate who can access tastemakers (critics, movie studios, international publishers) is a huge advantage to help you rise above the noise floor.
I’m not as convinced about traditional publishing, at least domestically. I think most people buy on-line now and with KDP, Createspace, Smashwords – and distribution channels like Amazon and Barnes & Noble – readers can snap up your book, it’s just getting them to know about it.
It’s an incredibly tough challenge, and the quality of your work is no guarantee of success. Word of mouth is probably the most important thing (that’s how I buy most of my books) and that’s pixie dust, like a video gone viral. Or the success of “Gundam Style.”
Oh, and I think ‘platform’ is a stupid concept for fiction. It’s made up, people! Whether your a PhD in robotics or a janitor with a great imagination, it shouldn’t make a damn bit of difference. Either the story works or it doesn’t.”
Bookworm: ”Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I can’t wait to read the next book.”
You can visit Mike Gullickson’s website by clicking here. You can read my review of The Northern Star: The Beginning here. If you like what you read here, be sure to follow us on twitter @ErinEymard and Google Plus. The Bookworm is also giving a copy of Stephen King On Writing to one lucky follower of the blog/twitter/Google plus. More information can be found on our Google Plus page and in this blog post.