Hey, folks, meet Miles Holmes, the next courageous author to share his deep, dark secrets in Ranks of the Rejected. I’ve known Miles for some time, and I worked with him quite a bit in my role as managing editor for Privateer Press’ fiction line. Miles’ work is highly imaginative, and the author himself has a kind of frenetic energy that definitely translates to his work, an element on full display in his most recent novel, Tales of the Invisible Hand. I spoke with Miles about the usual rejection stuff, his new book, and what it’s like to be a media tie-in author. Check it out.
1) What genres do you typically write? Do you have a favorite? If so, what about that genre draws you to it?
Over the last five years, I’ve alternated between science fiction and fantasy pretty steadily. If we’re counting back from grade school, it gets a bit more eclectic. I absolutely consumed Stephen King as a kid, so I was inspired to try horror myself on a few occasions, even recently. My middle school friends and I played a variety of RPG’s and were comic book fiends, so writing adventure modules or comic books was standard operating procedure for our Friday night sleepovers. Probably the most unusual genre I’ve ever written was the result of a high school assignment in English Lit with a teacher who also happened to be a published author. I desperately wanted to impress him, so rather than turn in an analysis of Greek tragedies as he requested, I attempted to write one instead. His response to that effort is a huge reason I kept writing. If pressed to choose a favorite genre to write, I have to go with science fiction. More than any other genre, sci-fi demands you bring the rules of your world along with the story. Nothing may be presumed; you’re on the hook for all of it. But there’s freedom in that too. Anytime, anywhere, any technology or species, any socio-political condition you can imagine, your choices and how they might provoke self-reflection in a reader are a powerful lure for me.
2) What does your typical writing work day look like? Do you have daily goals? Word count targets?
I’m relatively new to writing as a full-time endeavor, so I’ve been hyper-vigilant of both my peers and my idols to establish methods that don’t burn me out or fall short of the mark. It’s nerve wracking! Besides making sure I put the hours in, there are quotas like daily word counts to consider. Moreover, I’ve arrived at distinct phases in writing a book, each with its own challenges. Having begun my career in games development, I found parallels in this. Like a game, I consider each book I write either to be in pre-production, production, or post-production. During production, I do try to maintain a word count of 1500 words a day, but I found this measurement doesn’t translate well in the other two phases. In pre-production, I’m writing my outline and gathering research or reference material. It’s no less work, but it’s hard to set a quota beyond just working efficiently when you can. Where other stakeholders are present, you might well take a month of correspondence to produce an outline of only a few pages, for example. Once I’ve completed a draft, I’m into the post-production phase, and it becomes a question of efficiency in responding to the revision notes before me. These can vary from repairing a bad turn of phrase to chopping out a chapter and replacing it wholesale. My quota then turns from word count to a page or a comment count. How many comments are left to address? How many do I think I can I hit today? That sort of thing.
3) Much of what you’ve published recently is media tie-in fiction for Privateer Press. Can you tell us a bit about writing media tie-in and how it differs from writing your own, original fiction?
It’s been a fun challenge writing tie-in fiction for Privateer Press. Each piece has required me to adapt to a prescribed format, which does present challenges apart from writing my own fiction. Meanwhile, the collective goal of these pieces is that they fit a coherent narrative, which is something dear to my heart and totally in keeping with my original work. I started with the novella, “Way of Caine.” This of course was the origin story for the fan favorite warcaster Allister Caine and began his adventures in the Iron Kingdoms setting. Next I wrote the serialized novella “Cold Steel,” for which Caine would cameo to establish a connection with the mercenaries featured. Then I wrote the short story “Devil in the Details” and a No Quarter Gavin Kyle piece, both featuring the gun mages of the Black 13th. All of these pieces, even Doug Seacat’s Blood of Kings have been planned to set the stage for Caine’s upcoming trilogy of novels, starting with Mark of Caine in October. As I say, the process has been a fun challenge, and I can’t wait for readers to see where we’re going with it.
4) You’ve just had a novel released, a cool, high-flying pulp adventure called Tales of the Invisible Hand. Give us the quick and dirty synopsis, and tell us a bit about how you came up with premise.
As genres go, Tales of the Invisible Hand is probably best described as pre-historic diesel-punk sci-fantasy. In my head it plays a little like a John Carter or Conan the Barbarian style serialized adventure, while pairing the origins of the Tower of Babel story with an actual near-extinction event from our pre-history. The premise was the result of reading years of pulp, classic sci-fi and fantasy, along with an abiding love of UFO conspiracy theories and WWII aviation. More than this, the book pokes at real and fascinating questions I think we tend to overlook in modern times. I also wrote a free short prelude piece to introduce this world called “First Wave.” It’s a glimpse of what happens a few years ahead of our protagonists Zekh and Gaur’s first meeting, but hints at the grief they must overcome. It’s free, so by all means check it out!
5) This blog is called Rejectomancy, so let us indulge in some schadenfreude at your expense. Tell us about a memorable rejection you’ve received as a writer.
The first piece I ever tried to sell was a hard sci-fi novella called Chimera: Prelude. It marks the beginning of the end of the stories I want to tell, set in roughly 4,000 AD. After I wrote it, I submitted it to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I expected it would be swiftly rejected, and so it was! However, my rejection letter was personalized, rather than a form rejection. I took this to mean I might have come close. Thus encouraged, I kept the letter and the story both, while plotting my next steps. As the Chimera series is the climax I’m working towards, I decided to move to the beginning, while vowing to return to the Chimera in a few years’ time as the best author I can be!
6) What’s next for you? More novels? Iron Kingdoms?
A bit of column A, a bit of column B, as a matter of fact! I’m hoping to keep a pace of two books a year give or take for the next few years. Tales of the Invisible Hand is intended as the first book in a series of course, and as I’ve mentioned, the Mark of Caine begins a trilogy. I also intend to continue writing expansion books for my tabletop miniatures based car combat game, Road/Kill for as long as I can!
Miles Holmes is a game designer with experience in the industry going back more than fifteen years. He’s worked on a lot of games, including well-known franchises like Mass Effect, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Full Auto. He has also played tabletop games since he was a kid, and has spent far too much money on games like WARMACHINE. He writes fiction on his website, http://www.infinitygate.com, where he offers free content for interested parties. He’s currently putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for his next Iron Kingdoms novel, The Mark of Caine.