Saturday, March 25, 2017

0 Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland, authors of SHADOW RUN, on the scene they still don't know if they got right

We are excited to be able to chat with Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland about their first collaboration together, SHADOW RUN, the first book in the Kaitan Chronicles.

Michael and AdriAnne, what was your inspiration for writing SHADOW RUN?

Michael: AdriAnne and I both love space operas—fantastical high adventure in space. We also happen to both spend a lot of time in the fringes of what could be considered civilization, AdriAnne as a commercial fisherwoman in Bristol Bay, and myself as that one weird kid who grew up in the woods without electricity and hauling firewood on a dog team. We wanted to see if we could find a way to combine our loves: fun, high adventure in space, and the intersection between remote life and civilization.

AdriAnne: What he said! Also, that found-family feeling that you get both from Firefly and living in Alaska and meeting isolated, tight-knit groups of people—that was a huge inspiration for me, going into this.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

M: There is a scene where Qole, the captain of a “fishing” vessel at the furthest reaches of the galaxy, is being introduced to a royal family. Qole is extremely confident and capable, but anyone would be unsteady in being pulled from everything you know into an utterly foreign situation. Juggling multiple personalities, preventing anyone from being a caricature while showing the extreme differences at play, and keep the pace moving took forever. It’s one of the scenes that I still don’t know if I got right, and enjoy revisiting to see how I could do better.

A: My most difficult scenes were all romance scenes, because I suck at romance. My favorite scenes were the battle scenes—I routinely cackle while writing them—and also one similar to Michael’s, where my chapter picks up where his left off, actually, with Qole trying to keep her footing in this new, royal world. It’s fun to throw your characters into deep, unfamiliar water. Or maybe I’m a horrible person.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

M: In a completely different setting, SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo also takes a group of misfits and puts them through the wringer—someone pointed that out the other day, and I was very pleased they even thought about it. But, in a sense, much of SHADOW RUN is inspired by movies: Star Wars, Firefly’s Serenity, Guardians of the Galaxy. We are always hoping to find such things in a book, but couldn’t quite scratch that itch. So we figured we’d write it!

A: As for YA sci-fi, I think we might share fans with Amie Kaufman’s Starbound trilogy, or her Illuminae Files co-written with Jay Kristoff. There’s also a lot of great-sounding YA sc-fi coming out now/soon, like EMPRESS OF A THOUSAND SKIES and 27 HOURS and ZENITH and…!

How long did you work on SHADOW RUN?

M: Three months. Then I died.

A: Well, three months for a rough draft. Then there was a month of revision pre-agent, a couple months with our agent, a few months with our editor… it seems unending.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

M: That might be a book unto itself. In a very boring, but incredibly useful sense, it taught me that structure is good. AdriAnne taught me to outline chapters in detail, and without that, I would have lapsed into classic Michael writing mode: staring at a blank page for days on end, plotting the next move. This way, it only took hours.

A: I’d never co-written anything before this project, so it certainly taught me how to do that! It also taught me I CAN actually be patient waiting on someone, contrary to popular (Michael’s) belief.

What do you hope readers will take away from SHADOW RUN?

M: The number one thing? Inspiration. Not in a “Rah, I am now a better person!” sort of way, but the kind of inspiration you get from a really fun time with your best friend. I hope readers will have so much fun, they won’t even notice the book asking some larger questions about how we make our choices in this universe, or being inspired to stand up for themselves and what they believe in.

A: Ditto, for the most part. I primarily want people to have a blast reading it, and to also realize that having fun does not have to mean ignoring/leaving out important stuff. Which is why the call for “old-school, fun” sci-fi/fantasy rubs me the wrong way. You can address modern concerns with such things like privilege and identity and still have fun.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

M: It was really hard. I had to do a lot of work, and AdriAnne really just sort of rode in on my coat-tails. Oh, wait wait! That’s the other way around. I determined I was going to be published sometime around the age of 10, and at the age of 15 I started a regimented writing program. I would sit down after my family went to bed, and not let myself do anything on the computer until I wrote at least a page of a story. I ended up producing hundreds and hundreds of pages of text, and finished any number of short stories, but like any good wannabe, never actually finished a book.

As I got older, I decided to start my own business, in part to allow myself the time to continue writing. I started a business working on Apple products, and fifteen years later I was pouring my life blood into that and not into writing. Writing wasn’t forgotten, however; in fact, my wife and I had just taken the step of leaving the state, partially to give me time to get back to writing when AdriAnne and I started talking about co-writing a story.

AdriAnne, on the other hand, was the friend who had put in her dues—she had gone to school for writing, been writing 8 hours a day, finished multiple books, and gotten a book published. She was a professional, and is a sort of scary writing machine that one should be hesitant to unleash.

I watched her proceed to masterfully produce query letters, research agents meticulously, and pick her targets like an assassin. Like I said, scary.

That process netted us the completely awesome Kirsten Carleton, who in turn helped us polish the manuscript and sold it to Kate Sullivan, over at Random House.

In all of this, I drank beer, and replied to emails with a “Yay!” and “Looks good!”

A: Yeeeaaah, my process was longer. Like, several years, five trunked manuscripts, two previously published books, and one former agent longer. Let’s just say I took the slow road. I feel like I made every beginner mistake in the book (har), but at least it made this process with SHADOW RUN a lot faster. It took less than a year between writing, revising, finding an agent and landing a great publishing deal—9 months, in fact.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

M: Sure, having a professional juggernaut as a friend.

In truth, writing the book was hardest due to the complete lack of time on my end. The only area in my life where I could surrender time was sleep, so going into this, I knew it was going to be brutal. And it was. But growing up in the Alaskan woods has many very useful side effects, such as reconfiguring what you consider challenging. So I never doubted it could be done, I just knew it was a matter of the right time. When a friend like AdriAnne offers to write a book, it’s clearly the right time, and I knew we were going to do it, and I knew I would love it.

A: Patience—patience is the key to publication. It took me a while to realize this. You try to rush anything, you’re going to make mistakes. That doesn’t mean you can’t move as quickly as possible, if you know what you’re doing. However, I often thought I knew what I was doing when I actually didn’t, so now I play it safe and generally assume I don’t.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

M: Get up, think about the book for a bit while lying in bed. Check your phone to see what time it is and wonder if perhaps you can slip in another 15 minutes of sleep. Accidentally check the news and your email. Get up, think about the book, go to work, think about the book, have meetings, think about the book, come home, have your wife accuse you of thinking about the book. Finally, in the evening, sit down to do some writing. Spend 15 minutes deciding on the perfect playlist or Pandora channel, then stare at a blank page for another 15 minutes. Write another sentence, stare at it until 5 am and then write the entire chapter in an hour.

A: I can only write at home, where there are fewer distractions. Music—but only certain music, specific to the book, can help me get into the groove, a process that can take a couple of hours. But once I’m “locked in,” I can write for sixteen hours straight and not even notice somebody talking to me. And then my process is to rinse and repeat.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

M: Find a great friend who knows how to get published!

The only advice I know that would have been most useful to me was to be more structured in my writing, so I would actually finish stories. Getting caught up in plotting and staring at the page would leave me part way through a story so many times, and that lag was a killer on my overall output. And for me, writing is a muscle. The more you exercise, the more painful it is. Wait, no, I mean, the easier it gets!

A: I’m surprised by how many people say they want to write, but just never sit down and do it. Get your butt in a chair! Or, um, your feet in front of a standing desk. Serve that time. I know—I’m the queen of wanting to take shortcuts and not wanting to suck at anything (which is why I’m not an amazing violin player like I always wanted to be). You can’t take shortcuts with writing. You need to write, a lot. You need to suck, a lot. You need to do both of these things over and over again until you suck less. Don’t get stuck on a first novel, tweaking it forever and resubmitting it to agents with a different title or whatever. You did an amazing thing, writing that first novel! Great! Now throw that thing in a drawer/oubliette and do it again.

What are you working on now?

M: This interview. It’s 2 am, and I should really be in bed, but we haven’t hit 6 am yet, so you know! We’re also working on Book 3 of the Kaitan Chronicles, of which SHADOW RUN is Book 1! That’s right, folks, we’ve already finished Book 2, and let me tell you, if you thought SHADOW RUN was even passably entertaining, Book 2 will blow you away. Which sounds kind of like a threat, but it’s really not, I promise.

A: Book 3 with Michael, and a new YA dark fantasy solo project!


Shadow Run
by Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland
Delacorte Press
Released 3/21/2017

"Firefly" meets DUNE in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power—and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

Purchase Shadow Run at Amazon
Purchase Shadow Run at IndieBound
View Shadow Run on Goodreads


AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller Coauthor PhotoAdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller met in their hometown of Palmer, Alaska, where they agreed on books 99% of the time, and thus decided to write together. Michael grew up off the grid in a homestead in Alaska and ironically now works very much on the grid in IT and Web development. AdriAnne grew up in Nevada and now spends her summers as a commercial fisherwoman in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and the rest of her year writing. This is their first book together.
Have you had a chance to read SHADOW RUN yet? Have you ever co-written before? What sort of strategies did you find useful? Do you get caught up or stuck in the plot like Michael did? Have you considered actually outlining like AdriAnne suggests? What other ways have helped you continue the plot? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Emily, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Sam, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, and Lori Ann

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