Saturday, July 16, 2016

Interview with Michael Chatfield, author of Sacremon and the Free Fleet Series

Today the Speculative Fiction Showcase has great pleasure in interviewing Michael Chatfield, author of The Free Fleet Series and The Harmony War Series, whose novel, From Furies Forged, featured as a new release here on June 4.

Tell us about The Free Fleet Series. What inspired it and where do you see it going from here? 
I was working on another story when I started thinking of the character Salchar. Thinking that I would like to use him in a later story, I wrote up details around him - turning him from a name into a person. Then, I wrote up Yasu’s character profile. In the span of two days, I had written up the cast of the Free Fleet.
At first I put them off, but with a rowdy bunch of characters like that, I soon had Salchar bugging me to just write out the beginning - just a few sentences, enough to cement the idea in my head. I had another book to work on, and I needed to make sure I didn’t forget the idea, right?
So I pulled out my laptop in my grandparents’ house in the UK, and I wrote the first sentences, then the first page. By the time I was done on the first day, I had written three thousand words. Something that at that point looked insane.
I realized at that point that my first series needed time to mature into something more, but The Free Fleet Series, now that was something special. I could see the time line of events. Did I know how my characters were going to react to them? Nope, but it was going to be a lot of fun seeing what they got themselves into. So I continued writing, and churned out The Recruitment Rise of the Free Fleet in a slow eight months.
Where do I see it going from here? That’s been a hard question I’ve been thinking about the last couple of months. The best answer I can give, is it depends on what the readers say. 
War’s Reward, book six of the Free Fleet, is coming out in July/August.

Your bio describes you as an Infanteer in the Canadian army. Has your experience in the military influenced your writing, and if so, how? 
The tactics and military ideas I use in my books come from personal experience and knowledge. It also adds a sense of grittiness to the books. The way that the militaristic characters interact is very similar to how real-world soldiers react - including the incessant swearing, smoking and tobacco products. 
The Free Fleet touched on this lightly. My new series, The Harmony War Series, really dives into my military background and those I have talked to in the military.

Travel in your early life and now has influenced your writing. Tell us more about this! You live mainly in Canada but regularly visit the UK. How do the cultures of these different (yet similar) countries affect your worldview and world-building? 
Seeing different places always gives you more material to work with - like the wind coming off of the English channel, or a winter in Northern Canada. It adds a depth to the scenes and places in the books, as I can pull real-world feelings and insert them into the characters.
Early on when I started planning my books, I didn’t want to make them just Euro- or western-centric. I make my books look at the many cultures on Earth. With the Free Fleet, there are people from all over Earth that join up. It’s actually the super-power countries that are an issue. When they’re no longer the strongest entity, they’re going to do everything to return that power. 
There are so many interesting cultures out there and I like to use them, not just western conventions. If you’re looking through The Free Fleet and Salchar and his friends from Mecha Tail say something odd, or Yasu does, remember that Mecha Tail are Korean gamers and Yasu’s Japanese. As all cultures have their differences, they all have similarities. Does this lead to conflict, or working together? Well, that’s something I try to have a look at in the series. 

You have a keen and committed fanbase. How do you keep them up-to-date with your writing? 
My go-to place for posting information is my website: After that, there’s my Facebook Michael Chatfield and Twitter @chatfieldsbooks. I’m not the best with social media, so once a week my friend Jay takes what I’ve been up to and sends it out in the world. 

What is Space Opera and where do you fit into the genre?
Good question, and one that is heavily debated. My take is that Space Opera is large scale science fiction with multiple characters’ viewpoints.
Where am I in it? Tricky - definitely on the military side of the spectrum with massive world building, though everything is character-driven. I make a scenario, and then my characters work their way through it. What they do, and the offshoots they take, are as much as a surprise to me as I hope they are to the reader. 

Apple or PC? 

Do you use Scrivener or Word? Or another word-processing program? Or even pen and paper?
Word, though I’m using a simple text editor called Text. I find it is more responsive, and allows me to break up the work into chapters.

Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?
I used to, and I will be getting one in the near future. Although, I was having this argument in my head while resupplying my body with caffeine yesterday. Having pets in space is a bad idea. If cats don’t like being in a box when you drive them a few hours, how the hell do you think they’re going to react being in a space ship or a space suit? I would not like to clean that mess up!
That said, in the series I was supposed to write first there are creations that are like pets. People need comforting, no matter who they are and pets do that in spades. They help me get out of the house and think about ideas, but with my current planned series, I don’t see them being a part of those works. Unless someone is extremely rich, then a dog or a cat is a large status symbol on a planet other than Earth. Just think how much the food would cost.

Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?
The Free Fleet would be better suited for the little screen I think. There are so many characters and events going on that it would be confusing for big screen. The Harmony War Series is much more linear and straight forward making it, in my mind, more suited for big screen.

Are you hooked on any of the shows on the sci-fi channel? If so, which ones?
Well Doctor Who has always been one of my favourite shows, though recently I’ve been watching television less so I can focus on writing. That said I’m always reading on my Kindle.

What is your favourite Science Fiction (or Fantasy) film?
For Science fiction, I would go with The Martian. Why, you ask? Well, because it’s possible. I think that’s what makes it and science fiction awesome - everything that’s done in the movie is quite possible, there are parts that are like, okay that might work. Yet for the most part, I watch with a massive smile on my face. It not only makes me happy to see possible science fiction, it’s to know that the movie is out there inspiring people to think about the future.
That is the true potential of science fiction, it’s the thought that one day, someone somewhere could be out in the deep black getting up to all kinds of mischief.
Science fiction, in my mind, inspires people to push their barriers. The Martian showed that the barriers don’t need to be pushed all that far for humanity to get to the rest of the solar system. As Mark Watney says, “I’m going to science the shit out of this.”

Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?
I’m probably on the cutting edge, though I do have a phone with a USBC connector. No one sells USBC connectors yet, which was a real pain when I lost my other one at someone’s house. Bleeding edge is awesome, just make sure you have a couple of charging cables!

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?
Yes I am a gamer, but not as much as I once was. I’m all over the elder scrolls series, and a Battlefield 4 fan. I’m really looking forward to No Man’s Sky - a procedural game where I can take a dinky starship and go mess with alien civilizations. Ahh, the perfect weekend.

Do you cook? What is your best/favourite/most popular recipe?
I cook quite a few times a week, I don’t like having to make meals everyday so I cook up batches, spaghetti bolognaise (meat sauce) is very near the top! Though I do change things up with beef pot roast, steaks, stuffed chicken and pulled pork. I might be from the UK, but I can’t handle fish - fastest way to get me out of the house is to cook that!

Do you have a garden? Have you ever grown your own food?
I do have a garden and I used to grow food, but didn’t do very well as we have a large rabbit/squirrel population up here in Canada.

Have you ever been to Starbucks? (Or other popular coffee chain!)
I have been to Starbucks and I have never had a coffee there. I go to a variety of coffee places, but to write I stay at home. I have a mechanical keyboard. It’s ruined me against laptop keyboards, and it’s louder than my grandfather’s typewriter.

Who do you consider are your major influences in writing?
My mother got me reading, and took me around the world. Those two, put together, make up the base of my experiences of writing.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started reading and liking English again. I had a teacher, Mr deMelo (That’s how it’s spelt, spell it differently and he will not be pleased) and through his class I started to understand his love for the written word.
It was around this time that I accidentally went from the Fantasy side of a bookstore, to the Science Fiction and I found John Ringo - my first book into the world of science fiction.
The ground and seed was planted, and I started messing around with stories -  just throwing things out, never really writing a book, just throwing ideas at a page.
I didn’t make it into University as an Engineer, but I was good enough to scrape into English. I think the only reason I even passed that was because I could come up with some damned obscure ideas.
I wrote and wrote, and well, it’s university. I was drinking, and running around like an idiot (good times!) This one Teacher’s assistant didn’t like me much. She had me come into a meeting one day and said, “Your writing sucks. It has no form.” (basically) Ouch. Then the professor of the class said that I have really interesting ideas. So confused - and just caring about passing - I went home, got some beers, and went out for the weekend.
By Sunday, I had a single thought in my head: “She thinks I suck at writing. I’ll just have to prove her wrong.” I started writing, not just throwing ideas at the page.
The water was coming down, and I was starting my real writing. My motivation was to show up the teaching assistant that said I was terrible at English. Pretty odd way to start things!

What writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Either John Ringo or David Weber. Their books opened me up to the world of Science Fiction. They have written some of the finest books I have read - not only within Science Fiction, but out of any genre. Those guys can write!

If you could have any director to shoot the film of your books, who would you choose?
Good question as I have no ideas - maybe James Cameron. Why? Cause the man loves his art form. I’ve seen a few videos of him directing, and the man does it for fun and love. Art is an expression of the people behind it. As Stephen King says, never come to the page without emotion. Be anxious you might not get something right, or excited about what you’re creating next. Those emotions shape and form your work.
So when I see James Cameron smiling, or looking severe when directing a scene, I see a man coming to his art with emotion.

Michael Chatfield on Amazon

About Michael Chatfield:

Having spent the majority of his childhood jumping from country to country with his mother, Michael Chatfield now travels the world searching for inspiration. He calls Canada home, for now, but regularly bounces across the pond to his true home, the UK. Michael pays the bills as an Infanteer in the Canadian military.

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