One of my favorite novels from 2016 was Mike Brooks’ sci-fi novel Dark Run. With the sequel, Dark Sky (paperback, digital), now out in the U.S., and a third installment, Dark Deeds (paperback, digital), slated for release on October 10th, I spoke to him about what inspired this second chapter and how it connects to the other books in his Keiko series.
To start, what is Dark Sky about, and how does it connect, both chronologically and narratively, to the events of Dark Run?
Well, Dark Sky is the next chapter in the adventures of the crew of the Keiko. It picks up not long after the events of Dark Run, and opens with the crew trying to spend their hard-won gains from the end of the previous novel. But now, of course, the dynamic in the crew has changed a bit, and I think the novel reflects that. There’s no breakneck chasing across the galaxy in this one. Most of it takes place on a single planet, and while there’s action aplenty, it’s also a focus on the different characters, and how they relate and interact. You also get to see a bit more of what Tamara Rourke can really do, which was very fun to write.
Now, Dark Sky has actually been out for a while in your native England. Is this new edition any different?
There’s always going to be a few differences between UK and US editions, but in general the two are the same. There are two main changes I can think of: a friend of mine pointed out that some of the Portuguese dialogue was wrong, and another friend informed me that the New Zealand national anthem is “God Defend New Zealand” not “God Save New Zealand.” They also use “God Save The Queen,” like we do in the UK, hence my confusion.
In the interview we did for Dark Run [which you can read here], you said that the plot for that novel was somewhat inspired by Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, And Thorn novels. Is there a novel, or a writer, who was a big influence on Dark Sky, but one that didn’t have as big of an impact on Dark Run?
That’s a tough one. And the honest answer is “not that I can think of.” Of course, my writing style, as with any author, is going to be influenced by all sorts of other writers, but there’s no-one I can think of that had a particularly notable influence on Dark Sky more than any other.
How about non-literary influences, like movies, TV shows, or video games? Any of them a big influence on Dark Sky?
Not that I can think of. Though I was writing Dark Sky in late 2014 and early 2015, so it was a while ago. It’s kind of hard to think back to exactly what was going through my mind back then.
Oh, definitely. As I’ve said before, a quote that has really stuck with me was from a Blade Runner making-of documentary, where one of the crew recalled seeing the set and realizing “the future is old.” I always want to evoke a feeling that the future I’m writing about is real and has been lived in: it’s dirty, some things don’t work properly or have bits falling off, it’s not shiny and new like in Star Trek. Necromunda is certainly an influence on Dark Sky, given the novel is set almost exclusively in a subterranean city.
In the same interview we did earlier, you said that Dark Run, was the first novel in a five-book saga called the Keiko series. Is that still the plan?
That’s still the plan. Of course, whether the plan comes to fruition is going to depend on how well the other books sell…
Right, of course. Though the third book, Dark Deeds, is slated to be released on October 10th. What can you tell us about it?
It’s essentially a heist movie in space, in novel form, with a gangster movie sub-plot. It follows on directly from Dark Sky and deals with the ramifications of certain events in that novel, as well as giving a more in-depth look at a couple of new faces.
Cool. Sounds like Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novel, Scoundrels. Anyway, along with Dark Run, Dark Sky, and Dark Deeds, you also wrote a short story in this series called “Redemption Waits.” Have you written any other connected short stories?
I have another called “Going To Church” about a hitman who’s hired to kill Church O’Connell, one of the “Twins” mentioned in “Redemption Waits,” but I haven’t been able to find anywhere willing to publish it yet.
Are there any plans to collect “Redemption Waits” and “Going To Church” into a book of their own, or maybe include them in one of the novels?
Sadly, I’m not at the stage of my career where I can think about anything like that. Apart from anything else, “Redemption Waits” is the one and only short story of mine that’s been published at pro rates. I seem to be better at novel-length stories.
Speaking of Dark Sky being part of a series, one thing that writers sometimes try to do when writing a series is make sure the books can all stand on their own. Did you do that with Dark Sky, or do you need to read Dark Run first to really understand what’s going on?
Oh yeah, it’s important that the books can stand on their own, I think, particularly in the market these days. Obviously, it’ll help if you’ve read Dark Run before you read Dark Sky, but the first chapter or two quickly skips over the characters and why they are where they are, so hopefully new readers can quickly get up to speed with the main points, even if they’re unfamiliar with the fine detail. The start of any book has to introduce characters and setting, it’s just that in sequels you have to get a slightly finer balance between explaining things for newcomers and not boring old hands. I guess it’s like a text-based version of “Previously on Buffy The Vampire Slayer…”
Speaking of Buffy, are there any plans to make a movie, TV show, or video game out of Dark Run, Dark Sky, and the rest of the Keiko series?
I’m open to the idea if someone wants to pitch it at me. And the obvious answer is “All of them. Make all of them.”
Finally, if someone’s enjoyed Dark Run and Dark Sky, what would you suggest they read while waiting for Dark Deeds to come out?
That’s definitely a tough one. If they didn’t mind jumping genre into fantasy, the books in Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards Sequence [The Lies Of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies, The Republic Of Thieves, The Thorn Of Emberlain, and the upcoming installments The Ministry Of Necessity, The Mage And The Master Spy, and Inherit the Night] hits a lot of the same notes, with stuff like flawed protagonists, con jobs, plans going awry, that sort of thing. I do like the way he takes a different approach for each book, much like I’m trying to do with the Keiko series, because I don’t think fantasy and sci-fi are genres so much as settings. So Lynch has done a gangland revenge novel, a heist/pirate novel, a novel about fixing an election…it keeps it fresh, while moving the larger story forwards.