Bennett R Coles is the author of the just released ‘Ghosts of War’ which is the sequel to the quite amazing ‘Virtues of War’. Coles had previously served 15 years in the Canadian Navy as a bridge officer, boarding party officer, warfare officer, and navigator, and served a pair of tours in the Middle East as a UN Military Observer. A rising Canadian author, he led the maverick publisher Promontory Press, supporting Canadian and American writers.
His intimate knowledge of the military shines through in his work and once again he has delivered quite a solid novel for us to enjoy.
Science Fiction (SF): Bennett, first let me thank you for returning for another interview. Without spoilers, if you could open up a little on ‘Ghosts of War’ and how it grew from ‘Virtues of War’?
Bennett R. Coles (BC): Thanks for having me back. I’m excited to be exploring some new territory with ‘Ghosts of War’. I wanted to ensure that Book II in the series wasn’t just a re-hash of Book I, so ‘Ghosts of War’ has quite a different tone from its predecessor. There is still plenty of military action, but the story takes place back on Earth and it delves more into espionage and terrorism. The politics of wider society also play a much more significant role in the lives of our soldier heroes.
SF: The first novel was more of the effects of war on young soldiers and this has a focus on soldiers returning from war. How has this shift in scenery changed the narrative?
BC: I wanted to make it clear that no-one can go through what our heroes endured in Book I and not be deeply affected by it. ‘Virtues of War’ takes place entirely within the military framework – ‘Ghosts of War’ sets our heroes loose into the vagaries of ‘normal’ civilian society. Not only do the characters have to adapt to a sudden lack of structure, they have to interact with people who have no sense of what they’ve been through. This creates a narrative focused much more on the personal drama and less on physical action.
SF: How has working on the second novel in this series differed from working on the original?
BC: I had to draw on a very different set of my own experiences, and put myself in a different mindset. A military deployment is in many ways completely removed from civilian life and the psychological break between the two can be severe. In ‘Virtues of War,military themed’ I had to restrict my thinking to that of a soldier on deployment, whereas in ‘Ghosts of War’ I suddenly had the entire canvas of Terran society to consider. The focus of the book is also very different, which required a new tone to match the changed perspective.
SF: With a change of scenery and direction, did you need to take on any new research of a new mindset for the novel?
BC: Interestingly, when I first set out to write this series, my original intent was to explore post-traumatic stress disorder and the challenges a returning veteran faces. As I developed the story I realized that this idea would only work if the reader had also been through those combat experiences with the characters, so I decided to write the wartime story first, and then lead into the psychological after-effects. So ‘Ghosts of War’ was actually my original concept – what became ‘Virtues of War’ was at first just a prologue, then a first section, and then finally an entire first novel in its own right.
SF: Will ‘Ghosts of War’ having come to a close, what can you tell us about the third novel in your planned trilogy?
BC: The third novel, ‘March of War’, will be a blend of the first two books. There will definitely be a return to the direct military combat of Book I, but the psychological drama developed in Book II will continue. ‘Ghosts of War’ can stand on its own as a complete work, but it is definitely part of a larger story which will come to a conclusion in Book III.
SF: After it is released, will your future work take you in a new direction or bring us more military-themed science fiction? Is there a chance that you will revisit this world that you’ve crafted down the line?
BC: If the readers would like more stories in the ‘Virtues of War’ world, I’d be happy to write more. But right now I’m working on a new series which moves a bit more into the realm of space opera. It still has a military theme but with quite a twist that will hopefully interest an entirely new set of readers as well.
SF: Over the past year have you seen any changes in the desire for military-themed fiction or the overall landscape in which it is being released?
BC: There’s no question that the return of Star Wars to the big screen has had an impact on science fiction in all media. Space opera is in high demand, and while this can be closely related to military science fiction there are differences. Hopefully, the upsurge in space opera’s popularity will see more readers venturing over to mil-SF, perhaps even without realizing it, and our genre will earn some new fans.
SF: What is a theme that you feel is becoming too common in fiction at this time?
BC: Dystopian worlds have become very common, definitely in SF but also in other genres like fantasy, mystery and even contemporary fiction. There’s no doubt setting a story in a crumbling world is a great way to explore conflict, offer commentary on contemporary issues like climate change, and present complex heroes and anti-heroes. But it’s being done an awful lot these days.
SF: When not working on writing, what passions do you follow?
BC: I run a small publishing company which is dedicated to giving talented new authors a real shot at the traditional market. As an author myself I want to encourage and support newcomers, and hopefully, launch some promising new writing careers. Otherwise, working with my darling wife to raise two young sons into (hopefully) well-adjusted young men is a wonderful priority for me.
SF: Thanks for joining us again. Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
BC: If you read a book and enjoy it, please take the few minutes to go online and post a review. Not only does it make the author feel valued, it helps tell all the other readers out there to give this book a chance. There is no higher praise for a book than the collective support of its readers, and there is no better way to support a book you enjoyed than posting a review.
Stuart Conover is an author, blogger, and all around geek. When not busy being a father and husband he tries to spend as much time as possible immersed in comic books, science fiction, and horror! Would you like to know more? Follow him on Twitter!