G & T Show SL – John Jackson Miller’s Prey
G & T Show SL – John Jackson Miller’s Prey is now available to download. Check it out here. Terry and Mike had the pleasure to sit down with author John Jackson Miller to discuss his upcoming Star Trek trilogy Prey. They discuss the book series, their unique cover art, and so much more. Check out the interview.
Background on John
Terry handles the introductions and welcomes their special guest, John Jackson Miller. Terry loves John’s Titan novel. John has also written for Star Wars, Halo, and comics. Check out John’s website, Faraway Press, for all of the latest news about John and what he’s working on. The first book of the Prey trilogy (Hell’s Heart) will be released on September 27th with book two (The Jackal’s Trick) in October followed by book three (The Hall of Heroes) in November.
Prey Has Been Spotted in the Wild!
Terry was bummed to learn that Hell’s Heart was available at Mission New York. She had visited the Simon and Schuster booth to meet with Dave Mack and would have picked up a copy if she had known it was available. John would have been there if he had known that the book was going to be there. He enlightens them as to the difference between hard cover and paperback book release dates. The book has been seen in the wild already, but the ebook won’t land until the 27th.
John didn’t know the series would be released as part of the 50th Anniversary. He was asked to write another Star Trek book after the success of his TNG novel Takedown. He had a story but didn’t think it could work with anything less than a trilogy. Margaret had a three month slot available at the end of this year. The series bridges both TNG and TOS so it could have worked with the 30th Anniversary of TNG, so the timing of the series works well to bridge the gap between the two.
Plot Point: Conflict with the Klingons
He wanted to stress test the Federation’s alliance with the Klingon Empire. Star Trek is about exploration, but this is the price they have to pay in order to do it. They have to maintain the relationships with the people they have already met. John wanted the story to be a political thriller that recalled the 1960s paranoid Cold War fantasy movie like Seven Days in May and The Manchurian Candidate. It takes off days after Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, leaps forward to TNG, before it jump back to TOS era, but it spends a great deal of time with the TNG cast.
100 Year Conflict
The roots of the conflict that John presents in the series has lasted for more than 100 years and goes back to Kruge. The last thing Kruge would have wanted was for the Federation and the Empire to be at peace, let alone allies. As he was planning the book, he always wanted a series of events that would force the TNG crew to deal with a situation similar to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. With the three novels, he was able to spread out and expand upon the incident that takes place over the course of three months.
Mission New York Panel
Then Terry talks about the Mission New York panel with Margaret Clarke when she mentioned working with John to overcome some of the unique challenges they faced in bringing Star Trek: Prey to press. Specifically, there were crews in the story and they came from other novels. They had to work out the timings so it would all make sense. There’s definitely a bit of air traffic control involved with the process. He was lucky enough to have the latest Titan novel in hand before he started, so he knew Riker’s locale at the beginning of the story. He also had been given a good idea of where the Enterprise would be. And since he worked with the Aventine in Takedown, he had a sense of what was going on over there.
He even got a chance to talk with the authors of the German series Prometheus. Their trilogy should be out soon. But since they have some Klingon elements in their stories, they were able to knit some things together between the two book series. Terry found it interesting that different publishing houses would work together like that. John mentions that they just released the German version of his Takedown novel.
The biggest challenge for John was that all of the bigger pieces of his story connected with the TV series and the other novels, short stories, and comics. He had to build his own spreadsheet to help him keep all of the various events straight. He had a library cart in his office that included all of the reference materials he required for the series. For example the Bird of Prey Operator’s Manual was useful because he had an entire squadron of Bird of Prey and a lot of stuff happens aboard those ships.
The Klingon language is another portion of the story that required a lot of reference materials. He had the three main Klingon dictionaries, but he also used the Klingon Art of War. But, he also had to speak with an instructor for the Klingon Language Institute to assist him with some of his translations as well as some of the new words he had to create for his story.
He admits that despite his best efforts, it will never be perfect, since there are some readers that may be more knowledgeable on one particular aspect than he was, but he’s familiar with the process due to his experience with other fandoms. With the modern era in publishing, errors can be fixed in subsequent printings and almost immediately in ebook. Takedown, which is in its third printing, has had several errors fixed which were discovered after the fact. With that said, he’s confident in this trilogy. He has done everything he could to make sure that it is the best story he could tell.
Mike asks if there were any new words created for the book. He admits that he did have to create several of them and shares one of the new words he had to create. One describes a ritual that occurs after a battle. He wants to provide some context but to do so, he has to go back and talk about some of the story highlights without getting into spoilers.
Kruge dies in Star Trek III, but little is known about his family except he kills his mate. Elsewhere it had been established that Kruge led a powerful house and the story begins with the power struggle that ensues after his death with no obvious heir to lead the house. The house was an industrial power house specializing in the development of Birds of Prey. A battle ensues with winners and losers and readers get to see what happens with both groups over the following century.
John explains that it’s exactly a century from the time the book begins with Kruge’s death and when the TNG crew get involved. Riker dispatches the Enterprise to commemorate the battle, because, at the time of the battle, the planet had been in neutral space, but since then, it has fallen into Federation space. The ritual takes place there and then all hell breaks loose for the story. Furthermore, there are several parallel adventures. Picard and Riker attempt to put out the fires, an investigation goes on with LaForge and Tuvok, the Klingons have things going on with Kruge’s heir, and then, there’s the through line in all of the books revolving around Worf, the main character for the series. Worf is joined in the story by Emperor Kahless.
The series allowed him to call on a lot of his favorite stuff. He appreciates Search for Spock probably more than the average fan. He was eventually sold on TNG when it delved into the Klingon Empire with Worf’s discommendation and the High Council. John wanted this series to honor those kind of stories. However, the story is more than just the Klingon Empire, it also explores how the Federation and the other players in the region are dealing with these events. For the story, he mixed Kruge with General Chang. If you enjoyed those movies and those episodes, this is the trilogy for you.
Mike asks about the unique cover art for the series. John wanted Birds of Prey on every book and he got that. The first book dealt with both Enterprises, but they were never together as the cover suggests. Then the second book has a devil or demon on the cover. He says people will reach a certain moment in the story when all of a sudden it makes sense. Doug Drexler received notes on the series before creating the three book covers. The third book features Worf and another Klingon who was featured in the opening battle of the series. John feels the covers are beautifully done and they have caused quite a stir within the community.
John cautions that this series is very susceptible to spoilers. He fears that some reviews will give the entire story away. It happens on occasion. Takedown was a mystery, but some reviews revealed what was going on. John always tries to avoid spoilers, regardless of a book’s age. The show tries to avoid spoilers for a time, but eventually we discuss them at length. They plan to have John back after the books have been released to talk about them with spoilers. Creators want you to experience their stuff in the way they intended it to be experienced.
Pitching the Book
The story was in the early stages when he pitched the idea to Margaret, though he had the titles and the broadest strokes of it. He spent the first couple of months working out the first plot. A number of things were not going to work due to licensing issues. He had to make some changes, but ended up with a better product from it. Any time he had a question about what to do, he erred in favor of the Klingons. John hopes that this would be penultimate Federation / Klingon conflict for the next several years. With the story, he wanted to address some of the serious questions at the root of the Federation’s relationship with the Empire and some of the Klingon institutions that he wanted to focus on as well.
With only a hundred years of peace between the Federation and the Empire, it is still within the scope of many of these people’s lives. During the early days of the Dominion War, the alliance almost broke down. Their alliance is still a fragile one. Terry is excited by what she’s hearing.
Riker in the Book
Then, there’s Riker. He’s still an Admiral learning to deal in diplomacy. However, he is the best man for the job since he was an exchange officer aboard a Klingon ship and is more familiar than most about the Klingons. Riker called upon as many of the resources as he could. John debated over using a comic that featured a descendant of Kruge going after the Genesis device. The Federation is not the Borg. They have to maintain relations with their own membership as well as their neighbors. The Fall showed how the Federation had to deal with internal problems with the Andorians. Prey takes a similar approach with the Klingons. John adds that this is a test of the Federation’s honor as an ally. Mike is excited to hear about it and can’t wait to pick it up.
Confidence in the Project
John was scared to begin the project, but grew more confident with the project as he delved deeper into it. After all, he used a third of a million words to tell the story. Terry asked how much did he have to cut. John didn’t cut anything. He doesn’t give himself enough time for multiple drafts since he usually revises as he goes along. John was astounded that everything he had in mind fit within the allotment he had given himself. He had written enough books to know exactly what he needed. John kept things tight and then would realize that some crews needed to make appearances, and was able to add them as he went along.
Terry described the story as cinematic. The outline was forty-five pages and each chapter represented a sentence or two. Then the third book was the hardest to start because he had to start tying things together so everything connected. By the midway point of the book, he was starting to see all of his efforts come together. Usually, in a series, there’s one book that he likes more than the others, but since this one started off as a single story, he was able to plan it out and balance it out. To him this series is a single story each one builds upon. There are three different antagonists in each of the books, with the second book having an additional one. Addressing Terry’s comment, he thinks this would make a better mini-series or a NetFlix series where they tell one story across multiple episodes in a season.
All three books are currently available for pre-order. John suggests oredering all three books at the same time, because retailers will usually order a lot of the first book and fewer and fewer copies of the subsequent books. Terry uses Vanguard as an example as to why this important. The fourth book in the series is virtually impossible to find. Get them all at once. Although he did write it so you could pick up any of the books and know what’s going on, he thinks each book is worthwhile.
Mike asks if there are cliffhangers between the books. He does use cliffhangers between each of the books and shares Margaret’s reaction to reading the end of the first book. John says there are a lot of surprises in the epilogue/prelude leading into the next book. He hopes that some day, all three books will be combined into a single volume like the Destiny trilogy. John mentions Kindle can track where people stop reading a book. He think this will be a series that people won’t be able to put down.
Modern Reading Habits
He talks about modern reading habits of people, especially people with ebooks. They tend to read small amounts at a time, spread out throughout the day. So, modern storytelling requires writers to create short chapters that people can easily and quickly consume often. He hopes that people won’t be able to stop with just one chapter at a time though.
John’s Non-Star Trek Works
Terry asks John to talk about some of the other things outside of Star Trek that he’s worked on and will be out soon. John has seven books coming out in the next four months. Fractures: Extraordinary Tales from the HALO Canon was released on the day the interview was recorded. It’s his first HALO prose. It contains short stories taking place somewhere in the HALO timeline. The book features stories from James Swallow, Christie Golden, and many others. His story is set in the forerunner.
In November, a HALO comic story will be part of a hardcover collection called HALO: Tales from Slipspace. That one is a military science fiction story. There’s no connection to his other story. In January, Planet of the Apes: Tales From the Forbidden Zone will come out. Greg Cox and Dayton Ward also have stories in that book. Titan will be releasing all of the original adaptations. There will also be a new film. John’s book ties in with Escape from the Planet of the Apes. In his story, they go Hollywood. It’s a backstory from a scene seen in the film. He wrote the graphic novel, Smite, for Dark Horse. All of his Mass Effect comics will be in an Omnibus edition. In March, Marvel will be collecting all of his Knights of the Old Republic comics. The first volume came out last year.
Prey is the equivalent to the Knights of the Old Republic – one big epic story. If he had known how many issues it would take to write the Old Republic story, it would have been a much more even story. With Prey, he knew exactly what he had to work with to tell the story. He would not change a thing about the series at this time.
John shares his Twitter and website address. John’s next appearance will be at New York Comic Con. He will be doing a panel on Reboots and Nostalgia in Fiction. He will be signing at several booths including Simon and Schuster, Random House, and the Dark Horse booths. John will also hold signings in Wisconsin in October and November. Check his website for additional announcements as they become available. They will have John back around the new year to talk about Prey with Spoilers. Mike is very excited and hopes that all of his Klingon friends will check out the series.
They thank John for joining them and look forward to talking to him again soon. Check out his books and comics using the links below.
Check Out These Links
John Jackson Miller on Twitter – https://twitter.com/jjmfaraway
John Jackson Miller’s website – Faraway Press – http://www.farawaypress.com
Star Trek: TNG: Takedown – http://amzn.to/2cW12rR
Star Trek: Prey: Hell’s Heart – http://amzn.to/2cVUlpD
And Star Trek: Prey: The Jackal’s Trick – http://amzn.to/2dhM3Ka
Star Trek: Prey: The Hall of Heroes – http://amzn.to/2cmSsBt
Fractures: Extraordinary Tales From the HALO Canon – http://amzn.to/2cv694O
HALO: Tales From Slipspace – http://amzn.to/2cSS7ZJ
Planet of the Apes: Tales From the Forbidden Zone – http://amzn.to/2diy7PO
Mass Effect Library Edition Volume 1 – http://amzn.to/2cv6Pak
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.