Author Spotlight: Mike McPhail

  • a writer of military and science fiction short stories, graphic designer, editor, and publisher!

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Mike McPhail.

Nowadays, Mike McPhail is the graphics designer for eSpec Books and freelance as McP Digital Graphics; he handles cover art/text treatment, interior illustrations, and pre-press layout of covers. He still writes and publishes, but the design work pays the bills.

He’s best known for his military/science fiction short stories, many of which were seen in the early Defending The Future anthologies, of which he’s now the series editor and publisher!

Mike, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Less as a pet, and more as a friend and comrade; in my series we have what are known as Parr (named after the researcher that used them for the animal-testing stage of a mind/machine interface device). So imagine a house cat that can communicate via a wireless computer system. Yes, they are intelligent, but still driven by cat-nature.

That sounds pretty awesome!

What do you write and how did you get started?

I’m known for my military/science fiction short stories, many of which were seen in the early Defending The Future anthologies, of which I’m now the series editor and publisher.

I started as a technical writer as part of my engineering degree in aeronautics and that evolved into game design for FASA and Star Trek back in the 80s. Primarily, it was due to my wife (Danielle) that I became a fiction writer. She wanted to write a story set in my MRPG The Alliance Archives (which ran for about a decade, once again in the 80s). So I wrote a short story that was heavy with technical and terminology points as a reference for her. She read it and proclaimed I was a writer, and that I should do this for myself. My first pro-rated story was sold in 2004.

That’s pretty impressive! You went from the person submitting, to the person making the anthology happen. And you clearly have a supportive and amazing wife. And thank you for sharing a truth about being in the publishing industry — where the writing isn’t always where the steady paycheck is.

What do you like to read?

In the early days it was hard science fiction, with Arthur C. Clarke and Larry Niven at the top of my reading list. Much later, I was introduced to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. I spent two decades tracking down and reading all of the books in the series (I miss Terry).

Clarke and Niven are basically classics. And I think we all miss Terry.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write until you reach The End – Once you start, just keep going until you get it all in the computer, then come back and make corrects and changes.

That doesn’t work for me. I often have to stop and check facts, both real-world and fictional (I’m still using my MRPG as background for my stories).

I’ve been known to fact-check along the way, but I’m curious if the push for the end is less critical when working on a short story?

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Do Your Research/Check Your Facts.

Verify the details whenever you’re unsure (or even if you aren’t) about any real-world or near-future aspects to your story. Better to check, even if you think you know for sure, than to risk being wrong and ruining the story…and your credibility.

Definitely! I hear a lot of talk about not throwing readers out of the story, and getting your facts wrong is one of the easiest ways to do this.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

I’m not writing much right now (though Danielle keeps bugging me to). Most of my time is focused on graphic design and project editing.

Right now we are working on To Hell and Regroup, the final book in The 18th Race trilogy by David Sherman (author of the Demontech series, coauthor of StarFist, StarFist: Force Recon, and Star Wars: The Jedi Trails).

Devil Dancers, a collect of short stories by Robert E. Waters (author and contributor to Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire universe).

And In Harm’s Way, book 8 in the Defending The Future anthology series, a collection of combat rescue stories.

Thank you.

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