A chat with Warren Hammond, author of Tides of Maritinia

warrenhammondI’m a fan of Warren Hammonds KOP series, so I’m thrilled to welcome him to the blog to talk about his brand new book, Tides of Maritinia, and more!

Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little about Tides of Maritinia?
Tides is the story of Jakob Bryce, a spy and an assassin. Jakob’s mission is to infiltrate the government of a rogue world and sabotage its defenses in preparation for a small invasion force. During the mission his only contact is his political officer, an artificial intelligence that has been implanted in his head.

At least that’s how it starts. In the end, I think it’s a novel about leadership, sacrifice, and most of all the dangers of dehumanization.

I love the idea of a spy novel set in a SF world! What inspired you to write the book?
For some reason I have a hard time coloring between the lines. With the KOP novels, I couldn’t resist the idea of a SF/noir hybrid. Now, with Tides, I’ve swapped my hardboiled detective for a spy. Like many people, when I choose a book to read, I don’t like to constrain myself to one genre, and it appears the same holds true for what I write.

With this story, I knew I wanted to write a novel involving genocide in some way. Unfortunately for me, the mystery format that I’d gotten used to when writing the KOP novels just didn’t fit. How exactly do you put a detective into the middle of a genocide? Okay, I suppose I could’ve created a murder mystery that takes place during a genocide, but I was looking for a closer connection between the protagonist and the events I had planned for Maritinia. The spy story format was the perfect fit. Spy novels are always political in nature. Spies can not only be swept away by the forces of political change, but they can also be agents of said change. Using a spy, I could put my main character right into the thick of it.

What kind of research did you do for the book?
Well, the great thing about science fiction is you get to make most of it up!

I did, however, pull quite a bit from my travel experiences, specifically visits to Auschwitz and S-21. Most are probably familiar with the atrocities committed at the World War II concentration camp, but if you haven’t heard of S-21, it was a high school in Phnom Penh that was converted into a prison camp by the Khmer Rouge. Many thousands of people were tortured there before being brought to the killing fields for execution.

Seeing both places had a deep impact on me, and I’ve felt the need to write about them ever since. Tides of Maritinia is the resulting story.

Speaking of “worlds”…what are a few of your favorite fictional “worlds”?
Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of my long-time favorites. A true masterpiece of world-building. Other favorites from my “formative years” of reading SF are David Brin’s Uplift series as well as Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books. And anybody who read the KOP novels can see how big an effect the movie Blade Runner had on me.

What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, SFF?
World-building. Building a world for your reader is essential in all genres, but it tends to be so much more immersive in science fiction and fantasy. To me, reading a good SF or F book feels like travel, and I truly am a traveler at heart. The more exotic the better, and you can’t get more exotic than an imaginary world. The trick is to make it feel real, and when a writer does it right, the results are jaw-dropping.

What are a few books, or authors, that have influenced you the most, in writing, and in life?
I went on a huge noir kick right before I started writing so I think authors like Dashiell Hammett, James Ellroy, and Raymond Chandler had a big influence on how I approach both story and the technical aspects of writing prose. Before that period of my life, I read books simply for enjoyment. But when I was close to giving the writing game a shot, that was when I had to start paying attention to how books were actually written.

To answer the second part of your question, I don’t think there’s a more impressionable time in one’s life than the teenage years. The books that stick out in my memory during that period of my life are Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, Brave New World, and A Clockwork Orange. What I think those novels all have in common, other than being great stories, is they all paint strong portraits of society. I think these books shine brightly in my memory because they helped me understand the confusing and complex world around me.

What are you currently reading?
I just got back from a trip to China, so lately I’ve been reading various histories to try to get a better perspective on what I’ve seen. Other recent good reads are Trapline by Mark Stevens, and Jason Hough’s Darwin Elevator.

You’re an avid traveler. Where would you like to go that you haven’t yet visited? What’s been one of your favorite places to visit?
I want to go everywhere! The more I travel, the more I realize that no matter where I go, there’s always something interesting to see. That said, Japan, Indonesia, and Egypt are all high on my list.

As far as where I’ve already been, it’s too hard to pick a favorite. For wildlife viewing, I loved Botswana and the Galapagos. For a cultural experience, it’s hard to beat trekking in the Andes or the Himalayas. For ancient wonders, I highly recommend Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Peru’s Machu Picchuj, Mexico’s Chichen Itza, and as I found out last month any of several incredible sites in China.

What’s next for you?
Hard to say. I have a few irons in various fires, but haven’t been completely consumed by a new project yet. It’s only a matter of time though….

Keep up with Warren: Twitter | Website

About Tides of Maritinia:
Maritinia is at the far edge of the Empire, a planet with little economic value in the Sire’s sphere of influence.

And it’s just rebelled.

The people of Maritinia believe the Empire will not care that they’ve broken free. But the Empire is built on the belief that if an insignificant planet can revolt, then other, more important planets might follow suit.

So the Empire sends an agent to Maritinia with a mission: assassinate and replace one of the conspirators, and do enough to sow discord that when the soldiers do land, any opposition will be quickly crushed.

Thus Jakob finds himself immersed in the inner circle of the madman who led the rebellion. A raw recruit with only his political officer—a separate consciousness inserted into his brain—to speak with, Jakob is out of his element as an operative. And while he falls deeper into the conspiracy, he begins to question everything: the despotic admiral in charge of the coup, his feelings for a native woman, and—most troublingly—whether he still agrees with the will of the Sire.

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