The Cyclops Initiative, the 3rd Jim Chapel book by David Wellington, just came out in January, and he kindly answered a few of my questions about it, and more!
Will you give us a teaser for The Cyclops Initiative? What can fans expect from Jim Chapel on his third outing?
Jim’s been in trouble before, but never like this. The woman he trusts more than anyone in the world, his operator Angel, is accused of being a terrorist. He’ll do anything to clear her name—even if it means going rogue. Even as he’s being hunted down by the NSA, he discovers there’s a lot more to the frame job than it seemed—including a conspiracy that could throw the entire country into chaos.
Why do you think readers will root for Jim? How would you say he’s changed since Chimera?
Jim has always been a stand up guy—he has a very strong sense of right and wrong, even when that comes into conflict with what his superiors demand of him. In Chimera he was in over his head, unsure why he was picked for such a dangerous mission. Over the last couple of years he’s grown up a lot, actually. He’s come to better terms with who he is, what he does for a living. He’s realized what’s truly important in life, and what’s worth saving—and of course, then the rug is pulled out from under his feet. He needs to make a lot of very tough choices in this book.
What secondary characters did you particularly enjoy writing about?
Brent Wilkes, the marine assassin, was fun because he’s like a dark reflection of Chapel. The grim and gritty version, maybe. And I always love writing Rupert Hollingshead, the chief of the DX Directorate, who plays a bumbling, tweedy role to hide the fact that he’s tougher than nails.
What kind of research have you done for this series, and what is your writing process like?
The Chapel books always take a lot of research to make sure I get the weapons and the politics just right. This one had me investigating drone aircraft, military robotics, the scarier depths of electronic warfare… but also how the infrastructure of the United States really works. In terms of my process, I tend to do all the research as I go along, filling in a very detailed outline with the facts as I write each chapter.
Why SFF? What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, the genre?
I love all genres equally and individually! I’m a book fan, first and foremost, and I’m just as happy reading a good mystery as a space opera. I just have ideas and I don’t worry which genre they fit into, I just need to write them down. Most of my ideas tend to be of the high-action, suspense-driven variety, but I have no idea why. It’s just how I think.
What do you like to see in a good story? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
Compelling characters are great, interesting use of setting, even just good word choice, I can usually find something good in any book. The only thing that makes me give up is when an author makes it very clear they don’t know where they’re going. That they’re not in control of their own story. I know a lot of writers like to start from a blank slate and let inspiration be their guide, and that’s fine—for a first draft. But I’m of the opinion that an author’s first job is to keep the reader on their toes. The author should know when to spring a big reveal, or trigger a plot element. That’s not something you can achieve by just free associating.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked that one up.
It’s still fun to re-read, but the first time through was just a revelation.
What are you currently reading? Are there any books you’re looking forward to diving into this year?
I’m reading three books right now: The Victorian Internet, a history of the telegraph; Embassytown by China Mieville, which breaks a lot of rules but still works, and Carter and Lovecraft by Jonathan E. Howard, who has become one of my favorite authors quite recently.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m taking a break from thrillers after this one. Next up is full-on space opera. Yep, science fiction, the genre I loved best when I was a kid. The book is called Forsaken Skies and it will come out under a new pseudonym, D. Nolan Clarke. Imagine Seven Samurai except set in space, with starfighters instead of swords. It’s going to be one hell of a ride!
About The Cyclops Initiative:
To save an innocent friend, soldier and spy Jim Chapel will risk his own life and reputation to stop a deadly conspiracy from threatening the country in this relentless, non-stop action adventure from the author of the acclaimed thrillers Chimera and The Hydra Protocol.
Jim Chapel pledged his life to protect his country from its enemies. But now, the one-armed Special Forces soldier turned spy is on the wrong side of the law. The person he trusts most in the world, the brilliant hacker known only as Angel, is suspected of terrorism. When his boss calls for Angel’s arrest, Chapel—certain it’s a frame job—has only one option: to go rogue.
To protect Angel—a woman he’s never actually met—Chapel must clear her name. But first he has to find her, before a deadly Marine sniper, a drone aircraft gone feral, and the entire intelligence community closes in. With the aid of old friends and his ex-lover Julia, the search to find who framed Angel leads Chapel deep into the dark and lethal underbelly of the covert intelligence world . . . to a conspiracy with deep roots that shocks even this hardened veteran—and a plan that will destroy the United States as we know it if it succeeds.