Craig Alanson is joining us today to talk about his novel, Breakaway, book 12 of Expeditionary Force . Here’s the publisher’s description:
The Merry Band of Pirates offered the bad guys a ceasefire. We won’t mess with them, if they don’t mess with us. Easy, right? NO. The aliens chose to do things the hard way. So, the Pirates are racing around the galaxy to clean up the threat to Earth. The infant UN Navy has their own mission with the Alien Legion: get humanity some allies in the fight. And the Ethics & Compliance Office might have to do something…ethical. Unless they can find a way around it.
What’s Craigs’s favorite bit?
When I was invited to write about My Favorite Bit, my first response was mild panic. How can I choose one favorite bit, in a book filled with my favorite bits? Also, how can I write about a scene in a newly-published book, without giving away plot details? Finally, considering that I finished writing ‘Expeditionary Force Book12: Breakaway’ in the long-ago age of January 2021, and that I have written an entire book since then, do I even remember enough about individual scenes to choose a favorite from Breakaway?
Answer: NO. To refresh my memory, I scrolled through the manuscript, taking far too long because I kept pausing the scroll to read scenes, chuckling to myself and thinking ‘that was cool, forgot I wrote that’. Hours later, I had a list of favorite bits, but not one.
Then, I realized my favorite bit of ‘Breakaway’ is not a scene unique to that book, it’s a recurring theme. It’s my favorite bit about most books in the series.
One of the key plot points in Breakaway is really nothing new. In fact, it was mentioned as kind of a throw-away line about six or seven books ago, and only in the latest books becomes vital to the story arc. Six of those books contain over a million words, so it’s understandable if fans of ExForce don’t immediately remember. Heck, I barely remember stuff like that, it’s why I have a spreadsheet to keep track of plot details in previous books, the overall story arc of the series, and how a seemingly unimportant event in one book will become the key to the plot six books later.
Without access to my spreadsheet, is it reasonable to expect readers to remember seemingly unimportant trivia from a book published several years ago? Yes, because I usually include a hint in the text, but the most important reason has nothing to do with me. Fans have set up Facebook pages, Reddit threads, and loaded volumes of data on Wikis and Fandom sites. Anyone wondering ‘WTF is Alanson talking about in Chapter X of Book Y’ can quickly get an answer to the question. Plus, info they didn’t ask for. Plus, speculation about the future direction of the series. Plus, fan art. Plus-
This is a great time to be a fan of a long-running book or movie series. I say that not only as a writer, but as a fan. When I’m reading or listening to a book, and there is a reference to an event, character or bit of info from earlier in the series, I don’t have to pause and frustratingly dig through previous books in a random search. All I have to do it go to the fan page, and get the info I need. Also, a sense that I should have been paying better attention, shame on me.
What I’m hoping for, when I resurrect an obscure event from a prior book and bring it to the forefront of the story, is not just that fans will think ‘Cool!’ and pat themselves on the back for recalling an obscure reference. I hope they geek out together. Fan communities online can become a true community: people sharing something they enjoy, helping each other, supporting each other. For all the talk about Toxic Fandom, I have found that fan communities are excellent at pointing out negative behavior to offenders, and weeding out those habitual miscreants who refuse to contribute in a positive way.
Being able to tell a story that stretches across fifteen novels, plus a novella, an audio drama, and two spin-off novels, is an amazing privilege. It only happens because people keep reading/listening to the books. And part of their enthusiasm comes from sharing their enjoyment of the books with others.
So, maybe my real favorite bit, of any book I write, is the opportunity to bring people together.
Craig Alanson used to create financial reports for a large IT services company. Writing fiction at nights and on weekends, he finally independently published three novels on Amazon. Within 6 months of his first ebook release, he was able to quit his day job and pursue a full-time writing career. The breakout success of Columbus Day (Expeditionary Force, Book 1) reached new heights when Podium Audio released it in audio format, narrated by Audie Award Winner R.C. Bray. The Columbus Day audiobook was a huge hit, and a finalist for an Audie Award as Audiobook of the Year. The ExForce series, as it is known to fans, has gone on to 10 books/audiobooks, many of which have hit the NYT best-seller list, with a 11th book releasing June 2021 and 14 books planned. Craig has also published a spin-off series, ExForce: Mavericks; an ExForce audio drama, Homefront; a fantasy trilogy, Ascendent; and a young adult space opera, Aces. Craig lives in Virginia with his wife, who loves him even though he perpetually refuses to clean the garage.