My Favorite Bit: Dan Moren Talks About THE NOVA INCIDENT

Dan Moren is joining us today to talk about his novel, The Nova Incident. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The Galactic Cold War hits close to home, in more ways than one…

When a bomb explodes in the bustling Commonwealth capital city of Salaam, responsibility is quickly claimed by an extremist independence movement. But after a former comrade, an ex-spy with his own agenda, is implicated in the attack, Simon Kovalic and his team of covert operatives are tasked with untangling the threads of a dangerous plot that could have implications on a galactic scale. And the deeper Kovalic digs, the more he’ll uncover a maze of secrets, lies, and deception that may force even the most seasoned spy to question his own loyalties.

What’s Dan’s favorite bit?


Look, I would never engage in a high-speed car chase in real life. I can’t deny the temptation for the excitement and adrenaline rush is real, but fortunately, my common sense overrules my id. But one of the great things about writing is the ability to concoct and experience the very things that you wouldn’t ever do otherwise.

For all that, it’s surprising that my upcoming novel The Nova Incident is the first of my published works to actually contain a straight-up car chase. As a mash-up of espionage thrillers and sci-fi space operas, my Galactic Cold War series would seem to cry out for such a staple of both genres, but the opportunity had simply never arisen. And as much as I love carefully crafted dramatic scenes, replete with text and subtext, carefully balancing character, theme, and plot…well, sometimes there’s nothing more pleasing than a—if you’ll excuse the expression—pedal-to-the-metal action scene. Which might explain why it’s my favorite bit of The Nova Incident.

The chase scene in question comes in around the halfway point of the story, as our protagonist Simon Kovalic and his team of misfit covert operatives find themselves under fire by unknown assailants in a busy downtown street. The team piles into a nearby “borrowed” hovercar and we’re off and running.

Chase scenes are tricky on the page, because elements that might be exciting to watch on a screen can be kind of dull in text: one car drives fast and then another car drives faster still doesn’t exactly make for compelling reading. One way to help make it more dynamic is to break it into smaller chunks, introducing little mini-scenes that provide obstacles for your characters to navigate. In this case, we start out with Kovalic and the team making their escape in the hovercar…only to find a page or so later that they’re being chased by their attackers. (Of course! After all, it’s not chase unless someone’s chasing you!)

So now our heroes have to come up with a clever solution to get away from their pursuers. But wait! Those pursuers aren’t just an idle threat driving the chase forward; they’ve got weapons and are trying to take the heroes down. That requires active intervention on the heroes part, and it helps involve all of the characters and their disparate skills in coming up with a solution, giving an opportunity for interplay between them. Meanwhile, the chase itself continues as a background thread, every once in a while popping back in to remind you what’s happening—hey, there’s a turn coming up ahead!

It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that our protagonists do come up with a way dealing with their foes, but you can’t leave too much time for the readers to catch their breath—this is a high-speed chase, remember, and pacing is critical to keeping readers on their toes. A high-speed chase shouldn’t read like a stroll through the park. At the same time, you don’t just want to repeat the same type of obstacle that the heroes have already overcome; then you’re just back around to the fatigue of “who can drive faster?”

So you have to mix it up with a different kind of challenge: they may have escaped the first bump in the road, but what’s that? A literal bump in the road, in the form of a roadblock set up by their antagonists. They’re going to need to find a way around that…and the river beyond it. How? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Writing for me often feels very much like relating the movie that plays inside my head as I envision the story. Trying to get across the sheer kinetic and frenetic aspects of a high-speed chase in words is definitely a challenge, but it’s the kind of challenge I like to set myself as a writer. Even as I throw up obstacles for my characters to overcome, I’m trying to surpass a few roadblocks of my own.

The great thing about writing is that there’s no limit to what you can put down on the page: if you can imagine it, you can find a way to write it. And, unlike those blockbuster movies full of special effects, stunts, and big name actors, there’s no budget to contend with—which means you can spend as much money as you want.


The Nova Incident Universal Book Link





Dan Moren is the author of the Galactic Cold War series of novels, as well as a freelance writer and prolific podcaster. A former senior editor at Macworld, his work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Popular Science, Fast Company, and many others. He co-hosts tech podcasts Clockwise and The Rebound, writes and hosts nerdy quiz show Inconceivable!, and is a regular panelist on the award-winning podcast The Incomparable. Dan lives with his family in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is never far from a set of polyhedral dice.

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