Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview with Marko Kloos, author of Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure - January 24, 2014

Please welcome Marko Kloos to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Terms of Enlistment, Marko's debut, is out in print on January 28, 2014 along with Lines of Departure (print and Kindle eBook)

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Marko:  I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, and more than likely even before that. (I remember writing stories for my brother to take to school with him when we were both in elementary school, so I guess the writing bug hit early.) But I’ve been a weekend writer for most of my life—I always had the possibility of writing for publication in the back of my head, but making it a full-time pursuit wasn’t feasible. It wasn’t until I got married and we started having kids that I decided to put the car into gear, so to speak. Of course, being a stay-at-home parent is the worst possible set of circumstances for quiet, uninterrupted writing time…

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Marko:  A little bit of both. I have a general plot in my head before I start writing, and I plot out the main “waypoints” for the story ahead of time. When the novel diverges from that basic plot sketch, I revise the plot and let the story go where it wants to go. I do have one project in the works (a YA novel) that’s plotted out in detail—almost every chapter and scene—but in general I find that it stifles me too much and makes the work feel like I’m painting by numbers.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Where do you write?

Marko:  The most challenging thing about writing for me is to stay off the Internet and not get distracted by that Procrastination Engine. That’s part of the reason why I do my first drafts in longhand—there’s no Twitter or Facebook to “just check for a minute” when work bogs down, and I find it easier to remain on task. (I also enjoy the physical process of handwriting, and it’s neat to have an original manuscript of the first draft to put on the shelf.

I have a dedicated office for writing now, in the back of our house where it’s quiet, but up until recently I was a pretty nomadic writer. I’d take the notebook or writing pad all over the place in the course of a day—kitchen table, bedroom recliner, living room couch, coffee shop. The kids are in school now, so I can actually spend most of the day in the office without interruptions, but when they were still home with me, I had to get my writing done in bursts—while they were napping or watching something, or on the playground while they were playing for half an hour. When you write like that, it’s an advantage to have a highly mobile set of tools that doesn’t require a nearby outlet and doesn’t represent much theft value if you have to leave it on the playground bench for a little while because you have to boost a kid on the swings or fix a boo-boo.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Marko:  I want to think that everything I’ve read has been a literary influence in a way—it’s all grist for the mill, right? As far as SF goes, TERMS and LINES don’t get around the big names in the genre as far as influence goes, Robert Heinlein and Joe Haldeman in particular. Those are also among my favorite authors, along with John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman, and Neal Stephenson. But I’m genre-agnostic—I’ll read everything. LitFic, SF, Fantasy, YA, mystery, and (gasp!) even romance. Some of the authors whose work I’ve really enjoyed lately are John Green, Saladin Ahmed, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Adam Johnson. I’m currently reading Johnson’s “The Orphan Master’s Son”.

TQ:  Describe Terms of Enlistment of in 140 characters or less.

Marko:  Boy from the projects joins the service because it’s less dangerous than staying home—or so he thinks.

TQ:  Tell us something about Terms of Enlistment that is not in the book description.

Marko:  The book takes place in 2108, and World War III happened fifty years prior. In the resulting peace treaty between the two Earth alliances, the Svalbard Accords, the belligerents outlawed the use of atomic weapons on Earth, and classified as a war crime the public broadcast of Justin Bieber music and the improper use of the possessive apostrophe on all signage.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Terms of Enlistment? Why did you choose to write military Science Fiction? Do you want to write in any other genres?

Marko:  I enjoy reading Military SF, and I figured that writing it would be fun. I also wanted to work the sensory details of my own military experience into a narrative to write a convincingly authentic piece of military fiction. (I always get a kick out of it when I get fan mail or comments from veterans who say that reading TERMS reminded them of their own service. I just love those “Yeah, that’s how it was” comments. It tells me I hit the point of aim, so to speak.)

I’ve written in other genres: fantasy and general fiction, for example. My first two novels (the trunk novels which will never see the light of day) were general fiction. I currently have a YA novel in the works which is about half-finished, and a Urban Fantasy novel that’s also roughly half done. I’m focused on the Military SF subgenre at the moment because that’s what my readers keep asking for, but I can see myself dipping my toes into other genres in the future.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Terms of Enlistment?

Marko:  I worked in my own memories from my military service, and beyond that, I just kind of made it up as I went along. Once the world took shape, I had to do an awful lot of internal consistency fixes and retconning, let me tell you. I envy people like Jo Rowling who come up with elaborate worlds and biographies going back ten generations before they put pen to paper for word one, but I get too lost in that sort of thing and end up using it as an excuse not to write, so I make up stuff and write it down as I need it for the story, and then iron out everything later in the developmental edits.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?

Marko:  I had to put myself in Andrew’s head a lot because the novel is written in first-person perspective, so he was the easiest to write and flesh out because I was able to share his thoughts and inner monologues. The hardest to write? ALL THE OTHERS.

My favorite character in the books (and a reader favorite) is Andrew’s eventual squad leader, the highly decorated Sergeant Fallon. She’s a gung-ho, hyper-competent, deeply troubled character with some dark spots in her past. She has an aversion to incompetent authority, which makes her a bad fit for the military, but she excels at what she does, so she gets away with a lot. SGT Fallon will return in LINES OF DEPARTURE in grand style.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Terms of Enlistment.

Marko:  This one is the line most highlighted by readers on the Kindle version:

“There’s no perfect place, you know. You always end up trading one kind of shit for another. Me, I’ll stick with the shit I know.”

TQ:  What's next?

Marko:  The sequel to TERMS OF ENLISTMENT, called LINES OF DEPARTURE, will be out from 47North on January 28th. I am currently at work on the third book in the series, which will be called ANGLES OF ATTACK. I also have a new novella and a few short stories planned to tide over my readers until ANGLES comes out.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Marko:  Thank you for having me!

Terms of Enlistment

Terms of Enlistment
Terms of Enlistment 1
47North, January 28, 2013
Trade Paperback, 346 pages
Previously published in Kindle eBook format, May 8, 2013

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you're restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day:

You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.

With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

The debut novel from Marko Kloos, Terms of Enlistment is a new addition to the great military sci-fi tradition of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and John Scalzi.

Lines of Departure
Terms of Enlistment 2
47North, January 28, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 328 pages

Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the Solar System…

Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is North American Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go.

After surviving a disastrous space-borne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony—and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun.

In this sequel to the bestselling Terms of Enlistment, a weary soldier must fight to prevent the downfall of his species…or bear witness to humanity’s last, fleeting breaths.

About Marko

Marko Kloos is a novelist, freelance writer, and unpaid manservant to two children. He is a graduate of the Viable Paradise SF/F Writers' Workshop.

Marko writes primarily science fiction and fantasy. He has been getting his genre fix at the library ever since he was old enough for his first library card. In the past, he has been a soldier, a bookseller, a freight dock worker, a tech support drone, and a corporate IT administrator.

A former citizen of Germany, Marko lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children. Their compound, Castle Frostbite, is patrolled by a roving pack of dachshunds.

Website  ~  Twitter @markokloos


  1. Great interview, Marko!

  2. I enjoyed the first book, absolutely loved the second book, can't wait for the next one (fingers crossed)