HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: The book I'm working on right now--or, SHOULD be working on, as so often is the case--is titled WHAT YOU SEE. It's about how what you see in not always...well, you can imagine.
And that brings me to the wonderful Vinny O'Neil. We met, a million years ago, at CrimeBake. He'd just won the St. Martin's prize for best manuscript, but being Vinny, he didn't mention that when we first sat down together at dinner. We just talked about writing and mysteries.
Then, if I remember correctly, he said something about graduating from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Cool! So, pursuing that, I managed to get him to tell me that he was also a West Point graduate, and an long-time infantry officer, in PANAMA, and he speaks Chinese. There's probably a lot more, but he said, if he told me, he'd have to kill me.
Who'd a thought? You never know who you're going to sit by--and you never know if, like Vinny, that person will turn into a lifelong friend.
Vinny is having quite the adventure in mystery/thriller world. And his new book--with an entirely different bent!--is just being published. I knew you Femmes would be fascinated.
Write What You Like
by Vincent H. O’Neil
The first novel I ever wrote was a thriller about a government agency fighting terrorists. I was (and remain) a huge fan of writers like Alistair MacLean and Jack Higgins; I knew I liked reading that sort of story and so I decided to try writing one of them. I believe I stuck with it because I was excited about the genre.
Over the following years I wrote a novel pitting ex-Green Berets against Russian drug gangs in the former Soviet Union because I liked to read a lot of Tom Clancy, a military history non-fiction book because I find that topic fascinating, and finally a murder mystery about a fact-checker in Florida because I enjoy the works of authors like Agatha Christie and Rex Stout.
The Florida fact-checker novel Murder in Exile was the one that got published, and it was followed by three more books in that series. So another reason to consider branching out is you never know what’s going to find a home.
Writing what you like doesn’t necessarily mean writing what you know. A very fun skit at one Sleuthfest convention made me want to write a mystery involving theater.
I knew next to nothing about the stage, but a few months of research gave me enough of the basics to write Death Troupe. It also broadened my appreciation of how actors build characters, playwrights and directors develop plots, and how costume and set designers exploit imagery.
Stephen King’s The Shining motivated me to write when I was a teenager, and so I later came back to that genre. I’ve always enjoyed scary stories, and so the Providence-based horror novel Interlands was my next project. It featured my first female protagonist, and of all the books I’ve written I believe it was the most fun to write because I really do get a thrill from that kind of tale.
Which brings us back to Glory Main, a military science fiction tale of starvation, blisters, and survival that draws heavily on my personal experiences as a young army lieutenant at a particularly grueling commando course called Ranger School. Although I can’t claim to having actually “liked” Ranger School, it was an extraordinary experience and I had always wanted to use it in a book.
Glory Main was completed only a few weeks before HarperCollins announced it was expanding its science fiction offering, and so once again I benefited from writing what I like. You really do never know what books are going to find a home. The sequel to Glory Main will be released in December, and I’m currently writing the third book in that series.
After that I’m going to write the sequel to the Providence-based horror novel because I miss the main character Angie, because I enjoy the genre, and simply because I want to.
Write what you like.
HANK: Is that what you do, Femmes? Write what you like?
Vincent H. O’Neil has worked in a wide variety of roles, and brings something from every one of them to everything he writes. A native of Massachusetts, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1985 and spent the next nine years serving as an infantry officer in the United States and the Republic of Panama. He is a graduate of the Defense Language Institute’s Mandarin Chinese program, and he holds a master’s degree in International Business from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy. Among his many experiences, he has worked as a risk manager, an advertiser, and an apprentice librarian.
For decades, mankind has been locked in a war with an alien enemy that resembles the human race so closely they are known as the Sims. Both sides battle for control of habitable planets across the galaxies—often at any cost.
Lieutenant Jander Mortas is fresh out of officer training and new to the war zone but eager to prove himself. There's just one problem: disaster strikes while he's traveling to his first assignment. He wakes to find himself marooned on a planet that appears deserted, with the only three other survivors: a psychoanalyst, a conscientious objector, and a bitter veteran of a brutal slave-scout detachment. As the group struggles to reach safety on a nearby base, Glory Main, they discover a Sim colony—which could mean their salvation, or their demise.
Thrown together, they must fight the harsh elements, an ever-present enemy, and possibly each other.