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Friday 3 June 2011

Guest Post: It's a Mole Hunt! with Paul Collins

KBR is absolutely delighted to welcome friend and multi-talent, Paul Collins, author, publisher, all round nice guy - with this fabulous post on his brand new book - Mole Hunt - part of the popular Maximus Black Files.

I’ve been asked recently why I’ve written a dystopian novel, whether I’d specifically targeted a booming genre.

Fact is, I wrote The Maximus Black Files about four years ago. The submission process can be long and arduous. One major Australian publisher still hasn’t accepted/declined the book, and they’ve had the manuscript for two years. Another, a more respectable publisher in my view, had it for five months before I withdrew it.

I could see the dystopian trend gaining in popularity, and figured once again I’d miss its peak because publishers hang on to MSS for too long.

In the end, I decided it should be a Ford Street title.

As an aside, it reminds me of when I first started submitting Dragonlinks, my personal best-selling book. It was at the beginning of a fantasy craze in Australia. Every major publisher rejected it. Three years went by and finally a publisher at Penguin left and someone replaced her. I then resubmitted the manuscript without telling the new publisher that Penguin had already rejected it some years earlier. It worked. The publisher bought it. Published in 2002 it’s still selling today.

There’s a lesson in persistence here.

But I digress. Why dystopian fiction? Well, I’ve written it in the past with The Earthborn Wars published by Tor in the US (The Earthborn, The Skyborn and The Hiveborn). Fifteen years before The Hunger Games, I also wrote a virtual reality dystopian novel with a remarkably similar plot called Cyberskin. People dying from a terminal illness can sign their lives over to a legal “snuff” movie company and get killed live for the audience (for payment, of course – a life insurance policy that goes to their grieving family). They’re pitted against a superior fighter who is an enhanced fighting machine.

So it’s a genre that I feel comfortable with. I think dystopian fiction also lends itself to fast-paced filmic action, which is usually attributed to my writing. Sometimes it’s best to stay with what we know and love. My own favourite authors are Ioin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) and Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines). I can just as easily see these books as films, as I can my own Mole Hunt.

I grew up in a house without books. One occasionally materialised from a drawer – it was a green-spined mystery title by Erle Stanley Gardner. I used to look at it on its rare appearances, and wonder what a book was doing there.

None of my family read – my brother, a director of a printing company, hasn’t read a book to this day. But we both read comics. We’d devour Marvel Group Comics such as Captain America, Spiderman, Daredevil, the Uncanny X-Men, etc. And I think this is why I write the way I do – it’s not “literary”, nor really “character-based”, but I’d like to think an amalgamation of both, but surely driven by action. There is of course a place for all writing and we just need to find our niche.

I was a little worried there for a while, because I also had an anti-hero – and I think this trope will soon surface. Not only is Maximus a bit different from most leading characters, but he’s a sociopath who kills a couple of characters in the opening chapter. But then I started reading Scorpio Rising, and the bodycount in the first hundred pages exceeds Mole Hunt’s by a fair margin, so perhaps I was being a bit harsh on myself. Certainly the current reviews suggest I am. “Bitingly clever and a cross between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Total Recall and Dexter, says Bookseller and Publisher, while others say they couldn’t put the book down (must be that magnetic cover!) and it’s so fast-paced it’d give Matthew Reilly a nose bleed.

I’ve been asked why dystopian fiction is so popular right now. Although something like this is hard to pin down – why are vampires suddenly popular, why have angels swooped down to take their place; why has fantasy taken over SF? – it becomes popular when people are anxious about their future – and when people are hungry for hope. You only have to look at current world events – war, terrorism, floods, climate change – to see why young people might be worried about where their world is heading.

With dystopian fiction, young readers get to test out their own belief systems and moralities without getting too close to the real issues – because they get to empathise with the characters in the books instead. It’s commonly set in bleak or post-apocalyptic landscapes where resources are scarce, and features futuristic technology, mind control, violence and war. Books like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner really brought dystopian fiction back into vogue. Of course, this genre has been around for a long time.

Here’s a run down of the plot. I hope you enjoy the book.

Special Agent Maximus Black excels at everything he attempts. The problem is, most of what he attempts is highly illegal. Recruited by the Regis Imperium Mentatis when he was just fifteen, he is the youngest cadet ever to become a RIM agent. Of course, being a certified sociopath helps. He rises quickly through the ranks, doing whatever it takes to gain promotion. This includes murdering the doctor who has certified him, as well as a RIM colonel who Black deems to be more useful dead than alive. Now seventeen, he is a valuable member of a highly secret task force whose assignment is to unearth a traitorous mole. Unfortunately for RIM he is the mole, a delightful irony that never ceases to amuse him.

In the two years he has been with RIM he has only met his match once. Anneke Longshadow, another RIM agent, who nearly succeeded in exposing him. But nearly wasn’t enough. Now she is dead and he is very much alive to pursue his criminal activities.

Right now, Black has a new problem; one that will challenge him to the max. He has a lot of work to do and little time to do it but as with every facet of his life, he plans each step with meticulous precision.

Maximus needs to find three sets of lost coordinates to rediscover the power of the dreadnoughts – a powerful armada of unbeatable power, long since put into mothballs by the sentinels whose job it is to keep peace and harmony in the ever expanding universe.

Sadly for Black, complications arise. It seems Anneke Longshadow isn’t dead after all. Every bit his match, Anneke eludes the traps Black sets for her. Born on Normansk, a planet with 1.9 gravity, Anneke is more than capable of defending herself against Black’s hired help, the insectoid Envoy, and his professional mercenary and hitman, Kilroy.

Power-hungry, Black usurps the throne of Quesada, a powerful crime syndicate. His ultimate aim is to replace the Galaxy gate-keepers, RIM, with his own organisation. Matching him step by step, Anneke collects as her allies all those who Maximus has deposed in his march to becoming ruler of the universe.

Mole Hunt is available Australia-wide from 1 June 2011, where all good books are sold. Read more about Paul and Ford Street Publishing's titles at www.fordstreetpublishing.com