People of all stripes take issue with just about everything these days. A crisis of identity? Whatever, man... take a number. Women, men... for me what's important for entertaining fiction is to have characters who take action. Period.
Well the Koko books have got the entertaining bit down for sure. They're bloody, profane, irreverent pieces of futuristic pulp that turn their own pages and tickle your frontal lobe with speculative wit. (You want a few more suggestions for kick-ass lady-led sci-fi books? Check out this piece by Joel Cunningham)
What accounts for the change of gears?
I was provoked. Right around the time Koko made her first appearance in Plots With Guns, several writing friends told me that my sallies into detective fiction (while amusing) seemed to lack the spark of my darker, down-the-rabbit-hole crime stories. Since some of these lackluster detective stories came with an actual paycheck, I think I fell briefly into a habit of playing it safe--treading water in the duck pond, so to speak. Treading water in the duck pond is fine, but even the best of swimmers will drown sooner or later. It was time to release the alligators and scare myself.
To be honest, it wasn't my intention of doing a series at all. It's weird, but you write these things never knowing if your work will ever see the light of day. It's best to keep your expectations low. That's probably the scariest thing about writing, that nine times out of ten all your effort will be in vain. When Titan initially requested a double-shot, I was floored. Of course, Koko the Mighty has a squeaker ending so I'm angling for a third installment. In this age of binge media intake, you want to stay fresh. As for the larger narrative...I'd like to see a final triumph for Koko for all she's been through. Something mentally along the lines of the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with a crushing body count.
Drugs play a major role in both books - will they be a series-long theme?
Can't say. Psychoactive substances and euphoriants have been around since our species got a good look at reality, didn't like what it saw, and decided to ingest the best tonics available. And medicines designed to make the intolerant tolerable? Are we really talking science fiction or are we talking about the local liquor store, house of worship, smart phone app, fad, or prescription? Maybe it's excessive, but honestly I don't think so. In the same vein, I've had readers ask me about the violence, like, isn't it all a bit much? People don't read a lot of history.
About the violence - I would like more, please - I'm assuming that you get those notes too (I really would like more violence - don't hold back, now). Has interacting with new readers shaped your vision for Koko and her world any?
There were moments when drafting Koko the Mighty that I needed to step back because I was having so much fun with Wire. And Flynn, he's become Koko's conscience in many ways. Supporting cast and foils should broaden, buttress, and stretch the central protagonist if possible. It's a tricky balance. But now I think Koko getting called out and tested will electrify her even more. Lone chargers who never stumble or lose or doubt themselves bore me. The other day I was re-watching The Shootist with John Wayne, you know? What made that movie and Wayne's aging gunfighter so compelling was that he had regrets and flaws. He was dying and, in truth, Wayne was dying. I just like to let Koko loose and see what happens when things in her world don't go as planned.
Wire was a lot of fun to read in Koko the Mighty. The more punishment she goes through the harder it is to hate her. Is that intentional?
Hate to love, love to hate. If anything, she's amoral, skilled, and relentless. Let's not forget, originally Wire is of the same background as Koko, and her commitment to following through no matter what gets thrown her way is a much a part of her code as it is Koko's. Ruthlessness, however, is what Wire dines out on. It’s her greatest asset. That same ruthlessness is something I think Koko has tried to put aside, but it's becoming clearer in order to persevere Koko can't deny that part of herself. I will say this though--it was a fun handing Wire an epic raft of shitstorms, because I love vicious, black comedy.
Have you got any non-Koko projects you'd like to take on soon? Comics? Crime? Cookbooks?
I'm working on a standalone crime novel that might be three quarters in bag, so there's that. I don't know. I may just either work on my devil traps or my tennis backhand. Hey, Jed, what time do you have?
Did you just slap me?