Lieutenant Paen barely survived her last encounter with the Lusitanian Empire. She's returned home to heal. But the nightmares won't stop. And she's got a newly reconstituted unit of green marines to whip into shape before they deploy. If the enemies of the RAW don't kill them first, she just might do the job herself.
Light-years away, on the edge of the Verge, a massive vein of rare ore is discovered on the mining planet of Sheol, which ignites an arms race and a proxy war between the Republic and the Lusitanians. Paen and Victor Company are ordered to Sheol, to help hold the planet at all costs.
On the eve of their deployment, a friendly fire incident occurs, putting Paen's career in jeopardy and stripping her of her command. When the Lusitanians send mercenaries to raid Sheol and destabilize its mining operations, matters reach crisis levels. Disgraced and angry, Promise is offered one shot to get back into her mechsuit. But she'll have to jump across the galaxy and possibly storm the gates of hell itself.
What was the impetus behind Promise Paen?
I write hard military science fiction and space opera with a kick-butt female lead. Reviewers have compared my work to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with a dash of Firefly. I’d add a healthy dose of Katee Sackhoff’s Starbuck, too. My main character, Promise, looks like a pixie but hits like Thor. Promise has seen a lot of loss in her life, particularly for someone so young. Life is tragic but also filled with hope. It’s both/and. Hence, Promise Paen. I’m interested in women in combat roles, so I explore that in the books. But I’m even more interested in the effects of trauma and loss upon the human soul. Being raised by two psychologists has certainly shaped my outlook on life.
My grandfather, father-in-law, an uncle, and two cousins all served in various branches of the US Military. Many of my friends are military too. I grew up on Grandpa Coates’s Navy tales from WWII and Korea. For a time, I thought seriously about enlisting in the Navy before heading down another road. I've often wondered, "What if?" In some ways Promise’s character is my tribute to freedom-loving service women and men everywhere.
Did you originally see it playing out as a series or did that come about while you writing Unbreakable?
No, not at first. But the more I got into the story the more I knew that Promise’s character would live on the page for many novels, not just one. At the moment, I have five novels plotted…and I can easily envision more.
What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from the first book?
The first book was very much a process of discovery writing. I was getting to know my characters and world building from the gut. The second book was plotted first. Then I went back and filled in the details.
What initially drew you to military scifi?
David Weber, Eric Flint, Orson Scott Card, Frank Herbert, Star Wars and Trek (it’s okay to love both – I’ve never understood the conflict between them), Anne McCaffrey (militaristic, telepathic, fire-breathing dragons oh my), and, lest I forgot, copious Battletech books and RPGs.
When it comes to the action and suspense inherit with a genre like this, it would seem like diving deep with an exploration of your characters might affect the pacing. Did you find this to be true?
Not really. Military SF is both action and character driven. The best books IMHO are both. In the crucible of battle I’ve discovered some of the greatest revelations about my characters. But the pre-battle moments can be just as rich.
What would you say is the most misunderstood or under-appreciated aspect of the genre?
The human interest side of the genre. Definitely that. Military SF is often reduced to war hawks and psychopaths, and cutthroat soldiers with trigger itch. G. K. Chesterton said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” The soldier is really the citizen who volunteered because she believed in a cause greater than herself. Find what she believes in, discover what she loves. Mine that and you have the makings of a great story.
What is the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?
“Don’t tell. Show.” Bleck! In actuality writers do both. They show AND tell. So, do both…and don’t fret over if you’re doing one too much or one too little. Just write in an interesting way. Be attention-grabbing when you tell and noteworthy when you show. Show and tell. Tell and show.
How intensive does the research process get for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?
I write until I run across something I don’t know. And then I research until I can write about the topic with confidence. Also, I have great friends in the military – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. Several graciously agreed to be early readers. I asked a lot of questions and read the books they recommended and those I found on my own. Author Jean Johnson’s advice on writing was immensely helpful. Do your homework but remember that in fiction the rule of cool trumps the rule of how things really work. Of course, as a writer I need to know how things work and ground my fiction accordingly. Take bullets, for instance. They don’t knock people over...unless they are uber big. Pistol and rifle bullets punch holes. That’s simple physics (F=MA). But, I also have to remember that I’m writing fiction, and readers read fiction to be entertained. Take faster-than-light travel. FTL is a given in my books. I have no idea how a jump drive or artificial wormhole generator works. But who cares? It works in the books and satisfies the rule of cool. Sometimes fiction mimics life and sometimes its fantastically made up (or theoretical).
I actually have the Audible version of Unbreakable. Do you anticipate an audiobook edition of Indomitable as well? And how do you find the audiobook experience to be with your own reading tastes?
Thanks for listening to the audio edition. I enjoyed narrator Andi Arndt’s reading of UNBREAKABLE. She did a great job. Whether INDOMITABLE makes it to audio remains to be seen. I certainly hope so. My publisher, Tor, holds that decision.
I don’t listen to many audio books, mainly because I enjoy music while driving and printed books when not behind the wheel. But, I did consume the Harry Potter books in audio form. That was during my road rep years for one of the big five publishing houses. I did eighteen weeks of windshield time – out Sunday and home late Friday – in one year; covering most of California and Texas, and the flyover parts, three times. Narrator Jim Dale helped me stay awake.
What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?
www.wcbauers.com has all the information about the books. I’m working on book three in the Chronicles of Promise Paen. And, UNBREAKABLE in German releases later this year. There’s potential for other languages. I hope to publish at least one short story this year and strike that from the bucket list. Beyond that, we’ll see.
Bauers's interests include Taekwondo, military history, all varieties of Munchkin, and drinking hot caf. He lives in the Rocky Mountains with his wife, three boys, and the best rescue in the world.