When I was a kid, I had a particular book series I couldn’t get enough of. It was called the Phoenix Force and was a spinoff of Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan series. There were quite a few spin-off series centered on the brave, heroic, and very violent Executioner named Mack Bolan. Besides Phoenix Force, there was also the Able Team, and Stony Man (a reference to the agency Bolan worked for). All of these books featured the rough and tumble world of counter-terrorist/counter-espionage teams determined to save the world from diabolical threats. They featured soldiers of fortune. Spies. Government bigwigs. Megalomaniacal villains. Everything a growing teenage boy could ever want in a book series. Loved them!
So when Rick Chesler, author of the incredible Tara Shores thrillers came to me to tell me about a new series he was contemplating, called O.U.T.C.A.S.T. Ops, I knew he had a hit on his hands. It, too, had everything any lover of a high octaine thriller could ask for: disavowed spies, wrongly accused soldiers, fallen heroes looking for redemption, and so much more. I instantly recalled those old pulpy novels of my youth and couldn’t wait for the first book to be released. I knew the series was going to be fantastic!
Then when Rick told me he planned on co-authoring these books with some of the best, up-and-coming indie authors out there today, I was even more certain of it. A series like this works best with an assortment of authors contributing their little touches to the mythos. It’s how the Pendleton books worked so well (They were mostly written by a string of ghost writers).
I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Chesler’s first co-author was to be the extremely talented Rick Jones, author of the very popular Vatican Knights, as well as the Eden series. I knew with Jones in the co-pilot seat, O.U.T.C.A.S.T. Ops was going to be off to a fantastic start.
Want to know more specifically what this book/series is about? Here’s the product description from Amazon:
OUTCAST Ops: Game of Drones
When a highly sophisticated terror cell steals a contingent of deadly Reaper drones from a U.S. military base, no one has to wonder for long what they’ll be used for. As America’s own top military technology is turned against its homeland, it looks as though, for the first time in history, the president will have no choice but to give in to terrorist demands.
Enter O.U.T.C.A.S.T. (Operational Undertaking To Counteract Active Stateside Threats)–six ex-operatives from six of America’s most powerful organizations. Each has been unceremoniously released by their respective former employer for alleged misdoings that leave their pride wounded but their essential skill-sets untouched. After uniting over their shared bond of dismissal from the nation’s most elite outfits, the disgruntled spooks realize that they can work together like never before to take down threats to their beloved country, a country that branded them as outcasts but needs them now more than ever.
As a nauseating wave of drone strikes brings the eastern seaboard to its knees, O.U.T.C.A.S.T. is hell-bent on showing America that their way isn’t the best way–it’s the only way.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? You honestly don’t want to miss this. I promise you that.
Anyway, recently I had a chance to chat with both of the Ricks concerning their book and ask them a few questions. For the sake of avoiding confusion, in the following interview, I refer to Rick Chesler as RC and Rick Jones as RJ (my brilliant cryptographical skills must astound you all! Ha!). Here’s what they had to say:
1) RC, tell us a little about the concept of OUTCAST Ops. How did the idea come about?
I wanted to write a thriller series where a team of people are called into various action scenarios, and where a reader could just pick up the series with any installment without having to read them in any particular order. So, although Game of Drones is the first in the series, when the others come along, they won’t be true sequels where the events of the newer ones follow those that came earlier, but totally new stories that feature the same central group of characters, the OUTCAST team. Sort of like how Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series featured PItt and his NUMA group in different situations, but you didn’t have to read the earlier ones to be able to follow the later stories. Maybe there are certain nuances you would get if you did, but it’s definitely not necessary to enjoy the stories.
2) RJ, what attracted you to join Rick Chesler in this spectacular team up? What appealed to you about the concept? The story arc?
I loved the entire concept of an elite force made up of a ragtag team from all walks of life coming together as a unit of one. The O.U.T.C.A.S.Ts (Operational Undertaking To Counteract Active Stateside Threats) are former specialists dismissed from diverse national agencies throughout the U.S. due to alleged improprieties, but find a home with the O.U.T.C.A.S.T group where they bring their unique skill sets to the table to combat national threats.
3) This question is for both of you. Do you have a favorite character (either hero or villain)? If so, who is it and why are they your favorite?
RJ: For me, I love villainy. Shazad, the antagonist in The Game of Drones, is a man who has become the fulcrum between protector and terrorist after growing up in two worlds, that of an Islamist having been born and raised as a United States citizen, and as a man who is conflicted between choosing loyalty to his country or the loyalty of his faith.
RC: Maybe just because a lot of thought went into him as the lead character of the series, but I like Tanner Wilson. He’s got two different colored eyes, for one thing! But beyond that, he knows how to get things done in a whatever-it-takes, no-holds-barred kind of way. He’s ex-FBI and the founder and leader of OUTCAST.
4) This question is also for both of you. When I was a kid, I devoured almost every book in the Phoenix Force series (a spinoff series of Mack Bolan by the pseudonymous Don Pendleton). This team somewhat reminds me of them. Did you guys ever read Phoenix Force or anything similar? Any literary influences that might have informed the way you created this series/book?
RJ: No real past influences for me, since I never read any of The Executioner or Mack Bolan series. My influences are strictly based in the present with the likes of Vince Flynn and Ben Coes.
RC: I have to admit that I am not familiar with Phoenix Force, although now I feel like checking it out! As far as some of my influences that shaped how I saw OUTCAST Ops, I thought of it as having a dual military / espionage aspect. Game of Drones is more military, but other stories in the series might take on more of a traditional spy-thriller feel. On the military side, for me the influences might be Tom Clancy and Brad Thor, while on the espionage side it might be Robert Ludlum and Ian Fleming. I think Clive Cussler also deserves a mention overall.
5) Once again, for both of you, what was the writing process like for this book? How did you guys collaborate? How did you enjoy the process? Any wisdom for budding authors who plan on collaborating in the future?
RJ: I’ll let Rick (Chesler) answer this one.
RC: I had come up with the main concept for the series and invited other authors to work with me. Rick Jones was the first to step up and get involved, and I am definitely glad he did, as the result is fantastic! We started brainstorming with the OUTCAST team having to combat a drone threat of some kind, and then fleshed out the plot. Rick Jones took it from there and produced a great first draft quickly, which I then edited. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process and look forward to working with Rick on future OUTCAST installments.
In terms of advice for authors looking to collaborate, there are a lot of different approaches, so make sure and pick one that both authors (and notice I said “both,” as in two–I don’t think more than that on a single book would be effective) feel comfortable with. I have been involved in collaborations where the writers trade off writing chapters in the first draft, but it actually takes longer this way, since one writer usually has to wait for the other to finish their chapter and you tend to lose the flow while waiting your turn to write. It is possible to trade-off efficiently, though, with a thorough outline where the two writers can each be writing different chapters at the same time, but a well-thought-out outline is key here. Personally, I have so far had the most success in collaborations where both writers brainstorm to come up with at least a loose outline, and then one of them first-drafts it, after which the other does the revisions and edits.
6) RC, what’s in store for the future of OUTCAST Ops? Do you have other authors lined up? Who might we see you team up with next?
Deep in the outline phase now is OUTCAST Ops: African Firestorm, with Craig Reed, Jr. I also hope to work with Rick Jones again on another installment tentatively titled OUTCAST Ops: The Arctic Agenda.
7) RJ, besides this book, what other books have you recently released? What do you have coming down the pipeline? Care to share?
My recent release is The Bridge of Bones, book #5 of the Vatican Knights series. Right now I’m working on Book #6, Crosses to Bear. And next on deck, which I’m excited about, is co-authoring a book with you, Kent Holloway, in the KnightShade series, an ongoing set of storylines in the Djinn series. Lastly, I was going to wrap up the Eden Saga with the last and final book in the trilogy, The Thrones of Eden. But too many emails have prompted me to continue the line beyond the trilogy. So the heroes of the Eden saga will be moving on to new and scary venues throughout the world not only seeking answers to the origin of mankind, but why mankind now stands on the brink of extinction with something else waiting to take his place.
Incidentally, I have to tell you guys that I couldn’t be more proud to say that I’m the one that designed the book cover to GAME OF DRONES. It honestly doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I did want to take a moment to brag just a bit. 🙂
Anyway, I encourage all of you to run, don’t walk, to your nearest Amazon, BN, Kobo, or ebook website retailer and download your copy today! I honestly don’t think you’ll regret it.