Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on science fiction author David Mack. David, can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I’m a New York Times bestselling author of three dozen novels of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure. I’ve penned many novels based on various versions of Star Trek—including a couple of literary-original series I helped create—and I’ve written books based on such series as 24, The 4400, and Wolverine. My most recent publication was The Shadow Commission, the third and final volume of my original Dark Arts trilogy, a secret-history series involving Renaissance-era black magic used for war and espionage during the middle decades of the twentieth century.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester—though they should totally check here first!)
Most of my titles that are still in print are available on the major retail sites, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and/or the Apple and Google eBook stores.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
The best ways to keep up with news about my current and upcoming projects is to follow me on Twitter at @DavidAlanMack, or to like my official author page on Facebook, at facebook.com/TheDavidMack. Folks can also visit my official website, davidmack.pro.
What kind of research went into writing The Shadow Commission? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
As is typical for works of alternate and secret history, The Shadow Commission involved a staggering amount of research, much more than ever made it into the pages of the novel, but all of which was necessary for grounding my imagination in the time period of November 1963.
For instance, I had always thought that I understood the basic details of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was only after I had my scene involving the shooting of JFK vetted by a true JFK history buff that I realized how much I had missed. My expert, who is also a good friend of mine, compared the events in my scene against the famous Zapruder film, going frame by frame, breaking down the action in increments of 1/18th of a second, and noting where my scene varied from recorded history.
Other details with which I needed to familiarize myself were the clothing and hair styles of 1963, the music of the period, major world historical events of 1963–1964, which weapons and military equipment had (or had not) been invented at that time, and even such minutia as the depth of the Rhône at a specific bridge intersection in central Geneva.
For one of the early drafts of The Shadow Commission, I conducted extensive research into the history of the construction of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex (now the home of NORAD). I had acquired maps of the interior layout of the complex and schematics of its internal structures’ safety measures against earthquakes and nuclear attack. It was fascinating stuff, and my first draft’s ending sequence took place inside the partially excavated Cheyenne Mountain. However, every last bit of that information was excised during my second draft because I had realized my original ending didn’t work. An occupational hazard of being a fiction writer, I’m told.
What are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
For pure recreation, I love to watch movies, or kick back and listen to various kinds of music. I dig everything from classic rock to movie soundtracks to jazz, blues, and even lounge music.
I also enjoy cooking at home with my wife, Kara. In my late teens and early twenties, I worked my way through high school and college with various restaurant jobs, mostly in the back-of-house positions: dishwasher and cook. Over the course of several years I worked as a short-order grill man, an ice-cream-sundae maker and a Ben & Jerry’s scoop dude, a pizza chef (both classic and deep-dish styles), a bartender, and a steakhouse line cook.
For my last restaurant job, when I was 21 years old, I spent a summer working as the senior assistant chef at a chic restaurant in Northampton, Mass. It was the kind of place that made its own mayonnaise from scratch, baked its own bread on-premises, made its own aïoli, etc. I ran the kitchen during the daytime, Monday through Friday, and had my nights and weekends free. It was the best summer job and the best foodservice job I’ve ever had.
A related interest that I enjoy with Kara and some of our friends is both drinking and making wine. I learned a bit about wine when I was working as a cook, but I learned more during a five-year stint as a journalist and editor for a foodservice business newspaper. When some of my friends took a deeper interest in wine, I followed suit.
I’m hardly an expert—a few of my friends are far more knowledgable on the subject than I’ll ever be—but I know enough to usually make a good recommendation of what wine to pair with what foods. And we’ve had some success making our own wines over the last decade or so. My role in the wine-making group is that I design the custom labels for our wines, which tend to have such whimsical names as “The Twilight Rhône,” “Invader Zin,” “Born to Rhône,” and “Que Sera Syrah.”
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
Last year, on the same day that Tor Books published The Shadow Commission, my friends at Simon & Schuster’s imprint Gallery Books published my latest Star Trek novel, More Beautiful Than Death, a fast-paced adventure based on the versions of the characters and universe seen in the J. J. Abrams / Bad Robot feature films. Folks who enjoyed that incarnation of Star Trek should consider picking up More Beautiful Than Death, because I did my best to capture the films’ new voices and tone, and to craft a story that honors The Original Series while also being a story that could happen only in the films’ new version of Star Trek.
Coming this fall from Gallery Books will be Star Trek: Coda, a new epic trilogy that I developed in collaboration with my friends and fellow New York Times bestselling authors Dayton Ward and James Swallow. For the past twenty years or so, the Star Trek novels have been carving out their own niche in that universe, telling stories that change the status quo of the shared setting and altering the characters’ lives in the time periods after the ends of their respective series.
The recent debut of Star Trek: Picard, however, established new canon details that rendered the past twenty years of interconnected novels, novellas, and short stories inconsistent with canon. That left the Star Trek publishing team with two choices: abandon our two decades of work without further effort, leaving many stories forever unfinished; or, craft an epic conclusion that brings our twenty-year journey to a dramatically and emotionally satisfying conclusion.
Naturally, James, Dayton, and I chose the latter option, and we crafted a story that persuaded our editors, publisher, and licensor to let us do so.
Star Trek: Coda, Book I: Moments Asunder, by Dayton Ward, comes out September 28, 2021. Book II, The Ashes of Tomorrow, by James Swallow, debuts October 12, 2021. And my big finish, Book III: Oblivion’s Gate, will be published on November 30, 2021. All are now available for pre-order.
I also have a new writing gig in the works, something unlike anything I’ve done before, but it’s a bit too early for me to say anything about it in public. In addition to that, I have been tinkering for quite some time with the story plan for a new original science-fiction novel, and I hope to start work on that manuscript sometime very soon.
To find out more about my writing methods, and hear my unvarnished advice for new writers, be sure to watch my upcoming video Q&A with Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, coming to a YouTube channel near you soon! — David Mack
David, thanks for taking the time to answer the questions for this Author Spotlight, and for doing the interview with us for our YouTube channel!