Today I am interviewing Dan Moren, author of the new science-fiction novel, The Bayern Agenda, first book in the Galactic Cold War series.
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DJ: Hi Dan! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Dan Moren: Hello! Absolutely. By day I’m a millionaire playboy, by night I fight crime dressed as a bat. Wait, sorry, wrong interview! I’m a sci-fi author, freelance tech journalist, and podcaster. My first book, The Caledonian Gambit, came out in May 2017 from Talos, and my latest book is The Bayern Agenda, which is now out from Angry Robot. For my day job, I write about tech for places like Macworld and Six Colors and host tech podcasts Clockwise and The Rebound. And, in my “spare” time, I also host a few shows on The Incomparable podcast network, including nerdy quiz show Inconceivable!
DJ: What is The Bayern Agenda about?
Dan: The Bayern Agenda is a sci-fi spy thriller, set against the backdrop of a galactic cold war between two rival superpowers: the Illyrican Empire and the Commonwealth of Independent Systems. Our story follows Simon Kovalic, a covert operative for the Commonwealth, as he tries to get to the bottom of mysterious ties between the Illyricans and the independent financial hub of Bayern. Unfortunately, when he’s wounded on a mission, his team of operatives is put temporarily under the command of his ex-wife. Intrigue ensues!
DJ: What were some of your influences The Bayern Agenda and the series?
Dan: Sci-fi and spy stories are two of my favorite genres, so the opportunity to mix them together was hard to resist. On the epsionage side, I love the works of John Le Carré, TV shows like The Sandbaggers, the Mission: Impossible film series, classic Hitchock thrillers, Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country spy comics—pretty much any great espionage story. On the sci-fi side, I tend towards fun space adventures that are full of intrigue and complicated characters, including the works of Lois McMaster Bujold, John Scalzi, and James S.A. Corey.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Dan: We’ve got two main characters in The Bayern Agenda: Kovalic, the veteran cover operative, and Eli Brody, a pilot who finds himself drafted onto Kovalic’s team out of necessity. What I enjoy about having these two characters’ perspectives is their contrasts: Kovalic is self-assured, confident, and, frankly, a badass. But as good as he is professionally, he falters when it comes to his personal life. (And don’t we all at times?) Eli, on the other hand, is comfortable in a cockpit, but when he’s thrust into a world of spies, he’s definitely out of his element, which he covers with snark and bravado. Sometimes that works to his advantage, and sometimes, well, it just gets him into trouble. I think people sympathize with his fish-out-of-water situation; he’s the reader’s window into this unfamiliar realm of spycraft and intrigue.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role for in story? Why?
Dan: I hate to play favorites—what happens when all my other characters hear I didn’t pick them?—but I’ve got a couple that I love. Sergeant Tapper is Kovalic’s mentor, and they have a long history, which you get some glimpses of in Bayern. He’s a gruff bulldog who’s just a pure joy to write. His voice has a way of taking over: I can always hear his lines in my head, clear as day. I’m also fond of a character we meet in this book, Sarah M’basa, a Commonwealth spy who’s ostensibly on the same side as our heroes, but resents them stomping all over her turf. Having that kind of foil-like relationship was a lot of fun to tease out.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Galactic Cold War series like?
Dan: Unsurprisingly, the Galactic Cold War is very much an homage to, you know, the Cold War. There a relatively small number of systems in our galaxy (which is only populated by humans); farflung solar systems are connected by wormhole gates, a melding of naturally occurring phenomenon and human technology. But for the past twenty years, there’s been a line drawn: the Illyrican Empire was a militarily dominant power that not only controls their own worlds, but has also conquered Earth and its colonies. However, it lost a big chunk of its military force in a disastrous battle and, as a result, it’s pulled back to defend its borders. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth is a bit more ragtag, made up of a mix of people who had been going about their lives on these independent planets before they were flooded with those who fled the Illyrican conquest of Earth. But the overriding atmosphere is one of a highly-charged stalemate, holding by a thread: these two superpowers might, at any moment, tip into open hostilities that would deeply affect every planet in the galaxy, including the ones that have remained out of the fight.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Bayern Agenda?
Dan: So, those who have read my first book, The Caledonian Gambit, know that it’s set in the same universe as The Bayern Agenda. (Don’t worry, though: you don’t need to have read it before Bayern.) What I loved about writing this book was the chance to revisit the same universe and some of the same characters, and really dig into them further. I’ve always loved serial works, because I enjoy the chance to develop characters and plots over long arcs that have a payoff down the road. So being able to spend some more time with this world I’d created was a real delight, as well as the ability to start building out more aspects of what this galaxy—and the conflict in which it’s embroiled—look like.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Dan: This story’s all about intrigue. There are going to be some questions left unanswered at the end, for readers as well as for our protagonists, about what’s really going on here. It’s all about the layers: peel one back, and there’s another right underneath. I’m also trying to drop some breadcrumbs along the way to lead towards some developments down the road, which is a fun and challenging exercise as a reader. (I will say: I do have an idea of what the single most contentious element in the plot will be, and I’m fascinated to see how readers react!)
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Galactic Cold War series? The Bayern Agenda is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Dan: You know, theme is one of those things that’s very personal. A lot of writers—me included—don’t set out trying to hit a certain bullseye on the theme dartboard, because they find it gets in the way of all the other stuff you need to be thinking about. And, in the end, readers are going to take their own meaning away from a story. So, while I do have an idea of something that I see as a recurring theme of these books, I wouldn’t try to impose it by fiat. I’m just hoping to write a great, entertaining story, and I’m always interested to see what others take away from it.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Bayern Agenda that you can share with us?
Dan: Without any context to spoil things, I’ll just give you this anonymized exchange, which I enjoy:
“I think we’d both better get in the habit of checking for that knife every morning.”
“You assume, captain, that I ever stopped.”
DJ: Now that The Bayern Agenda is released, what is next for you?
Dan: As one of my favorite sayings goes: “The reward for a job well done is another job.” I try to remind myself to take a moment to enjoy an achievement like getting a book out there, but there’s always another book or two on the horizon. Right now, I’m finishing up two different books: another Galactic Cold War installment, and an urban fantasy set in my hometown of Boston. And after those are done, it’ll be on to the next thing!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Moren/e/B00QQW9HP0/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Author Newsletter: https://dmoren.com/subscribe/
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about the Galactic Cold War series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Dan: I think one of the most important things to take away from the series is that even though we have our protagonists and our antagonists, I don’t see the central conflict in this story as necessarily about “bad guys” and “good guys.” Like the real world, there are a lot of shades of gray, and most people—heck, all people—are neither entirely good nor entirely evil. Everybody’s got a lens that they see through, their own particular shade to a story. That’s worth bearing in mind.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Dan: Just that I could not have gotten here without all the support from my friends, my family, my fiancée, and everybody who’s ever bought one of my books. I love telling stories, and I’m just glad that people enjoy them. That’s the biggest reward as a writer. As long as they’re reading ‘em, I’ll keep writing ‘em.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** The Bayern Agenda is published by and Angry Robot is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
A new Cold War threatens the galaxy, in this fast-paced and wisecracking thriller of spies and subterfuge.
Simon Kovalic, top intelligence operative for the Commonwealth of Independent Systems, is on the frontline of the burgeoning Cold War with the aggressive Illyrican Empire. He barely escapes his latest mission with a broken arm, and vital intel which points to the Empire cozying up to the Bayern Corporation: a planet-sized bank. There’s no time to waste, but with Kovalic out of action, his undercover team is handed over to his ex-wife, Lt Commander Natalie Taylor. When Kovalic’s boss is tipped off that the Imperium are ready and waiting, it’s up to the wounded spy to rescue his team and complete the mission before they’re all caught and executed.
About the Author:
Dan Moren is the author of the forthcoming sci-fi espionage caper, The Bayern Agenda, which will be published by Angry Robot in March 2019. His debut novel, The Caledonian Gambit, was released by Talos Press in 2017. He’s represented by Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky Literary Agency.
As a freelance writer, Dan’s work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Macworld, Fast Company, Popular Science, Yahoo Tech, Tom’s Guide, Six Colors, The Magazine, and TidBITS, among other places. He formerly served as a senior editor at Macworld.
A prolific podcaster, Dan also co-hosts tech podcasts Clockwise and The Rebound, writes and hosts nerdy quiz show Inconceivable!, and is a frequent panelist on the Parsec-award-winning podcast The Incomparable.
Dan lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys games of the video and tabletop variety. When he’s not wasting time on Twitter, anyway.