Monday, September 3, 2012

Dark Wings by John J. Rust : Interview and Excerpt

Mothman and the Jersey Devil.  For years they have been regarded as legends.  Now humanity has learned the terrifying truth.  These "cryptids" are actually beings from another world, and they have invaded Earth.  Delta Force Major Jim Rhyne fights to survive in occupied Kentucky.  Along the way, he is joined by mysterious allies.  But can he trust them, and can they defeat the invaders?

Jim fired his minigun.  One of the Mothmen spiraled toward the ground.  Seconds later Doug called out another Mothmen sighting and opened fire.

     Jim scowled.  No way could they have just blundered into an enemy patrol.  This was a coordinated attack.  Those monsters must have spotted them earlier.  How?  Radar?  A scouting party they failed to see.

     It didn’t matter.  All that mattered was getting out of this alive.

     Val climbed over another mass of trees.  Doug fired more bursts.  Jim scanned for any more targets.  Nothing behind them.  Nothing to the side.  He turned to the front.

     A Mothman burst through the trees, clutching a light machine gun.

     Jim swung the minigun around.  Val jerked the chopper to the right.

     The Mothman leveled its machine gun and fired.  Loud, metallic thuds echoed through the Little Bird.

     “You guys okay? Jim demanded.

     “We’re fine!” Val hollered back.  “The aircraft isn’t.”

     As if on cue, he heard strange growling sounds coming from the engine.  Even more disturbing, he smelled smoke.

     “This bird’s had it,” Val stated.  “Hang on.  This won’t be gentle.”

     The chopper bucked and groaned.  The trees vanished underneath Jim, replaced by an expanse of grass and bushes.  The Little Bird heaved to the left.  Even with his harness securely attached, he reached out to grip the edge of the door on instinct.

     The engine sputtered.  The ground rushed up toward them.  Jim let go of the minigun and rolled toward the center of the hold.  Doug did the same thing.  Chuck covered his head with his arms.

     “Brace for im-”

     A sharp blow rocked the Little Bird.


Tell us about your new book.

“Dark Wings” deals with the invasion of Earth by creatures that resemble two famous cryptids, Mothman and the Jersey Devil.  The story centers on Jim Rhyne, a major in the U.S. Army’s Delta Force.  The guy is in the Kentucky wilderness enjoying a camping trip.  Or at least, he’s trying to enjoy it.  His two cousins, Doug and Chuck, have some personal issues that are boiling over.  Add to it the fact Jim still has not come to grips with the tragic death of his wife.  With all that going on, these monsters suddenly invade Earth.  Now Jim and his family have to stay one step ahead of the invaders, gather intelligence on them, and try to find others to join the fight.  And believe me, there’s plenty of fighting in this book.


So Jim not only has to fight aliens, he’s also still grieving for his wife.  That’s pretty harsh.

It is, but when it comes to your characters, you can’t make things easy on them.  Fighting monsters is bad enough.  But fighting is what the Delta Force does, and they do it better than anyone in the world.  Still, as well trained as these guys are, they are human beings, and they deal with the same kind of personal stuff that most of us do.  Most times, they can shunt that stuff to the side and do what needs doing.  But when it’s the death of a spouse, that’s not so easy, especially for Jim.  He blames himself for his wife’s death, and unconsciously uses that as motivation to try and save others.  That comes into play quite a bit throughout the book, sometimes with unfortunate consequences.


Why did you choose Mothman and the Jersey Devil as your villains?

I’ve always been fascinated with cryptozoology, the study of animals that haven’t been documented by mainstream science.  Mothman and the Jersey Devil are two of the most sci-fi like cryptids out there.  Plus they have a reputation of terrorizing people, and in the Mothman’s case, wrecking a bridge and killing dozens of people in West Virginia.  Another reason for using the Jersey Devil is, well, I’m originally from New Jersey.  I grew up hearing all sorts of stories about the Jersey Devil.  Heck, I’m even a fan of the New Jersey Devils hockey team.  So, I was thinking, what if these things aren’t animals?  What if they come from another world?  How much more terrifying would they be if I gave them assault rifles, laser weapons, and one of my personal favorites, metal rods launched from space that can hit the ground at a speed of, oh, about Mach 10?  That’s gonna do some serious damage.


On your book jacket, it says Major Rhyne meets some ‘mysterious allies.’  Can you tell us who they are?

Oh, I guess I’ll be nice and let the cat out of the bag.  They’re a group of soldiers from a coalition of parallel Earths that have been fighting these monsters.  I love the concept of parallel Earths, how one single change to some event can affect an entire timeline.  You get to see characters from Earths where the Aztec Empire still exists, where dinosaurs evolved into an intelligent species, and where Amazon warriors still exist, which brings us to one of my favorite characters in the book, a 6’2 Israeli-Amazon named Myra Kenaevya, who starts to really, really like Jim Rhyne.


You call Kenaevya one of your favorite characters.  Are there any other characters near and dear to your heart?

Oh sure.  There’s Captain Williams, an Air National Guard pilot shot down by the monsters.  He’s the guy who provides some humorous moments, which are sometimes needed considering how dark the book can get.  He’s also something of a player, and I based some of his personality off the guy from the Old Spice body wash commercials.  You know, “Ladies, does your man look like me?  Of course not.”  Then there’s Valerie, Jim’s sister, who’s a pilot in the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.  She has a daredevil personality, a nice collection of speeding tickets, and also tries to be the Jiminy Cricket on Jim’s shoulder, comforting him and giving him advice, even though most times he doesn’t listen.


Are there any particular scenes you really enjoyed writing?

The action scenes, obviously.  I love action.  The final battle in the book was especially fun, not just seeing how many things I can shoot up and blow up, but doing everything I can to make things tough for the good guys.  Then there were a few scenes where I put Jim in some moral dilemmas.  It’s always interesting to put a good, honorable man in a situation where he really doesn’t have a right or wrong decision he can make, but more of bad decision or even worse decision.  What does he do?  I also liked the personal moments between Jim and Kenaevya, especially with them trying to cope with all the baggage they carry into their relationship.


Do you listen to music when you’re writing?

Absolutely.  I cannot work in silence.  A lot of times, the music I pick is dependent on what kind of scene I’m writing.  If it’s an action scene, then there’s heavy metal playing in the background.  Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Metallica, Arch Enemy.  If it’s two characters sharing a personal moment, then I put on something slow, ballad-like.  Stuff by, say, REO Speedwagon, Sarah Brightman, Celtic Woman.


What do you think makes a good story?

Much as I love action, and I really love action, it’s the characters.  You need to have characters that feel real, that the reader will sympathize with and care about.  If something bad happens to a character, you want the reader to feel bad about it.  When something good happens to them, you want the reader to do a fist pump and go, “Yeah!”  You can have a scene where an entire city is getting blown up, but if the characters in your story are bland and cardboard, who’s going to care if a building falls down on them?

John J Rust and Stanley Cup
A native of New Jersey, John J. Rust graduated from both Mercer County Community College and the College of Mt. St. Vincent before pursuing his career as a radio sports reporter and play-by-play announcer.  Along with his novel "Dark Wings," Rust has published three science fiction short stories, including "The Art of Fear," which stars the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.  Rust currently lives in Arizona.  His hobbies include exercising, studying history, collecting ballcaps and t-shirts, and listening to European symphonic metal.
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Martin R. Meyers said...

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Lizzy said...

Huh. It looks like a ghost story from the cover and a sci-fi story from the description. Interesting.