Interview with Author Tom Ciolli about his book Gulag Moon
Gulag moon is the prequel to my Chronos Military Science fiction series. I have a central character, Zach Murphy, throughout the series and I wanted to go back to when he was younger and show how disastrous his early experience with the local militia of Rybos Five really was. The novel starts off with the mining Syndicate dropping off a bunch of obsolete factory workers in a forest and follows their successful efforts to survive. Then as the characters get pressed into service for a local militia, they find themselves outgunned by advanced technology and have to resort to some extreme and aggressive measures to survive.
>) Is this part of a large series or universe?
Yes. The Chronos series is an ever expanding universe. I have published three books (Gulag Moon, Chronos, and Chronos Prophecies) and I have completed the rough draft of my fourth book, The Battle for Chronos.
>) What inspired you to write this story?
The more I wrote about Zach Murphy, the more I found myself making cryptic references to his valorous past, and I realized that there was a good story to develop there.
>) Does science and technology play an important role in this story (or in your work in general), or is it secondary to the story telling and characterization?
I have worked hard at making my characters plausible and the stories compelling. I put that first. But, if I have to take a morning of Internet searching and make sure that my science is not too far off base, I will take the time to do the research. My copy of the Michio Kaku’s, Physics of the Impossible is well worn and has shaped my thinking.
>) Do you have plans to expand upon, or write other works based on this novel?
Definitely. Once Gulag Moon was complete, I had four more interesting characters: Zep Hedgewick (the narrator), Rick Magnuson, Brian Falcone, and the wisecracking Sergeant Kowalski. I liked these characters so much that they joined Zach Murphy’s eclectic squad to fight the Mining Syndicate in the Battle for Chronos. Also, readers that I have talked to felt that letting Zep Hedgewick narrate the story added a lot of life to it. Once BFC (Battle for Chronos) is published, I have ideas for another prequel and another follow on novel.
>) Most authors we encounter write novellas/novels, do you write short stories, and if so do you find it a challenge?
Several of my chapters started out as short stories. In a way, this question hits the issue right on the head, because initially getting an idea down on paper is very challenging. When I wasn’t able to sell my short stories, I just kept expanding them into novels.
>) Since time is of the essence for getting a reader up to speed in a short story, do you have a strategy, or preferred method for doing this?
I tend to do two things. In Chronos, the narration is very detached and technical. But, at the same time, I feed just enough information to the reader that I hope they want more. In Gulag Moon and Chronos Prophecies, I have a mix of descriptive narration and actual character dialogue to lay the story out for the reader. As my writing has evolved, my strategy has involved blending these two techniques.
>) What advice would you give the aspiring military science fiction writer?
I have always liked the just do it credo. I never could write anything I liked until in 2009, I kept daydreaming about a scene in Chronos where Zach Murphy has been ordered to crawl in behind the enemy lines and pin them down. I finally decided that I should write it down before I forgot it. I had tried writing before and it never really worked. Then all of the sudden, I had a story that I liked. I suppose, in retrospect, I have been using that style of daydreaming to develop my stories ever since. So, what is my advice? Don’t give up, and, experiment until you find a method that works for you. Then, experiment some more until you improve. And, have some fun. This has turned out to be the most enjoyable type of work that I have ever done.
>) Who is your single-biggest influence in science fiction and what impact have they had on your own work?
I have to say Edgar Rice Burroughs on this one. I need to reference an author who I find viscerally stirring without all the special effects. It’s hard for me to understand why I find some science fiction topics more moving than others, but there are definitely certain stories which have me on the edge of my seat. Burroughs’ stories do this for me. In the Martian Tales, Burroughs had to imagine things from a turn of the century frame of reference, so his aircraft looked like boats and his hero inexplicably appears on Mars one day. The science is not his emphasis, but the story is still compelling. I hope that someday I can do that.
>) What is the one thing you find the most difficult about writing military science fiction?
I think it is difficult to find something that has not been done before. At first, I felt like I was going out on a limb by having people fire old weapons designs, but the more I thought about this, it made perfect sense. All along the Chronos series, I have tried to make the science fiction a little different by watering down the super high tech weaponry with the economics of scarcity.
After I really got involved in my first story (Chronos) it became much easier to add another piece here and there. Now, I feel that I have three galaxies connected by wormholes and names for all the planets and moons and distinct personalities for all the people and my imaginings are much better grounded.
>) Is military science fiction the only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking for?
I’m sticking to military science fiction for now. I suppose if I wrote anything else, a western would be very likely. I included space western themes or scenes in Chronos, Chronos Prophecies and The Battle for Chronos. So, it would be a natural transition to pull the plug on the electronic gizmos and just write a western.
>) Please tell us about your publisher, and how did you came to chose them?
[note: this question is generally to deal with small, and self-published works]
I am self publishing Kindle and Nook books through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Revolutionary changes in the publishing industry present the potential to completely bypass traditional publishers. My experience over the last two years has allowed me to understand the potential that exists to allow authors to retain the rights to their materials, receive higher margins, and promote their books in an electronic fashion. The experience that I have gained self marketing my own books, generalizes to allow me to try and contact a specialized audience at the tip of the long tail of fiction distribution. My own books are available as electronic books, which reduces my financial exposure
>) Do you have any other projects in the works?
I am a few weeks away from completing the initial draft of my fourth book, The Battle For Chronos.
I found the Battle For Chronos (or BFC as I call it) to be very difficult to write, because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that much of the fight would need to occur in outer space. It took a lot of imagining to think of how to make an island hopping campaign in space into something other than just a bunch of space ships with lasers.
>) Do you have any upcoming author events?
>) Do you have a website?
(Please include publisher’s website and/or any related websites you would like us to promote, such as your Amazon page.)
My personal web site and blog can be found at
Gulag Moon can be found at