Another special guest on the blog! Today I’m chatting with fellow Angry Robot author, Dan Moren. Dan is a freelance writer and prolific podcaster who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. Dan’s work has appeared in Boston Globe, Macworld, Fast Company, Popular Science, Yahoo Tech, Tom’s Guide, Six Colors, The Magazine, and TidBITS, among other places, and he formerly served as a senior editor at Macworld. Dan is about to release his second novel, so let’s find out more about it!
Dan, how did you come to be a writer? Was it always something you were interested in or did you fall into it?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I could remember. Back in grade school, I started jotting down stories as soon as I could spell. (They were largely about the secret fantastical lives of cats.) First thing I did when I finally got a computer? Start writing an epic fantasy story based on characters I’d created for a Dungeons & Dragons game. (We’ve all been there, right?) I wasn’t the best at finishing writing projects for a long time, but I was perpetually working on them. When I was a teenager, a friend and I ended up starting an online magazine for sci-fi and fantasy that we ran for a few years, and I wrote a few short stories for that. (And this was in the mid ‘90s, when online was barely a thing.) Even when I was working in IT and web development in my early 20s, I was writing novels on the side. It’s always been a part of my life.
What were your favourite books/films/shows growing up? What kick-started your creativity?
For me, it always starts with Star Wars. That’s the holy grail of my childhood. I watched all three of the original films endlessly, read the books, bought the toys, played the games, and so on. In middle school, I ate, breathed, and slept Star Wars—even read A Guide to the Star Wars Universe cover to cover, and at one point had it confiscated when my teacher noticed I was reading it under the desk during math class. Everything I’ve ever written owes something to it.
Beyond that, I read quite broadly. Both of my parents were librarians, so as long as I was reading something, they never really turned up their nose at it. (Except when I was reading instead of doing my chores or homework, anyway.) Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series was a staple—reading it was kind of a rite of passage in my family—and though it has its share of problems, I still absorbed a lot from it in terms of how to tell stories. I remember reading Sherlock Holmes mysteries in the second or third grade, and I moved on to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers in short order. Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising remains one of my favorite fantasy series of all time, and I devoured Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, the works of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, and others too numerous to recall.
Your latest novel, The Bayern Agenda, looks set to promise a page-turning spy action thriller set in space. Can you tell us a little bit about the book and what inspired you to write it?
I have a deep and abiding love of spy stories. Not just the over-the-top theatrics of James Bond and Mission: Impossible, but also the cerebral slow burn of John Le Carré and the riveting, can’t-put-it-down nature of early Tom Clancy. I tried to meld all of these in The Bayern Agenda, which is set against the backdrop of a galactic cold war between two rival superpowers: the Commonwealth of Independent Systems and the Illyrican Empire. The story follows Commonwealth covert operative Simon Kovalic and his team, who are trying to stop the Imperium from gaining an edge on the planet Bayern, which is a financial center and data haven that’s so far remained neutral in the war. When Kovalic’s injured during an op, his team is reassigned to his ex-wife, which complicates matters. Along the way, there are twists and turns, intrigue and investigations, and, hopefully, more than a bit of fun and action.
The Bayern Agenda is linked to your previous book The Caledonian Gambit. Can you tell us a bit about the first book and how the two fit together? Can readers start with either book?
While both books are set in the same universe and share a number of characters, they’re intended to be self-contained stories. The Caledonian Gambit follows Eli Brody, a washed-up pilot, who teams up with Kovalic to find a superweapon that the Illyrican Empire is building on his home world of Caledonia. Chronologically it comes before The Bayern Agenda, but Bayern is intended to be the kickoff for a new series of adventures, and it’s a great place for new readers to jump right in; you certainly don’t need to have read Gambit, though, if you have, it might enhance your experience. Plus, if you like The Bayern Agenda, you can always go back and read The Caledonian Gambit to learn more about the backstories of some of the characters and enjoy another adventure in the same setting.
You also appear on several podcasts. Firstly, where do you find the time? 🙂 Secondly, can you tell us a little bit about them and how they all come about?
Unlike writing, podcasting is something I definitely stumbled into. I was an editor at Macworld for many years, and in my capacity there I often appeared on the podcasts that we produced in-house. In 2010, one of my friends and colleagues at Macworld, Jason Snell, decided he wanted to start a podcast to talk about the kind of pop culture that we couldn’t really get away with nerding out about on a technology podcast, and The Incomparable was born.
Since then, The Incomparable has exploded into a whole network of shows, including game shows, TV recaps, and even one where we play Dungeons & Dragons. I appear on several of the network’s podcasts, including Not Playing with Lex and Dan, where my friend Lex Friedman and I watch popular movies that one or both of us haven’t seen; a podcast recapping the TV series Arrow and talking about other superhero TV and movies; and a nerdy trivia show called Inconceivable! that I write, host, and produce. As you quickly learn when you start podcasting, it’s hard to start one show, but it’s easy to somehow start five.
Since becoming a freelancer almost five years ago, podcasts have also become part of my day job. I host two technology-focused shows: Clockwise on the Relay FM network, which is a weekly 30-minute roundtable with two guests, and The Rebound, which is an irreverent weekly look at tech that I co-host with two friends and colleagues.
As for where I find the time, well the nice thing about being a freelancer is that my schedule is flexible, but the fact that many of my co-hosts are in other time zones means I often end up podcasting late at night, which is definitely getting more challenging the older I get.
If you weren’t a writer, what would your dream job be? Do you have a secret passion that we don’t know about?
Again, the joy of working for myself is that I’ve been lucky enough to turn most of my passions into things I do for a living. I did briefly harbor a dream of going to film school and becoming a director, but that’s mainly because it was still intrinsically linked to storytelling. And as much as I like writing about intelligence agents, I have a feeling I’d make a pretty rotten spy—though I do love solving puzzles, especially crosswords. I guess my dream job would involve playing board games and D&D, eating delicious food, solving puzzles, and talking to interesting people. Is that a job? Can you get paid for that? Because in that case, sign me up. Sounds way easier than writing.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when starting your writing career? What do you know now, that you wished you knew then?
Honestly, my biggest piece of advice is that there isn’t any magic to writing: you just have to do it. I often wish I’d realized that a little earlier in my life. I wouldn’t say that I wasted time back in my 20s—everything I did then, even the myriad projects I didn’t finish, helped me get to the point where I am now. But I think when I was younger being a published author felt so out of reach and unrealistic as a goal that I just didn’t follow through on the hard work of making it happen. (Don’t tell my dad I said that; he’ll never let me live it down.) In a job like writing, there’s always going to be an element of luck, but I think the harder you work, the more opportunities there are for you to put yourself in luck’s path.
I totally agree. Well said!
So, what can we expect from you next?
I’m actually working on two books right now, both of which are in the revision phase. One of them is another Galactic Cold War adventure—I think I can say that—and the other is something totally different that I’m really excited about: an urban fantasy detective story. I’m really looking forward to stretching myself and trying to write in a totally new genre, and I hope that people will enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
However, before any of those hit the shelves, I have a far more important project: getting married this July.
Readers, you can find out more about Dan here:
And if you’d like to buy his books, you can find them here: