Welcome back to the Indie Deep Dive feature here on my website. Before I continue, please check out my previous interviews with:
All of them have written books that are hugely influential to how I write (or try to write) as an indie author. These are the guys I loosely call my peers. I say loosely, because I can only aspire to their level of success and story-telling. Their stories make me want to try harder to match them.
This week, I’m revisiting a book I’ve talked a little about already.
A while back I did an interview with Anna Mocikat. This was before I decided to twist my format a little to do these deep dive looks at their books. You can read the interview here: LINKY.
While Shadow City was the first book of hers I read, her opus magnum, is Behind Blue Eyes.
And rightfully so.
I’ll let you in on a secret…
I have a To-Be-Read pile almost as tall as me. Okay, so that’s not too much of a secret, I’ve literally put up a page her on my website about it.
What I don’t tell you on there is that I usually have a process. I try and get around to reading at least ONE book by all the other Indie Authors I admire. SImply so I can sample their work and be confident that I understand what they write about. With all the writing I’ve been doing on the Songbird Saga, I’ve not had all the time I’d like recently to read.
I LOVED the books I’ve mentioned above, and I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to diving back into their universes. But…none of them are really my preferred genre. In some respects that should show you just how much I loved them. I’d never read ‘grimdark’ till I read Halo’s book. And EG’s book and Emmy’s are more skewed into the Fantasy genre than I’m used to reading.
Anna Mocikat, on the other hand… Well she plays DIRECTLY into my wheelhouse.
I’m a SciFi nerd. You’ll see A LOT of SciFi trappings in the Songbird Saga, even though it’s technically Urban Fantasy.
At the moment she’s the only Indie Author I’ve read more than one book by. To date… I’ve read four. I’ll ‘Deep-Dive’ them all, but today I want to start with ‘Behind Blue Eyes‘.
So, without further ado…
Let’s set the scene…
Behind Blue Eyes, tells the tale of Nephilim. She’s a kickass cyborg who’s life is about to
To set the scene for this post, here’s my little review (click the book to buy it, click the review to embiggen):
And here’s my review for it…
So, now you know where I stand on Anna’s book, let’s get plugged into the mainframe…
So, let’s set the scene! The first book I read of yours was ‘Shadow City’, which is a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy novel. ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ is a shift to another genre, Cyberpunk Noir. What was the reason behind the shift?
I always wanted to write Cyberpunk and I always wanted to write this story. I don’t know why I waited so long but in retrospect it was good I did. BBE (1+2) is my best work so far and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have turned out so good if I had written it ten years ago.
With that in mind (and knowing that your latest book ‘Cyber Squad’ is a move into LitRPG – more on that later!) what other genres would you like to dabble in?
I really would love to write a space opera someday!
Before we dive into the details, let’s talk generics. The book has real Orwellian overtones, I’m thinking 1984 (everyone is being watched!!) But I’m also feeling a bunch of Bladerunner vibes too (or Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep, if you prefer!) in the city of Olympias.
I know you’re a bit of a gamer, so I don’t know if you know this old game…but it also reminds me a little of a game called ‘Syndicate’ from way back in the 90’s. Did you spend a lot of time thinking about how the world was going to be? Do you have a map? LOL
That’s amazing that you mention Syndicate! I absolutely LOVED this game. Actually after playing it, my first idea for a cyberpunk novel popped in my head. I totally dig the concept of Syndicate where cyborgs are fighting each other. In a way, something similar happens in BBE with the three big players having their cyborg armies fight their proxy wars.
Okay, deep dive time – spoilers ahead!
The main characters of the ‘Guardian Angels’ is a novel concept too. A kind of paramilitary security force that is part army, part police force. Giving them biblical names is a neat idea too. It works in the construct of the story too, where characters like Metatron is literally the voice of command, laying down the words that everyone follows. Where did the idea for that come from? Were any other names on the table before deciding on them?
It was one of my earliest ideas for the story that there’s a squad of killer cyborgs calling themselves Guardian Angels and I wanted the MC to be named Nephilim, mostly because I really like how the name sounds and looks, haha. Then I quickly came up with the idea that they all have angel names, and it’s explained in the book why. I chose the name Metatron deliberately for the character for the reason you mention. He’s the voice of command but hasn’t always been in command.
And then you have the Guardian Angels themselves. Humans turned weapons through Cybernetic enhancment. I know you’re a big ‘Ghost In The Shell’ fan, so I’m gussing at least that played a role in there somewhere. But you also played with the concept of cybernetic enhancement in your other series, ‘Shadow City’ (I’m thinking of the Bombshell’ character) so is this topic one of some fascination for you?
Yes, I’m a big fan of Ghost in the Shell and the concept of human-machine hybrids had fascinated me since I saw it for the first time back in the 90s. Bombshell is like an early prototype of the Angels, so to say. I just liked the idea to have a tech character in an otherwise post-apocalyptic setting. Bombshell is a bit like Robocop, just more agile. Nephilim and her kind are way more advanced and Bombshell wouldn’t stand a chance against any of them.
Okay, so if you could replace one part of yourself today with something cybernetic, what would it be?
Haha good question! I think I would have no problem in becoming like Motoko in Ghost in the Shell and having my full body replaced for an artificial one. A perfectly shaped shell, always young, never sick… that’s a dream.
Talking of ‘Ghost in the Shell’, the themes at play in BBE feel like their influenced from that source too. The journey of finding out who you truly are. Though in this case, Nephilim’s journey is somewhat has two sides to it.
First is the mystery of who she was before she was a Guardian Angel. But also there’s an arguably bigger narrative at play, which is Nephilim finding out what her character is when she has freedom from Metatron’s constant oversight. Through BBE the latter seems almost more important than the former. Tell us a little more about where these storythreads originated from for you?
Yes, I absolutely believe that Nephilim discovering how she is when not under total control at all times, is the more important narrative than her discovery of her childhood. BBE is very much about freedom. Freedom or will, freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of a self-determined life.
I’m going to limit the questions/answers here to just talking about BBE, because it’s sequel BBE:Fallen Angels should have a feature of its own. So bear that in mind when answering, Where did the inspiration for the character of Nephilim come from?
To me she feels a little like a natural evolution of Eurydice from ‘Shadow City’ with a little Bombshell thrown in. There’s also more than a hint of Major from ‘Ghost in the Shell’ in there too. Is there anything to that? Or did inspiration spring from somewhere else entirely?
I think Nephilim is very different than Eurydice. Yes, they’re both strong and badass, and beautiful but that’s about it. Eurydice is centuries old, she’s very cunning and completely ruthless. If anything then she can be compared to Metatron, who has similar qualities.
I think one of the most interesting aspects about Nephilim is, that she’s a pure soul. Although she’s a cyborg designed and trained to kill, she has the purity of a child inside her. In a way BBE is also a coming-of-age story although Nephilim is 25 when it begins. She finds herself and loses herself again. Which will lead to a much deeper development in the upcoming books.
She’s also a very nuanced character. She has this kind and generous manner, but Every hero needs a charismatic villain, and you have Metatron. We’ll see a different side to him in BBE2 (no spoilers!) but in BBE he is very much the character we’re rooting against as we want to see Nephilim achieve her goal of independence.
Tell us about how you created Metatron.
Metatron is my favorite character. I mean, I also love Nephilim but Metatron is my boy lol I would be so dead if he could hear me say that 😉
The reason I love him so much is his depth and the many layers he has. He’s super-intelligent and always a step ahead of everyone, which would make him almost unbeatable, if it weren’t for his one weakness and that’s Nephilim. He’s obsessed with her and that for a reason which maybe is creepy but plausible. I can’t say more here without giving away a massive spoiler.
I always had a soft spot for villains in my books, so much, that in Shadow City I put Eurydice on the cover of the book, even though she’s the villain and not a hero. With Metatron I not only wanted to create a charismatic villain who’s also sexy. I wanted to create a villain who gets into people’s heads. Who’s like the seductive voice that tries to convince you to go bad. It worked out better than I ever hoped! readers love Metatron. Some even feel a bit guilty because he makes them question the status quo and they find themselves agreeing with him on some points. But in book 1 we only get a glimpse on his incredibly complex psyche.
You haven’t seen anything yet 😉 Just wait for book 4!
Nooooo, don’t tease me!!!
I think that’s true in life as well as in fiction. I’ve certainly tried to do some of that There’s also a nice line in supporting characters for Nephilim. Including Finwick, my personal fave! LOL It’s through these characters that we get our first glimpses of who Nephilim can be away from Metatron’s control. What can you tell us about them?
Let me tell you a little secret: in the original version Finwick was supposed to die at the end of book 1. Originally his part was also a much smaller one than it is now. But the more time I spent with him the more I began to love him and I just couldn’t kill him haha I don’t know how some authors enjoy killing their characters, I do that only very rarely and if it’s really necessary for the story. Anyway, I’m glad I let Finwick live because he turned out to be the most popular character in the book!
So, without giving too much away about Behind Blue Eyes: Fallen Angel (the second book in the series, because I want to do a separate deep dive on that one too!) I felt the choice you made at the end of the book was a brave one. You essentially press the reset button.
It leaves the reader having a WTF moment, as it looks for all the world like the hard-earned character growth that Nephilim has experienced is gone. It’s almost like grieving for the death of the character, but without her being dead.
Can you give us some insight into how you came about that decision?
I was aware from the beginning, that the ending of Behind Blue Eyes might come as a shock to many readers. After all, we’re used to it that the hero wins in the end, that they beat the villain/antagonist. But Nephilim loses and the villain wins. I decided to go for such an ending because in a world as the one I have created, the bad guys win. Besides, one of my biggest inspirations always has been 1984 and the hero there loses in the end. Simply because the system he opposes is too strong. Nephilim has the same problem. But this doesn’t mean that everything is lost. Maybe there are different ways to beat the system? At the end of book 1, Nephilim’s story has only just begun.
So, I know that there’s a sequel, which I mentioned above, and I know that there’s a 3rd book on the way (Behind Blue Eyes: War Games), but is that the end of the saga? Or is there more to come?
Oh no, book 3 certainly isn’t the end! Behind Blue Eyes is a huge story that will be told over many books. The main storyline will end with book 6 but the ending will open up to a completely new storyline set in the world. Besides this I’m planning a spin-off series that circles around the two detectives introduced in Fallen Angels (BBE2), and a series of origin novellas. I will write in this universe until the end of my life haha
Oh, I’m so pleased there’s going to be a spin off based around the detectives. I loved them in BBE2! I’d buy that, no questions!
Okay, last question… Elsewhere on this website (link) I do a ‘Casting Call’ where I talk about who I’d cast as the main characters in the inevitable HBO Max/Amazon TV series of my books. So, who would you cast as Nephilim and Metatron?
I would cast Florence Faivre (known from The Expanse) as Nephilim, Adam Driver as Metatron and Ryan Gosling as Jake.
Thank you so much for answering my questions, Anna. I can’t wait to read BBE3! And I’ll be back with more Indie Deep Dive questions soon about BBE2.
Anna Mocikat’s Links