Interview with Mike Bennett, Author of Rosehips in June

How do you develop your plot and characters?

I actually wrote a blog on this subject on my website:  I think the process is different for every author; I’ve heard many talk about using post-it pads.  I chose to layout not only one book, but at least most of the series on a spreadsheet.  I did this to get everything in order chronologically and also to coordinate what character is where in the world so that that character is not double tasked during the time frame. 

I game out the broad main points across a timeline of years, then start figuring out who can do what action along the way.  The characters themselves are based on skillsets for their part in the strategy, but I can tell you in all cases each character is maybe a person or the mashing together of several people or their attributes.  Each character in my stories are someone or a bunch of people I knew over the course of a 30-year career.  It may be fiction, but the people are very, very real.

How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

The world building in my case is often just tweaking things that have already taken place, or a reasonable extrapolation of past and current affairs to reflect this new ‘reality’.  I am not necessarily trying to be predictive of future events, but my interpretation as written in the books is, at the very least, possible and certainly believable.  I offer alternatives to what has taken place or will take place that can be grounded in real events and real technology.  The world I build may not be too far from what is our known and accepted reality, just a wrinkle that is perhaps interesting to the reader.

Do you have a favorite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.

Well, in this case it has to be the Warlock, and even that is complicated as you will see over the course of the series.  The Warlock as a person is both fairly complex and of a very natural origin.  What is uncommon about the character is the depth of will he has and how it was developed over a lifetime of rigorous study and by being tried in that crucible only some can truly understand: that of combat.  He is a deep thinker whose actions can only be judged in no immediate sense, but only after sufficient time has elapsed to discern the wisdom, kind of like Gandalf.

Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

Easiest thing is my website—   On it is a ton of information about my book projects and my annual travel exploits to go skiing in British Columbia.    

What is the key theme and/or message in the book?

In Moths To The Flame, the key theme is to recognize that perhaps American foreign policy is weaker than it needs to be, and that, through the wisdom of Ronald Reagan’s forbearance on the overt side, this was rectified by creating an underworld element to solve world problems and keep America on the top tier.

What is the significance of the title?

The title is taken from the first line of a poem written in the story.  Although the story is one of mainly espionage, there is a romantic sub-plot to keep things spicy.

Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.

With the rising sun behind the WWII soldier on the beach, a shadow is cast to reveal the unit patch of the First Special Service Force—a joint US/Canadian commando unit better known as The Devil’s Brigade.  The flowers in the dunes are, of course, rose hips. 

Who is your favorite author and why?

With no hesitation, I can say with great enthusiasm J.R.R. Tolkien.  Stephen King is also on my list as he lectured me in an Honor’s class in college—but Tolkien is the master.  I adore the way he writes, the effortless weaving of imagery.  There is no better writer, in my view.

What’s your favorite spot to visit in your own country? And what makes it so special to you?

Whereas Whistler is my favorite place in the world, I’d say I am falling in love with Montana, as I have passed through with my RV enroute to Whistler.  These ski trips since I retired have given me an excuse to do what I’ve always wanted to do—tour the Country, see it in some detail.  I just spent 4 days in Yellowstone—my first trip, and probably not my last.  That it has been so well preserved is only due to the brilliance of Teddy Roosevelt.

Have you ever been on any sports teams? If so, what sport?

Of course, I played high school basketball…I wasn’t really any good, but I ran distance events on the track team that won the State championship.  Glory days, and all.  But Judo is my favorite sport; it is something I truly enjoyed when I was a bit younger.

Excerpts from Rosehips in June

Rosehips in June Mike Bennett
Rosehips in June Mike Bennett

To that fringe of the hamlet Garrison had crawled as dusk fell onto the jungle like a suffocating blanket; the thickness of the still air was alive with night sounds. Gibbet monkeys screamed as larger feline predators prowled; massive bats awing crashed through bamboo stanchions; insects trilled a deafening rhythm of defiance; snakes slithered unseen. Soon, the jungle quieted, the day’s rain dripping into puddles, fetid pools invigorating a fresh supply of mosquito larvae.

Along the floor of muck and rotting vegetation, Garrison slithered, a 6’ 4” Texas rattlesnake of murderous intent. Slung on his back, his CAR 15 was tightly bound, immobile and really only there as backup. For this job, if his stalk was perfect, it would be dispatched by the silenced Welrod pistol he favored for close-in work.

PEERING THROUGH SWAYING TUSSOCK, THE witness stood watch over the gray and heaving South Atlantic.

The sentry’s uniform bespoke an irreverent crest of yellow and black feathers forming spiky eyebrows over its blood-red eyes and red-orange beak. Although alert to the dangers of its frigid perch, this rockhopper penguin was blithely ignorant of the tensions raging in Port Stanley and equally unaware of the coming storm 6000 kilometers to its north and east across the sea.

The mood at RAF Wideawake on Ascension Island was urgent and deadly in purpose. An assault force was assembling at this half-way point, a crag of British soil where volcanoes had vomited an island millions of years ago. On one corner of the airfield, D Squadron of 22 SAS assembled and a handful gathered to review intelligence and make plans.

Applying those lessons learned from long ago, in true name, Billy sat in the plush greeting room of the Hotel Saigerhütte sipping a pear schnapps from a tulip shaped glass. He was a mere mile away from the target compressor station, but between him and it was a ten-foot-tall, chain-link border fence topped with razor wire, a minefield in between, and another fence guarded by Rottweilers and burly Czech guards with machine guns.

At the appointed time, he retired to his room for the show.

The ‘fireworks’ did not disappoint. A flash of light was followed by a gigantic column of fire raging a hundred feet into an otherwise pitch-black night; the shock wave that followed rattled his window frame, the overpressure making his ears pop a bit even at this distance from the blast. His eyes were dazzled by the brightness and magnified by the Leopold binos he had bought at a local hunting store; he hoped the only piece of specialized kit he had brought would filter the lens flare and still record the carnage on videotape.

Coolly, he dialed an accommodation number that call forwarded to a phone at Flight Concepts Division. He left a message using pre-coordinated brevity codes reporting target obliteration, right on time.

Beslan was tailor made for this role; he was a huge man whose face was overrun by scars and a gnarly, prickly beard over which eyes coal-black smoldered with a gaze of demonic intensity. His belief in his countryman’s cause need not be questioned unless the asker fancied death by unpleasant means. For Beslan’s fury was incandescent when riled. And there was not a moment in any day when his rage was not at full boil.

Generally, it was against his Russian oppressors and infidels against whom he applied his violent talents. The pilot team had already made first contact; if the Americans were willing to provide

supplies, they were most welcome. Rapport building had been easily achieved with this promise; their daily meetings for tea were merely ceremonial.

Into Beslan’s giant hand was Sam’s engulfed, “Peace, my friend. After tea, we’ll go out and inspect the shipment of today’s Khudar.”

Beslan roared with gluttony, “Yes. Yes!” They had agreed to call all weapons a code word on the radio or on the phone; it was already a private joke. Porridge with cheese, indeed.

STEERING AROUND A WATER TRUCK parked along Laibon Road, the driver maneuvered a 1987 Nissan Atlas refrigeration truck and detonated a bomb hidden in the cargo bay. The driver was instantly incinerated as 2000 pounds of TNT boosted by bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer directed a blast that shattered windows for miles and caved in the reinforced concrete façade of its intended target: the Embassy of the United States of America.

Steel reinforcement girders poked crazily like Mikado pick up sticks, each spar rusted and twisted into angles of non-conformance with the structural design, each beam now rendered useless and forged well beyond its temperament; brittle, bent or pooling into a morass of iron slag; its former strength was abandoned. Black plumes of oily smoke rose in a billowing cloud, the vapors and fumes thrust into the breeze carrying highly toxic chlorosulphonic acid and bringing even more death down wind.

For here, Death visited in earnest; bodies were burnt to cinders, rough blocks of rubble crushing the already compromised flesh. Some bodies were lacerated by falling sheaths of glass, some consumed in fire by glass boiled into a lava-like constituency. The cruelness of the magnitudes by which men and women had died was kaleidoscopic: impalement on rebar stakes; air sucked out of lungs with the intense over-pressurization impulse of a super-heated blast wave; millions of fragments of stone and steel propelled by the gaseous expansion and fireball, each projectile piercing organs and bone.

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkedin

Leave a comment