Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Squad Mentality in SFR

by M.A. Grant

Since I first read the tales of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, I’ve loved stories featuring strong casts of supporting characters. While SFR can feature tales of loners wandering through unknown worlds, the genre lends itself beautifully to stories where a tightly-knit crew is just as important as a lone hero.

Soldiers, mercenaries, pirates, space explorers, scientists, diplomatic delegations...the potential makeup of these groups is endless, as are the problems they face together. Anna Hackett’s Hell Squad series and Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen’s Chaos Station series are two of my newest discoveries featuring this key element.

What I love about both is that the central romance between main characters isn’t a standalone thread of the plot. Instead, the books are as much about how the pre-established bonds between squadmates or crew members are tested by the burgeoning romance. In the face of sometimes extreme challenges presented in science-fiction worlds, becoming a respected member of a team is a critical element to not only the romantic relationship’s success, but also to survival.

In my latest release, Honour Bound, First Lieutenant Alexander Cade doesn’t fit into the rigid world of the Republic and is banished for his efforts to quell corruption in the outlying provinces. By invoking an ancient rite, he is able to bind himself to a specific squadron of men, ensuring he’s surrounded by loyal soldiers during his exile.

Writing the relationships between Cade and his men was one of the most enjoyable tasks I’ve undertaken as an author. The varied personalities and acceptance they had of their clear-cut roles helped their scenes to flow as I wrote.

Enter Natalia Volkova, Cade’s love interest and a survivor of a rebel hard labor camp he liberated in his youth. Facing certain death without her aid, Cade’s squad was forced to grow. Like that, the comfortable world of their “family” stopped making sense and my real work began.

The simple logistics of how a squad would adapt to a newcomer were overshadowed by the challenge of capturing each man’s reaction to Talia’s abrupt inclusion. I was fortunate to be able to talk to firefighters and servicemen about their experiences in similar situations. Hearing their stories helped me realize that the stories of groups like Arthur’s knights had never really stopped. The modern era had simply forced aspects of fidelity to evolve, a trait I continue to discover in more and more works of SFR.

SFR pushes us to the extremes of technology, behavior, adaptation, and exploration. But, perhaps more importantly, it challenges us to reevaluate our concepts of families and teams and their impact on romance.

How important do you feel secondary characters are in SFR? Do you have any other books you’d suggest for anyone in need of a squad-fix?


The Lawmen of the Republic: fierce, honourable, soldiers, men. But what happens when all that they’ve been told turns out to be lies?

The wars to establish the Republic are over. The families of the Ton have risen from the blood and ashes to claim the new aristocracy. Their prodigal son, First Lieutenant Alexander Cade, is the Lawmen Academy’s youngest and most successful graduate. However, his muddied bloodlines force his exile to the Northern Wastes, the last unclaimed territory of the Republic.

Lailian scout Natalia Volkova knows that her survival in a rebel labour camp rests entirely on her iron will and killing prowess. Her fierce quest for freedom is tempered by only one thing: conflicting memories of the young Republic lieutenant who helped liberate her camp, and then returned to the fold of her people’s oppressors. She never expects that their paths will cross again – under very different circumstances.

Cade’s honour limits his choices to one: take his band of specialised Lawmen into the Wastes, and protect it and its people. There, he meets Talia, a tough, resilient refugee who holds little respect for the Republic and its laws. But as a deathly outbreak leads to a desperate race for a cure, Talia and Cade will find themselves on uncertain ground: What is right is not always obvious, and what is honourable is not always right.

About the Author:

Marion Audrey Grant is fortunate to live in the rugged beauty of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. Her family’s complete support for her love of reading and writing helped lead her to graduate college with majors in Creative Writing and English. Thanks to her husband’s unending encouragement and willingness to participate in brainstorming sessions, she now works as a scribe to the intelligent women and wounded heroes who need their stories told.

Honour Bound is the second novel in her Lawmen of the Republic series. This novel and a companion novella, Lace & Lead, are both available from Escape Publishing.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the author, M.A. Grant, and not the SFR Brigade.

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