Welcome to the Sleeper Protocol Blog Tour. Check out the Guest Post below!
By Kevin Ikenberry
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Kieran Roark awakens in a wheelchair, unable to remember anything. As part of a classified experiment, he will have one year to learn his identity and recover his memory, or he will be euthanized by the state.
Scientist Berkeley Bennett has one mission: manipulate Kieran’s emotions in an attempt to bring back his memory. But when she falls in love with him, she is forced to make a harrowing decision that may cost Kieran his life.
What Kieran knows could save Earth from a coming war. Whether he believes the future is worth saving is another matter. Racing across an unfamiliar world in a body he does not recall, Kieran needs to discover who he was and, more importantly, who he is.
How Sleeper Protocol came to life – the power of experiences
My debut novel Sleeper Protocol started out as an 8,000 word short story entitled “Walkabout.” The story didn’t make it any farther than my critique group before I realized there was much, much more to the story. I took the portions that my group liked of the original story (some of which are still in Chapter Ten) and restructured it into the middle of a short novel version. When I finished 40,000 words of that draft, I knew two things: there was a good story developing within, but it was very flat. Writers are often told to write what we know, so I took a look at some of my own memories and experiences and delved into a third draft of the book.
This time, at 70,000 words, the book was a solid character study into identity and the search for belonging. The trouble was that the antagonist I’d chosen to work with just didn’t work. On the way to a science fiction convention with friends in 2013, I asked the question “What if (redacted) was the antagonist?” My friends looked at me in shock and said it would be really amazing, if I could pull it off.
So, I went back to the well of my own experiences in Australia, as well as camping more than six hundred days of my life through Scouting, and started over. The first draft of that new novel came together in just six weeks. I polished it by the end of the year and was ready to dive into a final edit after the first of the year. Then another experience got in the way.
It’s hard to believe it’s been two years, but during President’s Day weekend in 2014 (the same weekend this very blog will appear), I very nearly died. On my right leg, a massive infection developed in a matter of hours and gave way to a necrotizing fasciitis – the infection began to eat my skin. I spent four days in the Critical Care Unit after the infection also shut down my kidneys and sent my heart into a crazy dance of arrhythmia. As the infection came under control, the greater problem was the skin on my leg healing. All told, that took a few months. During that recovery time, I had a very difficult time writing, but with loads of encouragement from friends and mentors, I finished that review and sent the novel out into the world.
That novel became Sleeper Protocol. The experience of surviving a necrotizing fasciitis did not go unnoticed. As part of my therapy, I wrote a horror short story I titled “Hungry” for a themed anthology about viruses and bacteria. I’m hopeful it will be published soon.
The last experience of Sleeper Protocol I’ll share is the most amazing. Originally, I’d intended for the novel to be a self-contained story. I had no intention of moving forward in that particular universe with those characters. I believed that the story I’d told was simply as good as I could have made it. My editor thought differently. In the process of content edits, she asked me “What if (redacted) survived?” That one very simple question changed the outcome of the book and has led to the development of a sequel, tentatively titled Vendetta Protocol.
I’ve finished the first draft of it and it’s going to beta readers in the very near future. The point is that every thing we experience, every single day, can shape our ideas and our writing. The more chances we give ourselves to see the world and ask the crazy “what-if” questions that fly through our minds, the more enriched our lives can be. That was the approach I took when writing Sleeper Protocol, and it has undoubtedly changed the way I write for the long run.
Kevin Ikenberry’s head has been in the clouds since he was old enough to read. Ask him, and he’ll tell you that he still wants to be an astronaut. Kevin has a diverse background in space and space science education. A former manager of the world-renowned U.S. Space Camp program in Huntsville, Alabama, and a former executive of two Challenger Learning Centers, Kevin continues to work with space every day. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters. His home is seldom a boring place.
Kevin’s short fiction has appeared internationally through Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, AntipodeanSF, Mindflights, Twisted Dreams Magazine, and most recently in the anthology Extreme Planets, available from Chaosium.