Fight fiction is making a surprising comeback recently with the advent of the Fight Card series and other old school fight stories, like Iron Hands by James Scott Bell and Cold War Heroes by Tom Johnson.
Fight Fiction is also striking out in new directions as the popularity of MMA (mixed martial arts) picks up. Novels like Suckerpunch by Jeremy Brown, Choke by Christa Faust, and the reboot of the venerable Joe Palooka as an MMA fighter are all part of the fight fiction resurgence.
So, too, are the new novelettes by Staff Sergeant Robert Evans featuring the blistering underground MMA battles of one of the toughest bastards ever, Staff Sergeant Mickey O’Quinn . . .
Dropping in to spar a few rounds with Bish’s Beat is the man himself, Robert Evans, to tell us more about his series, The O’Quinn Fights . . .
LET’S GET THE WHOLE NAME AND SERIAL NUMBER THING OUT OF THE WAY UP FRONT. TELLS US ABOUT ROBERT EVANS.
I’m a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army Reserves. I started my military career in the Navy, went to the California Army National Guard, where I deployed to Iraq with the 2688 Transportation Company, and jumped over to the Army Reserves where I’ve been for the past few years. Over all, I have more than 20 years of experience in the military.
I was born and raised in Antioch California, received my Bachelors in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College of California. I’ve worked as a stock broker, drilled oil wells in Prudhoe Bay, taught swimming, and worked in retail. Around three years after 9-11 and after I had accepted a discharge from the California Army National Guard, a close friend of mine was Commanding the 2668 Transportation Company, that got orders to deploy.
I signed back up for the guard and in December of 2004 I was sitting in a tent in Kuwait waiting to move up into Iraq. Going off to a war zone has a unique effect on women, and when I came home for leave I went to Belize with my soon to be fiancé. I returned from Iraq in December 2005 and got married in January 2006. Took a job with a municipality and moved to the Sierra foothills. I’m still in the Army Reserves, have a full-time job as an energy scheduler, I buy and sell energy for the municipality I work for, and I’m married to a wonderful wife with two beautiful, and rambunctious boys ages 5 and 3, and in what free time is left, I write.
GIVE US THE LOWDOWN ON THE O’QUINN FIGHTS.
As you said in the intro, Sergeant O’Quinn is one of the toughest bastards in the Army, and currently deployed to Iraq where, a lot of his adventures take place. He has a Platoon leader, who would rather be a fight promoter, getting him MMA bouts usually with other troops either American or Foreign, but sometimes with, the shadowy underbelly.
Sergeant O’Quinn is everyman and woman’s hero, a tough guy whose biggest weakness is cute dames with a doe eyed stare. He knows how to fight, and how to lead. He chooses the rough and tumble world of unsanctioned fighting over the glitz and glamour of the organized fighting world, with promoters and sponsors.
WHAT MADE YOU START PUTTING WORDS ON PAPER?
I realized early on, I could take the wild daydreams I had floating around in my head, write them down, and suddenly I had a story. From that time, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to create worlds, and tell stories.
DO YOU HAVE A BACKGROUND OF FIGHTING IN MMA OR ARE YOU A FAN?
I’m a huge fan of MMA, from its early beginnings with the Gracie Challenge to its current incarnation of the UFC. Before deploying to Iraq, my company went through what was then the Army’s Combatives program. I’ve gone through some of the Army’s Modern Combatives program. However, the program has changed considerably and is a very extensive course that goes beyond just fighting.
HAS THERE BEEN A REACTION FROM YOUR FELLOW SOLDIERS TO THE O’QUINN STORIES?
I have heard basically two types of reactions from soldiers; one group say they could see this sort of thing happening over there and the other says it could never happen. But regardless of how they feel about the possibility of it really happening, both sides agree the characters portrayed in the stories are true to life.
I’ve had several soldiers say, “did you pattern so and so after my Sergeant, because he sounds and acts just like him.” The Soliders really like Sergeant O’Quinn, and that the fight scenes were very real.
WHAT ARE YOUR OWN READING HABITS AND WHAT WRITERS HAVE INFLUENCE YOU?
I’m currently reading and in some cases re-reading classic science fiction, fantasy and fight stories from the 30’s and 40’s. The authors of that time had a way with words I truly enjoy reading. Unfortunately, I think that way of writing has been lost.
As far as my influences, I always look to two individuals; Robert E. Howard and Robert Heinlein. Heinlein was a monster in the Science Fiction world, and considered to be the father of SciFi. Howard on the other hand, doesn’t receive the justice he deserves, and I would have to say he is the one fight writer I’m most influenced by. While in High School I was greatly influenced by the writings of bands who created epic stories like Rush, or Blue Oyster Cult.
HOW IMPORTANT IS A BOOK'S CENTRAL CHARACTER?
Mickey O’Quinn is hugely important to the story. He is the driving character, the hero on the quest, the one that has everything to lose or everything to win. He is the embodiment of what it is to be a soldier, not just an MMA fighter, but the grunts that for eight years deployed for a year or more at a time to the middle east.
WHAT'S THE BEST PIECE OF WRITING CRAFT ADVICE YOU'VE BEEN GIVEN?
The best piece of advice was given to me years ago, shortly after high school, when I was wandering around college and taking a creative writing course just about every year. The advice was to READ. And when you find that one author of whom you you just can’t get enough, read everything they write, and study how he or she writes.
With most advice given to you at such an age, you forget about it until you’re older, and that is exactly what I did. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found the author, which made me go, “this guy is great!” and when I read everything he wrote and studied how he wrote, things started to click.
LIKE MANY OF US, YOU’VE CHOSEN TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF E-PUBLISHING. WHAT HAS THAT EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE FOR YOU?
So far, the experience has been a good one, and it’s kind of funny. Dealing with “old” school publishers, sending out query letters, and submissions, the results were generally a very cold response in a form letter. And you knew your work had sat in a slush pile, for who knows how long, until someone got stuck reading it.
But with the e-publishing, I haven’t felt the cold response of a newbie trying to break down the walls of the publishing industry. Instead I’ve sensed a greater connection with publishers over the internet, even if the piece was submitted to a committee, the whole process seems to be much more transparent, and much more open to giving writers a chance.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON YOUR COVERS?
My publisher Untreed Reads, contracts with a graphic artist to do their covers, I was involved only minimally with the decision making process, but I’m very happy with the result.
AS A NEW AUTHOR/WRITER WHAT ARE YOU FINDING TO BE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES?
HOW DOES YOUR MILITARY BACKGROUND COME INTO PLAY IN YOUR WRITING?
After spending as much time in the military as I have, it comes into play whether I want it or not. Sometimes I have to sit back and look at things from a civilian point of view. My editor is pretty good at pointing out, “someone in the military would understand that, but not everybody.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR MICKEY O’QUINN?
Mickey O’Quinn is slated for one more story to be published by Untreed Reads. I’m finishing up with that story, which still has Sergeant O’Quinn in fights for his life but takes on a more mystical plot. After all Iraq is steeped in Biblical history, and while I was deployed I saw some of the sites I read about in the Bible. But that won’t be the end of Mickey O’Quinn. I want to take him through Afghanistan and back to the United States.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ROBERT EVANS BEYOND MICKEY O’QUINN?
I really like Mickey O’Quinn, and he is a fun character to write. But I want to explore Science Fiction and Horror. Two genres I enjoyed greatly as a kid and feel that a new golden age is bubbling in the under-belly of the new pulp world of Ebooks.
Thanks, Robert, for getting in the ring with Bish’s Beat today . . .
THE O’QUINN FIGHTS #1: BASEMENT BRAWL
In this first outing of a new short story series by Staff Sergeant Robert Evans, Sergeant O'Quinn finds himself battling in an underground mixed martial arts fight in Iraq. Is the fight really just two men battling, or is it a setup for something far more dangerous for the American soldiers involved?
THE O’QUINN FIGHTS #2: FOUL FIGHT WITH A PIT VIPER
Things go awry from the moment Staff Sergeant Mickey O'Quinn arrives in Qatar. SSG O'Quinn, the brawling mixed martial arts fighter from the 4th Infantry Division, finds himself going from rescuing a frightened young American woman to landing in the middle of the toughest and deadliest underground MMA bout of his life.
Will O'Quinn win the fight and the girl? Or has he finally taken on too much?