The Hardest Part: Ian J. Malone on Red Sky Dawning

Durham author Ian J. Malone‘s 2013 science fiction debut Mako introduced a team of five “thirty-something” friends who become the first-ever group to beat the (fictional, at least for now!) video game “Mako Assault”. Flown to meet the game’s mysterious designer, they learn that the game’s intent was far more than entertainment: the game was designed to train and identify just such a group of human players, desperately needed in an interstellar war. (If you’re thinking of The Last Starfighter you may be on to something.) Two years later Malone returns with Red Sky Dawning, a sequel set five years after the climactic battle of his debut, and here writes about the hardest part in expanding the adventure-scoped story from Mako into a star-spanning web of politics, worlds, and characters. Sort of. You’ll see. Read on!

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By Ian J. Malone:

Hola gang! Greetings from the Bull City!

On the whole, I’d dare say Red Sky Dawning was a harder book to write than its predecessor, Mako, in nearly every way. Whereas Mako was, at its core, the story of five college friends fleeing their thirty-somethings lives for one last grand adventure, Red Sky Dawning is a true coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of an interstellar civil war. There was political intrigue to write, plus tons of new characters, ships, tech, and worlds to introduce — all of which had to be explained and fleshed out while advancing the stories of everything and everyone that came before it in the series’ book one. That’s A LOT of juggling, people. We’re talking Barnum & Bailey, here. So was any of it the “hardest part?”


The hardest part of writing Red Sky Dawning, just as it was for Mako, was penning a book that looked, read, and performed on the page like… well, a book. You see, I’ve never physically read one. Not one the length of a Mako book, anyway. That’s because I’m legally blind, and do all of my reading via audio. So while I can certainly tell you what a great book sounds like, I’m mostly clueless as to what it looks like in black and white text. Punctuation, sentence structure, spellings (frickin’ homonyms!), action tags, use of italics; these are all things I’ve learned, and continue to learn, in the name of building a story that everyone, sighted or not, can access.

Sidebar: This is the part where I give a big, fat unsolicited plug to my editing team at Red Adept Editing in Garner. They’re great folks, and a real credit to their craft.

Other times where my disability causes issues are when dealing with facial expressions, body language, distant objects, sprawling landscapes, or anything else that might require 20/20 vision to process in a real-life setting.

Having said all of that, and flipping the proverbial frown upside down, I will destroy me some dialogue. Tone, syntax, character voice, flow, tempo, inflection; these are all things that I key on in my daily interactions with people, and they totally inform my style as a writer. I love writing dialogue, absolutely love it. It’s like my Linus blanket. Anytime I’m stuck between the Scylla and Charybdis of mandatory exposition and story pacing, I know I can always retreat to my sanctuary between the quotation marks and reacquire my center. Trust me, that happens a lot, too.

I guess to paraphrase Adam Sandler, dialogue ‘is my home,’ and I love ‘to go in there!’

So, there you have it… my yin-yanged edition of The Hardest Part. Big thanks to Sam and the Bull Spec staff for this opportunity to share, and see y’all around the Triangle!

PS: Feel free to check me out on Amazon, Audible, B&N, or anywhere else books are sold. I’m also on shelves at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, and coming soon to the Durham Public Library.


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Ian J. Malone (courtesy of Sharkflight Publishing)

As a graduate of Florida State University, I’ve written in a number of arenas over the years ranging from public health to news and sports.  When it comes to my fictional work, however, I’m a firm believer that nothing shapes an author’s writing like experience.  That’s why I credit my tenures in radio, law enforcement, sport management, and the military for much of my thematic inspiration, plus the legion of family and friends who’ve stood with me along the way.

Beyond writing, I’m an avid fan of audiobooks and sports, though it’s also not uncommon to find me at a concert (LOVE music!), a movie, or somewhere out by a grill.

At present, I reside in Durham, North Carolina with my incredible wife, son, and our two dogs — but I’ll always be a “Florida boy” at heart.


Five years after the historic Battle of Dulaston, Danny Tucker, Lee Summerston, and the Renegades have settled nicely into life on Aura — yet none more so than Tucker.  Fueled by a rising career as an ASC staff sergeant and a love unlike any he’s ever known, Danny is in the prime of his life and at last free of the demons that have stalked him for years.

Some demons never die, though, and when an old enemy beckons to settle a personal score, Danny soon finds himself swept up in the backlash of a climaxing civil war, and straight into the crosshairs of a father’s bloodlust for revenge.

RED SKY DAWNING is the much-anticipated sequel to 2013’s MAKO, and the tale of one man’s quest to bury his past and protect those dearest to him as the fate of billions hangs in the balance.

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One Response to The Hardest Part: Ian J. Malone on Red Sky Dawning

  1. Pingback: June newsletter: Darin Kennedy, Stacey Cochran, Karissa Laurel, Brian Posehn, “Noir at the Bar”, the Manly Wade Wellman Award nominees, and more | Bull Spec

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