Author interview with Kevin Lee Swaim of ‘The Chimera Strain’

Author Interview with Kevin Lee Swaim

The Office of Threat Management still watches over the world and the StrikeForce technology gives John an amazing edge, but will it be enough to prevent a man bent on attacking the United States and reducing it to a third-world power?


One of the things I love most is following the author journey, and today Kevin Lee Swain has returned to chat about ‘The Chimera Strain’, his writing journey and what’s been going on in his life. Kevin, thanks so much for coming back to chat about your adventures in writing and beyond. First things first, what’s been a recent highlight of your lift?

My friend is the tour manager for the heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch. I built him a guitar and presented it to him when Five Finger Death Punch played their sold-out show at the Illinois State Fair.



That’s awesome! I hope there were some awesome jams played on that guitar that night. When you’re not building bespoke guitars I’m guessing that you’re out there working on new titles to keep your readers satisfied. How is your author journey progressing with this?

I continue to build my fan base around the world. I’m constantly surprised by the amount of email I receive from my fans in the UK, Europe, and Australia!



It’s so much fun to build an author brand and fan base, but building it internationally must give you that extra buzz! Where did the buzz start while you were working on ‘The Chimera Strain’?

It started with the scene of John Frist attacking a team of mercenaries in the woods.



Now, I’m guessing that unlike John you haven’t been attacking teams of mercenaries, but I do wonder if there were any other parts of the novel that were inspired by events in real life events.

I was lucky enough to get feedback from many active and former service members.



That’s really cool. What kinds of things did you learn from these service members?

I learned a lot about how the SEALs perform their underwater demolitions. I also learned a hell of a lot about permissive action links.



Learning about underwater demolitions sounds like a great day at work! Moving above the water, let’s move our focus to the stars of the novel, the characters. The Chimera Strain is a part of a series, so we’ve already seen these characters in the past.

Yes, each character started with a quick sketch that I fleshed out during the first novel, Project StrikeForce.



After their experiences in Project StrikeForce, what did you want your characters to explore in this book?

I really wanted to play around with the generational themes and the long-term consequences of the older generation’s attempt to change world events.



What did you love most about this project and tackling these generational themes!

I’m just glad to get it done without going crazy!



*Laughs* Well, I think you made it through without becoming crazy this time. But there’s still next time! What’s next on the cards in your author journey?

I’m currently halfway through the next Sam Harlan novel, Deal With The Devil.



Good luck dealing with the devil! I hope that you can get out alive! What is it about writing that keeps you alive and returning to the challenge of authorship?

For the money, for the glory, and for the fun. But, mostly for the money. (That’s a quote from the movie Smokey and The Bandit)



Well, if you’re going to quote something then you should quote right, and I think that’s a great example of a quote done right! Obviously, the money, the glory and the fame are important, but what circles around your head when you’re tapping away?

I try to write each book for my college mentor, David Foster Wallace.



I really love that idea of having your mentor in mind. Once you have your mentor in mind, how do you go about planning your novel will go?

I usually have the ending and middle prepared. Sometimes I’ll have the beginning, and other times I have to figure it out as I go.



How does the process of figuring it out actually look like when you’re in writing mode? What happens when you get in front of that keyboard?

I try and get a minimum of 2000 words a day.



2000 words is a pretty solid daily target. Once your draft is done with your compounding collection of 2000 words per day, how do you go through the editing and refinement process?

I’m lucky to work with a fantastic set of editors and proofreaders!



Has working with this fantastic set of editors and proofreaders helped your author voice?

I continue to try and be the Elmore Leonard of action-adventure novels.



*Laughs* That’s a good target to aim for. When you’re aiming your words what, besides being the Elmore Leonard of action-adventure novels are you targeting for? What mantras drive your words?

Make your word count. Then, revise. Writing IS rewriting!



What’s the best way to make your words count in the first instance to cut down on the rewriting tedium?

You want to learn to plot? It’s as simple as denying the Hero!



*Laughs* I hope the hero is the only one who needs to be denied, as I’m keen to continue our exploration of the Kevin Lee Swaim the author through our quick-fire question round. Let’s see how you think, with our first question, if you’re in a vehicle going the speed of light, what happens when you turn on the headlights?

You time travel back to the fifties where you must force your mother and father to date to save your own life.



*Laughs* That sounds like it would be a great story to tell, I wonder why it’s never been done before. Since we can’t go back to the future yet, let’s move to Batman. What happens if Batman gets bitten by a vampire?

Batman becomes a Bat/Man.



Go Bat/Man! We’ve done a little animal creation there, but if you could take it further and breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?

I would breed an octopus with a firefly so I would have eight lamps always at the ready.



*Laughs* Very handy! Oh, what an awful pun. Maybe the magic of words can restore the negative balance created by the bad pun. What’s your favourite word?




Oooh, that is a good one, but unlike that word today’s chat is just about fully formed. To round out this formation, can you share your favourite line from ‘The Chimera Strain’ that you feel might tempt readers forth?

“So much for their perfect killing machine.”



A little intrigue and mystery to bring our thoughts together today. I wonder what they will do without their killing machine; best revisit ‘The Chimera Strain’ and find out!

Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘The Chimera Strain ( ASIN: B00RW1V8LK )‘.

Want to find out more about Kevin Lee Swaim? Connect here!

Author Interview with Kevin Lee Swaim of ‘Project StrikeForce’



John Frist was a good soldier, until his Humvee was hit by an IED in Iraq. Discharged, he carries out one of the worst terror attacks in US history. Captured and brainwashed, he is remade by Project StrikeForce into a technologically enhanced super-soldier. Now he must find a former Mujahideen, Abdullah the Bomber, before Abdullah can strike the US with a terror attack of his own.
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity today to catch up with the military thriller writer, Kevin Lee Swain about his book ‘Project StrikeForce’.

Kevin, thank you for setting side time for us to talk today. You write very action packed, fast paced thrillers with great detailing, where did your drive to write books like this come from?
I loved the action adventure books of the sixties and seventies. Books like The Executioner and The Destroyer. I also love Elmore Leonard. I wondered if I could marry the two. Then, I read the story of a soldier denied emergency leave by a mistake at the Red Cross, who helps facilitate military leave when there is a death in the family.

I can see how a story like that would leave such as strong impression on you and contribute to the ideas behind this book. Did you use any of your personal experiences in your book as well?
I actually consulted with many family and friends who were in various branches of the military. Any mistakes in the book are my own, either because I chose to ignore their feedback or because I thought it hampered the plot. Make no mistake, though. They gave me fantastic advice!

And did you need to supplement their advice with any additional research?
I did extensive research on everything from roof ballast rock to improvised IED’s. A lot of detail got cut as I tried to make it more character driven than tech driven. And, of course, some facts were stretched. It IS fiction, after all.

Stretching the truth is the best thing about fiction. Now, as you’ve mentioned that you tried to put the focus onto your characters, how did you ensure that they were developed with enough strength to be believable in the story?

I wrote detailed character sheets before I started, but was amazing when some of the bit players became much more integral to the plot than I’d planned.

Who was your favourite character to write?
I actually liked writing Abdullah, the Bomber. He’s not out to attack the United States on a whim. He has a legitimate complaint about how he was treated, and about how he feels betrayed. It was important that I show how serious his faith was to him.

Do you ever dream about your characters?
All the time. They won’t stop talking to me!

I think it’s the sign of a good character if they won’t stop talking! As you mentioned earlier in the interview, your cross between action adventure books and the work of Elmore Leonard was deliberate, did you also consciously decide to include certain themes into this book?
Yes. I actually liked the circular story telling of Oedipus the King, and tried to emulate that kind of circular storytelling in Project StrikeForce.

I really like circular storytelling too. Did you find writing that style of story the most rewarding thing about writing the book? Or was it something else?
The editing, actually. There I was able to take a mishmash of storytelling and whittle it down into a coherent plot. I started at 109,000 words and wound up with 91,500.

If you were working with mishmashes of stories, you must have completed a fair amount of the editing yourself?
Yes. I try to do three to four rounds of editing and rewriting before sending it to my beta readers. Then, I’ll do another round of rewriting and a round of editing and proofing before sending to my editor for development editing. Another round of rewriting and then it’s off to another set of beta readers before sending to my proofreader.

And did you use any specific writing techniques to get to the stage were you could send it out to beta readers?
I try to write 2,000 words a day, but I’ll settle for 1,000. I type and use dictation, but all rewrites are done with my trusty red pen.

And using these methods, how long did it take for you to write the book?
It took about six months from first page to final draft.

And when you got the final draft you obviously choose this pretty awesome cover to match your story. Where did you get it designed?
Debbie at She’s simply amazing!

Now, that you’ve gotten ‘Project StrikeForce’ completed, what are you working on next?
I’m currently working on the third Project StrikeForce novel.
Good luck with the next instalment. As you’ve successfully published a novel, do you have any tips for self-publishing for others?
Set a goal and make your word count. You can’t do anything until you get the first draft finished!

That is very true, you do need to get that first draft done. How did you feel when you got your first book review?
I felt sick to my stomach. I had no idea what to expect!

As you’re not a full time writer, what do you do for a living?
I’m the SME (Subject Matter Expert) for Intrusion Prevention Systems at an insurance company in the Midwest. I try not to put in too much hacking linger. I don’t want to go all l33t speak.

I’m happy enough to get into the l33t speak, but I think the readers may have other ideas so we’ll have to continue with the reading theme, and you can let us know your favourite authors, and whether or not your think that they have influenced your writing?
There are so many. From Elmore Leonard and Cormac McCarthy to Clifford D. Simak and Robert Heinlein. They’ve all had an influence.

What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading The Pentagon’s Brain; An uncensored history of DARPA.

That sounds like an interesting read, I will check it out. Going back in time now, what was your favourite book as a child?
As a twelve-year-old, I loved Methuselah’s Children and Time Enough For Love. I also loved Catch-22. Odd choices, I guess.

Who is your favourite literary character?
I’m quite fond of Walt Longmire, by Craig Johnson.

Is there a book that you wish that you would have written?
Ready Player One. God, I love that book.

What are you opinions on the future of reading, writing and publishing?
I think the publishing industry is in for a massive change. I don’t think the trade publishers are prepared for it.

I have to agree, technology is making major changes in the publishing world. It should be interesting to see how it develops. And now we’re on to my favourite round, the Quick Fire Round. Take a deep breath and answer the next set of questions without too much hesitation.
Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Work just hard enough to not get fired for just enough money not to quit. Hah, no, I don’t live by that, but it sounds good.

What is your favourite quote?
I love something my Dad tells me all the time. “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die to get there.”

If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
Renee O’Connor’s heart. I was madly in love with her when I was younger!

What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
Tijuana Hooker. Also, Harry Chin. What were their parents thinking?

Those names are unfortunate, and I agree, the parents were probably not thinking too much about the consequences. Hopefully they changed their names when they got old enough!
Finally, Is there a question that you haven’t been asked that you think I should have asked you today?
I was once asked what item I’d take to a deserted island. The answer is a cornucopia machine, because then I could make anything I needed.

I do like that question and I might use in the future, but I really like your answer. Good thinking there. Kevin, I’d like to thank you again today for granting myself and the readers a bit of insight into the mind of a successful action/adventure novelist. I wish you the best of luck for your promotion of ‘Project StrikeForce’ and I’ll be looking forward to seeing the release of the third Project StrikeForce instalment.


Want to connect with Kevin?  You can find him here: