Michael Moreci has become known for his sci fi and comics work but this summer he’s branching out into thrillers.
His Roche Limit comic trilogy is sci-fi storytelling at its best. The first part reads like a Blade Runner-esque noir thriller, the second Aliens meets the Southern Reach trilogy and the finale is reminiscent of the modern sci-fi classic Dark City. Although I’ve mentioned movies and books that the series reminds me of, it’s not derivative and all of it is big idea sci-fi grounded in personal stakes.
His first novel, just released this past January, is Black Star Renegades and is his take on the idea of a galactic warrior class tasked with stopping an evil empire. It’s a fun read.
However the reason he’s being interviewed here is his new novel The Throwaway. The book follows a Washington D.C. lobbyist who is accused of being a Russian spy and sent to Moscow in a spy swap. He’s then in a race to clear his name and get back to the good old U.S. of A.
Spy Write: To begin, I was hoping you could talk a little bit about what first drew you to writing.
Michael Moreci: Great start! I’ve been a storyteller as long as I can remember. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do—tell stories. My youth is marked by endless days and nights of reading books, reading comics, watching TV and movies. It’s what I did all the time—it’s what I still do all the time. Storytelling is just in my bones, and I’ve been lucky to be able to take my love and write both novels and comics.
SW: This has been a very busy year for you so far. Your first novel, Black Star Renegades – a riff on the original Star Wars movie and a ton of fun to read – was released in January. You have The Throwaway in June plus your original comic series, Wasted Space, just started.
How did this perfect storm of Moreci happen? Did you have this planned out or are you just riding the wave of project green lights?
MM: It’s been some year, you’re right about that. I’d like to say I have more control over how things shake out—when the work gets done, when things are released—but that would be giving myself way too much credit. The Throwaway is strange, in a sense, because it’s the one thing that’s not like the others. And I had signed on to write this almost four years ago, but it was lost in contract limbo forever. And then, one day, if dropped back into my life, and I was off to the races finishing it. It’s release is a bit of place, you can say, but I’m thrilled, beyond thrilled, that it’s happening.
SW: The Throwaway goes a bit against the grain of the spy novels released currently. They tend to fall into two categories: the slower paced British spymaster type or the US special ops spy. You cut a different path, the amateur caught up in events beyond his control. What made you go with that type of story?
MM: Funny you should mention that—The Throwaway is actually not my story. Not the genesis at least. The idea belongs to Phil Westgren and Alex Tse, screenwriters and producers, and I was hired to write it. That said, I love that it plays against type because, you’re right—there’s two type of spy novels, and The Throwaway doesn’t fit into either category. But that’s a good thing! I like getting a new take on the genre, particularly with this more character-based drama about an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary events. The protagonist, Mark, is framed as a spy and shipped off to Russia, and he was to escape even though he has no training, no preparation to do so. Not only that, but he has a wife—a pregnant wife—and a life to get back to. I love that grounding; it was my favorite thing to write. Aside from all the action, of course.
SW: What spy novels, movies, tv, etc influenced you?
MM: I read a lot of Len Deighton novels while working on this, and of course John le Carré. The Americans, without a doubt, is one of my favorite TV shows, and that was a big influence. Not only that, but I also read some John Grisham novels—he’s obviously a master of suspense but also, like we discussed, he was great at putting regular people in high-stakes situations, and I wanted to capture what he does so well.
You are the next in what is starting to become a long line of comics writers that have branched out into spy novels. Greg Rucka had his great Queen & Country series, Antony Johnston recent wrote a spy novel. Is there an advantage that writing comics gives someone who then turns their hand to a prose novel?
MM: Yes and no. I mean, in one sense, writing a comic is so very different from writing a novel—the entire process is different. But, storytelling is storytelling. All stories have structure, character, and artistry (I hope) in way one or another. So, anytime you’re flexing those storytelling muscles, you’re learning that craft more and more.
I can’t end the conversation without noting that you join a small but proud tradition of spy writers from the Chicagoland area. Andrew Grant, Brit living in Chicago had a great spy series, Bill Granger’s November Man series was well known in the 80’s and there have been others. Is there anything that growing up and living in this area adds to your writing?
MM: Chicago is a huge influence on my writing. I like to make places as important, almost as characters—places add texture to the world, they add an indelible sense of belonging. And I learned the vitalness of place by living in a place that, if you ask me, is so very vital. Chicago shaped who I am and what I do; it’s so big on personality and life—this city is one of the greatest in the world, and I don’t think I’d be the person I am without it.
SW: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk!
If you can’t wait that long, Moreci wrote the current issue of Detective Comics, #982, which is released in stores today.
From the back cover –
THROWAWAY [throh–uh-wey] – Noun – An agent who is considered expendable.
Mark Strain had it all–beautiful wife, a baby on the way, and askyrocketing career as a D.C. lobbyist. But when Mark is violently abducted from his home by masked men, everything he knows is turned upside down.
They say Mark committed treason. They say he’s a traitor to the United States.
They say he’s a spy.