Today we're talking to Rox Burkey and Charles Breakfield the co-authors of The Enigma Series which includes The Enigma Factor, The Enigma Rising and 7 others so far. Detailed information can be found at enigmaseries.com along with a free coloring book download for subscribing to their mailing list and reviews buy options at Amazon.
Please tell us a little about yourselves.
Charles: I’m native Texan, but my family moved around a lot as Dad was a decorated fighter pilot in the Air Force. I was born in Austin and when my Dad retired from military service we returned to Austin. I attended UT Austin and then diverted in to the comic book business. I ran a comic book store and a wholesale book distribution business for several years. I married and eventually moved to my current home in Dallas to raise my family. My first intro into technology was automating the ordering and accounting system. I loved technology and decided it was the right profession for me. So I jumped in and learned aspects of network infrastructure, security, on through to the high-end technology of today. I admit it, I’m a cyber techno-geek. I advise my customers on the best technology directions to suit their business objective. I hold an MBA in International Finance, but it’s the technology puzzles I gravitate toward.
Rox: I am a naturalized Texan as bestowed upon me by Charles after I lived here for 30 some odd years. I moved from California to Texas with my husband to work and raise my family. I started out in accountants’ offices planning to be a CPA but was bit by technology and data processing with a focus on driving technology changes. These days I love to map the business objectives with technology and define the positive impacts of customer and workforce experiences in making money or saving money for an organization. I like to see companies, across all verticals optimize the technology investments they have and supplement to meet their roadmap for growth. Speaking to groups about technology, digital transformation and customer experience improvements are passions of mine along with the storytelling.
How and when did you become a writer?
Charles: I actually started writing for the school newspaper finding it fun, but not as much fun as playing football and other extracurricular activities, if you get my drift. I had fun with the comic book business and was very successful. The technical writing I pursued started when I met Rox and she was writing white papers and getting paid for comprehensive points of view on a variety of technical subjects. She asked me to do a few as well, which I did. Then we landed a couple of projects to create technical non-fiction books. We wrote a couple and then contributed to some distributed by technology manufacturers.
Rox: We both were tired of the non-fictional tech books, as they were outdated almost immediately after they were published. Technology moves so fast and having it yesterday’s value-add was simply not as much fun. At that time, we both worked for technology companies as subject matter experts and trying to stay very tech current. The time constraints were too harsh.
I suggested a fictional venue to have fun and to leverage all the places we had each seen in our travels and crazy people we crossed path with in our industry.
Back to your question though, I started with poetry in high school, but for me writng really launched about 5 years ago when the series became a serious second job.
What genre do you write?
We primarily focus on the Techno-Thriller category, winning a 2017 Best Series award from Texas Authors. For this genre we combine real technology in situations containing intrigue and thriller elements with touches of romance, travel, and humor. Each story in the series has a primary focus such as The Enigma Factor with Identity Theft; The Enigma Wraith with hacking code that morphs, assembles itself from other needed code, learns its environment, and then erases itself; and The Enigma Broker with technology manipulation of commodities markets to ruin corporations and governments. Each story has a primary theme of cyber good guys versus cyber back guys. Our theme overall is Technology-Today’s weapon of choice.
How would you describe your writing style?
We talk about where we want a story to go, then Rox keeps us organized on a spreadsheet. We assign ourselves chapters we have an interest in and then write on our own schedule. We have our respective professional jobs and households to run, so I fit writing in some evenings and weekends. I know Rox does early mornings and weekends.
We play literary ping/pong until we get the chapters the way we want. My wife, Sandy, does the editor function in our little LLC. On a recent trip Sandy and I took, I took a tablet and wrote on that and sent to Rox when we hit a port. Good storytelling never sleeps.
What makes you different from other writers?
Our professional experiences play a huge roll in our stories. We have met so many different people in this industry both within the organizations to which we belonged and the customers we worked with. Added to that our being co-authors in complex stories tends to set us apart from others because we see the danger technology can be. At the end of the day the stories sound like they are a single voice. Even sandy can’t tell who crafted which pieces. We like that part. I also like the fact that Charles is teaching me how to write humor which has been really tough.
Who inspires you?
I don’t think it as much who, as it is what, although people are a huge influence. With a character universe of 150+ coupled with firsthand knowledge of voice and data networks the storytelling actually over-runs us. I think it is more the way technology and the adoption of devices has changed over time. Consumers use devices and put themselves into situations with the proliferation of social media, cybercrime, security breaches, and the rapid distribution of events. We are both avid readers of lots of genres, though Charles is a near expert in World War II history as well as technology. I read all sorts of genres though I favor spicy often.
What are you most proud of?
Winning the 2017 Best Books Award was huge, but we also won a first place short story award and are included in Texas Short Stories Volume 3. Our reviews on Kirkus have been good, but Rox is disappointed that we have not received a Star from those reviewers. We have received many 5 star reviews from different groups. The best most recent was from Audio Books Reviewer with our recent audible release of The Enigma Rising was rated above 5 star with an awesome review. We just love getting a “cyber pat on the head” for our work.
How did you come up with the title of your series and the stories?
The Enigma Machine as some of you may be aware is the foundation of today’s computer. That was the main driver for using this as the series title and a portion of each story. The other name of a title has to do with the theme of the story. Each story has its own theme and we work through a debate before moving from a working to final title.
How did you come up with the plots?
Technology today provides so many options for plots because of how people use and abuse the avenues available today. We also use some of where we see technology headed which in part is the bleeding edge of technology we look at today in our professional careers. To be honest, I think we simply sit around in the back room and think up stuff. It is really fun and always on the edge. Our discussions together make the stories and plots relevant to adults today.
Who is your favorite character and why?
We have over 150 characters in The Enigma Series universe. We like them all and the bad guys are ones we love to hate. At different times we like different characters. The R-Group, essentially the good guys, have main characters which we continue to develop with each subsequent story. Rox was particularly delighted when a couple of characters died in spectacular manners. We tend to build power characters that our readers like but they are not always on the good guy side and many of them are women. Frankly, we have more fun with the female characters. Today not enough women are in the technology field, but the numbers and contributions are growing.
We live in divisive times. Should your religion/politics influence your writing?
We write about current events, current technology, upcoming trends and some of that brushes up against extremists in both categories. We don’t make that a theme since we are striving for entertaining storytelling. You can get all the depressing news you want from mainstream media.
What are you working on now?
Today we are working on a couple projects at the same time. One is the next book in the series with a working title of The Enigma Source is focused on crypto-currency built upon Blockchain technology and how it can be abused easily today. We are also working on a short story which has a focus on more of the history of the R-Group and The Enigma Chronicles.
Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
We strive to be story tellers, not tedious techno-trainers, so we like to hear what our readers think. We like to explore different ways of sharing our stories, to the point where we enjoy speaking with any size groups about technology, stories, and ways to use technology to our advantage rather than disadvantage.
For the young writers out looking for clues on building a brilliant product that is highly polished, study the existing genre writers you want to compete with and then do your homework on production. It is not just the writing but the producing, the marketing, and the packaging AFTER you write it.
Our advice is you will be remembered forever if you deliver a poor product but only 15 minutes with a spectacular one. Always deliver a spectacular one, but do it consistently.