Author Interviews

Interview with Mike Chen

I knew as soon as I finished Here and Now and Then that I had to interview Mike about this stunning book. It brought me back to everything I love about science fiction that invokes emotions. To the Doctor Who episodes that inspired me to ask questions and believe. Without further ado, let’s get into the heart of the interview.


Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.

Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.

I’ve already compared reading Here and Now and Then to how it felt watching Doctor Who, but can you tell me about your experience with the series. Which is your favorite doctor? What was your first episode, and what is your favorite?

These are just some of the goodies you can get if you pre-order (not the sonic)

I’m old enough to remember Tom Baker episodes on PBS as a kid, so I knew of the show. As a kid who ate up sci-fi in many different forms, it piqued my curiosity but the inconsistent viewing slots and the poor production values turned me off. So like most Americans, I discovered it during the reboot period. I’d heard plenty about it through the sci-fi grapevine, but I didn’t dive in until after season 6. My wife had random episodes recorded on our DVR, and I think just through nerd osmosis, I knew about regeneration and different actors, so I saw several out of order — I distinctly remember Army of Ghosts/Doomsday (those 3D glasses), Let’s Kill Hitler, and The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. We eventually decided, as all good geek couples do, that we’d start from the reboot’s first episode. We churned through it pretty quick, just in time for the premiere of season 7 (Asylum of the Daleks).

At the time, both Netflix and Amazon Prime had the classic series. I adore the minutia of rich franchise canons, so having that type of rich history to dive into was like geek candy to me. When my daughter was born, my wife and I took turns doing the midnight feedings, and one of my go-to picks for 3 AM bottle feeding was classic Who.
I like to say that I love all the Doctors equally because they’re all DIFFERENT. Which is totally true, but if I was in the Master’s murder contraption and had to pick just one, it’d be David Tennant.
True story: I was at a dinner at WorldCon with a bunch of geeky writers and we were having this exact discussion and we all said David Tennant at the same time.
My favorite modern episodes would have to be David Tennant’s Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Damned and Peter Capaldi’s Heaven Sent. For the Library episodes, I use those to break in new viewers and it has always hooked them. As for the Capaldi episode, I love the sheer perseverance of it. When I’m having a shitty day, I’ll sometimes just thinking about the Doctor punching through that wall, crack by crack over a billion years.
For classic Who episodes, my favorites would probably be The Mind Robber (Troughton) and Genesis Of The Daleks (Baker).

Can you talk to me about a time in science fiction pop culture where you felt seen or represented? I’ve been thinking a lot about when I was younger and whether I saw myself reflected in the SF books and pop culture recently.

It’s not a lot, honestly. It’s changing of course. And I wrote a piece for Lit Celebr-asian exploring my own struggles with this. Much of it was unconscious, like the lack of representation doubled down on my own internal shame. I remember at PAX 2013 when I cosplayed as Glenn from The Walking Dead. I was in the con’s cosplay contest and when they asked who I was, I joked “I’m the only badass Asian guy on TV.”
I made fun of it then but as a creator, I’m starting to understand the depths of that internalized shame and my own ability to help move the needle. I am so thankful that 2018 was the year of Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther. Diverse rep across the board in huge mainstream visibility is going to do so much for the next generation.

There are so many references that come back later in the book to have great significance. How was writing these objects? Did you always know they were going to be a piece of the story or did they turn that way?

It wasn’t necessarily planned. I knew I would have a character in Heather who was a geek, and that was something she would pass down to her daughter. The use of references though, the ones that made it in there just wound up feeling right for the moment. I also tried to be careful because if you quote too much, there are legal issues around that so I tried to be selective and really find something perfect for the moment if I was going to go there.

If you could time travel to any time period in the past, where would you go?

Oh boy. (Yes, that’s a Quantum Leap joke.) That is tough because if I’m going as myself, then the stigma of being a POC would follow me. Even if I went to the 60s or 70s, it’d still factor in. So let’s assume that race was not a factor in my destination. If that was the case, I’d probably base my decisions on all the musicians and shows I wanted to see in their prime. Joy Division in Manchester, David Bowie circa Diamond Dogs, U2 on the War tour.

How did you find your way to becoming an author? Did you always want to write a book or did you get an idea and it turned into a book?

This was the third manuscript I queried to agents. It was the fifth I’d written overall; out of that group, only one has been revised heavily and repurposed into further material (my second standalone book, coming January 2020). The rest of them were all learning experiences but they will stay thankfully buried on a hard drive somewhere. They’re all pretty bad, but necessary as I figured out craft and story structure. I wish I could say there was some magic formula but it really was a combination of hard work, a willingness to learn and accept feedback, and finding a groove in what I wanted to write (character stories in a sci-fi setting).

Are you able to talk about, or tease us, with snippets of upcoming work or current projects you are working on?

I mentioned my second book, currently titled THE PAUSE. We’re kind of just starting to talk about it now but I don’t want to unroll anything publicly until my publisher says go. So the very top level comp I can say right now is that it was pitched as STATION ELEVEN meets ABOUT A BOY, and it’s about a wedding planner, former pop star, single dad, and his young daughter as they cross paths after an apocalyptic virus has wiped 3/4 of humanity.

Are there hidden Easter Eggs in Here and Now and Then besides Star Trek and Doctor Who?

There’s a Quantum Leap easter egg in there when I describe the history of time travel. The Who ones are actually subtle outside of the discussions in the story. Some of the protocol numbers are significant in Who history, and the cafe where Kin and Markus meet is named after Donna Noble and her dad.
I do have to point out that there’s a Voyager reference very early in the book. My wife adores Voyager and my agent (mistakenly) believes Janeway is a better captain than Picard. I actually have not seen too much Voyager but the reference worked for the scene’s conversation.

If you had to name your top SF influences, maybe a To Watch list for this book, what would they be?

I know I’ve been a bit overt with my Trek and Who references, but they really did influence the creation of this story. Seriously, TNG’s The Inner Light and the 10th Doctor’s School Reunion were both episodes that factored in. I’d wound up seeing them back to back or close to each other when I was fishing for a new story idea, and the way they showed the impact of time — or missing time — on relationships really stuck with me. I’d seen them before on their own, but pairing them together triggered one of those plot bunnies that just like to appear sometimes. So thanks 10th Doctor and Jean-Luc Picard, this book would not exist without you.

Here and Now and Then!

You still have time to pre-order a copy of Here and Now and Then and to get in for some amazing goodies:

1) A cool bookmark and a signed bookplate for the first 50 people to submit.

2) Bonus 1: 3 random submissions will be selected for a Kindle copy of any book by the lovely authors that blurbed my book: Fran Wilde, Delilah S. Dawson, Kat Howard, Michael Moreci, or Cass Morris.

3) Bonus 2: 1 random submission will be selected to receive a signed and hand-annotated ARC of HERE AND NOW AND THEN. Yes, that lucky winner will find out all the secret Doctor Who Easter Eggs and much more, all in my messy handwriting (sorry).

I think this book is fabulous and you can check out my review.


Are you a Doctor Who fan? You know what question is coming….

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.