Daniel Micko isn't afraid to write about life in the margins. In fact, he relishes it.
In his first book, "The Moonshine Wars," Micko tells the story of three generations of the Kincaid family. It explores bi-racial friendships, bi-racial romances, and bi-racial families.
His newest book, "Predator/Nomad," which released in August, explores the ethics of cloning and the potential inherent flaws in the field of genetic research. One of the main characters is a charismatic transgender Saudi princess. Her job is to protect her brother around the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She becomes romantically involved with a brilliant, renowned geneticist. As she learns about her lover, we wonder if these two perceived heroines are actually villains – and how should we feel about them?
The book is earning praise in early reviews. Micko "writes with deft execution of vernacular, touches on dark issues, and doesn't compromise with excellent prose," according to Amazon Reviews, BlueInk Review named him an Author of the Week.
"Featuring a morally perplexing, yet fiendishly brilliant protagonist who specializes in human cloning, this slick novel has a few bombshells sure to take even the most thoughtful reader by surprise," Indie Book Review noted.
Micko's newest work is influenced by real-world experience. When he was working his way through college, he worked in an animal research lab. He participated in a study about angiogenesis – which uses stem cells to regenerate vessels within the heart.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, that's crazy!’” Micko says. “I just kind of ran with that (idea) over the years and just kind of pontificated on 'What are the implications of that? What can happen?'" "Stem cell research isn't just legal," he adds, “there are a lot of protections allowing for further research.” He includes a speech given by President George W. Bush about human cloning that "really touches on what we're willing to do to get ahead in the science game," Micko says. "It's kind of terrifying, but it's also kind of exciting."
Micko didn't set out to make Princess Saleh transgender, but as he was outlining the story, “I was starting to hear this and see that. A lot of their motivations are from being marginalized and from being on the outskirts of their culture, of their society,” he says. “They talk about how ‘I made these choices because I was an outcast, and people shun me, so I decided to do my own thing.’ And that really sparked the ethical debate that's in the book.”
Many early readers see the scientist as the villain, which is precisely the opposite of what Micko anticipated as the story unfolded. But he recognizes the ambiguity of their roles and now delights in that complexity.
“It really seems like the main character changed” in Predator/Nomad, he says, “and I didn't expect that to happen at all.
“People are interpreting one character to be more prominent than the one I intended and I've never encountered that before,” he adds. “But I thought that was pretty cool. Nobody’s taking the Price Laurel character as the one they’re rooting for. That's fascinating. It seems like readers are rooting for the bad guy, basically.”
Micko's writing process is heavily influenced by his time in film school. He spent a lot of time working on screenplays, treatments, pitch meetings, and storytelling that set no limits to the imagination.
“We were encouraged to go really far out there,” he says.
Sometimes, it was great. Sometimes, Micko fell on his face. But it taught him to be fearless in exploring ideas. He still thinks in scenes, or what he calls “visions.” Those visions inspire details and concepts. Micko jots down notes about the plot or the characters and follows where they take him.
As he reflects on what to do next, Micko is tempted to return to his first book. “The Moonshine Wars,” released in 2016, is inspired by what he didn’t see on the literary landscape: stories and characters exploring the biracial experience.
“I thought, ‘I’m a biracial male, and I’d love to tell a story that’s similar to mine,’” he says.
One Goodreads reviewer lauds Micko's “bravery, authenticity and vulnerability” in how he spina a tale that is deeply infused with personal experiences.
Another calls Moonshine Wars, “a brilliant insight into life in rural Georgia in the days of lynchings and gang wars, from the perspective of a white family who, bar the progenitor, aren’t racist at heart but who aren't about to be heroes.”
The story at the heart of Moonshine Wars isn't finished, Micko says.
“I really want to take those characters and keep pushing forward,” he says. “It’s historical fiction, but I think it’s going to connect with the present.”
It may take two books to finish the story, he says. It may take more. But he’s undaunted. He’s used to telling stories with no limits.