eSpec Books interviews Jack Campbell, author of The Sister Paradox, now funding on Kickstarter, http://tiny.cc/Novels2016
eSB: Hi Jack, thank you for joining us. We are here to talk about your upcoming novel, The Sister Paradox. Can you tell us a little about how you came to write this novel?
JC: One day I had a random thought about a boy meeting a sister he didn’t have. I can’t remember anything that triggered it, just some scene about a guy trying to come to grips with meeting his non-existent sister. Then I imagined him having to take her home to his mother, and how the mother would react to suddenly discovering that she had a teenage daughter. After that, the whole rest of the story rolled out pretty fast.
eSB: As an urban fantasy novel, this is a bit different from your usual fare of military science fiction or steampunk, what challenges did you face?
JC: In some ways this was a bit easier, sort of like being GM for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I laid out the background for the player characters, set them onto their quest, encountering various puzzles and challenges and monsters on the way, and let them handle things. The biggest challenge was remembering those heady, early days of D&D (I’ve got the original rules published in 1973 when I was pretty young and orcs were orcs) to build a proper quest for my characters. The nice thing about writing SF or fantasy of any sort is that anything can be research. You never know what might come in handy for a story. So, experience with fencing helps understand sword fights, different myths of dragons gives different ways of seeing them, and so on. The biggest challenge is always to combine things into a story and background that are unique yet familiar, and recruit characters who readers will want to follow through the story.
eSB: What inspired you to write a young adult novel? Is it something you’ve been kicking around for a while, or did the idea ambush you?
JC: It just hit me. I’ve always been a fan of works like those of Andre Norton and Edgar Rice Burroughs and Heinlein’s juveniles, and perhaps those inspired this sort of adventure suddenly hitting someone head-on story. My stories tend to be the sort that people of all ages can enjoy because that’s just the way I write. The protagonists are sometimes older and sometimes younger, but adventure knows no age limits.
eSB: Did you do any research in preparation for writing The Sister Paradox? Can you tell us something about it?
JC: As I said earlier, everything is research. Anyone writing about a setting like Kari’s world needs to have a good background in different mythologies of the world, mythical creatures, and how other authors have handled such stories and worlds in the past. Aside from that, the biggest part for me in preparing to write is figuring out the rules for the story. One thing that always bothers me in a story is if important things seem to be completely arbitrary. Something has to be done because the plot demands it. There’s a time limit that doesn’t seem to have any reason behind it. That sort of thing. So when I’m preparing a story I try to both lay out how things work in the story, and what can’t be done, because in the end what your characters can’t do can be more important than what they can do. Just like in real life. We are forced into difficult decisions because we can’t do something else that would be a lot easier. It’s the same for characters in a story. There need to be good, structural reasons why they can’t do common sense things to solve their problems without facing terrible challenges. Why does the big thing need to be done? Why does it have to be done now? Why won’t various short-cuts work? Even fantasy should feel real in the sense of “this could happen, and if it did it would work like this.” That was Tolkien’s genius in The Lord of the Rings. He treated his world as real, which meant what happened made sense, and that made it all the more powerful a story.
eSB: Was it difficult to shift gears from writing in adult heads to writing teen boys and girls?
JC: We never really leave high school, do we? Those days and how we thought and the things we did stay with us. (Even when we really wish we could forget a lot of them.) I delved into those times, remembering how simple many things seemed and yet how complicated it all was, and how the world turned out to be a bit different from what it appeared during those years. There’s an idealism that’s already being battered by experience, and an intensity of feelings that isn’t tempered by “been there, done that.” And above all else, anything still seems to be possible. Like having your world turned upside down, or actually living up to your dreams of doing something important.
eSB: Could you tell us about one of your most amusing experiences promoting your books?
JC: When I was going around to bookstores in the UK a couple of years ago, my British publisher (Titan) sent a young lady to make sure I didn’t get lost and showed up where I was supposed to when I was supposed to. It turned out that she had been an extra in the last Harry Potter movie. What had she played? She was a Slytherin. Once I thought about it, that made perfect sense. Where else would publishers recruit from to find people willing to be editors?
eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
JC: My Pillars of Reality series (“YA Dystopian Steampunk Fantasy SciFi Action-Adventure Romance” starting with The Dragons of Dorcastle), my Lost Fleet series (space opera/military SF starting with Dauntless), and my Lost Stars series (more space opera/military SF) beginning with Tarnished Knight.
eSB: What other projects do you have coming up?
JC: There are two trilogies in the works. One is The Genesis Fleet trilogy, set in the Lost Fleet universe centuries before the events in the Lost Fleet. It covers the period when humanity was rapidly expanding into that part of space, and has a bit of a wild west feel to it. The first book in that trilogy is Vanguard, due out in May. The other is the Legacy trilogy, a follow-on to the Pillars of Reality series. The first book in that series will be Daughter of Dragons and should come out from Audible around the first of the year. Plus the Lost Fleet comics, the first edition of which is currently planned for early 2017.
Jack Campbell (John G. Hemry) is the author of the New York Times best-selling Lost Fleet series, the Lost Stars series, and the “steampunk with dragons” Pillars of Reality Series. His most recent books are THE LOST STARS – SHATTERED SPEAR, THE LOST FLEET: BEYOND THE FRONTIER – LEVIATHAN, and the Pillars of Reality novels THE SERVANTS OF THE STORM and THE WRATH OF THE GREAT GUILDS. In May, VANGUARD will be published, the first in a new trilogy set centuries before the events in The Lost Fleet series. John’s novels have been published in eleven languages. This year, Titan will begin bringing out a Lost Fleet comic series. His short fiction includes works covering time travel, alternate history, space opera, military SF, fantasy, and humor.
John has also written articles on declassified Cold War plans for US military bases on the Moon, and Liberating the Future: Women in the Early Legion (of Superheroes) in Sequart’s Teenagers From the Future. At somewhat erratic intervals he presents his talk on Everything I Needed To Know About Quantum Physics I Learned From The Three Stooges, showing how Stooge skits illustrate principles of quantum physics.
John is a retired US Navy officer, who served in a wide variety of jobs including surface warfare (the ship drivers of the Navy), amphibious warfare, anti-terrorism, intelligence, and some other things that he’s not supposed to talk about. Being a sailor, he has been known to tell stories about Events Which He Says Really Happened (but which cannot be verified by any independent sources). This experience has served him well in writing fiction.
He lives in Maryland with his indomitable wife “S” and three great kids (all three on the autism spectrum).
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