Today we have space opera and steampunk writer Jon Del Arroz with us. Jon is the writer of the top-10 Amazon bestselling space opera, Star Realms: Rescue Run. His second novel, For Steam And Country, released this summer. He hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, is a guest contributor to the Hugo Nominated Castalia House blog and regularly posts to delarroz.com.
Join me in welcoming Jon!
1) Everyone seems to have a “how I got published” story. What is yours?
My first publishing experience was entering a short story contest for a cash prize, which ended up in an anthology. I just submitted blindly and won it! It was pretty cool. After that, I came to the publisher for my first book, Star Realms: Rescue Run, by talking to the publisher at a bar at the San Diego Comic-Con and convincing them that my high energy and enthusiasm would sell books (buying drinks might have helped…). It was unusual in that I pitched the concept and got it all sorted out with them prior to writing the book, which meant I didn’t have to write on spec.
2) When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
I think the first time I realized it was when I was sitting in an English class in high school and scribbling down some Star Trek fan fiction. I didn’t pay attention in that class at all (Sorry Ms. Tuuri!).
3) Tell us a little about your books.
I write space opera and steampunk.
My first book is Star Realms: Rescue Run is a space opera that ties into the popular deckbuilding game and app. It’s completely readable on its own without knowing the game, however. I wrote the story to be a really cool, easy to follow adventure. Joan is a thief and smuggler who’s been conscripted by her government to break into an enemy prison and rescue her Star Empire’s top strategist. It has a bit of a Star Wars: Rogue One element to it but a lot less dark.
In June I came out with my first steampunk adventure, For Steam And Country, which is the story of a girl who inherits an airship and has to make hard choices as she’s thrust into the middle of a war. It’s a completely fun coming-of-age hero’s journey with some YA elements that is great to read for all ages.
Next up are going to be The Gravity of the Game, which is a novella that’s like Field of Dreams in space, and The Stars Entwined, which is my first space opera world of my own. It’s going to have a Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet-style story to it. I’m very excited to share that one as I intend on using that world to launch a lot of books in the future.
4) What are some of the strongest influences on your writing?
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 were both big influences on me getting into space opera. They had epic wars and good personal characters that you could attach to. Those shows really had it all, and they had a bit of optimism to them that we don’t see in shows much these days. On the prose side, Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Elizabeth Moon are probably my biggest influences. I love the way they blend romance with the adventure elements of sci-fi, and I try to create a similar feel with my books. Jody Lynn Nye’s writing class at Dragon*Con did a lot for me as well – she is the best!
5) How do you write? What’s a normal writing day like for you?
I sit down, throw headphones on and make sure I finish a scene/chapter a day, or more if it’s a short one that I start out in. I type very fast and close my eyes so that I can immerse myself and really see the world I’m creating. It’s all about getting the feeling, and forcing myself into a zone if I’m not feeling it that day. I usually do this on a lunch break at work or at the end of the day when I’m about to go to bed. I also write daily for my blog which gets 10,000+ readers a week now. I do that when I’m drinking my coffee each morning after waking up.
6) Who are your books aimed at? If applicable: What are some of the challenges of writing for your audience?
I have two audiences right now – more of a YA adventure reading audience and a military sci-fi audience, and it’s because of the two different books I put out. I think it’s easier for my YA readers to cross over into my sci-fi than it is for the military sci-fi crowd to cross over into the steampunk. The latter gets very serious about battle tactics and things like that needing some more in-depth description, and with For Steam And Country, I just wanted to create more of a swashbuckling fun vibe for the battles. One of my readers said it was like two different authors wrote my books – which I take as a compliment, as I see that as meaning I crafted the characters so differently from each other that they took on lives of their own. That said, I still have a lot of the same pace that pushes adventure along in both of my series. It’ll be interesting to see if in the future if I get more crossover between the two audiences.
7) What is the one author, living or dead, who you would like to co-write a book with someday, and why?
Morgan Busse, mostly to see if she reads the answer to the interview questions before posting them, but also because her steampunk is awesome. Otherwise, probably Elizabeth Moon for similar reasons as the above influence on my writing.
*Morgan’s note: Yep, I always read the interview questions before posting 🙂 Bonus points!
8) In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
I’ve kept messages out of my books for the most part because I get annoyed when authors have a really heavy handed message in their books since I read for fun and entertainment. I think most people feel that way. I come at it as there’s gonna be some things that come across no matter what I do, just because who I am will end up on the page, but I don’t go about writing things like “You must convert or you’ll burn! That’s the message of this book!” That sort of thing comes across insulting to a reader. However, I definitely make good-good, evil-evil, heroes-heroes and villains-villains. Books that push the “grey morality” these days annoy me as much as message books.
The last couple months or so I’ve made sure I started praying that God guides my hand before every writing session. It’s really cool, and I think it works! Creating art is an expression of beauty, and glorifies God in doing so, and so ensuring his blessing is on your work is a big deal! I highly recommend it for all writers.
9) Favorite place to vacation?
Nashville. I just went there for the first time in early July so I could go to LibertyCon, a sci-fi and fantasy writing convention down in Chattanooga, and I love that city so much. Music everywhere, the greenery and trees. I want to move there!
10) Do you listen to music while you write? If so what are some examples?
Yes. I’ve got a pretty standard routine now. If I’m writing something that just requires development, I listen to a lot of the Final Fantasy soundtracks. That music gets adventure flowing in the head as those video games are all about adventure (For Steam And Country is littered with Final Fantasy references as well, if you’re a fan of the game!). If I need to get in a little darker or sadder of a mood I put on Sigur Ros.
When I do battle scenes, I listen to Babymetal or AFI to get myself a little more energized and tense.
For romance/romantic scenes I listen to The Lulls in Traffic or Lydia’s Run Wild album.
All of these I do to evoke emotion in myself, and that way I can hopefully evoke more emotion in my audience from being in that mood.
11) What is one thing you’ve read that you wish you had written, and why?
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Because I want Rand as a character (especially in the first 3 books) and I want to move him away from that “married to three girls” mess that it ended up being that totally didn’t make sense. No woman would stand for that!
12) Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?
Two people really have affected me more than anyone else: Todd McCaffrey, who over the years has kept asking me, “How’s your writing?” in a genuinely interested way. Through all the early times where I wasn’t so confident in what I was doing and not sure if I was going to be able to cut it, that was incredibly reassuring.
Second is Vox Day. He’s been incredibly kind and generous to me by first giving me a platform to speak on his blog, which garnered me a huge audience, of which he’s followed up by promoting my books on a couple of occasions and second he’s been there for questions and the like.
Thank you so much, Jon, for joining us today! Here is where you can find Jon online:
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Jon-Del-Arroz
Star Realms: http://bit.ly/starrealmsnovel
For Steam And Country: http://bit.ly/forsteamandcountry