Please welcome J. Dalton Jennings
to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. Solomon's Arrow
is published on July 7th by Talos Press. Please join The Qwillery in wishing him a Happy Publication Day!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
JDJ: Thank you for inviting me to participate, Sally. I first started in 1978, when I wrote a longhand, prototype version of Solomon's Arrow. I never tried to publish it, and years later, in a fit of frustration, tossed it in the trash. Then, almost eight years ago, I retired from being a graphic artist and returned to writing. This time I took it seriously. I wrote a non-fiction book, which is yet to be published. I then wrote my first fiction novel, which is set 2000 years ago in the Far East, and is over 200k words long. As one would expect, it is also yet to be published. However, while trying to find an agent for that novel, I realized I could rewrite my actual first novel and make it even better than before. I found an agent, Jeff Schmidt, at NY Creative Management, and he quickly sold it to Skyhorse Publishing. As to why I write: I'm like most writers, in that I feel an unquenchable urge to write. It's almost a compulsion; the germ of a story enters my mind and it won't be satisfied until it's birthed on the page.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser or a hybrid?
JDJ: I ascribe to the Isaac Asimov school of writing, which means I'm a pantser. He would devise a beginning, a middle and an end for his novels, and then let his characters guide him through the spaces in between. I'm often surprised by where my characters take the story. As such, I hope my surprise is shared by the reader.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
JDJ: As a self-taught writer, I would say it's getting past the notion that I'm not good enough to be in the company of the writers I most admire. But, it also drives me to study and improve my skills.
TQ: You were a graphic artist. How does being an artist affect (or not) your writing?
JDJ: As a graphic artist, I used my imagination on a daily basis. Also, having deadlines to meet provided discipline, of which I was lacking in my younger years; and that discipline has translated over to my writing. I make it a point to write between three to four hours each day, six days a week.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
JDJ: First and foremost, my favorite author and biggest influence is Frank Herbert, of Dune fame. I also love Robert Heinlein; Isaac Asimov; Kevin J. Anderson; James Rollins; Orson Scott Card (for his writing, not his politics); J. K. Rowling; Clifford D. Simak; Philip K. Dick, and many more.
TQ: Describe Solomon's Arrow in 140 characters or less.
JDJ: With Earth's fate in his hands, the mysterious Solomon Chavez embarks on an ambitious quest that might save humanity, or cause its destruction.
TQ: Tell us something about Solomon's Arrow that is not found in the book description.
JDJ: Solomon's Arrow attempts to shine a light on mankind's foibles, and bring the issues of today into clearer focus through the use of science fiction. It also explores identity and loss, which are vital sub-themes in the novel.
TQ: What inspired you to write Solomon's Arrow? What appealed to you about writing Science Fiction. In your opinion, should Science Fiction deal with 'big issues', just be entertaining, or both?
JDJ: That's an interesting question. As I said, the novel was inspired by my misbegotten attempt to write the same novel back in the late 70's. As for Science fiction's appeal? My literary tastes have always leaned in that direction, or toward novels with big, mystical or earthshaking plots. I hate to say it, but subtle, literary fiction bores me to tears. Should science fiction deal with 'big issues?' It doesn't have to; but as they say, the best sci-fi can shine a light on issues in a way that other genres have a difficult time tackling. However, if a novel fails to entertain, the reader may as well be reading a technical manual. The big issues are a must in my writing.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Solomon's Arrow?
JDJ: I researched Phoenix, AZ; did some research on the Pacific Ocean; sharks; the Epsilon Eridani star system; the various methods of propelling starships; cryogenics, and a few other things that would be spoilers if I revealed them here.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
JDJ: In my novels the characters write themselves. That being said, the hardest character was Solomon Chavez. I found it difficult at times to make him compelling, while not revealing too much about him. Halfway through the book it became easier, after a shocking reveal. The easiest character to write was Floyd Sullivant, the ship's security chief. I put quite a lot of my humor into him; and although we're dissimilar in many respects, his character was a joy to write. But, my favorite character to write was Bram Waters, mostly for the many layers of character he brings to the book's plot.
TQ: Which question about Solomon's Arrow do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
JDJ: “Judging by the state of society and the catastrophic events in Solomon's Arrow, Mr. Jennings, are you still hopeful for humanity's future?”
“Yes, I am, and I say that because we are a contradiction. Humans generate so much darkness and pain and suffering, and yet we are capable of so much beauty and potential. There will come a point in time where we must make a choice: continue down the unsustainable road we're on and risk destruction, or change course and live up to our innate potential. I hope we choose the latter.”
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Solomon's Arrow.
JDJ: Wow! That's a tough question. All right, this line, in context, always brings tears to my eyes:
In a barely audible voice, she said, "I . . . I had a sister . . ."
TQ: What's next?
JDJ: I'm presently hard at work on a kinda, sorta, prequel to Solomon's Arrow, starring Bram Waters. The working title is The Dark of Night and is a companion novel that takes place twenty years before the events of Solomon's Arrow. After that, I may write a second companion novel starring Solomon Chavez. However, judging from the plot structure I already have percolating in my brain, that one is so complex I may need to break down and actually create an outline. Maybe not. We'll see.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
JDJ: You're welcome, Sally. It was my great pleasure.
Talos Press, July 14, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
It’s the mid-twenty-first century. The oceans are rising, the world’s population is growing, terrorist organizations are running rampant, and it has become readily apparent that humanity’s destructive nature is at the heart of the matter.
When all faith in humanity seems lost, a startling proposal is announced: Solomon Chavez, the mysterious son of the world’s first trillionaire, announces that he, backed by a consortium of governments and wealthy donors, will build an interstellar starship—one that will convey a select group of six thousand individuals, all under the age of fifty, with no living relatives, to a recently discovered planet in the Epsilon Eridani star system. His goal is lofty: to build a colony that will ensure the survival of the human race. However, Solomon Chavez has a secret that he doesn’t dare share with the rest of the world.
With the launch date rapidly approaching, great odds must be overcome so that the starship Solomon’s Arrow can fulfill what the human race has dreamed of for millennia: reaching for the stars. The goal is noble, but looming on the horizon are threats nobody could have imagined—ones that may spell the end of all human life and end the universe as we know it.
Filled with action, suspense, and characters that will live on in the imagination, Solomon’s Arrow will leave readers breathless, while at the same time questioning what humanity’s true goals should be: reaching for the stars, or exploring the limits of the human mind?
About J. Dalton Jennings
J. Dalton Jennings
|Photo by Janna Virden, © 2014|
is a retired graphic artist who served for six years as an Avionics Technician in the Arkansas Air National Guard. Solomon’s Arrow
is Jennings’s first published novel, and he currently resides in North Little Rock, Arkansas.Website