Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Science Fiction and Media Tie-in author Dayton Ward. I asked Dayton to briefly tell us a little about himself and his writing, and this was his response:
I’m Dayton Ward, a writer of science fiction and pop culture including a number of stories and other books connected to the Star Trek universe and other media franchises. I also write content for websites, magazines, and games.
Dayton, where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
You can find (or order) most of my books from your local bookseller, as well as Amazon.com and other big websites like those for Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, etc.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
You can find me at daytonward.com or daytonward.wordpress.com, and from there are links to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles, Amazon author list, and sites where a lot of my writing turns up.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Agents of Influence?
Most of what I write is some flavor of science fiction which occasional detours into horror or action-adventure. Within the SF genre, I write a lot of stories set in the Star Trek universe, either based on the known characters from the various series or featuring new characters and settings we’ve created for the novels. I also write the odd reference or humor book that’s not a novel but still ties into a particular franchise.
Agents of Influence is a novel featuring the characters from the original Star Trek series. It’s set during the “five-year mission” Captain Kirk mentions in the show’s famous opening narration.
What was the inspiration for Agents of Influence? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
It’s a Star Trek novel, so there was the usual sort of casting about for a fun story idea that usually happens when I’m asked to write a novel like this. In addition to coming up with something new, you also have to ensure your story is consistent with the television series and the larger backstory that’s developed over the decades as newer shows come along.
I’d been wanting to do a sort of “Cold War thriller”-type story for a while, so the idea of the Enterprise searching for a missing ship is a lot like trying to find a sunken submarine ala Gray Lady Down or The Abyss. The Hunt for Red October (the film as well as the novel on which it’s based) is another favorite, so trying to evoke that sort of atmosphere was also a fun challenge.
I was still figuring out the plot when I realized that rather than inventing a new ship and crew for Captain Kirk and the Enterprise to rescue, I could instead use a ship and crew we’d developed for another set of novels (Star Trek Vanguard, Star Trek: Seekers). This allowed me to revisit characters we’d not seen in quite a while and perhaps provide an end to their storyline. So I had to refresh my memory of those stories we’d written several years ago. This proved helpful in developing one particular plot point that pays off later in the novel.
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out Agents of Influence? How did you overcome that challenge?
After 55 years, there have been a lot of stories told with these characters, so it’s always a challenge coming up with something new and making it feel fresh in some manner. I do this by trying different things: teaming up characters we don’t typically see working together; introducing problems they could never have realized on a 1960s TV budget…and yet still making it feel like it fits in with the show itself; spending a lot of time in the point of view of a character who’s an outsider or at least not part of the “core cast,” and so on.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I’ve always been a fan of science fiction and action/adventure stories, so that was a natural draw. My career started thanks to a Star Trek writing contest and ballooned from there. As I’ve been a fan – particularly of the original series – all my life, it’s a thrill to write new stories featuring those characters. Readers of such books tend to be among the more passionate members of the fanbase, wanting even more adventures with their favorite characters, and they tend to be very supportive of what we do. I consider it a great privilege to write for such a devoted audience.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
My favorite part of the process is developing the initial idea (or spark of an idea) and then teasing it out. Pulling on this or that thread, figuring out how dots connect, where pieces fit…is there a limit on the number of analogies I can use here? If I’m working with other writers on a project, the early brainstorming and collaboration as we work out all of the stories twists, turns, and kinks tends to be my favorite part of that process. The key lesson I’ve taken from such endeavors is to put your ego in a drawer and learn to work selflessly in service to the project. It’s certainly a lot easier when everyone involved has the same mindset, and I’ve been very fortunate to have colleagues who embody this attitude. We end up having so much fun it should almost be illegal.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m currently working to finalize my contribution to the forthcoming Star Trek: Coda novel trilogy. I’ve written the first book, while the others are written by friends and colleagues James Swallow and David Mack. We developed the story together, to include developing the outlines for each book. My novel, Moments Asunder, is due out on September 28th. Jim’s book, The Ashes of Tomorrow, follows on October 26th, and Dave brings it all home on November 30th with Oblivion’s Gate. It’s been an enormous bit of work but also a lot of fun, and we obviously hope readers will enjoy what we’ve wrought.
What are some of your writing-related hobbies, crafts, addictions?
Like any good writer, I read. A lot. My interests are all over the place. This has the benefit of ensuring I’m never lacking for new material let alone bored. I’m also a collector of old paperbacks, specifically pulp fiction across various genres. Science fiction, mystery and thriller, horror, action/adventure, whatever. I’m there for it.
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
One year, a bunch of us were invited to a VIP tour of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Here we are, a gaggle of Star Trek novelists wandering around NASA’s prime playground, touching all the things and learning about the next generation(s) of spacecraft, space suits, and other technology. We even participated in a discussion broadcast across the campus. The crazy part was how many of these people – we’re talking about very smart men and women who figure out how to safely hurl other men and women into space and (one day) other planets – were bringing their copies of Star Trek novels for us to sign. That was as cool as I think this job will ever get.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
I prefer music when I write. Classical, film scores, basically anything that’s instrumental. As I write a lot of action/adventure and particularly Star Trek, I tend to lean on film and television scores – Trek and otherwise – to help set a particular mood. It can be anything from Black Hawk Down to The Great Escape or Alien to Star Wars or even Rambo, The Shawshank Redemption, or The American President.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
Our family has a dog and two cats. Snickers is a retired search-and-rescue dog and spends her days occupying couch space. One cat, Tigger, keeps to herself except on those occasions where she’ll come looking for a brief cuddle or belly rub. Then there’s Dexter, my constant companion. He’s never far from me wherever I am in the house. If I’m at my desk he’s on the floor next to it, and if I’m on the sofa where I keep the TV in my home office then he’s next to me. His help is limited to sleeping with the occasional distraction whenever he’s ready to jump into my lap.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
I’m going to offer up my own version of an old writer’s adage: If you want to succeed at the business of writing, you need to be these three things: Good, On Time, and Easy to Work With. Having all three is the ideal, but two out of three can sometimes (not always) make up for deficits in the other one.
“Good” in this context means giving the editor what they ask for, and what you’ve agreed to do for them, to the best of your ability. Every time.
“On Time” is pretty much what it implies: Hit your deadlines. Sure, we all get caught up in Life once in a while, and if that happens then alert your editor as soon as you can. The more time you give them, the more options they may have to help you.
“Easy to Work With,” when boiled down to its essence, means “Don’t be a jerk.” Editors have any number of problems to address on a given day. Don’t be one of them. Be flexible and adaptable. Be professional. You want to be the sort of writer an editor considers first as someone who can help them fix an issue, not exacerbate an existing one or – worse yet – cause a new one.
Thanks so much for your great answers to so many of our questions, Dayton!