Interview with sci-fi author Jon Del Arroz

Fiction
writer Jon Del Arroz is here today and
we’re chatting about his sci-fi space opera, The Stars Entwined.
Bio:
Jon Del Arroz
is the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction. He is a multi-award nominated
author, popular blogger, and journalist. His Steampunk novel, For Steam And
Country, became a #2 Amazon bestseller in category. 2018 marks his triumphant
return to space opera with The Stars Entwined, a novel about love and war. He
lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
Welcome, Jon. Please tell us about your
current release.
The Stars Entwined is a space opera about a human military
internal affairs investigator named Sean Barrows who gets wrapped up in spy
games as a war escalates with the alien Aryshan empire. On the flip side we
have an alien starship commander Tamar, who is freshly minted in her duties and
trying to prove herself. There’s intense personal conflict when they meet,
which you can probably glean a little of what happens based on the title, but
I’ll try to keep it mostly spoiler free. Once the two main characters meet,
most readers tell me it’s very difficult to put the book down.
What inspired you to write this book?
I really
wanted to capture the feel of some of the great space operas in the 90s like
Star Trek: Deep Space 9 or Babylon 5. The character moments in those are what
made them epic, because there was so much emotional turmoil that it really
connected people to these universe-spanning conflicts. It also stems from my
love of Lois Bujold and Elizabeth Moon’s character driven space opera book
series. For me, it’s all about characters you can love and root for, and a lot
of modern fiction is so dark with characters who are hard to relate to. I
wanted to do something where you feel good about caring for the characters, and
I think I accomplished that.
Excerpt from the Stars Entwined:
This is one
of my favorite scenes from the book, which is in chapter 5. It’s pretty
self-contained as Sean is investigating a string of attacks on Palmer Station,
including a starship disappearing from dock. Here he’s trying to figure out how
someone could have managed that, and go through the motions to get into the
mind of the criminal. It gets a bit crazy as he unexpectedly finds he’s not
alone out there.
“I
checked again. You’re the only person scheduled outside of the airlock for
another hour. We should report this.” Reyna sounded concerned. It did nothing
to ease Sean’s nerves.
Sean
tugged at his tether, and he floated back toward the station. Either a
maintenance tech was out in a pressure suit without clearing the records, or
someone was sabotaging the ship exactly in the manner he imagined happened with
the Hong Kong. Sean wasn’t prepared for a confrontation with the latter. His
counterpart obviously had far more experience with zero-g, moving without a
tether like an old pro.
The
other figure thrust from the hatch, speeding toward him. That ruled out a
maintenance tech. No, this person meant to attack.
The two
pressure suits smashed together, knocking Sean off course. The intruder
grappled Sean and brought his thrusters to full strength. They sped toward the
station.
            Sean flailed, glancing back toward
the growing Palmer Station. He was about to get smashed into the hull. The
impact would crack his pressure suit and release his atmosphere. The prospect
of vacuum crushing his head made him gasp for air. If he survived this, he
swore he would never go into space again.
            Sean tugged at his tether, pulling
all of the slack toward him. The attacker looked down at Sean’s not-so-sly
attempt to free himself and grabbed onto his arm, ripping Sean’s hand away from
the tether with considerable strength. Inhuman strength.
            At that moment, Sean remembered his
own suit’s thrusters. “Stupid, should have used those to begin with.”
            “Used what?” Reyna asked through the
comm.
            Right, Reyna. “Not talking to you,
again. Sorry! Ah, contact security. We’ve got a saboteur out here.”
            “A what? Are you okay?”
            “No time! Find me some back up!”
With his other hand free, he set his thrusters to fire at full capacity.
The
attacker adjusted thrust to match, but their velocity toward the station had
already slowed. Two equal forces from both pressure suit thrusters canceled
each other out with no friction to tip the balance. The prior momentum carried
them toward the station, but it wasn’t fast enough to smash Sean’s suit open.
Sean
bounced against Palmer Station’s hull like a rubber ball. “Ugh!” Something
popped in his shoulder. Pain flared all the way down his arm. At least he
didn’t hear the hissing of decompression.
Their
trajectory shifted away from the station, both suits still engaged in full
thrust toward each other. Momentum was the only difference. A second wave of
pain shot through Sean’s spine, sending an unnatural jolt all the way up
through his neck. While he was focused on his injuries, the attacker gripped
his shoulders hard.
A surge
of adrenaline jolted him like a crystal drive entering FTL. Pain didn’t matter
if the alternative meant breathing vacuum. He couldn’t die. Not now.
Sean
focused all of his strength and chopped at his assailant’s arms, dislodging
both of the other man’s hands from his suit’s collar. He fought hard for
control of the grapple, squirming to dodge the grip. His back throbbed and pain
pulsed with each labored breath into his lungs.
The
longer the fight went on, the more Sean would be at a disadvantage. The
attacker was so strong, so fast. The attrition of pain would overwhelm Sean
soon enough.
In a
last-ditch attempt to free himself, Sean curled up his legs, using his feet as
pincers against his assailant’s torso. He twisted the attacker’s direction, and
by default the trajectory of the thrusters. Then he gave his best kick to the
attacker’s thigh.
If the
fight had occurred in gravity, his maneuver would have done little to impact
the outcome, but momentum meant everything in space. When Sean set his enemy
into motion, the thrusters took over. The two separated and veered off in
opposite directions.
Sean
took advantage of his freedom by adjusting his own thrusters to give him a push
back toward the station’s cargo bay. He grabbed onto the lifeline and tugged
until it was tight. Go, go, go! If his assailant could catch him again, Sean
would never make it.
His shoulder
burned, but he peered back over it, stretching the muscles and tendons anyway.
His body protested, shooting deep pain all the way up his spine. He needed to
gauge his assailant’s position.
            The attacker was in his peripheral
vision, nearly a hundred meters away. The distance between them would be
insurmountable at this juncture. He’d lucked out.
The
attacker disappeared behind the Avery, and a moment later, gravity tugged on
Sean. He’d moved much closer to the cargo bay than he realized. Before he could
react to slow his thrusters, the bay’s gravity plates sucked him in.
Sean
tumbled to the floor, and his suit thrusters cut out upon detecting the gravity
field. All he could see was the nauseating, spinning view of the floor and
ceiling of the cargo bay. His body jolted with each additional roll. The impact
knocked the wind out of him, leaving him unable to cry out. He skidded across
the docking bay floor and crashed hard into the wall.
What exciting story are you working on
next?
I’m working
on getting my steampunk series (of which the first, For Steam and Country, was out last year to a lot of success) out
to a trilogy this summer. Most readers have been sending me email and the like
demanding those, so I’ll deliver! I’ve finished the first sequel, and am in the
middle of book 3.
When did you first consider yourself a
writer?
Probably in
2009-2010 when I started releasing a web-comic that got me a few thousand
readers. I’d toyed with things before, done a lot of writing-based roleplaying
on the internet, but that was the first time a lot of people were reading my
work and it made me drill down and become more serious.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
Yes in that I
put full time hours into it. No in that I do other work full time also. I don’t
sleep is the answer to the follow up question. But I force myself to write
several hours a day. I do it when I first wake up, on my lunch break, an hour
after work, a couple hours after the kids go to bed. Just get it in wherever I
can and pretty much don’t do anything else. I quit video games, hobbies, and
hanging out with people for the most part (sorry friends!) because this is my
calling. Once you do something for 21 days it becomes a habit, and I’ve been
keeping this frantic pace for over a year now. I have to in order to come out
with several novels a year plus a short story every month for my Patreon
subscribers.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
To me writing
quirks are bad because they are repetitive things that happen that stand out to
readers and pulls them out of the immersion. I find in my first drafts I have
too many “did” words in there. For instance I’ll be in a paragraph that starts:
Well, he did say writing quirks were bad things because it pulls them out of the
immersion. Which I’ll have to revise to: Well, he said writing quirks were bad
things because it pulls them out of the immersion. But I find quirks change.
Once you notice them you intentionally stop doing them, or at least I do. So
it’s always finding the next one before readers do.
As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?
A
congressman. Now you couldn’t pay me to be a politician!
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
This book has
been in the works for more than 17 years. I’ve rewritten it several times
because I wanted to get it just right, and I’m really proud of the hard work, I
think it shows. If you love great characters, this book is for you. Even
non-science fiction readers have told me they connect with it which is awesome.
I hope you’ll check it out!
Links:
Thanks for being here today, Jon.

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