Talking Books with Dan Levinson, author of 'Fires of Man'

Dan Levinson is a NY-based writer of speculative fiction. Trained as an actor at NYU's Tisch School of Arts, he also writes for the stage and screen. He grew up immersing himself in fantastical worlds, and is thrilled to now create them. In addition to the Psionic Earth series, he is also the author of the upcoming YA fantasy novel The Ace of Kings, first book of The Conjurer's Cycle.

His latest book is the scifi/action/drama novel, Fires of Man.
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About the Book:

Supposedly, the war between Calchis and Orion ended decades ago. But upon reporting to an isolated Orion army base for basic training, Private Stockton Finn learns the war still rages, only the weapons have changed—most disturbingly of all, Finn has been selected to become one of those weapons.

Across the border, young Calchan farm boy Aaron Waverly learns all too well just how determined his country is to win the war when he is abducted from his family's property by a sinister government operative known only as Agent. Trapped in dreary new surroundings, learning deadly skills he's never before imagined, Aaron struggles to reconcile his ephemeral faith with his harsh new reality.

As the two nations hurtle toward a resurgence of open hostilities, Finn and Aaron—along with their powerful new mentors—prepare themselves for the inevitable clash. Meanwhile, Calchan archaeologist Dr. Faith Santia unearths a surprising find in the frozen tundra far to the north, which hints that the brewing conflict may only be the first of their worries...

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I came up with the idea back in the wee early years of teenage-hood. Inspired by an amalgam of books, television, and film, I wanted to come up with a story that incorporated my favorite elements of each: extraordinary powers; deep, compelling characters; jaw-dropping battles; and a rich mythology with countless mysteries to unravel.

For the first iteration of the series—which to this day is called Psionic Earth—I enlisted the help of a handful of friends who I’d written with both in person and online over the years. Based on my initial template, we enjoyed the story as a playground of sorts, though it eventually petered out due to the necessary and expected inconstancy of youthful minds! However, this tale and its characters always stuck with me—opposing nations locked in a covert war, secretly recruiting super-powered individuals. As years passed, I tried to revive it in multiple forms, from scribbles in countless notebooks, to nearly a hundred pages of a novelization I wrote during my college years, to a television pilot. At last, I wrote the version of it which would become my debut novel, Fires of Man.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

At the time, it was actually easier than one might think. I was possessed by what I had learned from one of my few profound mentors—screenwriter Jacob Krueger. His advice is something I believe every writer should follow: As you venture forth on the journey of a first draft, a new story, do not focus on quality or execution. Your job is to produce pages each and every day. Set a manageable goal for yourself, whether in time, or word count or pages. Whatever your initial instinct is, cut that in half, and there you have a volume that you can consistently produce, even if it is poor, even if you wish you could burn each and every word of it in a bonfire.

Your job as a writer, in an initial draft, is volume. Only once you have the sketch of your story upon what was once an empty sheet can you hone it to excellence. Be bold. Be unafraid. Write and write and write. Write things that you know you will discard, because sometimes you have to write through the darkness to reach the light. After your story is complete, then you have time to doubt and vacillate and submerge yourself in the quicksand of rewrites. But think of that initial draft like a marathon; if you should run some stretch of it poorly, you do not backtrack and run it again; no, race on toward the end.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publisher is Jolly Fish Press, an indie house based out of Provo, UT. At the time I first got in touch with JFP, I was still a fledgling novelist. I’d queried countless agents, and faced the insurmountable wall of rejection that almost every new writer is familiar with. I didn’t know how to hone my raw work into something polished.

Despairing, I decided to search for publishers who accepted unsolicited submissions. Jolly Fish was one of those. Impressed by the presentation of their website, and their mission statement, I decided to submit to them. Luckily for me, there was something about my writing, rough as it was, that engaged them. And the rest, as they say, was history.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

The prevalence of social media as a publicity tool came as a shock to me. Heretofore I’d been relatively uninvolved across many of the social media platforms, but suddenly I was expected to have a bustling Twitter account, a professional Facebook page, and so on. As I began to engage, I quickly discovered how enormous a presence writers have as they try to publicize their work across these various platforms.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

The sequel to Fires of Man, entitled Shadows Collide, will be out September 15. I’m also working on the third book of the Psionic Earth series, Prophet Rising.

In addition, I’m also on my ninth (and hopefully final) draft of a YA fantasy novel, The Ace of Kings. Set in a Victorian style world, it revolves around Andie Davere, a young blacksmith’s apprentice who discovers she is heir to a crumbling empire. Andie must reconcile her humble upbringing with her noble heritage, all the while evading those who would sooner see her dead than take her rightful place on the throne. Intended as the first book in a series, it has garnered some interest from literary agents. However, I’m also highly considering self-publishing the piece. Should I opt to do so, I will likely release it around the same time as Shadows Collide. Exciting!

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online? I must admit I’m an incorrigible video game lover, and I also find the community there to be consistently hilarious. I’m a sucker for entertaining memes, which their comments section has in spades.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

Despite our countless differences and opposing views, we are all human beings, having a shared human experience. We all have hopes, desires, fears. However fervent our beliefs, they neither invalidate the beliefs of others, nor make them somehow less than ourselves.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

It’s been my pleasure. I hope you enjoy Fires of Man, and I look forward to sharing further writing with all of you in the future. Be well! Let’s talk again soon.

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