A mild-mannered computer programmer by day, at night Dayton Ward explores the final frontier of fatherhood, marriage and writing. He´s the author of numerous Star Trek tie-ins from Pocket Books, both novels & short stories. His debut was In The Name Of Honor. He´s also authored original novels including The Last World War and Counterstrike. His latest are Paths Of Disharmony, Typhon Pact 4 and Star Trek Vanguard: What Judgements Come. You can find him online as @DaytonWard on Twitter, on Facebook and at his website: http://www.daytonward.com/.
SFFWRTCHT: So, Dayton, let´s get the most important thing out of the way first: TOS or TNG?
Dayton Ward: The Original Series, though The Next Generation is a respectable second. I’ve been a Star Trek fan as long as I can remember. Used to watch reruns of the original show every afternoon after school, etc. TOS has always been my favorite.
SFFWRTCHT: For me, too. Where did your interest in science fiction and fantasy come from?
DW: I’ve been reading it/watching it since I was a little kid. One of the first Science Fiction books I read was Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
SFFWRTCHT: Who are some of the authors/books which influenced you most?
DW: I tend to skew toward the older writers: Heinlein, Clarke, Haldeman, but I also like Card and Scalzi. I don’t get to read as much for pure pleasure as I used to. Most of my leisure reading is to my kids before bed time.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you start writing in that universe? You got your break submitting to an anthology which Dean Wesley Smith edited, right?
DW: I wrote as a fan for several years before the Strange New Worlds contest came along. Me is Nerd. I got my break by entering the SNW contest for new writers. After doing that a couple of times, Pocket Books offered me a Trek novel contract.
SFFWRTCHT: Where did the idea for the first winning story come from?
DW: The first SNW was written as an epilogue to the movie where Kirk dies (Generations). I was never really happy with that ending.
SFFWRTCHT: What are the core elements of a good Star Trek story?
DW: I don’t know that there’s any one answer to what makes for a good Trek story. The tapestry is so broad, it can handle whatever you throw at it.
DW: The movie came first. ST VI was in 1991, whereas I wrote Honor in 2000 for a 2002 publication.
SFFWRTCHT: Where´d the idea for In The Name Of Honor come from?
DW: The idea for Honor started with me wanting to do a Trek version of The Great Escape. Then it evolved a bit after I read a book about Vietnam POW/MIAs called Kiss The Boys Goodbye.
SFFWRTCHT: I loved the away team of Sulu & Kirk working with Klingons, a departure from typical series. How hard is it to write such beloved characters when you can´t do anything drastic like kill them off, etc.?
DW: Actually, that’s not the case anymore. Most of those restrictions have been lifted. Janeway was killed in a novel a couple of years ago. Some hard core fans are still upset about it. That said, it’s not something you want to do “just because,” and it’s not anything I’m itching to do. Now that shows like TNG, DS9, Voyager, etc. are off the air, the novels have a lot more freedom to mix up things.
SFFWRTCHT: Has all of your writing been genre work?
DW: Most of my work has been Science Fiction (either original or tie-in), with occasional detours to horror/etc.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s the hardest part of writing tie-ins?
DW: The hardest part about writing tie-ins: Even with the freedoms we enjoy, it’s still not our sandbox. Additional approval layers, etc.
SFFWRTCHT: How often have they disapproved and made you change stuff? I realize you have to coordinate with other authors too. How much leeway do you have with canon events in tie-ins? Do they keep an eye on continuity with timelines and stuff?
DW: CBS approves all outlines/manuscripts. They’ve requested small changes from time to time, but I’ve never had issues doing that. We have to be consistent with onscreen canon, but if we find a loophole to exploit, CBS has let that occur on occasion. You have to know your Trek to do this on a consistent basis, but pretty much everyone writing Trek novels is a fan.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you pitch your own ideas to Pocket or do they bring ideas to you?
DW: Ideas usually come from the writers, but if it’s a big “event” or mini-series, that usually comes from an editor. They’ll offer up a one-line idea, and you go and develop a story from that.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you capture the feel of the shows/movies in prose?
DW: With TOS in particular and to a somewhat lesser extent with TNG, I am so familiar with these characters it almost seems too easy to write dialogue for them. It helps that I’m such a fan, and I like to think I really have their particular styles and mannerisms down. I don’t think I always get it right, but I’d like to think I get it right more often than not, and I’d hope that this also helps to bring alive not just movie-like action scenes but also the quieter, character-driven moments.
DW: I’ve written for TOS, TNG and Enterprise, along with a some of the “novels-only” spin-offs.
SFFWRTCHT: Have you ever started an idea for a Trek novel, then realized it would work better with original characters?
DW: I’ve had Trek ideas that worked better as original, and vice versa. Weird, the way that can work some times.
SFFWRTCHT: What´s your writing time look like-write when you can? Specific schedule?
DW: I usually write at night, after kids are in bed. If I’m lucky, I can carve out time on the weekends.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you use special software? Play music? Longhand or laptop?
DW: I write mostly on a laptop, but I’ll sometimes do it long hand just for a change of pace. I almost always have music playing. I just use MS Word; nothing special. And OpenOffice, if I’m traveling with my netbook.
SFFWRTCHT: What role to beta readers play for you or do they?
DW: I’ve used beta readers on occasion, but not for every project. Depends on the subject matter, time available, etc.
SFFWRTCHT: How long does it take you to write a novel?
DW: It takes me as long to write a novel as the editor gives me.
DW: We usually divide the work based on subplots, character arcs, etc. Every project has been different.
SFFWRTCHT: Where’d you learn your craft? Classes? Workshops? Trial and error?
DW: Trial and error, along with a few classes and workshops sprinkled in.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you start with characters sketches or outlines or just let it unfold as it comes?
DW: For tie-in work, outlines are required, as the license holder approves those. : I tend to outline for everything, but the detail can vary depending on the project. My outlines tend to be the broad strokes at the start, then I fill in as I set to work. As far as time to outline a book: Again, it depends, usually on the time the editor gives me. Anywhere from three days to a month.
SFFWRTCHT: Are there other universes you´d like to play in besides Star Trek? Any plans to do so?
DW: We’ve done a 4400 novel. Other properties I’d love to play with? NCIS, Burn Notice, Eureka, Warehouse 13.
SFFWRTCHT: Any plans to write more original novels?
DW: I’ve got an outline for an original SF story that I hope will be my next novel. Keep dem fingahs crossed. I’ve had this outline simmering for a year. My tagline for the editor is “I f–king hate vampires.”
SFFWRTCHT: Tell us a bit about Paths of Disharmony. This is a TNG story with Picard & crew going to help Andorians who have a problem with procreation and some plans for genetic alterations have met resistance. And the Andorians are in part reacting to their planet being brutalized by a Borg infiltration. Plus the Pact is scheming.
DW: Yes, in Paths of Disharmony, the Andorians are facing a procreation crisis, and eventually get fed up with the Federation. The Borg beat up the Andorians pretty good, on top of that. Then the Typhon Pact comes calling, with a cure for their ills. Typhon Pact is four books by different authors. Mine was the last book in the series, and I get to drop the hammer.
SFFWRTCHT: Who came up with the Typhon Pact idea?
DW: The Typhon Pact series came from the editor, spinning out from something that happened in a previous book.
SFFWRTCHT: What exciting projects do you have coming up for us to look forward to?
DW: Next two books are Trek: A Vanguard novel in September and a TOS book in March.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.