Some Thoughts with … Jonathan Nevair

20 Sept 2022

The Author/s

Jonathan Nevair

Jonathan Nevair

Jonathan Nevair is a science fiction writer and the pen name for Dr. Jonathan Wallis, an art historian/Professor of Art History. After two decades of academic teaching and publishing, he finally got up the nerve to write fiction. Jonathan grew up on Long Island, NY but now resides in southeast Pennsylvania with his wife and rambunctious mountain feist, Cricket.

The Interview

Welcome to my favourite section of the blog. Today we are accompanied by Jonathan Nevair, author of the Wind Tide series and of the soon-to-be-published Stellar Instinct.

Let’s dive in!

1.- How’s the process to take inspiration from Antigone and ending with Goodbye to the Sun?

My first novel (unpublished) received helpful feedback from an agent. I took time to consider how to better connect readers to my characters emotionally. I researched narrative structures that emphasized character-centered stories containing heavy emotional plot points, arcs, etc. I landed on the tragedy (particularly Ancient Greek drama) as a literary form. Antigone drew me in for its themes as well as its cast of characters, and that led me to an idea for a space opera that became Goodbye to the Sun. There are timeless themes in Antigone that still resonate – family vs. state, especially. Not to mention, I adore how the chorus is written in Antigone and I wanted to try and capture that literary beauty and elegance in Razor’s voice. (N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season also shook me to the core and inspired a lot of the eulogistic tone of Razor’s character voice).

2.- An aspect I’m really curious about is the Wind Tides. How do the Wind Tides work?

The Wind Tides are the consequence of eco-shaping planets that meet certain conditions that allow for temperature changes to produce wind currents. I did some research into climatic/atmospheric conditions to consider how a world might be shaped into a desert with high winds. In a basic sense, the wind in the series functions very much like the water tides but rather than high/low tides there are ebbs and flows based on direction, with backdrafts that lead up to titanic crashing wind waves. More than anything, the wind tide is a metaphor and theme running through the series – and is focused on a parallel with morality and ethics in this universe. I write soft science fiction, so the meteorological aspects are not grounded in hard science but are more “softly” placed into the world (much like the use of FTL).

3.- In this sort of society, pronouns are used as part of the names. Could you please develop a little bit more of the idea?

One of the beautiful things about the science fiction and fantasy genres is that you can take advantage of world-building in secondary worlds to create cultures where gender, for example, functions in diverse ways. I was very inspired by Becky Chambers and Ursula K. Le Guin. Their work helped me push myself to envision a world that I wanted to live in, personally. I worked with linguistics and came up with the use of suffixes where one self-presented in a social situation (with very important guidance and advice from a sensitivity reader and my critique partners). I expanded the spoken suffixes to include hand signing as well as some icons for clothing, etc. This covered an entire spectrum of gender expression and was meant to be a part of a galactic civilization in a way that felt accepted and seamlessly incorporated into daily life. There are many conflicts and problems in the Wind Tide universe, but gender isn’t one of them.

4.- What made you choose to use a hybrid narration between a 3rd person POV and a 1st person POV?

The hybrid style that toggles chapter by chapter from first to third limited/close is used for two reasons. First, it mimics the role of the chorus in Greek tragedy, and I liked having a combination of two perspectives on the same events (both in terms of when their voice and how their experience is shared with readers). Razor narrates from afterwards (a personal narrative) and gives me the ability to share a very internal struggle with the events in the story in first-person, whereas Keen takes us through the events as they unfold in third person limited. I am very interested in exploring and celebrating the subjectivity of human experience and how it plays into ideology, ethics, etc.

5.- After writing a full trilogy, which book would you say was the most difficult to write?

The third and final book, No Song but Silence, was the most difficult to write. Jati’s Wager (Book #2) was a breeze. I fell in love with Jati as a character which helped a lot. But it was also a heist and that offered a comfortable plot structure that I could inhabit. Admittedly, I pushed a bunch of promises forward to the final book. Having to write the series conclusion and make it satisfying and dramatic, while also making good on all the promises through the two books was very difficult. I ended up thinking of it as the art of weaving. Main plot lines, subplots, as well as character arcs, and all those little trivia nuggets and treasures, had to be woven into a final fabric. It wasn’t easy!

6.- What can we expect from Jonathan Nevair in the future?

My next book, Stellar Instinct, is a standalone spy thriller set in space. It releases on Dec 1, 2022. The story has a very different feel from the Wind Tide series. It’s got all the secret agent tropes you’d expect but set in a space opera. The villain is a gaming entrepreneur and the cloak and dagger action/mystery revolves around augmented and virtual realities mixed with some cosmic horror. The main character, Agent Lilline Renault, is a top-secret agent and aspiring poet, but her talent for verse is quite lacking. I had a lot of fun with it and can’t wait for it to release.