Some Thoughts with ... Jonathan Nevair (2nd time)
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.
Welcome to another post on my favourite section of the blog. Today we have with us Jonathan Nevair, an author we interviewed previously, and that is the first one repeating here!
Let's dive in!
1.- Stellar Instinct is your fourth book, have you found the process of writing it easier than the Wind Tide trilogy?
Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I’ve been a fan of spy novels and movies since I was a kid. I’m familiar with the tropes and styles of espionage stories and characters, and that made the content for the book easy to generate. The hard part was writing a thriller. This took time and research. I had to educate myself on the anatomy of a thriller and then try and construct a story that was faster-paced, suspenseful, with misdirection and a trail of clues. I also had to learn to write in a different genre - more of an economy of words with swift pacing. In an epic space opera, there is ample room and time for world-building and delicious digressions into descriptive passages. That had to be shifted so the writing could be leaner and more efficient.
2.- Despite Stellar Instinct being different in style from Wind Tide, there are still small details that can make you say: “It’s a Jonathan Nevair book”. What impulses you to take this kind of artistic choice?
Stellar Instinct centers on a gaming entrepreneur and a new virtual reality entertainment system. I’d been playing some VR games and wanted to try and invite the reader “into” a virtual space in the novel. To get that shift from the “world” presented through third person - like stepping from that space into another space, I chose to write a few scenes in second person. But writing those character POVs with pronouns of “she, they, and he” felt like they created more distance, so instead, I put the reader inside the character’s own experience in VR by using “you.” I’ve been in a D&D revival since COVID hit, playing once a week, and much of that TTRPG language is in the second person for an immersive effect. I liked that and wanted to incorporate it to achieve an inner virtual space in the book.
3.- What fiction works would you say have influenced your craft the most?
Wow, this is tough. Becky Chambers’s books for characters and dialogue. N.K. Jemisin for world-building and the literary beauty of cadence and voice. Martha Wells has a brevity of language and snark that I love in the Murderbot Diaries. Arkady Martine for tone, subtlety, lush and alluring mood, and historical influence. David Gemmell for characters, especially older ones. Umberto Eco inspires me with erudition, and the ability to embed philosophy and difficult ideas into fiction (Le Guin, too). C.J. Cherryh has a way with immersion I wish I could emulate. I could go on and on!
4.- How would you say it is different to write a trilogy from writing a standalone novel?
Well, for one you have to wrap up everything in a single plot line! That has advantages because the narrative size is manageable and also self-contained. I didn’t know entirely where I was going when I wrote Wind Tide and that meant a lot of work to make sure I kept the narrative thread moving and tight while making good on all the promises by the end. It was also interesting to think about character arcs in a single story. The changes and challenges happen differently than in a series where characters ride through two, maybe three, books.
5.- I really liked the ebook design and the chapter headers, who designed them?
Thanks! The cover art was commissioned by Chezka Sunit, who is an awesome artist. Fay Lane did the cover design/typography, and Luke Tarzian formatted the interiors (Luke did the cover designs and interiors for Wind Tide as well). The font was my choice! I really wanted something that had “exciting secret agent vibes. When I searched around, I found a font designer who made one called, “spy agency.” I bought the rights to use it because I wanted it on the cover and inside for the chapter headings. I’m super happy with it!
6.- As I see you are a D&D player, a little offtopic, which class is your favorite one?
This is tough! If you pushed me into a corner, I would probably say Bard. It gives you a bit of melee combat and a bit of magic, and that wonderful charisma to have a lot of fun with role-play. I tend to play extroverts, and like to perform in character, so that is probably the one (honorable mentions to Paladin and Ranger).
7.- What do you plan to do after publishing Stellar Instinct?
I am thinking about what is coming next right now - simmering on a bunch of ideas. I would really like to write a space fantasy, and also I have hopes of one day writing an epic fantasy. Someday maybe I will be able to write a book in the Star Wars Universe (dream). I wouldn’t rule out another mission for Agent Renault. I really enjoyed the thriller and action/adventure!