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The Trek Nation - Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore — Part One

Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore — Part One

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at March 8, 2004 - 12:32 PM GMT

Authors Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore are real Star Trek geeks and proud of it. Since forming their successful writing partnership, they have penned seven Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories and are in the midst of writing their eighth installment for the popular series.

The success of their first S.C.E. collaboration, the two-part tale Interphase, led to Ward and Dilmore being invited to utilize their encyclopedic knowledge of the original Trek series once again and write the groundbreaking three-part S.C.E. story, Foundations. All three parts of Foundations have been collected together into the first full-length S.C.E. novel that has just been released in a mass-market paperback edition.

The Trek Nation recently caught up with these two entertaining and very busy gentlemen to talk about some of their various writing projects.


Trek Nation: You both travelled very different roads to where you currently find yourselves in your writing careers. Could you tell us a bit about your individual paths and how your collaboration came about?

Dayton: I started out writing fan fiction in the early 90s, and then submitted a story to the first Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest in 1997. My story was picked for that first anthology, and I followed that with stories in the next two volumes. After that, I was approached by John Ordover to write a full length Star Trek novel.

Kevin: Although the first story I ever wrote was a Star Wars fan fiction story in the eighth grade, I didn't expect to end up writing fiction. I graduated college with a journalism degree and went to work for a small town newspaper. As a lark, I submitted a feature story on Chase Masterson (Leeta) to the Star Trek Communicator magazine in 1997. They liked it, and then began offering me more assignments, one of which was a story on the winning writers of the first Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology. I interviewed everyone via telephone except for Dayton. Since we lived within easy driving distance, I offered to meet him in person.

Dayton: After that first interview, we realized we had a lot of the same interests, and ended up going to local conventions and stuff like that. This came as a monstrous relief to our wives, who were thankful that we'd finally found someone ELSE to pester with our various nerdy pastimes.

Kevin: Our fiction collaboration started, once again courtesy of John Ordover at Pocket Books, after an interview I was conducting with him about the forthcoming Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers e-Book series in the fall of 2000. He was explaining the concept to me and the types of stories that fit its framework when I popped off and said, "Oh, you mean like the S.C.E. rescuing the Defiant from that rift in 'The Tholian Web'?" John replied, "That's exactly the kind of story we're looking for." I sort of half-seriously asked, "Can I write up a pitch for that?" and he said, "Sure." That was when I called Dayton and said, "I think I'm in trouble."

Dayton: We then spent a Saturday holed-up in a bar while we hammered out the basic outline for what eventually became Interphase. John liked the idea enough that he allowed us to write it as a two-part story. It became the fourth and fifth e-Books in the S.C.E. series, and a writing partnership was born.

Trek Nation: All writing teams take a slightly different approach to the division of labour. How does your collaboration work?

Kevin: I write the nouns.

Dayton: And I write the songs that make the whole world sing.

Kevin: Seriously, the process has varied with each project we've done. We've split the work based on A-plot/B-plot and ones where there was a natural division between a framing story and a flashback. Other times, it's not quite as defined as that, with us picking up this or that chapter for all manner of reasons. The common denominator in every project to date has been each of us wanting to write for a particular character or a certain scene, and then we tailor the division from there as needed.

Dayton: We also spend a good deal of time editing each other's work, making sure we're staying in synch with one another as well as tweaking the narrative so that it reads as though one person wrote the entire story, rather than two writers cobbling stuff together.

Kevin: It helps that we seem to think a lot a like when it comes to our basic storytelling approach as well as what we both enjoy about Star Trek. We try to write stories that we would want to read if we were picking the book up off a shelf.

Dayton: Hey. I was gonna say that.

Kevin: Too slow, sucka.

Trek Nation: I know you are both long time Star Trek fans and novel readers. Who is your favourite Star Trek character and why?

Dayton: Well, there really is only one answer for me: Kirk. As I've said elsewhere, he's a childhood hero for a guy who still harbours a bit of kid inside him. Other favorites include Picard and Sisko, as well as Garak and even the Doctor from Voyager.

Kevin: If I draw back to my first days as a fan, I'd go with Spock. As a kid, I aspired to be the smart "go-to guy" that he was on the Enterprise. As an "adult" fan, it's not so much a favourite character that I have as much as favorite scenes of interaction with certain characters. Any Kirk-Spock-McCoy scene still really works for me. I also like seeing Riker with Picard and Riker with Troi, because it illustrates different aspects of his character. Oh, and just for kicks, I really dig Crazy Matt Decker from "The Doomsday Machine".

Dayton: Well, if we're gonna go that route, I have to vote for Vina in the Orion Slave Girl outfit, closely followed by that redshirt who stepped on the exploding rock on the planet with Vaal.

Trek Nation: This marks the third year of publication for the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers e-Book series, and you’ve been involved in writing the series from the beginning and have been regular contributors. How much of a role, if any, did you play in shaping the series and its characters when it was getting off the ground?

Kevin: We had the luxury of writing a double-length story after three other, more-experienced Star Trek writers shouldered the burden of introducing the series and its cast of characters in 15,000 word installments. If we contributed anything, it was an attempt to build on the concept as it was envisioned by John Ordover and Keith DeCandido, as well as the characterizations established by Keith along with Dean Wesley Smith and Christie Golden.

Dayton: One of the things that John and Keith set up in the series concept was that this would be an eclectic group of specialists and not your normal by-the-book Starfleet crew. Keith likened the crew of the da Vinci to the cast from M*A*S*H, with Captain David Gold playing the Colonel Potter role. Kevin and I took that idea and ran with it, extending the analogy to give Duffy and Stevens a relationship not unlike the one between Hawkeye and Trapper John – more so in the way they worked easily with one another and implicitly trusted one another than the practical jokes and anti-authority aspects of their characters, of course.

Trek Nation: The list of authors who have contributed to writing the S.C.E. series continues to grow — how closely do you all collaborate to keep the storylines and characters consistent?

Kevin: Keith DeCandido is the Master of this particular Domain. We were out of the running before the check came.

Dayton: As the editor for the series, Keith does a phenomenal job of keeping the continuity in check, not only within the series itself, but also in relation to the rest of the Star Trek fiction line. He keeps us all honest with regards to characterizations, always checking and rechecking to insure that one writer's portrayal of a given character is consistent not only with what's come before but also with other stories that are in development. How he keeps it all straight is a mystery to me.

Trek Nation: Your new paperback Foundations, the first full-length S.C.E. novel, was originally three e-Books. What, if any, changes did you have to make to turn those the original three parts into one novel?

Dayton: Basically, all we did was to remove the "cliffhanger recaps" from the opening narratives of the second and third books, and to reorder all the chapter numbers so that they progressed sequentially instead of restarting at the beginning of each book. Other than that, the story is the same as that presented in the original e-Book format.

Kevin: We hope the streamlining makes for a better presentation for the paperback version.

Dayton: Oh, and don't forget the super-secret "scratch-and-sniff" feature in Chapter 25. Chicken broth, courtesy of Campbel'’s Soup.

Trek Nation: Can readers who aren't already familiar with S.C.E. and its characters enjoy Foundations?

Kevin: I think so, in part because the main S.C.E. characters don't really play a large role in the story. Most of the book is devoted to the three flashback sequences that dominated the original e-Book installments, which feature Scotty and the 23rd Century counterparts of the main da Vinci crew members.

Dayton: As most of the book takes place in the era of the original series, we're hopeful that other fans of Kirk and company who might not have tried books based on the 24th Century crews will get a taste of what they're missing. But let's be clear here: Foundations was our excuse to write a 23rd Century S.C.E. story, and we thank Keith for letting us have our fun.

Trek Nation: You've also got another new S.C.E. e-Book coming out this spring. What can you tell us about Grand Designs?

Dayton: The basic story deals with our characters in the middle of a rather nasty conflict between two planets, and the da Vinci is tasked with cleaning up a mess that the Federation created. Without giving too much away or coming off as sounding too self-important, Grand Designs is as close to a topical parallel of current events as we've ever gotten with a Star Trek story. The notion of a Starfleet crew being in the middle of somebody else's conflict is not new, but we tried to give it a fresh twist.

Kevin: We also had a chance to examine the unique command structure of the S.C.E., which travels around on Starfleet ships and yet is not always directly accountable to those ships' captains. That can make for some interesting character conflicts, which we tried to show with Captain Gold and Sonya Gomez.

Trek Nation: S.C.E. e-Books are longer than short stories but shorter than novel — they are more like novellas. Given the constraints that the shorter length must present, how does that change the technique of writing for you?

Kevin: I don't really think we've ever felt constrained, because we've always written our stories as long as we felt they needed to be in order to best serve the narrative. Instead of getting immersed in the multiple and intertwining plots of a novel, we try to focus on the main story and add variety to that storyline through changing points of view.

Dayton: I suppose that writing a novella instead of a full-length novel is akin to writing a television script versus a movie screenplay. There's less time and space allowed for introspective moments and scenes that don't directly serve to drive the plot forward. With a novel, you have more room to indulge in those types of musings, as well as the space to make them relevant to the overall narrative.

Trek Nation: When writing for the S.C.E. series do you pitch the story ideas, or does the editor tell you what type of story he wants or needs?

Dayton: We've done both, actually. For example, Interphase was our idea, pitch and all. With Foundations, the basic idea of telling the "origin" of the S.C.E. came from John, who asked us if we were interested in telling that tale, and we worked with both him and Keith to develop the storyline.

Kevin: Home Fires came about as Keith asking us to do one of the four "character spotlight" stories which follow the Wildfire two-parter. We asked to use the Corsi and Stevens characters for our story, and then came up with the plot. As for Grand Designs, that one was John giving us a basic premise and asking, "Can you can do anything with that?" We tossed it around for a while before finally settling on an approach we liked, and pitched it to Keith, who in turn liked the idea and sent us off to write it.

Trek Nation: Which of the S.C.E. characters is your favorite to write?

Kevin: Duffy, until , that is. I like that he's capable while at the same time being unsure of himself. He's unorthodox, and will often say something unexpected or inappropriate for the situation at hand. My favoUrite part of writing him is his relationship with Stevens. They're my favorite "buddy-movie" characters in Star Trek, even more so than O'Brien and Bashir.

Dayton: In addition to the Duffy-Stevens pairing, I also like writing Corsi. She's a highly competent and capable officer who has, through the grace of the ongoing S.C.E. narrative, been allowed to evolve beyond the "tough female" stereotype that she could so easily have become.

Trek Nation: Looking farther ahead, you'Ll be writing another S.C.E. tale, Where Time Stands Still, due out in the fall, I believe. I understand that this will be the first direct sequel to an episode from the animated Star Trek series: Can you tell us which episode or anything about the story?

Dayton: It's a sequel to "The Time Trap", the episode where the Enterprise and a Klingon ship are trapped in the Delta Triangle. We pitched this idea as a lark at the same time we submitted our proposal for Grand Designs, after we both saw the reference to the Triangle in Geoffrey Mandel's Star Trek: Star Charts book.

Kevin: Given the understanding that Paramount views the animated series as not part of the official Star Trek canon, we figured the idea for this story would be rejected. Much to our pleasant surprise, the idea was met with great enthusiasm not only from Keith but also from the Paramount licensing office. They didn't even bat an eye that we wanted to so something based on the animated show.

Dayton: What made it even more fun for us was that we also pitched the story as another adventure for the 23rd Century S.C.E. crew we created for the Foundations trilogy, so you'll be seeing those characters again, as well as a few additions to that crew.

Trek Nation: Your S.C.E. stories always include some little inside jokes for the regular readers. Was that a conscious decision on your part, or did reader feedback inspire you to keep going with them?

Kevin: Wait. Feedback? You mean people are actually reading this stuff?

Dayton: Um, yeah, dude, and not just our moms.

Kevin: As our wives are quick to point out, we're very adept at entertaining ourselves with our vast knowledge of useless pop-culture information. As for their inclusion in stories, we always strive to keep them very subtle and appropriate so as to avoid having the reader pulled out of the story. In our opinion, the best in-jokes only work if they're transparent to anyone who's not familiar with what's being referenced. For those people, they should be able to read past such references and never be the wiser.

Trek Nation: One in particular springs to mind — the Tellarite story that someone will often begin to tell but is then interrupted in the telling. Are the readers ever going to get to hear the end of that story?

Dayton: Okay: one hint, just for you. The Tellarite was not the victim of a wardrobe malfunction as he so staunchly claims. He meant for us to see those nipple rings.

Kevin: And proving once and for all that Tellarite nipples are where a belly button would be on a human.


Be sure to check back tomorrow for part two of our conversation with Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore where this dynamic and talented duo will be discussing, among other things, their upcoming novels A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest.

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Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.