Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore — Part TwoBy Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at March 9, 2004 - 8:45 PM GMT
While their mutual fascination with Star Trek was one of the things that led to their friendship, for Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore that appreciation for Star Trek and their individual writing talents has also lead to an extremely successful writing partnership.
That partnership has delighted readers of the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers series for three years and now fans can look forward to their first collaboration set on board the Enterprise-E with their upcoming novels, A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest. As a team and individually they have also been hard at work in other corners of the Star Trek universe.
Trek Nation: You' ve been pretty busy guys these past months. In addition to your S.C.E. work you have also written two novels for the A Time to... series. A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest are the third and fourth novels in that nine novel series—Could you give us an overview of the series?
Kevin: The series will chronicle what the crew of the Enterprise-E was doing during the year leading up the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. There are nine-books, with the first eight written in pairs by different writers. John Vornholt wrote the first two, A Time to Be Born and A Time to Die. Dayton and I wrote the next pair, with Robert Greenberger handling the duties on A Time to Love and A Time to Hate. David Mack follows with A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal.
Dayton: And then Keith DeCandido bats cleanup with a ninth book: A Time for War, A Time for Peace.
Trek Nation: Are these novels stand-alone titles, or is it necessary for the reader to read all the novels in the series?
Dayton: Each pair of books is intended to be stand-alone. You don't have to read all nine, at least, that's what we were told when we were pitching our ideas, and we wrote our two books to provide all the relevant information from the first two books that's needed to bring a reader up to speed. However, fans of Picard and company will enjoy the character arcs that are followed throughout the series.
Kevin: It's like watching an episode of ER or The West Wing. Single episodes provide entertainment value on their own, but regular watchers of the series get more out of a given story because they’ve been following the characters for a longer period.
Trek Nation: Without spoiling the fun, what can you tell us about the story you tell in A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest?
Kevin: The story starts out as a sort of punishment for the events of the first two A Time to... books, and ends up being much more. Basically, the Enterprise finds the remnants of a civilization that’s been decimated by a global disaster. They come in to help, and along the way find that not everything is as it appears.
Dayton: My favorite story about this project is when John first approached us about participating in the series. He told us, "The first two books take place in space, and the fifth and sixth books take place on a planet, so try not to set your books in either one of those locations."
Kevin: So, after he shot down our idea of doing a sequel to the animated episode where Kirk and Spock grow gills, we opted to thumb our noses at the establishment and set our story in space and on a planet!
Dayton: Actually, a lot of it takes place in an asteroid field, but there's plenty of stuff going on in space and on a nearby planet.
Trek Nation: This is your first time writing about the Next Generation crew. Do you find it difficult to go from writing something like S.C.E., where most of the characters were either created for the series, or characters that little had been established about, to writing novels set within an established television series where the characterization is so crucial?
Kevin: Not really. If anything, writing for an established crew seems to be easier. We've both been watching TNG since the premiere in 1987, so we're very familiar with the characters, their mannerisms, and so on.
Dayton: What it does do, at least as I see it, is raise the stakes on how your work will be received by the fans. The people who read these books want to see the characters ring true to the way they’re portrayed on the screen. To me, the biggest compliment I can receive about a Star Trek story is for a reader to tell me that the characters acted and talked as if it were a scene on screen.
Trek Nation: Were any of the Next Gen characters more difficult to write than others?
Dayton: The most problematic aspect of any TNG story where there's a puzzle to be solved is the knowledge that, given time, Data is the one character who can overcome just about any obstacle. We therefore felt the need to create a situation which takes that away to a certain extent, while at the same time remaining true to Data's character.
Kevin: In a general sense, the hardest part about this story was not writing the characters, but rather creating situations that posed believable challenges to what has been portrayed as one of the best crews in Starfleet. These people aren't dummies, and they're not weak, and to portray them that way is a cheat. It was important to us that each of the characters was posed with a problem that would take a significant portion of the story to solve, while at the same time allowing us to give each of them their time in the spotlight.
Dayton: We probably didn't do everybody equal justice, but at the same time, there are seven other books in this series and each writer has focused on different subsets of the main cast. We thought it important to bear that in mind as well while writing our books so as to avoid possible repetition or having too many of the books focus on the same few characters while ignoring the others.
Trek Nation: Which subset of the main cast would you say A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest focus on?
Dayton: Picard definitely is a focus, as he still is coping with the fallout from the action of the previous books. Geordi and Crusher each play a significant role as events unfold, which is why you see them on the covers of our books.
Kevin: We also make use of a few supporting characters, whom we hope are familiar to TNG fans. Readers may remember Taurik, first seen in the popular episode "Lower Decks", and Christine Vale, who has made regular appearances as a member of the Enterprise crew in TNG fiction for the past few years.
Trek Nation: You've had to create an alien culture for these novels. Did you enjoy creating the Dokaalan?
Kevin: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I liked portraying them as noble and persevering in the most challenging of circumstances. We ended up giving them a fairly detailed backstory that evolves as the books moves forward, and Dayton handled those sections of the book that offer the most personal insights into the Dokaalan.
Dayton: Not to offer any spoilers, but we used a narrative device for these two books that I think offers the reader a very intimate and personal connection with the Dokaalan as a people. I also believe it provides the story with a nice emotional closing scene.
Trek Nation: I'm always impressed with how well you guys handle all the technobabble and science involved in writing a Star Trek novel. Do you have any difficulty with that? What type of research do you have to do?
Kevin: I'm a reporter, so I long ago mastered the art not of knowing everything, but rather knowing where I can go look everything up.
Dayton: Praise be to Google! We have the technical manuals and such when it comes to Star Trek science, but as for the real thing? You're talking to B- science student. For example, my idea of chemistry is achieving the correct ratio of Jack Daniels to Coca-Cola. If I can take that first drink and not singe my nose hairs, it’s a good day. As for the technobabble itself, we really try to minimize its usage in our stories so that we can concentrate on the characters.
Trek Nation: On top of everything else you've got a story in this summer's Tales of the Dominion War anthology. What can you tell us about that anthology and your contribution to it?
Dayton: This book will collect several stories, all set during the Dominion War and featuring just about every aspect of the Star Trek universe, both filmed and in print. Some of the stories will flesh out things hinted at during the DS9 series, while others are wholly original tales set during that period.
Kevin: Keith DeCandido asked us to write a story for that anthology, and the only mandate he gave us was to have our story involve the S.C.E. This in particular was a very flattering request, because this story marks the first time a S.C.E. tale was written outside the e-Book series.
Dayton: Essentially, the da Vinci crew is involved with helping Starfleet Intelligence to acquire some top secret Breen technology, when things go Horribly Wrong™. Keith said he wanted at least one story to involve down and dirty ground combat, so we obliged him in this department, as well. In fact, don’t eat before you read our story. You've been warned.
Trek Nation: While we are on the topic of anthologies, you each contributed a story to the recent New Frontier anthology No Limits. Dayton, your story was about Calhoun, "Loose Ends" — were you asked to pitch a Calhoun tale, or when you were asked to pitch a story for that volume was that the story you wanted to tell?
Dayton: I was invited to submit ideas for a story I'd like to write for the anthology, so I sent off a quick paragraph about what I thought would make a cool Calhoun story. I wasn't specifically asked to pitch a Calhoun story, but he hadn't been declared off-limits, either. I figured that with only a handful of slots for the book, and given the competition from other writers, my idea would probably not be accepted. So, guess who was the most surprised one in the room when word got back to me that Peter David liked the initial idea? Now I had to actually come up with a story that lived up to that paragraph I'd sent in.
Trek Nation: Given Calhoun's popularity did you feel any pressure in writing "Loose Ends"?
Dayton: Only about 200,000 pounds per square inch, yeah. I knew that not only would Peter be watching me like the poor guy who's taking his firstborn daughter on her first date, but I also knew that the regular New Frontier readers would be watching all of us like hawks, and comparing us to what Peter had already done for the series. There was a high standard to meet, to be sure.
Trek Nation: Kevin, your contribution to the New Frontier anthology, "The Road to Edos", was your first solo fiction sale. Why a story about Arex?
Kevin: When I was invited to pitch for this, my immediate thought was a story about either Arex or M'Ress, because I’m such a fan of the animated series, and Peter David had brought those two characters into the New Frontier setting. I also wanted to try a light-hearted story which I thought Arex would lend himself to by virtue of his being so alien. The story was a fun way for me to wink knowingly to other fans of the animated show with numerous references blending the cartoons with not only mainstream canon but also with what Peter had established for the characters in the New Frontier series.
Trek Nation: "The Road to Edos" was highly praised by critics. Are you planning to pitch more solo projects?
Kevin: I really hadn't thought about it until I started to hear about the responses this story is getting. Maybe it’s time to cut some of this dead weight loose and strike out on my own.
Dayton: Waitaminute. What?
Kevin: You heard me, fanboy.
Trek Nation: Dayton, your first original science fiction novel The Last World War was very well received. Any chance of a follow up of any kind to that novel, perhaps a sequel?
Dayton: I've gotten a lot of requests from readers for a sequel, and I definitely would like to write at least one more book to follow up on The Last World War. There's still a lot of story to tell there, after all. I'm planning to submit a proposal for a second book to Pocket this spring, so we'll have to wait and see what happens.
Trek Nation: I understand you've also contributed a short story to an upcoming horror/thriller anthology. Can you tell us a little about that? Was this your first experience writing horror?
Dayton: I received an invitation to write a story for an anthology titled Family Plots. The basic theme is that of the dysfunctional family taken to the horrific extreme. In short, my story is about a man who comes to believe that his son-in-law may be a serial killer. The fun ratchets up from there. It was the first time I'd ever tried writing horror, and it was great fun. If it works out, I might give it another try at some point in the future.
Trek Nation: You both frequent a number of online BBS forums and email groups devoted to Star Trek and Star Trek literature. How important is getting that feedback and input from the fans and your readers?
Kevin: The online message boards provide me with an invaluable outlet for my wise-guy remarks that would otherwise go unspoken in deference to my wife, who has precious little tolerance for that garbage.
Dayton: It's a lot of fun to interact with people who read what you write. What writer doesn't want to see what readers are saying about their stuff, good or bad? We've also gone to the denizens of such boards on those occasions when we're in search of some elusive nugget of Star Trek lore that we need while writing our stories. Most times, people are eager to help us out in that regard.
Kevin: Yeah, and in return for those acts, we name characters in our stories after them, and kill them real good.
Dayton: Not always. There was the time we turned that one guy on the TrekBBS into a multifaceted pleasure toy for the villain and his mistress.
Kevin: Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. Sweet.
Trek Nation: You've got some convention appearances coming up. For your readers who would welcome the opportunity to see you as a convention guest and have a chance to meet you, what conventions are you currently scheduled to be guests at?
Kevin: We're going to be at the Camp Dover Peace Conference in New Philadelphia, Ohio during the last weekend in March. Then we'll be at Starfest in Denver April 16-18, and we're also doing a book signing at the bookstore on campus of the University of Kansas on April 29th. We'll also be at Shore Leave in Baltimore the weekend of July 9-11. If more dates come along, you'll be to look them our complete schedule, as well as far more information about us than should be legal, at Dayton's website: www.daytonward.com.
Dayton: Hey, don't forget about our gig in Vegas. We're in talks to take over the old Siegfried and Roy Theater at the Mirage.
Kevin: Yeah, but the one thing holding up the negotiations is their requirement that we do all the shows topless.
Dayton: I'm for it. What are we waiting for? Let's rock!
Kevin: Yep. Definitely time to start thinking about cutting some dead weight.
The annual Shore Leave convention is a fan-organized event held every July in the Baltimore area and is one of the best opportunities around to meet and talk with a large number of Science Fiction authors. More information on the extensive guest list for this years Shore Leave Convention can be found at: http://www.shore-leave.com/.
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.