Book Nerd Interview
Justin Dennis is currently attending Whittier College and majoring in Creative Writing. He was born on February 14, 1993 in Virginia but was raised for most of his life just outside of Seattle in a city called Sammamish.
He grew up playing soccer and absolutely loves the sport, but reading and writing also top the list of his favorite hobbies. He has always seen fantasy stories as a powerful way of portraying real world issues, and hopes to provoke thought and inspire good morals through his writing.
Tell us your latest news.
Well the paperback of Through the Portal just came out which was very exciting for me! It is honestly surreal to hold a physical edition of my book in my hands. It can be found at Amazon, here: http://www.amazon.com/Through-Portal-1-Justin-Dennis/dp/1466311134
What inspired you to write Through the Portal?
I think the main reasons I wrote it are because I wanted to create my own world, and because I wanted to create a good fantasy story for people of any age. I had all these ideas floating around in my head and I wanted to solidify them into a new world that my characters could venture through. Also, I wrote specifically for the Young Adult genre because I wanted to inspire a younger crowd to read. My goal was to create a book simple enough that a younger reader could keep up, but complex enough that older readers could really get into it as well. I've heard that the Harry Potter series has done wonders for improving children's literacy, and I hope that my books can have the same effect.
If you could introduce Jem and Oliver to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
If you've read the His Dark Materials trilogy, or even just the first book, the Golden Compass, then you know the main character Lyra. I would definitely introduce them to her just because she is so rebellious and feisty, I feel that her and Oliver would get along splendidly while Jem would clash with her on many different levels. It would be an interesting book to read if those three could venture to each other's worlds. I can already picture the mayhem and the drama when Lyra and Oliver are off causing trouble and leaving Jem to feel lonesome and jealous.
Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?
Think about every scene. Every scene in Through the Portal is in there for a reason. It's meant to teach the reader, to help the reader grow as a person. There are all sorts of lessons throughout it, and I would hope that upon analyzing it that a book club could see the broad themes. Also, I would advice any book club to pay attention to the backgrounds of every character, because this is a trilogy, and throughout the next two books everything will slowly come together--so you better be paying attention!
Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
That's so hard to say, because -- just like my parents would (hopefully) say about my brother and I -- I just can't pick one favorite! It's close between Edner and Aubrie (combined) or Sierra. Edner and Aubrie are just the sweetest people you will ever meet and only have the best of intentions; it's impossible not to love them. As for Sierra, she really represents everything that I would want a leading female character to represent. She's not just a sidekick to Jem; she really is a driving force in the story and without her Jem and Oliver never would have made it. Considering myself a feminist, I hope to bring in female characters who are strong and independent, like Sierra, to showcase that women aren't just there as a romantic subplot. Sierra is a fun character to write, and I'm looking forward to her flourishing as her own person in books two and three.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about Through the Portal?
Oh jeez, I don't want to give away too much! Well, I guess it is important to note that when Jem and Oliver go into this new world, it literally is a new world, like an actual planet. I think that surprises people; I've found that people expect new worlds to be distant nowhere-lands like Narnia or Middle Earth. But no, this is an actual planet, and from it, they can see the moon, but it's much bigger. Keep that in mind. ;)
If you gave some of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?
Oliver would be angry that I'd been writing about him. Jem would be embarrassed, much like Sierra, and Rimaya would soak up the spotlight for all that it's worth! Hm, really though, I think it would matter who they were addressing. Oliver would want to ask everybody to help those in need and stop bullying when they see it, but since he likes to put on a tough demeanor he may not actually outright say that depending on his audience. Jem and Sierra would be too shy to speak. Rimaya would have a grand, inspiring speech of rebellion for anyone being oppressed.
How did you come up with the title and cover design?
The title definitely came after the book. I'd been playing around with some titles while writing, but nothing seemed to fit just right. I considered simply calling it Callisto, which is the world they visit, but nobody would get that at first glance. Also, I wanted the title of the first novel to be the title of the trilogy, that way if someone read the first one, they knew what to look out for with the second book. I also considered "The Tale of the Phoenix and the Dragon" because that is an important piece of Lurian folklore that is brought up late in the book. Eventually though, I landed on Through the Portal because it reflected the most major thing that happens to them: they fall through the portal, but it's also representative of what the later two books will be about, portals and different worlds.
The cover design was done by Nick at www.everything-indie.com and he was really great. The idea was my own, the Dragon breathing fire with the moon and black background, but he brought it to life in a spectacular way. I decided on that design because I wanted something simply, black and white, but with a small strip of color to be attention grabbing. I just thought that would be a neat style. The moon had to be in it because of it's link to both Callisto and Earth, and it made a nice background for the Dragon. I'm thinking for book two and three that the design will be very similar, although book two will feature the Phoenix and book three will feature.... well, I can't tell you that much, yet ;)
What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 30 or less words, what would you say?
Book number two in the Through the Portal Trilogy is still unnamed. Like with book one, I'm hoping the title comes along at some point during the writing.
As for a 30 word summary, let me give it a shot: In the Fortress, none of their relationships can be the same again. Kelados is infected with zombies, and it's only a matter of time before Jem has to face Veroci.
Wow. That was exactly 30 words! And it's difficult to summarize book two without giving away book one.
Jean - Impressive Justin!
If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
Oh my gosh, it has to be Harry Potter. I guess that's not really one book, but if I wrote the first it would be implied that I would write the rest of them, I guess. The plot is just so incredible, how each of the seven has a very distinctive, enticing plot, and yet all seven together just combine elements from each other to result in a perfect ending. I can't fathom the awesomeness of it and I don't know how Rowling fit all of that into her head.
What is your most memorable travel experience?
Definitely going to the Netherlands to play soccer. I had the most amazing opportunity to fly over there just before my sophomore year in high school, and it was seriously the greatest thing I've ever experienced. I met amazing people, some of whom I'm still friends with to this day, and I learned a lot about the country itself. Our days were split in half: either soccer in the morning and touristy stuff in the afternoon, or vice-versa. We got on the bus at 7am and usually didn't return until 10pm. We had very full days, but that's what made it so fun! I saw and learned so much, and got to play against soccer players from countries like England, the Netherlands and Sweden. It was called the Youth Friendship Games and the program was called People to People.
What do you normally eat for breakfast?
Cereal. Everyday. My parents say I'm weird. "You're a growing boy, have some pancakes and bacon!" But no, I just love cereal and I find it to be a necessity every morning of my life.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
Well, technically if I always answered with a lie, but then told you the truth here, it wouldn't really be always a lie, so I guess there cannot be a correct answer. :) Oh man, I can hear all the readers yelling at me in frustration from that answer! Gotta think outside the box, my friends. ;)
One of your favorite quotes?
Dang, I almost used a Harry Potter quote but then I realized that I've referenced that far too often already. But instead, I guess I'll whip out an Abraham Lincoln quote that I think applies to a lot of readers and writers: "Avoid popularity if you would have peace." I think it speaks strongly in opposition of the popularity-fueled society we live in. Think about it; who were the coolest kids in high school? The popular ones. Who are more famous than our politicians? Our popular celebrities. But if you avoid the hierarchical system of popularity and take every person at face value, you may find that people who are not popular have very important things to say, while the most popular of people may simply be filled with hot air. So in considering all persons equal, none more popular than the next, we find peace with one another. :)
List 3 of your all time favorite books?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Yes, I know I like it too much), The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials Trilogy), and Mockingjay (Hunger Games Trilogy). I guess I have a thing for final books in the series; they just wrap everything up so well!
What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?
Gosh, living in a dorm in college I hardly ever watch TV or movies, but I will always love the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Will Smith is just my favorite at everything: as a hip-hop artist, as an actor. Just a great show. Hilariously funny, but can also take on serious issues like racial profiling and carrying a handgun. Perfect mix of fun and serious.
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional. with whom would it be?
Well I was going to say: "I'd be Bill Gates. Why? Because I'd be Bill Gates. I could buy entire countries with the snap of my finger. I could probably take a lunch break on the moon. My car would likely drive itself and I could do whatever I want because I'm Bill Gates. Seriously, what's better than the story of a nerd who became ridiculously wealthy?"
But then I read that they could be fictional. Do you remember the Animorphs series? I vaguely remember it from some time ago, but I would definitely become an animorph just so that I could morph into a bird like a hawk or something and fly around the sky. I have to imagine that would be the most thrilling experience ever.
Where can your readers stalk you?
Try these links: My Blog - Facebook Page - Twitter
What's the worst part of falling through a portal to another world and not being able to get back? When the first person you meet almost gets you killed by a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon. Luckily, Jem and Oliver, two boys who were about to start their first year in high school, are saved by Sierra, a farm girl who is itching to get out of her small town. Together, the three of them set off on a quest to defeat the evil Veroci Regime that is stealing all the magic from the world, but can they do it before the Dragon catches up with them?
Through The Portal by Justin Dennis is a brilliant start to a fantasy trilogy. Dennis’ debut will surely become an instant favorite for fans of that genre. It has the potential to become very big with young readers. The story is what makes fantasy books very enjoyable.
Dennis vividly created a masterpiece with a great plot that contained many twists and turns. He introduces two teenage boys, Oliver and Jem, which are the most entertaining characters and easily likable. There are so many duos out there that consists of one who is outgoing and the other more reserved and quiet. However, Dennis’ writing style makes their personalities burst with color and character.
Dennis guides the teenage boys into an out-of-this-world adventure where troubles and monsters seem to be at every turn. The portal they go through will introduce a land full of magic, beast, and dragons. The stuff you would expect from this genre is all here but Dennis sheds a new light that makes his concept very original. The realm inside the portal is beautifully detailed. Dennis has literally absorbed everything that people love in fantasy books into a sponge and squeezed it all out into Through The Portal. And I’m sure he’ll keep the same process for the next installments.
You can purchase Through the Portal at these following retailers.
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And now, The Giveaway.
2 Winners will receive 1 e-book copy of Through the Portal.
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