Thursday, May 23, 2019

Jack Campbell Interview - Triumphant

Photo Content from Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell is the pen name of John G. Hemry, a retired U.S. Navy officer. His father (LCDR Jack M. Hemry, USN ret.) is a mustang (an officer who was promoted through the enlisted ranks), so John grew up living everywhere from Pensacola, Florida to San Diego, California, including an especially memorable few year on Midway Island.

John graduated from Lyons High School in Lyons, Kansas in 1974, then attended the U.S. Naval Academy (Class of '78), where he was labeled "the un-Midshipman" by his roommates.

His active duty assignments in the U.S. Navy included:
  • USS SPRUANCE (DD963) (Navigator, Gunnery Officer)
  • Defense Intelligence Agency (Production Control Officer)
  • Navy Anti-Terrorism Alert Center (Watch Officer, Operations Officer)
  • Amphibious Squadron Five (Staff Intelligence Officer/N2)
  • Navy Operational Intelligence Center (Readiness Division)
  • Chief of Naval Operations Staff N3/N5 (Plans, Policy and Operations)
John speaks the remnants of Russian painstakingly pounded into him by Professor Vladimir Tolstoy (yes, he was related to that Tolstoy).

He lives in Maryland with a wife who is too good for him and three great kids. The two eldest children are diagnosed as autistic but are slowly improving with therapies, education and medications.


Can you tell us when you started TRIUMPHANT, how that came about?
I had a contract! That really helps motivate a writer. I'd finished the first two books in the trilogy, and needed to have a solid ending that both provided satisfying resolutions to character arcs and to the events set forth in VANGUARD and ASCENDANT. Which is what TRIUMPHANT is.

Are there any new Authors that have grasped your interest and why?
One of the paradoxes of becoming a writer is that people become writers because they love to read, but once someone becomes a writer they have a lot less time to read. I haven't been able to keep up with everyone coming in to the field. I have been impressed by Michael Mammay, Joe Zieja, and Mallory O'Meara.

What is needed for a story to be good?
There are as many answers to that as there are readers, I suspect. But, for me, a good story is focused on the human element. Is it about people? Do the people feel real, or are they just jumping through plot points no matter how inconsistent or arbitrary that seems? Is everything else in the story (the setting, the background, the machines and devices, the events) about how those things impact the people and drive their actions and reactions? I admit I want characters who are likable or at least can be identified with, but a well-written story can have deeply flawed people whose story is still worth following. I suppose I should add that I think good stories are always about the reader, not about the writer. Writers make an implied contract with readers to provide them a good experience with a satisfying ending, and I think that count more than any other factor in crafting the story.

What do you hope for people to be thinking after they read your novel?
"I'm sorry it's over!" And maybe the roles that individuals can play in making things happen for the better (or for the worse), as well as how no individual or single group benefits from isolation. There's a tendency to blame other people for many things, but ultimately (I believe) other people also provide the answers and support we need. Hopefully that comes across in the book.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I guess that would be Dr. Catherine Asaro. My first stab at the Lost Fleet series was very vague on things like distances and speeds. She urged me to be specific and take those things into account in the story. As a result, one of the big things people like about the Lost Fleet universe is that it includes things like light-speed limitations and relativity and other real world physics. I think that's because including those things makes the story feel real, and complicate things for the characters (just as they complicate space travel in the real world). It also allowed me a means to get across just how big space is in a way that a human mind can grasp (a billion kilometers is a number too huge to really take hold of, but if instead you say that the distance is so far that light itself requires an hour to cover that distance, that's something people can get their minds around). So I definitely owe her for that.

Which of your characters do you feel has grown the most since book one and in what way have they changed?
It's hard to single out one of them. Mele Darcy has gone from being a lone wolf to accepting the personal and professional responsibilities of command. Rob Geary tried to leave behind his fleet experience, but couldn't step away when he was needed, so he had to find a way to balance his obligations to others with his obligations to his family and himself. Lochan Nakamura saw himself as a failure at every business and personal effort he'd engaged in, and discovered that his failures were rooted in not trusting others instead of really working with a team. And Carmen Ochoa, emotionally scarred by her life growing up in the slums of Mars, had to both use those experiences to get through tough times and power past them to build a brighter future for not just herself but everyone on her world.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I guess if I had to cite one thing, it would be the times that veterans come up to me or email me and say they think I really got it right. One of my biggest goals as a writer is to show the military and conflict as they are, rather than some idealized or cartoonish version, because I want those who haven't served to understand what it's really like. I feel an obligation to my fellow vets to tell their stories. So every time one of them says "well done" I feel very well rewarded.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this series?
My two eldest kids have autism, moderate and severe, and the impacts of that on their lives and those of the rest of the family have often been serious. Obviously, I have to put their needs first, but there are things all the best effort in the world can't accomplish. Dealing with that reality has made for some tough times.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My priority at the moment is of course Triumphant, to ensure the trilogy has a good finish and as many people as possible get to experience the dawn of the Alliance.

I'm also in the process of finishing a new science fantasy trilogy set on my world of Dematr (which has been called steampunk meets fantasy). Empress of the Endless Sea is a pirate story, about a young woman who has to survive a prophecy that shatters her life and leaves her trying to find her own purpose. Along the way she becomes legend.

Then I'll turn my focus back to the Lost Fleet universe, continuing the story of Tanya and Blackjack.

There's a short story in the Lost Fleet universe ("Ishigaki") coming out in the forthcoming Infinite Stars 2 anthology in September.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I sort of did that when I brought out the character of Master Chief Gioninni as part of the crew of the battle cruiser Dauntless. Tanya Desjani, the captain of Dauntless, runs a tight ship and looks askance at violations of regulations. Gioninni is a tribute to the character of Petty Officer "Fatso" Gioninni created by Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery for a series of humorous stories about a sailor who breaks all the rules yet always comes out shining. In the Lost Fleet books, when Tanya Desjani needs something done and there doesn't appear to be any way to do it, she calls on Master Chief Gioninni, telling him what's needed and not to tell her how he got it done. I added in Gioninni partly because there are always experienced sailors like that (and they are worth their weight in gold even though they also have to be closely watched), and partly in the hopes that more people would rediscover the works of RADM Gallery. 

What part of Kosatka and Glenlyon did you enjoy writing the most?
Probably the parts where people were expressing their hopes for the future of those worlds. No matter how bad things got, they were motivated by their dreams of the sort of homes the new worlds could be for their children. The dreams contrasted with the sometimes awful realities of the moment, and showed why the people of Kosatka and Glenlyon were fighting back against what often seemed impossible odds.

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
I have a somewhat inconsistent problem with heights, which doesn't bother me when I'm in an aircraft but can be problem in buildings. One year my family was visiting St. Louis and we went up in the arch and…I was pretty eager to get back down.

Oddly enough, there was never a time of being really scared in the Navy. During the tensest situations, there was always something that needed done, people who needed looked out for, responsibilities to be met. That didn't leave much room for being worried about myself.

What were you doing the last time you really had a good laugh?
Talking to my wife. We're both nerds, we're both veterans, and we'll toss words and references at each other that others might not get but are our own private language. We can make each other laugh at even difficult situations because we know each other so well.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
Probably my dad saying he thought I'd "gotten it right."

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
Someone who died in a fire wouldn't have died. That's all I'll say.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
Not really a single incident but an accumulation of incidents that added up to understanding one big thing. Meeting and working with men and women from many different backgrounds, places, and countries, different religions, different beliefs, different cultures, different experiences, led to the understanding of how important it is to try to grasp the way they're viewing the world and everything that happens, because how someone views the world heavily impacts what they see, what questions they ask, and what answers they accept.

Where can readers find you?
On facebook, the LOST FLEET fan group and my PERSONAL PAGE.
I almost always attend Balticon in Baltimore, Maryland each May, and will be at Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia again this year. I'll also be a Guest of Honor at WyVaCon in Wytheville, Virginia this July.

A young fleet officer and a Marine must stand together to defend their neighbors and their colony in this return to the powerful and action-packed Genesis Fleet saga from New York Times bestselling author Jack Campbell.

The recently colonized world of Glenlyon has learned that they're stronger when they stand with other star systems than they are on their own. But after helping their neighbor Kosatka against an invasion, Glenlyon has become a target. The aggressive star systems plan to neutralize Glenlyon before striking again.

An attack is launched against Glenlyon's orbital facility with forces too powerful for fleet officer Rob Geary to counter using their sole remaining destroyer, Saber. Mele Darcy's Marines must repel repeated assaults while their hacker tries to get into the enemy systems to give Saber a fighting chance.

To survive, Glenlyon needs more firepower, and the only source for that is their neighbor Kosatka or other star systems that have so far remained neutral. But Kosatka is still battling the remnants of the invasion forces on its own world, and if it sends its only remaining warship to help will be left undefended against another invasion. While Carmen Ochoa fights for the freedom of Kosatka, Lochan Nakamura must survive assassins as he tries to convince other worlds to join a seemingly hopeless struggle.

As star systems founded by people seeking freedom and autonomy, will Kosatka, Glenlyon and others be able to overcome deep suspicions of surrendering any authority to others? Will the free star systems stand together in a new Alliance, or fall alone?


"All Campbell's trademarks are present. On the military side, he handles riveting battles, knotty dilemmas, desperate actions, and lower-deck humor with the assurance of one who's been there and done that. And he offers intriguing insights into civilian power plays and politicking. His characters are well-drawn, with fully fleshed-out backgrounds and temperaments. . . . A solid entry to extend an always reliable sequence." 

You can purchase Triumphant (The Genesis Fleet #3) at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JACK CAMPBELL for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of Triumphant (The Genesis Fleet #3) by Jack Campbell.