Monday, July 8, 2024

 #AuthorInterview with D.L. Jennings

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with D.L. Jennings, author of Days of the Dark (Book 3 of the Highglade series).

FQ: You wrote your debut novel, Gift of the Shaper, while on active duty serving on your ninth combat tour. I am curious, as I'm sure your readers are, as to what that looked like. There you were, on active military duty, writing a novel. It doesn't sound like an environment that would be conducive to writing. How did this process go for you?

JENNINGS: I would say it was exactly the environment that was conducive to writing, mostly because of a combination of factors: a remote East African location, no internet, and down time. All of those things put together made for just the right ingredients to spark a creative urge in me to start writing. I had brought a few books with me, but quickly tore through them. I told myself that, since I had grown up reading fantasy, maybe I could try my hand at writing it, too. After settling on a general setting and an idea for the characters, I started writing what would become Gift of the Shaper on my iPad, finishing the whole thing over the course of about a year.

FQ: The entire fantasy world you have created for the Highglade series, including the region, characters, artifacts, even the names, is so comprehensive and creative. You did not miss one single detail. How did you create such an intricate world? Did you derive inspiration from anywhere?

JENNINGS: I have always loved daydreaming, and I did so much of it when I was writing the series. I was raised on Dungeons and Dragons, and my favorite part was always the character creation: what was this one like? Where did he come from, and what shaped him? I poured those kinds of questions into my writing to make sure that each of my characters were believable and fleshed out. I also took a lot of inspiration from various cultures – Irish, Mongolian, Bedouin – when shaping the characters and the regions they’re from.

FQ: Would you say you're a fan of reading fantasy yourself? Any favorite fantasy authors?

JENNINGS: My mom raised me on Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, so it was only natural that I would gravitate towards writing fantasy as well. I would have to say that my favorite author, though, is Robert Jordan, who wrote the Wheel of Time series – not only because he was a great writer, but he was a fellow war veteran and ended up doing something great with his life. It’s very motivating to me.

Author D.L. Jennings

FQ: In your bio, you share that you've been deployed 11 times to six different locations. Can you share a bit about these experiences: where you've been deployed, and what your role was within the Air Force Special Operations Command?

JENNINGS: I was a Career Enlisted Aviator in the Air Force, and my specialty was called Airborne ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) Operator, which basically meant I spent a lot of time on a special mission aircraft collecting intelligence. I flew somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 combat missions, and I only know that because they gave me a certificate when I hit 300, as it’s considered a difficult milestone to achieve. What it all boiled down to, though, was I was doing a job that I loved supporting some of the baddest dudes on the entire planet, and considered myself very lucky to be doing it.

FQ: When you were writing the Highglade series, did you have any issues keeping all of your characters and details straight? Did you have an organization system as you progressed with your writing and the details became more complex?

JENNINGS: When I was writing Awaken the Three (Book 2) and Days of the Dark (Book 3), I found myself doing a whole lot of CTRL+F in the manuscript for the first book. I wanted to make sure I got things straight like eye color (a very important trait for the race of people called the Athrani), previous character interactions, and overall story arc. The closest thing I have to organization is a text file on my phone with potential plot points or bits of dialogue that I may or may not end up using. I think it would drive a normal person mad, but then again I spend several hours a day talking to made up people in my head, so I think I’m already past that.

FQ: Days of the Dark is the conclusion of the Highglade series. Since your first series as a published author has been so successful, do you have any plans for future standalone books or perhaps another series?

JENNINGS: I have always loved writing, and consider myself very lucky to have found it. I’ve been rolling around an idea for a new story for a few years now, but I wanted to make sure that I finished my series first; it was very important to me that I told the whole story. Now that I have told the best story I could, I am very excited about my next project, which I try to update on my website,

FQ: On your website, you share a bit about your journey to becoming a published author, including the rejections you faced along the way. What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish a book, but is intimidated by the process?

JENNINGS: You never know what you are truly capable of until you try. Some of my friends have told me that they’re impressed with my imagination and that they could never write a book, but I was in my 30’s the first time I ever put pen to paper (metaphorically). Writing a book is far and away my proudest achievement and I’m so happy I attempted it – but at the same time I never would have been able to do it without the encouragement of my friends and family, people who told me that what I was writing was something worthwhile. I would say to anyone who is thinking about writing a book: do it. If you have it in you, it will get done.

FQ: You share that you travel a lot, and you even blog about it on your website and Instagram. Can you share with your readers a bit about your favorite trip recently: where you went, what you experienced while there, and why you loved it?

JENNINGS: Travel is one of my favorite things to do, and this past October I did something I almost never do: I visited the same place twice. Two years ago, I stumbled on a castle for rent on Airbnb. It slept 10 people and was situated in a Tuscan town called Poggibonsi. I had always wanted to go to Tuscany, and I knew that some of my friends and family would want to join me, so I reached out and got enough people interested in sleeping in a Tuscan castle that we ended up making it happen. We had such a good time that we ended up going back in 2023, and the owner remembered us. The last night we were there he cooked all of us a traditional Tuscan meal complete with wine made from grapes that he grew in his vineyard right on the property. We spent 5 days there in total, and I think, without exaggeration, it is my favorite place on earth. I have a feeling we will be back again.

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