Today I am interviewing Jay Allan, author of the new military science-fiction novel, Flames of Rebellion, first book in the Flames of Rebellion series.
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DJ: Hey Jay! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Jay Allen: Absolutely. I write science fiction and fantasy novels, published through a variety of outlets, including my good friends at Harper Voyager. It’s somewhat of a second career for me, and I started doing it after I retired early from real estate development and investment, which I tend to consider a pretty weird origin story for a sci fi writer. I live in New York, and I’ve been writing for about five years now. I’m getting close to a million books sold in that time, which certainly exceeds any expectations I had going in.
DJ: What is Flames of Rebellion about?
Jay: Flames of Rebellion is the story of a revolution. I’ve been told I tend to have a dark view of things, and I’m inclined to see technology in many ways as the totalitarian’s dream. Can you imagine dictators of another era having the ability to track everyone wherever they go, or to listen in on virtually every conversation? So, I wrote a story of a new colony on another planet, one where the surveillance superstructure isn’t as developed as it is on Earth. Add adventurous colonists grown accustomed to a level of freedom beyond that available on Earth, and a home government looking to tighten the screws, and conflict is inevitable.
I read a lot of history, and I often incorporate it in my work. For Flames, I wanted to explore multiple aspects of revolution, and I used bits and pieces of three historical conflicts, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution.
I really wanted to capture the complexity of rebellions, not just the good rebels fighting the evil empire, so to speak. If you think about some of these historical events, there was as much conflict between the revolutionaries as with the old government.
Flames has a large cast of characters, but if I had to pick one and say it is his story, it would be Damian Ward. Damian is a former soldier, one who is torn at first between his old government allegiances and the calls of his neighbors to join the growing rebellion. I really wanted to hit on the point that decisions in situations like that are not as simple as they’re often made out to be. Damian is surrounded by a wide variety of other characters, a sympathetic federal governor desperately trying to stop the impending catastrophe, his brutal replacement…not to mention radicals on the rebel side targeting those locals they feel support revolution with insufficient fervor with the same venom they direct toward the federals.
Take Washington, Robespierre, and Lenin, and throw them into a science fiction setting…and see what happens. Along the way, there’s lots of action and a bunch of twists and turns.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Flames of Rebellion?
Jay: I have a lot of influences generally for my writing, other authors and the like. But, I’d have to say for Flames of Rebellion, I was more influenced by non-fiction, both history and also the advent of technology and the ways it can be misused to control populations.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Jay: My books tend to have a large number of characters and lots of things going on. If I had to pick a main character for Flames, it would be Damian Ward.
Damian is an ex-soldier, retired to Haven to work the farm he received as a mustering out bonus. He has a lot of loyalty in the beginning, to the government and more so even to the men and women he’d served with. He resists calls to join the rebellion at first, unable to bring himself to fight against the forces of which he’d been a part. He tries hard to achieve some middle ground, but as events proceed he finds it more and more difficult to avoid choosing a side.
Jamie Grant is Damian’s friend. He’s a victim of the harsh, totalitarian government back on Earth. Where Damian achieved his prosperity through his service to the government, Damian was sent to Haven as a prisoner, to work in the mines there. He hates the government, but he is also Damian’s close friend, and this puts some level of restraint on his actions.
Cal Jacen is a radical, one of the prime movers of the rebellion, but also a man who hides his true extreme beliefs and ambitions. Jacen is my Robespierre, maybe with a little Stalin thrown in. He lumps any Havenites who don’t whole-heartedly support rebellion in with the federals, and he is ready—anxious even—to resort to brutal methods to achieve his goals.
Everett Wells, Asha Stanton and Robert Semmes are federal officials, each with a different take on events on Haven. Wells is a moderate man, and as governor, he has tried to settle the growing tensions leading the planet to rebellion. He hesitates to employ harsh measures, though this tends to be ignored by the rebels who hate him as a federal figurehead, and it makes him seem weak to the other government officials.
Asha Stanton is essentially his replacement, sterner, willing to do what is necessary to achieve success and further her own political career. She considers Haven an unsophisticated backwater, and she wants to finish her job and get back to Earth as soon as possible.
Semmes is a psychopath, the commander of the security forces sent with Stanton. He is ready to drown the rebellion in blood and employ any measures to crush the colonists he sees only as traitors.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Flames of Rebellion series like?
Jay: Haven is a pleasant, Earthlike world in the Epsilon Eridani system. It is one of a number of worlds colonized by the nations of Earth, and is one of the oldest colonies.
It was colonized by adventurous individuals, those willing to take great risks to tame a new world. This was at first promoted by the Earth government, which sought to essentially exile those seen as politically troublesome. As a result of this, the culture, far away and lacking the surveillance infrastructure of the home world, develops into one far less pacified than those on Earth. When the colony grows to become important economically, the government seeks to impose greater control, and a clash develops.
The self-sufficiency of the culture is a key aspect of Haven, one that contrasts with the cowed masses on Earth, accustomed to being constantly monitored by the government.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Flames of Rebellion?
Jay: It was a blast taking some historical themes and expanding on them. Obviously, the distance from Earth is a big factor in enabling the rebellion to take hold. Every federal soldier needs to be shipped there at enormous expense. There’s a little of the American Revolution in that…remoteness as a force empowering rebellion.
I also really enjoyed exploring the ways things go wrong. This isn’t unspotted rebels against nothing but black hat wearing federal baddies. I loved creating a web of crisscrossing allegiances and loyalties, and writing a story that is complex in structure.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Jay: I assume you mean beyond, “What a great book and fantastic author!”
Honestly, other than my hope that people really enjoy the book, I’d love to have them talk about some of the things that lead to the demise of freedom. The colonists on Haven enjoyed a level of liberty that was largely gone on the Earth of the book. The colonization of nearby planets, and the distance involved essentially creates a rebirth of the quest for liberty. I’d love to hear readers talking about the ways societies surrender their freedoms without realizing it until it is too late.
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing the Flames of Rebellion series? Flames of Rebellion is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Jay: Well, theme number one is clear. Freedom is hard to gain and very easy to lose. The colonists in the book are fighting for theirs, and without giving any spoilers, it is a costly effort. We’re living in a time when technology offers enormous potential, but can also be used to control people in some very scary ways.
The second thing I focused on—I’m not sure it is specifically a theme—is to show that things are rarely as black and white as people often view them. I have rebels who are good guys, and others who are unquestionably bad guys. I also have sympathetic government characters, as well as some that are far from. I tried to show a lot of points of view.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Flames of Rebellion that you can share with us?
Jay: It’s not so much a specific quote, but I enjoyed writing some of the interaction between Damian Ward and Jamie Grant. They’re friends, and they come from similar under-privileged backgrounds, but Damian gained prosperity through serving in the federal military while Jamie was just a victim. It was interesting trying to imagine how Damian would express the uncertainty he felt to his close friend who felt no such conflict and had no lingering loyalties to the government.
DJ: Now that Flames of Rebellion is released, what is next for you?
Jay: Right now, I’m finishing up Rebellion’s Fury, book two in the series. I’m afraid I’m a little late on this, and the great folks at Voyager have been incredibly supportive about that.
I also recently started a new series, Blood on the Stars, with the first two books out (Duel in the Dark and Call to Arms). As soon as Rebellion’s Fury is done, I’ll be finishing up Ruins of Empire, book three. Then, I’ll be diving into the third Flames of Rebellion book. I’m really excited about that one, as it goes in what will probably be an unexpected direction. I’d love to tell you more, but that would be way too far into spoiler territory.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Author Newsletter: http://www.jayallanbooks.com
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Flames of Rebellion that we haven’t talked about yet?
Jay: I really tried to include a lot of conflict and characters coming at the plot from different directions, and consequently, there was a lot of set up in the early sections. Flames is one of the longest books I’ve written, and I really tried to write a story that was thoughtful as well as action-packed.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Jay: Thank you!
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*** Flames of Rebellion is published by Harper Voyager and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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A group of rebels fighting for independence sows the seeds of revolution across the galaxy in this blockbuster military sci-fi adventure from the author of the Crimson Worlds and Far Stars series.
The planet Haven slides closer to revolution against its parent nation, Federal America. Everett Wells, the fair-minded planetary governor, has tried to create a peaceful resolution, but his failure has caused the government to send Asha Stanton, a ruthless federal operative, to quell the insurgency.
Wells quickly realizes that Stanton has the true power . . . and two battalions of government security troops—specifically trained to put down unrest—under her control. Unlike Wells, Stanton is prepared to resort to extreme methods to break the back of the gathering rebellion, including unleashing Colonel Robert Semmes, the psychopathic commander of her soldiers, on the Havenites.
But the people of Haven have their own ideas. They are not the beaten-down masses of Earth, but men and women with the courage and fortitude to tame a new world.
Damian Ward is such a resident of Haven, a retired veteran and decorated war hero, who has watched events on his adopted world with growing apprehension. He sympathizes with the revolutionaries, his friends and neighbors, but he is loath to rebel against the flag he fought to defend. That is, until Stanton’s reign of terror intrudes into his life—and threatens those he knows and loves. Then he does what he must, rallying Haven’s other veterans and leading them to the aid of the revolutionaries.
Yet the battle-scarred warrior knows that even if Haven’s freedom fighters defeat the federalists, the rebellion is far from over . . . it’s only just begun.
I currently live in New York City, and I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for just about as long as I’ve been reading. My tastes are fairly varied and eclectic, but I’d say favorites are military and dystopian science fiction and epic fantasy, usually a little bit gritty.
I write a lot of science fiction with military themes, but also other SF and some fantasy as well. I like complex characters and lots of backstory and action. Honestly, I think world-building is the heart of science fiction and fantasy, and since that is what I’ve always been drawn to as a reader, that is what I write.
I’ve been an investor and non-fiction writer for a long time, a fiction author more recently. When I’m not writing I enjoy traveling, running, hiking, reading. I love hearing from readers and always answer emails. I think you stop growing as a writer if you stop listening to readers.
Among other things, I write the bestselling Crimson Worlds series.
Join my mailing list at http://www.crimsonworlds.com for updates on new releases.