Author Interview: Holly Jennings

Today I am interviewing Holly Jennings author of the new science-fiction novel, Gauntlet, second book of the Arena series.

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DJ: Hey Holly! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Holly Jennings: I’m Holly Jennings: author, gamer, and nerd – not always in that order but at least one of the three at any given time. I write kick-ass futuristic science fiction and my heart swoons over a good action scene. When I’m not writing, I’m usually playing video games.

DJ: What is Gauntlet and then the Arena series about?

Holly: Set in the near-future, the Arena series combines competitive gaming with full immersion virtual reality. Imagine plugging into the Matrix to play a game, and then competing for millions of dollars to win.

Gauntlet is the sequel to the debut novel, Arena, where our heroes Team Defiance are thrown into an all-star tournament against the greatest players in the world and a game that learns the players’ weaknesses and gets harder with every round.

DJ: What were some of your influences for the Arena series?

Holly: Being a futuristic novel about virtual reality competitive gaming, Arena is what happened when Neuromancer and an eSports documentary had a baby in my imagination. The gladiatorial-style game inside the VR world came from watching one too many episodes of Spartacus.

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? 

Holly: Kali Ling, she’s passionate, determined, violent, deeply flawed, and above all – very, very human. She makes a lot of mistakes, grows up and forges ahead no matter what the obstacle. What really makes her shine is her love for her teammates and how the bonds between them grow over the course of the series.

DJ: What is the world and setting of the Arena series like?

Holly: The Arena series is set a few decades into the future and looks very much like our world, except virtual reality gaming has surpassed football and even soccer as the number one sport. Gamers are A-list celebrities and they compete for hundreds of millions of dollars in live-action tournaments.

DJ: What is Gauntlet’s new game like, compared to Arena’s Rage?

Holly: Gauntlet’s new game is more complex and more eye-candy. It’s set in a Japanese cyberpunk virtual world with pink neon lights and rain-slicked streets. Sometimes, the characters have a hard time focusing on the game instead of admiring their surroundings.

I don’t want to give too much away (spoilers), but the game also changes and grows with every round, pushing the characters to their absolute limits. Arena’s RAGE game was violent for the sole purpose of being violent. Gauntlet’s all-star tournament is to prove who is the best in the world.

DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Gauntlet?

Holly: The fight scenes! They’re always daunting before I start, but once I get into them, there’s smoke coming off my keyboard. I can’t stop writing words down.

DJ: Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?

Holly: Hmm, yes – but I can’t say what it is without spoiling the end of Gauntlet. I never thought people wanting to throw their kindles at me would be such a compliment. Haha.

DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish Gauntlet?

Holly: The ending and what could possibly happen next for the team.

DJ: What was your goal when you began writing the Arena series? Gauntlet is only the second 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?

Holly: I don’t like to tell people what they’re supposed to get out of my books. The same book can affect a hundred people in a hundred different ways. I can say that friendship was a driving theme in the books for me. Personally, I feel like your early twenties (same age as my characters) is when you break away from your family and start to rely on your friends more, as you both try to figure out this thing called “adulting.”

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 Gauntlet that you can share with us?

Holly: “Never bow down to the world. Always make it bow down to you.”

DJ: Now that Gauntlet is released, what is next for you?

Holly: I’m developing a third Arena novel and a brand new series that focuses on environmental science fiction. I’m also spending more time on social media, finding new ways of connecting with my readers, and will be relaunching my blog in a few weeks.

DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?




Amazon Author Page:



DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Gauntlet and the Arena series that we haven’t talked about yet?

Holly: I wrote these books for gamers who wanted to see themselves on the page and in a future where they are respected for what they do. Most of all, I wrote them for fun. While they have their serious moments, the books are meant as fast-paced, exciting reads to escape for an afternoon.

DJ: Is there anything else you would like add? (Or add your own question).

Holly: For all the gamers out there, I host a regular Twitch stream on Saturday nights. Feel free to join us starting at 7:00 PM EST. We’re gamers, readers, writers, and lovers of science fiction. It’s a great crowd, super friendly, and we’re always happy when someone new joins in.

DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!

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*** Gauntlet is published by Ace and is available TODAY!!! ***

Buy the Book: 

Amazon | Barnes & NobelGoodreads | Kobo

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About the Book:

Plug back into the dangerous world of virtual gaming, in the next thrilling novel from the author of Arena.

Kali Ling isn’t afraid of dying. She’s been killed hundreds of times in hundreds of different ways. And she knows there are things much more terrifying than death…

There’s a new game in town. A brutal, winner-takes-all, international video game tournament between the world’s most elite players, promising fame, prestige, and unbelievable fortune. But there’s a catch. The game uses new VR pods guaranteed to push digital warriors to their physical and psychological brink—adapting every time a gamer makes a move.

As the first female captain and youngest team owner in VGL history, Kali is used to defying the odds. But as the all-star tournament heats up, her determination begins to waver and the pressures of media, sponsors, and the game itself begin to put cracks in her hard-set convictions.

If Kali’s Team Defiance is to survive, they’ll have to find a way to be stronger than ever before. But battling the system may prove too difficult for even the most hardened of fighters…

About the Author:

Holly Jennings is a self-proclaimed nerd and lover of all things geeky and weird. As the firstborn to a sports enthusiast, it was soon discovered that the only games she’d ever learn to master involved consoles and controllers. Her childhood was spent crushing virtual foes, racing on simulated tracks, and rescuing digital princesses. As a young adult, she fell in love with English class, speculative novels, and comic books, which inspired her to create stories of her own. Eventually, her passions converged and she started writing about the future of video games.

She lives in Canada.


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