Author Interview: Jack Campbell

Today I am interviewing Jack Campbell, author of the new science-fiction novel, Triumphant, third book in The Genesis Fleet series.

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DJ: Hi Jack! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!

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

Jack Campbell: Jack Campbell is my pen name (I’m really John Hemry).  I’m a retired US Navy officer who writes the best-selling Lost Fleet series (and its tie-ins Beyond the Frontier, The Lost Stars, and The Genesis Fleet) as well as science fantasy set on the world of Dematr (The Pillars of Reality, Destiny of Dragons, and Empress of the Endless Sea).  My YA novel The Sister Paradox won the 2018 EPIC YA ebook award. After retiring from the Navy I became full-time caregiver for my wife’s and my children, all three kids being on various parts of the autism spectrum, as well as trying my hand at writing.

DJ: What is Triumphant and then the The Genesis Fleet series about?

Jack: The Genesis Fleet series shows how humanity first exploded into nearby regions of space when the jump drives that allowed fairly quick interstellar travel were discovered.  As everyone on Earth and nearby colonies in space who wanted to escape the rules and laws and pressures of those old worlds raced to find homes of their own, they wanted nothing more than to be left alone and not get involved with other people’s problems.  But soon enough some worlds decided to lean on other worlds, demanding tribute in exchange for peace, or outright trying to take over weaker neighbors, because even though we’d left Earth behind humans hadn’t left their problems behind. The series shows how the first victims of aggression fight back, managing to barely defend themselves, while also trying to convince other worlds that haven’t yet been attacked to help.  Triumphant is the culmination of this, as defenders on the worlds of Kosatka and Glenlyon try to keep their worlds free without letting the fighting warp their ideals, and other worlds weigh whether to offer help and form an alliance to protect them all.

DJ: What were some of your influences for the The Genesis Fleet series?

Jack: The biggest was of course the Lost Fleet series, because The Genesis Fleet shows where the Alliance of that universe came from, and why it has the strengths and the weaknesses that it does.  Other influences were the many other fictional explorations of what humanity might do if offered the galaxy, from the works of Heinlein and Andre Norton to those of C. J. Cherryh and Elizabeth Moon.  And, of course, the real history of humanity as new places and old grapple with the conflicts between ideals and reality, trying to balance right and wrong and the need for help against mutual foes or problems against the very real desire to be left alone.

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?

Jack: Rob Geary is someone who wants to be able to live his own life and look after his family, but is repeatedly called to deal with problems faced by the community.  He can’t say no when he’s needed, even when it costs him, and he insists in doing what he believes to be right, even when that costs him. Carmen Ochoa is a refugee from the slums of Mars who is determined to ensure the new human settlements on many worlds don’t repeat the mistakes that turned Mars into a kleptocratic, oligarchic survival of the most ruthless world.  She has to do that while being mistrusted by people to whom all Reds (those from Mars) are dangerous thugs. Mele Darcy was a Marine on an old colony who dodged responsibility until Glenlyon ended up depending on her, and has since gradually accepted the burdens of a role she didn’t seek, that causes her pain, but that she nonetheless loves. And Lochan Nakamura is a man of middle-age who has failed at everything in life, and is going to the stars in hopes of finally succeeding at something.  He has to learn to trust others before he can be what he wants, though.

DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role for in story? Why?

Jack: I like Freya Morgan a lot.  She’s cheerfully, casually dangerous, can deal with nearly every challenge, and likes maintaining a low profile as she changes the fates of entire worlds with the right words and the right actions at the right times.  Plus she enjoys giving Lochan Nakamura a hard time because she likes him and he never knows quite how to respond. (It’s not specifically said during the books, but Colonel Roh Morgan of the Lost Stars and Beyond the Frontier series is descended from Freya Morgan’s brother.)

DJ: What is the world and setting of the The Genesis Fleet series like?

Jack:  The Genesis Fleet trilogy takes place in a time when humanity has finally discovered a practical means to cross the distances between stars in a fairly short time (weeks), though the jump drives require jumping from star to nearby star to nearby star and so on to get where a ship is going.  With large numbers of star systems suddenly within reach, even if travel times add up to months, lots of people from Earth and nearby colonies can get their own worlds in their own star systems to set up on their own with no interference or control by anyone else. Within a short time, humanity explodes out into dozens of new worlds on far off stars.  It seems like a great deal, until some of those worlds decide to lean on other worlds, demanding tribute or outright subjugation. At that point, the first worlds subjected to aggression realize that being on your own is great until you need help. They have to not only defend themselves when they hadn’t prepared to fight, but try to find allies among other free worlds that don’t want to surrender any of their autonomy or get involved in other people’s fights.  On the one hand, the universe of the Genesis Fleet is full of new worlds, new opportunities, and endless new chances. On the other, it faces the same problems and dilemmas that have always bedeviled humanity, and has to find answers that can work.

DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first two books of The Genesis Fleet series? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?

Jack:  Vanguard and Ascendant have both been well-reviewed.  I think readers like the combination of strong characters and action.  I try to make both the people and the things that happen feel as real as possible, so the book reads almost like a history of what happened and the people who did it rather than a work of fiction.  I think readers also like how this series points the way to the future seen in The Lost Fleet. Some of the leading characters in The Genesis Fleet are ancestors of those in The Lost Fleet, providing a clear tie to the later stories.

DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Triumphant?

Jack:  As with any book, there’s that wonderful moment when you finish writing it.  It’s a vast relief, and a sense of accomplishment. But then there’s the moment when it’s printed, and you can hold it, which is still an awesome feeling.  But the best part is (hopefully) after it’s published, when people talk to me about the book.

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

Jack: I’m hoping it will be The Genesis Fleet’s message of mutual dependence on each other, and the importance of individual decisions and actions.  It’s easy to believe that what we do and think doesn’t really matter, but history proves that one person can make a difference. And it’s easy to want to be alone and not be worried about what happens to others, but ultimately helping others helps us as well.  And they may well be talking about the brief look ahead at the end of Triumphant, where a couple of familiar characters discuss the past and their own future.

DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing The Genesis Fleet series? Was 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?

Jack: There were two goals, one being to set the stage for the later Lost Fleet universe.  The Genesis Fleet had to show how the Alliance first formed and why, and the first actions of the Alliance fleet.  The “why” was a big factor, because that drives the structure of the Alliance, its strengths and weaknesses, and how that influenced the situation that Black Jack will face much later.  The other goal was to show the ancestors of some important Lost Fleet characters, and the roles they played in those early days.

DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a book, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? The evolution of your characters?

Jack: Triumphant stayed pretty close to how I’d imagined it.  When I write, I know where I’m starting, and where it will end.  As I write, the characters let me know how they’re going to get the story from beginning to end.  There are usually a few twists there, as characters tell me they won’t do this but will do that instead, and how it still leads in the right direction.  The toughest part was figuring out Rob Geary’s fate, but he gave me that answer eventually, showing how the situation would drive the only right response, and what that would cost him.

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 Triumphant that you can share with us?

Jack: Maybe two:

“If Glenlyon insists on a wall to keep out everyone else so we won’t have any obligations or commitments or any infringement on our actions, then that wall will actually be a cage.  A cage we built ourselves, to hide inside. A cage that limits everything we do. That’s not freedom. It’s self-imprisonment.”

And, on the lighter side:

“Why do they call it inching?”

“Because that’s what it is.”

“That’s what what is?”

Sergeant Giddings interrupted the conversation.  “Mac, you’ve got a dictionary in your armor systems.  Everyone does. It doesn’t take up much space in the memory.  Look up ‘inching,'”

“Okay, Sarge.  Huh. It says an inch was an old system of measurement.  There were twelve inches in a foot.”

“Twelve in a foot?” Private Ford asked.  “Everybody’s feet are different sizes. How could you use that as a measurement?”

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

Jack:  I’m finishing up the science fantasy (steampunk meets high fantasy) pirate trilogy Empress of the Endless Sea, then will turn back to the Lost Fleet universe, trying to pick up the stories of Black Jack and Tanya once more after giving them a bit of a break.

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 Triumphant and The Genesis Fleet series that we haven’t talked about yet?

Jack: That it’s ultimately a hopeful story, about how new starts are always possible, and those new starts come from inside us, though they might involve new places and people and things as well.  We can never escape old problems, but we can always try new ways to overcome them.

DJ: Is there anything else you would like add? 

Jack:  Thank you for the opportunity to connect with your readers!

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

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***Triumphant is published byAce and is available TODAY!!!***

Buy the Book: 

Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Book:

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?

About the Author:

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.

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