What frightens you, and how does it influence your writing?
I think, more than anything, my fears embody the most fundamental of human experiences: tragedy; loss; lack of control of the world around us; the unknown. I was raised in a household where anxiety was commonplace, where I picked up a sense of constant concern for situations that were beyond my ability to manage. This came from my father, who, in turn received it from his father—an anxiety born of both the Great Depression, and fighting amid the German skies during World War II.
I like to think that I’ve overcome the throes of apprehension and self-consciousness that used to paralyze me as a youth. Yet, though they no longer impact my day-to-day life, it doesn’t change the fact that these fears still embody a certain truth: sometimes, bad things happen. Things that are beyond us to predict, much less prevent, or stop.
I was in a minor car accident the other day. Just a scrape, yet I couldn’t help thinking about how events had seemingly conspired against me. My family dog of fourteen years had died earlier that morning, and while one might think that I was distracted, in that moment I was as aware and cognizant as any other time I was driving. It was a freak occurrence. If only I’d been in a different lane; if only I’d left the house a minute sooner or later; if only I’d decided to stay home instead of choosing to hang out with a friend to ease my sorrow—all these things flashed through my mind. And I’m sure almost everyone has had a similar experience.
“Tragic happenstance” is a term I use a lot when talking about writing. It’s that notion of being in the wrong place and the wrong time, of bad things happening to good people. When these things happen in our own lives, it’s easy to be struck by a sudden terror that the universe is a cold and uncaring place with little affection for the mere men and women that populate this one infinitesimally small corner of existence. And more, that evokes the most fundamental fear of living: fear of our own mortality.
I often write about dire stakes, where a given character’s survival isn’t guaranteed. I like to create that tension, that intensity, where the reader never knows who might bite the dust. Of course, these moments always have to serve the greater story. Yet in order to create an authentic war story—and Fires of Man is very much a war story—it’s integral that there be a real sense of risk, that there are no assurances the characters will make it out unscathed, heroes and villains alike.
However, this fear may also be what gives rise to our greatest appreciation for living, for knowing that it will someday end, we must cherish every moment we can. And so this also inspires me to write of the joyous times, coming through the fire, surviving, reuniting with loved ones, achieving the impossible.
Because what is writing, really, save for the truest representation we can muster of both life’s tragedies, and its blessings? That’s what I believe.
About Fires of Man:
In the heart of Calchis, a powerful young psion named Aaron Waverly is kidnapped, and forcibly conscripted. To the north, in the capital, a plan is hatched to decimate Orion, to be carried out by the ruthless operative known only as “Agent.”
In Orion, fresh recruit Stockton Finn comes to terms with his incredible new powers, and learns firsthand how dangerous they can be. And while Orion officers Nyne Allen and Kay Barrett navigate the aftermath of their shattered love affair, they are oblivious to the fact that Calchis draws ever closer to destroying the tenuous peace.
Amid all this, Calchan archaeologist Faith Santia unearths a millennia old ruin in the arctic land of Zenith. This lost temple might hold the hidden history of psionic powers, as well as hints of a deeper mystery that could shake the foundations of all mankind.
About Dan Levinson:
You can find him on his blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.