Beyond Her Limits: An Interview with Janine K. Spendlove

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Photo courtesy of Janine K. Spendlove
Photo courtesy of Janine K. Spendlove

Janine K. Spendlove is a KC-130 pilot in the United States Marine Corps as well as an award-winning writer. She is known for her War of the Seasons fantasy series but has also published speculative fiction short stories in various anthologies, including the Star Wars tie-in story “Inbrief.” Janine is a member of Women in Aerospace (WIA), Broad Universe (BU), and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and is a co-founder of GeekGirlsRun (GGR), a community for geek girls (and guys) who just want to run, share, have fun, and encourage each other.

Daily Dragon (DD): What is War of the Seasons?

Janine K. Spendlove (JKS): War of the Seasons is my fantasy series, all about a girl from our world who falls into another world filled with magic, elves, trolls, dwarves, and really nasty faeries that try to kill her a lot. Throughout the course of the story our heroine journeys to save a dying race and band together with her allies to overcome the greatest evil in all the worlds.

DD: What inspired you to create this world?

JKS: In 2008 my foster son, Will, died quite suddenly in a car accident. As I struggled to cope with my feelings of loss, anger, and deep sadness, I found myself expressing these feelings in my writing, and I wanted to create a world were Will’s memory, along with others in my life who have passed on, could live on in eternity.

DD: How did you keep track of details about the world and the characters from book to book?

JKS: I’ve got a War of the Seasons bible, which I referred to often. So many characters, so much back story and history, that in the third book, due to requests for it, I included a significant portion of my “bible” as an appendix. Additionally, the fourth (and final) volume of the series is actually a collection of short stories about the periphery characters and what was going on in their lives before, during, and after the events of the main story arc.

Also, really, really good friends who read all my work and kept me straight/pointed out continuity errors.

DD: How do the Song of the Seasons short stories relate to War of the Seasons?

JKS: Those are short stories about secondary characters that comprise my fourth volume in the series, as mentioned above. They take place all over the timeline—as early as 1,500 years prior to the main events, some concurrently, and the final one during the time after.

DD: Does it matter whether people read the short stories or the novels first?

JKS: The short stories certainly spoil the novels, though I don’t believe they would “ruin” them—you’d just go into it already knowing a few key “reveals.” I’d recommend reading the novels first (or read the volumes in number order, 1-4).

DD: You’ve written many short stories. What about that form most appeals to you?

JKS: The first time I had to write a short story, I nearly panicked. I thought of myself as a novelist, not as a short story writer (I realize now I should have always thought of myself as writer—no caveats). But, due to the contracts of one of the conventions I was attending as an author guest, I had to submit a short story—a sci-fi story specifically. Cue another panic. I thought of myself as strictly a fantasy writer.

But, I did it—because I had to—and though I struggled very much at first, out came my first short story, “Slug.” To my surprise, it was well received, and I learned an important lesson: I could write in any genre if I set my mind to it. Since “Slug” I have written in several genres I would have counted myself out of, and to this day “Slug” remains one of my favorites to read at convention readings and always entertains the audience.

What I love most about short stories is that apart from the fact that given the nature of the length of the story (which means you have to make every word count), it has afforded me the opportunity to explore different ways of telling stories (different POVs, narrative forms, and subject matters I would have shied away from in the past).

So basically, writing short stories has made me a better writer overall.

DD: You recently wrote a story set in the Star Wars universe. What is the story about, and how did you get this opportunity?

JKS: The story is about an Imperial bounty hunter named Brand and how she ended up entangled with the Rebellion.

At San Diego Comic Con 2014 I was introduced to one of the senior editors at Del Rey (they publish the Star Wars tie in novels/stories) by my friend John Jackson Miller (a fantastic author—he wrote the first of the new Star Wars canon Rebel Dawn). During the course of our conversation I decided to take a chance and gave the editor a copy of Athena’s Daughters and told her that the anthology was filled with fantastic stories (to include one of my own, “Millie”), in case she was ever looking for new writers. I later followed up with her on Facebook and she asked me for more examples of my work. I sent her a military sci-fi short story I’d written about a military working dog/space Marine (“The Marine Breed” published in The Dogs of War), and a few months later I was contacted by her assistant asking me if I’d be interested in doing a tie-in short story to the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company novel.

Um, yes. Yes I DEFINITELY was.

DD: What do you most enjoy about writing superheroes, as you have in several stories for anthologies, and what do you find most challenging?

JKS: I have to laugh a little because I don’t actually seek out to write superhero stories. Much like my first foray into writing sci-fi, my first superhero story (“He Was a Marvelous Man” published in Origins Game Fair’s HEROES! anthology) came about because of a contractual obligation as a convention author guest. And then I was invited to a second superhero anthology, and then a year later, a third.

But I certainly didn’t mind it! Writing superheroes is a lot of fun; especially as I can create superheroes that we don’t often see in the genre (eg, women of color, young girls) and give my daughter a superhero that looks like her.

The most challenging part by far is creating a “new” superhero that hasn’t been done to death.

DD: Being a KC-130 pilot for the United States Marine Corps doesn’t sound like a job that fits into a nine-to-five day. Is that an accurate assumption, and if so, how do you juggle your military duties and your writing?

JKS: As the saying goes, you’re a Marine 24/7, and as a pilot my schedule definitely changes from day to day (eg, half of this week I’m flying nights, so things I would normally take care of in the evenings, I will do in the morning). That said, as for when I write? Well, when I was younger/more junior in rank and had fewer responsibilities, I would write in the evenings and weekends. But now, by the time I finally get home from an incredibly packed day I usually just want to flop on my bed and sleep forever. So I tend to wake up about two hours earlier than I need to (so somewhere between 0400-0500 on a “normal” day) and use my first two hours of wakefulness (and when I’m most rested) to write. Again, this is predicated on my flight schedule, in addition to my family and home life.

So that’s a really long way of saying: I make time for writing. Otherwise it won’t happen.

DD: You’ve written about your experiences as a Marine aviator and your Mormon faith in Supersonic Saints 2 and Earning My Wings: A Mormon Woman’s Journey to Marine Corps Aviator. What led you to share these particular experiences?

JKS: In Supersonic Saints 2 I was asked by the editor to submit a couple stories for consideration to the anthology, particularly times where my faith had helped me through some times of crisis in the plane. Well, many stories came to mind. The difficulty was figuring out which two to tell. I settled on one from flight school and one from my first combat deployment. To my delight both stories were accepted into the anthology.

For Earning My Wings: A Mormon Woman’s Journey to Marine Corps Aviator, I have frequently been asked by friends and family to share my flight school stories and memories, so one year for NaNoWriMo I thought it would be fun to write them down (thankfully I’ve kept a journal for nearly my entire life). I never expected my memoirs to garner the audience they did, nor win an award (a 2014 Watty).

DD: What is GeekGirlsRun?

JKS: GeekGirlsRun is a community for geeky girls (and guys!) who just want to run. Whether you have thousands of miles under your utility belt, or none, the point is to share, have fun, and encourage each other.

DD: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

JKS: Don’t be afraid to write outside your comfort zone. Don’t limit yourself (eg, “I don’t write short stories.” “I don’t write romance.”). Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Be nice.

DD: What’s next for you?

JKS: Finishing my darn WiP! I swear this current novel is my great white whale. BUT I WILL OVERCOME!

Aside from that? Only about a million and one projects I want to write. So we shall see…

 

For more information about Janine K. Spendlove and her writing, visit her website, http://www.ailionora.com/.

About the author

Nancy Northcott is a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. She's the author of the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy, which launches this fall with The Herald of Day, and the Light Mage Wars paranormal romantic suspense series. Her debut novel, Renegade, received a starred review from Library Journal, which called it "genre fiction at its best."

Website: http://www.nancynorthcott.com

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