On Deck with Bestselling Author Jack Campbell

Photo by Debbie Yutko

Jack Campbell, aka John Hemry, is the bestselling and prolific author of the Lost Fleet, Beyond the Frontier, and The Lost Stars series, as well as several other series and dozens of short stories. He began writing before retiring from the Navy as a lieutenant commander and draws on his extensive military experiences. Attending his fourth Dragon Con, he graciously agreed to answer a few questions for the Daily Dragon.

Daily Dragon (DD): For fans who may be unfamiliar with your books, please tell us about your Lost Fleet series and sequels.

Jack Campbell (JC): It’s sort of a classic space opera. The main character, who wouldn’t call himself a hero, was involved in a major war and was believed to have died. He was made into a huge hero, but he was actually in survival sleep. He wakes up 100 years later (he’s rescued), and everybody expects him to save the day. He realizes…he’s not this huge hero they think he is, but he has to try to save the day because if he doesn’t do it, his people are in a great deal of trouble. The focus is on his dilemma, trying to live up to what people expect of him and do the best he can.

DD: After the six books in the first series, do you begin the next with a different main character?

JC: Five books follow the first six, The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, and I’m currently doing Outlands, which is three books. There’s also a prequel series, The Genesis Fleet, and that series does have a different protagonist. An associated series, called The Lost Stars, has different people in it…so it’s a rather wide universe at this point.

DD: How long does it usually take you to write a book?

JC: It depends on the day, of course, but it’s my full-time job. I try to commit at least a few hours a day, every day.

DD: What types of scenes or characters do you like to write the most?

JC: My characters tend to be people who are basically decent but face a lot of moral and physical challenges. I most like writing scenes where they’re trying to confront the difference between what they would like to be and who they actually are. How do they reconcile real life with the necessities of life, what they would like to do? Their choices are always constrained by whatever situation they’re in. Those are the things I like best—to get into the souls of the characters.

DD: Do you consider your stories to be more character or plot driven, or a combination of the two?

JC: They’re definitely character driven. I know where I’m beginning the story and where it’s going to end, but in between, the characters figure out the path.

DD: What made you decide to become an author?

JC: I was an avid reader. I always liked science fiction and fantasy, and I’ve always loved history and mythology. I discovered through Edgar Rice Burroughs that you can make up a new history and a new mythology, and I thought, “Hey, that’s cool! I would like to try to do this for myself someday.”

DD: What do you think is the hardest type of scene to write?

JC:  Emotionally, the hardest scenes to write are where a major character dies, which they sometimes do. You care about those people, and it’s really hard to see them go. Mechanically, the hardest things to write are the battles, where you’re having to figure out things in three dimensions with time lag and everything.

DD: When you decided to write, how did you become published? And do you have any advice for new writers?

JC: I started out writing short stories, which gave me entrée to being able to write novels. I think it’s tougher to break in today, with a lot of people trying to get published and fewer publishers. Reading is the most important thing for new writers. Read as many things by as many people as you can. See how other people write and how they tell stories. Other than that, do things. Meet people. Everything becomes grist for the imagination. You never know where an idea is going to come from or who is going to inspire a character.

I’m still very glad people still like my stories, and I hope I will be able to come up with new, interesting ones.

DD: We’ll be looking forward to them! Thank you so much for sharing your time with us here at Dragon Con.

Author of the article

Debbie Yutko lives near Atlanta with her husband and two cats. When she isn’t gardening, rescuing homeless kittens, or cramming math formulas into teenagers’ brains, she can be found stringing words together at her computer and dreaming of adventures in far-off lands. She is a lifelong reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy and a veteran of Dragon Con, where she enjoys attending panels and working with the talented staff of the Daily Dragon.

Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonYouTube IconTwitter Icontwitter follow button