An Interview with J. Dianne Dotson

Our co-editor-in-chief, Justine Norton-Kertson, had the pleasure of interviewing J. Dianne Dotson, author of Issue #7’s story, “Midnight Serenade.” She’s found success as an author through self-publishing, and has recently signed to publish a couple books with more traditional style indie publishers, including our own publisher, Android Press. In the interview Justine and J. Dianne Dotson discuss her career, writing style, and forthcoming works. 

Justine Norton-Kertson:  How did you get started writing science fiction? Is it just something you’ve done since you were a kid, or did you pick it up later after you became an adult?

J. Dianne Dotson: I have written science fiction since I was a young child. My first work was a comic strip called Son of Blob, which gave me a humorous outlet to deal with how much the 1950s movie The Blob disturbed me. Then I began writing longer fiction and inventing worlds, planetary systems, etc. Later, when I was 13, I wrote a full-length novel, and the year after that, its sequel. My English teacher encouraged me to reach out to publishers, never ceasing to believe in my writing ability. So she helped me do that, and some wrote back. I balked at actually submitting manuscripts, and so I chose to put those stories on the backburner while I entered high school and college. I returned years later and rewrote everything, and that became THE QUESTRISON SAGA®. 

Some of the other stories written long ago have become good resources for current ideas or names. But these days, I tend to come up with ideas whole-cloth and quickly.

JNK: You’ve done quite well for yourself as a self-published author, amassing over 10,000 social media followers and publishing numerous books, including your four book series THE QUESTRISON SAGA®. Can you share with readers, many of whom may be writers themselves, some of the things you’ve done to successfully build your author brand?

JDD: It’s kind of bewildering to think I have a large following on Twitter and a growing one on Instagram and Hive. Other outlets are taking longer to build audiences. Interestingly, LinkedIn has also been resourceful for contacts for both publishing and other writing, as I’m also a science writer and content manager. 

So I would say don’t rule out any of the platforms. Each has benefits and negatives. I just try to be real, show my work ethic, my ups and downs, what I cook, where I travel, etc. It can’t just be about promoting your books constantly. Let your audience know who you are and what sorts of things you face.

One good way to help your brand is to seek out other writers, publishers, agents, etc., and actually interact with them on social media, or even better, share their work. If you read something by an author, let them know. We love that. It helps everyone. 

I also really love interacting with booksellers. I’ve had many great events at bookstores, and all of this before my traditional debut this coming March. Reach out: the worst thing that happens is you get a “no.” I’ve had signings at coffee shops, libraries, conventions, etc.

Also, realize that you need other forms of income to keep going because this is not a lucrative field. But it is still a rewarding one. 

JNK: What’s your writing style? Are you a planner or a pantser? 

JDD: If I had to pick one, I’m closest to being a planner. I like to compare my novel writing to building a puzzle. I know the framework and I figure that out first, then I fill it in as I let the characters take their unique actions. I always know the end point of the book, and I know what needs to happen to get there. But it’s good to be flexible and let the story breathe on its journey too.

JNK: When you sit down to read a good book just for the joy of it, what’s your go-to genre, and why?

JDD: I actually love cookbooks, and non-fiction books for history, travel, art, and nature. For fiction, I love science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, thrillers, and mysteries. 

JNK: You have a lunarpunk story called “Midnight Serenade” in this issue of Solarpunk Magazine. What prompted you to try your hand at this infant solarpunk subgenre? What about lunarpunk is appealing to you?

JDD: When I learned about Solarpunk, I really loved the idea of it, a future utopia in which solar energy and sustainable tech are celebrated. I have a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and I am always interested in how we can pivot to adapt to the planet’s changes with societal shifts that are positive and not negative. Also, how can we meet the needs of such a future with technology that works for us and the planet?

I also have a great fondness for astronomy, the moon, the planets, the night sky, and nocturnal animals. Lunarpunk seemed quite inviting to me aesthetically, and as some parts of our world already adjust to extreme temperature swings by having more of a night-based society, I thought writing a story in that kind of world would be great fun. It was: it led to a novel in the same universe.

JNK: You’ve recently broken into more traditional publishing and have books forthcoming with a couple different indie publishers. Tell us about those works, and where and when we can buy them! 

JDD: On March 3, 2023, my traditional publishing debut arrives: The Shadow Galaxy: a Collection of Short Stories and Poetry, published by Trepidatio/JournalStone publishing. This collection showcases several genres and styles of short stories and poems. You can learn more about the book on my dedicated web page for it, and preorders are rolling out right now. Announcements are imminent! And book launches are being scheduled for March as well. The Shadow Galaxy is a highly personal work, dipping into fantasy, sci-fi, horror, magical realism, and Appalachian tales. There are dark and disturbing stories, romances, fairy tales, whimsy, some non-fiction, and I hope plenty of wonders. You should be able to buy the book from most sellers in paperback or eBook formats. 

On October 24, 2023, my young adult debut publishes: The Inn at the Amethyst Lantern, out from Android Press. This is a sci-fi/fantasy story set in the same timeline and world as my short story Midnight Serenade, and that tale’s main character, Mira Celestus, is also featured in the book. But the main character is her cousin, Gen (Gentian) Lightworth, a 14-year-old girl with a brother named Jas. Gen is given an invitation by the mysterious innkeeper of a long-shuttered inn at the base of the Amethyst Lantern, a violet and white striped lighthouse with an amethyst-colored light. Set in the future, this is a Lunarpunk tale, with Night Living being the primary mode of society where Gen, Mira, and Jas live. Something from our present awakens in their future and threatens to ruin their utopia with corruption and monsters. It’s up to Gen, her family, and her friends to try to stop this menace from ruining their lives and their home before it’s too late. The cover reveal and preorders for The Inn at the Amethyst Lantern may happen in June of this year!

Now that I have a literary agent, I am writing other books, in fantasy, science fiction, and horror. With luck, a dragon fantasy I wrote in late 2022 will find a publishing home soon. I’m enjoying writing in different genres and I plan to continue.

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