Author Interview: Tony Valdez
Today we’re talking with Tony Valdez, author of Dax Harrison.
An excerpt from Dax Harrison:
The hours passed as the Crichton continued on through hyperspace. The crew kept themselves busy as best they could, purposely either keeping their minds on or off what they were about to face.
Logan chose the former, checking her rifle multiple times over and pacing in the cargo bay until she caught herself in the act. After that, she resigned herself to the cockpit, watching the maps on the main console as the ship made its way across space. Dern appeared in the doorway, clearing his throat to announce himself.
She inhaled sharply, snapping herself out of her trance. "Dern. What have you got?"
"So I managed to boost the output on the shields. Pulled all the dampeners." He handed her the small yet important-looking hunk of metal. "It’s not recommended, but it’ll come in handy in a pinch."
Logan's brow furrowed. "Is it dangerous?"
"There is a thirty percent chance of overload, Lieutenant Weaver," SAMM responded with much concern.
"No one asked you!" Dern scowled at him before turning back to Logan. "Just... hold off until we're in some real hot water, all right?"
"Got it. And Dern? Thank you. I know we're asking for a lot. If there was time to find a safe drop-off for you and your crew--"
He held up a hand. "Save it. Kiko and I, we still got some family back on Earth. Whatever you need, you got it."
An appreciative nod later, and Logan watched him disappear back into the ship interior. She tapped her comm pin. "Sanders, how are you holding up?"
In the medical bay, Sanders leaned over as O’Reilly finished placing a fresh bandage on his stitches. "Ready to go, Lieutenant! Don't even try to stop me." O'Reilly watched as the foolhardy cadet tested his mobility. Not 100%, but impressive considering the still fresh wound.
"We better get moving, Weaver. This kid’s got a terminal case of optimism. Shooting him just makes it worse."
Logan cracked a grin. At least they weren't hurting for enthusiasm. One last person to check on...
Dax stood in his bunk, head dunked in the sink and running water over his head.
The sudden voice made him jerk up, bumping his head on the faucet. "Ow! Dammit." He grabbed a nearby towel and dried off.
"Dax?" Logan repeated.
"Yeah! Yeah, I'm here." He continued rubbing the back of his head, checking for blood.
"We're almost there. You ready for this?"
Good question, Dax thought. He stared at himself in the mirror for a moment, scoffing at the lack of a soldier staring back. Then it hit him. I'm probably not making it out of this. Instantly, Dax's preservation instinct kicked into overdrive. In a matter of seconds which felt like eternity, his mind raced through the many ways he could potentially make his escape. Escape pod? No, it malfunctioned ages ago, and he kept forgetting to have it fixed. Knock out the crew and change course! No, that's insane. It would never work, and if it did, they'd kill him the second they woke up.
Logan tried again after the brief silence. "Not backing out on me now, are you?" Dax snapped out of it. Logan. Ready to run into the thick Logan. He splashed some more water on his face, rubbing the temporary insanity out of his eyes. Incidentally, they refocused on his bulletin board, to a postcard he picked up at Saleon which was now nearly falling off. He grabbed it for a closer look. Gorgeous beachfront property with an ocean view.
"No. No, I'm good. I'll be up in a second." He tossed the old dream to the floor, mumbling to himself. "Lousy swimmer anyway."
Tell us about Dax Harrison:
Commander Dax Harrison is a reluctant hero who is essentially one-part Ash Williams (Evil Dead) and one-part Zapp Brannigan (Futurama). He's known as a legendary soldier who defeated an invading alien force in all-out war which ended a decade ago. But not everyone believes the tales. Furthermore, the legends surrounding Dax have grown in the public eye due to movies, pulp novels and other media embellishing his exploits. Ten years after the war, we catch up with Dax as he coasts toward retirement and lives not-so-humbly off his fame. But a dangerous shadow from the past emerges, and he is finally forced to live up to his name, whether he likes it or not.
Summarize your book in ten words or less:
Zany sci-fi adventure comedy. Star Wars meets Firefly meets Galaxy Quest.
“Dax is not the dashing Captain America for the space age. He is anything but.”
What makes your book unique?
Dax Harrison takes classic sci-fi tropes and flips the script. Dax is not the dashing Captain America for the space age. He is anything but. He's even profited from pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. But now it's time to pay up. This is Han Solo, early years, in-it-for-himself Han Solo, being forced to take center stage and save the day. No Jedi here in this neck of the universe.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an author?
I've had a few attempts over the years at writing stories, but Dax marks my first foray into novels. I've loved storytelling since childhood. It started with movies, progressed into books, comics, TV and so on. Even video games are now creating unforgettable storytelling experiences, and I gobble them up with glee. When I experience a good story, in any form, I immediately want to share it with everyone. It thrills me to share that human connection through stories. So I scribbled movie ideas in my teen years, attempted short film and sketch comedy ideas in my early twenties, and finally completed the first draft of Dax in screenplay form about a year ago. I even tried music along the way and wrote half of an original rock opera. Still hope to finish that one day…
Can you tell us about your writing process?
Absurd. Scatterbrained. Chaotic. Seriously though, it generally starts with a single scene. An interesting moment with an interesting character. Dax started as a single funny scenario thought up as a laugh: A drunk space captain falls asleep at the wheel, nearly crashes into a planet, and blames it on his robotic co-pilot. That's it. I thought it would make for a fun and easy short film I could produce with some friends on almost no budget. Instead, I fell in love with the possibilities. I started thinking about Dax and SAMM (his A.I. co-pilot), and the way they bicker at each other as old friends. Immediately, I couldn't shut my brain off from all the questions. How are they old friends? What's their history? Who trusted Dax with a ship in the first place?! And so on, until I realized I had the makings of an adventure on my hands. From there it was a back-and-forth between outlining the bones of the story, scribbling in the parts I already figured out, and going back to the outline when I needed to re-focus/remember where I was headed/alter course entirely.
“I thought it would make for a fun and easy short film I could produce with some friends on almost no budget. Instead, I fell in love with the possibilities.”
Are there any real-life experiences that inspired elements of your story?
Of course! I travel to other planets all the time... Ok, I'll be serious. The small character moments are really my forte, which personally I think make all the difference. Especially in big crazy, sci-fi fare. In the end, it's about telling a very human story. An average Joe running away from responsibility, plagued with self-doubt, and not feeling up to the challenge. One of my favorite scenes in the book is simply Dax, splashing some water on his face and staring into the mirror, trying to find his confidence. I've been there. We've all been there. Also, the bickering. Gotta love all the arguments between this rag-tag crew. Some folks have called my writing Whedon-esque. Lots of quippy arguing, which I think partly comes from a writer's inability to do so in real life. You know when you're in an argument and you can't think of anything to say, until you come up with the PERFECT COMEBACK at 2am alone in bed? Yeah, save those lines. They can be useful in a story some day.
What sort of books (genre, writing style, etc.) do you enjoy reading most?
Science fiction and fantasy of course are great, but I also love biographies and especially autobiographies. I enjoy seeing people I admire throw all their cards on the table. It's nice to see that people really are just people, regardless of status or fame, with many of the same fears, struggles and responsibilities that the rest of us deal with as well. Also, anything that makes me laugh. Laugh everyday, folks. It's good for the soul.
“You know when you're in an argument and you can't think of anything to say, until you come up with the PERFECT COMEBACK at 2am alone in bed? Yeah, save those lines. They can be useful in a story some day.”
Do you have any other creative outlets, besides writing?
I've dabbled in plenty. Jack of All Trades, Master of None, haha. I've written music, played guitar and sang in coffee shops, done some photography, made a short-lived business out of wedding videography. I acted in theater in high school and still occasionally act in local short film projects when I can. I also run a very nerdy podcast called Getting Off Topic, in which my co-host and I make bad jokes and discuss movie, TV and gaming news. A warning though: We tend to swear like sailors. (www.gettingofftopic.com)
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?
Never stop. Dax was (and continues to be) a big learning experience, and there were many starts and stops during the first draft. Fight through that writer's block, get a little bit down every day, just a little, and you'll get there. Consistency is key or you'll never finish anything. Kinda like going to the gym. It doesn't do much if you go once a year. Downtime is important too, of course. Relax, get out and enjoy yourself, decompress, but then get back to that blank page!
Off the top of your head, give us three writing prompts:
- A magical pen makes whatever you write a reality. What do you do?
- Write about the best dream you've ever had in your life and how it would continue if you were able to stay there.
- You wake up one morning and your pets (dog, cat, goldfish, whatever) can now speak. Write about all the potential ways, good and bad, this could change your life, your world, and your relationship with your pet.
What have you learned about yourself, your book, and/or self-promotion since joining Inkshares?
Similar to my earlier writing advice, consistency is key. You get as much as you put into self-promotion. On days when I was more active in the community, I saw more sales, more retweets, more engagement returned. That's not always the case, of course. Sometimes there are just slow days. But don't fret. Keep at it, keep building that following. That's what I've learned most. Make honest connections with people. Everyone is trying to sell something online. Stand out by engaging people. Sell yourself and your mission to bring something positive into the world. And give back. Support other creators and have each others backs. We're all just people, trying to do our best. :)
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Too much coffee sometimes. I have to remind myself to keep it to one or two cups a day.
You’re invited to your dream dinner party. It’s a party of four. Who else is there?
Only four? Including me? So hard to narrow it down! Um, um, ok. Steven Spielberg, Nathan Fillion and Bruce Campbell. I'd gush over Steven's entire body of work, and convince Nathan and Bruce to do some wacky film project with me. Maybe a Dax project…
Name three non-essential items you would want to have on a deserted island:
A violin (I've always wanted to learn, so I guess I'd have time now), a typewriter with paper (to document my island experience), and The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I've had that book for 2 years and still haven't gotten around to it. Argh!
About Tony Valdez:
Tony Valdez is a huge nerd, a podcaster, occasional actor, musician, writer, and full-time maker of funny faces in the bathroom mirror. He is also a lover of great stories found in books, comics, film, tv, music, video games, and so on. He was born and raised in San Diego, CA and currently resides a couple hours north in Orange County. It's not as fun, but Disneyland is nice.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DaxHarrisonBook
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