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February 1, 2013 / minusbar

Author Interview: Zachary Jernigan (No Return)


Zachary Jernigan was kind enough to take some time to discuss with me his upcoming novel, No Return. Having been given the opportunity to review this novel by Night Shade Books, I can vouch for it being well worth the read. However, before continuing on I ask that you proceed with caution if you are prone to taking offense. If you’re like me though, then sit back and enjoy.

For convenience sake, the following has been abbreviated.

Zachary Jernigan – A          Me – R

R: A Daily Dose of R&R is happy to have Zachary Jernigan the author of “No Return” with us today.

Z: Thanks for having me! I really appreciate it.

R: The pleasure is all mine!

R: Zach, first could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Z: Well, I’m a 32-year-old guy who lives in the state of Arizona, land of the burning sun and the (to me) horrifying political decision. I’m a huge fan of written science fiction and fantasy, and a published author since 2009.

R: I’m ashamed to admit this, but I am unaware of your prior works before NO RETURN. Could you tell me a bit about that?

Z: Oh, don’t worry about it! I haven’t been extensively published, and most people — including me, honestly — don’t read a lot of short stories.

Z: I’ve had approximately a dozen short stories published, mostly in relatively small markets. My only big sales have been two short stories to ASIMOV’S and a reprint to ESCAPE POD. I was shortlisted for a Gaylactic Spectrum Award in 2010 for a short story set in the NO RETURN universe, “The Succession of Knoorikios Khnum.”

R: If they’re anywhere near as good as NO RETURN, I’ll definitely have to check those out.

R: So what inspired you to write No Return?

Z: Thanks, and good question! Other than jealousy — seriously; I have always been very jealous of people who actually sit down and write and get published — it’s got to be all the years of reading stories by folks like Roger Zelazny, Alice Sheldon, and Samuel Delany: authors whose works were large-scale examinations of the mythological side of speculative fiction. I wanted to create something that hearkened to all the great SFF of the 60s and 70s.

Z: Plus, I wanted to create something very adult that still evoked the childlike sense of wonder in me.

R: I’d say Speculative fiction has definitely been achieved.

R: When shopping this book to publishers, where you met with any resistance due to your non-discriminatory outlook on relationships in the book?

Z: No, not at all — that I know of. Editors weren’t that specific when they turned it down! Night Shade, however, was very vocally in favor of my approach in this regard. They were, and are, very supportive of the idea of creating a more diverse cast of characters than may be seen in a lot of SFF books. From the reactions I’ve received so far, it seems like readers are happy to discover a more diverse world. I am surprised and delighted that it felt so diverse to them!

Z: In general, I think SFF is moving in the direction of more inclusion. It’s no longer odd to see relationships that are more representative of the full spectrum of human expression. I like that, but there’s still more that can be done. I hope my work is a good representation of this effort.

R: So the Elder’s, will we be seeing more about them in future installments for Jeroun’s Mythos?

Z: Yes, definitely. In fact, today’s the day I’ve set aside to getting the outline all prepped and ready for the next six or seven months of writing. Actions of the elders (the to-all-appearances extinct race of the planet Jeroun, whose bodies are used to create magic) and their history will comprise a great part of the sequel to NO RETURN.

R: Was there any character in particular that was easier to write than the others? I know for me personally, Berun was probably the most fascinating character to read.

Z: Berun’s one of my favorites, too! In fact, he and Churls were the easiest to write — in truth, because I simply liked them more than anybody else in the book! Churls, in particular, just flowed. I found her to be so easy for me to relate to. Her moments with Berun are perhaps my favorite in the novel.

Z: Oddly, Vedas, whose existential situation most closely mirrors my own, was the hardest to write. I don’t like him very much for most of the story — I suppose because he so clearly, for me, represents a few facets of myself I’d rather not have. But seriously, he was a pain to write; his chapters easily required the most editing.

R: I’m glad you bring up the similarities between him and you! I know this is something you’ve probably already been asked about, but is it just coincidence that his facial characteristics carry a slight resemblance to you?

Z: Hahaha! I’m so amused by this! When I first saw the full layout of the book jacket, which includes a photo of me, I looked back and forth between it and Robbie Trevino’s awesome art and thought, “Huh. That’s a weird juxtaposition.” …but I didn’t think anyone else would notice!

R: He’s certainly not a bad character to look like.

Z: It is TOTALLY a coincidence, though. I don’t think Robbie had even seen a picture of me at that point. And Vedas in the book is definitely not described as looking much like me. I wish I looked like him!

R: So without giving too much away, can you tell me a little more about Adrash’s armor?

Z: Sure, of course. Adrash, the “God” of Jeroun, wears a body-hugging suit of seamless white armor — sort of like a spandex superhero suit; which looks very much like Vedas’s elder-cloth suit.  It’s composed of an unknown substance, and gives him inhumanly powerful capabilities. Though there is some debate on the issue of the source of Adrash’s divinity/power, it is generally accepted that it is the armor that grants him his stature.

Z: And on a purely aesthetic level, I like the image of a powerfully proportioned man, whose every line of anatomy is exposed. I find it to be a uniquely erotic image.

R: As did a couple “handy” tongues, if I remember correctly.

Z: Yes, I’m not the only one who finds the image appealing, though Ebn — a female outbound mage (an astronaut who achieves orbit using alchemy) — has a far more, ah, physical draw to him. Her attempted and ultimately ruinous attempt to seduce Adrash is what largely drives her character. Her obsession with the God’s beauty is something I really wanted to explore. It is mirrored a bit by Churls’s attraction to Vedas. Apart from just being interesting to me, the concept of male beauty is not explored all that often in SFF, I don’t think.

R: I found the attraction in the novel to be more based on lust for power. Am I out in left field when I say that? I definitely felt like Pol and Ebn where incarnations of the voice drawn to him.

Z: No, you’re not wrong in that. It’s kind of an issue of what draws a person to another. Deep attraction is never just an issue of the physical — at least, not for me. So, for Ebn, and her brash protégé Pol, the attraction is a combination of factors. Adrash’s beauty, in this light, could be seen as a symbol of his immense power. As for being incarnations of a force or forces that are drawn to the god, you’re on the right track.

R: Does Vedas have the potential to reach Godhood? Churls seems to be drawn to him in a similar, if less obsessive manner. Also, Adrash even makes mention that he deems Vedas to be a greater threat than Pol.

Z: Ah! That’s a very interesting question. I think, by book’s end, there is every indication that Vedas — and even others — are capable of threatening Adrash and perhaps even assuming his mantle. The real question I’m interested in exploring is the implication for anyone who would have that much power bequeathed to them. If you had the potential to become as God is, how would that influence you? I think readers, if they care about the characters I’ve created, should be worried for Vedas and company. They’ve already seen what kind of madness Pol may be succumbing to with only a portion of Adrash’s power.

R: Will we see Omali again? I have a hunch, but I wanted to ask you this first.

Z: Yes, but I kind of wish not. He’s one of the hardest characters to write!

R: Is he in a state similar to Fyra? This may be unfounded, but I just kept noticing correlations between Berun/Omali and Churls/Fyra. Not in personality, but in their connection to the individual.’

Z: Yes, he is, though he has managed, most likely through his own intense self-involvement, to remove himself from the presence of the rest of the world’s dead. It’s almost as if you and I — good, relatively gregarious, compassionate people — were to die and go to an afterlife shared by everyone else while a complete narcissist/solipsist goes to a place for himself or herself alone.

Z: Hmm, did that make sense?

R: I think so, but I suspect after reading the second novel it’ll be made more evidently clear. Anyway, good sir, you have survived my rigorous onslaught of questions and I have but one left!

R: Lastly, a silly question. If you’re given the power of a God for a day, what would you do with that power?

Z: Oy! Just a day! Ah, crap. I guess bequeathing immortality and the powers of God upon myself forever is out? Well… I’d rid the planet of pollution and give everyone a home — the same basic design, though continually modifiable and differing in size depending on inhabitants — with clean water and a machine that provides them nutritious food and clothing. I’d removed all petroleum from the planet and install sustainable, forever-lasting power stations everywhere. Basically, I’d make human existence sustainable and create a post-scarcity human-wide society. Also, I’d remove all disease.

Z: BOOM! Perfect world.

R: Sounds good. You’re hired!

R: I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk with me today! I look forward to your book launch, and I’d like to wish you and your book all the best!

Z: Thank you so, so much for having me on A Daily Dose of R&R!

This book is available for Pre-Order at Amazon and Night Shade Books.

Thanks again to Zachary Jernigan and Night Shade Books!


Roger Bellini


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