Dive into J. Dianne Dotson's Lunarpunk world today in this interview all about her new release, The Inn at the Amethyst Lantern. Discover exciting new young adult characters, as well as the inspiration behind this adventurous science fiction novel, plus some tips for querying authors!
Thanks for joining us, Jendia! First off, tell us a little bit about you!
I’m Jendia Gammon. I write science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels and short stories. I’m also an artist and a science writer. I have an alt former pen name, J. Dianne Dotson. The last work published under that name is THE INN AT THE AMETHYST LANTERN.
Congratulations on your brand-new release, The Inn at the Amethyst Lantern! What can we expect to find in this story?
This is a young adult story in the truest sense: teens figuring out how to lead and cooperate in their future Lunarpunk society, long after a climate catastrophe. Everyone has adapted to Night Living, and in this Lunarpunk future, there is a mixture of science and mysticism. It’s a good life…until it comes under threat by a villain from our time. The main character, Gentian “Gen” Lightworth, is fourteen years old and she must overcome her insecurities to lead a group of young friends to help stop the threat from taking over.
Your story is set in a world of fantasy and sci-fi, in a town called Glimmerbight. What was the process behind building this strong setting and were there any challenges? Is this place inspired by any other worlds or stories, real or fictional?
This future Lunarpunk society features Night Living, bioluminescence, phosphorescence, sentient animals, and characters both young and literally ancient. It was great fun to write. The Amethyst Lantern itself, the iconic purple and white lighthouse on the cover of the book, is similar to the Cape Hatteras lighthouse that I loved to visit as a young woman. I was inspired by adventure tales like Nancy Drew, The Lost Boys, The Goonies, Stranger Things, and Miyazaki films, among others. It’s a very speculative future that melds both science fiction and fantasy. Mainly, I just wanted to have fun in this world. I gave it as much wonder and whimsy as I possibly could. The only challenge is that it’s not real!
Can you tell us a little bit about your characters? Which, if any, did you identify with most and why?
Gen does not want to admit to wanting to be a leader. She’s given the opportunity and could just reject it, but she rallies…and so the book describes how she develops into that role.
Jas is Gen’s older brother, a science chap who eschews societal demands in favor of scientific discovery.
Mira is the cousin of Gen and Jas, and her Pandora’s box moment in “Midnight Serenade” (which serves as the prologue to this book) means that her moment of illicit magic unlocks a horrible price…she’s a budding reporter as well, and a bit of a fashionista.
Nyota is the ultimate mix of science and mysticism, and she bears the aura of a leader herself, confident and in tune with the Universe.
Phan and Anisette are fraternal twins who bicker and joke constantly, but who both prove to be incredibly brave and resourceful when things get crazy.
Amber is a society girl thrust into an adventure that makes her look at her entire world differently.
Lyn is the helper and healer of the group, caring and empathetic, and he might harbor feelings for Gen.
Dhatura is the new girl: mysterious and curious, and no one knows her true story.
So those are the main teen players; there are also the parents of some of them, and three ancient people whose lives are forever intertwined in Glimmerbight…as well as some secret bad actors from our time. I won’t spoil that part!
There’s something to relate to in each character, though I’m probably most like Gen, Jas, and Mira. I do understand, though, what it’s like to be the “new girl” like Dhatura.
One of the subgenres of this story is Lunarpunk. What drew you to this darker aesthetic and how does it impact the setting and story?
I was always an astronomy buff, sneaking out at night in the country to study the stars. I was into crystals like amethysts (my birthstone) not for mysticism but for science and discovery. Yet I always loved the nocturnal wonders of nature, and the stories night inspires. I do also confess a love for anything that glows in the dark! Lunarpunk is the opposite of Solarpunk, so that a futuristic society does most of its society activity at night. I love the idea of celebrating Night Living, even though I’m actually a morning person.
How did you come to write SFF? Have you always written in this genre, or was it a more gradual transition?
I’ve written SFF since before age 10! It’s what I loved most to read and therefore what I enjoy writing (although I also write horror, mystery, slice-of-life, and poetry).
Does your degree in ecology and evolutionary biology inform your worlds and stories at all, and if so, how?
I don’t always push the science hard in my SFF, but I do like to ground things in ways that make sense. I like to make sure characters interact with their environments and are impacted by them. In this book, I describe different adaptations species have to their environment, and also how things like erosion can affect the landscape over time.
You already have a host of SFF books available to readers, including The Shadow Galaxy and The Questrison Saga. What made you decide to write this one for young adult readers, and did it offer something new to you as a seasoned author in the sci-fi genre?
I enjoyed having big adventures when I was a kid, and watching and reading them too. It seemed like a natural thing to write about that.
Did you find any challenges while writing The Inn at the Amethyst Lantern? How did you overcome them?
Writing a book in two months on deadline was a great challenge, but I pushed through and got it done. Then I turned around and wrote two different books after that, and I’m writing a new one now. The idea is to get things done first!
We’d love a hint about any of your current projects! More SFF? Anything that might surprise your readers?
As Jendia Gammon I am writing a broad spectrum of both SFF, epic fantasy, and horror and thriller fiction. Readers can find more at jendiagammon.com/books and as soon as I can announce new projects, I will.
Have any shows, movies, books, or games influenced your own work at all?
I’ve mentioned adventure movies and books, so those came into play a lot. I loved strong girl characters like in L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, Robin McKinley’s books, etc. I’m a big fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, across the board.
If you could give any advice to authors set to make their debut, what would it be?
Remember to have fun! You’ve got to a wonderful place in your career. Step back and enjoy it and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
You’re represented by Laura Bennett at the beloved Liverpool Literary Agency! What was your querying process like when seeking representation, and do you have any advice for other authors still struggling to find a home for their books?
I’ve queried almost 100 agents since 2017, when I was first exploring the idea of traditional publishing. I ultimately decided to publish my space opera series myself, with zero regret, although it was quite expensive and a lot of work. I knew I wanted to begin a new chapter for my career and move to traditional publishing, and in order to get to the big 5 publishers, I needed an agent.
Querying can be dispiriting but eventually you numb to that and just keep at it. So when I returned to querying in 2022, I had some new books in play, although those haven’t been put forward since, actually. Maybe eventually they will. I chose to work with Laura Bennett because she saw the potential for my career path, and then we worked on entirely new books to present to publishers.
My main advice is keep going, keep trying. Publishing is slow…until it isn’t.
Our podcast focuses on media we’re currently loving. Are there any books, shows, movies, or games you’re enjoying at the moment? Any recommendations for our audience? Bonus points if it includes sapphics!
Recently I’ve enjoyed reading a broader spectrum of genre fiction, much of which is more horror-centric. There’s a lot of interesting work going on in the horror community and authors like Hailey Piper, Tananarive Due, Victor LaValle, Eric Larocca, Cynthia Pelayo, Delilah S. Dawson, and many other powerful voices are out there writing great things. I also loved Jordan Peele’s movie NOPE, and I’ve been watching a lot of gothic horror films lately too. Fun recent sci-fi shows I’ve watched are FOUNDATION, LOKI, and FOR ALL MANKIND.
J. Dianne Dotson, who also writes as Jendia Gammon, is the science fiction, fantasy, and horror author of The Shadow Galaxy: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry (Trepidatio Publishing), the four-book space opera series The Questrison Saga© (Heliopause; Ephemeris; Accretion; and Luminiferous), and The Inn at the Amethyst Lantern (October 24, 2023; Android Press). She is also a science writer and artist. Dianne is represented by Laura Bennett of Liverpool Literary Agency. Dianne’s short fiction is featured in anthologies and magazines. She is known for writing characters people fall in love with, in extraordinary settings with intricate world-building. As a convention guest, Dianne provides insight into science fiction writing and characters (featured at San Diego Comic-Con, WonderCon, Cymera Festival in Scotland, and BristolCon in England), the science of science fiction films, and offers lectures on world-building and workshops at conventions about social media for writers. Dianne is a member of the Science Fiction Writers Association, the Horror Writers Association, the British Fantasy Society, the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and the British Science Fiction Association. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, California, and in Bristol, England, and is married to British science fiction author Gareth L. Powell. Visit her website at www.jdiannedotson.com or at www.jendiagammon.com Instagram: www.instagram.com/jdiannedotson Twitter: www.twitter.com/jdiannedotson (less)
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