Spotlight on Local Author Dayton Ward
January 22, 2013
Sci-fi author Dayton Ward may live and work in Kansas City, but he writes about worlds where no man has gone before. He was kind enough to "stop by" the Kearney Branch and talk with me about his life and career. Read on!
1. Your expertise on all things Star Trek goes way beyond fandom. Did being a writer or a Trekkie come first?
I was definitely a Trekkie first. I grew up watching reruns of the original series during the 1970s. I played with the toys, read the comic books and the odd paperback from the library or the spinner rack at Woolworth’s, built the models, and ran around with my friends playing “Star Trek” the way you’d play “Cowboys and Indians.”
2. What is it about Star Trek that inspires you to write?
One of Star Trek’s central messages and driving themes is that we have the capacity to be better than what we are right now. No matter how dark the storylines can get, that ideal always shines through. That’s a large part of what sets Star Trek apart from other science fiction, and one of the things that’s always drawn me to it. Another, simpler answer is that I just get a kick out of writing stories for characters I’ve loved since I was a kid.
3. Do you write in genres other than sci-fi?
I dabble in other genres, like horror or stories with some kind of military bent, but science fiction is where I spend most of my time. Within that, the people who publish the Star Trek books seem to like keeping me pretty busy.
4. Did your writing career bring you to the Kansas City area?
I came to Kansas City during my time in the service, and my wife and I elected to stay in the area after I decided to leave the Marine Corps. I had started writing by that point, but my first published story didn’t come until a couple of years after I left the service.
5. MCPL has several of your novels on the selves: Paths of Disharmony, Seven Deadly Sins, Star Trek Mirror Universe, A Time to Sow, and A Time to Harvest. When patrons reading this get excited and want to give one of your novels a try (I’ll be one of them), which would you suggest they start with?
Of those, Seven Deadly Sins is probably the best "standalone" title. It features seven stories aligning a popular Star Trek "villain" race—Klingons, Romulans, Borg, etc.—with one of the Seven Deadly Sins. For example, the story I co-wrote with my friend and frequent writing partner, Kevin Dilmore, features the Romulans and ties into the sin of “pride.” Each of the stories stands on its own, without requiring the reader to have read any of the other Star Trek novels, of which there about a billion, plus or minus a couple dozen.
6. Anything new coming out?
My next novel, From History’s Shadow, is due out at the end of July (2013), and it is a Star Trek novel set during the time of the original series. It also will have a storyline set here on Earth, tying various bits of Star Trek lore into our real-world history, set against the backdrop of 1950s UFO paranoia, the Cold War and the escalating “space race” of the 1960s. This one was a lot of fun to write, and I spent a lot of time researching that period in an effort to make those scenes feel authentic. I also learned more about UFO lore than any one person probably should know.
By the time your readers see this, I’ll be hard at work on another book, this one featuring the crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which will be out early next year. Like I said, my publisher likes to keep me busy.
7. I love your website! When I clicked on your "Stuff I Write" page and scrolled down your LONG list of published work, I almost withdrew my next question. But, what the heck… What do you do when you’re not writing?
I actually have a full-time job in addition to writing, so that naturally takes up a good deal of my waking hours. I also have two young daughters, so there’s school, Taekwondo lessons, play time at the park, and so on. Leisure reading is still my preferred relaxation activity, though it seems like I have less and less time for that, even though my stack of unread books keeps growing.
After all of that? I like to sleep. Occasionally.
8. I read that you love audiobooks, (me too). What are you listening to now and which ones do you find yourself recommending most often?
I tend to drift toward mysteries and thrillers for audiobooks, particularly if I’m listening to them during long drives. Most recently, I listened to Nelson DeMille’s The Lion. I’ve been a fan of DeMille’s for years and years, and I’ve been using audiobooks to catch up on the novels featuring his John Corey character. Almost all of those books are read by the same voice actor, Scott Brick, who just nails Corey.
For long road trips, I’ve recently recommended those books, as well as John Grisham’s The Firm (the unabridged version, also read by Brick), and Vertical Run by Joseph R. Garber (read by the wonderful Stephen Lang).
9. Okay, here are a couple of standard local author questions: You’ve been in KC for several years now; when out-of-towners visit, what KC attraction do you most like to show off?
I love, love, love Union Station. It’s my favorite building in the city. I even wrote a story set there once, just because. And since folks are there already, I point them across the street to the Liberty Memorial and the National World War I Museum.
10. Do you have a favorite restaurant in town?
I have a few favorites. I’ve taken a real liking to Gram & Dun on the Country Club Plaza. A longtime favorite is Stroud’s, which used to have a location just up the street from the federal building where I worked while in the service, and their Friday lunch specials were appointment eating. I try to get to their new location whenever I can. My favorite barbecue place is Big T’s, a little family-owned joint in south Kansas City, and the best BLT sandwich known to mere mortals can be found at Johnny’s Tavern, where they serve it with a fried egg and melted cheese on Texas toast. That likely will be my last meal if ever I find myself on Death Row.
11. Is there anything else customers at MCPL just have to know about you?
I’m the unknown stuntman who made Eastwood look so fine.
Really!?? Wow! You’re pulling our legs, right? Well, we’ll all just have to check out your website to find out for sure. Thanks for a great interview, Dayton!