The Psionic Earth Series Book 1
Jolly Fish Press
June 17, 2014
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Supposedly, the war between Calchis and Orion ended decades ago. But upon reporting to an isolated Orion army base for basic training, Private Stockton Finn learns the war still rages, only the weapons have changed—most disturbingly of all, Finn has been selected to become one of those weapons.
Across the border, young Calchan farm boy Aaron Waverly learns all too well just how determined his country is to win the war when he is abducted from his family's property by a sinister government operative known only as Agent. Finding himself trapped in dreary new surroundings, learning deadly skills he's never before imagined, Aaron struggles to reconcile his ephemeral faith with his harsh new reality.
As the two nations hurtle toward a resurgence of open hostilities, Finn and Aaron, along with their new friends and mentors, must rush to prepare themselves for the inevitable clash. All the while, a new archaeological find in the frozen tundra far to the north hints that the brewing conflict may only be the first of their worries...
Interview with Dan Levinson
1) There are several main characters in Fires of Man. Tell us about them?
The story kicks off with the psionic-powered assassin called "Agent." This guy isn't the cool, "heroic" assassin. He's a psychopath. He was raised as a child soldier in a war-torn land, and was later rescued by a man named Virard, now the top military leader in the nation of Calchis. As such, Agent has unswerving loyalty to Virard, and to Calchis itself. He has a skewed view of humanity, thinking of most people as beneath him. That said, he doesn't relish killing like, say, one of the other most famous psychopaths in fiction: Dexter. Agent's addiction is his duty to his country, and killing is simply a means to that end. It was a real challenge to make an audience want to read about a guy like that, but I think I've pulled it off!
Then, we have Stockton Finn and Aaron Waverly, the former a new psionic recruit for Orion, the latter for Calchis. Though their backgrounds are different, they've both lived peaceful lives, and being forced into this strange new world comes as a shock to both. Finn struggles with boot camp, carrying with him baggage from years of bullying, while Aaron, away from home for the very first time, must reconcile new viewpoints that conflict with the conservative manner in which he was raised, all the while dealing with a mysterious voice in his mind that he can't be certain is real.
Nyne Allen and Katherine "Kay" Barrett are both officers for Orion, Nyne a commissioned captain, Kay an enlisted staff sergeant. Nyne is conscientious, always trying to do right by everyone, even to a fault, constantly struggling with his perceived powerlessness in a war machine that will move on with or without him. Kay is damaged, traumatized by her older brother's shooting and subsequent disappearance from the hospital when she was a girl, and the later breakdown of her parents' marriage, but she wears her flaws like a badge of pride, though this is often to her own detriment. It's no wonder that Nyne, so desperate to fix something, anything, and Kay, her broken parts so clearly on display, would be attracted to one another. Yet Kay doesn't want to be "fixed," and this has led to the downfall of their relationship; when the story starts, they're already knee-deep in the fallout.
Last, we have Dr. Faith Santia, a Calchan archaeologist, and the only main character without psionic powers. She's a prodigy--though young, she's heading up an immense dig in the frozen northern land of Zenith. There's an enormous temple complex there, from a heretofore undiscovered civilization, which holds shocking secrets to mankind's past, and to the nature and origin of psionic powers.
2) What kind of research did you do while writing?
A lot of it revolved around the military elements, from training, procedure, and command structure, to vehicles and equipment. I pull quite a bit from military organizations of today, mostly the United States Armed Forces, yet at the same time there are distinct differences. I'd venture that the Orion military is a lot closer to the USAF, whereas the Calchan military has more departures. I also did research on some of the locales visited in the novel which reflect real world places. For example, at one point we end up in Kaito, a nation with strong parallels to Japan; it was fun to delve into that.
3) Do you use outlines, or are you more of a pantser?
I'm 50-50, I'd estimate. There are certain moments--"guidepost" moments, I like to call them--that are absolutely planned in advance. They're the most profound moments, the big confrontations, reversals, game-changers. These are the moments that I'm writing toward, that alter the course of the story in significant ways. For the most part, I have those figured out. But navigating the characters to those moments, I usually fill those journeys in as I go. It's part of the fun of writing: The joy of discovery.
4) What are three interesting facts about the novel, Fires of Man?
First, that Fires of Man takes place in a world very similar to our own. Is it our world in some distant future (or long-lost past)? A parallel universe? It very well could be, though I won't be providing a definitive answer to that until later in the series (and mark my words, I do have a definitive answer). Readers will find things that are immediately familiar to them, and I've gone so far as to use our own world's languages for the nations and cultures analogous to our own.
Second, that the psionic powers are essentially limitless in scope, bounded only by the confines of the characters' minds, what they can bring themselves to believe is and isn't possible. Readers can expect these powers to evolve, not just over the course of the Psionic Earth series, but even in Fires of Man itself! It's very cool and rewarding, I think, when a character gains new experience, and essentially "powers up," as it were.
Third, this story is one I've been working on, in various iterations, for a long time--about 15 years. Though it has undergone a complete shift from the themes and trajectory of its original version, a number of both main and supporting characters--including Agent, Nyne, Kay, and Aaron--remain largely unchanged from where they began all those years ago. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to finally be able to share this story, and these characters, with the world.
5) What message do you want readers to get from reading Fires of Man?
Inherent in any war story, I think, is the heavy toll of human conflict. And conflict breeds more of itself: A cycle of bloodshed and grief without end. Where does it stop? And is there a price to be paid for taking a stand against it? Is that the obligation of those in power, or can an individual make a difference? Can we, as a species, learn to work together instead of always being at each other's throats for perceived differences that are, ultimately, if you go down to our DNA, infinitesimally smaller than they appear? These are themes that run not only throughout Fires of Man, but through the Psionic Earth series as a whole. And I've done my best to pose these questions not only on the grand scale of war, but also on deeply personal levels.
6) If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation (cost is no object), where would you go?
I'd actually return to a place I've already traveled to: Singapore. What a beautiful, idyllic place. Exceptional food, wonderful art and culture, expansive green landscapes, the best zoo in the world, and a metro system that humbles even the New York subway elitist in me. This time, however, instead of staying in a youth hostel, I would stay in one of the five-star hotels on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa. And I would bring my entire family, and a few close friends.
7) If you could go to any fictional place, where would you go?
I racked my brain, thinking of fantasy or science fiction worlds I might like to visit, but they're often so fraught with danger that I doubt the trip would be very enjoyable. Then, the answer came to me: Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. Who wouldn't want to visit Diagon Alley?
8) Do you have any advice for new writers just entering the shark infested waters?
Don't be too precious with your work. This is not just for new writers, but all writers, myself included: Be open to criticism, and be open to learning, growing, improving. We, like all artists, do not begin producing masterpieces. The only way we might someday reach that goal is by dropping our barriers, our defensiveness and righteous indignation at those who "just don't get it," and instead embracing the desire to evolve into a more powerful, complete writer with every novel written, every chapter, every sentence. The second we're complacent with, or worse yet, begin to cling to the work we're producing now, we become stagnant.
One of the best pieces of advice I received, from the extraordinary Tom Jenks, is that as we become better writers, the work of writing doesn't necessarily become easier; it's just the opposite! The better the writer, the harder the work is, because more must be invested more to elevate it to higher and higher standards. If, as a new writer, you face rejection, don't despair! Instead, improve, and you will get there.
Fires of Man is not my normal read, but it's always nice to step outside a rut and experience something different. This is book one in a three book series and ends in a cliffhanger that will leave the reader desperate for the next book. I usually prefer a bit more closure, but I know cliffhanger endings are very popular.
I'm not really sure where this novel takes place, and based on the interview above, we're not meant to know yet. It's an intriguing world, similar to our and yet different on many levels. I really enjoyed the myriad of characters. Of course that brings up my main complaint with the story. The constant shifting in point of view from character to character made the story disjointed at times. This story doesn't just follow one or two main characters, but several, each with their own story arcs.
I loved the world building. Mr. Levinson does an amazing job painting a picture of his fictional world. So will you enjoy it? I'm going to categorize Fires of Man as a sweeping urban sci-fi epic. There's a heavy fantasy element with the psionic powers, and also a strong military/war aspect. It isn't a light read but rather an immersive experience. Definitely worth a try in my opinion... just don't forget about the cliffhanger at the end.
About the Author
DAN LEVINSON is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of Arts and has dabbled in acting, screenwriting, and writing for the stage. He lives in Great Neck, New York.
You can find Dan Levinson online here:
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