RICH INTERVIEWS: Dayton Ward Author

First Comics News: What was the first published Star Trek book you wrote and what was it about?

Dayton Ward: My first Star Trek novel was In the Name of Honor, published in early 2002. It’s set not long after the events of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and involves Captain Kirk working with the Klingon commander Koloth (first seen in the original series episode “The Trouble With Tribbles) to determine whether the survivors of a destroyed Starfleet vessel had been held for years as prisoners on a Klingon prison planet. It’s worth noting that Koloth in my book now sports the head ridges, as we’d seen him in the Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath.” My novel came out a few years before Star Trek: Enterprise delved into the mystery of the Klingons’ differing appearances, so it was fun to tease out a possible explanation, which in hindsight ended up working pretty well with the Enterprise episodes.

1st: Who is Kevin Dilmore?

Dayton: First and foremost, he’s my best friend, and he’s even an honorary “uncle” to my two kids. He’s also my co-writer on more things than I can easily count at this point. We’ve been friends for more than 25 years and writing together for almost that long. I like to think that our respective storytelling approaches and strengths complement one another, and we just genuinely enjoy working together. When we hang out, if we’re not trying to make each other laugh or talking about work or nerdy stuff we tend to spend a lot of time just kicking around story ideas, whether we end up writing them or not.

1st: In Star Trek, there are a lot of alien species how do you remember the specifics of each?

Dayton: I’ve never claimed to be a walking complete Star Trek encyclopedia. Some of it is just years and years of being exposed to it, more of it is having pretty much every reference book you can think of on the shelf in my office, and the rest of it is just running down whatever info I need then. Rinse and repeat as necessary!

1st: You wrote Moments Asunder. What most stood out about this book for you?

Dayton: There were a lot of conflicting emotions around this book and the entire Star Trek: Coda trilogy. The three of us – myself, James Swallow, and David Mack – were tasked with what we considered to be the enormous responsibility of bringing to a close nearly twenty years of storytelling continuity shared across dozens of novels written by numerous authors. We’d all contributed so much to that effort, so saying goodbye proved to be a challenge. For me, it meant having to accept that this would be the last time I’d get to work with a particular version of my favorite characters I’d come to enjoy writing: Picard and the Enterprise-E crew as we’d progressed them following the events of Star Trek Nemesis. That dynamic along with all the characters from DS9, Voyager, and even some of the “novels only” characters we’d created along the way was being “retired” in favor of the new status quo driven by the various Star Trek television series being developed for Paramount+. I know opinions and reactions to the trilogy vary all over the place, but none of that changes the simple fact that it was something we took very seriously on behalf of our fellow writers. It’s also not something I’m keen to try again any time soon.

1st: Do you prefer working on a book by yourself or with other writers?

Dayton: I like both approaches, for different reasons. When I’m writing I like to be alone, insulated from distractions. Since it’s such a solitary endeavor, any opportunity to interact with a collaborator or just bounce ideas off colleagues is something I enjoy. Even when Kevin and I are writing together, most of the time we’re at our homes and in our “separate corners” working on those portions of whatever joint project we’re tackling. There are a lot of emails exchanged as we review each other’s writing and the story comes together. Doing that with a co-writer can be more fun than doing it alone. On the other hand, Kevin and I have, on rare occasions, sat together in the same room while writing and that’s its form of comedy.

1st: What can you tell us about Pliable Truths?

Dayton: It’s a Star Trek: The Next Generation that takes place just before the start of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The novel is the first one I’ve written that’s set during the events of the TNG television series. The only other time I’ve done anything in that vein is a short story Kevin and I wrote way back in 2007. So, you’ll get to see the TNG crew on the Enterprise-D and the Terok Nor station before Benjamin Sisko and his Starfleet team arrive. As for what might happen? You’ll just have to read it and find out!

1st: You write a lot of short stories do you prefer them over a novel if so why or why not?

Dayton: I like them both, also for different reasons. Sometimes you’ve got a concept that just works better with the quick “in and out” approach a short story offers. The shorter format also allows for experimenting with new concepts to see if you actually can expand them to a novel length.

1st: How did your being in the military help you to be a better writer?

Dayton: I don’t know if it makes me a “better” writer, but I’d like to think it helps with those aspects of a story where such knowledge and experience come in handy. Star Trek’s depiction of Starfleet is somewhat analogous to a modern military but there are as many differences as similarities. That said, a military background certainly helps with things like protocol, rank structure, customs and courtesies, and other things that help to flesh out the story and characters. You can learn those things without having served, but living the life can hopefully help you add a dash of authenticity.

1st: How did it feel to win the Scribe Award for Star Trek: Discovery – Drastic Measures?

Dayton: I’ve loved Star Trek and media tie-in novels since I was a kid. I never had aspirations of writing one, myself, but life can be funny when it comes to expectations and surprises. As for the award, considering the Scribes are judged and presented by other writers – including many whose work I’ve admired for years and even decades – I felt enormous pride.

1st: How would you say Captain Michael Burnham compares to Captain James T. Kirk?

Dayton: We haven’t had nearly the same amount of time to study Burnham that we have Kirk. That said, Burnham’s been around long enough for us to see she shares many of the same traits we’d ascribe to Kirk: courage, intelligence, integrity, unorthodox methods when circumstances call for them, a devotion to duty that’s sometimes offset by a willingness to circumvent or even defy orders in service to a greater good, and an unwavering sense of loyalty and devotion to their respective crews just to name a few.

 You worked on Iron Man: Tony Stark Declassified. How did you find the character in terms of his personality?

Dayton: Since the book is based on the comic version of the character, Kevin and I took deliberate steps to avoid Tony sounding too much like Robert Downey, Jr. Even with that in mind, there’s no denying the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” movies have influenced the comic portrayals of Tony and other prominent characters. I think we struck a balance between the versions of Stark seen across decades of comic storytelling, with just enough flavor from the movies to keep things interesting. I dare say we did much the same thing for our follow-up book, Captain America: Steve Rogers Declassified, which will be out in June!

1st: What can people find on your website

Dayton: You can learn about just about everything I’ve ever written, along with links to interviews I’ve done and a blog that sometimes hints about what I’m currently working on and what conventions I might attend, along with occasional musings about books, film, TV, and whatever else sounds interesting to write about on any given day.

1st: If you could ride on any starship from Star Trek would you and which one?

Dayton: The original Enterprise, now and forever. Since that’s unlikely to ever happen, I will wholeheartedly recommend the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga, New York. The attraction’s owner, James Cawley, and his team have done something truly phenomenal with an absolute recreation of the Enterprise sets as they stood during the production of the original series. Walking the corridors and exploring each of the rooms is mind-blowing. If you’re a fan of the original series, this is as close to a pilgrimage as you’re ever likely to enjoy. The closest analog is the Enterprise-D set recreations which were a part of Star Trek: The Experience attraction in Las Vegas from 1998-2008, but whereas you were hustled through those sets as part of the interactive “adventure” taking place around here, in Ticonderoga you could conceivably spend hours immersed in the tour.

1st: Any words for all your many fans?

Dayton: I try always to keep in mind that doing what I do is a privilege, and I wouldn’t be here if not for the countless people who’ve read my books and put up with my antics over the years. I’m grateful for their continued encouragement, and I strive every day to continue being worthy of their support.

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