|T. Allen Diaz, Author|
T. Allen Diaz brings us a “space opera” in his just-published novel PROCYTHIAN REIGN – a book described by one reviewer as “original and fresh.” Diaz admits that he dreamed his plot, and that he writes science fiction for the freedom it offers to develop setting and background.
Diaz describes himself as a typical family man. When he’s not writing, he spends as much time as possible with his family, serves as a firefighter, and loves to paintball. He is also a history buff with special interest in the American Civil War. PROCYTHIAN REIGN is his first novel.
Q: What inspired you to write PROCYTHIAN REIGN? Where did you get the idea?
T. Allen Diaz: That’s a really long story. I have always been a daydreamer and conjured stories that I found interesting. Sometimes I would fantasize about history, sometimes it would be a space story, and sometimes it would just be about a girl. But I was always one who could run off by myself in the woods or even the backyard and dream the day away.
So, years later, I’m a young adult. I’m newly married and living in this shoe box apartment saving for a house, and this friend-of-a-friend receives some major kudos from someone for this screenplay that he’s written about alien Shaolin Monks. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but it made me think that maybe I could do something with the story that I had rolling around in my head.
Well, I sat down and started writing by hand in this journal. It was terrible. It read like a bad scene from Star Wars and my good friend who read it was gracious enough to point that out. I was frustrated. I tried to sit down and think of a new direction: Why were these people interesting? What baggage did they bring? Where were they coming from? What obstacles could I give them along the way?
One night I’m asleep and have this dream: Four friends are living in this coastal town that’s being besieged by Man’o’War-type wooden sailing ships. Despite the Man’o’War thing, the friends were all watching TV and using phones, typical dream stuff. They’re pursued by a tyrannical king that was related to one of them. There’s a little more to the dream, but that might be a bit spoilerish, so we’ll leave it at that.
But, that began the ball rolling and three or four years later, the very rough first draft of PROCYTHIAN REIGN was complete.
Q: One of your reviewers writes that it is possible “to envision every setting.” Does your setting drive your characters? Is setting more important than your characters?
T. Allen Diaz: No, setting does not drive my characters. It is carefully chosen to fit the situation into which I want to place my characters, but it is chosen for them and the story, not the other way around.
Q: Given that you are writing science fiction, how do you get readers to buy into your premise? How important is credibility to your story?
T. Allen Diaz: Let me start by saying credibility is VERY important to me. It is important that my characters have credibility. It is important that the reader look at the society and its model and think: “that’s no stretch.” It’s important that the conflicts and motivations of my characters be iron clad and relatable.
That being said: PROCYTHIAN REIGN is a space opera, not hard science fiction. I go through some pretty great efforts to make the “science” plausible, but, like a cop reading a detective novel, an MIT physics professor would be sure to find some holes. I’m ok with that, though. It’s not the focus of the story.
Q: Why do you write science fiction? Are there other genres you would consider?
T. Allen Diaz: I write science fiction for the freedom of creating the setting and background however I want. It’s my hope that some tech and setting changes would make the PROCYTHIAN REIGN story fit nicely into Revolutionary France or Russia. But, I really feel like creating this new society that more closely reflects our reality makes it more relatable to people today.
As for other genres: I love spy and detective thrillers and am in the midst of writing a detective noire series set on a colonized moon. It will obviously have a sci-fi setting, but the story is all detective.
Q: How do you engage readers to care about your characters?
T. Allen Diaz: I strive to make them very believable and relatable. Most of the characters in my story have traits and characteristics that I’ve witnessed in the real world. I hope that will show to the reader and that he or she will begin to fret for the characters as they embark on this journey.
Suffering is also the name-of-the-game when it comes to engaging readers. I try to put my characters on a difficult and often dark path that will take its toll and make any development by these characters plausible while creating a real sense of drama regarding their safety. I’m not afraid to hurt or kill my characters. It is the only way to create the kind of high-stakes drama I’m seeking.
Q: Do your characters push you around and make you write what they want? Or are you in control?
T. Allen Diaz: You might discern from my last answer that this one is a resounding no. My characters do not push me around. It is my experience that we are all at the mercy of a universe that can be both gloriously wonderful and ruthlessly cruel. As such, any plot point or action must be plausible within that paradigm. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Karma doesn’t always come around to repay past sins or good deeds. And, sometimes it’s just better to be lucky than good. So, no one or nothing is “off limits.”
Q: What makes a hero/heroine? And on the flip side, what makes a villain? Who is your favorite villain?
T. Allen Diaz: The central underpinning of a hero or heroine is that the reader must care about him/her. If that doesn’t happen, the book will be closed for good before the second chapter. This means that the story should establish with haste who this person is and what his/her journey is going to be.
The hero must rise to face the challenge of this journey and (ideally) that journey should place him/her in unfamiliar waters. Any knight can win a jousting match. But make that knight leave the battlefield and have to pursue a political goal in court where head-on conflict is a liability and alliances are tenuous. That’s compelling. It’s a challenge. And, it creates the opportunity for the character to grow…or wilt.
As for villains: They are always more fun! I like my villains to be smart, sophisticated and deadly. A really good villain should have a certain “cool factor.” He should be competent and intelligent. He should also be interesting and relatable. One of the ways I try to do this is to make him deal with the same chaotic universe with which our heroes struggle. By mastering these elements, he becomes plausible and all-the-more menacing.
In PROCYTHIAN REIGN, that person is clearly Leo Krisminski. Leo is a mobster-turned-corporate-security. He seems affable and friendly and will smile to your face until the moment the blade punches into your back. He has street contacts and uses them to keep his finger on the pulse of Bravura City.
But, his corporate security chief responsibilities are constantly pulling him in directions outside his comfort zone. He must learn about starship combat ops and about raising and managing troops for far-flung covert ops. He must fight home-grown insurrectionists and tackle the expanding responsibilities of a wartime spy chief.
He is human, but he is a force to be reckoned with. I love Leo Krisminski. I had a lot of fun writing him and I love reading his scenes.
Q: Is your primary goal to entertain your readers or are you also trying to deliver a message?
T. Allen Diaz: I like to believe that good entertainment makes you think, but I don’t want to use PROCYTHIAN REIGN as a platform to preach my views to others. Yes, I have tried to make the story relevant to people of the time by creating a type of corporate aristocracy that could be seen as an extreme reflection of our socio-economic system today. And, yes, the haves vs. the have-nots is an even bigger part of our political dialogue today than it was when PROCYTHIAN REIGN was written a decade ago. But, other than using those elements as part of the canvas for telling this story, I have made no effort to advance a specific opinion about politics or our political system.
I like to think PROCYTHIAN REIGN does reflect our society and its setting is a plausible descendant of the one in which we live, but, again, that’s in the hope of making it something to which a reader can relate. I want readers to see this society for all of its flaws and say: “Yep, that could be us in two or three hundred years.” That makes the characters and their struggles more relatable. I want them to look at Eric Phillips’ life and say: “I understand how you could be so angry.” I want them to look at Laura and say: “Maybe the ‘finer things in life’ wouldn’t be as important to me, either.”
And then, I want that reader to keep turning page after page to find out where Eric’s anger and Laura’s sense of nobility takes each of them.
Q: Tell us something about yourself. What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a muse?
T. Allen Diaz: I’m just your typical family man who tries to spend as much time with my kids and fiancé as possible. I love paintball and try to play every chance I get. That’s not nearly as often as I’d like, but it’s a lot of fun.
I love to read and am fascinated by history. I like history from all different eras, though I’m definitely an unqualified Civil War buff.
I obviously like science fiction and enjoy Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (the book), Scott Westerfield’s Succession series, George Orwell’s 1984 and especially AnimalFarm. I also like John Le Carre’s George Smile spy series. Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie series is a great read.
I’m already living one dream riding a fire truck every third day. I have taught EMS and still pull the occasional class until I can get my writing career in full swing. I have a very happy life.
As for a muse: I do have one friend (the one who told me my first story was like a bad Star Wars scene) that serves as the inspiration for Laura’s uncle, Louis. I borrow appearances or characteristics from real people that I know, but I don’t take people I know and transfer them into the story.
Regardless of commercial success, I love writing and will continue to do it until I can’t.
About T. Allen Diaz
T. Allen Diaz is a newcomer to writing. PROCYTHIAN REIGN is his debut novel, and the first book in the Proceena Trilogy. He is a life-long resident of the Tampa Bay Area where he serves as a firefighter. He has a wonderful fiancé, two wonderful daughters and a son who have all been instrumental in supporting this project.
About PROCYTHIAN REIGN
Proceena, corporate capital of the Procyon 2 System, a place where humanity lives a double life: One of opulent wealth, and one of crushing poverty. Now, these worlds will collide, forever changing the lives of those caught between them.
Laura Clabar is the niece of the CEO of the reigning corporate authority. She lives a life of privilege and comfort. But, after falling for an idealistic, politically active indigo (Procythian working class), she begins to question if there is more to power and status than a life of creature comforts and luxury. Does she have a Noble Obligation to protect those less fortunate? Or, should she just go on living her life of opulence blind to the suffering of others?
Eric Phillips is an officer in the Guild of Proceena Workers, and a fiery, intense radical. He wants change and he wants it now. When a mysterious stranger comes into his life with an intriguing offer, it looks like he just might get it.
But, is there room for both of them in the Procyon System? Can an angry revolutionary work hand-in-hand with a sworn class enemy, or, will Laura soften his iron temperament? And, can they stay one step ahead of her uncle’s relentless henchman, Leo Krisminski, or will they end up as casualties of this would-be revolution?
Twitter address Tallendiaz@proceenawriter