John Coon - Dogged Heroes, Deep-State Plots, and Ruthless Enemies
John Coon is an accomplished author and journalist. As a journalist, he has written for the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and many other distinguished publications worldwide. John has covered many major sporting events including March Madness and the NBA Playoffs. As an author, he has published multiple popular bestselling novels including Alien People and Pandora Reborn. John is a graduate of the University of Utah. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Dark Metamorphosis.
Please give us a short introduction to what Dark Metamorphosis is about.
Dark Metamorphosis takes place one year after Calandra Menankar and Xttra Oogan return to their homeworld of Lathos following an ill-fated expedition to make first contact with Earth. The couple are still dealing with physical, mental, and emotional scars from that journey when Xttra is suddenly abducted by agents from an enemy nation and forced to return to the Earth’s solar system. Calandra has no idea what became of Xttra and her search for him draws her into a dark conspiracy targeting the survivors of the Earth expedition.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
I wanted to explore the theme of change. Our lives are not static. Changes occur - both good and bad - all the time. And they often occur without warning. That's part of the human experience. I wanted to put Calandra and Xttra in a life-or-death situation where everything they believe or thought to be true is challenged and questioned. How do they react? How do these unwelcome revelations reshape their lives going forward?
Tell us more about Calandra Menankar. What makes her so special?
Calandra embodies perseverance. She once told Xttra during a conversation in Alien People that she has never encountered an obstacle she could not overcome. Her ability to persevere is pushed to the limit in Dark Metamorphosis. Calandra is already dealing with the loss of her left hand and then is forced to also deal with the abduction of her husband. What I love most about Calandra, though, is she always finds a way to retain hope amid those dark moments. Her hopeful, optimistic outlook keeps her afloat during the storms and ultimately makes her a strong protagonist.
Why is Xttra Oogan such a great partner?
Xttra is loyal and caring. He is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure peace and happiness for Calandra. Even when he is abducted early in the story, his thoughts are centered on her and he worries about the impact his absence is having on his wife. You definitely want someone like Xttra in your corner when things get rough.
In which way has your experience as a journalist influenced your writing?
Working as a journalist for nearly two decades has allowed me to interact with people from all walks of life. I am an eyewitness to their unique stories. This experience has helped me create believable characters with realistic personalities and behavior. I can draw on what I know to shape conversations and construct plot and settings that feel like a lived-in world - even on a distant alien planet.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I'm a bit of an amateur photographer. I once shot photos for my sister when she sent out her wedding announcements and she got several remarks complimenting the professional quality of the photos. I enjoy going on hikes or walks and snapping photos of wildlife and landscapes. It's relaxing and a fun means for exercising my creativity in a different way.
This is the second book in the Alien People Chronicles sci-fi series. Can it be read as a standalone? How does it tie into the first book?
Dark Metamorphosis has a few important plot threads binding it to Alien People. Multiple characters return from the first book. Early chapters in Dark Metamorphosis explicitly deal with how events that unfolded during their journey to Earth are affecting Calandra and Xttra one year after their return home to Lathos. Dark Metamorphosis is self-contained in some aspects. I want to make stories within a series work on their own, so readers don't become lost if they do not start with book one. Still, reading Alien People gives deeper context and understanding behind what unfolds for Calandra and Xttra in Dark Metamorphosis.
What, would you say, is the most challenging aspect of writing sci-fi scenes set in surreal surroundings?
One challenge facing any sci-fi author is making the world you create feel believable and authentic. Readers won't accept a world that isn't realistic in its setting. My internal approach to building a scene is to examine everything from a primary character's perspective rather than the author perspective. My fictional world is their real world. Technology, animals, landscapes, and other elements that seem odd or unusual to an author or reader will feel ordinary to an inhabitant of that world. They accept it as a part of their normal life. When I look at a scene through their eyes, it helps me ground everything in a tangible reality even if it is surreal and unusual.
Why did you title this one "Dark Metamorphosis"?
All of my book titles carry a deeper thematic meaning related to the main story. In this case, Dark Metamorphosis as a title speaks to change. Some characters undergo specific physical changes in the story. Calandra, for example, is forced to adjust to living with an artificial limb after losing her arm. Xttra is forced to battle an alien entity changed from human to a hybrid of multiple species because of genetic manipulations from a major antagonist. On a deeper level, my title references how both Xttra and Calandra are changed by trauma they experienced on Earth and further changed by dark revelations they uncover that challenge everything they believed to be true about their nation and their people.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I write daily since I work as a journalist. I have to guard against burnout because my schedule can get strenuous at different points of the year. I don't really have any unusual writing habits except for one. I learned how to type on my laptop with a modified hunt-and-peck method because a childhood accident left me with permanent nerve and tendon damage in my left hand. I'm not fast at typing, but I do well enough to get the job done.
What are you working on right now?
I have a third book planned for the Alien People Chronicles. My goal is a late summer 2022 release date. I want to have a complete trilogy in place. This third chapter in the series will be exciting and offer a satisfying culmination of the story I set in motion with Alien People and Dark Metamorphosis. Additionally, I'm working on pair of sequels to my first novel Pandora Reborn. I hope to finish both books and release them by summer 2023.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Readers can check out my author website (johncoon.net) and bookmark it for all the latest news on my past, present, and future stories. All of my books are listed on the site along with links on where to get copies. I also share blog posts with writing tips each month. I maintain author pages on Amazon. BookBub, and Goodreads where readers can follow me and get updates. And I'm active on social media. My Twitter handle is @johncoonsports, my Instagram handle is @jcoon312 and my Facebook author page is at Facebook.com/jcoon. I interact with readers all the time, so feel free to follow me and ask questions about stories, characters, and so forth.