top of page
  • Jessica Flory

Interview with Derick Dalton

Hi, friends! How's life treating you? Thanksgiving is next week, WHAT? What are your plans? What will you be eating?

We are staying here and inviting our friends over for a gluten-free feast! Can't wait!

Alright, today I've got a treat for you! I had the pleasure of interviewing my friend, Derick Dalton, who is the creator of "Defenders 3: Heiress of the Tundra", a choose-your-path game novel and sweet solo role-playing game. I am so excited about it. You can check it out here!

Jessica: Derick, How long have you been writing?

Derick: I wrote an episode of The Muppet Show when I was in third grade, but as I didn’t know Kermit’s address, it eventually disappeared. It’s probably at that “farm” with the finger-paint art and the smiley-face sticker homework.

I picked up fiction writing again in grad school. The harder I pushed my brain to study the more stories it would make up. We had to have a serious conversation:

“Okay brain. If I write these, will you stop interrupting my thesis?”

“Sure. Probably. Maybe.”

Jessica: What’s your author’s journey been like, and how did you get published?

Derick: I tried the traditional route for a few years, but I tired of writing query letters. Barf. The time I spent was enough to write another book. I’d rather be in academia. No one read my queries or my thesis, but at least with the research I was learning and getting story ideas.

I self-published my first three books. My fourth was with a small indie press, Immortal Works. No query letter! I signed up for a pitch session with Holli Anderson at a writing symposium. I realized I had met Holli before on a medicine-related panel at another symposium. As she’s a former emergency department nurse and I’m a physician assistant, we swapped grosstastic body fluid stories as much as talking about my manuscript.

Since, some writer friends coached me through crowdfunding, which I love.

That’s what worked for me: getting to know people and making friends in the industry.

In full disclosure, Holli has the better vomit stories.

Jessica: Haha, I love that! Tell me about your game-novel coming out soon!

Derick: Okay, but I have to be careful not to geek out and ramble.

Think of a choose your adventure style book, but in third person, with some clever tabletop role-playing game mechanics, and an epic fantasy feel. Those chills, the raised eyebrows, and urge to get dice and paper? Now you’re geeking out, too.

Crowdfunding starts November 5th. This will pay for cover art, full-color chapter heading illustrations, character portraits, editing, and sensitivity reading. This is the third book in the series, most of the team from the first two books is back, and there are some newcomers I’m excited to work with. Outlines for future books are getting complex and intertwining, and it’s starting to feel like the Marvel Cinematic Universe with fewer zeroes in the budget.

Jessica: That sounds awesome! Where did you get the idea for Defenders 3: Heiress of the Tundra?

Derick: Defenders 1: Throne of the Bandit Lord had great supporting characters, including Maureen Stone, a half-giant who wandered the realms as a sword-for-hire. She had a brief cameo in book 2, Elusive Elixir, then set out on her own. I got curious about what she had planned, so I wrote her adventure. She heads north, way north, seeking something that may be only a myth.

The Defenders series is inspired by Lone Wilderlands, the role-playing game I designed. Imagine if Will Byers never met Mike, Lucas, and Dustin, but still had his curiosity piqued over Dungeons & Dragons. We wouldn’t have the best ever cover of the Never Ending Story song, most importantly. But you also just imagined me in middle and high school. Minus the vanishing, the Christmas lights, and the Upside Down of course. Rather than go without RPG time, I improvised ways to play solo. That sounds like unhealthy introversion, but it made me happy. Several years ago I updated my process to a card format. The cards and dice rolls do the job of the Dungeon Master, so the flow of play is great, requires no preparation, and there are no other schedules to align. A fun world developed as I played, and it was begging for a novelization.

Jessica: What about your other written and/or published books?

Derick: My science fiction novels, both self- and traditionally-published, are available on my Amazon author page. All are part of the same world, one of precocious teens, indomitable do-gooders, plausibly fantastic technology, and delightfully messy medical scenes. Not necessarily YA, they’re for everyone. As a dad though, I recommend Space Boots for ages 12 and up, the others for 15 and up.

Lone Wilderlands, my solo sandbox RPG in a cardbox, is available at Defenders 1-3 will be available there in June of 2023.

Those who join in the Defenders 3 Kickstarter campaign, however, may be able to get books 1 and 2 before Christmas, in hardcover or ebook.

Jessica: I'm so excited for you! What’s your favorite part of being an author/creator?

Derick: Can I choose two? Don’t answer that. I’m choosing two.

Freedom and Influence.

The work is hard, the laser focus sometimes puts me on edge, and the money is such I’m not ready to quit working at my clinic. But I get to make up amazing places, create fantastic heroes to explore them, and then describe the whole experience to other people. I can do this from anywhere on or above the planet and whenever I want.

Fiction is a rough draft of real possibility. I write about the power of selflessness and community. The toxicity of greed to individuals and nations. The healing of laughter and forgiveness. Sometimes I may do nothing more than distract readers from the daily routine. Most of the time I’m entertaining. But my higher aim is to stretch readers into self-reflection and action.

Jessica: True that. What’s your writing routine and process like?

Derick: Now that I’m not in school, most of my ideas come while in my running shoes or on my bike. One of my bikes. I won’t say how many. You’ll think I have a problem.

I keep a book of these ideas and read through them regularly.

I plot my novels thoroughly, but sometimes surprises happen. A one-scene starship pilot resonated so well with me, the other characters, and with early readers that I promoted him to major character and had to rewrite the outline.

With the Defenders game-novels, I make a map first. I draw a few routes through the rivers and forests and mountains and deserts, think up a reason to make the journey, and throw in some obstacles, adventures, and options. Writing multiple versions of the same story can get tricky with keeping details straight, though. I no longer laugh at movie continuity goofs.

Jessica: What else do you do besides authoring?

Derick: I mentioned the physician assistant thing. That’s becoming less and less COVID testing and returning to pre-2020 stuff. Like draining stinky, pus-filled abscesses. Minor sprains and fractures. Fixing lacerations, a surprising number of which involve avocados, bagels, or mandolin slicers.

I’ve got three teenagers who are smart and funny and hurtling toward adulthood faster than my wife and I can keep up. Their school was hurting for substitute teachers the past two years, so I signed up and fill in sometimes. Between that and seeing teens in the clinic, I am impressed. A lot. Teens are having a tougher time with depression, but they have grit. I’m talking the new Greatest Generation kind of grit, you just watch.

Jessica: What are some of your favorite books?

Derick: Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes is classic literature hidden from the snobbish and made accessible to the curious by the cartoonish wrapping. And the wrapping is just as amazing.

Professor Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I’ve read it four times. Wait. That’s the appendices. The novel I’ve read thirteen. Middle-Earth seems more real to me than planet Earth sometimes.

Invertebrates, by Brusca and Brusca. This was a textbook of mine in college. I still reference it frequently and I have dubbed it The Original Monster Manual. How many textbooks are too creepy to read in the dark?

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren. I had this memorized as a kid. The illustrations still captivate me. It was the first time I understood consequences, and that a mom’s love is unconditional. I wish Mr. Tenggren had painted that spider, though. Everyone else got their picture in the book. Wait! Except the mom. She must have been behind the camera. Oh, that’s why she knew everything!

Other favorites: Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, You Are Your Best Thing edited by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown, The Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever, The Thinker’s Thesaurus by Peter E. Meltzer, The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary, and Rune Lords by David Farland.

Jessica: Who are some authors who inspire you?

Derick: Orson Scott Card’s fiction is instructive, and gave me permission to have characters pee when they needed. David Farland’s emails and classes over 10 years have been priceless. He recently passed away, but his Apex Writers group continues his legacy of teaching.

Bill Watterson is my favorite, though. He showed optimism and humor always triumph.

Jessica: I love him, too. What are your tips for someone who wants to be an author?

Derick: The muse is real. It’s called your brain, and you are in control:

  1. Take care of the body where it lives.

  2. Feed it lots of information and experiences.

  3. Give it time to wander.

  4. Hold it to a solid deadline.

Jessica: How can people connect with you?

Derick: Well, I’m kind of an introvert, so I’d rather not hang out… Oh. You meant, um, right.

Here are some handy links.

The best way is to get on my email list for updates. Lots of free ebook giveaways from me and dozens of other authors, including the first Defenders novel!

Here’s my YouTube channel for book readings. I also have some epic Lone Wilderlands solo RPG sessions coming up, so subscribe for alerts.

Jessica: Thanks so much, Derick! I had such a blast chatting with you!

Don't forget, everyone, check out Derick's Defenders 3 project here. Crowdfunding is still going on, so it's not too late to back this cool project.

As always, you can connect with me (Jessica) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok now, too!

Thanks for reading. Hope you're doing well!

33 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Subscribe Form

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page