I’m so excited to have J over today for an interview. I reviewed book one of his Existence Series last month, and book two is coming out in April!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Please, call me J.
I weave fantasy with lore to unhinge your mind. This speculative fiction and reference author is happily married and living in Pennsylvania (USA) on the original lands of the Lenni-Lenape people. When not reading or writing, I enjoy playing video games, advocating for equity in racial and social justice, finding happy cat videos, reading, and watching high-energy movies.
J Lenni Dorner (he/him 👨🏽 or they/them) ~ Speculative Fiction & Reference Author, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, and Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge
What is the basic premise for The Existence series?
It’s about the power of unity to overcome even the darkest forces. The (antagonistic) Eyes in the Shadows believe that The Existence (protagonists) keep people’s souls trapped on Earth, unable to move on to an afterlife. They seek to destroy these omnipotent beings in the hopes of ending all life on Earth. Only by working together can The Existence defeat them. It’s also about reevaluating at what point one could be doing more harm than good by interfering.
Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
I was told a legend by a storykeeper of my tribe. With encouragement and permission, I adapted it to more modern times.
What kind of research did you do for this story?
The Existence series requires a ton of research. Weather, space rocks, expensive vehicles, animals, fashion, whale migration patterns, maps, NYC codes and dates they came into effect, different foods, mythologies from other cultures, teas, the list goes on and on.
Do you enjoy books filled with mythology and folklore?
I absolutely love books with mythology and folklore, especially the lesser-known stories from cultures that were diminished or are vanishing.
Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?
I was raised that parents do not name Lenni-Lenape children. Nicknames, generally in reference to relationships, are used to identify each other. (Son, Dad, Uncle…) The Name-Giver, a sacred tribal position, comes to a person when the spirits give the Name-Giver a name for the person. Only one other person can ever know that true name.
Technically, any name I use in an everyday setting is a pseudonym. I’ve been going by J since my youth. (Did you know that most people add a superfluous “ay” to spell the name “Jay”? I didn’t.) It’s what I call this body. It is not the name of my soul, it is not the name from the Name-Giver. It’s just what I use to blend and function in the bizarre culture of the world that shares names so freely.
What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
Good mental health is a struggle for many people. Writer’s Block happens when a writer suffers from a mental health crisis that hinders them from passionately turning creative inspiration into the written word. It isn’t something of which to be ashamed. Support, stress reduction, and stability can help to prevent and treat it.
How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?
Never, ever respond.
Write something scathing that the reviewer will never see and no one will ever know is about them or their review. But never, ever respond publically.
Some reviews aren’t about the actual book, it’s about someone finding a space to vent their own frustrations, feelings, or unmet needs.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Accepting imperfection. I spent a great deal of money editing the first book. There were still errors, partly because different regions use different dialects and have different rules about grammar and spelling. (In Philadelphia, most people would agree that “alright” is a word. In other areas, it needs to be changed to “all right” to be correct. Plus, style guides have a real debate going on when it comes to correct comma usage.)
How long have you been writing or when did you start?
Making up stories in my head got me through a very dark childhood. I’m not sure what my exact age was when I learned how to write though. I was told that my soul is meant to keep stories, so this is really what I’m supposed to do with my life.
What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
In the Existence series, the characters definitely come first. The main events are all because of them.
Would you and your main character get along?
I would like to think I’d get along with most of the members of The Existence.
In Proof of Existence, I had to hurt my favorite character. That was incredibly difficult. But it’s the only way to make the next books happen.
If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?
“Monoghan of the Forest”
Xavier and Wend first meet in “Fractions of Existence” in an online text-based RPG. I actually have some books planned from the high-fantasy genre of Xavier’s character in that world.
(Funny side note, Fractions of Existence was rejected most often because agents believed Wend wasn’t in the opening chapters. And query letters including the handles of Monoghan and Candra were rejected because that information was viewed as useless in a query. One reason I self-published was because I couldn’t find an agent who understood text-based RPG gaming. 🤷🏽♂️ )
Have you ever travelled as research for your book?
The traveling came first, but yes, having been to certain places did help with writing the books.
What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?
If by “paid off,” you mean 💵 piles of money 💰 have filled my pockets, then none. But a risk that few people understand is the image on the cover of Fractions of Existence. There’s a chapter, 3.14 ℼ, which describes a place Xavier and Wend have seen in their dreams. That place is on the cover. Technically, the six members of The Existence are all represented in that image. The two Fibonacci spirals twisting from the same point of origin, inked in a gold hue, of course represent the Eyes in the Shadows.
Perhaps an odd choice for an Urban Fantasy cover. It’s tough to decide between a cover that might bring a book sale or a cover that can excite a reader by offering a visual of an important setting.
When was the last time you Googled yourself and what did you find?
I have a Google Alert set up, so it does that automatically. But I just double-checked right now. I found good search results that lead to my site, social media, and sites where I regularly write posts or have been a guest.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?
I cannot pick just one. I’ve volunteered at Operation Awesome for years, which is a whole website dedicated to writing advice and information for every stage of the journey. I share the #writetip hashtag all the time. I have multiple Pinterest boards with writing advice. Honestly, any writing jam someone is in, there’s a tip to help them out.
What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for?
I love a memorable trait or visual oddity to help keep a character in my mind. I tend to root for a hero who stands up for those who need protection or help. Funny or diverse characters also draw me to a story.
What books do you enjoy reading?
I enjoy reading a little of something from every genre. Speculative fiction is my favorite.
Name an underappreciated novel that you love.
It’s hard to narrow it down. (Check out J’s Goodreads Favorites Shelf.)
Your “Magic at Midnight” is certainly on the list for fantasy.
“Space Cats from Space” by Nicki Ivey was a fun paranormal romance.
“Fragile Remedy” by Maria Ingrande Mora for LGBTQ+ Science Fiction.
Which author in your genre do you most admire, and why?
Nora Roberts in Urban Fantasy and Patrick Rothfuss in Fantasy.
They’re both selling really well and I like their cover art.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I used the idea behind this question in my 2014 A-to-Z challenge story. There was a talking lobster, who could be the answer. Or that, actually, I am my own spirit guide.
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6 thoughts on “Interview with J Lenni Dorner, author of the Existence Series @JLenniDorner #AuthorInterview #NewRelease #UrbanFantasy”
Thank you so much for the great interview and the continued support. You are awesome.
You’re welcome, J 🙂
Great interview. It’s so cool how J got the inspiration for this series.
Thanks, Natalie. It is!
I like his response about negative reviews. I just laugh at the bad ones.
Cool origin of the books.
Me, too 🙂