I had the opportunity to interview science fiction and fantasy author John Van Stry after his latest “Portals of Infinity” novel came out.

Tamara Wilhite: How many books are in your “Portals to Infinity” series now?

John Van Stry: With the publishing of the latest, that brings the series up to nine books, which makes it my second longest series.

Tamara Wilhite: What is the basic premise of the series?

John Van Stry:  The basic premise is that there are a nearly infinite number of realities that are all joined by a network of ‘Portals’. Certain people can see these portals and travel through them. This story follows Will, who comes across one by accident (actually he’s pushed) and who is later recruited to work for a god in one of these realities as his ‘champion’.

Tamara Wilhite: How is the VeilVerse different?

John Van Stry:  The Veilverse is really about a number of Subliminal spaces that exist in contact with each other. It is possible to ‘push’ your way through the boundaries between them, where they come into contact. Each of the spaces is really just a ‘shard’ of another reality, not a complete reality by itself. So they are limited in size. Breck, the hero in my book, fell into the veilverse from our reality through a temporary ‘hole’. He’s pretty much trapped there. In Portals of Infinity, each reality is a complete and full reality. It can have other planets and contains a full world. Also in Portals, you are ‘altered’ to fit in as you step into each new reality. In the VeilVerse, you are always exactly who you are – you don’t change at all.

Tamara Wilhite: Where does “Wives Tales” fit in all of this?

John Van Stry:  Wives Tales are a series of short stories that I wrote to help fill in background for the wives of the protagonist in my Valens Legacy series (written under my pen name: Jan Stryvant). It’s basically them sitting around one night and swapping stories of their pasts, to give greater understanding of the characters to the readers, and to fill people in on events alluded to, but not talked about in the main series.

Tamara Wilhite: Does “Days of Future Past” count as post-apocalyptic fantasy?

John Van Stry: It’s very much a post-apocalyptic story, but I’m not sure I’d call it a straight-up fantasy. There are definitely ‘fantastic’ elements in it, but the story itself is rooted mostly in science fiction, with a little touch of ‘time-travel’ thrown in, in that the hero comes from several hundred years in the past. Of course he doesn’t truly believe he’s from the past until an event near the end of the first book. Most of the ‘fantastic’ or ‘fantasy’ elements of the story are explained as it progresses, but some are left to the reader to decide.

A quick note – I ‘borrowed’ the name from the same place the people who wrote the X-man series did. If I had known about the X-man series when I wrote it, I would have titled the trilogy differently.

Tamara Wilhite: The interesting thing is that these aren’t your only fantasy novel series. Why are your Valens Legacy books published under Jan Stryvant instead of John Van Stry?

John Van Stry:  The Valens Legacy book have a strong ‘harem’ theme to them. Sean, the hero, ends up with multiple wives as the story progresses. Also there are explicit scenes in this series, where normally I tend to FTB (Fade to Black). Many readers these days really don’t appreciate it if an author writes something that is different in some significant way. To avoid getting that grief, I decided to develop a little ‘brand separation’.  I don’t hide that I have a pen name, and there are a fair number of people who enjoy my works under both names. But this allows people to discriminate between the styles, for those that wish to. In my case it was definitely a wise decision.

I actually did a lot of market research before I did it, and even test launched a fairly large novel (Shadow) to see if I could make it work. The ‘hero’ in Shadow is very much a sociopath, though perhaps more in the ‘Dexter’ kind of way. There were some subjects that were a lot ‘edgier’ than ones I normally write in that story as well. It wasn’t something I could have put out under my own name and expected to succeed with.

Tamara Wilhite: You write science fiction, as well. Your first novel, “Children of Steel”, is sci-fi. What other science fiction have you written?  

John Van Stry:  I wrote a couple of books in the same ‘world’ as Children of Steel: ‘Danger Money’, ‘Dialene‘, ‘Interregnum‘ and ‘Lead, Follow, or Suffer the Consequences‘ are the main ones. As SciFi goes they’re fairly ‘hard’ science fiction. The Days of Future Past also has a lot of actual science fiction in it; it just has some ‘fantasy’ aspects in it as well – which are mostly explained by the end. I’ll probably return to SciFi at some point, because I’ve always loved writing and reading it.  I currently have a Mil/Space Opera that I’ve been working on as well.

Tamara Wilhite: Why do you think it is the fantasy novels that made you a full-time writer?

John Van Stry: Fantasy has a broader appeal than SciFi does these days. It also has a much larger audience. SciFi nearly died out in the previous decade, and to be honest, a lot of what is being peddled as SciFi these days, isn’t. On top of that current day trends and culture have a huge impact on just which genre people want to see more of.  Further, my books aren’t straight up ‘fantasy’ by any stretch. They’re ‘Urban Fantasy’ (a very overlooked category – one that the major awards all but ignore for all that it outsells most SciFi and straight up Fantasy).

Many of my stories take place in modern day society, or start there. The fantasy aspect brings in that moment of wonder and doubt. You can look around the world we live in today and wonder ‘what if? What if this is all true?’ In the Portals of Infinity series, Will often comes ‘home’ to Earth, our Earth, to visit family or deal with other issues. In the Hammer Commission series and the Valens Legacy series, all of the fantasy elements exist in our world – they’re just hidden from us.  So in some ways I’m writing about modern times, though I do avoid modern day politics completely. Valens Legacy actually ‘starts’ on March 9th 2018 in Reno, Nevada. There are some local events that you see in the story, on the day they took place.  I used my extensive knowledge of Reno as well. I’ve also done the same in the Hammer Commission books, injecting real places and real things. I do a lot of research when I write my Urban Fantasies on the locals where they take place. Often going there, or writing about places I know quite well.

Tamara Wilhite: I normally ask what else the author is working on, but you’ve churning out several books a year. And then there’s your landmark lawsuit against an ebook pirate. Would you like to talk about it here?

John Van Stry:  I don’t want to go too deeply into the lawsuit. It was long, and it was costly, and I have made posts about it on my own blog as well as the Mad Genius Club and I think the posts on the gofundme are still there. There’s also a public post on my Patreon page that contain the actual court ruling. A Google search will probably turn up most of it; however understand that the one ‘tech’ site that covered it was very biased in favor of piracy, so the journalism is a bit skewed. And in many cases, it is just plain wrong.

I’m glad that I won; the legal precedents will serve authors for decades to come. I’m also glad it’s over. It seriously cut into my writing time and productivity. The financial impact, when you consider the time I wasn’t able to work, is well into six digits.  But someone had to do it, and I was the only one who could afford to. None of the Big Five or any other big corporations wanted to spend the money and take the risk. Now that I’ve won of course, they’re all finally willing to continue the fight.

Tamara Wilhite: Thank you for speaking with me.