Jeffrey Fortney is a U.S. Air Force and fire service veteran. He’s published several science fiction and action-thriller novels in the past decade. And I had the opportunity to interview him.

 

Jeff Fortney: Hi, Tamara! Thank you for interviewing me.

 

Tamara Wilhite: How has your love of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan affected your writing? And what other works influenced your writing?

Jeff Fortney: ERB’s Tarzan introduced me at a young age to thrilling adventure stories. The Tarzan novels led me to reading Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars”, “Carson of Venus”, and other novels, many of which are science fiction stories. Those led me to read novels by other writers like Kenneth Robeson (Lester Dent), E.E. “Doc” Smith, Robert A. Heinlein, Lester del Rey, G. Harry Stine (who also wrote as Lee Correy), and later William W. Johnstone. I’d say the biggest influences on how I write would be Dent, Johnstone, Heinlein, and Stine. I use Dent’s “Master Fiction Plot” method to layout out my stories. (It’s a formula he devised for writing the pulp stories he wrote in the 30s and 40s, most notably: the “Doc Savage” stories.)

 

Tamara Wilhite: How often do you draw on your Air Force service when writing science fiction or action novels?

Jeff Fortney: My time in the Air Force helped set my moral and political compasses which definitely influence my writing. I really relied on my Air Force service when writing “Chaos on Terra-Prime,” the lead-in to my “Terra-Bravo” series. Much of that novel is set on Kunsan Air Base in South Korea where I was stationed in the 1980s and in Southwest Texas where I served as a Department of Defense civilian. Additionally, during my time with the Air Force and DoD, I worked alongside personnel from the other services, so I learned the ranks and the interactions between personnel within those ranks and between the different services.

 

Tamara Wilhite: Is it fair to say that most of your books are military and action stories, even the science fiction ones?

Jeff Fortney: That’d be fair to say, although my two “Camadin Station” novels (“Death Haunts the Stars” and “Last Stand”) are more space adventure or space opera. The first novel in that series, (“Death Haunts the Stars”) was written because a friend of mine, Jimmie Badgett, challenged me to write a murder mystery set in space. I had difficulty writing it because I don’t normally read mystery novels. I ended up writing it as a straight sci-fi story, then went back and added in the mystery components.

 

Tamara Wilhite: What are the “Terra-Bravo” novels about? And how many books are in your military scifi “Terra-Bravo Saga” series now?

Jeff Fortney: The “Terra-Bravo” novels begin in “Chaos on Terra-Prime” with the United States entering into a “cold” civil war, leaving many of our military personnel stranded overseas. This civil war effectively removes the U.S. as a global power, and terrorist nations around the world take advantage of that absence to spread their dominion over other countries.

Kent and Cord Morgan, the heroes of the first book, return home to a divided nation under siege from within and without. As the “cold” civil war turns “HOT”, this is where the story shifts gear into science fiction. Scientists have discovered the means to open portals to other versions of Terra, each different than the known world. Given a chance to preserve part of the United States population, the President creates a crash program to “colonize” one of the newly discovered worlds: Terra-Bravo, a world just coming out of the last ice age. At this time there are 3 novels and one compilation of those novels.

 

Tamara Wilhite: Your “Arizona State Guard” series is set in the not-to-distant future, though I’m not sure I would call it science fiction. How would you describe it?

Jeff Fortney: The “Arizona State Guard” series starts out in the same universe as “Chaos on Terra-Prime” following the same event that leads to a Second American Civil War. These are folks who DON’T go to Terra-Bravo, who remain behind to fight for their families and country. This series is very definitely military/action/adventure. The closest I get to science fiction with this series is one character from the “Terra-Bravo” series has a short walk-on part!

 

Tamara Wilhite: And what prompted you to write it?

Jeff Fortney: A large part of my educational background is in history, particularly U.S. military history; and my military and Fire Service training taught me to discern patterns in events. About 10 years ago, I began to see the extreme political polarization growing within our country. The pattern resembled two other times in our Nation’s history, the 1770s-to-1780s and the late 1850s-to-1860s. History tends to repeat itself, especially if people don’t learn from what happened before. So, I guess I’d call the “Arizona State Guard” novels a cautionary tale of a possible future.

 

Tamara Wilhite: Your bio says that you pay the bills tech writing. I can relate, since that’s the case for me, too. But what is involved writing for and even training fire service personnel today?

Jeff Fortney: Well, the writing is much different than writing a novel; short, to-the-point technical writing versus prose writing. Knowing the subject matter is important, of course, but I also have a background in technical writing so that supports what I do.

Then, you have to get into the national standards developed and adopted for the various positions such as firefighter, fire officers I through IV, aircraft rescue and fire-fighting, fire instructor, and so on. I also get to work with amazingly dedicated, knowledgeable, and professional subject matter experts on each project to validate what I’ve written. Working with them is great because it’s like being back in the fire station amongst my brothers and sisters. I’ve also learned digital photography as part of my job and am often out on photo shoots for the project I work on! Then, I’m literally back in fire stations.

 

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on?

Jeff Fortney: A major project on the “paying the bills” side of things; our primary training manual is under revision and I’m in charge of that. On the novel-writing side, I’ve got a couple of projects begging for my attention. One is a third book in the “Camadin Station” series. Another is an anthology of short stories that have been percolating in the back of my mind for a while. And, of course, with what’s going on in the world at this time, I guess I could write something about a pandemic!

 

Tamara Wilhite: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Jeff Fortney: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention folks who helped me with my writing. My parents who bought me a manual typewriter long ago to write my stories on. My wife, Julie, who insisted I find a way to publish my stories before more ideas were developed by other authors. And my sons, Kyle and Sean! I co-wrote two of the “Terra-Bravo” novels with Kyle. It was a great experience for both of us and we’d like to do it again soon! We’ve got a rough idea of what we’d like to write for that novel.

My son, Sean, is an artist and he designed my covers for the “Arizona State Guard” and “Camadin Station” novels. I’m hoping one day he’ll illustrate a children’s story I’ve written.

And I’d like to thank my readers for the valuable feedback I’ve received from them!

 

Tamara Wilhite: Thank you for your time.

Jeff Fortney: Thank you, Tamara!