Self Isolation Author Interview: J Lenni Dorner

And we’re back! Nothing much to say this time, apart from I hope everyone has had a good Easter weekend (and STAY INDOORS! Good!)

Let’s get right to it! Today’s interview is with J Lenni Dorner. Hope you guys enjoy!





First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write? 


Hi! I’m J Lenni Dorner. I write speculative fiction (urban fantasy, high fantasy, horror, etc) and reference books for writers. I’m also the co-host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April, and the debut author spotlight interviewer at Operation Awesome.


How do you develop your plots and characters? 


My plots usually start as small seeds, just an idea or a twist on an old legend. The plot grows as the story is written. In that way, I’m a pantser.

My characters though, I have long, detailed character sheets for the main characters, and shorter sheets for the minor ones. When it comes to character development, I’m a planner.


Tell the world about your current project!


I have a few stories in the works right now. For April, as part of the A to Z Challenge, I’m sharing the opening of a fictional tribal story with a magical mystery. The entire short story is on Smashwords.

There’s another YA story that began as blog posts. I’m working on turning that into a novel. Plus, I’m still working on Proof of Existence, book 2 in the Existence series.


Who would you say is the main character of your latest novel? And tell me a little bit about them!


In Fractions of Existence, Xavier and Gwendolyn (Wend) share the position of main characters. It depends on where you are in the book.


Xavier looks like he should be on the cover of GQ, or on a list of NYCs sexiest and richest bachelors in their twenties. Of course, he’s not what he seems. (The book isn’t in the myth& legends and urban fantasy category for no reason.)


Wend is pretty, but she looks ordinary enough that she can go unnoticed. She has absolutely no idea who or what she really is, and that is a problem. Xavier is almost certain he knows, but he struggles wondering if she’d be better off not knowing.


Have you been to any conventions? If so, tell me a little about them!


I haven’t. Crowds aren’t for me.


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?


“This is your calling. You have the soul of a storyteller. You must write the words to keep the stories alive.” I don’t have a lot of good memories from my childhood, but that day, when the elders said that to me, that’s the first time life made sense to me.


If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?


Oh, that’s a tough question. Especially right now. Most of book three of the Existence series takes place on an island off the coast of New England. There’s an actual island there, though the book has a MUCH more fictional version of life on that island. Either way, the population is low, so that’d be an ideal spot right now.


Had you asked me this a year ago, I would have said NYC, because that’s where Xavier, Heath, Jez, and Jun live (in the Existence series), and where they’ll all be by the end of book two. I could spend a year just writing those scenes.


What advice would you give new writers?


I would say to learn as much as you can about the process, about the many different approaches. There’s no right way or wrong way to get the story to the page, there’s just the way that works for you and the dozens of ways that work for others who aren’t you. We cannot edit a blank page. You can’t learn from mistakes if you make no attempts to do anything. Having thousands of followers on social media is great, but it won’t sell any books that do not exist. Finally, always be open to free opportunities to learn about the craft of writing or to promote your author brand.


What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding?


I’ve done a fair amount of online roleplaying (RPG) over the years. That taught me how to make a setting that comes alive, that feels like a character itself. I’m not sure if that “game world” counts as real-life.


I spend a lot of time in the forest, and I used the correct names of certain trees and shrubs to describe a setting once. However, I neglected to consider that anyone who didn’t have a visual from the names wouldn’t mentally picture the danger. I had to rewrite it so readers could see the thorns.


What inspires you to write?


My biggest inspiration is from a legend that was passed down to me. That’s where the Existence series comes from. My short stories mostly come from story prompts or seeing something cool on Pinterest.


What is the hardest part of writing for you?


I think the hardest part of writing, for me, is letting go, deciding that it’s done or done enough. I spent over a thousand dollars on two editors for Fractions of Existence, plus I used Grammarly, three other editing programs, listened with text-to-speech, and had three beta readers. Is it perfect? Nope. Some guy just told me he saw a typo on page one. (I don’t know what, and he won’t tell me unless I pay him.) I know I miss a homophone here and there, or debate a comma (Chicago, MLA, APA, and AP disagree, and that’s just American English!), but all the money I spent on editing resulted in being told that it was very good and that very few errors were found.


Confidence is a funny thing for a perfectionist. I’ve read writing motivation books, and they all say that it is better to be done well as opposed to never being finished. I’m trying to hang on to that idea. I can write a novel in six weeks, but editing takes me years.


What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?


I leave myself a note at the end of a writing session telling me what happens next. This way, I only have to reread a few paragraphs to get back into the headspace for the next session.


What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in any of your books, and why? 


I loved writing the scenes in Fractions of Existence where Wend and Xavier meet up for the first time. The tension on the Ferris wheel, when he doesn’t kiss her, that amuses me. And her yelling at him in the parking lot, that’s my favorite spot in the book. She thinks she’s weak, but really, she’s incredibly powerful.


Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?


My latest publication is a reference book titled “Writing Book Reviews As An Author: Inspiration To Make It Easier.” I learned that I have a routine when I write book reviews. Some authors don’t review books because they aren’t sure what to say. This book offers help.


Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?


Mostly gardener.


If you had to give up either snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?


I’m fine writing in silence. I don’t snack much when I’m writing. But I do need a beverage. Water, coffee, tea, whatever – hydration matters.


Which is your favorite season to write in, and why? 


I guess late autumn, because that’s when NaNoWriMo happens!


It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it? 


The villains in the Existence series are a group known as The Eyes in the Shadows. They want human life to come to a crashing halt so reincarnation stops and everyone has to move on to an afterlife. It’s hard to understand that this group feels justified in slaughtering billions of people. So I think about people I’ve met who really are like that, who would join the group if it were real and they were invited.


There’s also a character named Tred. Is he a villain? He’s certainly an antagonist for Xavier, as he is directly in the way of Xavier’s goal. And then he drops a truth bomb that changes everything.


What are your future project(s)?


There are seven books in the Existence series. One is published. One I’ve been editing for… too long… A third, I have so many notes scribbled down that it’s probably 20% written. And the others have just vague descriptions. One of them is going to require a ton of research. There’s a chance I’ll end up writing another reference book about doing research just so I stay focused on how much research that one is going to take.


What is your favorite book ever written?


My favorite book by someone else? I really love the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. And Patrick Rothfuss is my favorite high fantasy writer. There are a bunch of indie and small press authors I love, too.

I keep a list of favorite books on Goodreads.


Who are your favorite authors?


Not surprising, my favorite books are by my favorite authors! Excluding myself, here are my favorites, alphabetical by last name:

  • Victoria Aveyard
  • Richie Tankersley Cusick
  • Alwyn Hamilton
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Nicki Ivey
  • L.G. Keltner
  • Stephen King
  • C. Lee McKenzie
  • Alison L. Perry
  • Shonda Rhimes
  • Deborah Rodriguez
  • Veronica Roth
  • Patrick Rothfuss
  • Mary Elizabeth Summer
  • Ia Uaro
  • J.R. Vincente
  • Ronel Janse van Vuuren


What makes a good villain?


I want the villain to have the opposite goal of the hero. But what’s more, I want to feel like this could be the personality and /or goals of an actual person I might know. They shouldn’t be a villain because it’s the cliché job, but because they’re the opposite of the hero and thus have an opposing goal.


In the Existence series, the Eyes in the Shadows want to end human life (villains) and the members of the Existence want to preserve and protect it (heroes). It sounds cliché and easy, until the series reveals who started the Eyes in the Shadows and why.


What do you like to do in your spare time?


I enjoy reading, blogging, gaming, scrolling on Pinterest, or being outside in the woods.


If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?


Not to split hairs, but author is my career, my life’s purpose. A job is just an activity that trades my time for a paycheck.

We try to protect the magic in my line of work, so I’m “very good friends” with certain fictional characters. Those characters mostly visit sick children who are stuck in hospitals. Sometimes there are other entertaining locations, but my group is mostly focused on that sector.

You may have met similar friends in certain parks run by a famous mouse.


Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?


Can I have a cup of each? I normally drink more hot tea than coffee. But lately I’ve needed more caffeine. How am I working less, but feeling MORE exhausted?


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You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?


Assuming this travel is safe and I’ll be able to come back in a reasonable amount of time? I’d want to go to space. Just to see the stars, nebulae, and other worlds. Hubble sends us good pictures, but artists fill in a lot of the blanks. I want to see what’s out there with my own eyes. Why? I don’t know, I guess because it’s freaking beautiful.


Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?


The Operation Awesome blog, of course! Yes, I’m on the team, but I was following the blog for years beforehand. I also recommend the IWSG and Writers Helping Writers.


Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?


Writers make up nearly my entire friends list online.

Amren, Dena, Kate, and Nathaniel at Operation Awesome. (Nathaniel is actually leaving us soon, so there’s an opening. )

DL Hammons who runs WriteClub  (Submissions are open until April 19th.  )

The team at the A to Z Challenge: Arlee, Jayden, John, Csenge, and Jeremy.

Kara Reynolds, Jan Marshall, Karis Rogerson, Jamie (@penminion), Eric (@seams16), Judy Probus, Ronel, Janet, Tim, Sarah Zama, Nilanjana Bose, Tasha Duncan-Drake, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Jemima Pett, L. Diane Wolfe, C. Lee McKenzie,   … You know what, I could seriously be here all day.


Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?


Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild), Mark Watney (The Martian), Heath Quedlin  (Fractions of Existence).


It’s more about the journey. We’re going away from everywhere, to the unexplored or underexplored places. We’re going because we can, because we’re survivors, and because it’ll be interesting.


What superpower would you most like?


Super Healing, for both myself and others.


What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)



I have a whole Pinterest board just for this topic! Okay… two… only two… omg…

Cruel Beauty and Trevelyan.


It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and pandemic comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?


I have a list of people who I plan to hug for an inappropriately long time.

Also, I’ve promised my spouse that we’d go out to dinner. My Snookums has expensive taste, so please buy my books so I can afford that meal. (Kidding! Okay, mostly kidding.)


Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?


The best way to reach me is Twitter:


I’m also on these social media sites:


I blog at:


Also, I’m on these blogging teams:


Please, check out my books and author profiles here:


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