Monthly Archives: June 2016

Author Interview with ManyBooks

Recently, I was interviewed by ManyBooks about my latest novel, Ironheart, as well as a few other interesting topics.  If you would like to see the interview on ManyBooks’ website, follow this link.

Dakota Kemp – History Buff with a Love for Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Author Dakota Kemp has a knack for crafting intricate and fascinating worlds for his novels and his Steampunk epic, Ironheart, is no exception. It was born from his fascination with England’s Victorian Era, but of course he couldn’t resist working with the science-fictionalized version of the period. Today we talk to Dakota about his characters, why stories are an integral part of life, and what he has in store next for readers.

Please give us a short introduction to Ironheart.

Ironheart is a fantasy novel set in a steampunk world, where powerful deities called Primals rule an empire that is dependent on steam-powered technology. Jack Booker, Ironheart’s protagonist, is an orphan from the slums of the city of Victorian, where he struggles to survive amidst poverty, gang feuds, and harsh conditions. But when a mob boss called Fist embroils Jack in a political feud between the empire’s divinities, he finds himself drawn ever deeper into the Primals’ plots of intrigue and rebellion. Somehow, Jack, a lowly orphan, may have become the most important pawn in a game for gods.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I’m the greatest ramen noodle chef in the world, as well as a peerless orator. People often run away when I start shouting about topics I’m passionate about. Probably because I’m such a brilliant speaker.

Your book has some Steampunk elements. What appeals to you about the genre?

I’m a bit of a history buff, and I’ve always been fascinated by England’s Victorian Era. The world scene, the popular fashions, and the rise of steam technology at that time are all interesting topics to me, so I had been hoping to write a book in a such a setting for some time. Of course, I’m first and foremost a science fiction and fantasy author, so instead of just writing a story set in nineteenth century England, I naturally gravitated to a science-fictionalized version of that time period – Steampunk. Plus, I get bored when there are no jetpacks.

Did writing about surreal worlds and enigmatic scenes present any particular problems?

It certainly did, but that’s one of the key priorities for a science fiction or fantasy writer: Writing about the implausible in a way that makes it seem plausible. World-building, in a nutshell. Ironheart’s world is very different from our own, so my first priority was to make everything (the characters, plot, cultures, etc.) feel realistic, even as the fantastic was happening all around.

Once you finish a book, do the characters live on in your mind? Or do you move on to a new topic fairly quickly?

I have so many ideas bouncing around in my brain that it would take a dozen lifetimes to write a book about them all, so moving on to other projects is not really an issue. However, that’s not to say that the characters from previous books don’t stick around. I constantly catch myself analyzing scenes, wondering how this or that past character would respond in a particular situation. They all kind of live on inside of you, you know? You created them, after all. Sometimes it’s tough to block out the part of you that created a particular personality when you need to be focused on how new characters should react.

Tell us a bit about the title (without giving anything away). Why “Ironheart”?

Four reasons: 1) It sounds awesome. 2) It’s a very eye-catching, attention-grabbing, brutally stark kind of word. People find their attention drawn to it, so it works great as a title. 3) It has some specific connotations for certain characters in the story and in the plot itself. 4) It’s a symbolic title for the theme, plot, and nearly every other facet of the novel. Ironheart is a pseudo-allegory, so it is packed full of symbolism and layers of meaning. Some people like to read for sheer enjoyment, and that’s okay! My books can definitely be experienced as simple adventure/fantasy tales. But booklovers who look for deeper meaning in the works they read will be able to find questions to ponder behind nearly everything in Ironheart.

How did you come upon the idea for the Primals? What inspired you to create them?

Prior to the creation of Ironheart, I’d been wanting to write an allegorical novel for a long time, which started the thought process that led me to the concept of beings that personified specific aspects of life. I came up with the Primals because I wanted to write a story about the various pieces of human existence. For instance, how some ideals mesh really well, while others can’t seem to coexist at all. The Primals were the product of these musings. They represent pure, raw emotions and ideas in embodied forms.

Why do you feel stories are so important to us humans?

You really shouldn’t encourage me to get on my soap box, because once I’m up there I don’t step down for days. Suffice it to say that everything about human existence concerns stories. Every individual life is a story, every day is a story, every activity, every event. That’s all history is – the best tales, the ones that last. Even religion is made up of stories, the ones that inspire us or motivate us to be better than who we are. How often does anyone go a whole day without watching a movie or television show, reading a book, talking about their day with a family member, or listening to a friend say what happened at the supermarket? It’s all about stories with us, and there is power in stories. We can’t exist without them. Life, after all, is just one giant saga. We’re all characters, and we each have a part to play.

Ironheart is a real page turner. What, would you say, is the secret to keeping your reader hooked throughout the book?

It’s all about characters. A book must have a good plot, well-crafted settings, etc., but what readers really need are characters. Characters they care about and become emotionally invested in. This is true for any story, be it romance, sci-fi, horror, or anything else. When readers care about the characters in a book, they can’t stop reading. They have to know what happens. I’m speaking not as an author, but from experience as a voracious reader. And I only write books that I would like to read myself!

Anyway, that’s the feedback I’ve been getting from readers of Ironheart. Jack may not necessarily remind many readers of themselves – he’s emotionally barren, anti-social, and irritable – but for some reason, readers seem to get him. They come to understand why he is the way he is, and they really start to care about his struggles. When readers care about the characters and what’s happening to them, that keeps the pages turning until the very end.

How did you go about picking the names for your Primal characters?

To convey the story I wanted to tell, I needed some specific ideals and emotions to be physically present as characters. So, I had to use specific characters like Freedom, Pride, and Chaos. It would have been fun to explore certain emotions in character form – such as, say, Sorrow or Horror – but they didn’t fit into the narrative that I was presenting. But I suppose that exploring further concepts is what sequels are for!

Jack Booker is not your typical noble hero. Why did you give him such a dark past?

Jack has a character arc that is both complex and very simple at the same time. To take him through his journey, I need him to be convincing in the role he fills. He shoulders responsibilities that most people would be unable to handle, and in order for him to believably take on such brutal trials, readers need to see a character that personally identifies with the battle he must fight. Hard, driven people are rarely the product of happy lives of contentment. I gave Jack a dark, gritty, morally-questionable past because that’s what was needed to create a realistic character who is determined to overcome even in the face of impossible odds. Also, redemption is a major theme of Ironheart, and Jack’s redemption would have been cheapened and hollow if he had not traveled such a dark road.

Even though the world you created is complex and much different from our own, it is easy to identify with your characters. How did you pull that off?

No matter how fantastic the setting or the plot, stories are ultimately about characters, and characters have to feel realistic. Even if spaceships, magic, or parallel universes are present in a plot, the characters involved need to be rooted in real human emotion and experience. That’s what I strive to do with all of my characters, even the characters who are not actually human. I have been told many times by my readers that my characters are the strongest elements in my books, and I think that is simply because I try to ground all of them in human nature.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a couple projects, both of which are sequels. Currently, I’m writing on the sequel to my science fiction novella, Goddess, but I’ve also begun the rough draft of the sequel to Ironheart.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

I have three published works out at this time. Goddess, an adult science fiction novella, The Arrival, a medieval fantasy novel, and, of course, Ironheart. All can be found on amazon. Visit my website at to contact me, sign up for updates on my projects, or read my ramblings about various nerdy topics.


RWBY Speculations


Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!

There.  I’ve said it.  A lot.  If you haven’t received the message by now then you’re not going to.  This post contains major spoilers for RoosterTeeth’s animated web series RWBY, which is a fantasy story set in a cyberpunkish world.  If you’ve not watched this remarkable series through the end of Volume 3, then DO NOT READ ON PAST THIS PARAGRAPH.  So many surprises will be ruined for you.  Go watch RWBY Volume 1 – 3 immediately, either on Netflix, here on youtube, or here on the RoosterTeeth site.  In my opinion, it’s the best show around right now, in spite of its anime presentation.  (In general, I don’t really get into anime, but I’m a sucker for a great story, good characters, imaginative setting, etc., no matter the format.  RWBY definitely has all of those things.)  I assure you, it is well worth your time.  And best of all, it’s family friendly, so nearly anyone can watch it.  If you’ve seen any of RoosterTeeth’s other shows, you know how much of a surprise that is.  I’ll be doing a series of posts over RWBY for the next several weeks, partly to keep myself distracted from the fact that Volume 4 won’t begin until sometime in autumn.

This is the point of no return.  Turn back now unless you enjoy ruining good stories for yourself.

So the first thing I’ll mention is this: Yes, these posts on RWBY are super late.  RWBY Volume 3 has been finished for some time now, and other people have likely hashed through all of this stuff.  But I started on the first volume of RWBY about three months ago, so until recently I’ve been way behind the actual airing of the show.  I literally just watched Volume 3 when it was released on Blu-ray/DVD a few weeks ago.  So don’t get your panties in a wad if I repeat things you’ve read many times before.  This is a simple rundown of things that my friends and I have wondered/discussed/argued/violently-shouted-obscenities about over the last couple of weeks.

Why don’t we jump in with the most soul-crushing moment?  I am, of course, talking about the death of Pyrrha Nikos.  I mean, this was the climax of the show to this point, and it’s definitely the scene that everyone is obsessed with, for a multitude of reasons that we’ll delve into later. (Not at all because it left the majority of the audience curled up in the fetal position and blubbering for two hours).  Pyrrha was my favorite character in the show, which is saying something, because RWBY is chockfull of great characters.  Watching her die in what is easily the coldest, most brutal death scene RoosterTeeth has yet presented was gut-wrenching to say the least, and it had me in a nearly comatose state for a good two hours after the credits rolled.

There’s a lot to discuss here, beginning with the question that everyone keeps arguing about.

Is Pyrrha really dead?

My answer?  Yes, she’s really dead.  Hard as that is to hear, it seems pretty clear to me.  For one thing, I kind of want her to be dead.  Let me explain.  So many great shows have slowly lost their ability to generate emotional impact precisely because they create an atmosphere where death scenes are not often final. (Yes, I’m looking at you Buffy.)  Nothing drives the emotional impact of a story quite like a sense of finality, and if the audience responds like this: *Shrugs* “Eh, they’ll be back.”  You’ve got a problem.  To put it bluntly, I love Pyrrha – she’s my favorite.  But if RoosterTeeth brings her back, it will definitely set a precedent for the show that I won’t be entirely happy with.

Now, as to why I think she is dead, I’ll address some of the issues my group of RWBY-watching compatriots have brought up to question whether she’s “really gone.”

Issue #1) That wasn’t Pyrrha fighting Cinder, it was an illusion of Pyrrha conjured by a repentant Emerald.

Nope.  Sorry guys and gals.  This one is not going to fly with me.  This entire theory is based on the single line Emerald utters in Volume 3, Chapter 10 after Cinder revels in the chaos of the grimm attack on Vale.  Emerald, with admittedly sorrowful looking features, states: “It’s almost sad.”


Guys, come on.  So a baddie makes one statement of pseudo regret, and we take that to mean that ten minutes later she betrays her leader’s masterplan?  A masterplan, might I add, that took great lengths of time and astronomical amounts of effort to bring to fruition?  Emerald has never shown any compassion in the past, but the fact that RoosterTeeth gave her such a line does make her seem more realistic as a character.  It does not, however, suggest that suddenly she has repented of all her evil ways.  IF such a theory were to be what Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross (the writers) intended, they would have built up a bit more of an inner struggle within Emerald’s character arc prior to the Cinder/Pyrrha showdown.  Now, it could be a sign that they are taking Emerald’s character that direction in the future, but the fact that she regrets the deaths of hundreds (maybe thousands) of people as the price of their machinations just makes her seem like, you know, a realistic villain instead of a completely evil villain with relatively little depth.

Conclusion:  Sorry, fellow Pyrrha-lovers.  I feel you, but that was indeed Pyrrha who was fighting Cinder, not an illusion copy made by Emerald.

Issue #2) Pyrrha didn’t “die,” she evaporated into cinders.

This is an argument that I will give some credence. It actually has some decent evidence to back it up, and, in my opinion, it carries the most weight of all the theories in denial over Pyrrha’s death.  Basically, proponents of this theory are saying that Pyrrha has become incorporeal or has been captured – citing that Pyrrha disintegrated into sparkly ash instead of falling dead at Cinder’s feet.  I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out.  Now, what’s the evidence? First and foremost, while there hasn’t been a lot of visible “on screen” death in the show so far, the deaths that have been seen look just like you would expect.  No flickering away into little wisps.  No glowing disintegration.  (This is excepting the grimm, of course.  They do disintegrate upon death.  I’m speaking of sentient deaths, specifically humans and faunis.)  Everyone who has died on screen thus far has done exactly what you would expect them to do: crumple to the ground and remain there.  Pyrrha on the other hand, is struck by Cinder’s arrow and literally dissolves from the point of impact.  This is unprecedented in the show so far, so it carries some credibility.  On top of that, consider Cinder’s enigmatic “Add her to the list” quote from Volume 2 (speaking about Pyrrha) and you have an interesting concept.  So far, the writers have yet to reveal what Cinder was talking about.  And finally: Ospin is missing.  Missing.  Not dead.  That is made very clear following his encounter with Cinder.  Even Salem is addressing him at the end of Volume 3, so he’s clearly still around somewhere.  He didn’t defeat Cinder in combat, it’s unlikely he ran away, and even if he did, wouldn’t he get in contact with Qrow or Goodwitch?  It’s possible that he was captured by Cinder, and that is why Salem is addressing him as if he is standing right next to her.  If Oz was captured, then it would follow that Pyrrha could have been captured in a similar manner, and was “transferred” to Salem’s location through an unknown power that Cinder possesses – a power which transfers her in disintegrated form to Salem, where she is reconstituted.  After all, those floating cinders of ash do spring up often when Cinder uses her powers.

Like I said, it’s the most persuasive theory, but I still don’t buy it.  First of all, yes, no one has yet died by disintegration, but Pyrrha is the first to be killed in such a manner.  (I know Amber was killed by one of Cinder’s arrows, but her death does not linger on screen, so we don’t know if she disintegrates or not.)  More importantly, Pyrrha is the first person to be killed by Cinder since she acquired the powers of Fall.  It could be an effect of the Fall Maiden powers mixed with Cinder’s penchant for scorching her opponents.  As for Cinder’s quote from Volume 2, she could have simply been referring to opponents they (Cinder, Mercury, Emerald) would need to keep an eye on or prepare for or possibly just deal with to get them out of the way.  It’s possible she even was referring to the fact that Pyrrha could be used as a means to further agitate the situation they planned to create during the Vytal Festival Tournament.  If so, they undoubtedly succeeded.  The Oz theory is neat, but ultimately unfounded in anything but speculation at this point.  Also, I’ll put up another post later on Ospin and where I believe he is.  Suffice it to say, I don’t believe he was captured by Salem.  As such, Salem was not addressing him as he stood right next to her (in captivity), but she is addressing him from a distance, as she seems to have done at the very beginning of Volume 1.  More on that will also be discussed later in the post on Ospin.  Finally, the ash could simply be a visual effect of Cinder’s powers, much like the rose petals that spawn around Ruby.  Why does Pyrrha actually disintegrate?  Well, Cinder just recently had become incredibly powerful.  It stands to reason that her abilities had been amplified to the point that they had such an effect on her target.

Ultimately, it’s a fairly well-constructed theory.  I would only be slightly surprised to find in Volume 4 that some or all of it is true.  However, I can’t really get behind it at this time – still a bit short on compelling evidence for me.

Issue #3) Jaune’s semblance will be revealed later in the show as a resurrection ability.  Then, he will raise Pyrrha from the dead.

I am still uncertain how anyone thinks this is plausible.  We’ve been given a few hints as to what Jaune’s semblance might be, but there has been literally nothing to suggest that he’ll be able to raise others from the dead. Plus, that would strike me as a bit of a deus ex machina on the part of the writers, which I don’t believe Kerry and Miles will stoop to.  I think there are a couple options as to what his semblance will be, but they will have to wait for a later post.  Suffice it to say, resurrection is not one of them.  Conclusion: This is the wishful thinking of die-hard Pyrrha fans who are desperately trying to convince themselves she’s not gone for good.

Issue #4) Why she died: Pyrrha’s death is a crucial plot point for RWBY character development.

I won’t go into much detail here since I plan on making this the topic of my next post, but this is one of the major reasons why I feel Pyrrha’s death was final.  It facilitates crucial change in many character arcs that I believe Monty Oum, Kerry, and Miles had in mind from the beginning of the show’s creation.  Obviously, this was a huge event in many of the character’s lives, and it’s going to lead to some serious change, especially for Jaune and Ruby.

Once again, as sad as I am to say it, I think Pyrrha is dead for good.

Whew, that got to be a rather long post!  Stay tuned, next time I’ll be back with a look at the effect Pyrrha’s death will have on the characters and the show as a whole.

What do you think?  Am I wrong? Or am I right?  Is Pyrrha actually dead?  Join the discussion, and let me know what you think is going on in Remnant as we await Volume 4!

Ironheart on Sale for $.99

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please.


Ironheart: The Primal Deception is on sale for the next few days on amazon at only $0.99!  Good people, that is less than what is spent on even the most frivolous of things, and also equal in price to the most serious of things, such as the delicious deep-fried goodness of the items on a McDonald’s dollar menu.  So unless you are saving every last possible dollar for sweet calorie accumulating fries and mini-hamburgers (a perfectly legitimate way to approach the saving of money, in my humble opinion), consider plopping a measly dollar down on the altar of literature.  You’ll be purchasing hours of enjoyment for less change than most people ignore on the sidewalk every day, not to mention supporting an independent author in the process!

Of course, if you think it’s both likely and deplorable that I’ll just spend your hard-earned money on a small fry, then you are correct on both counts.  Feel free to send me a picture of the finger instead.

If, on the other hand, you decide to sacrifice that highly prized dollar to the kindle gods and read Ironheart, please post a review on amazon.  No matter your opinion, I’d like to know your thoughts so I can improve my dollar-menu-income-generating projects.