Goodbye to the Sun: Q&A with Jonathan Nevair

Roadie badge for Storytellers on Tour

Welcome to my spot on Storytellers on Tour’s blog tour for Jonathan Nevair‘s sci-fi debut, Goodbye to the Sun. I feel incredibly privileged I got to not only read this book while in its prepping stages but that I also now have the change to interview Jonathan about his off the beaten track space opera, a character-driven adventure of politics and dichotomies.

Thank you Jonathan for the opportunity you gave me to take part in your journey, and to SOT for making my tour stop possible!

As to you, reader, don’t forget to check out the schedule to hop aboard all the other fantastic blogs joining up, and enter the special INTERNATIONAL giveaway to win a signed copy of the book. I mean, fuck, look at that cover!


Meet Jonathan Nevair

Jonathan Nevair is a science fiction writer and, as Dr. Jonathan Wallis, an art historian and Professor of Art History at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia. After two decades of academic teaching and publishing, he finally got up the nerve to write fiction. Jonathan grew up on Long Island, NY but now resides in southeast Pennsylvania with his wife and rambunctious mountain feist, Cricket. You can find him online at http://www.jonathannevair.com and on twitter at @JNevair


Hi, Jonathan! Thank you for coming on the blog to talk Goodbye to the Sun, your latest release and debut novel, braving the worlds of science fiction. How does it feel launching your first book?

Exciting and nerve-racking at the same time! So much preparation leads up to this moment that there’s a big build-up, especially since because it’s my debut. But there’s also the moment when you realize that your book is about to be in readers’ hands. That’s terrifying and humbling for sure. But still, it’s a major accomplishment for anyone who writes a book to have it out in the world. There’s been so much support by everyone in the writing community (including you too, Arina!), and especially by my fellow authors, editors, and designers at Shadow Spark Publishing, that it makes you feel part of a “debut cohort.” I like that.  

Always happy to see more science-fiction joining the fold! Can you tell us more about Goodbye to the Sun?

Goodbye to the Sun is a character-driven space opera inspired by the Greek tragedy, Antigone. It’s a very loose and abstract distillation of Antigone, and you probably wouldn’t notice its presence unless it was pointed out. If you’ve read the work by Sophocles (which, by the way, is not at all necessary to read my book!) you might find some literary footprints in the sand and an easter egg here and there, but it’s the themes from the Greek play that are most important for this science fiction tale.

Goodbye to the Sun follows two central characters, Keen Draden and Razor, who are thrown together on the windblown blue sands of the desert planet, Kol 2. Razor, a bold and daring pilot, leads a last-ditch gambit for her people, the Motes, against their local oppressors, the Targitians. The plan – abduct visiting Ambassador Keen Draden and use him as a bargaining chip to restore her people’s independence in the Sagittarius Arm. But when the operation unravels, Razor is forced to renegotiate terms with the arrogant diplomat. Battling furious Wind Tides and pursuit by an infamous bounty hunter, Razor and Keen find mutual assistance in a dubious freelancer with a knack for exposing cracks in people’s pride.

Light years away on Heroon a radical resistance blossoms. The alluring rainforest planet haunts Keen. All his problems started there during the Patent War, but it’s where Razor’s troubles may find a solution. The moral tide ebbs, exposing an impossible choice that links their futures together more tragically than they ever thought possible.

That synopsis was music to my ears. And when it comes to themes, what are the major focus of Goodbye to the Sun?

First and foremost, I would say is the struggle between responsibility to family vs. state. Moral redemption plays a major role, as well as overcoming hubris and learning to understand and accept give-and-take social dynamics. Oh, and we can’t forget sacrifice.

What’s the coolest thing about space?

Wow – LOVE this question! For me, it’s the scale. I’ve always been drawn to the sublimity of the cosmos. The majestic and prodigious aspect of what is out there, and what we can imagine is out there through science fiction, indescribably moves me. I marvel at the beauty of the macrocosmic order and time/space relationships, and our humble place within it. 

What are your inspirations to write, in general, and what inspired you to write Goodbye to the Sun specifically?

Science fiction is a place where I can bring worlds and characters to life from my imagination. It becomes a place to envision alternative social and cultural orders and make them manifest in words on a page. I’m very driven by this idea, more than I initially realized when I began writing fiction a few years ago. Being able to create a world where people interact and engage with one another in a way different from current conditions on Earth (or in past human history) is very important to me. I’m a believer in the power of fantasy as a visionary change agent – the autonomy of fiction and secondary worlds can affect us in the primary world, or so I’d like to think. There’s a character in this series who very much embodies this idea (no spoilers! You’ll have to read it to find out who it is).

Goodbye to the Sun was inspired by a shortcoming in my first book. That novel was a near-future science fiction story that worked well in its world-building and plot but fell flat in its characters. I received some very constructive feedback on that manuscript from a literary agent and took it to heart. To try and overcome that deficiency in my writing, I researched narrative forms that emphasized character-centered stories and read about how to draw out the emotional connections between readers and a story’s main players. I eventually landed on the tragedy (particularly Ancient Greek drama) as a literary form. Antigone drew me in for its themes as well as its cast of characters, and that led me to an idea for a space opera that became Goodbye to the Sun.

What was the process from idea to realization for Goodbye to the Sun like? Did you have a very specific idea of where the book would go and stuck with it? 

No! I work from plot points and there some are some distinct ones for a Greek tragedy that should be included for it to function properly as a narrative device (peripeteia and hamartia, for example). But while I had those plot points lined up at the start of drafting (btw, I “discovery write” once I have a general outline and concept, so it’s about 50/50 with me – characters “appear” unexpectedly as I write, etc.) I got to Act III and hit a wall. It took me a good month of walking in the woods, talking to myself, banging my head against the wall, etc. before I finally worked out how to get to the end the way I wanted.

I learned an important lesson and for Book 2 (Jati’s Wager) I made sure I had more of a specific directional course outlined before I started writing. That book flew off the keys for me, so I am going to stick to that approach from now on and not have a repeat of what happened with Goodbye to the Sun.

The dilapidated spaceship floating above the Gobi, digital painting.
The dilapidated spaceship floating above the Gobi, digital painting.

You’ve built a very interesting narrative that melds 1st and 3rd person, each of your main characters telling the story in different ways. What was the reason behind this and what did it allow you to explore?

I am so glad you asked this question. It has been interesting to observe responses from early readers. Some don’t even seem to notice or give it a second glance, and others point it out as “unorthodox” and are unsure how to react to the POV shifts. Goodbye to the Sun toggles every chapter between 1st person & 3rd person limited through the text. The 1st person POV is told as a personal narrative 50+ years after the events that unfold in “lived time” in the 3rd person portions. I wanted this approach and reading experience to ramp up the subjectivity of shared experiences and how that relativity shapes the tensions and motivations of the two main characters. It also provides internal and external character experiences for the reader. This continues in Books 2 and 3 but less often than the consistent back-and-forth chapter structure of Book 1.

What about this book means the most to you? 

Why do you ask such tough but awesome questions? (kidding, this is great!) Writing Razor’s POV still holds a special place in my literary heart. It took a lot of courage for me to open up like that as a writer. I’ve spent decades writing research and evidence-based art historical essays, book chapters, etc., and even though there is room for subjective discussion and response to works of art it’s nothing like speaking from your heart through a fictional character. I have a greater respect for creatives of all types (in all media) who put themselves out there for the world to see (and critique). Getting up the courage to put my literary heart on my sleeve through Razor’s character does mean the most to me in Goodbye to the Sun

Because I’m kinda evil? :p Or perhaps it’s that they always prompt such interesting answers! Besides being a writer, you’re also a Professor of Art History. Do these two meet somehow in your work? And do any of your students read your work?

100%! I’ve started teaching courses on fantasy art and have some lined up on art that engages with science fiction for future semesters. I’ve also always been drawn to artists who work with cosmic dimensions of time and space, and who are futurists. Plus, as someone who teaches and writes on surrealism, there’s always been a strong fantasy component to my thoughts on aesthetics.

As a writer, I’d like to think that my experience teaching, lecturing, and writing about visual art has given me the tools to be a good descriptive author when it comes to conveying sensory aspects of a secondary fictional world (it’s sort of like an abstraction of ekphrastic writing, which is quite common in art history). I have gotten some nice compliments on my world-building so perhaps there is a crossover? Although I have NO PLAN to ever write something specifically art historical – no Dan Brown thing going to happen here… Nope, never.  

Before I let you go, what are your plans for the near future, both in the world of Wind Tide and beyond?

Right now, I am in final edits for the second book in the series, Jati’s Wager. It takes place nine years after Goodbye to the Sun and features some of the same characters and some new ones. It’s a very different kind of story – a heist meets a coming-of-age tale. That will be out on August 18th, 2021. I’m writing the last of the trilogy (for the time being, at least), No Song But Silence, right now. That book will release on November 18th, 2021. It’s exciting that the three books will all be out this year.

After that? I plan to write a stand-alone novel. I’ve got a few ideas brewing, but something tells me I am going to be leaning towards cyberpunk. The Wind Tide universe, while futuristic and technologically complex, is very “natural” as a world. I think I’m ready to counter that with something intensely synthetic, urbanized, and filled with simulacra. Plus, I am obsessed with the aesthetics and color palettes of cyberpunk right now and the thought of putting that into words excites me. No matter what, as always it will be a character-driven story but I may expand my horizons a bit and build a multispecies universe, which I’ve never done before. 


More about Goodbye to the Sun

Goodbye to the sun cover

Tucked away in the blue sands of Kol 2, the Motes are on the brink of cultural collapse. Razor, a bold and daring pilot, leads a last-ditch gambit against their local oppressors, the Targitians. The plan – abduct visiting Ambassador Keen Draden and use him as a bargaining chip to restore her people’s independence in the Sagittarius Arm. But when the operation unravels, Razor is forced to renegotiate terms with the arrogant diplomat. Battling furious Wind Tides and pursuit by an infamous bounty hunter, Razor and Keen find mutual assistance in a dubious freelancer with a knack for exposing cracks in people’s pride.

Light years away on Heroon a radical resistance blossoms. The alluring rainforest planet haunts Keen. All his problems started there during the Patent War, but it’s where Razor’s troubles may find a solution. The moral tide ebbs, exposing an impossible choice that links their futures together more tragically than they ever thought possible.

Goodbye to the Sun – a nonstop thrill ride across an unstable galaxy, combining moral struggle and character-driven adventure.

Series: Wind Tide (#1)

Published: May 18, 2021

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQ+

Pages: 307

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CW: death of child (mentioned), death of sibling, verbal/emotional abuse, torture (mentioned), graphic death, genocide, colonialism, graphic violence, trauma

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