I was super lucky to receive ARCs for both Arena and Gauntlet, and I’m so happy I got them early because these books are AMAZING! I want to shout it from the rooftops! But you can read about why I loved them so much in my review for Arena and my review for Gauntlet. Today, though, we’re gonna chat with the wonderfully talented author of Arena & Gauntlet,
Hi there, Holly! Thank you for joining us today! Why don’t we start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Holly Jennings: author, gamer, and nerd. Not always in that order, but at least one of the three at any given time. I’ve been writing short stories for a few years and my debut novel, Arena, was released last April. I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pencil and have been playing games since the original Nintendo. I still can’t believe I get paid to play games and write about it.
Whenever I’m not gaming or writing stories, I can usually be found drawing, spending time with family, or spoiling my dog.
Well, your gaming background definitely explains the premise for your books! But what specifically inspired Arena & Gauntlet?
Arena was inspired by the Frag Documentary, which recounted the history and evolution of competitive gaming. At the same time, I’d been reading Neuromancer and the two concepts converged to become a novel about competitive gaming in a virtual reality future.
Gauntlet was inspired when my editor told me to write a sequel. No, honestly Gauntlet was inspired by another gaming documentary, Free to Play. It focuses on an international tournament with some of the best gaming teams in the world.
Since Arena & Gauntlet are all about video games, does this mean you’re a gamer?
Absolutely! I tend to prefer triple-A game with open worlds (I’m less likely to rage quit). My favorite series are Grand Theft Auto and Fallout. However, I’ve recently been getting more into indie games. I love how experimental they are and the unique artistic choices developers use to convey their stories. It can be a very different experience compared to traditional games.
You know what else would be different from traditional games? If full immersion virtual reality video games came to fruition. 😀 Would you be first in line to grab up some gear and play?
I might, but it depends on the game. I certainly don’t want to be in the middle of something like Resident Evil. If MMOs ever go virtual, I think I’d love to explore the lands of Azeroth, Tyria, or Middle Earth.
Exploring new, made-up, fantasy lands would be really cool! It’d be like taking a vacation while never having to leave home. ^.^ And the RAGE tournaments sound so cool, too! Though, as much as I want to be, I’m not much of a fighter. What about you? Do you know any awesome fighting techniques?
I took Kung Fu as a kid but I didn’t keep up with it. Nowadays, the only fighting I do is virtually. Soul Caliber anyone?
Haha! Not all of us can be fighters and even Kali isn’t just a fighter. She finds balance through her heritage, which plays a big part in Arena and Gauntlet. How did you pick Taosim, and do you practice it yourself?
I’d come across Taoism in college and had always found its philosophies interesting, but hadn’t thought much of it since. When I was writing Arena, I realized its concepts of duality were already reflected in the story and by incorporating it into the book, I had the perfect vehicle to drive Kali’s character progression.
I wouldn’t call myself a Taoist, but I practiced it while I was writing Arena so I could better describe the experience. I was shocked by how much meditation relaxed me and cleared my mind.
I have never been good at meditation, but it definitely helped Kali! Though, she seemed to slip a bit when the ante was upped in the sequel, Gauntlet, with the introduction of A.I. to the game. Do you think such technology would ever be implemented into games in the future? If so, how do you think it will change gaming as we know it?
Absolutely! If we ever reach the point of fully immersive virtual worlds, only something as advanced as A.I. will be capable of generating an endless gaming experience that changes and evolves based on our actions in game. It could be the ultimate MMORPG.
While gaming is the main focus of Arena & Gauntlet, one of the sub-plots involves drugs. Did you add this for a reason? Perhaps as a caution to readers?
The concept of Arena was based off a gamer documentary about the (then underground) world of eSports. On top of massive corruption within the industry, the documentary also showed underage kids encouraged to take Ritalin or other drugs to enhance their focus and gameplay. Drug use in gaming was never meant to be “a message” in Arena. Instead, it was simply a reflection of real life events.
A lot of real life was reflected in the story, which made it so realistic. And these are just a few of the amazing reasons to love Arena & Gauntlet! But what is your favorite part about this story?
My favorite part is the gaming team as a whole. Individually, they each have their own strengths, weaknesses, personalities, and preferences, but together they become an unstoppable force – when they can gather themselves and focus on what matters: the game. While they might fight, they truly do care for each other and in some respects become as close as family.
And the fight scenes, because they’re fight scenes.
Thank you so much for joining us! But before we go, is there anything else you’d like to add?
I recently started a Twitch stream on Saturday nights in order to share my love of gaming and interact with my readers. Feel free to join us starting at 7:00 PM EST. We’re a friendly bunch, mostly readers and some writers. Plus, I’m completely available to answer any questions you have about writing or the publishing industry.
And of course, video games. We talk about those, too.