William Leisner is a true success story in Star Trek literature. His writing career started with the Next Generation short story Gods, Fate and Fractals, which was chosen for the second Strange New Worlds anthology in 1999, and he went on to sell two more stories – Black Hats and The Trouble with Borg Tribbles – to the contest, making himself ineligible for future SNW anthologies. That didn’t stop him from continuing to contribute to the Trek line, though, as he later wrote the short story Ambition (in the Original Series anniversary anthology Constellations) and the eBook novellas Corps of Engineers: Out of the Cocoon and TNG: The Insolence of Office. Now, after penning the short novel A Less Perfect Union for the Myriad Universes volume Infinity’s Prism last year, his first fully-fledged novel will hit the bookshelves soon. William kindly agreed to talk with Unreality SF about that book – a TNG story entitled Losing the Peace – and much more.

Looking at his bibliography, it’s striking that the length of his published works has gradually increased, begging the question of whether this steady growth has helped in the process of writing his first novel. “It’s definitely helped,” William agrees, “if in no other way than to build my confidence and prove to myself that I could write longer works. During my days of submitting SNW stories, I would hear fellow writers talk about the trouble they had keeping their stories below the 7500-word limit, which I couldn’t understand since most of my stories were in the 4000-5000 range. Being able to move from short stories to the novella-length eBooks certainly made things less daunting than if I was asked to just jump straight into something fifteen times longer than I’d ever written before. I actually still find it a bit amazing to look back and realise, I’ve written a novel! Twice!”

So, what’s his new novel about? “Losing the Peace picks up almost immediately after the conclusion of the Destiny trilogy, as the Federation starts to take stock of just how much damage has been wrought by the Borg invasion, and realises that even though the Borg are gone, they can’t simply declare victory; there are still huge repercussions that need to be dealt with,” he discloses. “There are a number of plotlines running through the book, mostly looking at the personal impact the Borg invasion had on the members of the Enterprise crew.  We have Captain Picard, who after 15 years of living with his residual link to the Borg, is finally completely free, and who is finally ready to fully embrace this bright new stage in his life as a husband and father. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Jasminder Choudhury, a woman characterised by her sense of inner peace and her outward serenity, who has just lost her entire family and her entire homeworld of Deneva, struggling with her belief system to make sense of such a senseless tragedy.” And one character who often was a bit overlooked during the television series and movies gets her time in the spotlight, too. “Beverly Crusher also gets a major storyline as she takes a special assignment to investigate a refugee camp that’s starting to overwhelm its guest world,” he reveals, “and we also get a closer examination of the personal tragedy that had most shaped her life: the death of her first husband, Jack.”

Asked what kind of novel the reader can expect, William explains that “Losing the Peace is more of a character-driven book than plot-driven. Coming as it does after the huge events of Destiny, it’s kind of like Family following The Best of Both Worlds.” As an aside, he acknowledges that the same has been said about Keith R.A. DeCandido’s A Singular Destiny, but thinks the analogy fits just as well here. “I guess it would probably best be described as a transitional story, providing a kind of epilogue to Destiny, and establishing the new status quo in the Federation and aboard the Enterprise, which will presumably be picked up in the future TNG and Typhon Pact novels.”

The Typhon Pact won’t be featured in his novel, though, since its first appearance is set after the events of his novel. Can readers expect to see any kind of foreshadowing of the Pact storyline, then? “No foreshadowing, no. Since Losing the Peace and A Singular Destiny are already so similar in terms of dealing with the aftermath of the Borg invasion, it was decided that I would keep my focus on the domestic front, while Keith handled the interstellar issues. Besides, Singular Destiny presents the Typhon Pact as a surprise development, so it really wouldn’t do for Picard to outguess Sonek Pran, would it? That said, there were elements of Losing the Peace that were informed by other things seen in A Singular Destiny, particularly the refugee crisis, and Keith was good enough to use one of the events in my book as one of the interstitial news stories in A Singular Destiny.”

That communication between William and Keith seems to have been shared by all the authors tasked with following Destiny, who were keen to ensure that the continuity between the different novels was as tight as possible. William describes the communication as “very close”, adding, “I was actually the last of the four post-Destiny authors to be hired, and the others, as well as David Mack, were really great about sharing their own plans, answering my questions, and coordinating the continuity and interconnectivity of all the stories. It was really a pretty remarkable thing, since I think at one point all four of us were working simultaneously on our manuscripts, and yet all were willing to answer questions, exchanging ideas, and make comments and suggestions when needed.”

One thing which was very obvious in the earlier TNG novels set after Star Trek Nemesis was that the days of a never-changing senior staff were over for Captain Picard, with several new lead characters coming and going. Readers are naturally wondering if the crew has finally settled down, or if there are more changes to come in Losing the Peace. “I think that the growing pains that the earlier post-Nemesis books went through are finally behind us now,” William considers. “The idea when the TNG ‘relaunch’ was just getting off the ground was that, after so many years with a static senior staff, the new characters being brought in would be a source of interpersonal conflict. And they [were] successful in doing that… unfortunately, not to the best effect for the series. But we now have a crew that has been through the fire of war together, and come out stronger on the other side. That said, however, there shouldn’t be the assumption that everything is set in stone now. The invasion and its aftermath does force several of our characters to do some reflecting and re-evaluate what are the truly important things in their lives.”

While Losing the Peace will be seen by most as William’s first full novel, he penned a short novel for last year’s Myriad Universes volume Infinity’s Prism, the aforementioned Enterprise/TOS crossover A Less Perfect Union. Like every story in the Myriad Universes books, his story looks at an alternate universe; in this case, one where Terra Prime was successful in cultivating its xenophobic beliefs on Earth, leading to the withdrawal of Earth from the Coalition talks. Why did William choose that specific divergence from established Trek history? “The biggest reason was that it allowed me, after Enterprise had finally decided in the fourth season to embrace its role as an Original Series prequel, to actually take the next step and do an Enterprise/Original Series crossover, and to show – even if through an altered timeline – how the events of the twenty-second century influenced those of the twenty-third.”

When I read the story last year, I was pleasantly surprised that William hadn’t chosen to have Spock as Kirk’s counterpart in his struggle with his anti-Vulcan feelings, despite the fact that their friendship forms the iconic template for human/Vulcan relationships in the primary universe, and would seem to have been an obvious choice. “Using Spock in this story was never an option, let alone an obvious one,” William counters. “The story isn’t specifically about the human/Vulcan relationship, but rather the relationship between humanity and the entire rest of the universe – a relationship that had been broken for decades before Spock would have been born. T’Pol is in the story, just as she’s in on the journey to Babel, to represent what almost was and what might have been – humans and extraterrestrials working together and living together as friends and equals. There was never a question of using anyone other than her.”

Now that there’s a whole new alternate universe out there which he developed, would William revisit it if asked? “I think the story stands pretty well on its own, but if I were asked to revisit this particular universe, I think I could find some more interesting stories to spin, sure.”

Before moving on to novels, William contributed two shorter stories to the line of original Star Trek eBooks, which was cancelled in early 2008, just as devices to read eBooks were starting to become popular. “I think it’s a crying shame,” he admits, asked about the range’s demise. “Not only because, as you say, the new generation eBook devices are increasing in popularity, but because I think there are a lot of stories that better fit the novella length than they would a full novel or a short story. And, it also lends itself to collaborative projects like Mere Anarchy and Slings and Arrows. I really do hope that sometime over the next few years, these readers will become widespread enough that someone says, ‘Hey, why don’t we produce some original content for them?’ and that somebody will be right there to mention the USS da Vinci [from Star Trek: Corps of Engineers].”

Until this time comes, though, William would also be interested in working in other parts of the Star Trek sandbox which he hasn’t been able to visit yet. “I would love the opportunity to do one of the DS9 relaunch books, and I continue to be extremely jealous of David Mack, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore for keeping the Vanguard playground all to themselves. I also have ideas for a couple novels that don’t fit neatly into any standard Trek subcategory.”

He also wouldn’t be averse to write in the altered timeline created by J.J. Abrams’ recent blockbuster movie, and has his own ideas how such books should look. “I would be interested, but I would like a better idea of what direction the film series will be heading in first. My instinct is to say, with the new film having established it’s in an alternate timeline, and the Vanguard series already retracing the events of the Original Series, that any ‘new Trek‘ stories should avoid drawing attention to the differences between timelines, and try to get down to basic storytelling that will stand on its own, no matter if the reader pictures Kirk as Chris Pine or a young William Shatner. That would be a really thin tightrope to walk, but I think that’s the way to do it successfully.”

William is one of the many Star Trek authors who are very active on various message boards dealing with the books, and sometimes uses a rather confrontational discussion style when doing so. Does he fear that this could alienate potential readers? “I can sometimes be a jackass online, yes,” he admits. “Believe it or not, I was worse when I posted under an anonymous screen name. For all the benefits of internet communication, it does make it easy to forget there are real live human beings on the other end. Am I concerned that my internet personality might alienate readers? Frankly, I’m more concerned that the people who aren’t on the internet boards will see it and say ‘William Leisner? Never heard of him’, and decide not to take a chance on a relative newbie. I’d be upset to learn someone decided not to buy a book specifically because I’d written it. On the other hand, though, I’m not going to censor an honest opinion because a potential reader might take offense.”

Asked which media properties he would like to write tie-ins for beside Star Trek, he replies: “I would really have loved to have been able to write a Pushing Daisies novel, but it doesn’t look like that that’s in the cards. I’m really saddened that the show fell so hard this year after such a successful first season. I would also love to see someone pick up the Quantum Leap license and restart that novel series.” But with those two lines not being present at the moment, and his Star Trek proposals awaiting review, William has time to work on ideas for original stories. “At present, I’m working on an original novel, a supernatural fantasy set at the end of the Wild West era.”

So, while there’s nothing concrete on the schedules for William just yet, I’m sure that he will continue his rise through the world of Trek literature, and it’s probably only a matter of time before his next novel will be announced…

Losing the Peace will be released by Pocket Books in July 2009.