An Interview with Author Jeff Otis

Jeff Otis is an award-winning author and humorist whose short stories have been published in several anthologies. He branched into novel-length work with a science fiction debut, Raptor Lands: The Story of the Harrowing Return of the Dinosaurs (March 2024), that reviewers call “a captivating read” and “a thrilling adventure filled with dinosaurs, intricate plot twists, and a mix of compelling characters.” You’ll find Jeff on his website at and on Facebook.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Raptor Lands?
Cantor, a paleontologist, and Kumiko, a geneticist, team up with a brilliant computer scientist named Arthur at Los Alamos. Together they determine which dormant genes in chickens and eagles were once active in dinosaurs and what those genes did. Then they activate them inside bird embryos. No mosquitos in amber. Cantor and Kumiko want to study dinosaur behavior and have no interest in making money. They move from Berkeley to New Mexico, where they set up a ranch with different areas allocated separately to the five big dinosaurs they brought with them (hence the name Raptor Lands). All the dinosaurs are of a type that lived 125 million years ago. But something went wrong. The dinosaurs were meant to be small. They aren’t.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I had to balance the sub-plots around the main plot. When a sub-plot changed, it was like removing a specific thread from a rug and replacing it. That’s what I get for being a pantser. But the action and dialogue are fresh, gripping, and sometimes humorous. The book took two years to write, but it was spread over six years. Since this is my debut novel, there were challenges inside challenges.

Tell us a little about your main protagonists. Who (or what) are the antagonists in the story?
The main protagonists are Cantor, Kumiko, and their son, George. George is a special kid and his parents worry about him. He starts off as a bit of a bumbler with emotional problems. Later he shines. Without giving too much away, the antagonist (a powerful and dangerous oligarch) uses fear and money to cause errant genes to be placed in some of the dinosaurs, making them extraordinarily vicious. The meaner and bigger the dinosaur, the more money billionaires will pay. It’s a status thing. The dinosaurs were characters with their own personalities. One dinosaur named Mako was definitely an antagonist and some of the most intense actions centers around him.

Why did you choose New Mexico as a setting for the book?
I write what I know. I know a lot about dinosaurs, evolutionary biology, some genetics, humor, and New Mexico. The best place for a dinosaur ranch is away from people and cities. It had to be New Mexico.

Is there a scene in Raptor Lands that you’d love to see play out in a movie?
There is a chapter where two hapless and uniformed guys break into the ranch to steal a male and a female offspring that are about the size of a turkey. They are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Moms don’t like it when you steal their children. It would be chilling to see this on the big screen.

What makes this novel unique in the speculative fiction market?
It isn’t another Jurassic Park, but the genre is similar. The characters are unique, and I don’t know of another dinosaur novel that lets the reader get to know the dinosaurs like this one except Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
When I’m writing, I’m in my own world. My characters become real. Their adventures, fears, loves, anger are all real to me. I never have writer’s block. Every day I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Cantor, Kumiko, George, and other characters.

What lessons did you learn in writing/publishing your first novel that you can apply to future projects?
Agents are difficult to get and trying to find one involves an incredible amount of work. Never bore your audience. Keep them on the edge of their seats. Be sure readers are invested in your characters. Show don’t tell. Edit. Edit. Edit.

Besides being an author, you’re also an oil painter. Does painting affect your writing creativity?
No, but I did use 25 of my own drawings in the book. I’m also illustrating my second book.

What advice do you have for writers who are still striving for publication?
Hang in there. Keep trying. Expect rejection and don’t take it personally.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m almost finished with a book involving love, loss, technological breakthroughs, and the tragic paths people take. In addition, I have completed two books in a YA series.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

2 comments on “An Interview with Author Jeff Otis
  1. Paula Nixon says:

    Congratulations on the publication of your book, Jeff! I enjoyed the interview.

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