To make things easy, my questions and comments are in purple, his are in green.
|Pictures taken from Jay's website|
How did you come up with the thunder tiger? Also, are you a fan of Avatar (The Last Airbender, not the blue creatures), because I could not help thinking of those crossbreeds as I read?
Well, a thunder tiger is basically a white griffin with tiger bits instead of lion bits (their wings also make a sound like thunder, but spoilersspoilersspoilers). Tigers are just flat-out cooler than lions (apologies to any lion fans out there) and white tigers are just flat-out cooler than regular tigers. So I suppose I was just trying to take a griffin and make it as cool as a griffin could possibly be. Kinda like painting flames up the side of a supermodel.
I loved Avatar, but funnily enough, I only watched it for the first time about six months ago, and I wrote Stormdancer around two years ago. I did like the mole-crocodile thing who could smell anything anywhere. The ninja girl who rode around on him flipping out and being badass was pretty cool too.
I imagine you're not allowed around too many supermodels, as that sounds like it would cause scarring, even though it would undoubtedly be cool.
Are any of the characters in Stormdancer based on yourself or people you know? Which ones?
Nnnnnot really. There’s bits and pieces of people I know scattered around, but no character who I could definitively say “you’re based on person X."
I suspect that a lot of me crept into Buruu (the griffin) over the course of writing the book. He’s kinda big and angry and sarcastic, but underneath he’s just a big kitten. And Buruu seems to be everyone’s favourite character, so that’s kinda cool.
BURUU IS THE BEST. THIS CANNOT BE DENIED.
How did you celebrate when you found out your book was going to be published by Macmillan?
Celebrations were a little drawn out, because Stormdancer sold at auction. I got told we had an offer before xmas 2011, and that was awesome - I got drunk on xmas day for the first time in my life (hey, my Auntie bought me a bottle of bourbon, gimme a break). But very soon we had two other houses bidding on the book, so it all became very surreal very quickly. I’d wake up each morning and there would be a new email from my agent with a new offer (which is a really nice way to wake up every day). The whole auction took about a month to complete – book auctions aren’t these big swanky affairs like I imagined them to be, they’re basically just a bunch of emails flying back and forth.
On the day we actually decided which house we were going with, I played air guitar for about ten minutes (furious solo), called my folks and said “guess what?”, and then got stonkingly drunk.
And I know I sound like a total boozehound now, but it’s all coincidence, I assure you.
No judgment from me. If I ever sell a book, I'm pretty sure the celebration would have to involve copious amounts of margaritas. Just sayin'.
What prompted your interest in shogunate Japan?
I guess I wanted to write a steampunk book because I loved the aesthetic, but European- based steampunk seemed like it had already been done a lot, and done very well. The world had some incredible cultures in the 19th century, and I think fantasy is already shamefully guilty of a European focus.
Why do you hate happiness?
Lol, who said that? I’m not a fan of happy endings, if that’s what you mean. Happy endings feel cheap to me. I think the best endings are the ones where the heroes paid dearly – where victory was almost as costly as defeat. I want my readers to be afraid for the characters that they love, I want them dreading turning the page in case something awful happens.
Storytellers and their audiences have a pact with each other - audiences can guess quite quickly where most stories are going. They know the heroes are probably going to win, that the Big Bad Guy will be defeated, that good will triumph. Nobody really wants to hear a story where evil reigns supreme at the end. So it’s not so much the ultimate outcome of the story that audiences are interested in. It’s HOW we get there, and what the heroes PAY for their almost-inevitable victory. It’s the storyteller’s job to make that journey worth glossing over the fact that the heroes win every frackin’ time.
If the heroes pay nothing, victory feels cheap. Take Harry Potter. In the first few books, Harry pays nothing for his victory. A little sleight of hand, and little smartassery, and bam, credits roll. In later books, people he loves are dropping like flies. Which books, as a reader, were you more invested in?
To clarify, that's actually inside joke with a friend. We like to say that Joss Whedon hates happiness, because any time someone falls in love or is really happy, you know shit is about to GO DOWN and someone's probably going to die. Thanks for taking that non sequitur like a champ.
I do love the early Harry Potter books more than the later ones, actually, but...I take your point, and that's actually one of the rare cases where it works that way. She killed all of my favorite characters! Sigh.
Which character was the easiest to write? Which was the most difficult?
Buruu was easiest, probably because he talks in all-caps, all the time. There’s something about hitting capslock before you type a sentence that makes the words flow easier. Capslock is the cruise- control for awesome. Even the most ridiculous sentiment is made better by it. Observe:
IT IS A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED, THAT A SINGLE MAN IN POSSESSION OF A GOOD FORTUNE MUST BE IN WANT OF A WIFE.
Probably why trolls are so rife on the internet.
The hardest was probably Masaru, Yukiko’s father. I had to strike a balance with him – make a guy who is essentially just a worthless deadbeat drug-addicted bastard of a father into someone the audience could still get behind and sympathise with. He didn’t use any capslock, either.
Up until this book, I pretty much hated capslock. I love it now and will be abusing it in the future. THANK YOU FOR OPENING UP THE POSSIBILITIES OF CAPSLOCK.
So, you heard it here first, to get rid of trolls, we need to remove capslock from computers. What do you say, computer manufacturers?
Were there any particular plot elements or scenes in Stormdancer that were particularly onerous to accomplish?
The climax was tricky, because there’s lots of pieces on the board and of course a few twists to reveal/explain. But the climax is where all the fun is, so I wouldn’t call it onerous. Just… tricky
Where the Wild Things Are. Pure 100% magic.
When can we expect book two? And by ‘we,’ I mean me, as in when are you hooking me up with an ARC?
We’re about to start editing book 2 in the next couple of weeks, so for all I know, half of it could be completely rewritten. It’s hard to talk about without spoiling book 1, and there are a couple of revelations very early in book 2 that define the plot but are also planet-sized spoilers. So I can’t talk much about it at this stage. But I guess things get… bigger. Stormdancer was really Yukiko’s story with a few peripheral characters stepping in. But a couple of those peripheral characters play major roles in the second book. It’s more epic in scope. The nation is crumbling, Yukiko is trying to come to grips with the idea of being a hero. We meet a few new faces, and new threat is rising from the smoke. The title is something of a spoiler, but I can’t tell you what it is yet. :P
As for ARCs, I accept bribery in the form of cold currency or bourbons.
Expect some Kentucky Bourbon on your doorstep within the week.
How does it feel being one of the rare, male Apocalypsies?
Haha, it’s a little strange. I always feel like the ladies change the subject when I jump into chat. Like I’m an interloper in “women’s bizness.” But I guess it’s easy to stand out from the crowd. It makes for a nice change, at any rate.
I wouldn't imagine standing out in a crowd is generally a problem for you.
Do you consider yourself a particular kind of author (i.e. fantasy, science fiction, etc.) or do you like all of the genres?
I approve. Keep up the good work, sir.
I am, obviously, a fan of playlists. What songs did you listen to while writing? If you have a Stormdancer playlist, what's on it?
I don’t really listen to music while I write – I can’t concentrate. The music I listen to tends to be quite… obnoxious. I have albums which would strip the paint from your walls and make orphans of your grandchildren. But Rage Against the Machine’s “The Battle of Los Angeles” was on constant rotation when I was writing Stormdancer. RatM really embodied the spirit of rebellion and discontent I was trying to capture in the book. They were a band that believed in activism, in standing against the tyranny of greed, in the power of the individual to change the world.
It has to start somewhere.
It has to start sometime.
What better place than here?
What better time than now?
1984 - George Orwell
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Wind-Up Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi
I'm guessing these are favorites...
As your GR friend, I know that you are one of the review-trackingest authors out there. Thankfully, your reviews have all been positive so far, and you have a 4.4 average rating on GR. How do you plan to react when some inevitably misguided person posts an (obviously incorrect) insulting review of Stormdancer? I know you’re a proponent of not being a douche (thanks for that), but do you have a specific bottle of beer you plan to climb into until you feel better? Ice cream? Potato chips? A walk on the beach?
I’ll probably go back and read a review like yours. Bad reviews are inevitable – not every book is for every person. I guess the best medicine is to focus on the folks who enjoyed the book, who understood what you were trying to say. There’s certainly something to be said for reading negative reviews – as long as the criticism is constructive. But engaging with a reader who didn’t like your book – no. Just no. We’ve seen so many authors fucking up so badly this year like that. I hope everyone has learned enough to never do it again (hey, I can be optimistic sometimes).
I do try to make a point to say thank you to the folks who left nice reviews, though. I figure this person has just spent eight or so hours of their lives in a world I built. They will never get those hours back. They could have done anything with them, and they chose to spend them with my words. Not only that, but they chose to spend more time telling the world how awesome it was. That deserves some special thanks.
But honestly, ANYONE who reads the book deserves my thanks. Like or hate it, they gave something of themselves to this thing I built out of blank paper and dreamstuff on lunch breaks and in the wee small hours. That’s kind of amazing to me.
What will your next authorial project be when you finish The Lotus Wars?
I have two ideas guitar-duelling for dominance at the moment – one is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thing with a cyberpunk vibe. The other is a dark epic fantasy. The fantasy is winning atm. I wrote the opening page the other day, just as a writing exercise and I lurrrved it. It’s got a pretty twisty premise and it’ll be difficult to write. But I like the idea of doing something that pushes me.
Both of them feature teenage female protagonists, strangely enough. I dunno why that is. Maybe deep down I’m terrified of Gary Stu accusations if I ever write a male MC.
Both of those sound awesome. Of course, we need the rest of The Lotus Wars too. Interesting about the female MCs. Makes for a nice change from the norm!
Tell me something random about yourself.
My wife and I eloped in Rome. I sincerely recommend it.
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