Tim Marquitz, author of The Demon Squad series as well as The Blood War Trilogy, among other hardcore epic and urban fantasy novels, tagged me to carry the torch for “The Next Big Thing.” Ordinarily, I’m not a big fan of anything even remotely resembling chain mail letters, but for those unfamiliar with the TNBT concept, if you’re tagged, you answer a series of the same questions as other authors who’ve gone before, and you try to enlist 5 authors to do the same after you. The idea is to help showcase other authors and their work and drive traffic to their sites, and help every deserving author get some clicks and recognition (and hey, maybe some sales while we’re talking).
Another debut Night Shade Books author, E.J. Swift, originally asked me to do this a while back, and being absolutely swamped, I passed. But please check out her site, too. She rocks, and her work is smart and willing to challenge in interesting ways.
Given how late I jumped into this thing, it wasn’t surprising that I couldn’t entice, coerce, or blackmail five other authors, since many have already done it or decided not to, but I did manage to drag four more into the mix:
A.E. Marling: Brood of Bones was his most recent work until a couple of weeks ago, a clever, layered, rich fantasy novel that’s not afraid of risks, and packs plenty of rewards. He has a brand new young adult fantasy novel called Gown of Shadow and Flame, available on Amazon now. Right now. Go see. It’s there.
John Zeleznik: John is a fantasy and young adult author who is also a father and husband, and teaches full times, so I’m sure we’d have plenty of war stories to share about trying to balance writing and the rest of life. The first two books of his series, Season of Destiny, are being shopped by his agent now. Fingers crossed.
Zachary Jernigan: Zack is another Night Shade Books newbie, and his debut, No Return, is slated for release in March, 2013. He’s another one of those writers who seems to delight in bending genres to his whims, and he has a wicked sense of humor. Which is a plus.
Please give them a look—while there are plenty of sensational seasoned writers out there cranking out beautiful novels, it’s always fun to discover some new voices in the field.
Anyway, onto the Q&A. . .
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Veil of the Deserters. The alternative working title is Rock I Routinely Bang My Head Against, Leaving Bloody Smears in the Crevices That Might Actually Be Kind Of Beautiful. Except It’s Blood. On a Rock.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wrote Scourge of the Betrayer pretty much by the seat of my pants, and over a long period of time, and in some places that surely shows. Knowing this, my agent, Michael Harriot, forced me to slavishly come up with a synopsis for the rest of the books in the series. Which I railed against and resisted with every fiber of my being, and even after reluctantly agreeing, still tried to half-ass on more than one occasion. And he’d politely but persistently ask me questions, force me to reconsider things, and rewrite the damn thing, which led to even more profanity-laced resistance. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t just a useful (if excruciating) exercise, but gave me a good idea where things might progress. I still allowed for room to deviate and explore, and who knows, I might have to tear that synopsis into shreds at some point, but it is helpful as a rough map.
So, for those who liked Scourge but pined for a stronger female who wasn’t a whore (ex-whore, to be fair to Lloi), Veil of the Deserters will showcase a nice sibling rivalry between Braylar and his sister, Soffjian (who kicks all kinds of ass, and isn’t a slattern, barmaid, crone, or haughty princess). And for those hungering for more deep world building, the Syldoon and their structure and politics feature prominently, and the more mystical or fantastic elements (the Memoridons, the Godveil, the Deserters, Bloodsounder) are fleshed out considerably in the sequel as well.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Fantasy, as the big old umbrella, and then, depending on your definition of subgenres, anything from dark fantasy to heroic (or at least anti-heroic) fantasy.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I’ve given this far more thought and attention than it warrants, but. . .
Captain Braylar Killcoin: The man is lean, cold, calculating, with a biting sense of humor, and yet somehow still sympathetic. He is also a haunted man, in more ways than one. Ten or 15 years ago, Daniel Day Lewis would have been absolutely perfect. He could have walked in, read one line, and I would have called off the auditions. But he’s a bit older than the role calls for now, so looking at the younger generation of actors, Christian Bale would be a fine choice. He has mad range, he can obviously play haunted (see The Mechanic; seriously, go rent it, it rocks), and he can project dark undercurrents and still manage to be charming and even endearing.
Soffjian: Braylar’s sister, and every inch the badass he is, though in a much different way. Tall, athletic looking, attractive, but in a severe and sort of dangerous way (as opposed to cheesecake or sex-objecty). The actor playing her needs to exude arrogance, intelligence, and tightly-coiled power. Lena Headey (of Game of Thrones fame) would be rock solid (especially as a brunette). Kate Beckinsdale or Charlize Theron (with darker locks, a la Aeon Flux) would be good backups.
Arkamondos (Arki): This one is tricky—the young actor playing Arki has to convey both naiveté and still be somewhat alert and perceptive; uncertain, sensitive, and wildly out of his depth, and still doggedly persistent. He also needs to pull off being both repelled by his new violent company and fascinated by them at the same time. This requires some deft subtlety and an absence of overacting. Craig Roberts (Jane Eyre) is an up-and-comer with a young Dustin Hoffman vibe who could play vulnerable and still not get dwarfed by the other big names on set (he’s in Red Lights with Robert DeNiro).
Matinios (called Hewpsear): As far as Syldoon go, Hewspear is refined, cultured, and somewhat stately (even if no less skilled at bloodletting than the rest of the company). He is older than the rest of the crew, a counterpoint to his hot-headed cohort, Mulldoos, and generally accepts circumstances with a twinkle in his eye or a knowing wink. If I didn’t tick him off by passing earlier, Daniel Day Lewis would be great, but if he walked, Laurence Fishburne or Jeremy Irons would be fantastic.
Mulldoos: On the surface, Mulldoos is all foul-mouthed, tough as boot leather, fist-clenched badassery. Not only does he not suffer fools, he might backhand them or stab them in the face, depending on his mood. A real tough customer. And beneath that, he’s meaner still. But beneath THAT, he is also fiercely loyal, boldly honest, and would lay down his life for his comrades without question. If he could be coaxed into a non-lead role, Russell Crowe would own this part.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A young chronicler has even more of his naivete brutally stripped away as his journeys with the Syldoon expose him to greater deceit, treachery, combat, gross humor, and profanity.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’m still in process right now, a little over a quarter of a way through the first draft. It helps to have a deadline out there to light a fire under my ass, but it can still be slow going sometimes. I hope to finish the first draft in a few months, polish the heck of it for several more, and still get a manuscript in on deadline. Or even before. Although I wouldn’t have any idea how that feels, and it might throw off my entire equilibrium or sense of self, so maybe safer just to shoot for on time.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I sort of hate doing this, but the Green-Eyed Monster and I are drinking buddies, so know that when I mention some wildly successful fantasy book or author, I do so with liquor in hand. Veil of the Deserters shares some of the rough gallows humor of any Joe Abercrombie novel, and a similar “embedded journalist” accompanying a tough military company as T.C. McCarthy’s Germline or Glen Cook’s Black Company books (although the dynamic is decidedly different, as the chronicler in my Bloodsounder’s Arc series is a naïve dork on the outside looking in, rather than a jaded or nihilistic member of the company).
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Scourge of the Betrayer? My wife? My parents? Is this a trick question?
The original idea for the whole series revolving around a scribe accompanying a military troupe came from two sources: Jean Froissart (chronicling a fair chunk of the Hundred Year’s War) and Gerald of Wales (traveling around in, wouldn’t you know it, Wales during the 13th century). The chief difference though, was instead of being a royal clerk or aristocrat, I wanted my chronicler to be a bored scribe who had no clue what he was getting himself into by signing on for the gig, and instead of journeying among warriors who at least paid lip service to chivalric ideals and behavior, he jumped in with a group of excessively violent, crude, and nefarious soldiers led by a cursed captain.
So, Veil of the Deserters (or Bloody Rock) continues this saga, only Arki (the scribe) has managed to gain enough traction with the group that he isn’t entirely in the dark about every little thing this time, and his naivete and charming innocence is being slowly whittled away. Chunk by bloody chunk. He comes to learn about the politics among various Syldoon factions, the purpose and power of the Memoridons, and some inkling of what might actually lie beyond the Godveil. And all I’ll say about that is the Syldoon don’t subscribe to the theory of letting sleeping dogs lie. And that might be bad. Very bad.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Besides the gratuitous sex and violence, creative cursing, and pitch black humor, you mean?
Not a damn thing.