I’m so excited to have Daniel Polansky on the blog today! Daniel is the author of the brand new noir fantasy, Low Town! There’s also a copy of Low Town up for grabs for one lucky winner, so be sure to check out the giveaway details at the bottom of the post.
Please welcome Daniel to the blog!
The Warden, our intrepid hero of Low Town, is my favorite kind of hero: shady past, a bit damaged (inside and out), willing to do some unsavory things to get things done, but with an underlying vulnerability and morality. He brings to mind other characters such as John Connolly’s Charlie Parker and even Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger, even if the settings are vastly different. In spite of your aversion to elves, what made you decide to set the Warden down in a fantasy setting that’s only a little left of our own, but still steeped in magic?
I think that one of the bigger flaws of contemporary fantasy is that the characters often feel pretty divorced from our own lives, not simply in terms of their powers or species or setting, but in terms of their motivations. The Warden is someone we’d be more likely to find in crime and noir, as you allude to. He’s not absolutely irredeemable, but he’s certainly someone primarily interested in satisfying his own wants and needs. I suppose I created him because I wanted to take a look at the fantasy genre from a perspective that maybe we don’t see that often.
You don’t usually see fantasy and noir elements in the same novels, but it’s being done more and more (with mixed results). I can think of a couple of notable titles and Low Town is certainly up there as one of my favorites. Did you start out with plans for noir elements, or did that just happen during the writing process?
It was pretty deliberate. My heart really lies with Phillip Marlowe and the Continental Op and so on, so from the beginning I wanted to merge what I liked about that with an alien setting.
How do you think your philosophy background helped you with writing Low Town?
Oh boy, college. Looking back I wonder at the degree to which any part of those four years had a long term impact on my life. As far as philosophy in particular goes, I struggle frankly to find much of a connection. I really liked studying philosophy, but in truth it really didn’t have much influence on the novel.
Will there be more novels set in Low Town?
There will indeed, most likely two more. The second one is in a fair stage of development (although it doesn’t have an official title yet), and I’ve got a pretty strong outline going for the third.
If someone were just dipping their toe in the fantasy pool, what titles would you recommend to get started (aside from Low Town, of course?)
One that jumps out at me is Gene Wolf’s four volume saga Book of the New Sun. Totally original, fast paced, and poignant – three adjectives I rarely find myself using when describing fantasy. Lately I’ve been thinking about how strong the His Dark Materials trilogy was – theoretically a young adult book but in terms of its philosophical and aesthetic depth it towers over most books in the genre written exclusively for adults.
Song of Ice and Fire is great of course also, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a newcomer, as it were, given that it makes the Old Testament seem quite spare by contrast.
We all have authors that, given the chance, we’ll go on and on about. Do you have one (or two) of those?
Too many to choose from, but I’ll toss out a few in rapid fashion. John Keegan is a brilliant military historian/theorist, amongst the most respected in the field. His stuff has really strongly shaped my thinking about war and how we discuss it. V.S. Naipaul is one of the best travel writers ever, not to mention a profound thinker on cultural and racial issues. Raymond Chandler is someone whose milieu is a little closer to mine, and for my money of the best writers of pure prose the 20th century ever saw. Jim Thompson is a genius, just a genius – no one was ever better at writing from the perspective of truly evil men. I could go on like this for a while.
Is there any particular thing that helps you write, or are you good to go with a laptop (or pen and paper?)
Coffee. Beyond that, I kind of pride myself on being able to write under different circumstances. I travel a lot, so I’ve never really had the chance to develop a particular routine. I just set up my lab top wherever I can, put my headphones in and try to chop out a thousand words.
Is there any news of upcoming events or projects you’d like to share (teasers always welcome)?
Beyond the release of the book itself, I don’t have much to report. Like I said I’m working on its sequel, but that won’t be making the rounds for a little while yet.
1.Giveaway is one copy of Low Town to one winner.
2.To enter, leave a comment with a way to contact you (MUST leave a way to contact you!!)
3.Giveaway is open to US/Canadian addresses only.
4.Giveaway ENDS August 29th, 2011
5.Giveaway book kindly provided by Doubleday.
Read my review of Low Town
About the book:
In the forgotten back alleys and flophouses that lie in the shadows of Rigus, the finest city of the Thirteen Lands, you will find Low Town. It is an ugly place, and its champion is an ugly man. Disgraced intelligence agent. Forgotten war hero. Independent drug dealer. After a fall from grace five years ago, a man known as the Warden leads a life of crime, addicted to cheap violence and expensive drugs. Every day is a constant hustle to find new customers and protect his turf from low-life competition like Tancred the Harelip and Ling Chi, the enigmatic crime lord of the heathens.
The Warden’s life of drugged iniquity is shaken by his discovery of a murdered child down a dead-end street . . . setting him on a collision course with the life he left behind. As a former agent with Black House—the secret police—he knows better than anyone that murder in Low Town is an everyday thing, the kind of crime that doesn’t get investigated. To protect his home, he will take part in a dangerous game of deception between underworld bosses and the psychotic head of Black House, but the truth is far darker than he imagines. In Low Town, no one can be trusted.