I’m very excited to have Jay Kristoff on the blog today! Jay is the author of the brand new Stormdancer and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Also, St. Martins Press has generously provided a copy of the book for giveaway, so check out the details below the post!
Jay, you describe yourself as a “tragic nerd”. Care to elaborate?
Damn, that’s a brutal first question. You don’t want to start with my favorite color or something?
Hmm, let’s see. I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons for, like, twenty years (not every day, obviously) Imagine a group of grown dudes sitting around a table rolling dice and saying shit like “I bat my eyelids at the Captain of the Guard” and “Ok, make a seduction check” and yeah, that’s us.
I can quote you the Princess Bride word for word. I play Star Wars drinking games. I named my dog “Samwise”. There will be a guy at my book launch wearing a copy of Stormdancer around his neck like a Flava Flav clock because he lost a bet to me over a game of cards – not a poker game or something cool like that. No, it was a Game of Thrones card game.
I am to nerds what nerds are to normal people. I am the Übernerd.
You spent 10 years in advertising. What made you decide to take the plunge and write a novel? What was your inspiration?
I was still in advertising when I started writing my first novel (a very angsty vampire book that will never see the light of day), but I didn’t really get serious about it until after I got made redundant. I shifted into a different career path and moved client side (which means I hire the agencies now – agency-side work is death) and that gave me a lot more free time. Writing TV ads all day, the last thing you want to do when you get home is write more frackin’ words.
My inspiration for that first book was just a scene I had in my head that I felt like putting down on paper. I’m not even sure why I started writing it, but eighteen months later, it had become my first book. My inspiration for Stormdancer was a dream, but that’s a really lame answer so I avoid it where possible and make up BS stories about ninjas and secret destinies.
Stormdancer has been described as “Japanese steampunk.” Will you tell us a little bit about it, and about your heroine, Yukiko?
It’s probably fairer to describe it as “Japanese-inspired”. Shima isn’t Japan – I’ve riffed on Japanese culture, but some of it I’ve altered radically, and other parts I’ve just made up entirely.
But, Shima is loosely based on Japan during the Tokugawa Shōgunate, also known as the Samurai Age of Japan. The nation has been catapulted into the industrial age by a combustible fuel source created from a flower called “Blood Lotus”. So they have airships, heavy rail, chainsaw katanas and so on. Problem is, the technology is poisoning the air and killing the earth, but Shima’s people are so addicted to the power this technology brings them, they’re unable to let it go.
Yukiko is the daughter of the Imperial huntmaster. Her dad is something of a deadbeat and a drug addict, so she’s grown up with a strong independent streak and a disdain for authority. She also has the ability to speak telepathically to animals, called “the Kenning”, which sounds like a cool power until you consider:
a)There are very few animals left alive with all the pollution around.
b)The group who build all of Shima’s machinery, the Lotus Guild, have a habit of burning people with the Kenning at the stake.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I read histories of the Samurai Age (books like Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa) and consulted a bunch of great online resources about Japanese history and folklore. I hit up the Encyclopedia of Shinto and Wiki for info on the Shinto religion. But I’ve always loved Japanese cinema so I picked up a lot of my visual cues from films I love.
Other than that, I had a few friends yell curse words at me in Japanese and ate pocky until I could see through time.
What do you love most about writing fantasy?
That there are literally no rules. If I want to have a world where huge mechanical war-walkers and griffins exist in the same space and story, there’s nothing stopping me. Anyone who tells you “you can’t do that” or “you’re doing that wrong” when you’re writing fantasy has got it ass-about-backwards.
There’s no limit to writing fantasy but your imagination. This is the ONLY rule.
What are some of your biggest influences?
William Gibson. Alan Moore. George Orwell. Stephen King (I was reading him when I was 10, which apparently makes him YA – who knew) Great storytellers and character writers like David Simon or David Knauf. And strangely enough, a lot of the lyricists of the bands I listen to. Telling a story in 100,000 words is easy. Telling in in three minutes with a few dozen is hard.
Is there anyone that you haven’t met (literary or otherwise), that if you were to meet them, it would bring out your inner fanboy?
Oh yeah, if I was to meet someone like Zack de le Rocha (Rage Against the Machine) or Robb Flynn (Machine Head), I’d literally lose my tiny mind. If I met famous authors I admire, like the folks above, I suspect I’d be hitting them up for as much advice as I possibly could. But put me in front of a musician I’ve been listening to for half my life, I’d soil my panties.
What book would you like to read again for the first time?
I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier, or Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell.
What are you reading now?
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Well, there’s the aforementioned nerdy pursuits. I like hanging out with my lovely bride and staying married – that’s a pretty cool use of my time. Reading. Seeing great films. And bourbon. I always try to make time for bourbon.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has given any of their time to Stormdancer – reading, reviewing, spreading the word on Twitter or FB or wherever. Seeing this little seed I planted grow into this huge thing has been amazing, and I’m constantly humbled by the energy everyone is putting into it.
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