Please welcome Anton Strout to the blog! His brand new book, STONECAST, will soon be out, and he stopped by to answer a few of my questions!
Stonecast, the 2nd book in The Spellmason Chronicles, is out this month! What can readers expect from this installment?
Happiness and rainbows! And by happiness and rainbows, I mean magic and mayhem…
As we learned in Alchemystic, Alexandra Belarus was an artist stuck working in her New York family’s business until she discovered her true legacy—a deep and ancient magic. Lexi became the last practicing Spellmason, with the power to breathe life into stone. And as her powers awoke, so did her family’s most faithful protector: a gargoyle named Stanis. But when a centuries-old evil threatened her family and her city, Stanis sacrificed himself to save everything Lexi held dear.
Stonecast picks up six months later, when we learn the results of Stanis’ sacrifice, as well as how much Alexandra has (and hasn’t) learned about alchemy and Spellmasonry with the help of her friends. There are gargoyles, alchemy, secret societies, love, betrayal and a glaive guisarme wielding contemporary dancer… a little bit of everything!
What have you particularly enjoyed about writing this series?
For me, it’s the world building. With each book in the series, the camera pulls back a bit more on the world. I call it The Wire Approach. In Alchemystic, we learned about Alexandra Belarus discovering there was a centuries old gargoyle named Stanis who had been set to watch over her family. With Stonecast, we learn more about what magic does exist in the modern world and how both Stanis and Lexi are drawn into it.
Have you done any specific research for it?
Every damned day. Just walking around Manhattan, really. You want to find creepy and paranormal and gargoyles in the architecture? Just look up.
I really got into art history and architecture in college, and once I moved to New York City, I was in heaven. The place is rich in culture and history, and every building tells a story. It’s my take that those stories just happen to be supernatural ones.
Mix that with years of watching Disney’s Gargoyles, playing Dungeons & Dragons and reading grotesque mythos, hell, the books practically write themselves.
What do you like most about your heroine, Alexandra Belarus, and why should we root for her?
I like Lexi quite a bit. She’s loyal to her family and friends, and has always taken her family legacy seriously, even when she thought it was NY real estate and not arcana. Luckily their true legacy gels with her already existent artistic sensibilities stemming from her love of her great-great grandfather’s sculpture … including the gargoyle Stanis set to watch over them. Watching her struggle through her newfound place in the unknown magical world, I want her to succeed… but, well, what fun would it be without a little suffering along the way?
Along with The Spellmason Chronicles, you’ve also penned the Simon Canderous series and much more! What have you most enjoyed about being a published author?
My favorite thing is probably my room full of gold coins I get to dive in to like Scrooge McDuck.
Actually, my favorite part is the fact that I get to share the stories that form in my brainmeat. I’ve always wanted to entertain, from my childhood stint as a magician, then actor/musician, but all during those days I always wrote. Sharing what I love doing with thousands and thousands of people has been a dream come true. When they seek me out at a convention or take the time to write me to talk about either of my series, I am truly humbled.
Then I invite them to come diving in my room full of gold coins…
What have been a few authors or novels that have particularly inspired you (in life, or in your writing?)
I’ve always been fascinated by the way Stephen King weaves a tale, and I adore the way he describes things. He’s such a master that I marvel at how he can say just a few , short descriptive words and 95 % of readers will get it right away. That’s a real skill.
I also love Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books… what I’d call the literary end of fantastical fiction. Wish I had come up with the idea of it.
And in mainstream fiction, I love John Irving. The man knows how to get me turning a page, and I love his quirky characters. It was a short story in The World According to Garp that actually inspired my Simon Canderous series.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give to an aspiring author?
All the thinking, plotting, living in your head, is no good unless you get it down on the page. And you may have a lot in your head and it seems almost too overwhelming to get it out and get down, but down it must go. And you don’t have to wait until you know it all or have a beginning. Pick the thoughts and scenes that interest you most and get those down… then whittle away the gaps between them and flesh it all out. It’s word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, but it starts with a single word. People forget that sometimes while trying to figure out how to dive in and never get their amazing ideas down.
You’re a big convention goer and participant. What’s one of your favorite things about fan conventions?
My favorite part for me would just having a chance to meet the people who have sought me out there. The fact that they can make it to my panel or signing in a sea of 200,000 people at Comic Con International in San Diego is amazing in the first place. I am humbled every time someone comes up to me. Then there are all the unexpected antics and shenanigans—the stuff you couldn’t have planned out—that make it worth going.
However, my favorite moment of a convention is the walk to the venue… the closer you get, the more you spot your tribe, and soon you are all marching en masse to the convention. There’s a comraderie that builds in that, where you could say anything dorky, nerdy, geeky, and the person next to you would totally get it. They speak your language.
Of course four days later I’m sick of them and the con funk and become just as likely to punch them all in the neckmeat as not. Ours is a fickle love….
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m working on the third book in The Spellmason Chronicles. I have until about New Year’s Day to turn that in. I also have an unsold young adult Dickensian street urchin steampunk Iron Man Voltron book I’m working on. Last is a graphic novel idea I’m toying with. It’s the one that’s screaming the most to get out of me, but I have to turn in Spellmason 3 first, so I just jot down notes for the graphic novel when they hit me. I can’t dive into it just yet. But it excites me and doesn’t want to go away, so I think it’s going to be a very busy year for my poor typing fingers. Still, I’m incredibly happy that I get to share any of my tales with other people, so that’s not really a complaint now, is it?
Alexandra Belarus was an artist stuck working in her New York family’s business until she discovered her true legacy—a deep and ancient magic. Lexi became the last practicing Spellmason, with the power to breathe life into stone. And as her powers awoke, so did her family’s most faithful protector: a gargoyle named Stanis. But when a centuries-old evil threatened her family and her city, Stanis sacrificed himself to save everything Lexi held dear.
With Stanis gone, Lexi’s efforts to master Spellmasonry—even with the help of her dedicated friends—are faltering. Hidden forces both watch her and threaten her, and she finds herself suddenly under the mysterious wing of a secret religious society determined to keep magic hidden from the world.
But the question of Stanis’s fate haunts her—and as the storm around her grows, so does the fear that she won’t be able to save him in her turn.
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