Thursday, August 16, 2012

Griffins, Goggles and Sex Ninjas? An interview with Jay Kristoff

Today's guest is Jay Kristoff, author of Stormdancer.

Stormdancer is one of the most original sf/fantasy novels I've read in a long time. What are some of the inspirations behind Stormdancer?
Thanks, that’s awesome of you to say :)

It all started with a dream I had about a griffin with broken wings, and a little boy trying to teach it to fly. But “I had a dream…” is the SINGLE lamest answer and author can give to that question, so I’m going to make up a better one. Something with ninjas. Sex ninjas, maybe. Although I’m not 100% what it is sex ninjas do…

I liked the steampunk aesthetic, but I felt like Victorian England had been done, and a lot of steampunk just seemed to be paranormal romance dressed up in a frock coat and goggles. No-one seemed to be playing with other cultures and steampunk from what I could see (remember I wrote Stormdancer nearly three years ago) so it seemed like a good way to have the book stand out from the pack. A lot of steampunk seems to look back on the advent of industrialization as some marvellous, liberating event in history, and gloss over all that unpleasantness about child exploitation and slavery and whatnot that came with it. I wanted to tell a story where the machine was the enemy. Where technology wasn’t just killing people, but the land they lived in.

Not that I’m yearning for the days of rural bliss where we had to grow our own potatoes and died of tooth infection at age 24, but yeah…

Anyways, sex ninjas were involved somehow.

Any rejection horror stories with Stormdancer?
I was actually really lucky with Stormdancer. Most of my horror stories concern my previous novel – a very angsty, bloody vampire story I wrote in the middle of Twilight hysteria (in hindsight, probably not the best use of my time)

Although I do have a good story instead – my agent is one of those “I don’t reply to your query if I’m not interested” chaps (I know, I know…) and he was one of my dream picks. I sent off an e-query and got no response. But I was getting interest from other agents on the book, so just to be sure, I send a snail mail version of the query about two months after sending off the e-version. And it turns out the e-version actually got lost in the ether, because within two weeks of the snail mail arriving, I was signed with him.

So have hope:  “no answer” doesn’t always mean “no”.

Here's a question a lot of people will have upon finishing Stormdancer: What is the next book series and when can I get my grubby talons on it?
I can’t tell you the next book title yet. The title reveal will be a “thing”. I like my “things”. The title is also something of a spoiler. But book 2 will be out this time next year. Before you consider putting one in my chest and two in my head, remember most folks haven’t read the first book yet! :D

If there was a movie based on Stormdancer, who would your dream cast be?
Ah, fun question. I think Yukiko would have to be someone new. But here’s who I imagined when I was writing the characters. Interestingly enough, most of the Tiger clan members are Chinese actors, and the Foxes are Japanese. And they’re all probably too old now. But anyway…

Masaru – Ken Watanabe
Kasumi – Michelle Yeoh
Akihito – Tony Leung (he’d have to hit the ‘roids to bulk up though)
Michi – Chiaki Kuriyama or maybe Devon Aoki
Aisha – Zhang Ziyi
Yoritomo – Chang Chen
Hideo – George Takei ( I love George)
Daichi – Chow Yun Fat
Kaori – Maggie Cheung

Will we be seeing books from you outside the Lotus War series in the future?
Well, I guess if that depends if anyone other than my mum buys the books. I certainly have other stories to tell. I’m tossing around a few ideas about what to write next. A post-apocalypse cyberpunk thing and a dark urban epic fantasy thing are battling it out for top spot atm. YES, THINGS.

Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Not really. I totally half-assed it into being an author. It’s embarrassing. I see a lot of other authors telling stories about how they wrote their first book at 13 and it’s all they ever wanted to do. But to be honest, I always dreamed of being a rock star, or maybe the corrupt dictator of a small island nation, and when I was 13 I was too busy fantasizing about Dr Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: the Next Generation to write down much of anything….

As I got older, I wrote as a hobby, but never took it seriously. I worked in an advertising agency, and the last thing you want to do after writing TV scripts all day is come home and write more words. My first book began as a scene I scribbled down when I was bored at work, and somehow over the next 18 months, it became a book. A screaming train-wreck of a book, granted, but still a book. I discovered that I really liked the process, so I decided to get serious, learn how publishing actually worked and see where it took me.

Five years later, here we are :P

Who would you say your biggest influences are?
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.

Who's your favorite author? 
Ever? Really hard question. I love Gibson. There’s this kind of concrete-grey menace to everything he writes. But Where the Wild Things Are is my favourite book ever, so I should probably give a nod to Maurice Sendak.

What's the best book you've read in the last six months? 
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. But I read at a snail’s pace, so me finishing more than a few books in six months these days is something of a miracle.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Well, there’s the usual stuff about write every day and don’t write to trends and blah blah blah. But everyone says that stuff. So I say this instead:
The only belief that matters in this equation is your own. It’s nice to have the support of betas or trusted friends, but it’s not necessary (the only person who had more than the vaguest idea that I was writing a book until I got repped was my wife). The only person who needs to believe you can do this is you. Everything else is window dressing.

The people who tell you that you can’t do it? The people who give you a funny little look when you mention your book? The people who are waiting for you to fail?

Fuck them.

Say those words. Sing them. Take a deep breath and scream them.



It doesn’t matter what they think, or what they say. It doesn’t matter what they believe. It only matters what you think, what you believe. Because if you believe you can do it, and you’re meant to be doing it, then you will. You can. And that’s all there is to it. No more, no less than that.

Believe in yourself. Keep the faith. At the end of the day, it’s all any of us have.

What's next for Jay Kristoff?
Well, Stormdancer launches in September and I’m still wrapping my brainmeat around that. I’m finishing the first draft of book 3 at the moment, before heading back into the edit cave on book 2 with my notes from the Powers. So I’ll be living in the Lotus War for a while yet. After that, I’ll be off to post-apocalyptic cyberpunk or epic urban fantasy or maybe the bottle of some kind of fancy bottle that the flash folk drink. 


1 comment:

  1. Great interview - this guy is fun! His book sounds cool too.