Today, I'm excited to be interviewing with Jay Kristoff, whose debut novel Stormdancer (book one in The Lotus War trilogy) comes out September 18th! You should totally stalk his blog. He has an epic sense of humor. Have you seen the Stormdancer book trailer? Scroll down if you haven't already (or if you want to watch the epicness again)! There is also a giveaway of Stormdancer!
A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
A HIDDEN GIFT
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.
I saw that you have locked yourself in your room with piles of books, you have an Arts degree, and have won advertising awards. Have your experiences influenced your writing in any way?
I think coming from a visual background influences my writing style heavily, yeah. Lots of people say that reading Stormdancer is kinda like watching a movie - that they see it rather than read it, which I think is kinda cool. In my late teens I was mad for comic books – Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Katsuhiro Otomo, Frank Miller, Drew Hayes – there was just awesome stuff being done in comics back then. And working in TV, you can’t really portray what a character is thinking – everything is show not tell. Working with that limitation is a cool way to learn to write books.
Plus, when you’re talking to your cover designer about changing the typography, you won’t sound like a frackin’ idiot.
Steampunk and Japanese culture. What inspired you to bring the two together in your story?
The Steampunk aesthetic had interested me for years – the visuals are just amazing and I figured I could have a lot of fun building a collision between organic fantasy and machine-based Sci-Fi. But let’s be honest - Victorian England has been done. I didn’t want to walk roads that had already been well-trodden by some very talented authors. We already have this huge Euro-centric focus in a lot of our fantasy writing, and that strikes me as a real shame. The world during Victorian times was an amazing place full of incredible cultures, and as far as I could see, nobody had taken a look at one of the most incredible cultures of the day – the Tokugawa Shōgunate of 19th century Japan.
Plus, you know, chainsaw katanas…
I love Asian history and culture, and the Japanese elements first caught my eye when I saw Stormdancer. What kind of research did you do for the story?
Drank lots of saké. Ate pocky until my eyes bled. Had my friends yell curse words at me in Japanese while I trawled Wikipedia and watched anime. Read old Japanese fiction. Watched Seven Samurai around 3,000 times. Slept with all six volumes of Akira under my pillow.
My neck hasn’t recovered yet. Those things are thick.
Akira's a classic. My brother tells me that I have to read it. Since you first envisioned Stormdancer, how has the story grown?
It’s funny. When I started writing Stormdancer, I had a rough idea of how the world would work, what the central struggle would be. I kinda knew what sort of character I wanted Yukiko to be – brave and stubborn and not reliant on a boy to define her. But I only really knew one thing for absolute certain – how it was going to end. And the ending is totally different now to how I imagined.
But everything has become bigger now. Denser. Having lived there for almost three years solid, the world feels very real to me. I could honestly write stories in it for the rest of my life, but I think I’d go crazy doing it.
What occupation would you take up in Shima if you were to live there and why?
I’d be one of the Kagé – they’re a faction of guerrilla rebels who live in the last wilderness left in Shima. Which isn’t really a job, I realize. But most of the jobs in Shima aren’t much fun. It’s a nation that’s dragged itself right to the edge of ruin. The skies are red, the sun is like a blast-furnace, the air is so polluted you can barely breathe. I’d be pretty angry about living in a world like that. I’d want to fight for change.
Fighting against the destruction of the world sounds like a good occupation. Count me in! If you could meet a spirit animal, which one would you like to meet and why?
A thunder tiger, for sure. I think everyone looks for a friendship like the one that grows between Yukiko and Buruu. He’s loyal and fierce and beautiful – I can’t wait for you guys to meet him ☺
I can't either! What are you working on right now?
I’m writing the first draft of the third book in the series. It’s strange – you guys don’t get to read Stormdancer until September, but I’ve been writing the sequels for a couple of years. I wish I could jump in a time machine and travel to the point when they’re all done and out on shelves to see what you guys think.
Sadly, my Delorian is all out of plutonium ☹
Can we please find more plutonium, so I can jump to the future too and read all of them at once? I can't wait for books two and three!
Jay Kristoff grew up in the most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. He spent most of his formative years locked in his bedroom with piles of books, or gathered around dimly-lit tables rolling polyhedral dice. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of.
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