Greetings everyone! I had the wonderful pleasure of interviewing Jay Kristoff for my third author interview. Author of Stormdancer and Kinslayer, of The Lotus War Trilogy, he was especially kind to take time out of his busy schedule getting ready for the launch of Kinslayer to answer a few questions. Hope you enjoy the interview and some of his more humorous responses.
*And if you’d like to take a moment to read my thoughts on Book 1, Stormdancer, you can do so here.
Could you tell us who Jay Kristoff is and what he’s accomplished so far?
I sprang fully formed from the head of my father, who I then promptly slew for eating my other siblings. I was raised by wolves, enjoyed a brief career as Pirate King of the Maldives before being captured by the CIA and interred in a broom closet at Quantico (Guantanamo was full). I wrote my first novel there, on blocks of paper hand towels. Now I live in Melbourne. It’s nice. No pirates.
Would you mind explaining your writing process a bit? Are you a heavy outliner or do you focus more on letting the story grow on its own?
I’m not super fond of outlines. I like surprising myself. I like watching characters grow and do unexpected things. My favourite twists in my books are the ones even I didn’t know were coming until I was writing them.
Working with a trilogy though, you eventually need to outline, just to ensure your story doesn’t end up spattered all over the walls in The End. In terms of outlining, Book 3 of the Lotus War was far more intensive than STORMDANCER or KINSLAYER. But, given the choice, I’d much rather let the story take me where it wants to go. My outline notes for book 3 are kinda laughable (if a monkey flinging poo at a wall is laughable). And my notes on KINSLAYER look NOTHING like the book I actually wrote. I’m like a five year old, man. I just wander off the trail five minutes in, looking for spiders.
Did you have one big inspiration moment for The Lotus War or did it come over a period of time?
The idea for STORMDANCER came to me in a dream, but the meta plot of the actual trilogy developed over time. When I first wrote SD, I didn’t have an agent or publishing deal, and I thought it’d be arrogant to plan a trilogy when I was a slush-pile nobody. So I wrote a complete story with options for expansion. The trilogy went in very unexpected (and cool) places, which is what I mean about loving to surprise myself. But there’s bits and pieces from all over in there. The idea for the blood lotus flower came from a D&D game I used to run. NERD POWAH.
When I read Stormdancer I have to say I was impressed at the realism and believability you instilled in the character Yukiko. What made you choose to write in the mind of a young woman?
Thanks, glad you like her 🙂
I think I wrote a female protagonist because it just felt right for the story. I know that’s as clichéd as a Frenchman wearing a beret, but there you go. I knew Buruu would be male, and liked the idea of a sister/brother dynamic. Mothers and sons work differently than fathers and daughters, and the father/daughter aspect of the story is very important in Stormdancer. Plus, it’s a challenge to write outside your own gender, and I like to push myself as an author. You only get better at your craft through testing yourself. All authors are masochists. Not the gimp-suit wearing kind necessarily, but hey, that’s all good too…
Yes, indeed. The cover of KINSLAYER contains a clue about what you’ll find in book 2 🙂
Kin and the entirety of The Guild was a fascinating aspect of the steampunk-fantasy setting. There’s a strong sense that there is a lot more depth to them than is shown, will we get a chance to explore this?
Absolutely. The Guild and it’s motivations/structures and agendas play a huge role in the overall plot of the trilogy – for all the characters, but for Kin especially. There are wheels within wheels there, and it was great fun to write. You get some more insight about the Lotus Guild in KINSLAYER, start to understand things might not be entirely what they seem. Plus we get introduced to two new types of Guildsman we haven’t met before, both of which are uber creepy. And we get a glimpse at their “grand plan’ which will set the stage for book 3.
(the stage will be surrounded by gogo dancers, and on fire)
What inspired you to shift away from the stereotypical London/England location of Steampunk and instead have an Oriental locale?
Victorian England had been done, and done well. There’s no limit to writing fantasy other than your imagination, so the idea of working in an already well-ploughed field didn’t hold much appeal for me. I’m not saying great stuff can’t be written in the traditional English SP setting, but people have been doing that for 30 years. There’s an entire world out there to explore. It seems a shame to only focus on your own backyard.
I like to be different. I’m a speshul snowflake, basically.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on or is all of your focus on The Lotus War?
I’m working on two other books at the moment. One is a more “epic fantasy” ( really don’t dig that term) about the life and times of an (in)famous assassin. The setting is a brew of ancient Rome and the age of the European merchant princes. Demons and murdered gods and vendetta, set against a backdrop of crumbling marble and polluted canals. The protagonist there is a teenaged girl too, strangely enough, but the story is narrated by a “colleague” of hers. The narrator’s voice is SO much fun to write. I lurrrrrve it.
The second book is completely different. It’s a dark future sci-fi thing, set aboard a crippled space fleet. Kinda of a cross between Battlestar Galactica, 2001 a Space Odyssey and Outbreak. That one is more YA in focus. It’s huge amounts of fun too, but for different reasons.
And of course, I have edit notes on book 3 of The Lotus War waiting for me. So I’m super busy. But in an awesome way 🙂
Speaking to author buddies of mine, I got a little more than most. Most authors get no say at all, but I used to be an art director in a previous life, so I can have a rational, informed discussion about typography and illustration style and photoshop. I speak “designer”. So that helps. But when I found out Jason Chan was our illustrator, I knew he’d do something awesome. I’ve been a fan of his work for years. The guy is just a pro. Incredibly talented and just a lovely guy.
The beers I owe him, stacked end to end, would almost circle the earth. I will have to rob a bank to pay the bar tab when we eventually meet.
Stormdancer had a strong sense of technology vs. nature. Yet Kin shows us the Guild is not an inherently evil or misaligned organization. Was this a conscious effort on your part and what will it mean for the Shima Isles after the events of Stormdancer?
I see the struggle as less about nature vs technology, and more about humanity versus its own instinct. Our nature is to be greedy – its survival behaviour, learned in days when we hunted and gathered, lived hand to mouth, when you stored food for the winter or you died. We as a species have difficulty understanding and saying “we have enough”. By our nature we always want more. But that way of thinking will eventually kill us. Or at least, kill this society as we know it. When Masaru tells Yukiko “One day you will see that we must sometimes sacrifice for the sake of something greater”, that’s really what this entire series is about, at least for me.
I wanted to explore the idea of indoctrination through the Guild. Children are entirely mutable in their world view. If they grow up in a household where they’re taught the blue is red, they have no reason to disbelieve it. If children are raised in a certain world view by their parents, they’ll buy it, be it a religious view, political, domestic, whatever. If the ideals a person is raised to believe are evil, does that make them evil? Look at those poor kids being raised by members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Look at child soldiers in Africa. They buy into what are entirely abhorrent concepts for most of us, simply because they know no better. And the act of opening their eyes, realizing something is terribly wrong with what they’ve been taught, is pure heroism. Kin’s defiance puts anything Yukiko does to shame, and she tells him so in KINSLAYER.
As for what it means for Shima, well, any discussion on that path quickly leads to spoilers. The Guild isn’t inherently evil. But there are people within it who are. As where that will lead . . . probably lots of explosions 🙂
- Thanks for agreeing to the interview, I know my readers will be excited to hear what you have to say! Is there anything else you’d like to mention before leaving?
Yes! First off, thanks for reading!
Second, if you pre-order KINSLAYER, you’ll get a free copy (like, an actual printed copy) of THE LAST STORMDANCER. Set a hundred years before the events of STORMDANCER, LSD is a prequel novella for The Lotus War. This offer is the only time LSD will see print.
All the details can be found here.
Hope you enjoy it!
I want to give Jay Kristoff a huge thank you for agreeing to do this interview. As I’m sure so many of you are now, I cannot wait for Kinslayer to hit shelves on September 17, 2013.