Clay and Susan Griffith, authors of The Greyfriar and The Rift Walker, interrogators
|Clay and Susan Griffith|
Writing good action-adventure is hard. It's even harder when the writer tries to blend action with character to create people who grow and change even while they're leading you down a dark alley or fleeing angry soldiers. One of the best writers doing that now is Jon Sprunk. He writes fantasy that has all the white knuckle thrills of pulp masters like Robert E. Howard, but his characters are a deep, evolving, and involving. Thrills can make your white knuckles whiter when you actually care whether a character lives or dies, or uncovers a great secret or finds a lost love. Jon does that stuff.
We know Jon a little bit, but we wanted to know more about him. We wanted to ask him a few questions about his critically acclaimed Shadow trilogy, and about his writing philosophy in general. And about a few other things. So we did. And here it is...
Griffiths: When you conceived the Shadow trilogy, did you start with character? Plot? World?
Sprunk: It started with character and situation-a flawed man who stumbles across a secret that changes his life. At the beginning, Caim was more of a rogue-y, cat-burglar kind of scoundrel, but he eventually morphed into an assassin because I wanted to muddy the ethical waters.
Griffiths: The hero in your Shadow trilogy, Caim the assassin, has a bond with the Shadows that is at once creepy and thrilling. What inspired you to give him such a fantastic background and ability?
Sprunk: It actually didn't happen until I was actually writing the story. I felt that the character needed another dimension. This was before I had read Brent Weeks' Night Angel series or Steven Erickson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, so I thought adding sorcery to an assassin was a rather novel idea. Great minds...
Griffiths: Were the female characters of Kit and Josephine hard to write in such a male-oriented story?
Sprunk: Actually, they were easier to write. I always felt a strong connection to Kit (whose existence is a lovely accident) and I hoped I was getting Josey "right," having never been a seventeen-year-old woman. Or a fae either, for that matter. But I really enjoyed writing them both.
Griffiths: The Shadow trilogy could have just been a straight-up action/adventure story. How did the decision come about to incorporate politics and court intrigue?
Sprunk: Most of it came about when I was outlining the book. I knew Caim was going to discover someone's dark secret. I wanted it to be big--like nation-changing big. The government/religious politics evolved over several drafts.
Griffiths: Is there any truth to the rumor that you play World of Warcraft? And are rogues your favorite archetype to play?
Sprunk: I did play WoW for about 6 years, alongside my wife (couples that play together, stay together, unless their guild splits...). I think I tried every class at one time or another, including rogue, but warrior was probably my favorite. I like being up front, eating up the pain and dishing it back. Now we're playing Star Wars: The New Republic and quite enjoying it.
Griffiths: If you couldn't write fantasy, what would you write?
Sprunk: I have no idea. Perhaps more horror. I really like Lovecraft and that whole supernatural horror sub-genre. Tentacles and insanity are timeless.
Griffiths: Are there any elements in fantasy fiction that are too odd or silly for you to use? Unicorns? Fairies? Poisonous manatees?
Sprunk: Manatees rock!
I think it would depend on the story. If I came up with a fairytale fantasy, or I wanted to do something Dunsany-esque, those types of elements could fit just fine. Some might consider Kit, the fae girl of my Shadow Saga, to be too silly, but I love her. Sometimes it's an off-beat or silly element that makes a story shine.
Griffiths: Have you ever fallen in love with a character, and later realized they had to die for the plot to work? Do you just pull the trigger or re-write to save them?
Sprunk: Sure, but I pull the trigger anyway. Violent novels where nobody important ever dies are one of my pet peeves. If you put your characters into dangerous situations on a regular basis, there need to be repercussions.
And everyone dies eventually.
Griffiths: Superman or Batman?
I just don't understand the Batman thing. Why would a billionaire waste his time fighting crime? Why not hire some vigilante to do the dirty work while you relax on your private, clothing-optional island with a few dozen supermodels?
Griffiths: Is the writing life different than you imagined it would be?
Sprunk: Well, I'm not living on my own private island yet (though I am married to the hottest woman on the planet). I guess I'd say that the highs are better than I imagined, and the lows are worse. You have to get used to uncertainty.
Griffiths: Is there any truth to the rumor that you journeyed to the Earth's core, killed dinosaurs, and became a God-king?
Sprunk: No, I am not Brendon Fraser. Wait. What was the question?
Griffiths: If there was one writer you idolize (living or dead) who you would most want to hear say "Jon, I love your books," who would it be?
Sprunk: Susan and Clay Griffith. Those guys are f***ing awesome.
I've had a couple best-selling writers tell me they really liked Shadow's Son. That's both a cool feeling and very humbling.
Thank you to Jon and the Griffiths for stopping by!