A Center Stage Moment

spotlight

Mason Cooley said, “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”

A Center Stage Moment shines a spotlight on writers who give us great places to visit with characters we love and want to call friends.

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you, my friend, Jonathan P. French!

Born in Tennessee, Jonathan began reading comics at an early age. (Conan the Barbarian Annual #11 was his first.) His love of fiction, folklore and by-gone days was further fueled when his family relocated to the United Kingdom. At the age of nine, Jonathan found himself crawling over castle ramparts, visiting old churchyards and getting neck strain marveling at towering cathedrals. He returned to the U.S. as a teenager where he survived parochial school and a rebellious year in New York City (where he unknowingly met his future wife), before earning his degree from Brevard College in the captivating wilds of Western North Carolina. After developing the world of Autumn’s Fall, Jonathan moved to Chicago where he began writing in earnest. His greatest literary influences are Robert E. Howard and Lloyd Alexander. He currently resides in Atlanta with his wife, son and cat. More Autumn’s Fall is on the way!

Without further ado, here’s Jonathan’s interview…

Author bios make interesting reading. Many of them have pursued other endeavors before turning to writing. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Not professionally, though creative writing has always been a passion. I have been a starving artist since college, originally focusing on acting and stunt work. Most of the writing I did was for roleplaying games that I ran for my friends, which led to a great deal of world-building. The setting for The Autumn’s Fall Saga began as a backdrop for the fantasy adventures my gaming group was experiencing every other weekend. After an impromptu move to Chicago in 2008, I started using the world of Airlann in prose form as a cheap and therapeutic way to fight loneliness in a new city. The loneliness was soon alleviated by new friends, but the writing bug had bitten hard, so I kept at it until (18 months later) I finished The Exiled Heir.

Airlann. The Source Isle of Magic. It is the Age of Autumn, the island locked in slow, beautiful death. Nine hundred years have passed since Jerrod II, last of the Goblin Kings, was assassinated by a child. After centuries of tyranny, the bloody days of human rule still haunt the long memories of the Fae. Their resplendent bastions have dwindled despite the peace, all but replaced by the superstitious squalor of mortal Man. The human peasantry cowers in remote villages, defending themselves with weapons of iron. The Red Caps, a fanatical army of goblins, have marshaled once more, intent on returning Jerrod’s tyrannical bloodline to power. Padric, a human farmhand and friend to the Fae, finds himself in the midst of the growing war. Rosheen, an alluring piskie and Padric’s lifelong friend, struggles to help him survive. They ally themselves with Deglan Loamtoes, a bigoted gnome herbalist, and Pocket, a changeling orphan fostered by the avian Knights of the Valiant Spur. Beset from all sides by vengeful skin-changers, bloodthirsty marauders and fire-crazed fanatics, these four wayfarers must discover the true identity of Jerrod’s long lost progeny before the goblins reawaken the genocidal soldiers of living iron known as the Forge Born. Can they lay aside their individual prejudices, reveal their long-held secrets, and work with those they distrust to prevent Airlann’s annihilation? Can they stand together to find and destroy the last scion of the Goblin Kings?

Why did you choose to write Epic Fantasy? Epic fantasy was what I predominantly read. It was “what I knew”. I have always enjoyed pseudo-historical worlds populated by wondrous creatures and magic, whether they appeared in books, films, comic books, video games, etc. I have always been very aware of the trends in fantasy and felt I had enough fresh ideas to engage people (i.e. rooster knights). I really enjoy blending folklore, anthropology, mythology and history into something adventurous.

What is the strangest subject or topic you’ve ever written? Well, to non-fantasy readers I am sure most everything I write is fairly strange. Devotees of the genre, however, tend to take everything in stride. If you can make a fantasy reader do a double-take, you’ve accomplished something as a writer! But my process doesn’t lend itself to strangeness simply for the sake of shock-value. I try to be very organic, even with the most fantastical elements of my stories. If I had to pick, I’d say creating the birthing process of the Coburn was the strangest. The Coburn are anthropomorphic roosters, essentially, and in The Exiled Heir I only dealt with the males of the species. In the sequel, The Errantry of Bantam Flyn, I introduced female Coburn and faced the challenge of describing the pregnancy of such a creature. Having them simply lay large eggs would have compromised the serious tone of the book and ran the risk of making the entire species farcical, so I had to research the gestation processes of various real world animals and create a viable alternative.

The Coburn. Rooster-Men of the Tin Isles. 

Proud and combative by nature, the Coburn are an imposing race. The males, ever protective of their mates, fight to the death if threatened, especially against their own kind. Some, however, pursue a chaste life of chivalry and join the Valiant Spur, an order of Coburn knights. Hopeful recruits must replace their drive to breed and covet with a will to serve, allowing only the most resolute to join the ranks of the Knights Errant.

Bantam Flyn, hot-headed squire and wielder of the renowned sword Coalspur, yearns to be one of them.

When Flyn returns to the ancestral stronghold of the Valiant Spur, he finds the castle under siege from within. Malevolent skin-changers, the gruagach, ruthlessly hunt a secret Flyn would die to keep. The swaggering warrior seeks unlikely allies, reinforcing his sharp steel with the keen mind of the castle’s awkward chronicler, Ingelbert Crane, and the incisive tongue of gnome herbalist, Deglan Loamtoes.

Fleeing the reach of the gruagach, the trio become ensnared by a dwarven prophet who believes Flyn to be the foretold slayer of a primordial evil known as the Corpse Eater. Venturing into the unforgiving cold of Middangeard, the companions find themselves far from the Tin Isles and close to the history that shaped the very world. Hindered by giants, trolls, bands of berserkers, throngs of restless dead, and haunted by the howling phantoms of his own barbaric past, Flyn must face an ancient horror that threatens not only his life, but the fate of his entire race.

What are you currently working on? I am in the process of revising my third novel, The Grey Bastards. This book is separate from The Autumn’s Fall Saga and set in an entirely different world. Originally, it was just a palette-cleanser; a writing project to keep the rust off while The Errantry of Bantam Flyn was in final editing, but it ended up taking on a life of its own. The Grey Bastards is a stand-alone epic for mature readers. The title refers to a gang of half-orcs that patrol the unforgiving badlands known as The Lots. The book follows the exploits of Jackal, a cunning rider who tires of the tyrannical leadership of the Bastards’ chief and embarks on a dangerous plot to supplant him. It’s a raw and fast-paced story that blends the tropes of fantasy literature with the grit of television shows like “Sons of Anarchy” and “Black Sails”.

What motivated writing The Grey Bastards? The Grey Bastards was conceived as an attempt to get young men reading again. Almost across the board, literature is being kept afloat by women. I have no problem with that, but shame on us guys! After 2 years of attending conventions and book-signings, I began to become infuriated by my gender’s lack of interest in books, especially amongst teens and twenty-somethings. Women of all ages were buying The Autumn’s Fall Saga, even though I had not written it with a specific audience or demographic in mind, but the boys weren’t biting. It was quickly apparent that this was a trend not just with my books, but [also with] books as a whole. The disparity was obvious and disheartening. Video games, television, and film seemed to hold most of the male attention, so I set out to write a story that resonated with the trends found in those mediums while retaining the voice and artistry of a novelist. None of this is to say that the book attempts to exclude women readers. On the contrary, the female response to the cover art and Advance Reader Copies has been highly positive and encouraging.

What was the hardest story for you to write? Tricky question. My first book, The Exiled Heir, was a joy to write. My second, The Errantry of Bantam Flyn, was a war of attrition. I was definitely plagued by the troubles of the “sophomore effort”.  The Grey Bastards has been a complete mix. The first half was a blast to write, while the second half was a bareknuckle brawl with a grizzly bear, though it is my shortest book to date. Ultimately, I think Flyn has been the most challenging. It was a sequel, a LONG sequel (210,000 words), and the titular character was a rooster-man, so there was a great deal of uncharted ground to cover. Thankfully, the work seems to have paid off and readers have been very taken with the book.

Who has been your favorite character to write and why? It’s cliché for me to say this, but that really is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. (Evil laugh from moi!). BUT since I’m being asked to choose, I will say Ulfrun the Breaker from The Errantry of Bantam Flyn. She’s a giantess, a bouncer in a brothel, speaks in kennings (Old Norse figurative language) and completely at ease with life’s hardships. Crafting a larger-than-life character that manages to awe the other protagonists (even in a fantasy world) is no small feat, but Ulfrun made it easy. She created herself and just swaggered off the page. At times, she flirted with breaking the fourth wall, but I let her get away with it, because she would have hurt me otherwise! Funny!

Do any of your characters reflect facets of your personality? Certainly, though often I find they reflect facets that I wished I possessed. Either way, it’s a victory as a writer. Writing about emotions and demeanors you understand helps convey truth (the whole “write what you know” thang!), while writing about more foreign concepts is a challenge that forces greater craftsmanship.

Is writing a full-time or part-time endeavor for you? I have been fortunate to be a full-time writer the last several years. That said I am by no means wealthy. As stated previously, I committed to an artist’s life years ago. I have friends with corporate jobs who tell me how lucky I am. The fact is they could do what I do, so long as they are willing to give up decent salaries and benefit packages. I have never had these things, so I don’t miss them. I still need every reader I can get, but it’s a rewarding struggle.

What process do you use to plan your novels? Invariably, it starts with character concepts. For me, plot comes after the ensemble has been established. Perhaps that is a holdover from running so many roleplaying games; the characters are the driving force and the situation is simply there to test them. After my cast is formed, I begin to think about plot and start a very bare bones outline process. I do this with a white dry-marker board and post-it notes, very hands on and physical. I NEVER plot character death. If the world kills them, it kills them, but I do not predetermine who will die. This helps to avoid subconscious and tepid foreshadowing. Drama comes from pain, not necessarily death, and too many authors fall back on killing a character as their only method of eliciting emotion from their reader. I focus on world-building a great deal and most of my writing is allowing the characters to run amok in their environment. They really do make their own choices. It’s creepy, in a way, but very fun. What’s true for many writers is true for me; after a while, I am just taking dictation.

Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it? I have. Tactics I have used to overcome being blocked have been varied and have included: going for a walk, listening to music, doing pull-ups, screaming, taking a day off, road trip, playing with my son, and the list goes on. Writer’s block is really like a hangover. All the remedies are just ways to alleviate the discomfort, but the real cure is time.

If you were to choose another genre to write in, what would it be and why? I wish I had the skills to be a biographer. Researching fascinating people, especially those long-dead would be a great career, but I fear I don’t possess the requisite scholarly patience. Plus, a great biographer has to be almost completely neutral in their presentation, yet still have passion about the subject. I would find that difficult to do, I think, but I can imagine it is very rewarding.

Which authors inspire you? Well, there are a slew, but the short list includes Robert E. Howard, Guy Gavriel Kay, Caleb Carr, Terry Pratchett, Glen Cook and Lloyd Alexander.

What novel would you read multiple times? The Alienist by Caleb Carr. That book never fails to pull me in! A masterfully written historical fiction about a serial killer in 1890s New York with well-crafted characters. You can smell the Bowery when you read that book!

If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or deceased, who would it be and why? Probably Pierre Terrail, a French knight often referred to as Bayard. In 1503, he fought at the Battle of Garigliano and single-handedly defended a bridge against 200 Spaniards, one of many exploits throughout his life that brought him great renown. In an age of mercenary armies, Bayard remained an icon of piety and romantic heroism. His gallantry was so well known that when he was once captured by Henry VIII, the king released him without ransom so long as Bayard swore not to fight against him for 6 weeks. Bayard was killed in 1524 during the Battle of Sesia after he was mortally wounded by an arquebus (early musket). His passing was regarded by many of his contemporaries as the end of all chivalry. He is still regarded by many historians as the last true knight. He sounds like a good character for a book!

What is your favorite quote? At the risk of sounding obtuse, I really don’t have one. My memory doesn’t hold quotes very well, and the Internet Age has misattributed so many “famous” phrases that it would be a disingenuous folly to try and look one up to answer this question. Odds are my favorite is a line from The Lord of the Rings or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Tolkien and Twain will always catch my breath.

What is your favorite animal, real or imaginary? Mountain gorilla, hands down!

What is your favorite color? Octarine, the colour of magic. We have Terry Pratchett to thank for its existence.

This has been so much fun Jonathan! Good luck with your third book! Thank you for being a part of “A Center Stage Moment”.

Look for Jonathan online at:

Website: http://www.jonathanfrenchbooks.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jonathanfrenchauthor?fref=ts

Twitter: @JFrenchAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7065807.Jonathan_French

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jonathan-French

Join me next week for another “Center Stage Moment” featuring Angelica R. Jackson!

Keep reading!

Comments
  1. YAY!!! Thanks so much for having me over today 😀

    Like

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