Today, John Brown is here answering a few questions about his debut fantasy novel Servant of a Dark God, which just released this past October. I hope you enjoy this Q&A with John as much as I did; he has a great sense of humor and quite an imagination.
In the near future look for a review for Servant of a Dark God from Patrick of Preternatural Reviews here at Fantasy Dreamer’s Ramblings.
UPDATE: I'm giving away two copies of Servant of a Dark God here.
First of all, John tell us a little about yourself.
To begin with I want to thank you for having me on your blog, Donna. As for the question: my mother was a hamster and my father smelled of elderberries. Alas. Actually, my father was a pugilist florist and my mother was a literature nut. So I was raised on violence, manly deeds, and Shakespeare. But I wasn't predestined from birth to write. I strayed from the path and got a degree in accounting. Fitzed around. Currently, I train people on ERP software by day. By night, actually by morning, I write.
SERVANT OF A DARK GOD is your debut novel, tell us about it.
It's an epic fantasy with a number of twists. One of them has to do with how I got the core idea. I live up in the hinterlands of Utah. It's all ranch land for miles and miles. My wife dragged me back here. I didn't want to come because I'm a city boy, but I came and everything up here was new to me. Including cows. Living in the city cows are really only something you see on TV or in the distance. I didn't know cows.
So one day I was hiking up a canyon working on the concept of a new novel and came across a small herd of cattle on their summer range. The bull was bellowing. Being of supreme intelligence, I bellowed back because, hey, isn't it everyone's dream to talk to animals? We went back and forth a few times. I thought we were having a fine conversation until he began to charge through the willows at me. I suddenly realized I was telling him I was going to take one of his women.
The short version of the story is I escaped. But I began to think: humans, cows, ranching--what if humans were ranched? But not for their flesh. I thought if souls exist, they’re physical. And so what would happen if there was a food chain based on that? Furthermore, if you were ranching intelligent beings, you wouldn’t want them to know it. You’d want them to think they were governing themselves. So in the story the truth is buried deep, and the human overseers mercilessly hunt anyone who show any sign of discovering what’s going on. The book focuses on a teenage boy and girl. The problems in this book start when one of these hunts targets the teenage girl’s family.
How did you come up with the title?
Brainstorming. Thinking about aspects of the story and more brainstorming. I also paid a little man who said he could spin gold from straw. But it was mostly brainstorming. I made a huge list of titles. I put them out to my writing groups for votes. In the end it came down to these:
- Servant of a Dark God
- Lord of Grass and Stone
- The Goat King's Heir
- Man of Grass
- The Raveler
I'm very happy with the one I picked. Some of the others that made the final list are just blah.
How did you come up with the characters?
Same way I come up with anything—I follow sparks of interest and ask question. Each character came in different ways. Hunger I stole from a short story I'd written earlier. Stole him and changed what he was made of. Prunes and Gid came from a free write. Talen came from an initial idea I had about a father and son. Once I have an initial idea, whatever that may be, the characters start to build by accretion. I'll write a scene and make something up. Or I'll need to ask a question and generate an interesting answer. So each character is built from ideas that come from a number of places.
What was the hardest part of writing SERVANT OF A DARK GOD?
I think getting the sequencing of the beginning chapters right. Chapter 5 actually used to be chapter 1. We went through three or four versions until we came up with the current one. I like it a lot. It's not the excitement of impending death, but how many stories start with a guy in his underwear?
Are you happy with cover art for your book? Did you get any say so in the cover art?
Love the cover art. Raymond Swanland is amazing. But I had no say in it. Tor chose the artist, gave him some suggestions, then he read the book and came up with the image himself. I was very pleased to see that Swanland included Sugar holding one of the ravelers or hag's teeth. They're one of the coolest weapons I've ever come up with.
How many books do you have planned for the Dark Gods saga?
Three. Not a page more. I've plotted the third and am working hard to finish the second. I submitted and sold it as a trilogy, but Tor wanted to leave it open just in case we wanted to write more books. So "trilogy" was scrapped for "saga." And I might add other stories at some time in the future. I love this world and these characters, but I've got a number of other stories just busting to get out. So the next few projects will be something else.
How does it feel to have your first book published? Has it lived up to your expectations so far?
It's been wonderful. However, it's just the first step. It's like making it to the Mt. Everest base camp. You still have a long way to go. But I'm so happy to be here. Furthermore, my agent and editors, heck, all the people at Tor, have been marvelous to work with. I couldn't be happier. Well, maybe if Oprah wanted to feature my novel on her show, maybe that might sweeten the deal just a little.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Hike, mountain bike, and go to the city. I was in Chicago this summer of the American Library Association conference. There were black people, brown people, white people—so many lovely people. I love the people.
Can you tell I'm a bit starved for my city life? I love the little town I live in. It's beautiful and full of characters. But when you've got to drive an hour to get groceries and you see nothing all day but cows and hawks, well, it makes going to the city an event.
If you were interviewing yourself, what question would you ask yourself? How would you answer that question?
I think I'd ask myself "How did you get so dang good looking?" And I would answer, "A very strict regimen of Twinkies and elderberries."
And then I'd say, "You're not that good looking." And I would answer, "You're just jealous."
And then we'd devolve into a schitzo episode after which I would become crazed, live underground, and eventually bite off the finger of a little man to get his pretty ring.
Yeah, I think that's pretty much how it would go.
John - thank you for taking the time to stop by Fantasy Dreamer’s Ramblings.