Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Jeff Shanley Interview
3/17/2012 10:02:14 PM
Fantasy author Jeff Shanley discusses his debut novel and the writing life!
LTS: For today’s guest blog, I’d like to introduce you to fantasy author Jeff Shanley, the creator of the Mavonduri Trilogy. I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Jeff. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
JS: Lorna, thank you for having me, it's a great pleasure! I have varying interests actually, and all of them influence my writing; I do music on the side, but anyone who follows my blog will know that I have a lifelong love affair with film and the filmmaking process. I do movie reviews in my spare time, and there's nothing I enjoy more than watching a movie in a theater and digging into its story and it's process. Aside from writing, of course!
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
JS: I remember drawing comic books in 4th grade, so yes I've always been telling stories in one form or another. I love being self-published, but I think print publishing should be the goal of every author, myself included because I believe the Mavonduri Trilogy is a series for a wide audience.
LTS: Your debut novel, Mathion: Book One of the Mavonduri Trilogy goes into great detail in terms of culture, language, belief systems, etc. to give this fantasy world a real sense of history and depth. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
JS: The Mavonduri Trilogy is the result of over ten years' worth of work on a complex mythological cycle that retells the origins of the werewolf and Atlantis myths. It includes fully developed cultures, history and yes, language. The major inspiration comes from the classical style of storytelling I've found in the works of Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (specifically "The Lost World"), Robert E. Howard and, of course, J. R. R. Tolkien, who really inspired all of us who write fantasy in one form or another. But the really exciting thing for me is taking an icon of horror like the werewolf and placing it in a fantasy setting, as a fully developed fantasy race with its own history, culture, even mythology.
As for Mathion himself, he is a character who undergoes a transformation, from a historical to a mythological figure. He has a strong moral sense of honor and he doesn't seek out power, despite being heir to an entire kingdom, and it is this sense of honor that has defined his entire existence.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open Mathion: Book One of the Mavonduri Trilogy’?
JS: The Mavonduri Trilogy is the epic tale of Mathion's journey to becoming king of the Wolven, and how his life ties into his destiny to give him the power to change the tide of a 20,000+ year war between his people and the High Lord of Kânavad, Azgharáth the Betrayer. It's a lifelong quest that will, above all, force him to see the greatness within himself. Book One specifically details his youth, and the circumstances that lead him to his first confrontation with the Werewolf High Lord.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. What made you decide to self-publish?
JS: The single greatest contribution that eBooks like Kindle and Nook have made to literature is also an unprecedented one: authors are now able to reach their audience on their own, without having to struggle for publication. But as I've said I do believe that every author should want to get print published, and if they do they should go after it and fight tooth and nail no matter the cost. I'm still going the agent route, but I have been able to gain a core fanbase through self-publishing, and I'm grateful for every single one of my readers. I in fact get to be my own agent, publicist, and (of course) author because I'm self-published, and I enjoy it very much.
LTS: What was the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
JS: Keep pushing. For every rejection, be it from an agent or publisher, there's still an opportunity to get published. I have great faith in my writing and I'm very passionate about it, but what really keeps me going is all the encouragement I've gotten from friends, family, and my readers.
LTS: I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
JS: I'm a sort of "fits and starts" writer at times, to be honest. I’ll get very inspired and just begin to write or edit furiously, and that can last for days to weeks on end. Other times, especially when I hit writers’ block, I'll need take a step back and breathe. My mind moves so fast in terms of the story, sometimes I get overwhelmed and just need to sit back and let it play out in my head before I write it down.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
JS: It's funny, because it's a little of both. When I begin a story, I like to take the journey with the characters. I have an exact idea of where I want to start from and where I want to end up, but the fun part is getting there. Eventually I'll turn to an outline out of necessity, but overall I'm the kind of writer (and reader, in fact) who's a stickler for detail, especially in a fantasy story.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
JS: Sometimes I'll actually just put on a movie and turn the volume low. I get very inspired by specific movies, so I guess for the sake of this question we can call it a ritual.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
JS: As I said, I'll just take a step back. I want to be able to fight writer's block with a fresh eye, so I'll just go over some notes, watch a movie or read a book. I've always said that the best way to fight writer's block is with inspiration.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
JS: Tolkien, hands down. I am, to this day, consistently amazed that one man was able to set an entire mythological cycle into a fully-developed fictional world, and by his ability to tell that Tale in such a beautiful, evocative way. I think it's why I was drawn to fantasy as a genre. Tolkien and I share a love for history and language and mythology, and I think that in great fantasy, truly great fantasy, there is no need for a suspension of disbelief because you as a reader can simply believe it.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
JS: I've discovered how many people still love fantasy novels, and I'm still very surprised at how much people love my writing, which is a very humbling thing!
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
JS: Right now I'm reading The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. Appropriate, right? I won a signed copy through Knopf, and it's a fascinating read.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from fantasy into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to Mathion: Book One of the Mavonduri Trilogy in the near future?
JS: Oh, I definitely see Mathion in Barnes & Noble in five years! And I'm looking to get into scifi and thrillers once I've finished the Mavonduri Trilogy. Which, funnily enough, brings me to my next answer: I'm currently working on the second book in the Mavonduri Trilogy, titled "The Last Ascension." But that's all I can tell you right now, have to keep some hype for myself after all! Thank you so much for having me, Lorna, I loved answering your questions.
LTS: Thank you for taking the time to discuss your works and your writing experiences, Jeff! I’ll catch you on Twitter. For more information about Jeff Shanley and his novels, check out:
Follow Jeff on Twitter: .Mavonduri
Where to buy the book: Amazon.com
Smashwords.com (where you can also find Hréokai: The Rise of Azgharáth, for FREE!!)
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