Jay Swanson interview. Author of The Vitalis Chronicles & giveaway!

One thing that get’s me and anyone who reads my blog regularly knows this is that I am a cover whore. One hot cover and I can be won over. When I saw White Shores mentioned as free somewhere I think facebook I grabbed it in a hurry. The cover is what really got me though so off I went in search of an author to stalk. Jay has a lovely web site and after contacting him and sweet talking him into an interview he also is going to be giving away 2 set’s of The Vitalis Chronicles. The first White Shores and the second in the series The Tomb of the Relequim and yes you read that right there will be two winners of these two books. Behold the pretties and thank you to Jay I appreciate you sharing your work and agreeing to let me pick your brain not to mention the giveaway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you tell me something about you no one knows? –
I’m kind of an open book, which a lot of people obviously know so that’s not a good answer, but it makes this question the hardest question of all time. When I was living in South Africa we climbed to the top of this hill overlooking the compound we were staying in for the explicit purpose of shooting fireworks out over the valley. It was a good hike to the top, and when we got there we found the forest had actually been burned out some time before, making for one of the most eerie landscapes you could stumble upon. We explored for a while, and eventually set ourselves up to launch the fireworks. My buddy Jesse decided to try and engineer his own bottle rockets out of the ones we had, tying them together in such a fashion that they would somehow ignite each other in succession as they soared through the sky. Instead they shot straight at my head. I survived, but it was the closest call I’ve ever had with fireworks. I have it on video somewhere, I’ll see if I can pull it up for you.

What are you reading now? –

I just finished Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy, and it was amazing. The man lived an unbelievable life, from getting captured by pirates to winning a civil war, it’s hard to believe someone so epic could have actually lived. I just finished the Tipping Point as well, and started A Tale of Two Cities the other day. There are a lot of random books open on my kindle right now.

Some favorite books and authors –
Growing up I loved Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series, Terry Brooks’ Magic Kingdom for Sale, and obviously Tolkien. I remember my dad starting the Hobbit with me as a father-son endeavor, and I jumped out ahead because I couldn’t stand how slow we were going. I devoured it, a fantastic strategy to get me to read on my own. Of late I really loved Ender’s Game, Name of the Wind, and Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (a book on breaking out of the mold of modern business). Rework is actually one of the few books I’ve ever re-read.

Where are you right now? I’m guessing Africa from your web bio or France from twitter –
Sorry about the jumbled information on that, I forget to update everything every time I move. I’m in Paris right now, teaching English and working with Mercy Ships’ international marketing endeavors as a copywriter/editor. To be fair, after the last few years I’m not always sure where I am either.

Do you have your sights set on a new country, somewhere you’ve never been? –
Norway for sure, I have some great friends there I miss a lot and I’ve never been. I do want to get to Berlin to master my German if I can, and I’ve never been there either. Japan would be cool too… don’t get me started on this or I may just have to send you a map of the world with the title “HERE.”

How have your travels and seeing the world affected your writing if at all? –
I’ll do my best not to sound like a presumptuous a-hole here. For one it broke me into a lot of different ways of actually seeing the world. It’s threatening at first, possibly every time you encounter a new cultural viewpoint, but over time you realize that you might not have all of the answers. For someone like me that took some getting used to, because while I’m an open person it takes some work to really try and see things from a different angle. There have been a lot of people, places, and circumstances that either challenged or inspired me, and those challenges and inspirations find their way naturally into what I’m writing. In a way, Ardin has to go through a similar process as he leaves his little mountain village and embarks on a voyage out to the rest of the world. There are also more specific things, like secret societies/voodoo in West Africa that are so destructive, and when you see them in action you can’t help but adopt a little of their flavor.

The cover for White Shores is amazing who did it? –
The cover was done by Marjolein Caljouw, who’s a fantastic illustrator from Holland that I actually got to meet last year in Amsterdam. It was a really cool process of realizing the cover, because it was very much like seeing a part of myself come to life on the page.

How important do you feel an eye catching cover is for sales and to convey the story to the reader? –
Honestly I’m not sure any more. I think it has to be clean and professional, and it has to speak quality to the reader, but I look at some of the stuff out there that sells and I don’t really get it. I’m increasingly of the opinion that sales and marketing are some form of witchcraft and I remain uninitiated. For my books, in the end, the covers are more important in the realm of giving something to my fans. I don’t want to short-change them, in fact I want to exceed their expectations as best I can, so when I’m looking into something like cover art I’m thinking “What’s the most epic cover we could do for this?” Without going totally crazy if I can help it (in other words don’t expect me to try to join the 3D fad any time soon). There’s a special edition in the works just for this reason, to make something of superior quality for my fans.

The Vitalis Chronicles is a trilogy when can we expect the third to be released? –
Soon-ish? Tomb of the Relequim was released a few months late because of some technical problems along the way, and now I’m a little leery of putting dates out there. However, I will say that I’m hoping to release it before my neighbors across the street can safely put their flower boxes back in their windows.

What do you have planned after the series ends? –
This trilogy is a launching point. There’s an overarching theme that will get its foothold here and carry us into the history of the world I’m creating. I don’t like really long series, I feel like I’m getting married if I ever start anything longer than a trilogy, and it becomes really difficult when you catch up to the author and have to wait for the next book. My goal is to tell the history of this world through a series of trilogies and standalone novels/novellas that fill in the gaps as you go. They won’t be released in chronological order, I want to build myths and religions and conflicting worldviews and versions of history until it all finally comes crashing together in a blistering crescendo at the climax of history. I’ve already finished the first book to this end. I have a lot of plans.

Please tell me about The Vitalis Chronicles? –
The trilogy takes place at the end of what you could call the second major epoch of this world. White Shores is a coming of age story for Ardin, while Tomb of the Relequim takes us through Ardin figuring out who exactly he is and mastering his own demons. In Steps of Krakador he’s pretty much figured that out, but now he has to rise to a challenge that’s beyond his capacity (as impressive as that capacity may have become).

The Vitalis Chronicles, and probably everything I ever write for this world, isn’t particularly fluffy-go-lucky. I think the greatest stories told have to get through some serious crap to make the ending worth while. It’s for that reason that none of my characters is ever truly safe, no problem they’re facing can’t somehow be compounded, and no danger is ever innocuous. I love Japanese stories for this reason, there’s rarely an ending that isn’t somehow bittersweet if not downright depressing. It’s not my intention to depress you, in fact I want to uplift as much as possible, but no great uplifting story was ever easy or clean. That said, in the future I will tell some particularly tragic stories that won’t seem uplifting on their own, but as a part of the bigger picture will only serve to do just that.

What’s been fun in the writing process is how often my characters surprise me. Cid, the Fisherman, was originally going to be the micro-villain in the scene in White Shores in which we meet him. Somehow it wasn’t right, and he wound up leaping onto the stage as an unlikely hero that developed into one of my favorite characters.Merodach was supposed to die when confronted by the Shadow King. That was the way it always played out in my head ever since high school, and then when I sat down to write it I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t right, and he survived. I literally stormed around my house at the time in a strangely excited frustration over the fact that I couldn’t kill Merodach.

But that sort of thing happened a lot. There are characters who were supposed to live who died, others that were supposed to die who lived, and some who were supposed to do one thing or another but couldn’t manage to even get there in time, and whole lines of the plot shifted as a result. What I’m trying to say is my characters are sometimes jerks to me, they make my job more difficult by not behaving.

Jay can be found on his web site / Vitalis Chronicles / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

The Vitalis Chronicles can be found web site / Facebook / Amazon / B&N

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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11 Comments.

  1. I agree with Jess about the covers. Very interesting interview, Jay. Sounds like your life is never boring. Thank you both for the post and giveaway.

    • Thanks Sherry, the covers did turn out really well. I forgot to credit Sam Spratt with the second cover, so I’ll do that here. My life IS boring sometimes, like the orientation we had to do for our English teaching program this week. Granted it was in the French version of Hogwarts, but the 7 hours we spent there were not entertaining in the slightest =)

      Good luck on the giveaway!

  2. I love that your characters boss you around and can be jerks – I love pushy characters and am totally intrigued by the world you have created. Wonderful interview and thank you for the giveaway chance!

    • Of course, and good luck on the draw!

      As for pushy characters, I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way. I taught a class on story to some [awesome] high schoolers while in Africa, and the thing I told them was that you have to be honest to your characters, and you have to let them be honest in return. The problem with that combination is that they don’t always do what you would *like* them to do, which is great for conflict and building a story, but horrible for keeping everything in line with any plans you may have had.

  3. Another great interview Bunneh Bacon Bitch (sorry Jay she be one of my best friends) Ok out if everything I’m going to ask about Japanse Stories. If (I’m betting its a yes) you’ve read some or all of Kawaidon what was your favorite? If not what takes from Japan are at the op of your list and why? (My man and I read a little of the Hagakure every few days to each other ..keeps us from the darker corners and build us up for war…with the squirrel army – ask Jess)

    I’m with her-I’m a fellow cover white and after reading this it’s added to the Bunneh approved TBR pile!

    • Note to Jay and self.. iPhone autocorrect does not like the words… love, fuck, hell or WHORE.. it was cover WHORE not cover WHITE GAWDS!

    • Your Hagakure reference made me think immediately of Sun Tzu, even though he was Chinese. Random thought but there it is. I haven’t read any Kawaidon sadly, and I can’t even find any references to it via Google so you’ll have to link me to something so I can check it out. I’m thinking along more popular culture lines, I’m afraid – not to sound too shallow here – but stories found in anime like Death Note or games like the Final Fantasy series. There’s always a level of tragedy in the stories that, when done right, only serves to enhance the glory of the ending. Of course sometimes, when done wrong, it can get you rooting for the wrong people and leave you dissatisfied with the ending.

      My dissatisfaction with where a lot of American storytelling has gone (not all of it, before stones get thrown) is that we embrace the happy-go-lucky feel-good stories at the expense of everything else, and it keeps us from really engaging as deeply as we could. More than anything, I’m trying to help the reader relate to my stories by not withholding tragedy or sadness in hopes that it vaults any eventual successes to greater heights. I guess we’ll see if I’m actually accomplishing that or not in time.

    • I realized I never gave a specific example, sorry. One of my favorites is the hollow nature of Delita’s victory in Final Fantasy Tactics, and how your character – quite possibly the only truly valiant hero in the entire story – is branded as a heretic and left entirely out of history even though it’s a history he (Ramza/you) secured. It’s kind of depressing, but so true to life and so HEAVY. I love that because it sticks with you, and forces you to reflect on the ideas of sacrifice and what you could call a true sense of nobility or honor.

      Death Note is a great example of how tragedy can flip things on its head. When “L” is outdone so early on you find yourself rooting for Kira more and more, especially when “L” is replaced by who he is – no one wants them to win (at least I didn’t). It’s very much like how Heath Ledger’s Joker drew you to root for evil to win, except that this is done not by force of character but by Kira’s gaining the upper hand on his good adversaries. For that reason I hated the ending, and caused one of my best friends to question my morality a little.

  4. Thank you for the great interview and contest! I thought I was the only one who’s characters have a mind of their own!! It’s good to know it happens to other authors too!!
    Ashley A
    ash_app@hotmail.com

  5. I cant wait to read your books

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