Jackson speaks on the Weapon of Flesh series, Hellmaw: Dragon Dreams, and the Pathfinder Tales series.
JMW: Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is award-winning author and real life sailor of the Caribbean, Chris A. Jackson. Welcome, Chris.
Chris A. Jackson: Great to be here.
JMW: We’re glad to have you. You recently published “Weapon of Pain“, the fifth volume in your “Weapon of Flesh” series. What can readers expect in the next to last volume of the “Weapons of Flesh“?
Chris A. Jackson: Well, we’ve got a lot of ends to tie together. I’ve kind of painted, as we all do, paint our characters into a corner in the middle book of the series. So the last book in the six-book series will be “Weapon of Mercy“, and I’ve got to dig a lotta characters out of those holes I put them in. So there’s gonna be some more romance, there’s going to be some more assassins, some more violence, some more getting outta trouble. So yeah, I’ve got a whole empire to save, so that kinda thing.
JMW: Oh. Can readers expect the series to end well and did this book end on a cliffhanger?
A wizard spends years creating the perfect assassin from a human baby. He generated the “weapon” to be a super predator without emotions, quick healing skin, super strength and speed, he feels no pain, and moves silently. What happens when he sets off into society on his own?
Chris A. Jackson: This one did kind of end on a cliffhanger which you’re allowed to do in the middle of a series, right? But will it end on an up-note? I can’t really give that away yet because a lot of my fans are cheering for one things to go one way and a lot of them are cheering for things to go another way, and we will see. But I am reintroducing the primary character from the first trilogy, the boy assassin, his name was Lad, and he’s kind of grown up now, but he is coming in to hopefully save the day a little bit here, so.
Chris A. Jackson: The fans will love that.
JMW: One hopes, one hopes. But it’s really great that they are so involved that they’re trying to pull you in two different directions.
Chris A. Jackson: Yeah, I get a lotta feedback and my wife, Ann, is helping me out with the second trilogy too. And commentators have said, you know, they do feel it’s a little bit of a different flavor with this one because I’m getting a lot more input from my wife. And we work well together in that regard, we haven’t killed each other yet and we’ve written several books together. So if you can find somebody that you can sail the Caribbean with and write books with, just marry them, it doesn’t matter.
JMW: It’s easier that way.
Chris A. Jackson: Right, yup.
JMW: That’s wonderful. How hard was it to switch gears from the epic fantasy of the “Weapon” series to the urban fantasy world of “Hellmaw: Dragon Dreams“?
Chris A. Jackson: Surprisingly not very hard, we’ve been planning that book for a very long time. And it was very interesting because that book kind of fell into a niche in that new world. As you know, Ed Greenwood created the Hellmaw world and…
Aleksi Rychenkna enjoys the solitude and emotional shield of working with fossils at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. But when she comes across a special specimen, she unknowingly re-opens a failed ancient experiment to extinguish the world of demons. -Thus drawing the attention of disguised demons out to make sure this attempt also fails.
Chris A. Jackson: Yeah, yeah, the archmage himself, the world builder archmage himself. And there’s more coming down that pike too, he’s created another world, a fantasy world by the name of Storm Talons, and I have a book coming out in that world as well. But as far as the shift between the epic high fantasy swords and sorcery-ish to the contemporary fantasy, you know, urban fantasy, surprisingly it wasn’t a big shift. I was having a lot of fun with it. It’s a very sciencey story. The “Dragon Dreams” is about a young girl who is a paleontologist, and my wife and I are both scientists. And she is from the greater Boston area, and the book is based in Cambridge, so we did a lot of research up there. We went walking all over the cities and took about 500 pictures and got it all laid out how we wanted to do this thing. And it turned out nice, I’m very proud of that book.
JMW: Oh very cool, maybe next time I’ll be interviewing both of you on this.
Chris A. Jackson: That would be fun.
JMW: How did you get involved with Ed Greenwood and the “Hellmaw” series?
Chris A. Jackson: The “Hellmaw“… Well, I met Ed originally at a smaller convention in Toronto, Ad Astra. He was involved with the editor I had on another project that I just finished up with, well I hadn’t finished it when I first met Ed, it was the “Scimitar Seas” novel with Dragon Moon Press. And so we kinda hit it off and laughed a little bit and I think we had a meal together. And then my editor who was friends with Ed, Gabrielle Harbowy, said, “You must come to Gen Con.” And so I went to Gen Con and that was great for me and that’s actually where I got the work with Paizo, the gaming publisher, writing “Pathfinder Tales” with them. And my third year or second year, I think the third year we were there, a year and a half ago at Gen Con, Ed Greenwood came up to me with that cherubic smile of his and mischievous look in his eye and said, “I have a nondisclosure agreement for you to sign.”
JMW: Oh, cool.
Chris A. Jackson: And I said, “Oh, what’s this about?” And he says, “That’s the nondisclosure part, you can’t read it until you sign it.” And so I signed it, knowing Ed, and it was about the Hellmaw and I read it and then I went and found him at the convention and I said, “Ed, I have a novel pretty much finished that will dovetail into this world nicely, and all I have to do is make a few changes.” So we had already written the novel about the happenings and then we dovetailed it into the Hellmaw universe. So we got the second novel in that series out right behind Ed Greenwood and I was very pleased to get that spot.
Meddle Not In The Affairs Of Dragons For You Are Crunchy And Taste Good With Ketchup
JMW: Cool, are you going to be doing more novels in that series?
Chris A. Jackson: In that series, yes. I believe we have one due out in 2018, untitled as of yet and unoutlined as of yet, but it will be a follow-up with the same characters.
JMW: Oh cool, cool. I can’t wait to read it because I love things about paleontologists and archaeologists.
Chris A. Jackson: Oh yeah, you’ll love it. It’s really sciencey, it’s really sciencey.
JMW: Oh that sounds wonderful. Two of your series, the “Scimitar Seas“, which we mentioned, and the “Pathfinder Tales“, feature pirates. And in a sense, you live the pirate life: on a boat, sailing the Caribbean, only hopefully without all the pillaging.
H.L. Mencken “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.”
Chris A. Jackson: Well, not a lot of pillaging.
JMW: That’s good. That’s very good. No burning, I trust? Just a minor amount of pillaging.
Chris A. Jackson: Some sunburning occasionally.
JMW: Yeah, well there’s that. What are some of the challenges of writing on the open seas?
Chris A. Jackson: You have to have a lot of discipline because you’re in a beautiful place and there’s a million things to see and do, and so you have to get your work done every day. So I’ve kind of developed a very strange… I didn’t used to be a morning person until I quit my job and we went sailing, not intending to sail and write, you know, continually, but the books started paying off and we, you know, we’re paying our bills now just writing and sailing. But I had to create a schedule where I got up reasonably early, meaning like 5:00 in the morning usually, and while it’s nice and quiet and there’s nothing going on and there’s no beauty and all a million things to do, and I start just writing, drinking coffee and writing and have breakfast, maybe do a little email during the morning at some point in time, but I’m usually writing until about noon. And then my eyes are shot from staring at the screen and we take a break usually and do some shopping, or go ashore, or go snorkeling, we do a lot of snorkeling, and do something physical, you know, get out. And then in the evening I’ll read what I wrote that morning or dip into another project,a short story or a blog post or something like that, and then get up the next morning and do it again, and pretty much work seven days a week, unless we’re actually in the process of sailing, if we’re in transit somewhere and then it’s really hard to write. If the boat’s in motion, it’s really hard to concentrate on anything because then really everything’s moving around you all the time and you have to pay attention to what you’re doing.
JMW: Yeah, [inaudible 08:31].
Chris A. Jackson: Other boats, ships, you know, sails.
JMW: Oh yes, so much on the seas. It’s not like you can walk and chew gum at the same time. Do you ever get to use your training as a marine biologist in your fiction and in real life?
Chris A. Jackson: As a matter of fact, my wife, Ann, and I are both kinda trained as… I’m a lot less trained than she is, she has a Ph.D in marine biology, I am just a…I just have a bachelor’s degree with a marine emphasis. We met actually in graduate school in the marine science program. But in answer to the question, we both have delved into that quite a lot with the “Scimitar Seas” novels. We introduced a race of merpeople, sentient fish people, and they’re not the Disney merpeople, they’re not mermaids and mermen with the shell breast armor and whatever else like that, they’re very fishy. And we got into a lot of, like, population biology questions, weird psychologies of, you know, of they’re different, they’re alien, so we made them very alien and it was a lot of fun, and the whole underwater ecosystem thing, yeah, quite a bit.
JMW: That’s neat. What are you working on now?
Chris A. Jackson: Right now I am working on another novel for Paizo, as yet untitled. We just finished the edits for my fourth novel from them and sent that in. That one is out of the bag and it is called “Pirate’s Curse” and that will be released early next year.
JMW: This is the “Pathfinder” series?
Chris A. Jackson: Yes, “Pathfinder Tales“, the “Pathfinder” series. We have just finished the preliminary outline of “Weapon of Mercy“. I have just finished up a novel for Privateer Press, another pirate novel set in their Iron Kingdoms universe, and that one’s due to come back for edits soon. I just finished a short story for Shadowrun anthology, their “Sixth World Tarot” anthology. Each story is a tarot card and I got the death card, so that was a lotta fun. And what else are we doing? Oh, I have a project coming out that I have to get on a novella for a totally different project that I can’t really announce yet, but it is in a genre I have not written in yet, it’s horror. So that’ll be something new, something completely new and different. What else?
JMW: Now for something completely different.
Chris A. Jackson: Yeah. Oh and the other, I just finished the first draft of the “Storm Talons” novel for Ed Greenwood’s fantasy world. The “Storm Talons” series, I don’t know where I am in that series, probably six or seven books down the line. The first book, Ed’s just was released today. The first three books have been announced, so these’ll be coming out fairly shortly and my story is entitled “The Queen’s Scourge” and it is a piratey tale.
JMW: Of course it is, of course it is. We’ve come up against the end of the interview, is there anything you’d like to add?
Chris A. Jackson: Just to say I’m having a great time here at Dragon Con and we love doing conventions. We’re doing at least two conventions a year, Gen Con and Dragon Con, forever. And if you wanna come by and read my stuff, drop by jaxbooks.com, that’s J-A-Xbooks.com, and we’ve always got new stuff coming out, three or four books a year.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.