Jon Sprunk Speaks on the Shadow Saga Trilogy and other Upcoming Works
JMW: Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is Jon Sprunk, the author of the fantasy trilogy, “Shadow Saga” and his new novel in a completely different series, “Blood and Iron.” Welcome, Jon.
Jon Sprunk: Thank you for having me.
JMW: Well, it’s our pleasure. You like to mess with traditional tropes a bit. What inspired you to create a trilogy about an assassin?
Jon Sprunk: Well, originally he wasn’t going to be an assassin. I just wanted to write a story about a scoundrel kind of character, but I previously started a book about an assassin that went nowhere and I abandoned the project. So when I was devising the Shadow Saga trilogy, I was outlining it, I had the idea of bringing that character back and meld them together. It did work pretty well, so I just went with it, and that’s all there is to that.
JMW: What attracts you to scoundrels?
Jon Sprunk: It’s that anti-hero kind of thing. Our society is full of stories about heroes, so I’m attracted to people that live on the outskirts of society that are not quite as good as Superman or so on.
JMW: And did he change over the course of the trilogy?
Jon Sprunk: I hope so. He definitely learns that . . . He starts off as a loner as a very self-centered individual, and hopefully he learns over three books that it takes a bit more in your life than [inaudible 00:01:45]. He finds love and so on.
JMW: Yeah, and so this novel, both the first volume, “Shadow’s Son“, and some of the other books were nominated for a number of awards, including The David Gemmell Award for best debut novel and best first novel. And you are also a finalist for the Compton Crook for that.
Jon Sprunk: I was.
Order the Shadow Saga on Amazon!
Jon Sprunk: Thank you.
JMW: But your fondness for scoundrels seems to run deep. You recently were in a new anthology called “TV Gods” and your take was the Mash [SP] of 4077 B.C. And boy, the characters of Mash are certainly somewhat scoundrelly.
Jon Sprunk: Definitely. The story is mostly based on people that I know that are kind of off the wall, the main character, so I just fit. That irreverence in the midst of what was war, it just was the right vibe for that story. It fit.
JMW: Okay, let’s actually get into something else I was talking about with regard to the “Shadow Saga” and twisting those tropes. Four oh seven seven B.C. is not your standard fantasy scenario. Was it Babylonian or . . .?
Jon Sprunk: Right.
Jon Sprunk: Well, yeah, more Sumerian but that whole Mesopotamian thing. The characters are Gilgamesh’s friend, Enkidu and then I added in Anna, the Goddess of Love, as a character also. I love interest for . . .
JMW: Hot lips.
Jon Sprunk: Yes, she’s hot lips. Exactly. So they’re Hawkeye and McIntyre and Hot Lips, yes.
Blood and Iron
JMW: How very cool. This interest in Mesopotamian culture seems to run pretty deep because wasn’t that part of the inspiration for your new novel, “Blood and Iron“?
Jon Sprunk: Definitely. I always have loved history, but especially ancient history, the Babylonians, the Romans, the Egyptians, so on. So this grew out of my love for those eras back then. And it was just a good setting for me to work in.
JMW: Okay, is it exactly in one specific culture, or does it deal with the entire region?
Jon Sprunk: It’s a Mash. It took ancient Egyptian, ancient Babylonian, Sumerian, and just took elements of each. I find them very similar. A lot parallels between those mythos. So I took what would work, and I made up stuff to fill the blanks when I needed it.
JMW: Do you have one of your scoundrel heroes as the hero of “Blood and Iron” or are you going in a different direction?
Jon Sprunk: It’s a little bit different. The main character, Horace, is sort of a . . . He’s a broken guy. He’s had a lot of tragedy in his past. He’s a fish out of water in this story. So he’s mostly the wide-eyed adventurer who tries to be good and gets caught up in things beyond his understanding.
Then we have Jirom, another main character who is a slave, a gladiator. And he’s also a scoundrel. He tries to be good also, but he is a very brutal man. So there’s a dichotomy there. Alyra, my third main character, and she is a spy. She’s probably the most scoundrelly of them all. She’s a little sneaky.
JMW: Was it fun to be writing a sneaky female character?
Jon Sprunk: Oh definitely, especially in fantasy. There are wonderful women writers now more than there used to be, but I think that female characters don’t get enough face time on the screen as they should. So as my four [inaudible 00:05:27] characters two of them are female. That was by choice. I wanted to show more of both sides of the story.
JMW: Is this going to be another trilogy?
Jon Sprunk: Four books this time.
JMW: Okay, of all the four characters, do they each get their own book?
Jon Sprunk: No, no, they’re each all four, well, survive. We have them in each book, yeah.
JMW: Okay, so there’s a four book arc.
Jon Sprunk: Definitely.
JMW: Mesopotamia, Mash, assassins. How could they all be related to Star Wars?
Jon Sprunk: Everything is Star Wars. I don’t know, I heard that somewhere. I love the original movies, and I saw them at a tender age of 7-years-old the first time the first one came out. And it just . . . sometimes something like that makes an impact on you early as a child, and that one definitely did. So I think almost my storytelling at some point comes back to that hero’s journey and wanting to satisfy that arc of storytelling.
JMW: And doing it now is maybe a bit more of a challenge than before because you’re now a full-time writer . . .
Jon Sprunk: Yep.
JMW: . . . and a full-time stay-at-home dad.
Jon Sprunk: Yes.
JMW: How has your writing changed?
Jon Sprunk: I have less time. That’s the biggest thing is being able to condense a full day’s writing in like two hours in the evening. So that’s the biggest change, but he’ll be in school soon. So I’ll get my time back eventually.
JMW: Has your experience as a dad, has it influenced the plots or the characters or the situations or heroes fine themselves in?
Jon Sprunk: I think so. I think my first series, well, the first book “Shadow’s Son” I wrote before I was a father. And you can see he’s a very self-centered person, and Horace, the hero of “Blood and Iron” the tragedy before it starts he loses his wife and son in a fire. So I’m sure that I see . . . Well, it difficult now. Having a child lets you taste that part of life which you wouldn’t have known firsthand before maybe.
JMW: Yeah, it does change you in every way.
Jon Sprunk: Yeah, some good, some not so good.
JMW: Yeah, what are you working on now, book two of the “Blood and Iron“?
Jon Sprunk: Book two, yeah. It’s written. I’m revising it right now, and I’m looking for a title.
JMW: Oh, titles are hard.
Jon Sprunk: Well, I had one I liked, but the published decided they wanted something different. So now this weekend I’m brainstorming for titles.
JMW: Oh well.
Jon Sprunk: It’s killing me.
JMW: And you’re in the middle of a Con which can be pretty difficult.
Jon Sprunk: Yep.
JMW: Okay, I think we are just about at the end; however, there’s always the freebie question we give all of our interviewees.
Jon Sprunk: Okay.
JMW: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Jon Sprunk: Just thanks to those people who bought books. I appreciate the support, the attention, and I’m on Facebook and Twitter. So if you find me, say hi, I’m pretty friendly usually.
JMW: So great. Thank you, Jon, and thank you for BuzzyMag.com.
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.