Friday, April 10, 2015

Exclusive interview with Seth Skorkowsky! II

We have an extra-special guest today with author SETH SKORKOWSKY, who is returning to our website from a previous interview. Seth is the author of the urban fantasy series Valducan and has recently released a second novel in the series, Hounacier.

He's also started a new sword and sorcery series called Tales of the Black Raven with its first volume being called Mountain of Daggers. We'll be discussing both series today and getting some insights into his process.

You can read our review of Mountain of Daggers here and our review of Hounacier here.

1. What is the premise for Mountain of Daggers?

Mountain of Daggers is a Sword & Sorcery collection that follows a thief named Ahren who finds himself pressed into the service of a mafia-style organization. The stories follow his rise from being a lowly pickpocket into a master thief over the course of eleven adventures.

2. What separates Mountain of Daggers from other fantasy works?

The biggest difference between it and more modern fantasy is that it’s a series instead of a novel. I prefer to think of it as a Season 1. The majority of the stories can be read as standalones, while reading them as a series paints a deeper narrative. It’s very much a throwback to the older pulp adventures that were published separately and later assembled into a book. In fact, several of the stories were previously published in magazines.

3. Can you tell us about its protagonist?

Ahren, is extremely clever and is loyal to a fault. His problems begin with his loyalty leading him to accept a job that he doesn’t trust. Once he enters the service of his organization we see that while his thieving skills are certainly great, his wits are his greatest asset.

4. The book is a very 'old-school' Sword and Sorcery-type collection of short-stories. What inspired you to write in that format?


Honestly, it came about by accident rather than initial design. The first story, The Birth of The Black Raven, was written as a standalone with an open ending as Ahren realizes that he’s been forced into this criminal organization. A year or so later, after visiting Venice, I wrote a second story, Race for the Night Ruby, in which Ahen is now a master thief that is called in for a difficult job. After that, I filled in what happened between those stories and continued on with a series.
My original plan was to sell the individual stories to different magazines, and eventually assemble them much as the old Fritz Leiber or R.E. Howard stories were. I sold a total of six stories to Flashing Swords Magazine. They published three of them before the magazine folded.

5. There's a lot of dissonance between Ahren's reputation as the Black Raven and his actual skill level. Was this deliberate?


It was. In the beginning, Ahen is framed for a murder. The real killer paints a picture of Ahren that is completely untrue. When the Tyenee take him in, they play on that undeserved reputation because it strikes fear into people. But as the book continues, he evolves into that persona and eventually becomes much greater than it.

6. Can we expect more Tales from the Black Raven?


You can. The second collection, Sea of Quills, will be released this October. In the meantime I’ve writing new ones, hopefully to find homes in various magazines and anthologies.

 7. What is the premise of Hounacier?

Hounacier follows a demon hunter named Malcolm Romero that returns to his home of New Orleans to investigate the murder of his adopted father. In order to catch the killer he has to navigate through the Voodoo culture. Unlike Dämoren, which was an action/thriller, Hounacier is a mystery/horror.

8. Can you tell us a bit about its protagonist?


Malcolm is a leader. He’s always worked with groups of people and he places a lot of pressure on himself to protect those around him. He’s also a bit of a hot-head. The story forces Malcolm to work alone, something far outside his comfort zone and he also has to learn to play politics within the Voodoo community.

9. Why switch protagonists from Matt Hollis, star of Dämoren?


The Valducan series has a huge cast of knights and their individual holy weapons. While I love Matt, much of his mystery is solved by the end of Dämoren. I could easily continue with him, but it’s much more interesting to explore the other characters, their strengths and weaknesses, and keep everything fresh. It would be such a waste of potential to focus solely on one character.

10. How do the two protagonists differ?

They’re mirrors of one another. Matt is a lone-wolf that has lived his entire life under society’s radar. He shows up in a town, eliminates the monster, and is gone before anyone knows he was there. Matt knows pop culture and many of his experiences he relates to through movies. Malcolm is used to working in teams and often takes control of them. He has a family and a home town. He’s highly educated and has seen the world, but he lacks the social skills that Matt has honed, while pop culture references go over his head.

Their relationships with their weapons and powers are very different as well. Matt knows he’s unique and he seeks to discover what he is. Malcolm, however, is running from what he is. He’s a very powerful and feared priest, but he’s tried to hide from it. His conflict comes from his having to face and embrace that.

11. What sort of changes does Hounacier bring to the Valducan order and its perception of the supernatural?


Dämoren'
s revelations deal with the nature of holy weapons, what they really are, and where they come from. Hounacier reveals more about the demons, letting us interact with them as something other than pure monsters.

12. What separates this book from its predecessors?


Hounacier is much more of an intimate story than Dämoren. Dämoren is a lot of action and saving the world. Hounacier’s stakes are personal. We focus on one hero as he’s pushed deeper and deeper into a nightmare world and the stakes are his soul. With the world being at stake in Dämoren, the reader has a comfort that they good guys will likely win. But with Hounacier, the hero could easily die and the world will go on, so the reader doesn’t have the comfort that it will all work out.

13. Voodoo plays a central role in the book. How did you prepare for the religion's incorporation and what did you want to achieve by doing so?


I did quite a lot of research on the Voodoo religion, and wanted to show it in a different light than the Hollywood myths that we’re all familiar with. My goal was to depict it not as evil or dark, but simply as a different religion. I did take a few liberties for the story’ sake, but my biggest goal was to keep it respectful.

14. What can we expect from future entries in the series?


Currently I’m working on the third novel, Ibenus. It’ll be closer to Dämoren as far as the action and larger cast, but it’s still going to be a very different kind of story. I’m also working on a series of short stories from the Valducan Archives that all take place before the events of Dämoren. The first of those, The Vampire of Somerset, should be coming out this summer through Emby Press.

Thanks for answering our questions!

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