TNA: Hello, John and J.G., welcome to The Novel Approach, and thanks for being here with us today. Why don’t we start by having you each tell us a little bit about yourselves, things we don’t know about you: hobbies, interests, shoe size? You know, important stuff.
John: Um, I role play Champions, which is like D&D but superheroes and have been for over twenty years now, I like sci fi, fantasy, anything nerdy and I am there and 10 ½. Wait, what kind of interview is this?
J.G.: I love to drive. Alone. I’ve been cross country (well at least as far as southern Arizona from Western New York) at least 15 times. I take pictures – lots of pictures (I love the digital age). And I read a lot everything from fantasy to geology and paleontology. Oh! Shoe size: 9 ½ (I almost left that out!!! )
TNA: John, what was your first published novel? If you could go back in time to the moment you started writing it, what advice would you give yourself now that you have the benefit of experience? Have you gone back and read it since its release and wish you’d done some things differently?
John: Well Tales from Foster High was written as three different novellas so the actual first, I am going to sit down and write a full novel was Distant Rumblings, book one in the Lords of Arcadia series and the first book Harmony Press released. I wouldn’t give myself any advice because I would have been so freaked out by a time traveling me that I would forget th book and just ask me a lot of questions about the next season of Doctor Who.
TNA: J.G., The Unseen Tempest is the first Arcadia novel you’re being credited as co-authoring. Are you nervous, excited? Tell us a little bit about the collaborative process on this series. Has it been as much fun to write as it is to read?
J.G.: I’m stunned, I think. And then I’m excited! Followed rapidly by more ‘stunned’ sautéed in disbelief. With hyperventilating a la mode for dessert. John, did we collaborate? Hmm…Yup, I think we did. A little nagging, a lot of questions and here’s the result!
TNA: What’s your favorite thing about being an author? How about the least favorite?
John: I love writing, love making stories, love watching a world form around me. It is like watching a holodeck make a landscape around you and when you do it right, you can just feel it. You can see the color of the walls and smell the air…nothing like it. The least? Hmmm that is hard because so far there hasn’t been a bad part yet.
J.G.: I’m still figuring that out, but I do like being able to build a story that’s three steps right and up a half step from the world outside the covers of a book. As far as my least favorite? I don’t think I have one. Yet.
TNA: I’ve heard some authors say they never read reviews of their work because they feel reviews are for readers, not for authors. Do you pay attention to reviews? Do you agree or disagree with that statement, and why?
John: I always read my reviews because sometimes what people say is incredibly important. For example I read a review for the first Tales from Foster High book and the reader said she didn’t like the third part of the book that much because there wasn’t a lot of interaction between Brad and Kyle in it and she was right! So in End of the Innocence I out the date at Nancy’s in there just for her, because she was right and had a great point. Of course there are people who do not get what the book is about, like the ones who complained about Foster High cause it was so high school.
Um…yeah! It is in high school, what did you want them to do defuse a nuclear bomb?
TNA: What are you feelings about sex in Young Adult fiction? Do you feel there’s a place for it, and if so, do you feel there’s a definitive line in what should and shouldn’t be portrayed on the page?
John: I think that if the characters are going to have sex then let them have sex, but if this was a TV show would we see it? If it was a show for kids we all know they wouldn’t. I write my books so that they can be carried in libraries of high schools and junior highs which means graphic displays of homosexual sex is not only not needed but not wanted.
J.G.: John has said it all; I completely agree with him.
TNA: Let’s talk a little bit about The Unseen Tempest. First, share with readers, if you will, how you came up with the idea for the Arcadia series, which is a very different set of books from the Foster High books.
John: I had read Jasper Fforde’s series Next Thursday ( a must read for any book nut, trust me on this it will change the way you look at books) and I was obsessed with all these literary characters knowing each other outside of the books. So I ran with that idea, trying to connect all of these literary worlds together without ever altering the content of the books they came from.
TNA: J.G., when you got hold of Distant Rumblings to beta, what were your initial thoughts? Did you know John was on to something special and different in LGBT YA fantasy?
J.G.: I knew the minute I started reading. Interesting thing about John’s work – after several pages, you look up and realize that you’ve effortlessly made the transition between the world outside the covers of the book and the worlds inside the covers.
There a lot of really good things that John does when he writes. Creating worlds and populating them with real characters is one. Making sure that there is an intriguing, balanced (well, as balanced as John gets…) story is another. Sounds pretty basic, but it’s not, especially when the category is LGBT young adult literature. That John pulls it off is one of the things that I admire the most about his writing.
TNA: It seems like you’ve had a lot of fun telling these stories, invoking everyone from Shakespeare to C.S. Lewis to L. Frank Baum to Lewis Carroll to, if I’m not mistaking, even paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin and Genie from Aladdin. You’ve also brought some biblical dogma into the dialogue. This is a broad framework of sources! How did you go about picking and choosing where to draw your ideas from?
John: Well I sat down when I started and wrote up the nine worlds and what was on them and what books series would come from there. Some were an obvious no go like Lord of the Rings since the Tolkien estate do not like people telling stories about their characters. So I stayed with a lot of public domain stories and then implied on some others without ever really saying they are that actual book or not.
TNA: J.G., has it been fun for you to decipher all those references? Do you have a favorite? If so, which one?
J.G.: Hmmmm…..the references drove me berserk. That’s John’s tremendous strength and I’m scrambling to figure out how he does it. But I loved the entire Alice in Wonderland cross reference, especially Milo the White Rabbit and him finding time.
TNA: Kane is a little sassy, isn’t he? A little sarcastic? Would you say he or Hawk is most like you, and why?
John: LOL my mouth is way more Kane I am afraid. The stuff that comes out of his mouth is all me most of the time where Hawk is just too damn pretty to be me. Though I do wish.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from The Unseen Tempest with us?
Blurb: Kane used to be a normal boy with normal worries. Now he fights alongside his boyfriend, Hawk, and an unlikely group of allies as they attempt to reclaim Hawk’s throne and save the Nine Realms. With time running out, Hawk decides to raise an army against the evil shapeshifter, Puck, and his army of The Dark. The adventurers split up in search of a force that will join their cause and help restore order to the Nine Realms.
New allies aren’t as easy to find as they hoped. Kane, Hawk, and their friends face unforeseen danger as centuries-old grudges threaten their quest. Nothing is what they thought it was, and Kane and Hawk must find the truth in time to defend against Puck’s encroaching army. But the truth about who their true foe is will change everything.
Excerpt: Very few places in the Nine Realms can be described as pristine or untouched.
In the span of all known time, nearly every place in existence has been observed and changed by some outside agency. It is in the living’s nature to change what they find into something else; consider it part of our celestial DNA. We are always changing what we find into what we want.
But there are places that are considered sacrosanct to anyone who lays eyes on them. These locations are rare, and all have considerable history behind them. The number of sites varies from realm to realm, but every realm has at least one.
In the Realm of the Earth it is called Kh’zdule’s Crown, and it’s the highest point in Djupur Byrjun.
Located in the mountains of Pordan, the highest peak is called Gott’s Ascent, and it is considered a holy place by the realm’s dwarven population. The rumor is that this very spot was where Gott, the dwarven god, had crafted and thrown the world in its entirety before firing it in his massive kiln. Most importantly, the peak was the last place Gott had set foot on before ascending to a higher plane.
Kane and his companions were the first beings other than dwarves to visit the spot. They were also the first visitors, dwarf or nondwarf, to bring a dead body with them.
The wind and snow made visibility all but impossible, but if one could see through the cacophony of weather, they would see Ferra phase through the stone peak, followed by Ruber. Neither one spoke as they quickly got to work. Ruber pushed his field outward, until it encompassed a diameter no greater than thirty feet.
One second the peak was buffeted by blinding gales of subzero winds and snow; the next the air was clear and as still as a church.
Ferra nodded at him. She closed her eyes and concentrated, sending warmth against the cold, rapidly heating the small space Ruber had carved. Seconds later, Adamas and the rest of the party stepped through the stone as well. The group of beings assembled inside Ruber’s sphere was the largest ever to stand where Gott had walked. The gem king had moved them five and a half miles straight up through the mountain, saving them a climb that would have normally taken months. Ferra extended her aura of warmth to its limits, while Ruber kept the usual environment at bay, making the area barely survivable. The wind screamed at them from the other side of the barrier, but inside it was quiet.
“Dammit!” Kane exclaimed as soon as they passed through the stone and became tangible again. He hugged himself and began to shiver as his body tried to process the sudden plunge in temperature. “I-I thought you were g-gonna make it warm!”
Ferra didn’t spare the human a look as she kept her eyes closed and did her best to strengthen her warmth. “This is as warm as I can make it.” Her light blue skin had begun to reform itself over the living ice that made up her body, making her look like she had been recently torn apart by wild animals. Over the past few days it had been an unappealing sight for the young human, but he was happy to see his friend getting better.
“Here,” Hawk said, slipping one arm out of his jacket and extending it over Kane’s shoulder. Almost instantly the coldness vanished.
Before Kane could ask how that was possible, memories provided the answer. The memories were Hawk’s, but he realized they had come to him exactly as his own memories would have. The jacket was enchanted to be protection against all environments, warm in the cold, cool in blazing heat. It had been a gift to Hawk on his fourteenth birthday from Oberon. Even as a teenager, Hawk had known the jacket had been commissioned by his mother, since Oberon had never expressed any compassion toward his son.
Kane mentally pulled away from his boyfriend’s mind as the overwhelming rush of information became too personal for him. Learning the processes and boundaries of mental bonding was an ongoing task for both of them. Neither was sure how far was too far, or if there was a “too far” at all.
Hawk looked over at him and smiled in understanding.
“Will this suffice?” Ruber asked once it was obvious they had all arrived safely.
A shrug was all the answer Ater gave as he put the body of his lover down on the frozen ground. It was bundled completely in basilisk leather, inscribed with sigils of power that prevented the contents from decomposing any more than they had, a gift from the Crystal Court. Adamas had offered to bury Pullus in the royal crypt, an honor that had never been offered to any nongemling in history, but Ater had politely refused.
Actually, he had apathetically refused, but no one had commented on it at the time.
Dark elf tradition stated that their dead were to be taken to the highest point possible, where their bodies would be burned and their ashes allowed to drift across the clouds and either ascend to Koran, the elven god, or fall back to the realms and be reborn as something new. Normally, Ater would have brought his partner back to Faearth and the elven lands to do this, but Puck had made that impossible.
“Should someone say something?” Molly asked, her brass body completely unphased by the change in temparture. “I am unaware of the customs of elven burial.”
Ater, who had not once taken his eyes off the body since he had picked it up, said nothing in response.
Adamas waited a few seconds before speaking in a voice that was deep and laced with authority. “The dark elf Pullus was a brave soul….”
“He was a fool!” Ater proclaimed, uttering the first words in weeks. “He was a damned fool.” He slowly stood up and took a half step away from the body. “And it’s my fault he is dead.” Turning his head to Ruber, he said, “Do it.”
A glow began to emanate from the ruby, and Ferra opened her eyes.
“No!” she protested. The temperature in the area dipped a few degrees before she could focus her energies again. “He cannot be sent to Logos without a prayer.”
Ater didn’t as much blink as he replied, “I don’t even know who the hell Logos is; neither did Pullus. Why would Pullus be heading to him or her?”
“Someone’s etiquette spring needs winding,” Molly muttered quietly.
“Please,” Ferra implored the elf. “Let me say a small prayer.”
Ater stared at the barbarian for almost a minute, his eyes lightless, his gaze unfocused. Finally he shrugged again and said, “It doesn’t matter what you do. He’s dead.” He said “dead” as if the word burned him, and a faint shudder moved through his frame. He stepped as far away from the corpse as he could while still remaining under the cover of magic.
Ferra took a step forward and took a deep breath.
“Oh Logos most merciful, Lord of the Realms, we ask that you receive this child into your arms, that he might pass in safety through this crisis. As thou hast told us with infinite compassion, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled. In my Father’s house are many rooms.’ I ask you to prepare a place for him. And though his life mate may not yet be with him, please ensure he is never alone and that when it is his Other self’s turn, he may find him again. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for you are with us; your hand and your life, they comfort us. Amen.”
Tears stung Kane’s and Hawk’s eyes as the meaning of the words touched their hearts. Molly dabbed her eyes out of courtesy for the occasion, even though she could not cry. If the gems felt anything, they didn’t express it outwardly. Ater kept his face averted from the rest of them.
Ferra looked at Ruber and nodded silently.
A beam of red flared from Ruber, followed by one of pure white energy from Adamas. The body burst into flames instantly, and before three minutes had passed, only a heap of ashes remained. Ater’s shoulders shuddered just once, all the reaction he would let any of them see. Ruber opened two small holes in his field for half a second, allowing the ashes to be taken by the winds and thrown out beyond the peak.
Silently, they watched them scatter
TNA: Have there been any instances as you were writing the series that you’ve wished some of the things you imagined were a real world possibility? If so, what? What are some of the things you’re very glad are only figments of your imagination?
John: Oh I wish Kyle was real, I wish Brad was real and I really wish Hawk was real. I think all writers write their dream men in one way or another.
J.G.: I’d go with wishing Ater and Brad and Kyle were real. And, of course, Kane and Hawk. Diabolo and the Choppers – shiver – can remain in the Otherwhen of fantasy. But I’d like to meet Ruber. And, for entire different reasons (eyes narrow) I’d like to meet Oberon. At the top of a flight of stairs. In a dark hallway. There I go AGAIN! John’s characters really come to life for a reader.
TNA: Have you ever finished reading a book and thought, wow, I wish I’d written that? If so, which book was it, and what about it impressed you the most?
John: Every single thing Neil Gaiman writes. It is his effortless ability to make a whole world come from nothing and then make it dance in a way that no other writer has the ability to do. I hate him so much.
J.G.: Charles de Lint, especially Moonheart and Spirit Walk. Any of the Dragonriders of Pern books. Or all of them. Any of Diane Duane’s Young Wizard Series. (Yes, I am a firm believer in reading Young Adult literature as much as possible.) . The common ground among all of them is each writer’s ability to create worlds that are alive, that can exist. And that have story upon story to tell.
TNA: Would you care to share a little information on your current WIPs with us?
John: I just finished Going the distance Book One, a story of a confused basketball player named Danny Monroe who is trying to figure out what in life is going to make him happy. Being gay or being a basketball player. It is the first of a three part series, each book taking place in another part of his life, the first will be high school, the next college.
I am very happy to report than I am more than ten thousand words into the next Tales from Foster High book called When I Grow Up and am loving it.
J.G.: I’m too new at this, so I’ll demur.
TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?
J.G.: I’m still creating a presence of the internet, at this point.
TNA: Thank you both again for being our guests today, and for taking the time to answer my questions.
The Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED