TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Jay: I suppose I should keep quiet about the whole “writing naked” thing…
I guess my biggest quirk is that I write anywhere and everywhere. I write in my car if I get to work early. I write in traffic jams. I wrote most of Stormdancer on my lunchbreaks in some random meeting room. Love my laptop.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Jay: William Gibson. Stephen King. Alan Moore. Phillip K Dick. Robin Hobb. China Miéville. George Orwell. Neil Gaiman.
I think stylistically, I’m pretty close to Gibson’s orbit. I like me some sentence fragments, I do. Not such a fan of rules.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Jay: Mostly pantser. I’ve had to plot far more heavily in the latter stages the Lotus War trilogy (I’m currently doing draft 2 of book 3) to ensure everything ties together in a pretty blood-stained bow at the end of things. But I enjoy pantsing. I like surprising myself. My favourite twists in Stormdancer are the ones I didn’t know were going to happen until I wrote them.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Jay: Copy editing. Looking for stray commas and ensuring we’re using the right quotation marks and did we capitalize that title in chapter three I can’t remember and I’ve read this thing aloud three times now and the words are ceasing to have any meaning and I’ve become some kind of hideous grammarshoggoth stalking rogue semi-colons through this vast waste of Times New Roman and if it goes on much longer my eyes will almost certainly flee screaming from my sockets and you get the idea.
TQ: Describe Stormdancer in 140 characters or less.
Jay: “Telepathic samurai girls and griffins in steampunk feudal Japan”
(The setting for the book isn’t actually Japan - Shima is a completely fictional place. But you get the idea)
TQ: What inspired you to write Stormdancer?
Jay: The inspiration for Stormdancer is all around us. The things we’re doing to this planet we live on and the creatures we share it with. And I don’t want to sound like some rabid environmentalist on a soapbox – Stormdancer is first and foremost an adventure story and a telepathic girl and her best friend, who just happens to be a two-ton griffin. But the book does kinda hold up a dirty mirror to our own planet and what we’re doing to it.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Stormdancer?
Jay: Drank lots of saké. Ate pocky until my eyes bled. Had my friends yell curse words at me in Japanese while I trawled Wikipedia and watched anime. Read old Japanese fiction. Watched Seven Samurai around 3,000 times. Slept with all six volumes of AKIRA under my pillow.
My neck hasn’t recovered yet. Those things are thick.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Jay: Buruu (the griffin) was easiest, probably because he talks in all-caps, all the time. There’s something about hitting capslock before you type a sentence that makes the words flow easier. Capslock is the cruise-control for awesome. Even the most ridiculous sentiment is made better by it. Observe:
IT IS A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED, THAT A SINGLE MAN IN POSSESSION OF A GOOD FORTUNE MUST BE IN WANT OF A WIFE.
Probably why trolls are so rife on the internet.
The hardest was probably Masaru, Yukiko’s father. I had to strike a balance with him – make a guy who is essentially just a worthless deadbeat drug-addicted bastard of a father into someone the audience could still get behind and sympathise with. He didn’t use any capslock, either.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Stormdancer?
Jay: I have a couple.
There’s a scene where Yukiko and Buruu are fighting a mob of demons and their thoughts truly merge for the first time. The words are kinda tumbling over each other as the lines between the two characters blur – you can’t quite tell which of them is doing what. It was really difficult to write, but I think it doesn’t suck.
Also, the last chapter. I can’t say anything about it, but you’ll know when it happens.
TQ: What's next?
Jay: I get edit notes back on book 2 very soon, which I’m really looking forward to. The problems and conflicts only get bigger in the later books, and I’m having a hell of a lot of fun with it. But I realize it’s not fair to talk about that since most people haven’t even read Stormdancer yet.
But for those of you who are planning to – thanks very much. :-)
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Jay: Thanks for having me, it was fun!
The Lotus War 1
Thomas Dunne Books, September 18, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
The first in an epic new fantasy series, introducing an unforgettable new heroine and a stunningly original dystopian steampunk world with a flavor of feudal Japan.
A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
A HIDDEN GIFT
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.
Jay is 6’7, has approximately 13870 days to live and does not believe in happy endings.
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I noticed in your list of writers there is no steampunk. So, why this story? How much steampunk did you read before starting Stormdancer?