Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Interview with J.P. Oakes, author of City of Iron and Dust

Please welcome J.P. Oakes to The Qwillery as part of the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. City of Iron and Dust is published on July 6, 2021 by Titan Books.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing J.P. a Happy Book Birthday!

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

JPO:  When I was 4 or 5, I remember writing a one-page story about The Milky Bar kid who was in TV ads, and who seemed pretty cool to me at the time. I’m fairly sure there was an illustration involved as well.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

JPO:  A plotter. At least from a narrative perspective. If I know how a scene opens and ends, and what critical information needs to be relayed that gives me the space to explore character, themes, and dialogue with that frame. For example, I’ll know a fight is going to happen, and who’s going to win, but I don’t know exactly how the fight is going to play out.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

JPO:  Balancing the flow of information to the reader. Going into a project knowing everything about the backstory and motives, it’s tough to judge exactly when a reveal needs to be made, and what information has to be conveyed at what point. But my agent and editors help immeasurably with that.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

JPO: This might be a bit of a cop out answer, but I have a hard time thinking of things that haven’t influenced my writing. Books I read, TV shows I watch, games I play, politics, parenting, memes on social media… it’s all material, it all goes into the hopper. In broad strokes, I like New Weird, noir, fantasy, action-adventures. I think some of that shows through.

TQDescribe City of Iron and Dust using only 5 words.

JPO:  Goblins. Fae. Revolution. Drugs. Magic.

TQ:  Tell us something about City of Iron and Dust that is not found in the book description.

JPO:  The books pretty ambitious in its themes. Along the way I think I touch on capitalism, racism, and the redemptive power of art, among a fair few other things.

TQWhat inspired you to write City of Iron and Dust?

JPO:  Fundamentally, my kids and the phrase “Make America Great Again.” Over the past few years, there seems to have been a lot of looking back at a sort of 1950s golden age that never existed. Meanwhile, where I see hope, is when I look at the youth of today, and the generations to come. There’s so much progressive energy in Generation Z that fills me with joy, and I wanted to put those two forces against each other.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for City of Iron and Dust?

JPO:  Virtually none, I’m afraid. A little bit into the different types of fae, but I’ve taken enough liberties that it may not show.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for City of Iron and Dust.

JPO:  The cover doesn’t show a precise scene from the book. Rather, it’s a more evocative design piece by Julia Lloyd. I think she did an amazing job capturing the oppressive feel of the Iron City that’s at the heart of this book.

TQIn City of Iron and Dust who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

JPO:  I have a character, Granny Spregg, who’ the deposed matriarch of a goblin house, who was an absolute joy to write. She foul-mouthed, and sarcastic, and wickedly clever, and whatever the thing you absolutely definitely shouldn’t say was exactly what she’d say. As someone who always struggles with a filter, that was fun. Meanwhile, Edwyll, who is a very earnest fae looking to transform the city through art was a much harder note for me to hit. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person…

TQDoes City of Iron and Dust touch on any social issues?

JPO:  Yes it does. For me, the Iron City—the city where the whole story takes place—is a metaphor for America, and the struggles and battles that are occurring in it right now. So, a lot of social ideas made their way into the book, or, at least, they did for me. Whether they translate to the reader or not, I can’t be sure, but even if they don’t hopefully there’s a fun story there for everyone anyway.

TQWhich question about City of Iron and Dust do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

JPO:  The question I’d loved to be asked is: has an awesome metal band written a song inspired by your book? Because, yes, they have! The black/death metal band Ashen Horde is releasing a track called “Archaic Convictions” inspired by the book, and it is absurdly cool. Check it out on bandcamp when you have a chance.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from City of Iron and Dust.


“A bouncer hulks in a doorway—the type with more knuckles than IQ points”

“Bravery, in his opinion, is just stupidity that happens to benefit others”

TQWhat's next?

JPO:  That’s a little up in the air right now. Writing has been slowed by the pandemic, but I have two dark fantasy projects I’m working on at the moment. Hopefully something good will happen with one of them.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

JPO:  Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for the thoughtful questions.

City of Iron and Dust
Titan Books, July 6, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
“A fantastic book, full of wit and sharp humor, City of Iron and Dust careens through a modernized faerie at a breakneck pace, full of verve and unforgettable characters. Oakes spins a smart, electric, and sometimes snarky tale, showing that the beating heart of modern fantasy is alive and well.” – John Hornor Jacobs, author of A Lush and Seething Hell and The Incorruptibles

The Iron City is a prison, a maze, an industrial blight. It is the result of a war that saw the goblins grind the fae beneath their collective boot heels. And tonight, it is also a city that churns with life. Tonight, a young fae is trying to make his fortune one drug deal at a time; a goblin princess is searching for a path between her own dreams and others’ expectations; her bodyguard is deciding who to kill first; an artist is hunting for his own voice; an old soldier is starting a new revolution; a young rebel is finding fresh ways to fight; and an old goblin is dreaming of reclaiming her power over them all. Tonight, all their stories are twisting together, wrapped up around a single bag of Dust—the only drug that can still fuel fae magic—and its fate and theirs will change the Iron City forever.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : Kobo

About J.P. Oakes

J.P. Oakes is a writer and creative director living on Long Island, where he drinks too much tea, overthinks dumb action movies, and indulges in profound nerdery. Follow him on social media @jp_oakes for flash fiction and thoughts on the writing process, or if you want to engage someone for many long hours on the topic of Bioware Games.

Website  ~  Twitter @jp_oakes


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