Writing is a passion. Publishing is a business.


Interview with JAY KRISTOFF

Jay Kristoff is a Perth-born, Melbourne-based author. His first trilogy, THE LOTUS WAR, was purchased in the three-way auction by US publishing houses in 2011. He is as surprised about it as you are. The first installment, STORMDANCER, is set to be published in September 2012 in the US, UK and Australia. Jay is 6’7, has approximately 13870 days to live and does not believe in happy endings.

What are you reading right now?

I actually just finished WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN yesterday, so I’m totally between books atm. I think I’ll go back to the fantasy pile next, so maybe THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRINGHEEL JACK by Mark Hodder, or RAILSEA by China MiĆ©ville. I got all of China’s back catalogue from my 100% awesome UK publishers, but they’re all signed and I’m kinda afraid to read them in case I crack the spines. Which I realize is utterly ridiculous. They’re books for crissakes…

What first sparked your interest in writing?

I’d always written as a hobby, but for over ten years, writing was also my job (I worked in advertising), and the last thing you want to do after writing TV scripts all day is come home and work on a book. When I changed jobs, that freed me up to use my brainmeats to write something other than ads for toilet paper. But I’ve always loved writing, telling stories. Lying, basically. I very much enjoy lying.

What do you love the most about writing? The least?

The Most: that moment when you write something that makes the hairs on your arms stand up. Those brief and all too rare moments where it’s like the universe is telling you “Yeah, you can do this.”

The Least: Copyediting. Hunting for rogue commas and misused quotation marks, re-reading the same text over and over until it ceases to have meaning. I described it once as “like being bludgeoned to death with a bag of dicks.” I was quite proud of that one…

Tell us a little about your writing process.

I’m a total pantser. I’ll get an idea for a scene in my head and just run with it. The first scene I thought of for STORMDANCER was the hunt for the arashitora. A big sky-ship hunting a griffin in the middle of a lightning storm. The next books I’ll be working on in downtime (when I’m not doing books 2 and 3 of the LOTUS WAR) are all just embryonic scenes in my head atm. I’m stabby-envious of people who can plot meticulously – to have a grand plan and work towards it. It’s sometimes terrifying not knowing what comes next. But at the same time, you sometimes get these flashes of inspiration that totally surprise you – those moments in STORMDANCER are my favorite in the book.

What are your passions?

My bride. My books. My booze (hmm, how long can I stretch this “B” thing for). I’m a huge film buff and a colossal nerd. I’m also very passionate about issues like the environment, overpopulation, resource depletion. But I don’t talk about that very often because a) it’s depressing, and b) people find it very easy to write you off if they can label you with some kind of “-ist”.

Shenanigans, I say.

What inspires you?

Do you mean “where do I get inspiration for my books?” There’s no good answer for that. No writer knows where their ideas come from. Anyone who tells you they do is likely trying to sell you something. Probably a book called ”Where great ideas come from.” I sometimes tell people I get them “at the idea store,” because I’m something of a smartass, truth be told.

Why fantasy?

I’ve always loved it. I’ve always been a nerd. I still remember the feeling I got when I first read THE HOBBIT at 9 or 10 years old and realized there were books out there for “people like me.” I love the freedom it brings – the absence of rules, the complete lack of limitations it places on you as a writer. To be able to create a world that’s anything you want it to be – that’s a combination of time-travel hovercar awesome and panty-soiling terror.

How was STORMDANCER born?

It started as a dream I had. A little boy was standing in front of a griffin in a field of dead grass. The kid was screaming at the griffin to fly, but its wings were broken and it couldn’t get off the ground. That imagine – a griffin with broken wings – just stuck in my head. Which is a terribly boring story. If you can think of a better one, let’s run with that.

Just make me funny in it. And preferably handsome. Rich would be nice too.

Why did you choose to write a Japanese influenced story?

I wish I had a good answer for that. I could make up one about being the scion of a line of gaijin who travelled to Japan in the 19th century and learned the Ancient Art of Awesome… but that’d be pure lies.

I guess I wanted to write a steampunk book because I loved the aesthetic, but European-based steampunk seemed like it had already been done a lot, and done very well. The world had some incredible cultures in the 19th century, and I think fantasy is already shamefully guilty of a European focus.

Plus, you know, chainsaw katanas…

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Other people’s belief in your abilities is lovely, but optional. Your belief in your abilities is mandatory.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

Just that I feel very grateful and lucky to be here. Thanks for sharing the ride.