Three Flavours of Binge-Worthy SFF Podcasts

Three Flavours of Binge-Worthy SFF Podcasts


Firefly – The Big Damn Cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel

Firefly – The Big Damn Cookbook

Cookbook Review

6th Annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: An Introduction to the SPFBO

6th Annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

An Introduction to the SPFBO


Jon Sprunk Interview

Jon Sprunk, Jon Sprunkauthor of the Shadow Saga—presently Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure and the upcoming Shadow’s Master (slated for 2012)—is one of the latest writers to really sink his teeth into the grittier, darker side of fantasy fiction. As the trend for grey-not-white heroes settles itself on centre-stage, much like a idly confident cat, content to preen itself whilst people fawn over its silky fur from stages left and right, drawn in by its attractiveness, yet taken aback by its penetrating stare, people are beginning to get used to—and indeed, grow to really, really love—protagonists that are as far removed from the Paladin archetype as dragons are from My Little Pony.

For readers unfamiliar with Jon’s work, as well as receiving a great measure of praise in reviews from Goodreads, to Amazon—and on reader blogs in the fuzzy space between (including my personal review, available here) —Shadow’s Son was nominated for the David Gemmell Legend award (in both the Legend, and Morningstar categories), and although it didn’t win, the dual-nomination is a decent feather with impressive plumage to add to his writerly cap, standing next to fantasy giants such as Brandon Sanderson, Terry Brooks, and Robin Hobb.

Before we move onto the actual interview with the man himself, here’s a brief and proper introduction to Jon’s work:

Caim is an assassin with a dark past, a past he neither fully grasps nor understands. Haunted by images and memories of the night his father was murdered and his childhood bathed in blood, despite the desire, the need to comprehend what happened—and just why he has an affinity, almost a command over the Shadows—Caim is grudgingly content to get on with his life in Othir, away from his presumed Northern roots.

When a job goes south and Caim finds himself in the firing line, he thrusts himself—with little choice otherwise—into the heart of a dark mystery that reaches deeper into the foundations of the city, and to loftier heights that he ever expected.

Little does he know, the bloody trouble he’s been sucked into might just give him the first clues he needs, coupled with his patchy memories of that night, to delve into the mysteries of his past, and moreover, his power.

Whilst some answers are given in Shadow’s Son, Caim’s journey is far from over, as far more questions are raised, and as Caim becomes more intent on discovering the truth behind his father’s death, his power and his heritage, his story grows darker, grittier and far more urgent than Caim himself could imagine.

Hopefully having whetted a few appetites and nudged people into buying Jon’s books, I hope you find the following insight into the man and his work inspiring and moreover, a damn enjoyable read.

So, as a good introduction—as a writer and a person—who is “Jon Sprunk”?

Wow, an easy one right off the bat. He’s a husband, father, and recently a full-time fantasy writer. He also makes a pretty good chili.

Did you always want to write fantasy? Why that particular genre?

Yeah, fantasy has been my favorite genre to read since I was little, so it felt natural to write in it also. Fantasy is an evocative genre, able to show powerful emotional states and ideas without shame.

Before you sold the Shadow series to Pyr Books, you’d sold a number of short stories here and there; were these SFF shorts, and if so, did you write them because ideas simply came, or to build up your “writerly portfolio”?

Shadow’s Son (cover)Yes, most of them were fantasy stories. Some also had a strong horror slant. I wrote them to build my technical skills as well as my reputation. Sometimes an idea for a short story will just come to me, but mainly my creativity tends toward novel-length works.

If you were to sum up the Shadow series in a nutshell, how would you describe it?

No man is an island.

Did the plot for the Shadow series come as a whole, or, did you discover parts as you went along?

The main arc of the series came to me all at once, but only in very simplistic terms. I had to discover the actual events which comprised that arc and put them together.

Caim is a brilliant example of how protagonists have been getting darker (and more realistic as a result, perhaps?). How important was it to you to write about a distinctively “grey” character, and was it a conscious decision, or did he just turn out that way?

I knew I wanted a scoundrel for a main character, but I wasn’t consciously playing in the “dark hero” sandbox. I just wanted a realistic character. Caim actually became kinder and more “human” during the writing process.

How hard is it to write a darker character realistically, whilst keeping the balance between the good and bad aspects of his character?

It can become quite difficult because genuinely dark characters will make self-destructive choices. You eventually end up with an unrealistic portrayal of a person, a caricature, or a very unlikeable character that no one wants to read about. So it’s a balancing act.

Presently, Shadow’s Son is out, and Shadow’s Lure literally just landed in the UK: how much of the whole story at the heart of the series has been revealed, and what can readers expect from the third and final book of the series?

Shadow's Lure (cover)That’s a tough one to answer because I’m so focused the journey. The third and final book, Shadow’s Master, is going to have some big reveals to be sure as Caim gets closer and closer to the heart of his dilemma. I don’t want to spoil it, but the finale is a bumpy ride as Caim (and I) pull out all the stops. It’s not for the squeamish.

What influences your work, not limited to books or other writers?

Movies. Some of my favorites are The Seven Samurai, the original Star Wars trilogy, The Godfather (I and II), and the Lord of the Rings films.

Music. I’m a metal fan from the 80s, so I love all that stuff. Maiden, Priest, (old) Metallica, Omen, Dio. I often listen to it when I write, which might be why my scenes are so violent.

You can take five books to the moon with you (the “desert island” is a little old!), what are they?

Anna Karenina, Stranger In a Strange Land, The Black Company, The Lord of the Rings, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

Who is your personal favourite author—and if you can’t narrow, then top three?

Living or dead? Glen Cook, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft

After studying for a BA in English, you set out to become a “serious writer”, as you put it, but failed to find a publisher for your first novel—having now written the Shadow series, looking back, can you see what you did wrong? Do you think most aspiring writers make the same sorts of mistakes?

When I started, I didn’t have a grasp of the basics. I was just regurgitating my favorite books. But that’s a phase of becoming a writer. You have to experiment and see how other writers do it before you find your own footing.

You struggled along solo in your writing before finally joining a writers’ group; how helpful was this and how much of an impact did it have on Shadow as a finished, “publishable” product in your eyes?

Being in a writing group gave me a chance to see what worked and what didn’t, and that’s the first hurdle I needed to cross before I could lay the foundation for my own style. I started work on Shadow’s Son after leaving that group, but the lessons had already sunk in. I knew I could tell a coherent, convincing story. I just had to prove it to the world.

Do you think online writers’ groups offer the same benefits and aid as offline, “physical” groups?

I’ve never tried one, so I’m hesitant to say. I prefer face-to-face interaction, but maybe I’m just old-school.

You say on your website you were “crushed” and thought your “dreams were over” when you encountered rejection trying to publish your first novel; what made you soldier on, keep writing, despite the knocks? Any advice to others struggling with rejection?

Jon Sprunk (detail)It wasn’t easy. As recently as 2008 I was seriously considering hanging up the pursuit of a book contract. But I had a lot of people who believed in me, so I soldiered on.

To those struggling to keep going: ignore the instant success stories you read about, the people who got a book deal with their very first manuscript and it goes on to be a bestseller, yada-yada. You have better odds of hitting the lottery. Instead, take heart in the vast majority of writers who worked hard for many years, finally got a break, and then slowly built up their career.

When the Shadow series is complete, what’s next? Any insight into what the next project will be like?

I have an entirely new series in the planning stage. It will be a more epic storyline mixed with S&S sensibilities. “Conan and Elric meet the Malazan Book of the Fallen.” I can’t say much more than that at this point.

Thank you for your time! Before we close, just for fun, do you have a favourite quote from either of the books already published?

“Why is it that if a lord or a king sends you to kill a man, it’s somehow noble? But if you do this for yourself, it’s murder.” –Caim, Shadow’s Son

Thank you very much.

We’d like to thank Mr. Sprunk again for taking time out to speak with us. You can learn more about the Shadow Saga on his website or follow him on Twitter.


One Comment

  1. Avatar Jason sprunk says:

    Hello I just wanted to say how strange it is to see someone with my last name, specially with that kind of name.. But I love it, I love my last name,, of course I was messed with in school as a kid, but now that I’m 46yrs of age, I love it even more… congratulations on your success in writing books..

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