Hi everyone and welcome to my first ever Q&A for Wyrd and Wonder’s Fantasy Month!
Who better to join in my interview debut than recently debuted-himself A.Z. Anthony?
Make sure you check out my Twitter page for a giveaway of A. Z. Anthony’s Servant Of Rage!
A.Z. Anthony is best known for his genre-warping fiction whose popularity commonly crashes global markets. Also, his humility.
More realistically, he is the author of several award-winning short stories. He’s also hard at work on an additional standalone novel, the two sequels to Servant of Rage, and is a contributor at The Fantasy Hive.
Should you wish to reach out to A.Z. you should know he prefers to be contacted exclusively through Sasquatch-esque whoops and tree knocks. However, he can also be reached through these less effective means:
A.Z Anthony’s debut Servant of Rage was released on the 3rd of April.
“To kill an heir is to claim their power. But at what cost?
When the khan’s fiercest headhunters, brothers Subei and Bataar, are struck by lightning from a freak storm, they awake to find unnatural powers growing inside them. And they’re not alone – all across the land other “heirs of the ancestors” have been similarly blessed. To kill an heir is to consume their power, but as the brothers’ power grows, so too does a primal, uncontrollable madness within.”
Hi A.Z., and welcome to my blog!
I’m going to dive right into Servant of Rage and discuss with you one of my favourite aspects of this book (hell, your writing) and that’s world building. I discovered in SoR a beautifully crafted world reminiscent of the Mongolian steppe. What inspires or influences your building?
It’s great to be here, Bethan. Thanks for having me! And I’m glad you enjoyed the world building in Servant of Rage. It’s a little-known fact that my writing ability directly correlates to how over-inflated my ego is at any given time. Looks like we’re on track to have an interesting interview, then, yeah? Kidding, of course. Mostly.
Anyway, the world of Servant of Rage, was primarily inspired by a fascination with unique environments and a desire to create a world that was decidedly not Euro-centric. We see a lot of fantasy these days that is set in a generic, vaguely European medieval world. I don’t have a problem with that, per-se, but I think we can be more imaginative with our settings. I’m due to finish the sequel to SoR this summer – and am beyond excited to explore the world more – but in the meantime, my next work in progress is set in a slightly more dangerous version of fantasy Florida. I’m pretty pumped to share that with y’all soon.
[See A.Z’s feature on The Fantasy Hive for more about writing non Euro-centric fantasy]
The theme of brotherhood is an important one throughout SoR; its importance to the characters is what drives and motivates them. Is this sense of kinship, unbreakable bonds, something that has a real-life meaning to you?
You know, this wasn’t something I had particularly thought much about, but now that you’ve asked, I thought of something for the first time. I’m an only child, but I grew up with my next-door neighbour basically being my older, bigger brother. In a way, he’s a lot like Bataar is to Subei. I had never realized that relationship correlation until now. Huh. I may need to go think on that…
Although I’d place SoR on the milder end of the Grimdark scale, it certainly has some pretty dark moments! How did it feel writing these? Did you ever have to stop a minute and ask yourself “is this too dark?”
Man. You’re asking good questions! This is actually a subject I’ve talked about with my fiancée a fair bit. A few years back I was really, really into grimdark. Darkest of the dark, and all that. Lately, I’ve been on a slow arc where I’ve been migrating more toward just low fantasy than grimdark. I don’t know what’s causing it, and hell, I might swing right back around in the next few months, but for now I’m definitely on the less dark side of grimdark. There are parts of Servant of Rage that are quite dark, but those were done intentionally to drive home a point. I wanted the readers to leave those scenes feeling somewhat sickened at what had happened. I definitely felt that way for many of them.
SoR is absolutely rammed full of action, the pace sets itself at a gallop from the get go. Do you have any advice on creating an exciting pace?
“The pace sets itself at a gallop,” huh? I see what you did there. [A.Z’s not the only one who can pun!] Ahem. Advice, right.
I’m not an expert by any means, but I’d say that the trick to creating exciting pace is to make sure every scene you write has relevance to, and advances, the plot. One-hundred thousand words might sound like a lot, at first, but when you really sit down and lay out the plot, it can feel like nowhere near enough words. I think that’s a good indicator that your plot is moving along nicely.
You’ve made no secret that there are Magic the Gathering references in SoR, and whilst these soared merrily over my head, I was quite excited to read;
“A long time ago he’d worked a hunt with a pale-skinned, nine-fingered man… You could never have too many knives, the man had said.”
Clearly Joe Abercrombie is a big influence, but are there any other writers or books who influence your writing?
Ha! I love that everyone is catching that reference. Not that it’s particularly subtle, or anything. The Magic references will have to wait for someone else to dig them up.
Abercrombie is obviously a big influence on me (hell, even my Twitter pic and handle are spoofing him) but there are some other authors that greatly shaped my writing. Michael Crichton is one of them. I don’t think that’s too obvious in Servant of Rage, but it will definitely be in my forthcoming standalone thriller. But that’s for later. Other authors include Terry Pratchett, who taught me the joy of writing with comedy in mind, and Guy Gavriel Kay, who brings historical worlds to life like no other.
Ah, Jurassic Park?
As an aspiring writer myself, I can imagine just how amazing it must feel to hold your very own book in your hands. What would you say is the most rewarding part of writing?
The most rewarding is absolutely seeing people read your book and enjoy it. There’s always the fear that you’ll bust your ass writing a novel and no one will read it. It’ll be released into the wild, crowded void of Amazon and go entirely unnoticed. Seeing the opposite of that happen is truly rewarding. I enjoy writing, and will continue to no matter what, but having readers is a damn fine feeling. It’s still all a bit surreal to me right now.
Although SoR is your debut novel under your own name, your day job is of course ghostwriting. Do you find it easier to ghost write or to write your own work?
Ghostwriting, for sure. When I’m ghostwriting, I’m working with my client / publisher to build the world they’ve imagined. The original act of creation lies with them and I’m just the craftsman who puts the pieces together, in a matter of speaking. When it comes to my own stuff, I not only have to invent everything from scratch, I’m also really, really picky. In my personal life I’m a minimalist and a perfectionist. I don’t do clutter and anything I put my mind to needs to be done as near as perfect as possible. These ideas both carry over to my writing. I try to keep the story on point, moving at a good clip, and written as tightly as possible.
You would not be a happy bunny in my house, there’s clutter everywhere!
Can you tell us what a normal working day looks like for you?
Wake up early, look over at my fiancée, remind myself how lucky she is to have me, then – oh, sorry. I’m supposed to be more down to Earth for these interviews, aren’t I? Right.
Wake up around seven am to make a small breakfast and down a cup of coffee. Play with the cat for a few minutes, and around eight, drive my fiancée to the local T stop (Boston version of the Tube). I get back from that around eight-thirty, and generally find a way to waste time with a chore or two before I start writing at nine. I like to have 2-3 thousand words done by noon. Once or twice a week I’ll have a call with a client around this time, which usually takes about an hour. If I don’t have one of those, I’ll spend an hour replying to emails, work requests, etc. Then, in the afternoon, I write however many words I have left to hit my goal for the day. Once all of that is done, I switch over to working on my own fiction. That’ll float me through around 6pm when I pick my fiancée up. Generally I write 2-3k words per day for my clients, then aim to do 2k for my own stuff.
Your daily word count absolutely boggles my mind! But let’s talk about aesthetics. The cover is striking and stunning; it contains intriguing hints about your magic system, your world building, and the golden confetti birds are just gorgeous. Tell us about the process.
There really isn’t too much to tell here. I found my awesome cover designer, Rachel (http://www.lawstondesign.com/) and chatted with her about what I wanted the cover to look like. She took my ideas (and one embarrassingly horrendous sketch) and worked some sort of dark alchemy to turn them into beautiful final product. The credit really goes to her for pretty much everything on the cover!
Can you give us any clues as to what’s next in store for Subei?
Ooh, interesting. I’ll say that Subei has learned some important lessons, and while he has many more to learn, it may soon be time for him to start teaching them to others. Also, there’s a lot to discover about the bloodrage and he’s nowhere near equipped to begin discovering all of it yet. But who knows, maybe he knows someone who can help? Someone who’s been off on a journey of their own, of sorts, since they left the main storyline in book one.
That leaves me with more questions than answers! Hurry up with the sequel!
Ok, I think we’ve explored enough about your writing (and I’ve demonstrated that I can conduct a professional interview if I want to)…
Describe your book using song lyrics
Ah! This is the perfect time to plug a project I’ve been working on in the background! I love when writers have playlists for their books! As such, I put together one for Servant of Rage. You can find it here: http://azanthony.com/sorplaylist. Currently only the first three chapters (which, shameless plug, you can read for free on my site) have songs and notes for them. That being said, I have a full playlist for the book and will post it along with notes for each song sometime this week.
If I had to pick specific lyrics, though, I’d use a selection from Five Finger Death Punch’s “Wrong Side of Heaven.” The song has a muted anger to it, but it also self-reflective. And the lyrics just seem perfect for Subei’s transformation.
“I spoke to God today and she said that she’s ashamed /
What have I become /
What have I done /
I spoke to the devil today and he swears he’s not to blame /
And I understood ’cause I feel the same /
Arms wide open /
I stand alone /
I’m no hero and I’m not made of stone /
Right or wrong /
I can hardly tell /
I’m on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell.”
Ok those lyrics are actually very apt, great job!
Despite the towering odds stacked against you, the gargantuan spider guarding the entrance, the most spirited attempts of that group of flesh eating cultists you stumbled across, and your debilitating fear of the dark; you have made it to the deepest part of the temple where it is rumoured Telmarric the Oathslinger’s magic crystal is hiding. You face an enormous bronze door featuring an inspiring pattern of faces stretched into the most hideous and gruesome visages. As you approach, the ground beneath your feet begins to shake. It begins to crack. You grasp the arm of your companion to stop yourself slipping into the widening abyss at your feet.
What fictional character is your companion?
Is it egotistical to choose a character of my own creation? ‘Cause I’d one-hundred percent pick Senesio Suleiman Zhao. He only appears in a selection of my short stories right now, but there’s just about nothing he can’t do. He’s also a major ass, but, I mean, if we’re trying to survive, he’ll get the job done. (Fear not, readers, he’s featured prominently in one of my upcoming novels and will be humbled. Somewhat.)
Interesting to hear he’s going to be humbled, is such a thing possible?? Speaking of dungeon crawling, what would be the one thing to stop you in your tracks, turn your knees to jelly and send you packing?
In my own works? A wendiguar. In the real world? A wendigo, which the wendiguar is largely based on. Here’s a specific wonderful and terrifying depiction that haunts my dreams. I prefer to imagine them without antlers, however. Or, if you’d really like to never sleep again, you should play and / or watch a playthrough of Until Dawn. (The linked scene is somewhat frightening, though the timestamp I picked skips the initial jump scare.)
I can confirm that A.Z’s wendiguars are creepy as hell. We’ve all heard tales of your magnificent ego so tell us; who do you have pegged to play Subei in the adaptation?
Oh jeez. That’s a tough one. I’m terrible with actors. That being said, I think Remy Hii, if made to look a bit less suave (hard to do with such a good looking dude) would make an excellent Subei. Bonus answer, UliLatukefu would make a perfect Bataar.
Our society has been overrun by a totalitarianism dictatorship; knowledge is power, so any sources of knowledge are illegal and actively destroyed. Including books.
It is thirteen minutes past two in the morning and your door is being hammered in by a battering ram. They’re here. They know of your collection. But they do not know of your escape tunnel in the cellar.
You grab one book.
What is it?
Am I grabbing a book to inspire future generations to do what’s good and right? Because if so, I’m grabbing Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. If I’m being selfish, however, and grabbing my favorite book of all time? Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park without a moment of doubt.
Speaking of terrifying dystopias, which one keeps you up at night? (Not literally, just, which do you believe is the most scary?)
A dystopia in which indie publishing doesn’t exist, actually. I was always one who aimed for the traditional publishing route – and still am sending a manuscript to agents in the background. But after landing one of the top agents in the US and being jerked around for eight months (it’s a long story), I discovered the world of indie publishing. The community has been incredible and I really appreciate the new ground indie authors are breaking. They’re free to write what they want and get it straight to the readers. It’s an incredible thing that has produced incredible books that traditional publishers would never touch.
Being a bit less serious, I really dislike the dystopia from zombie movies. I mean, I’m a pretty fast sprinter, and I grew up spending a lot of time out of doors as well as on the gun range every other Sunday. All that being said, I’ll keep my zombie apocalypses in video games, books, and movies, thank you very much. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t appreciate the beauty of nature without fear of getting, you know, eaten alive by my undead next-door neighbor.
What are you currently reading and what do you most anticipate reading this year?
I’m currently reading several books, but mainly Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven and Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters. As to most anticipated, a friend of mine, G.D. Penman, is working on a new LitRPG that I have some inside knowledge of. It sounds incredible. Also, Andrew Rowe is due to come out with the sequel to Sufficiently Advanced Magic, which I am eagerly anticipating.
What are you looking to accomplish this year?
Oh buddy. This is a bad question to ask me. You know how some people’s eyes are too big for their stomachs? Yeah, well my ambition is too great for the hours in the day / how much I can actually push myself. That being said, my publishing goals that I should accomplish in the foreseeable future:
- Finish my survival thriller WIP and send it to agents by Summer
- Write and release the sequel to Servant of Rage by late Summer / early Fall
- Write and release the final sequel to Servant of Rage by late Winter / Spring 2019
- Release two short stories in forthcoming anthologies (more news on this soon)
And, lastly, I have some big news that I’ll hopefully be able to announce soon. Suffice it to say, I may or may not have written a book under a pseudonym, in conjunction with a publisher, that has done quite well. I’m starting on the second book soon and it should release this Fall. I can’t say anymore just yet, but the publisher and I are talking and we should have an official press release soon.
So, yeah. Thanks for letting me ramble at all of you! If you’d like to throw money at me, er, I mean, check out my books, you can find me online at Azanthony.com. If you want to chat, you can always find me on Twitter (@GrindarkGuy) where raccoon pictures / gifs are always appreciated. Catch y’all around!
Thank you so much A.Z for being my first
victim guest on my blog!
You can find my review of Servant of Rage here.
And just for you A.Z.;