Jay Kristoff is a tragic nerd, but has spent the last ten years dumping expeez into his Intimidation stat, with the result that nobody is brave enough to say it to his face. He grew up in the second most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. He spent most of his formative years locked in his bedroom with piles of books, or gathered around dimly-lit tables rolling polyhedral dice. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of.
Jay prostituted his writing arm in the soulless crack-house that is “creative advertising” for over ten years. He’s hocked petrol guzzling monstrosities to sexually inadequate men, salty condiments to schoolchildren, and toilet paper to anyone with a bottom. He has won several awards that nobody outside the advertising industry gives a toss about.
Jay’s debut novel, STORMDANCER, a Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press & Tor UK in 2012 as the first installment of THE LOTUS WAR trilogy. He is represented by Matt Bialer at Sanford J Greenburger Associates.
Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 13870 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.
He does not believe in happy endings.
1. Why did you decide to set Stormdancer in "Japan"?
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. It probably stems from a long-held interest in Japanese culture and the Tokugawa age in particular. I’ve been reading books about the samurai age since I was a kid.
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. I suspected combining a Japanese-inspired setting with a steampunk aesthetic would be a lot of fun to write. I’m right so far :)
2. How much research time did you spend on Stormdancer and what was the most important thing you learned from all the research?
Probably about six month initially, but I continued research during edits and rewrites, so more like eighteen months in the end. Things tend to change a lot between first draft and final copy.
I’m not sure about the most important thing I learned, but I found researching the Shinto religion to be the most interesting. Some of Japanese mythology is just completely different to any western counterpart, but some of it is eerily similar. The myth of Izanagi and Izanami, for example, which I riff on quite heavily throughout the trilogy, has some remarkable similarities to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and also Hades and Persephone – despite the cultures that created them being half a world apart.
3. Who is you favourite character in Stormdancer and why?
That’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is! I can’t choose between my babies.
I love writing the dynamic between Yukiko and Buruu. I love the way both of them grow over the course of the book. But I’m very fond of a few of the minor characters too – Michi in particular. She gets a much bigger role in later books.
4. What would Yukiko's favourite colour be and why? (It's not green is it?)
Lol, it might have been green for a while there. Probably not anymore.
I’m going to go with blue. The color the skies in Shima used to be.
5. What do you think are the most important qualities a YA novel should have? (So important things that you would include in your own writing as well)
I’m not sure I should be telling anyone else how to write. Every book and story is different, and every author will tell their stories differently. But speaking for myself, I try to make my stories true. Not in the sense that the events within the book actually happened – more that the people within it, the setting, the story being told says something about the world we actually live in or the people we share it with.
That’s the great thing about writing fantasy – you can draw parallels to this world we live in without directly pointing fingers or laying blame or getting up on a soapbox. You can tell the truth through your books, even if the stories you’re telling are totally fictional.
6. If you get the choice to have a very human-like robot as a part of your family (living in your family home), would you choose to have it or not? (Kind of like the movie i, Robot XD)
Depends on the kind of robot, I suppose. If we’re talking Haley Joel Osment from AI, then yes. If we’re talking Bender from Futurama? Prrrrrobably not. My house is messy enough as it is :)
7. If you can choose to learn one other language in the world, which one and why?
Italian. My wife and I got married in Italy. Rome is beautiful, and the Italian people are the nicest in Europe. I’d like to live there one day, and speaking the language would be handy.
8. If one character can come to life from any book, who would you choose and why? (Which book is he/she from?)
Zaphod Beeblebrox from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I think he’d be fun to have a beer with. Plus, he could run for galactic president and sort things out. Let’s be honest, the Milky Way really needs to get its act together.
9. What is one important experience you had that help you to become who you are today?
Hmm. Hard question. I think maybe getting retrenched from my old advertising job?
That event really made me look at my life, what I wanted to do with it. If I hadn’t have been retrenched from that job, I wouldn’t have decided to start writing – I really wouldn’t have had the time. And that single moment has lead directly to where I am in my life right now, which is the coolest place I’ve ever been – a couple of weeks into my life as a published author.
It’s really funny how an event can seem awful at the time, but lead to someplace absolutely incredible.
10. What is one thing you haven't done, but would really like to do?
Live in a world where everyone was just nice to each other. Everyone, all at once. That’d be cool.
Maybe one day.
Thanks again to Jay Kristoff for the chance to get to know a little bit more about yourself and your book. It's been awesome talking to you. To anyone reading this blog post, I hope you enjoyed this interview; if you haven't read Stormdancer, make sure you do very soon! You won't regret it! :)