Jon Sprunk grew up in central Pennsylvania, the eldest of four and attended Lock Haven University. He graduated with a B.A. in English in 1992. After his disastrous first novel failed to find a publisher, he sought gainful employment. Finally, after many more rejections and twists and turns of life, he joined Pennwriters and attended their annual conference in 2004. His short fiction has appeared in Cloaked in Shadow: Dark Tales of Elves, Dreams & Visions #34 and Cemetery Moon #4. In June 2009, he signed a multi-book contract with Pyr Books by whom his Shadow Trilogy dark fantasy series have been published. He can be found on twitter as @jsprunk70, on Facebook and via his website at http://jonsprunk.com/.
Jon Sprunk: I started from my dad’s library of books. SFF stories just seemed better to me. I continued on with The Hobbit, Lord of The Rings, Conan, etc.
SFFWRTCHT: What were some of your author and book influencers?
JS: Robert E. Howard was a big influence. Moorcock, Leiber, right up through Glen Cook and Joe Abercrombie.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you develop an interest in writing and how did you pursue that? Classes? Workshops? Learn on your own?
JS: It started just messing around, killing time in school. Eventually I got around to taking it seriously in college. I did some classes, joined a couple writers groups. And I wrote a lot. Many volumes which shall never be published.
SFFWRTCHT: Were you involved in Cons or CoSplay as a kid?
JS: I went to my first SFF con last year. And besides Halloween, I didn’t gravitate to cosplay, though I enjoy looking at it. I’m more of a closet nerd.
SFFWRTCHT: You struggled on and off for two decades before first sale, right? Did you start out with shorts or novels?
JS: I started with novels, and got nowhere. I wrote a few shorts a couple years back to get some pub cred. But novel pub took a long time, mainly because I was teaching myself as I went along. Had to learn a lot of hard lessons.
SFFWRTCHT: I think we all learn those lessons the hard way or at least most of us. What drew you to dark fantasy/epic fantasy, not sure where you’d classify this? Caim is an anti-hero protagonist but the heroine heroic, more classic.
JS: I’ve always been drawn to darker characters. Not to say I don’t appreciate a hero, but Caim was a way to explore my alter ego. Josey is definitely the counter-point.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you usually start with characters or plot?
JS: I almost always start with character, and then setting (which is like character). This brings up story ideas naturally. But it’s not set in stone. For Shadow’s Son the story arc actually came first.
SFFWRTCHT: So do you use milieu as a character like Tolkien did?
JS: I definitely consider milieu, even if I don’t mine it for true characterization. Character plus place plus motive equals a Sprunk story.
SFFWRTCHT: After Caim what character came clearest to you when writing the Shadow series?
JS: After Caim, Ral was the easiest because he was Caim without the conscience. Josey was also comfortable in my head.
SFFWRTCHT: Tied in to characterrs or plot question, Where’d the idea for the Shadow Trilogy come from? You’ve got supernatural shadows, political maneuvering by both church leaders and officials, rich vs. poor, a murdered emperor.
JS: Shadow’s Son kicks off the saga with a lonewolf assassin who gets dealt a bad job and fights his way to find out why. Book 2, Shadow’s Lure picks up right after, as Caim goes back to his homeland to search for his misty roots.
SFFWRTCHT: Tell us a bit about the setting, cities and world please. What inspired its creation and aspects? The copy I have doesn’t have a map, so I was trying to get a sense of the world itself without that.
JS: The world is something I’ve created over many years. It’s similar to Howard’s Hyborean Age. Othir, the main city of the first book, a loosely based off Dark Ages Rome. I visited Italy years ago and fell in love. The Roman Empire was heavy on my mind (especially it’s fall), but with the Church coming in sooner and more brutally.
SFFWRTCHT: The Shadows are a constant issue. What are the shadows, or is that a spoiler? Explain their function in the tale at least please.
JS: The shadows come from another world, where Cain’s mother hails from. Her people have come to conquer, as we see in books two and three.
JS: Pretty soon after. I think a couple months have passed. He’s near the end of a long trek when book three begins. In Shadow’s Master, Caim finally runs down the source of his problems. He finds a land of eternal night ruled by a dark king. Book three is a coming back to the beginning for Caim. He has to decide what he really wants in life (or death).
SFFWRTCHT: Was it always planned to be a trilogy or is it? Are there more coming?
JS: It was planned as a trilogy, but I didn’t think I would actually get a multi-book contract. so, wow! I had to write fast. I don’t have any more Caim books planned, but I left it open to further stories if destiny takes me there.
SFFWRTCHT: You have a lot of sword fighting in the book & you wrote the action well. Do you fence? Did you do research on sword fighting?
JS: No, my wife is scrappy, but we’re both too tired chasing after our three-year-old. (laughs) I get a lot of comments on the fight scenes. I’ve studied a few martial arts. And fifteen years working in juvenile corrections brings with it many combat opportunities.
SFFWRTCHT: Yeah I thought about that, too. Outliner or pantser? And do you use Scrivener or other “writing software tools”? Write to music? Any rituals?
JS: I’m a thorough outliner. I just use MS Word. Too old to learn new software. I use music when the mood takes me. Metal, mostly.
SFFWRTCHT: Does your writing process vary at all from your short stories to the novels/trilogy?
JS: Very much. I don’t usually outline short stories. I’m not very good at shorts, so I don’t write them unless asked these days.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like-specific block? Write until you reach word count? Grab it when you can?
JS: I write in the evenings (not by choice), and I shoot for 1k words per day. A bit more on weekends.
JS: One, which I gave to a fundraiser anthology. No idea when it will be come out. But not otherwise. Too busy with the new book.
SFFWRTCHT: One thing you did well was work in sophisticated vocab so that it was discernible in context but not so many that it bogged down.
JS: Thanks. I try to construct a voice that fits the story.
SFFWRTCHT: So that’s my next question, what are you working on next? What else can we look forward to from you?
JS: I’m working on a new series. Epic fantasy with god-kings and magiocracies. I see it as A Stranger in a Strange Land crossed with The Black Company.
SFFWRTCHT: That sounds really great. Anything else upcoming?
JS: I’ll be hitting a couple cons this year, including Balticon, Confluence, and DragonCon.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA. Bryan’s books can be ordered from his website at www.bryanthomasschmidt.net/store or via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bryan-Thomas-Schmidt/e/B004FRQ7XS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 or Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/bryan-thomas-schmidt