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Friday, May 15, 2015

Interview with Anton Strout (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic, and thank you very much for your time. Could you kindly introduce yourself to our readers? 

AS: Hi. I’m Anton Strout, and I’m a writeaholic. (Hi, Anton!) It has been zero minutes since my last sentence… Actually, I am a man of many hats currently. I’m known for my two urban fantasy series, although I write and dabble in all scifi/fantasy realms. I also host The Once & Future Podcast, which is my passion project where I talk with my fellow authors, and I also have a day job at one of the Big Five New York publishers, Penguin Random House. When not writing, I spend my time gaming or keeping my two year old twins from deleting my writing.

Q] Please talk to us about your involvement with Blackguards, how did it all come to be? 

AS: Did you know that the Internet is a place where people whine/complain/hold court over things? IT’S TRUE! Several years ago I think I heard about Ragnarok as a publisher, specifically their Kaiju Rising anthology Kickstarter. A lot of great authors were in it, and it turned out to be a gorgeous looking book. More importantly, it was a Kickstarter done right, a rarity! Suddenly they were on my radar.

I believe I was jokingly whining about not being in it online and the people behind it at Ragnarok heard me. When they began planning out what was initially entitled Rogues, they asked me to submit, and the rest is history. In Kaiju Rising related news, I will be in its follow up companion anthology they’re putting out entitled Mech: VENGEANCE IS MINE!

Q] Within the Blackguards anthology, you’ve chosen to write about the formative years of Simon Canderous. What made you focus on him for this anthology? 

AS: I’m one of the few modern day tales in book. As a gamer, I always loved playing the sneaky thief, but I felt like the other heavy duty pure fantasy writers in our group would have that covered, so I turned to areas from my two series of books that I never got to articulate in the main books. Simon has always been a man who is trying to put his past behind him. The ability to touch an object and read its history has been a blessing and a curse for him, and I wanted to explore his earlier days when he had less control of it, a time when maybe he wasn’t using his powers for good. It’s always fun to explore your hero’s dark side, and Blackguards gave me a chance to do just that.

Q] Please tell us a bit about Simon’s short story "Scream". What readers expect to see in it? 

AS: Paranormal detective Simon Canderous has been through a lot of crazy in his four books (Dead To Me, Deader Still, Dead Matter, and Dead Waters). Part of that is his ne’er-do-well past before joining the Department of Extraordinary Affairs, in particular his life as an art thief. In "Deader Still" we met a psychotic redhead from those years, and Scream tells the tale of their first meeting, which sets the tone for their roller-coaster ride of a relationship.

Q] Do you think your readers will appreciate the direction you’ve chosen? 

AS: I hope so. When I write a book, there’s a lot that doesn’t make it into the book that gets released. You’re building histories about characters to help you tell the story you mean to tell about them. It’s a part of world building. And like good world building, there is much that the author knows that should never end up on the final page. It’s stuff that’s hinted at, alluded to, adding color, but is not a litany of the entire history of characters before the book. That would be painful to read, and moments like that that do end up in a first draft fall to the cutting room floor.

Short stories, however, offer up the opportunity to delve into those smaller moments that were left out of the big book so it doesn’t slow it down. Simon & Mina have a very checkered past, and it was fun to tell their first meeting went. With a title like Scream, it hints that it was at least an exciting, if not dangerous, meeting…

Q] You have two urban fantasy series out with Ace-Roc books, can you tell us about your books? 

AS: My first series—the above mentioned Simon Canderous books—is sort of a Ghostbusters as written by Joss Whedon sort of endeavor. They’re light, fun, and posit a world that asks what types of jobs would an adult Harry Potter get up to in the real world. It’s a world of the occult as well as red tape and paperwork, the motto of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs being “Fighting Evil, Under Budget.” I often describe The Spellmason Chronicles (Alchemystic, Stonecast, and Incarnate) as my Disney’s Gargoyles fan fic, and I’m only half joking when I say that. I loves me some gargoyles, and that cartoon always stuck in my head.

As a reader, though, I was always fascinated by makers in books. For instance, I’m more curious about those who forged the Rings of Power in Lord of the Rings than I am most other things in the series. Alchemystic starts off telling the tale of a maker’s kin discovering centuries later the gargoyle set to watch over her family, and book by book the camera sort of pulls back to reveal more and more about the arcane in a modern world setting. It’s a little more serious in tone than the Simonverse books, but still have a fair amount of humor and fun in them.

Q] I’ve recently been introduced to the Once & Future podcast, which you have hosted since 2011. Can you talk to us about its inception and what was your thought process behind it? 

AS: Sure. I love going to conventions and touching base with my fellow authors. Writing is a lonely profession. There are long stretches of time where it’s you alone with the page and nothing else. Conventions—and more importantly the bars there—are always a great place to touch base, share miseries, solve problems, and feel less like a bookworm-ish loner. O&F came out of a deep love of these talks I was having, and it seemed a natural progression to share those conversations. Inspired a bit by the Nerdist Podcast, I set about creating my precious little show and never looked back.

Q] On the podcast, you do a remarkable job of keeping it light and yet exploring each guest’s books and writing in depth. What’s your secret? 

AS: If there’s one thing I’ve discovered in our 80+ episodes, it’s that as authors we are all remarkably the same. Sure, there are differences in how we write, what we write, etc, but in the end the results are the same: we get to do the awesome job of writing kick-ass fantasy and science fiction! It’s a job—and a hard one at that—but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun, and that’s what I try to get out of my guests. To that end, I tend to mix up all the things we love conversationally: process, lifestyles, hobbies, crafts… you name it. Geekery abounds… it springs forth from every pore from our guests and I simply allow them to let their geek flag fly on the show.

Q] What have been some of your memorable experiences while hosting and what can listeners look forward to? 

AS: Honestly, every conversation is like Christmas. I don’t know our guests all that well, so learning more about them is a gift every time we sit down to talk writing and rampant nerdery. The most exciting thing I’ve learned is that all misery is relative. My struggles as a mid-list writer would only be traded up to new ones, as they have for those of our guests who are consistent New York Times bestsellers. I find a great comfort in that. The things they worry about are the same as what I worry about, only on a grander scale.

As far as upcoming events… We’re planning on bringing you coverage from Book Expo of America at the end of May, so you can hear about what geekery industry people are excited for this year. And we’ll be doing a live podcast from Gen Con in late July where there will be many authors, surprise guests and giveaways. I’m terribly excited for this one. It’s the best four days of gaming, has an amazing writer’s track, and is my home away from home.

Q] In closing, do you have any last thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers? 

AS: Two things: First, I’d love you to try my series—either one, really. I’ve had a lot of fun creating them, and I think you’ll have a lot of fun reading them.

Second, head on over to The Once & Future Podcast page. Look through the episode guide for some of your favorite names, give a listen and get hooked! If you like the show, tell your friends and consider supporting its production over at Thanks for having me, FBC!

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Urban fantasy author Anton Strout has given readers equal shares of chills and laughter since the first book of his Simon Canderous paranormal detective series, Dead To Me, came out from Penguin/Ace Books in 2008, giving Jim Butcher fans some entertainment between Dresden Files books. He continued his tales of mayhem in Manhattan with his second series, the Spellmason Chronicles, as he treated readers to the story of a girl and her gargoyle, and explored themes of friendship, loyalty, and love with his trademark snarky twist.

INFORMATION ABOUT SCREAM: Now, in the groundbreaking new anthology Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues from Ragnarok Publications, he returns to his fan-favorite character, Simon Canderous with "Scream," a prequel story of Simon before his days at the Department of Extraordinary Affairs.

One of the best performing anthologies on Kickstarter to date with over 1200 backers giving almost $40k to the project, Blackguards also features stories by Michael J. Sullivan, Mark Lawrence, Carol Berg, and other notable people from the genre.</div>

You can learn more about Anton at his website, and by listening to the Once and Future Podcast, where he chats with some of speculative fiction's finest authors, artists, and other creative types. Plus checkout this fantastic giveaway and enter to win some cool prizes a Rafflecopter giveaway

NOTE: Author picture with Elfin courtesy of Eaglerider57. All other pictures courtesy of the author.


Tristan said...

Nice. Think I'll check out his podcast.

Ann Snizek said...

What advice would you give to an author, like me, that's interested in podcasts and wants to explore the reach they offer?

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