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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

GUEST POST: The Island of Misfit Toys by Michael J. Sullivan





Michael J Sullivan is a favorite guest at Fantasy Book Critic. In celebration of the cover reveal for The Age of Swords which occurred on December 14, 2016 right here at Fantasy Book Critic, Michael J Sullivan has decided to stop by and talk about where he finds the inspiration for some of his stories.

If you missed the cover reveal of Age of Swords: Book Two of the Legends of the First Empire, you can see the cover which was created by Marc Simonetti right HERE!

Without further ado, we welcome Michael J. Sullivan. 

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The Island of Misfit Toys by Michael J. Sullivan 

 



People often ask me where I get my story ideas. My usual flippant answer is, “His name
is Eddie. He hangs out in New York’s Central Park, and if you pass him an envelope of cash, he’ll provide you the idea for your next novel.” I also point out that you don’t want to stiff Eddie, or his next tip will be a huge flop.

I should note that coming up with ideas has never been an issue for me. If anything, I have the opposite problem. I currently have twenty-two stories (many with full outlines) just waiting to be written. I just can’t get to them fast enough. In the time it took me to write the six books of the Legends of the First Empire, ten new books went onto the queue. All in all, a good problem to have.

Earlier today I was trying to answer a question a reader emailed me about the origin of Legends of the First Empire. Certainly part of the inspiration came from wanting to explore the truths of myths and how reality varies greatly than the white-washed histories recorded by “the victors.” But it also reminded me, particularly because now is the holiday season, that one of the biggest influence was Rudolf’s Christmas Special and specifically the Island of Misfit Toys.

For those not familiar with my writing, I must say I have a soft spot for duos: Frodo and Sam, Butch and Sundance, and Sam and Al from Quantum Leap. I think having two protagonists provides the opportunity to play one off the other. I delight in contrasting Hadrian’s optimistic viewpoints against Royce’s cynicism. I also enjoy getting fan mail explaining why x is more realistic than y, especially since I know such reactions are a kind of a Rorschach test, telling more about the reader than any intentions on my part.

For Legends of the First Empire, I went into that project knowing I wanted an ensemble cast. Having a wider set of characters is new ground for me; even Hollow World (my time-travelling sci-fi thriller) has a duo (Ellis Rogers and Pax). But I like a challenge, wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how attached I would become to so many extremely different people. In fact, some that were meant to be minor players turned out to take on larger roles. The flip side to that is I was able to play a bit with people’s expectations. I knew traditional fantasy readers would single out certain characters to be “the heroes,” and I could use that knowledge against them.

Another inspiration was to feature ordinary people doing things that were anything but extraordinary. Even typing that now, I realize that decision could make for a boring series. The saving grace, though, is that because of the times they lived in, their actions would have a significant impact on the shape of the future. While it’s fun to write skilled rogues like Royce and Hadrian who, admittedly have “a particular set of skills; skills they have acquired over a very long career.” It’s also fun, maybe even more enjoyable, when someone who is “broken” and commonplace can make a huge impact.

One of the reasons the misfit nature of the characters in Legends of the First Empire is on my mind (besides today’s email), is I just finished the final edit of the second book before sending it off to the copyeditors. Age of Swords is releasing on June 20th from Del Rey. Because I like a fast-paced story without a lot of stage-setting to drag down the action, I wasn’t able to give full justice to some of my misfit toys in the first book Age of Myth (released this June). In this latest installment, we get a much larger dose of Brin, Roan, Moya, and Gifford—four characters that we didn’t see much in the first book but whom I love, and I hope you will too.

Like Santa, winter is my busy time. In addition to going over the edits on Age of Swords, I’m writing a fourth Riyria Chronicle. I rarely have time for pleasure reading until the spring thaw arrives. Which leaves me with a question I’d like to pose to people reading this post. What is your favorite book with “misfit toys?” I’d love to have a nice stack of books to dig into when the snow melts and I have time to curl up with a book that isn’t one of my own. So please add yours to the comment section, and, like Santa, I’ll be making my own list.


1 comments:

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

Nice. This is a world and characters I've grown to enjoy. Glad you always have ideas. :)

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