Manic Monday: Sage Tours Presents an Interview with Greg Strandberg
By Greg Strandberg
It’s been six months since the horrendous incident atop Mount Misery, the incident that broke Beldar Thunder Hammer’s band of adventurers apart.
Now Beldar’s putting the band back together with the aim of heading back up Mount Misery to end the Kingdom’s Hireling system for good.
Of course that would upend the whole socio-economic balance of The Kingdom and usher in a time of peace and plenty for all. The powers-that-be can’t have that, and they’ll do everything in their power to thwart Beldar and his band of Hirelings from bringing that about.
Greg Strandberg was born and raised in Helena, Montana, and graduated from the University of Montana in 2008 with a BA in History. He lived and worked in China following the collapse of the American economy. After five years he moved back to Montana where he now lives with his wife and young son.
1. What made you want to write and what was the first body of work you wrote?
I slogged through the first three volumes of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series and knew I could write something better. I spent the next year writing my epic fantasy series, The Jongurian Trilogy.
2. What made you move to China? Do you find your experience with the two cultures helps you writing?
When I graduated from college in 2008 with a BA in History I knew I wouldn’t be able to make a living in the States, not with my student loan debt. So I moved to China and got stuck over there for about 5 years. When I started writing full-time I made enough to move back and now I’m doing great.
There was a lot of corruption over there – with police, politicians, businessmen – and I really write about that a lot in all my books. I’ve also got a series of novels, The Warring States series, that details China’s bloody history in 500 BC.
3. Is there something specific about this book that you found hard to write?
In the summer of 2013 I had the idea for The Hirelings, and wrote out the big action sequence in the mansion. This is when they break into an old sorcerer’s place to steal dragon-killing potions. I let that sit for months, not sure what to do with it.
I finally picked the book up again in December and began building it up. I suppose the hardest thing about it was getting at the character motivations. Each of the characters is working in some dead-end job when we meet them, and yet what the main character, dwarf Beldar Thunder Hammer, is asking them to do means certain death. (Invading a dragon’s lair).
Figuring out how to make those characters sign-up for something like that was hard to work out, but I managed.
4. How did you pick the topic?
There are lots of great fantasy books out there, but we need a real good D&D-style book that’s dark but also humorous. Personally, I like the idea of characters hacking something to bits and then joking about it, or each other.
There’s a lot of one-upsmanship in this book, with the characters continually getting on each others’ nerves. Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t all just kill each other when I was writing this.
5. Are you a planner? Or do you fly from the seat of your pants?
For this book I made a basic one-page outline of where I wanted to go. After that was done I really had no idea. For me, it helps to write the ending to books around 30,000 words or so. That way you know what you have to work toward, and it makes getting there so much easier.
6. Do you let your characters write the story or are you in control the whole time?
Dialogue is my favorite thing, and I usually don’t know what they’ll all say when they say it. What they do say really drives the story, as choices tend to come out in the dialogue. After that it’s just moving them to a new location, perhaps after a fight or something, and then more dialogue.
7. What do you have in the pipeline? Can we expect the same type of books in the future or are you going to switch genre's and change things up?
I write in so many different genres that everyone is confused and no one buys my books as a result. I have no plans to continue doing otherwise.
When certain books begin to sell, I write another book in that genre. My trilogy of fantasy books is popular, so that’s why I wrote this fantasy book. It’s a stand-alone novel, but if it were to get a lot of sales, or if I were to get lots of comments from people who liked it, I’d probably write another.
8. Who is your favorite character to write?
My favorite characters are those with quick tongues that continually get them into problems. They usually talk first and think later. In this book that’s just about every character, but the one that took over a lot of that and did it the most was Theo Da’Covale. This is an elven thief, and also a reformed drunk. If his daggers aren’t biting into your skin, his slick words are.
9. What type of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite authors? Did any of them influence you as a writer?
When it comes to fantasy books I’d have to go with R.A. Salvatore. I started reading him in 8th grade and didn’t look back, devouring much of the Forgotten Realms library.
Of course George R.R. Martin is great (I’ve read the first few books 3 times each), and I’d also have to give a shout-out to Steven King for that wonderful Dark Tower series.
10. If you could instill one thing on aspiring authors, what would it be?
Do not go for 100%, go for 95%. Nothing is ever going to be perfect and there’s always going to be a mistake or two in your finished book. Maybe there are a few plot holes, so what? Put it out there and get on to the next book.
Lightening Round: Rainbow's after rain storms or Snowmen after Blizzards?