JM: Sure. I've been a writer of fantasy and science fiction for a long long time. I wrote my first two fantasy novels in college, then a third as my MFA Thesis. That book, Mooncrow, was published by Berkley Books in New York in (gasp) 1979. I've been writing on and off since then, while also dealing with the annoying distractions of making a living. I now have 3 fantasy series out on Amazon (and boy are my fingers tired.)
INC: What draws you to the fantasy genre in particular?
JM: I think it's because I am an idealist and fantasy allows me to envision worlds or alternate worlds that are in ideal in one way or another.
JM: Great question. The Abby stories are actually easiest because they take place in the (so-called) real world, although with an imagined past based on research into 19th Century occultism. Plus they let me wander around to obscure places in Florida, which is great fun. The research for the Glimnodd books and the Conjurer of Rhodes books is fairly similar, except for the historical fantasy, I had to be a lot more rigorous --attempting to make these historical novels as well as fantasies, so they take place against a backdrop of real events. With the Glimnodd books, it allowed me much for leeway to imagine and then throw in just enough research (on Inuits, Vikings, Mayans) to give the world sceneary, so to speak.
INC: Speaking specifically of the Glimnodd Cycle, I was most drawn in by the klarn and the bond between its members. Where did the idea for the klarn come from?
JM: Ooooh. Now you are getting personal. I wrote the drafts of the first Glimnodd novel when I was really young. In college, I lived for a while in a kind of "commune" with some very close friends. I've also seen, and read about, other situations where people explored very close psychic work and talked about a "group soul" that can emerge. Like I said, I'm an idealist.
INC: Nice. Is that at least in part where the personalities of the different members of the klarn came from and their role in the story? (Or is that too personal?)
JM: Yes and yes! I would say the "seeds" of the personalities of the klarn came from those friends, but they were way altered by the time the story saw its final draft. I think all writers base characters on real people, to one degree or another.
JM: Well, still talking about the Glimnodd stories (of which 2 are published and a 3rd one planned), first I picked the protagonist (Lonn in book 1, Glyssa in book 2), and told the story from their points of view. From there, it flowed naturally to see how the other characters' reacted to the events, what kinds of conflicts they got into with each other, etc. Basically, their personalities dictated their screen time as well as their actions.
INC: So Lonn and Glyssa each getting the main protagonist slot was planned from the get-go? That was something I was wondering about. when I read the Glimnodd Cycle.
Yeah, good question. I think I picked Lonn for Book 1 because he was the leader and responsible for them getting into the adventure. (In the early drafts, his dream of seeing the witch's ship was even more significant because part of his role was as a "dream seer" for the klarn. That got de-emphasized later.) In book 2, it was all about Glyssa having been psychically damaged and finding how to heal herself through the quest. I think a good rule of thumb is to choose your protagonist as the person with the highest stakes in the story, the most to lose.
INC: Sounds like a good rule. What about the action scenes? What's your approach to writing those, generally?
JM: I usually start those knowing where they have to end. (I am an outliner, not a pantser.) I try to make them as realistic as possible, visualizing exactly what would happen physically, then focus it in a character's head so that the reader gets their emotions as well as what they are seeing and thinking and doing. One of my profs at college used to talk about a novel having a "sensual-intellectual-emotional flow." I try to keep all three in mind.
JM: I think it depends on the kind of series. Some series are really a single long story while others are pretty discrete stories with the same characters. Think of The Lord of the Rings as the single long story type (of course it was originally a single book) versus The Dresden Files, where you have a protagonist on a lot of different adventures. The Harry Potter saga falls somewhere in the middle, with discrete story arcs in each book, but also on overall conflict from beginning to end. So back to your question, for me personally, I like to have SOME outline of the whole story (be it series or individual book) before I start the line by line writing.
INC: Makes sense. From research to publication, approximately how long does it take for you to complete a book? (I'll try not to be too jealous of the answer, given how long mine take.)
JM: Ha ha. There are no standards. The first Abby Renshaw book took less than a year (but not much research involved as it's in this world.) The Conjurer of Rhodes started as one long book, 18 years ago. Took me about 20 months, nearly full-time, to write a 225,000 word novel, then another 11 months this past year to turn it into three books and do all the publishing chores. The Glimnodd books, as I mentioned, I started in my early 20s, and only two of them are finished. I am working on getting more systematic at this.
JM: As a little kid I loved Hercules and gladiator movies, then later fell in love with reading Greek mythology and Homer. I loved the way the gods and goddesses interact with mortals in Homer. Later, I got interested in the Colossus of Rhodes and learned that it had actually stood for only 70 years in the 3rd Century BC. I then became fascinated with that time period. It was a really remarkable time of cultural interchange, scientific advancement, and interesting politics--after the Greek classical age but before Rome. So all of those ingredients went into the pot.
INC: I can relate to the movie inspirations. Speaking of which, your bio on your website mentions being into Zorro and Robin Hood in your younger days and beyond. Have they also played a role in your writing?
JM: Oh, yeah. My first novel, Mooncrow as totally inspired by Zorro - the fop socializing with the villains when he is secretly the masked avenger. Korax in Conjurer of Rhodes also has his Robin Hood and Zorro-like moments, righting wrongs in unlikely ways and then slipping away before anyone can catch him. I love that conceit of the hero disappearing before the smoke clears.
JM: Well, I would never rule anything out. But just trying to master the adventure writing/indie publishing business if plenty to keep me busy.
INC: Fair enough. Anything else you'd like readers to know about you?
Yes. I am currently working on the next Abby Renshaw story. It involves a monstrous frog spirit, chaos magic, and a Mesopotamian Goddess. If I ever finish THAT, I am wondering whether to write the third Glimnodd book or something completely different. Time will tell.
Jack Massa's books can be purchased on Amazon, and you can find out more about him and his work at Triskelion Books.