Author interview with John Hornor Jacobs
Hi John, welcome over at The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us!
BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who John Hornor Jacobs is? What are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?
JJ: I have kids, a tween and a teen, so a lot of my free time is spent with the family. But, if I’m not writing, or working, I’m at the dojo working on getting this fat old body into some semblance of fighting trim. I also play guitar and do visual arts – linocuts, woodcuts, paintings, illustrations.
BP: You have written a couple of books prior to The Incorruptibles, do you still know when and where you decided that you wanted to become an author?
JJ: I always thought, when I was younger, that I’d be an author. But when I tried writing in college, I discovered not how hard it is (though it is hard), I learned how much discipline it required. And I was not disciplined then. So I gave up that dream to pursue other ones that didn’t have such a steep initial curve for entry. It was only 15 years later, after I had kids and a career that I turned back to that dream. Luckily, by then, I had the discipline to write.
BP: Your latest book and the first in a new series is called The Incorruptibles, there are a lot of different elements from Roman influences and western and even Tolkienisque. What gave you the idea behind of the story of The Incorruptibles?
JJ: I was reading a Louis L’Amour novel, and was struck at how similar the prose resembled that of a fantasy novel. Prior to reading it, the only westerns that I had read were Elmore Leonard’s novels, and they’re really hard-boiled crime novels with horses instead of coupes. So, a strange thought occurred to me: “What if Elmore Leonard wrote a fantasy novel? What would it be like?” And that’s how The Incorruptibles got started. I wasn’t slavish to that idea, though.
BP: Writing a new series can be a hard task, how did you go about and plan your writing?
JJ: I wrote the first third – I had some scenes I wanted to touch upon and I held them within my mind – and then I created a simple Roman outline for what would happen in the rest of the book. I wrote as that as my guide and checked it occasionally to see how far I was off course.
BP: The Incorruptibles is set to be released in August 14th this year, if you would have to sell your book with a single sentence, how would it go?
JJ: The Incorruptibles is a hard-scrabble fantasy featuring likeable characters, fearsome creatures and antagonists, western and Roman elements, and a magical technology based on “infernal combustion.”
Or, if I was to shorten it, I’d say, “The Incorruptibles is a pseudo-alternate history, demonpunk western fantasy.”
It’s more than that, though.
BP: Even though you have written a few books already did you still encounter any specific problems when you were writing The Incorruptibles?
JJ: As always, when writing in first person, certain problems present themselves in the course of a project, especially if you have a big canvas and want to describe parts of the story that the narrator did not witness first hand. Solving these problems were some of the most enjoyable parts of writing The Incorruptibles. But they were problematic. And, as ever, making a narrators voice sound smooth and individual was a labor, but one of those tasks that are very rewarding.
BP: What was the hardest part in writing The Incorruptibles?
JJ: The ending. I’ve written novels with bleak endings, and there are aspects to this one that are hard, but I wanted to end on a hopeful note while still retaining some of the bleakness, if that makes any sense. I think I did.
BP: Besides the hardest part, which chapter or scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
JJ: I don’t want to spoil anything for you in the book, but any scene in which two spoiled Ruman patrician children appear – Carnelia and Gnaeus – I just had so much fun writing them.
BP: If you would be able to retract The Incorruptibles from publishing and make one final adjustment, would you do so? And if yes, which part and why?
JJ: I wouldn’t. There’s no fixing any part, truly, I’d just have to re-write it from the beginning because I’m a different person now, and a different writer. I’ve written three other novels since penning The Incorruptibles and so I would approach the whole project differently now.
Anyway, books, like children, have flaws but every parent knows that often the flaws are what, in the end, give them strength.
BP: The Incorruptibles is the first in a new series, have you already mapped out the big storyline and how many books will follow?
JJ: Two more books in this series, the second of which, Foreign Devils, is already complete, if not edited, re-written and polished. I’m starting on the third and last book in the series after I write a couple of other smaller pieces, a story set in the same world called Luminaria and a secret project.
BP: Do you have any other projects that you wish to pursue in the near future now that The Incorruptibles will be published?
JJ: My next project will probably be weird YA fantasy set in 1951. Or a something. I want to write a multi-generational southern book, but I’ve been genre-hopping for most of my career so I should probably settle down and write a few more fantasies, maybe one where people wear swords and armor. With a prophecy. And an orphan who is very special. Oh, right, and an evil overlord bent on destroying the world but has one tiny weakness our special orphan can exploit with his magical sword. Or something like that.
BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction and fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about it?
JJ: The escape to other lands and settings and creatures.
BP: If you would have to give your top 5 favourite books, which would they be?
JJ: I don’t know about favourite books of all time. That’s too hard of a question. But books I’m very fond of? They’re always changing, but I can give you my current favorite works of fiction that I’ve read in the last year. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, “The Bear” by William Faulkner, “A Bullet to the Brain” by Tobias Wolfe, The Scar by China Miéville, Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig, The Grand Hotel by Scott Kennemore, The Damned by Chuck Palahniuk, Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, and American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett.
BP: And just lastly, can you tell us a bit more about what will be in store for the readers of The Incorruptibles and a possible sneak preview of the sequel?
JJ: Readers of The Incorruptibles will enjoy a secondary world, similar to ours, with strange and fearful creatures, fascinating infernal technologies, and a story reminiscent of both westerns and fantasies. In the sequel, Foreign Devils, you’ll see more of the world – including Rume itself and the lands of the Autumn Lords – and some of the mysteries around the vaettir – or stretchers – will be revealed.
BP: Thank you for your time John and good luck with your future writing projects.
JJ: Thank you so much for having me!
The Incorruptibles is out this Thursday 14th of August by Gollancz
Hardback £20.00 / Paperback £14.00