For those of you who don't know, David Younquist is one of the masterminds behind Dark Continents Publishing, but he's also an author, and he's got many stories to tell. Earlier this year I worked with him on Black Jack, a novel he's had sitting on the backburner for a while. I loved working on the novel with him because it's one of those solid, dependable fantasies that whisk you away to another world – and literally so, if your name is Jack. ;-)
So, David, tell us a little more about Black Jack. You've taken one of the classic fantasy tropes: a human finds his way into a world of magic. What fresh spin did you put on your setting.
I've tried to do a few new things with Gwennolin. I've always been fascinated by the thought of different dimensions of reality side by side. Gwennolin is kind of one step to the side of ours. It's a world where magic rather than science reigns. That's not really so different. What is different is that the magic itself has affected the humans that step over from our side. The Alshura, the river of magic that flows through Gwennolin can be tapped by mages. I also froze time in the Medieval time frame. Also not really different, but the residents of the world come in all shapes and sizes. Not only did I make the humans kind of a UN of the world, with white Europeans, Spaniards, Africans and American First Nations people with their traditions and customs, but I threw in every mythical creature I could find. And of course Jack's new kingdom of cat people. I also had a little fun with Illinois politics by including King Richard and his consort Prince Rod.
Earthlings (human and animal) who find their way into your setting gradually either get animal or human features the longer they stay in the world. Are these at all related to their inner natures?
Definitely. As Tabby explains, she was a hunter. She enjoyed her sexuality. She was independent when she came to Gwennolin. The magic gave her some more feline traits to go with her personality. Mare, Jack's horse becomes much more human. I've always believed horses have souls. The fact she becomes a great archer and fighters goes back to the Sagittarian mythos. Jack becoming more mountain lion relates to the type of businessman he was, and the fact he was also a hunter. So, yes, the magic taps into your personality and shapes you accordingly.
Every tale has a story seed. What was the story seed for Black Jack?
I think the original seed was planted years ago when I was going through a rough patch. I woke up after a blackout drunk under a tombstone topped by a life-sized weeping angel. Through my hangover, the idea kind of germinated with some of the fantasy novels I'd read over the years. I stumbled out of the cemetery and the thought hit me what would happen if you woke up in a truly alien landscape. So through liberal overuse of alcohol, the seed for Gwennolin and Jack was planted.
Which was the most difficult scene to write (without giving spoilers)?
The scene directly at the end of the final battle. It took me the better part of two weeks to write that. Close on the heels of that would be the argument between Jack and Tabby. Also took me a number of days to write that one as well.
And your favourite scene (also without giving spoilers)?
Boy, this is a tough one. It's a toss-up between two. The final, epic battle was the first battle scene where I was able to create an entire battle, with troop movements of my own, weapons used and units of knights, commoners and mounted cavalry. When I wrote Out of Sync it was the culmination of about two years research into the Battle of the Little Bighorn. I had an epic battle two historically recreate with some variances, but mostly had to stick with the historical record. Again, a great battle, but very confining. With Snareville, it's kind of many little fights, with maybe one or two bigger battles, but fights were one sided. Zombies don't shoot back. With this final battle in Black Jack, it starts out rather quiet, and then just explodes into all out violence. Typical of most big battles anyway.
My other favorite scene is when Jack has a sit down with the vampire lord Al Capone. It is so much part of this reality, with the office, a desk, and a man in a well-made suit, until you realize a vampire is having a discussion with a feline (mountain lion) male about how they can make the problems between them go away. The talks devolve when Jack reveals that Capone's men had killed his grandfather, who had been a hitman for the Irish mob. Again, a nice, quiet, tense scene that devolves into utter violence from one heartbeat to the next.
Who do you think the novel will appeal to? You've got exactly 16 words to sell the novel to this person, GO!
Mix Harry Potter with Harry Dresden with a dash of Piers Anthony. Enjoy.
Now go feed your Kindle...