Do you recall how your interest in writing began?
Boredom and Role Playing Games (RPG), as I recall. When I was in high school, I started running various role-playing games for my friends. I enjoyed making up the plotlines for the games (the twists, the turns, the Final Confrontation with the Evil Overlord, etc.) more than I enjoyed the mechanics of dice and numbers and so forth. Eventually I started writing the stories down, and went from there.
Can you tell us a little more about the RPGs? Was that online?
It was the old-fashioned face-to-face. It was basically homegrown; I made up the plots and systems and statistics and whatnot. Of course, I’d often ignore the systems, and change the rules to get the result I desired. They often ended with the player characters slaughtering each other in fits of pique.
Several of my characters, like Mazael in Demonsouled, Raelum in Black Paladin, and Marugon the Warlock in Worlds to Conquer first originated in my RPGs, though they’ve undergone some rather serious evolution since then.
Do you still have an interest in RPGs or online video games?
Yeah. Though I hardly ever have time to play anymore. I haven’t done a paper-and-pen RPG for almost six years. I do play computer games on occasion. I bought Wizardry 8 a year and a half ago, and still haven’t finished it.
What are your current projects?
Right now I’m proofreading/editing Black Paladin, another sword-and-sorcery (or, “action fantasy”, if you will) novel, and hope to begin trying to sell it by August. In a few months, I should have to do the edits for Worlds to Conquer, my urban-fantasy novel from Mundania Press that should be available sometime in 2006.
I’m also working on a couple of short story projects I hope to sell in the coming months.
Tell us a little bit about the premise of Worlds to Conquer.
Worlds to Conquer is mostly about its villains. The first villain is Marugon, the last of the Warlocks, who figures out how to go from his world to Earth. On Earth, he links up with Thomas Wycliffe, a directionless graduate student, and strikes a bargain with him. Wycliffe will provide Marugon with guns and bombs, and Marugon will teach Wycliffe black magic.
Marugon goes back to his world and slaughters the opposition, who are only armed with swords and lances and bows. Wycliffe uses the black magic to become a powerful and influential Senator with presidential ambitions.
Worlds to Conquer is a little hard to define, genre-wise, but urban/contemporary fantasy works the best.
What do you mean by “urban fantasy”?
“Contemporary fantasy” might be a good way to describe it. It’s a fantasy novel that takes place in our world, but overlaps with another.
You refer to Black Paladin as sword and sorcery, or action fantasy. Do you consider this novel genre?
I would consider it a genre book. I don’t see why some people would consider that a bad thing; most readers select their tastes by genre. Like someone who reads mostly straight mysteries wouldn’t want the detective to develop supernatural powers midway through, and someone who mostly reads books with titles like Lady Coventry Meets The Dashing Yet Sensitive Highwayman wouldn’t want a lengthy digression explaining the physics of hyperdrives. So I don’t really have any issues with writing inside genre lines.
Of course, writing a genre book isn’t an excuse to write a bad book.
Can you share the premise of your current work with us?
Demonsouled is a sword-and-sorcery book about corruption, temptation, and evil. In Marketing speak,it’s a cross between Robert E. Howard, David Gemmell, and H.P. Lovecraft. It’s about a landless knight named Mazael Cravenlock, who returns home to find his hated older brother and beloved younger sister plotting rebellions and consorting with dark powers. Mazael also discovers that he is Demonsouled, descended from the blood of the ancient Great Demon, and must fight the corruption overwhelming his mind and spirit.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I tend to fall into the habit of repeating the same “crutch” words in long writing projects. Like with Demonsouled, I used the word “grimaced” something like forty billion times (I exaggerate only slightly). I always have to watch for that word during editing. I’m also fairly zealous about purging unnecessary words, and sometimes will catch myself removing necessary words along with the unnecessary.
It’s also a challenge finding the time and energy to write, sometimes. Occasionally I want to just sit around and play computer games, or watch TV.
I usually don’t have problems coming up with ideas. I have more ideas than I have time and energy to develop them.
What do you see as the influences on your writing?
I read a lot, and have many influences. Let’s see…Dave Barry, Terry Brooks, Harlan Coben, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Dunsany, P.N. Elrod, Neil Gaiman, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Howard, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, George R.R. Martin, China Miéville, Neal Stephenson, J.R.R. Tolkien (of course), and Timothy Zahn. There’s probably some people in there I’ve forgotten, alas.
I do think several authors were absolute geniuses at various things. H.P. Lovecraft was an absolute master at writing about fear and the unknown. Harlan Coben is great with suspense and plot twists. Neal Stephenson does these amazing asides that are almost like mini-essays. And China Mieville has passages in his books that are simply astonishing and wonderful; like the scene in The Scar when Shekel learns how to read, and gapes in amazement at store signs, or the arrival of the Perpetual Train at New Crobuzon in Iron Council.
And, of course, Tolkien was the original Old Master.
Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?
I want to write a sequel to Demonsouled, but that will depend upon sales. I know some writers worry about become typecast, but that doesn’t really bother me. If I get to keep writing sword-and-sorcery books for years to come, I’ll be happy with it.
I like swordfights, I guess. China Mieville once said he wrote weird fiction because he likes monsters. I suppose I write sword-and-sorcery because I like swordfights and evil wizards.
What lessons can be learned from your book?
I really tried to write it more as an entertaining story and less as a book with weighty moral lessons and whatnot. But I suppose you could say that the moral deals with the evil in everyone, depressing as that might sound. The idea that inspired me to write Demonsouled was the Christian idea of original sin and the evil nature of mankind. Also snakes losing their legs for corrupting man into evil.
Do you wish you led the life of one of your characters?
Nah, not really. They often come to sudden, unpleasant ends.
Find out more about Jonathan at www.jonathanmoeller.com, or his interactive Q+A thread at http://p197.ezboard.com/frasalvatoreforumsfrm8.showMessage?topicID=1173.topic.
He can be e-mailed at email@example.com.