Jon Sprunk is the author of The Book of the Black Earth epic fantasy series as well as the Shadow Saga trilogy. His first book, Shadow’s Son, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and a nominee for the David Gemmell Award for Best Debut Novel and Best Fantasy Novel. For more on Jon’s life and works, visit www.jonsprunk.com.
Pennwriters: What do you think is special about the genre you write in?
Jon: Fantasy speaks to me in a way other genres do not. I don’t claim it is better or worse, only that it appeals to my spirit. Reading (good) fantasy plunges me into worlds I had never dreamed of before, and writing it allows me so much freedom it can become intoxicating. Every writer creates their own setting, even if it’s an alternative to a real place and time period, but fantasy compels me to create entire worlds, and the only limit is the extent of my imagination. Also, fantasy is primal. It speaks from humanity’s earliest myths and legends, from a subconscious place most of us don’t think about in our daily lives. It can be quiet and furtive, or bold and splashy. It can tell of gods and heroes as easily as servants and fishermen.
PW: What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing? Did you ever encounter a serious roadblock and how did you overcome it?
Jon: Time. Writing is about coalescing ideas into words, which takes a lot of mental energy. And time. But we all have lives outside out writing–family and friends, and a “day job” for most of us. So our time becomes a precious commodity.
I’m not sure I have solved the issue of time. I am constantly fighting for more, even as I become increasingly cognizant with every passing year that the sands in my personal hourglass are finite.
PW: What’s individual or unique about your writing space? Do you have a memento or good luck charm on your desk?
Jon: I have a sign over my computer monitor that reads, “Character is the story.” It’s a concept I try to keep central to my writing.
PW: What has been the most satisfying or significant project of your literary career?
Jon: I don’t think you ever forget your first sale. For me, it was a short story about a serial killer elf I sold to an anthology called CLOAKED IN SHADOW. The editor, Will Horner, remains a friend of mine today (and he is also my webmaster).
But the most satisfying moment was selling my first novel directly to Lou Anders, the then-Editor-in-Chief at Pyr Books. That moment changed my life.
PW: What is your favorite tip or advice for writers?
Jon: Don’t take advice from other writers.
All kidding aside, I always tell new writers the same thing: read, read, read. You can learn a few things from more experienced writers and teachers, but the best tutor for a writer is a library. Read as much as you can. Good books, bad books, books you don’t understand. Just read. After that, it’s all practice and aptitude.
PW: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
Jon: Does my wife qualify as an “item”? Never mind, don’t answer that.
Three items: a big piece of flint, a Swiss army knife, and a solar-powered Kindle loaded with all my favorite books.
7. If you had a time machine, where and when would you be right now?
Jon: I’d go back to my 20s and give my younger self some advice, and then I’d come right back. I’m already living the best part of my life.
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