Tuesday, January 05, 2010

John Brown Answers Questions Five

I presume that John Brown is a pretty happy guy – he recently saw the release of his first novel, Servant of a Dark God (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound). It’s the first book in the Dark Gods trilogy (though it stands on its own well enough) and it’s been fairly well received – I enjoyed it. He lives in the hinterlands of Utah with his family and has been inspired by conversations with livestock (see below). And I’m very pleased that he took the time to answer Questions Five.

Utah seems to have a disproportionately high number of SFF writers when compared to other places in the world. Is there something in the water?

It's the Jell-O, actually. You eat as much green Jell-O as we Utahans and it's bound to start affecting your dreams.

It does seem there are indeed a lot of SFF writers in Utah. You've got big names like Sanderson, Farland, and Modesitt. In YA there's Mull, Dashner, and Hale. But I question if we really do have more per capita.

I'm looking at the SFWA directory with members listed out by state and Utah doesn't seem to have an inordinate number for its size. For example, if you use the electoral college as a rough population guide, New Mexico and Utah (both with 5 electoral votes) have about the same number of listings. Washington, which has double the number of electoral votes of Utah, has a little more than double the number as Utah. New Jersey isn't represented well. Neither is Georgia. Of course, not all SFF writers are members of SFWA. So this could be just another one of those useless datasets.

Having done that super rigorous investigation, I will say that I have enjoyed the relationships I've made with other Utah writers. I don't know what other states are like, but the group here is so dang nice and helpful. Everyone seems to be all "come on in, the water's fine!" And I can tell you it feels very nice in this pool.

Just how many significant events in your life have been inspired by conversations with livestock?

Besides the one that helped me get the idea for this book, I'd say zero. Livestock are just not the best conversationalists. And I've really tried. I've written about it elsewhere (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/10/20/the-big-idea-john-brown/ ), but for your readers I'll summarize the one fine beef chat I did have.

I live up in the hinterlands of Utah in Rich County. It's all ranch land for miles and miles. Now, I'm a city boy, so everything up here was new to me. And one day I was hiking up a canyon and came across a small herd of cattle on their summer range. The bull was bellowing.

Being of supreme intelligence, I bellowed back because, hey, isn't it everyone's dream to talk to animals? We went back and forth a few times. I thought we were having a fine conversation until he began to charge through the willows at me.

I suddenly realized I was telling him I was going to take one of his women. He was telling me he was gonna kill me. And I was saying, "Bring it, I'm taking a woman."

He had a slight size advantage on me, and because I've already got a wife and am not attracted to cows all that much anyway, I high-tailed it out of there. But I began to think: humans, cattle, ranching--what if humans were ranched? So it was a bull that gave me the idea for this novel.

If Servant of a Dark God were a fortune cookie, what would its fortune be?

"You will be soon richer than JK Rowling"

In my dreams. Let's see.

"Human, it's what's for dinner."

Naw. How about this.

"After much tribulation cometh the blessings."

How would you interpret this fortune if it were your own?

It IS my own. You can't know sweet until you've tasted bitter. Most of my greatest joys in life were the result of some tribulation. Or perhaps I should say that many could not be had without going through some struggle.

Why should Servant of a Dark God be the next thing that everyone reads?

Because then I'll have a gazillion readers and will be able to exert mind control to pass legislation guaranteeing bunny cakes to everybody every April first. Bunny cakes make the world so much better. The first is my birthday. And so said legislation would make the first an international holiday called John Bunnycake Day. I'm not joking. Really, I'm not.

But if you don't like that reason, then maybe this will make more sense. However much I'd wish it, I can honestly say that this book should NOT be the next thing EVERYONE reads. The world's a big space. A lot of different needs. It might that the next book that needs to be read by Marge in Sandersville, Georgia is Go Dog, Go! And it needs to be read to her daughter. Or maybe it's her husband that needs it, to remind him of the son they've lost. Juan in Blackwell, Oklahoma might need to read Lone Survivor because he's destined to save someone's life as a SEAL. And this will be the book that commits him. And the list goes on.

Still, I do hope that many people read SERVANT. My goal was to plunge the reader into a new world full of danger, to stress them, fill them with cool wonder, make 'em laugh, and leave them with some things to think about—a bit of tribulation before the blessing. From the reports I've been getting from readers, it appears the tale is doing this for most who give it a go. There is a fairly steep learning curve at the front. I might have done that differently, but I think the patient reader will be rewarded.


PeterWilliam said...

Nice, Ken. I really like Brown's humor. Full of caprice and whim, but never too far from relevant. It was neat to see his story about the cattle recounted here.

Neth said...

I agree - it was a nice interview. These Questions Five interviews only work if the author decides to have fun with it, clearly John had some fun.


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