If you haven’t heard that John Gwynne released a new book this week, I am going to assume you are hiding under a rock or living off the grid. All jokes aside, The Shadow of the Gods is the most reviewed book over at FanFiAddict.com currently and it goes without saying that we are huge fans of his work. I was thrilled when Orbit granted me a Q & A, so I’d like to say thank you to Angela (Orbit) and John for their time during this process. I’ll dive right in with the questions because I know that’s what people are really interested in. My review will follow the interview if you’d like to see my thoughts on The Shadow of the Gods.
Hello John! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us. I think you know that our group of bloggers over at FanFiAddict are huge supporters of your work, so we are all excited about this interview.
Hi Cassidee, thanks so much for the invite, it’s great to be here at FanFiAddict, and it’s lovely that you guys have enjoyed spending some time in the Banished Lands and the Battle-Plain.
Did you do a lot of research for the creatures in your various novels or did you whip a lot of them up from your imagination? Do you have a favorite?
Okay, the answer to that is, a bit of both. In general, my research focuses on specific mythologies and historical periods, so a lot of my creatures are drawn from or inspired by mythology. For my new series, the Bloodsworn Saga, I did a lot of research into Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore, and many of the creatures you’ll find in the book are drawn from that. For example, trolls, näcken and spertus are all found in Scandinavian folktales.
I have crafted a few of my own creatures as well, though. In the Shadow of the Gods, you’ll find the tennúr, who are winged, hairless, rat-like creatures that have an obsessive love of human teeth. They are my own invention ☺.
Do I have a favorite creature? That’s a tough one. Would Storm, the wolven from the Faithful and the Fallen count? If so, then definitely her. If not, it would probably be a draw between Vesli and Spert in The Shadow of the Gods (a tennúr and a spertus).
Speaking from personal opinion, Storm absolutely counts. I named my dog after her, so I wholeheartedly agree there.
It is evident in your books that you are an animal lover, how many animals are currently in your household? Any that you have a special bond with?
Ha, you have that right. At the moment we have three dogs and one lamb called Edith. Please don’t even ask.
I have to admit to a bit of jealousy over the lamb, I’ve seen her on instagram and she’s adorable. Now digging a bit deeper! Have you ever had writer’s block? Best way to cure it if so?
I can honestly say no to that. Never had writer’s block. I do have times where the writing comes slower, where it can feel harder going, but there’s never been a time since I began writing that I sat down, looked at the screen and didn’t write anything.
One of the things I do to help me get into that ‘writing place’ each day is start by reading over all that I wrote the day before. I do a light edit as I read over, but it also helps to ease me back into the world, characters and scene. Also, music and headphones are essential to me, both for evoking an atmosphere and cutting out the noise of a busy household.
Additionally, do you feel like the pandemic lockdown has made it easier or harder for you to write?
Strangely, for me, a little harder. There were more people in the house all day long, and so more distractions. I’m not complaining about that, though, it was lovely to be able to spend that extra time with my loved ones.
I think many of us can relate to that adjustment, though it has been very nice to have more time with family.
Out of all of your books, what’s your favorite scene that you’ve written thus far? It can be the one that was most enjoyable to write or the one that you’ve been most satisfied with the outcome?
Ha, how can I possibly answer that? I just write under the vague hope that it will come out alright in the end.
I do remember enjoying writing a certain scene in Ruin, involving a duel, a running mount and an angry wolven.
Also, a scene in The Shadow of the Gods, where Orka walks into a pub (that sounds like the opening line to a joke, but if you’ve read the scene, it is definitely not a lighthearted, joking moment).
I have had the pleasure of reading both of those scenes and they are definitely scenes you should be proud of having written.
Was the process for writing The Shadow of the Gods different for you than from previous novels? Do you stick to a strict writing schedule or do you write as inspiration strikes?
My process has remained much the same since I began writing with Malice. When I started writing (as a hobby) I hadn’t had any experience in creative writing, and so I wrote the only way I knew how – how I’d been taught at University. My tutor’s mantra was ‘read, read and then read some more.’ He was talking about research, and so that’s what I did then and what I continue to do now. I threw myself into research – mythology, ancient history, wolf pack behavior, how to make a sword, all that kind of stuff.
Even though I do that now, I think I am probably a little more aware of when I can stop researching and start writing.
As far as my writing routine goes, life here at the Gwynne’s revolves very much around my daughter, Harriett. She is profoundly disabled and my wife, Caroline and I are her carers. Harriett requires a lot of round the clock care, including feeding and changing, so my writing kind of fits in around her. I try and fit in sessions between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and then again after Harriett has gone to bed.
As far as waiting for inspiration goes, enough of that has usually happened during my research period that I can just sit at my desk, open the laptop and just get on with it. Of course, there are times (many, many times) during the actual writing of a book where I will be spending time brainstorming ideas, thinking through issues and problems, and that is where a lot of the ideas grow and permeate into something else. For me writing is a complex mixture of planning and allowing time for those moments for creativity and imagination to wander and work through things.
Well, that process seems to be working well for you because your books have become very popular among the fantasy community. Speaking of communities, you are super active in the book community and I know readers appreciate that. Do you think it is important to interact with your readers? Do you read a lot of reviews or prefer to leave it up to the imagination?
I’m really pleased to hear that, Cassidee. I’ve always thought that if someone can spend their hard-earned money on one of my books, then give that book hours of their time, and then take even more of their time to reach out and ask me a question, then the very least I can do is answer them.
As far as reading reviews goes, I’m afraid I often do. This is a double-edged sword. It’s a curious thing, being a published writer, and so different from most other jobs. I feel far more invested in my books than I do in the work I did before I was a writer. Of course, I always wanted to do the best job I could, but when I came home, I left the job behind me. It’s not like that with writing. You put a part of yourself into each book, and so it can feel very strange when it is published and becomes ‘public property.’ It’s like people criticizing your children. When reviews say nice things it makes you smile, when they say not-so-nice things it can upset your day, or part of it. I hope I’ve learned to grow some thicker skin, and it’s important to remember that reading is objective, that we all have different tastes and opinions. Fortunately, I tend to see more nice reviews than nasty ones these days, or I’d probably be a wreck ☺
Answers like this remind me why I love seeing constructive reviews in the book community, whether someone enjoyed a book or not. The fact that someone has written a book is an amazing and personal feat.
What’s the best feeling that you associate with being an author? (For example: the birth of a new idea, completing the book, feasting off the tears and/or joy of your readers, etc.)
Tears and joy of the reader are always a high point ☺ In all seriousness, getting an emotional response from a reader is like the Holy Grail to a writer and whenever that happens, I count it as a win. I read to be entertained, to be swept away into a spellbinding world on a rollercoaster of events, characters and feelings. So, when I hear that one of my books has had some kind of emotional effect on a reader it is a wonderful moment.
Are there any special things you do to celebrate once you complete a book?
Ha, usually I collapse for a while, spend some time with the family, watch a movie or two. Eat some ice-cream. In my experience of writing so far, the last section of finishing a book is always an intense, consuming time for me, and that moment when I finish the last line of the first draft is like letting out a long-held breath.
Your books are so quotable. Do you have a favorite quote from any of your books?
I’m glad you think that, Cassidee. I think my most-quoted line must be:
Truth and Courage, and I’m pretty fond of that one.
You don’t shy away from killing off beloved characters, which raises the stakes a bit in your books. Do you generally know the outcome for your characters as you start writing or does that come along the way? Are there characters that have stuck around longer than you originally intended?
That can vary. For example, sometimes I know before I start a series that a certain character is going to die at the end of book three, but most of the time I don’t. Most of the character deaths in my books are a result of that gut feeling as I am writing a scene. There have definitely been characters that have lasted longer than I expected, and the opposite is also true, where characters have died far sooner than I expected.
Here’s a question I’ve spent way too much time deliberating and I think I recall that you’re an Abercrombie fan, so I’d love to know your input. Maquin and Logen Ninefingers have this rage inside them that strikes fear into the heart of men; who would you rather have beside you in a fight? If these two were pitted against each other, who do you think would win?
Ha, I love this question. You’re right, I’m a big fan of Abercrombie and Logen Ninefingers, and I’m glad to hear you mention Maquin in the same sentence as him.
Who would I rather stand beside in a fight? Maquin, no question, but that is because when Logen becomes the Bloody Nine he has a tendency to kill his friends as well as his foes. I would feel a lot safer with Maquin at my side.
If you put those two against each other, though, I’d be a little worried for my guy Maquin, although I wouldn’t count him out. He has that ‘I don’t care if I die’ mentality that makes him more dangerous than you’d think.
Great answer, and I have to agree! Maquin is much more trustworthy as an ally and a stabilizing force even though he is fueled by his rage. The Bloody Nine’s blind rage is a danger to all around him, which also could work against him in a fight against someone with equal but controlled fighting fury.
As a young adult, did you ever foresee a future as an author for yourself? Would 18 year-old you be surprised to see where you are in life now?
Haha, I’ve never actually thought about that. 18 year-old me would be utterly stunned, I think. I was an avid reader then, always have been for as far back as I can remember, but I didn’t have the belief in myself to think I would be able to write a book. My wife gave me that.
Do you have a dream cast for any of the characters from your books?
When I wrote Malice, I always imagined Maquin as Mads Mikkelsen, especially from Valhalla Rising. Queen Rhin was Helen Mirren. Thannon was Gerard Butler. Other than that, I’ve not really thought about it.
Ooh, Mads Mikkelsen is a great choice!
Have you always been interested in Norse mythology? Do you have a favorite Norse god? What about a favorite tale from Norse mythology?
Yes, from my earliest memories of reading I was in love with Norse mythology. I found Odin, Thor, Loki and the gang captivating, and loved the stories of the wolf Fenrir and the god Tyr, of Odin’s ravens, Hugin and Munin, of Thor’s feud with Jormungandr, the world serpent. And scratching that surface there is soooo much more. I love the pragmatism of Norse tales, and the sense of humor.
My favorite Norse god is probably Tyr. He seemed like a pretty decent chap, and the fact that he was the only god that the wolf Fenrir liked goes a long way in my reckoning.
Favorite Norse tale. There are so many, but my favorite would have to involve a troll, some cheese and a porridge-eating competition. It might even have sneaked its way into my last book, The Shadow of the Gods.
Ah, I remember the troll story! It is woven into The Shadow of the Gods perfectly and told by one of my favorite characters.
Thank you again for doing this interview. I can speak personally and for quite a few others that your books have helped get so many of us through this crazy last year. Best wishes to you and your wonderful family.
It’s my absolute pleasure to be here and answering your questions, Cassidee, and I’m grateful for the invite. Thank you for those kind words, they really mean a lot. It’s been the strangest of years, and for many so difficult and tragic, so to hear that my books might have helped in some small way is wonderful.
Thanks to the readers for sticking with me here! Special thank you to the FanFiAddict team for brainstorming with me. Same goes to my friends Yuli and Foteini.
If you’d like to check out my review, continue reading!
My Rating: 10/10
(You may all pretend you are surprised about this)
THE GREATEST SAGAS ARE WRITTEN IN BLOOD.
A century has passed since the gods fought and drove themselves to extinction. Now only their bones remain, promising great power to those brave enough to seek them out.
As whispers of war echo across the land of Vigrid, fate follows in the footsteps of three warriors: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman pursuing battle fame, and a thrall seeking vengeance among the mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.
All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods.
Set in a brand-new, Norse-inspired world, and packed with myth, magic, and vengeance, The Shadow of the Gods begins an epic new fantasy saga from bestselling author John Gwynne.
“This is what it must have felt like to be one of Orna’s daughters, Orka thought, to fly and rule the skies, and she whooped with the joy of it.”
I am a sucker for anything mythology based and after participating in Norsevember last year, I am even more interested in Norse mythology.
In The Shadow of the Gods, Gwynne captures the duality of the Norsemen; a lightheartedness that makes their fighting abilities all the more fearsome. When dying in battle means eternal glory, there’s nothing to lose. These warriors will cut your throat with a laugh in their throat and alternatively, die with a smile on their face. One of the characters named Svik is a prime example of this— a man who always has a joke on his lips but is a fierce combatant. Though Svik is a side character, he’s one of my favorites and is a testament to Gwynne’s ability to make all of his characters shine.
In general, Gwynne has such a lovely writing style. He is capable of writing brutal, bloodthirsty battle scenes. In the next breath, he will make us laugh out loud. You’ll find yourself wiping tears from your eyes as he prod at the tender parts of your heart with his masterful writing. I found The Shadow of the Gods so fulfilling; with characters thirsting for revenge, the deep themes of maternal love, characters finding family in their traveling companions, and of course, some good old-fashioned skull-knocking.
“Brothers, sisters, are we ready?” Svik said to them, all humour gone from him. “Remember, we are Bloodsworn, bound to one another. Stand or fall, we are sworn to each other. That is our strength.” Nods, grunts. Svik looked at Varg and Torvik. “Well, not you two, but if you survive this . . . ” He shrugged and grinned.
The battles! Does reading about or seeing a shield wall ever get old? Give me all of the shield walls. Nothing demonstrates a cohesive team of warriors the way a tightly-ran shield wall does. Gwynne does an excellent job at writing these scenes and making you feel the claustrophobia involved in being a part of one. I will be the first to admit that I often glaze over while reading battle scenes but Gwynne writes them so expertly that I have no choice but to hang onto every word. I actually look forward to the fight scenes in his books.
The characters in this novel are as endearing and standout as any of Gwynne’s other novels. If you’ve read any reviews of this book, you’ve undoubtably heard about the main characters. Fierce, maternal Orka. Brave, lucky Varg. Cunning, adventurous Elvar. These three, alongside a cast of intriguing side characters, fill the story with heart and excitement. Where it gets really interesting— and in my opinion, an area where Gwynne excels in his novels— is the incorporation of vaesen. They are the creatures that lurk in the shadows of this world (and sometimes, plain in sight) and they are astounding. Gwynne is no stranger to using animal or creatures as companions/foes in his novels, but he only gets more genius in his integration of them as he puts out books.
I think it’s time we talk about something, though…
We really need a name for what Gwynne does. This constant, absolutely breathtaking storytelling! The way he gets your heart rate up from the first few chapters of his novel and keeps it consistently on the verge of heart attack! The wonderfully explosive endings to his books! He never lets up and he never lets us down. He’s one of the few authors I know that keeps a constant, blazing momentum throughout his books. Sanderson has the Sanderlanche. Should we coin this the Gwynnercane or the Gwynnederstorm? What about the Gwynnenado?
Okay, okay. I can already feel the glares and groans through my screen. I’ll let you guys come up with a name for it and stop embarrassing myself here. Bottom line: The Shadow of the Gods is beyond words and is without a doubt going to be a wonderful set up to the rest of the series. That ending! I already can’t wait to read the next installment. What are you waiting for? Go grab a copy!
“Men die, women die, all creatures of flesh and blood die, but battle-fame survives. To become a song, a saga-tale told from generation to generation. That way we will live for ever. That is what I want, what all of us want.”