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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interview with Jon Courtenay Grimwood + Giveaway

As part of The Fallen Blade event, I interviewed the author, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, about his latest book, The Fallen Blade.
1.    Where did you get the inspiration to write The Fallen Blade? What was your ‘aha’ moment?
I know precisely what the aha moments were! The first was an image of Tycho chained naked in the darkness to the bulkhead of the ship, and the men thinking he was dead. Inside my head he opened his eyes and showed me they were a different colour. And I knew instantly that he was not human.
The second was of Lady Giulietta kneeling in tears before a statue in the basilica, knowing she was going to be send away to be married in the morning. Between them they provided the whole book.

2.    Do you still remember when did you start writing The Fallen Blade?
Friday 27 February 2009 sitting in a small hotel near the railway station on the edge of Venice. I know the date exactly because I noted it in my diary. I'd done character work before that and flew to New York the previous November to talk to the US publishers about the series but late February was when I started.

3.    Above all possible places, why you pick Venice?
It's the strangest place I've ever been and that includes Tokyo in Japan, which is pretty damn strange, and Marrakesh in North Africa, which is odd in its own way. Venice has this really weird feeling to it. Like there's a city behind the city and you might turn a corner out of the crowds into a narrow alley and stumble over this other city by accident.
Everyone talks about how crowded Venice is and it is a small city, made of a hundred islands joined by bridges and it *is* crowded. Yet it's still possible to find deserted street and squares, dead ends and narrow back canals and I've never been able to shake my feel that ghosts are watching. That strangeness made it the perfect place to set a Vampire novel.

4.    There are many vampire stories these days, what make yours different from those?
I know there are lots and at least half are love stories between dead boys and live girls or the other way round; but mine's the only one set in 15th century Venice and featuring the first vampire into Europe! We're not talking Dracula's father here, but we're talking Dracula's blood line. Obviously, Tycho's not sure yet what he is and doesn't know he's a actually vampire. At least one of the characters thinks he's a demon. Another thinks he's allergic to sunlight and silver. 
We all have two sides to our personality, sometimes more. Tycho's sides are at war with each other. I see this situation like going through early adolescence; he's right in the middle of changing and looking in both directions at what he was (human/a child) and what he might become (vampire/adult). 

5.    What is your favourite Vampire story? Does the story affect the way you create yours?
The ruined castle, the aversion to garlic, the fear of holy water and crucifixes, the fangs, the lack of reflection, the ability to become a bat... The way we think of vampires owes a lot of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Even fantasy writers who've never read the book know the story of the count from endless films. It's one of those novels so deeply imbedded in our minds we take knowing the story for granted.
That said, my favourite story is *Vampire Hunter D*, which is a Japanese anime I bought years ago and fell in love with for its sheer strangeness. I'm pretty fond of True Blood too. 

6.    What can you tell our reader about your main character, Tycho?
He was born as slave in Bjorn in, the last Viking outpost in America. His mother died in childbirth having crossed an ice bridge from Asia. He has wolf grey hair and amber flecks to his eyes and was in love with his adopted sister. He misses the sunshine and can remember a time when he swam in rivers in broad daylight as he hid from his master and foster mother. He doesn't know how he reached Venice. Tycho probably isn't his real name but he doesn't remember what is.

7. What is Tycho's biggest challenge? Is it his power, his love to Lady Giulietta; or the politic turmoil that affect Assassini and, in consequence, him?
The biggest challenge Tycho faces is dealing with his hunger and keeping Lady Giulietta safe while remaining as human as he can. Every change costs of little sliver of his humanity. In the end he can be the best trained assassini ever but what's the point if he's turned into something Giulietta can no longer love. Assuming Tycho can get her to love him anyway.

8. You also created krieghund, some sort of werewolves. You also opened the story with the battle between them and the Assassini. For those who haven't read The Fallen Blade, what can you tell them about the krieghund and are they different from the werewolves we've come to know so far?

The krieghund are a brotherhood of wolves from deep in the Teutenborg forest. Essentially they're military werewolves and Emperor Sigismund's shock troops. I've based them very firmly on early German myths about shape changing people. Prince Leopold is a krieghund and his initial hatred of Tycho is mixed with shock as he thought Tycho's kind were extinct.

9.    The Fallen Blade is the first part of The Assassini Trilogy; in general what’s the main story about? What can they expect to find in your book?
It's a three-way love story between a foreign slave boy, an unhappy princess and the bastard son of the German emperor. And just because at least one of them is dead doesn't make it any less real...
The back story is the young duke of Venice is unable to rule so power is divided between his mother, a half-Mongol princess, and his father's brother, an ex-mercenary prince. They hate each other and only the fact they have to work together to keep Venice out of the hands of the Holy Roman (German) and Byzantine emperors stops them killing each other.
Between them they oversee the *assassini* - the city's assassins - who deal with anyone the ruling Council want dead. Complicating all this are the *krieghund*, the German emperor's crack army of werewolves who have been killing Venetian street children.
The three books deal with Tycho's rise to power, his obsession with Lady Giulietta, and the sacrifices and compromises he makes to keep her safe. In her turn, Giulietta had to decide what she will give up for Tycho.    
Give a big applause for Mr. Grimwood! You can pre-order The Fallen Blade in Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and The Book Depository. And while you're there, check also his other works!

Remember, we have The Fallen Blade giveaway, submit you entry here and leave meaningful comment in this post for extra entries.




Sage Ravenwood said...

I loved Vampire Hunter D as well. That was my first forage into anime. Thanks for the interview I'm definitely intrigued. (Hugs)Indigo

Michelle said...

I think the way that history is going to be wrapping itself through the fantasy will make for an intriguing tale...

mixdspice said...

Im always looking for an original vampire story...sounds very interesting...

Andra Lyn said...

This sounds like SUCH a great book... I am about ready to hop out of my chair and run down to borders this second....too bad they dont open for another 4 hours...This book definitely sounds way different from the cliche paranormal vampire/human/werewolf love triangle we have all come to expect. I can't wait to read it

Laura H. said...

What a great review! One of the more entertaining ones I've read! I liked his explanation of why he picked Venice ("...feel that ghosts are watching.") and his description of Tycho. I'm sold.

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