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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Interview: Lou Anders (Author of Frostborn)

I'm thrilled to host Lou Anders, author of the highly praised fantasy-adventure Throne and Bones trilogy

Lou Anders drew on a recent visit to Norway along with his adventures traveling across Europe in his teens and twenties to write Frostborn and Nightborn, combining those experiences with his love of globe-trotting adventure fiction and games (both tabletop and role- playing) However, he has yet to ride a wyvern. With the addition of characters Desstra and Tanthal, Anders hopes that his second book in the Thrones and Bones series will continue to appeal to boys and girls equally. Anders is the recipient of a Hugo Award for editing and a Chesley Award for art direction. He has published over five hundred articles and stories on science fiction and fantasy television and literature. A prolific speaker, Anders regularly attends writing conventions around the country. He and his family reside in Birmingham, Alabama.

You wrote Frostborn to introduce young readers to fantasy. What was the turning point in your career that compelled you to write Frostborn?
This is a story that you hear over and over. It reduces to “write what you love”, but the longer tale is that Frostborn was the third manuscript that I undertook. I was working as an editor and art director, and hadn’t written anything for many years, when a friend, author George Mann, invited me to contribute to an anthology he was editing. I wasn’t sure, but he twisted my arm. So I set to work on a story about a girl living in Atlanta, Georgia who discovers that she has magical powers of a musical nature. The story took me forever, and I kept asking George for more time. He was very casual about it, and became increasingly so as I continually pushed back my deadline. I didn’t understand how his own deadline could be so fluid, but I plugged on and finished it. After I handed it in, he confessed that the anthology project had been scrapped. My first reaction was to think, “You jerk, if I’d known, I never would have finished it.” Which is when I realized what a favor he had done me. Because I never would have finished writing it otherwise.

Then George encouraged me to turn the story into a novel. That took two years, but it resulted in my landing an agent. It didn’t sell, but it got me writing again, and during this process, I started work on another teen novel about a young girl growing up on a space station who uncovers a conspiracy to start a galactic war. This one didn’t sell either, but it got wildly enthusiastic rejections (all saying variations of “Love this! Fantastic characters! Reminds me of the best of 90s television science fiction! Too bad we don’t publish scifi!”). At this point, I decided that rather than write what I thought I was supposed to write or what I thought I could write, I would write what I really wanted to write. Even if it was intimidating, I’d write what I’d always wanted to write, which was a fantasy novel that harkened back to the stories I’d loved as a child.  Only my stories would also feature strong women characters. The result was Frostborn and my first sale.

I also wanted to write a book my own children could read. My aforementioned career as an editor involved publishing a lot of dark and gritty adult fantasy, works cut from a similar cloth to George RR Martin and Steven Erikson’s style of fiction. While I was proud of the books we produced, they weren’t kid-friendly. I wanted to write a story I could share with my children.  It would be a story that would introduce children everywhere to the joys of the fantasy genre.  And, it would appeal to both boys and girls (and also deal with issues that biracial children could relate to).

You say that you wanted to write the kind of story that would have excited you as a kid.  What authors/books were an inspiration to you growing up?
My first encounter with fantasy fiction was probably when my father read The Chronicles of Narnia aloud to the family. We went through that whole series at least twice, and I remember that I loved to sit at his feet while he read aloud to the family. After that, I hit the 1977 TV adaptation of The Hobbit, which kicked off a love affair with Tolkien. I had (and still have) a coffee-table edition of The Hobbit which was lavishly illustrated with art and concept art from the TV film, and I pored over it (and taught myself to draw the Goblin king). The next year, the Lord of the Rings animated film came out. I painted scores of miniatures—I had a table in my bedroom with a huge display of orcs attacking a castle manned by the Riders of Rohan that took up half my bedroom.

Then when I was 12 or 13 years old, my father thrust Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars into my hands and ordered me to read it. I didn’t want to, simply because he wanted me to, so I looked at the cover, which featured a gorgeous painting by the very famous artist Michael Whelan and I said, “But it has a naked woman on the cover.” He replied, “I know, but it’s still a good book and you’re going to read it.” So I did. And everything else Burroughs wrote that I could get my hands on. From there, I graduated to Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock. I read lots and lots of fantasy and science fiction short story collections, but very few novel length works. The sword & sorcery tales were always my favorite, particularly the Moorcock.

I should also credit my father (and this time mother) with buying the Dungeons & Dragons Beginner Box for me around this same time. It’s unusual that they did so, because we were a conservative family in the Deep South and this was the period of time that all those accusations of D&D being Satanic were flying around in the press. But they did. And, in fact, my mother helped me laminate a large map of the World of Greyhawk to a huge wooden board, and we would drag that heavy thing  in the back of  her station wagon to whoever’s house we were gaming at that weekend. We really didn’t need the map for every game, but being able to point to the correct hexagon and say “this is where we are,” really made it real for us. I wish I still had that map, since it was so instrumental in forming my imagination and my love for fantasy worlds. But looking back, it’s clear how much I owe my parents for my current career in the fantasy realm!

For lovers of fantasy, what do you think readers will love most about your books?
Well, I don’t think that’s for me to say. It’s a truism that once a book (or a film or a song or any piece of art really) comes out, then it belongs to the audience and the creator has to let go to a degree. I can say that the two bits of feedback I hear over and over are the depth of the world building and the strength of the lead female.  A little girl at a book signing thumped her fist on her chest and said, “I am Thianna,” and that will stay with me forever. (As well as a photo of a boy cosplaying Karn). So, the world and the characters! (Oh, and the monsters are quite popular, too).

For fans looking forward to the sequel, Nightborn, can you give us any teasers on what to expect?
If Frostborn is a wilderness survival book, then Nightborn is a globe-trotting adventure. Where Frostborn is a chase, Nightborn is a race. The book has a Da Vinci Code like riddle that our heroes must solve before a shadowy organization beats them to it.  Having settled comfortably into life on the farm once again, Karn learns that Thianna is in danger. He has to set off across the world to rescue his friend, but whereas last time he had a half-giant partner who was the muscle of the team, this time he has to find out if he has what it takes to succeed on his own. But fans of Thianna don’t need to worry—she’s still a big part of the story. Also, we introduce a new character, a dark elf named Desstra, who is highly skilled in stealth combat, setting traps, mixing poisons and explosives, and whose own journey is at cross-purposes with Karn and Thianna’s.

Is there any additional information that you would like to share with readers?
Just like Frostborn, Nightborn also includes the rules for an original board game in the appendices of the book. This time the game is called Charioteers. It’s a dice-racing game for two to four players. To create it, I looked at the historical antecedents of backgammon. I studied games like Senet and the Royal Game of Ur, as well as a host of other ancient games, but I ended up creating a game that isn’t directly derived from any one source. I’m really proud of the result, both for its originality and for the way it fits into the plot. 

Thanks for stopping by Lou! For more information about Lou Anders and his books, please see the links below.

You can also win an ARC of Nightborn here.

Personal Website:
Book Website:
Twitter: @ThronesandBones @LouAnders

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