I loved Song of the Summer King so much (the griffin book), I asked Jess Owen if she’d do an email interview. And she agreed! Here it is, complete with some of her artwork, plus the book cover spread at the bottom.
First, tell us a little about yourself. What got you interested in writing?
Jess: Reading probably got me interested in writing. I’m one of those who’s “been writing since I could hold a pencil.” Mom and Dad read to my sister and me, and I think that’s how a lot of people fall in lovewith writing. My first story was when I was six, about Buzzie the Bee (I guess I’ve always loved animal fiction?) I have always, always written stories. It’s only been in the last five years or so that I took a true, professional interest and really worked to make my writing “good.”
Gryfons and wolves. Why gryfons and wolves?
I’ve always loved wolves. They were an obsession when I was a teenager and still are. As a fantasy creature they’ve got everything-beauty, loyalty, ferocity and a wonderful animal mysticism. Gryfons are an incredible creation–sort of the centaurs of the animal world; caught
between heaven and earth. When people ask what ‘animal would you be’ I could never chose between eagle or lion. With gryfons, you get both!
As far as the combo…I have a series of drawings I made when I was about twelve that involves gryfons and wolves in some sort of rivalry. Those images came back to me one slow day at work–one of a gryfon and wolf battling to the top of a cliff (sound familiar?) This idea got me asking all the writerly “why” questions and I realized it could be great ground for a story. The world and the war and the ideas came to me. Then I found Shard.
Did you expect to exceed your kickstarter goal the way you did?
I had a secret little hope that I would. I’m really optimistic most of the time 😀 And it’s a good thing I exceeded it because with shipping and costs, the funds are turning out to be Just Enough! It was really amazing, and exciting. Still is. I’m planning to run another one for book 2, next year.
I loved the differences between the Aesir and the Vanir tribes. Eagles and falcons, respectively. How did you come up with them?
I knew they had to be very different. I drew the names and essence of Vanir and Aesir from the old Norse legends (I didn’t want to go with typical English/Welsh based fantasy names). The Aesir I saw as conquering Vikings in a way, and they had to be bigger, stronger and fiercer. The Vanir are quieter and more closely knit to their past and the earth, but they had to have great strength too. So they’re more like sea birds, smaller and faster, but still powerful raptors.
I thought the wolves had a bit of Native American inspiration to them, especially as Catori wore feathers in her neck. Is that what you intended?
Yes! With all the respect to the real, living people, I used the Hopi Native American tribes as a launch point for the wolf culture.They’re an intrinsically peaceful people, close to the earth, and that was how I saw the wolves. I say “launch point” because there are obviously
things that are my own creation, just like they aren’t truly like real wolves, and I’m well aware of things that aren’t realistic about the pack. But it’s fantasy, and they had to have their own culture.
I see the wolf packs and the Vanir of the Silver Isles interacting the way the Inuit tribes and early, more mellow Viking settlers did (there’s record of their interaction!). To each their own, sort of thing. Then the Aesir came.
Do you have a sequel in the works?
Summer King will be a trilogy. The second book is slotted for next fall (2013), with hardbacks out by Christmas (2013).
Without giving too much away of Summer King, will the sequel involve dragons?
“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of
firing it.” ~~Playwright, Anton Chekhov
The Silver Isles were a fascinating setting, filled with surprises. I loved the Daynight, and the caves, and the volcano where the Aesir burn their dead. How did you come up with all that?
The Silver Isles are based heavily on the geography of Iceland. It’s an incredibly diverse and fantastic landscape. When we were closer to the earth, our culture, beliefs and habits were built around the geography we came from. These animals are completely a part of their natural element so their behaviors have to match it. As I built the history and the cultures of the gryfons I also had amazing writer friends who suggested that they needed specific burial rituals and connection to their dead and so on. So you play with what the setting gives you.
Have you done artwork of your gryfon characters? I’d particularly love to see what Stigr looks like. Or Sverin in full war regalia.
I have old pictures of them. But I want to do new ones before anyone
sees the old ones 😉
Thank you so much for participating in this interview! Any last tips for aspiring authors?
Finish your book! Then write another one.
Song of the Summer King illustration by Nambroth