Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your fantasy novel, Sun and Serpent! As this is book four of The Book of the Black Earth series, how would you describe the series’ premise to new readers, and what inspired this latest addition to the story?
Jon Sprunk: Thank you for this chance to connect with your readers. It’s a real honor.
This series is about many things, but it primarily follows the adventures of three characters: a prisoner-of-war, a gladiator slave, and a spy. The story takes place in a fictional world based loosely on ancient Babylonian culture. I see it as similar to A Game of Thrones with more magic and less incest.
The prisoner-of-war discovers that he possesses latent magical abilities, which catapults him from slavery to the halls of power in this sorcerous empire. The gladiator slave escapes captivity and leads a rebellion against the God-Kings who rule. And the spy is trying to keep everything balanced so another war doesn’t break out and destroy her homeland.
I was inspired by history and decades of reading fantasy stories about dragons and wizards, demons and barbarians, swords and sorcery, and everyday people rising to meet the challenge of diabolical situations.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in writing this latest installation, and what have been some of your creative influences?
JS: I typically spend a lot of time brainstorming before I start a new project, and it was no different for The Book of the Black Earth. I read up on history and ancient cultures. I studied different belief systems, from Aztec to feudal Japanese. I am an outliner, which means I take a LOT of notes before I start writing. I did that for a couple months, brewing up ideas and trying to make them fit into a cohesive narrative. I worked on characters, their motivations, backgrounds, and how they would work together (or against each other). Mainly, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to say and how. Then, I get to work.
I have more influences than I can name. I cut my teeth on Tolkien and Robert E. Howard, discovered Moorcock and Lovecraft and Vance and Cook. I love Dragonlance and Thieves’ World. My current fan-crush is Stephen Erikson (whom I briefly met at a World Fantasy convention years ago).
BD: Given your return to the world of The Book of the Black Earth, did you find that there was a shorthand to writing the characters and the story?
JS: Not really. Of course, there is familiarity with characters you have been writing for years. But with each book, I tried to show them growing and changing, while remaining true to their core beliefs. I suppose it helps that I see them as real people (living in my head), and not mere puppets. I want them to act and speak with authenticity.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from book four of the series?
JS: Just enjoyment. I write fiction for many reasons, but mainly because it brings me pleasure, and I hope others feel the same. I love losing myself in another world, watching the exploits of heroes and villains. I love creating new ways to display magic and monsters.
BD: Do you feel that Sun and Serpent will provide a solid jumping-on point for those unfamiliar with the series?
JS: Probably not. So much happened in the first three books that I think a reader would be lost if they began with the final chapter.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JS: I don’t have anything new coming out in the near future. I am trying to discover my next story, but it has been elusive. I think I finally have a concept with some teeth, but only time will tell. Sun and Serpent is my seventh book to be published. I am very proud of them all. Now, I need to find out what kind of stories I want to tell over the next decade. It’s a tall order, but I love the challenge.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Sun and Serpent?
JS: You can follow my Facebook page (Jon Sprunk’s Fiction Page). That’s where I share most announcements about projects and events. As for the book itself, it will be found in all the major markets, including Amazon. The audio version will be made by Graphic Audio.