Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Jonathan Maas.
Jonathan Maas is the author of City of gods - Hellenica. He is also a web designer.
City of gods - Hellenica was published in August 2013.
AN INTERVIEW WITH JONATHAN MAAS
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your words?
I’m a writer living in Southern California. I have a day job (I’m a web designer), and I write novels during my bus ride to and from work.
I have book out on Amazon right now – City of gods: Hellenica. That’s ‘gods’ with a lowercase ‘g’!
I have two more books in the works and hope to release them soon.
- What kind of novels and stories do you write?
I tend to gravitate towards writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, though I’m trying to expand my horizons a bit. City of gods: Hellenica would be considered SciFi/Fantasy, and the upcoming book Spanners: The Fountain of Youth would be considered Fantasy noir.
I’m writing a third book, Flare, and I’m hoping it will fit in the framework ‘Literature with a SciFi premise.’ I liked how Cormac McCarthy set up a SciFi premise in his book The Road, but then went on to write a unique book that transcends genres.
In short, I write SciFi, Fantasy and noir, and would love it if my third novel Flare ended up simply in the ‘Literature’ section of a bookstore one day.
- Have you always been interested in speculative fiction?
Absolutely. I’ve always enjoyed reading the great Science Fiction and Fantasy authors like Robert Heinlein, JRR Tolkien and George RR Martin. I love them because they create worlds with rules not our own, and once you enter their worlds it expands your own conception of what’s possible.
In our ‘real’ lives we constantly surround ourselves with arbitrary and invisible rules, rules that only exist because we choose to let them. Mortgages, office politics, or the value of getting a reservation to a trendy new restaurant - these are things that we ascribe so much importance to, but when you think of it they can be quite mundane.
The great speculative fiction authors don’t care for these things, and instead choose to care for other things. Robert Heinlein’s characters debate the nature of the citizen-soldier during the day, and then worry about getting cut in half by gigantic alien insects at night. Tolkien’s characters worry about Orcs and Trolls, and not beating the traffic on their morning commute.
George RR Martin is a bit of an exception to this rule, because his characters are concerned with the mundanities of their own world, for example paying debts and ingratiating oneself to the right people. But although George RR Martin’s characters are trapped in an endless web of self-serving intrigue and deception, their worries are still not our own, and that still helps us expand our conception of what’s possible.
In short, reading speculative fiction frees a person from the invisible, arbitrary rules that trap us in modern life. Writing speculative fiction takes that freedom to another level entirely. I suggest trying both.
- City of gods – Hellenica was published a couple of months ago (June 2013). What inspired you to write it?
I was inspired to write it by the birth of my son. I wanted to make something that he could be proud of, and I wanted to make a small world of fiction, just for him.
I wanted to create a world that was expandable, unique but at the same time rooted in our own myths and legends, much as JK Rowling writes her books. In Harry Potter, she makes a unique school that’s expandable, because there’s always a new room on the campus grounds to explore. She also roots it in our own legends, with unicorns and phoenices running alongside beings of Rowling’s own inventions.
I started with a world filled with Greek gods, because I’ve been obsessed with them ever since I can remember. I decided to cut it loose and make a world where all gods have come back, and that made the world even more expandable.
In this book Babylonian Dagon battles Greek Poseidon, and Irish deity Lugh is forced into a war against the neighboring district lead by the Apache god Usen the Creator.
Mashing these gods and cultures up against one another leads to a lot of fun, and can help create a lot of stories.
- How would you describe City of gods – Hellenica to readers who haven't read it yet?
It imagines a world where all the gods have come back, and not just the Greek ones. Zeus, Hephaestus and Heracles are back, but so are Dagon, Loki, Lugh, Thor, Oshun and countless others. Each god presides over their individual district, and they’re constantly fighting with one another.
One province, Hellenica, sees that this fighting is going to bring the world to a bitter and painful end, and the leaders of Hellenica act. They build an academy and recruit sixteen young and unjaded gods, in the hopes of training them to police this world.
The story centers on four such recruits, Kayana Marx, Gunnar Redstone, Tommy Alderon and Saoirse Frost. They’re not quite ‘gods’ because their origins stem from the monotheistic times. These fifteen year olds are the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and though their powers are great, they don’t quite fit in with the Academy.
But the Academy sees their power and hopes to train them, even if it might bring the entire world to an apocalyptic end.
- Is City of gods – Hellenica a standalone novel or part of a series?
In a perfect world it’s part of a series. I have some of it mapped out in my head, but I have two unrelated novels in the queue ahead of the next City of gods book.
- What will you write next?
I have two books that should be coming out relatively soon. I’m about to put the book Spanners: The Fountain of Youth on Amazon, and I’m on the second draft of my third novel, Flare.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
I just want to thank each and every person who took the time to read one of my books. I’m not just pandering: on behalf of all authors, it’s you the reader who are the real heroes. Without you, John Carter, Jurassic Park, Dracula – none of these things would exist.
Whether you like the book or not, just the act of reading it brings it into existence, and you reading it is the only thing that can give the book value.
So whether you liked the book or not, I really appreciate it. And if you gave the book a good review, I owe you a coffee the next time I see you.