An interview with Joshua Palmatier

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Joshua Palmatier is an American fantasy author, who has written the Throne of Amenkor trilogy. has had the honour of interviewing Joshua Palmatier.


Hello Joshua and thanks for letting interview you.

How did you become a fantasy writer? Have you always been interested in fantasy?

I was always interested in fantasy, since that first moment when my mother brought me the wrong library book, written by Andre Norton, not Mary Norton (mystery writer). There was no turning back at that point, although I didn’t decide to be a fantasy writer until a few years later. An English professor assigned a “Twilight Zone” story and commented on mine that it was good and I should write more. At that point, I realized I could be creating my own worlds and characters and having my own adventures, that I didn’t need to rely solely on the books at the bookstore. I began writing short stories at that point, and moved on to novels when I went off to the university.

What are your favourite fantasy writers and books?

I have a few favorites. I loved Andre Norton when I was younger, along with Terry Brooks and David Eddings. My more recent fantasy favorites have been books by Tad Williams (his “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” trilogy) and anything written by Guy Gavriel Kay, in particular A Song for Arbonne.

Do you read any other books? If you do, what are your favourite non-fantasy writers?

I do indeed read other types of novels, including mysteries, science fiction, and mainstream. My favorite author for mystery is probably Sue Grafton and her “alphabet” series. For science fiction... I’m currently a fan of David J. Williams, who’s new to the scene, and John Scalzi. And for mainstream (although you could argue that he’s really a fantasist at heart), I love Stephen King. Favorite King novels would be The Stand and Pet Sematary.

What inspired you to write the Throne of Amenkor series?

The inspiration for the Throne of Amenkor series actually came from a scene in another book, not yet published, called Sorrow. While writing Sorrow, the main characters ended up in an ancient museum, which I needed to fill with a bunch of cool artifacts. I had one of the main characters see this strange, warped throne, where the shortest leg of the throne was attached to the highest part of the seat, like an Escher drawing. When he approached the throne, he heard thousands of voices. It freaked him out and so he backed away. However, the weirdness of the throne coupled with the voices stuck in my mind and eventually became the heart of the Throne of Amenkor series. What were those voices? And how were they associated to the throne?

How would you describe the Throne of Amenkor series to readers, who haven't read your books yet? What can readers expect from these books?

The Throne of Amenkor series is a set of dark fantasy novels, set in a single port city called Amenkor. They center around one main character, Varis, who at the beginning of the series is a young girl barely surviving in the slums of the city. She meets a Seeker – a royal assassin – who trains her so that she can help him find his marks in the slums. Of course things escalate as the city sinks slower into desperation and decay, the Mistress – the ruler of the city – goes insane, a hostile unknown force attacks from the ocean to the west, and traitors within the city orchestrate death and destruction. The most common word used to describe the Amenkor books is “gritty,” and I’d have to agree. They’re dark, gritty books, with a main character who will do whatever it takes to survive... even face the voices trapped inside the Skewed Throne itself.

Was it difficult to create a completely fictional fantasy world?

Actually, creating the fantasy world isn’t all that difficult for me. The worlds seem to live in my head pretty much already formed. The hard part is getting those extremely vivid and realistic worlds across on the paper while I write, so that the reader can see them as completely as possible.

At this moment you're writing a new series, which is set in the same world as the Throne of Amenkor series. What can you tell us about this series?

The new series (which doesn’t have a series title yet) is indeed set in the same world as the Throne of Amenkor series but it will feature a completely different set of characters and a different part of the world. I wanted to explore some of the past history of the world in more detail, things that are only hinted at in the Throne of Amenkor books, and this series sets out to do just that. I can’t reveal much more about the series since it’s still in the development phase, but the first book, called Well of Sorrows, should be out sometime in 2010, and the two sequels in 2011 and 2012.

When you've finished writing your new series, what will you be writing next? Have you made any plans yet?

I’ve actually sold the first book in a new series called Shattering the Ley, which will be the project I work on next when I finish up the new trilogy. I’m obviously playing with the ley line idea, but this is set in a fantasy world that’s a little more advanced than most of the fantasy worlds out there. I’m trying to combine an apocalyptic story with a fantasy. We’ll see what comes of that, I guess.

Have you ever thought of writing a science fiction book?

I have considered writing a science fiction novel – I even have a proposal for a science fiction series written up – but my heart is in fantasy. I expect that eventually I’ll be working on that SF project enough that it might actually sell and be published, but at the moment my focus is mostly on fantasy novels.

Have you written any short stories? If you have, what kind of stories have you written?

For the most part I don’t write short stories... although that’s changed in the past year or so. I actually wrote a science fiction short story called “Mastihooba” that will be appearing in the anthology Close Encounters of the Urban Kind in April 2010. I’ll also be writing a fantasy short story for an anthology I’ve just sold called After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar, which I’ll also be editing. And I’ve been invited to participate in a few other anthologies in the past few months. So watch for some more short fiction from me in the near future.

Does the feedback from your readers influence your writing style in any way?

Any kind of feedback will influence your writing to some extent. I take into account what the readers are saying for things like worldbuilding and such, but I certainly don’t follow up on all of the suggestions made by readers. I know that readers of the Throne of Amenkor series wanted to know more about the world that Varis and the rest of the characters lived in, so in the current series I’m trying to incorporate more of that type of setting into the novel, for example. Some have offered up suggestions for changing the characters, such as giving them more of a love interest, which I didn’t do (there’s certainly some relationships developed during the course of the novels, but I’m happy with the level exposed in the books). Writers like feedback, even feedback that we end up not agreeing with in the long run. It shows us that we’ve written a novel and characters that the readers care enough about to actually comment on. And saying that they want MORE of something... that’s the best compliment a writer can get.

What else do you do besides writing? How do you spend your free time?

Well, for a day job I teach mathematics at a university. That takes up quite a bit of time. I also work out at the gym on a regular basis and even teach cycling classes there. For fun, I go to flea markets and antique shows, collecting crackle glass and old board games and a few other odds and ends. I play the piano, the clarinet, and even a little violin (you really don’t want to hear me playing the violin though). Otherwise... I read and write and have dinner and drinks with friends, go to movies, all the usual stuff.  *grin*

Thanks for the interview, Joshua. It was a pleasure to interview you.