Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Gregory A. Wilson about his epic fantasy graphic novel, Icarus (Silence in the Library Publishing, 2016).
Gregory A. Wilson is Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City, where he teaches creative writing and fantasy fiction along with various other courses in literature. His first academic book was published by Clemson University Press in 2007; on the creative side, he has won an award for a national playwriting contest, and his first novel, a work of fantasy entitled The Third Sign, was published by Gale Cengage in the summer of 2009. His second novel, Icarus, was published as a graphic novel by Silence in the Library Publishing in 2016, and he has just signed a three book deal with The Ed Greenwood Group, which will be publishing his Gray Assassin Trilogy beginning with his third novel, Grayshade, in 2016. He has short stories out in various anthologies, including Time Traveled Tales from Silence in the Library, When The Villain Comes Home, edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy, and Triumph Over Tragedy, alongside authors like Robert Silverberg and Marion Zimmer Bradley, and he has had three articles published in the SFWA Bulletin.
He is a regular panelist at conferences across the country and is a member of the Gen Con Writers’ Symposium, the Origins Library, Codex, Backspace, and several other author groups on and offline. On other related fronts, he did character work and flavor text for the hit fantasy card game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, and along with fellow speculative fiction author Brad Beaulieu is the co-host of the critically-acclaimed podcast Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans, a show which discusses (and interviews the creators and illustrators of) speculative fiction of all sorts and types. He lives with his wife Clea and daughter Senavene – named at his wife’s urging for a character in The Third Sign, for which his daughter seems to have forgiven him – in Riverdale, NY.
Click here to visit his official website.
AN INTERVIEW WITH GREGORY A. WILSON
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I'm a speculative fiction author and a tenured full college professor, teaching courses in fantasy fiction, science fiction, creative writing and others at St. John's University in New York City. My first novel, an epic fantasy called The Third Sign, came out a few years ago from Five Star, and my second novel was just released in graphic novel form as Icarus; I have a three book series called The Gray Assassin Trilogy coming out from The Ed Greenwood Group, starting this September with the novel Grayshade, and have short stories in various places. In addition to my writing work, I co-host a podcast called Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans, and I run a TwitchTV channel focused on story and narrative in games under the moniker Arvan Eleron. I'm the lead singer and trumpet player for the progressive rock band The Road, and I live with my wife Clea and daughter Senavene (named for a character in The Third Sign, for which she seems to have forgiven me) in New York.
- You've written a graphic novel, "Icarus", which is a fresh take on ancient mythology. How did you come up with the idea of writing about Icarus? What inspired you to write "Icarus"?
Icarus was initially inspired by a Cirque du Soleil show drawing upon the Icarus mythology, Varekai. In that show, Icarus falls into a forest of strange creatures, whose reactions to him form the basis for the rest of the show. As usual for Cirque du Soleil, the whole experience was extraordinary, but that first moment—Icarus’s descent to the ground, his wings backlit by a blinding red-white light—was so stunning to me that the rest of the production was kind of a blur. My long-suffering wife was kind enough to drive home from the show as I furiously scribbled down notes for a new novel: Icarus, falling into the heart of a—forest? No, a volcano, a dormant volcano—on another planet—where he will meet a short, stocky, red-skinned...flamepetal prospector named Jellinek, who will sound like a character from the Old West... And off I went. It took two years for me to write the novel Icarus, envisioning the world of Vol and the people the title character would meet when he landed there, and as might have been expected the book went in a different and more complex direction than I had thought it would when I first started. But the visual emphasis remained. When I met Silence in the Library Publishing's Ron Garner, and we began to chat about the possibilities for a graphic novel based on Icarus, I knew the story had found the right home.
- Have you always been interested in ancient myths?
Absolutely--my father introduced them to me when I was very young, and I was always fascinated by the nature of the stories being told within the mythological framework. But I always found the myths to be awfully bleak, putting their protagonists (sometimes literally) though hell and back, and I was curious about whether one could pull hope from the darkness--could things have gone in a different direction, and what would that direction look like? And my version of Icarus is only initially inspired by the myth, of course--the background, and the plot, is completely different.
- How did writing a graphic novel differ from writing a novel? What was the most challenging part of the writing process?
The process was extremely different; as I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm a "words" guy, and although I have always greatly admired visual art, I've never been able to do much of it myself. So watching as artists Matt Slay and Mark Dos Santos turned my imagined world into a visual reality was an extraordinary, and humbling, experience. Keith DeCandido wrote the script (and did an exceptional job), and working both with him and the artists I gradually learned the importance of getting out of the way, of letting the visual images drive the story--it's still my world, but without me having to do all the heavy lifting to describe it. But figuring out what still needed to be verbalized, and what could be left to the visual field, was definitely the most challenging part of this process.
- What is the target audience of Icarus?
I'd like to say anyone who enjoys a good story with beautiful art, but more specifically: people who enjoy new takes on old stories, those who appreciate unusual worlds and fantastic, otherworldly settings, and readers interested in a character-driven tale between two apparently very different creatures who gradually learn how similar they actually are. I think all of these groups would find Icarus engaging and enjoyable.
- How would you advertise "Icarus" to readers who haven't yet heard of it?
From the back cover, this would be my pitch: Icarus is a tall, fair-skinned boy of around 17 who falls into the world of Vol from the sky, a graceful being with wings, incredible powers, and no memory of anything but his name. Jellinek is a four-foot hard-scrabble flamepetal prospector with tough red skin, a gruff disposition and general dislike of everyone around him. On the day that their lives collide, everything about their world changes, and they discover that they have more in common than they could possibly imagine. Join Icarus and Jellinek on a journey into the heart of an ancient volcano, to find the secret of Icarus's past--and the two companions' future.
- Do you have any future plans? Will you be writing more graphic novels in the near future?
Absolutely--we have more books to write in this series, and are planning to publish more graphic novels continuing this story in the years ahead. I'm also excited about my Gray Assassin Trilogy coming out from The Ed Greenwood Group, starting this September with my novel Grayshade. Lots of (enjoyable) work on the horizon!
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
Only to thank you for having me, thanks to the readers who have already bought and responded to Icarus, and thanks to those of you who are considering doing so now...it's a pleasure to publically share a world I've long imagined privately!