Risingshadow has had an opportunity to interview the fantasy author Jon Sprunk.
Jon Sprunk is the author of Blood and Iron and Storm and Steel, Parts One and Two of The Book of the Black Earth. He is also the author of the Shadow Saga - Shadow's Son, Shadow's Lure, and Shadow's Master - which has been published in seven languages worldwide. An avid adventurer in his spare time, he lives in central Pennsylvania with his family.
The Book of the Black Earth #4
by Jon Sprunk
THE WAR CONTINUES, AND THE UNDEAD RAVAGE THE LAND. JIROM, HORACE, AND EMANON BEGIN TO HOPE THEY MIGHT FREE THE EMPIRE. BUT CAN THEY MANAGE TO DO SO BEFORE THE DARK KING CONQUERS THE WORLD?
Horace has come a long way from his days of slavery. Now he, Jirom, and their companions think they just might glimpse victory ahead, and the triumphant end to what began as a mere slave rebellion. But first Horace must recover from the loss of his beloved Alyra. And Jirom finds himself asking if even victory will be worth the cost - how can he be sure he and the other winners of this war will rule more justly than the Akeshians did? Meanwhile, a mysterious mass murder-suicide in a temple in Thuum hints that they have more foes than they knew of. And as they advance upon the capital, they find strange obstacles barring their way. Obstacles that suggest the barriers between worlds are growing dangerously thin....
AN INTERVIEW WITH JON SPRUNK
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I am a husband and a father. I grew up in central Pennsylvania and live there still. I went to Lock Haven University and graduated with a BA in English.
I started writing fantasy stories in high school, just as a hobby to amuse myself. I’m a huge fan of authors such as Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, Tolkien and Glen Cook, so my early stuff was direct imitation. It took me years to find my own voice, but hopefully I am adding to the rich tradition of fantasy stories.
- You're the author of "The Book of the Black Earth" fantasy series. What inspired you to write this series?
A love of history and mythology. Although I make up fictional worlds for my books, I usually tie them to some place and time in the past. It helps me visualize what I am writing, and roots me in the story. It’s that admixture of real and fictional that makes fantasy such a vibrant genre, in my opinion.
Also, this series is a story I have been trying to write for 30 years. My first attempt at a novel (which I never finished) was about two men who were dragooned by demon lords to serve as their champions. That kernel of a story never left my mind, and now finally I have been able to bring this version of it to others.
- In what kind of a world do the events take place in this series?
I always loved studying the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia. That’s where I started with this series, in terms of setting. I asked myself what if the ancient Babylonians had possessed real magic. How would that have changed their society, and what would have come from that?
So, I created the empire of Akeshia, which is composed of several city-states, each ruled by an immensely powerful sorcerer or sorceress. In fact, all the nobles are able to work magic; this ability is what sets them apart from the common folk. They believe this magic comes from the gods, and so they claim the divine right to rule.
Slavery is practiced throughout the empire. A person can be enslaved for anything from failure to pay debts to committing certain crimes. The children of a slave are also slaves, for life.
The people of Akeshia worship many deities, and these cults act as gatekeepers to the corridors of power. Even the kings of the city-states are careful not to anger the priesthoods. For the common people, the cults govern every aspect of their lives, from the professions they are allowed to follow to the times for planting and harvesting crops.
- Your latest book, "Sun and Serpent" (Book 4 of "The Book of the Black Earth"), will soon be published by PYR. What can readers expect from this book?
Sun and Serpent is the fourth and final book in the series. It’s a story of power struggles and popular resistance, of love and heartbreak, of war and futility.
It begins with the characters in a precarious situation. They have been at war with the empire for some time, but now they have realized that another, more powerful, enemy has come onto the stage. All that they have fought for hangs in the balance.
- Is "Sun and Serpent" a direct sequel to the previous book ("Blade and Bone", 2018) or can it be read as a standalone book?
It is a direct sequel. While you could try to read it alone, you would be missing a great deal of the previous story.
- Could tell us something about the characters in this book?
These books have a large cast of characters. I will tell you about a couple.
Horace is a foreigner who was captured in a time of war and made a slave. When it was discovered that he possessed latent magical powers, he was freed and made an official in the court of a powerful queen. Now he fights for the people against the oppressive empire. And he fights for revenge, because his love was slain by a powerful servant of evil in the previous book.
Jirom is an escaped gladiator slave who joined the underground resistance. Now he and a ragtag band of freedom fighters wage an impossible war to overthrow the empire.
Astaptah is the spider lurking at the heart of the empire. Once vizier to the same queen that Horace served, he killed her and took her place. Using dark magic unlike anything seen before, he has embarked on a campaign to conquer the empire for himself, and bring about the foretold apocalypse.
- What has been the most rewarding part of writing "The Book of the Black Earth"? And what has been the most challenging part of the writing process?
For me, writing is its own reward. I get to fashion people and places out of thin air and see what they will do. As a lifelong daydreamer, writing fantasy is the outlet for this creative energy running around inside my skull.
Finishing a story is the most difficult part for me. Even when I know how I want it to end, bringing all the pieces together in a satisfying way is difficult.
- Is "The Book of the Black Earth" an ongoing series? Will there be more books?
This is the final book in the series . . . unless inspiration grabs me by the ears and I demands that I write another. But I have other characters to meet and other lands to explore with new stories.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
I want to thank you for this opportunity to share my work. And thank you to all your readers. If you aren’t reading this series yet, I hope you will give it a try.