Anton Strout: Five Things I Learned Writing Incarnate
When Alexandra Belarus discovered her family’s secret ability to breathe life into stone, she uncovered an entire world of magic hidden within New York City—a world she has accidentally thrown into chaos. A spell gone awry has set thousands of gargoyles loose upon Manhattan, and it’s up to Lexi and her faithful protector, Stanis, to put things right.
But the stress of saving the city is casting a pall over Lexi and Stanis’s relationship, driving them to work separately to solve the problem. As Stanis struggles to unite the gargoyle population, Lexi forges unlikely alliances with witches, alchemists and New York’s Finest to quell an unsettling uprising led by an ancient and deadly foe long thought vanquished.
To save her city, Lexi must wield more power than ever before with the added hope of recovering a mysterious artifact that could change her world—and bring her closer to Stanis than she ever thought possible…
1. How to Survive a Twinado
May of 2014 brought much joy to Castle Strout with the birth of my son and daughter. It also brought much peril. And much shitting, puking and crying (although to be fair some of the crying was done by me and not the newborns). I have a day job in publishing and manage to write a book a year around it, but with the arrival of cuteness and demonic possession personified, I wasn’t sure how I’d bang out another contractually obligated alchemical and gargoyle filled urban fantasy. Somehow I managed it, though… just a little more tired this year than the year before. The one true saving grace in it all was that my editor also gave birth a few weeks after my family’s twins arrived, which meant her schedule was equally thrown out of whack. Thanks to her little Spudette of Doom, I was able to turn in my book a little later due to her being behind editing other books first. Suck it, Twinado! You can’t stop me!
2. The Food Network Presents… Iron… err, Stone Chef!
First off, I watch way too many cooking shows or contest cooking shows. I spent one New Year’s Eve watching the entire 24 hour marathon of the old school Iron Chef from Japan. Hello, my name is Anton and I clearly have culinary issues. Over the course of seven books, however, I’ve discovered that if I wasn’t writing about creepy things doing even creepier stuff to the fine people of New York City, I’d probably want to write about food or restaurants. Some of my favorite scenes I’ve written have involved food. In DEAD TO ME, Simon Canderous makes dinner for his soon to be love, Jane, and I enjoyed the hell out of adding all the culinary details. In INCARNATE, Alexandra Belarus brings a breakfast smorgasbord to her friends as a peace offering. For that one of the culinary delights I created was the Cruffin (patent pending). Clearly based on the Cronut craze here in NYC (a croissant donut), the Cruffin is obviously a cross between a croissant and a muffin. It’s dumb, and makes me giggle just typing it again, and it doesn’t exist, BUT IT EFFING SHOULD!!!
Now I’m hungry, dammit…
3. Fuck Frodo & Sam… Tell Me More About This Ring-Forging Hobby Of Yours
If The Spellmason Chronicles is about anything other than kickass gargoyles and alchemical explosions as far as the eye can see, it’s about makers. I’m kind of obsessed with them. In The Fellowship of the Ring, there is a scene in Galadriel’s narration where she glosses briefly over the forging of the rings and the one true ring of power. I wanted to shout, “Hold on! Go back and tell me about that!,” but alas, elves do not give a shit about my needs, apparently. Thankfully, THE SILMARILLION covers a lot of that, but that desire in me stressed how much I want to write stories that cover that type of thing, and I realized it had been with me my whole life. In playing Dungeons & Dragons I always wondered about Mordenkainen or Elminster, and what the hell caused those wizards to come up with half the magic items they concocted. With The Spellmason Chronicles, I decided to explore that, delving into not just the world of gargoyles, but of who would make them and why. That’s the kind of mystery I wanted answers to, the one I wanted to uncover, and hopefully readers want that too.
4. Not In The Face! (or: I Know Why The Sidekicks Cringe)
There is a fantastic episode of The Tick where Arthur (a grown man in a moth suit who is often mistaken for a giant bunny) gets relegated to the Sidekicks Lounge. There he meets many cast aside boy wonders and such while the heroes party down in the main club. That’s sad state of affairs always stuck with me… and because of it, I think I write stronger secondary characters. They’re not just there to be kicked to the side like sidekicks can be, nor are they one note companions to the hero. Each of them has their own dreams, their own goals, their own strengths… in the Spellmason Chronicles Marshall Blackmoore wants nothing more than to run his game shop while also dabbling in alchemy making D&D inspired magic items. I also deeply love my dancer-turned-modern-day paladin Rory Torres because the woman falls in love fightdancing with a glaive guisarme, which is not the most concealable weapon for New York City. She’s got style. I adore them both, and I get a swell of pride whenever I see love thrown the way of my sidekick characters.
5. NYC is my Frenemy
I came to Manhattan around 1994—in love with the life, the sights, and everything it had to offer, especially the architecture. Yet over and over I seem to destroy it like some giant ape or radioactive lizard. Why do I feel compelled to rampage through my precious City That Never Sleeps? In the Simon Canderous paranormal detective books and the alchemy and gargoyle filled Spellmason Chronicles, I’ve destroyed:
The New York Public Library, Fashion Week at Bryant Park, the Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, bookstores, monuments, Times Square, and ships I’ve sunk off its coastline…
Wow. Looking that over I really hate art, huh? Who knew?
I’ve tried to work though the destructive why of it all, but always come back to the clichéd maxim: You always hurt the ones you love. If that’s the case then I must friggin’ adore New York City, one dysfunctional blow at a time.
Now let’s sink this island, shall we?
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Anton Strout was born in the Berkshire Hills mere miles from writing heavyweights Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. He currently lives in the haunted corn maze that is New Jersey (where nothing paranormal ever really happens, he assures you).
He is the author of the Simon Canderous urban fantasy series and the Spellmason Chronicles for Ace Books, a division of Penguin Random House. Anton is also the author of many short tales published in anthologies by DAW Books. His latest book, Incarnate,the third Spellmason Chronicles book, is coming out September 30, 2014.
In his scant spare time, his is a writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the worlds most casual and controller smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.
He is currently hard at work on his next book and be found lurking the darkened hallways of antonstrout.com or talking with your favorite SF&F authors on The Once and Future Podcast (www.theonceandfuturepodcast.com), where he is host and content curator.