Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Kenny. For those who haven't yet had a chance to encounter Niksabella and Nikselpik, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.
Hi! Thanks for having me. I'm a writer from the Cincinnati area, specifically Northern Kentucky, who grew up in the 1970's and 80's on heavy doses of epic fantasy and horror. Authors like King, Brooks, Jordan, Anthony, McCaffrey, Weiss, and Hickman were my staples, and I was a voracious reader, often ending up in detention due to reading fiction in class. While I've written in a variety of genres and styles, my recent works are epic fantasy with a solid mix of male and female leads. If you like the old Dragonlance books or Lord of The Rings, you'll probably enjoy my stuff. Although, I have to say my fight scenes tend to be a little more brutal and dark than your standard epic fantasy.
Q: Sounds like we very much grew up on the same books. In a genre dominated by elves, orcs, and dwarves, why gnomes? What was it about these tinkers and wizards that demanded your attention?
I've always enjoyed the classic underdog characters, especially the stalwart dwarves and gnomes because of their shortened -- and oft maligned -- stature. Gnomes, in particular, caught my attention when playing Everquest back in 2000. I was tired of my dwarven warrior, so I thought it might be fun to make a grumpy little gnome necromancer. I named him Nikselpik. I had so much fun tinkering with him and generally being cantankerous online that my guild members asked when I was going to start writing stories about him. As Rough Magick unfolded, I found myself caught up in an epic story complete with huge battles, romanic subplots, and cool gnomepunk-like inventions. Being a mechanical guy, I found myself immersed in the possibilities.
Q: I get that - Weiss & Hickman left me with a fascination for Kender. With so much fantasy centered on elaborate systems of magic, or hierarchal structures of mythology, how much fun was it to indulge your technical side with Niksabella and her inventions?
I've serviced various computer systems for the past twenty years -- even spent a few years repairing Minolta laser printers -- so it was a complete blast to mix in those technical and mechanical elements in my epic fantasy. Not just working with the terminology, simplified for regular folk, of course, but also the emotional investment required to be a mechanic or tinkerer; dealing with failures and discouragement as well as the small victories.
Q: Having grown up in Kentucky, how much of that culture and geography has made its way into your work?
At one point, Kentuckians were thought of as fairly independent-minded people. I'm not sure how that holds up these days, but I think my family is a lot like that -- strangely progressive in many ways yet somehow ultra conservative in others. It is a mix that certainly lent itself to Nikselpik and Niksabella who are both very independent in completely different ways.
Also ... the Kentucky landscape in winter; rolling hills, farms, forests, all covered in snow. Stark and beautiful. Definitely how I envisioned the landscape of Northeastern Sullenor as the series worked its way along and the battle for Hightower reached its climax.
Q: Rough Magic first hit the shelves in March of 2013 as a self-published titled, and quickly came out as an extended edition from Ragnarok seven months later. What can you tell us about the behind the scenes action that led to the new edition?
Joe Martin, Creative Director at Ragnarok, was the original editor of the 2013 version of Rough Magick. We were both sort of starting fresh in this new age of publishing, cheering one another on as we felt out the new 'scene.' The great thing is that both of us believed in this series from the start. Although, I have to admit, there was one time when Joe and I were sitting at a local coffee shop discussing things, and I suddenly asked Joe, "Who the F is going to care about gnomes?" Joe just shrugged, and we continued working on the series. That's the one thing I like about being with Ragnarok for the long haul; their passion.
Anyway, time went on ... I released my book and Joe and Tim founded Ragnarok. We hadn't really thought about joining forces until one day we were just chatting randomly on Facebook, and Joe asked me if I'd consider doing the entire GnomeSaga series on Ragnarok.
It was strange that we'd not discussed it until that moment, but I guess the timing couldn't have been better. I wanted to work more on the craft of writing, and I saw the quality of work Ragnarok was putting out, so it seemed like a no-brainer to me. I'm not sure what Joe and Tim were thinking, and I still question their judgement to this day. :)
Q: It's nice when a partnership can work out so very well. In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to the GnomeSaga that you've encountered to -date?
I'm just grateful that folks are giving the GnomeSaga series a chance. People are saying it's clever, has great action scenes, and they really enjoy the world -- so, all of that together is surprising. Nothing too strange, though. There's still time ...
Q: You mentioned spending a good chunk of high school in detention for reading fantasy during class, and I know we touched on this earlier, but which authors have most influenced or inspired your writing, and is there anybody today to whom you turn to refresh your literary batteries?
Cliche, I know, but The Hobbit was the first epic fantasy novel my uncle handed me. Then it was on to the Thomas Covenant Chronicles by Donaldson, McCaffrey's Pern, Piers Anthony, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, and a lot of Stephen King. Of course, huge for me was Weis and Hickman's Dragonlance stuff. As time went on, I moved between horror and epic fantasy. I enjoyed certain selections from Anne Rice, Michael Moorcock, and Glen Cook. Now, my go-to authors are Caitlin R. Kiernan, George Martin, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Mark Lawrence, Teresa Frohok, Jeff Salyards, and a lot of other great authors who I consider my peers now.
Q: Interesting - I did Dragonlance, Elric, and Thomas Covenant first, before coming back to the Hobbit. Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were the GnomeSaga to be optioned for the big screen . . . and would it be live action or animated?
The good news is that with advances in technology, shooting live action little folk can be done -- of course I'm referring to the recent Lord of the Rings movies. So, I would definitely choose live action. For Niksabella, I would have to go with Sarah Paulson. She has a plain, powerful look. Second place would be Keira Knightley. Third would be Kate Mara. For Nikselpik the actor would need to be both slight of form and quick of tongue. Absolutely commanding. The only person I can think of with the chops to play such a strange character -- the guy with the right jaw -- would be Johnny Depp. Close second would be Tom Hiddleston. Robin Weigert as Fritzy. Bryce Dallas Howard as Fara. For Precisor General Dale Dillwind, Chris Pine might be a good pick. Tom Hiddleston could also quite easily play Seether. Last, but not least, Jancy could be played by Rooney Mara. Voice of Jontuk ... Vin Diesel with some grinding effects on his voice.
Q: That'd be a great cast! Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Tinkermake just came out, and I know Cogweaver is on the horizon for early next year, but is there a fourth book coming, or perhaps something completely different to follow?
We haven't talked about it publicly yet, but it seems like I'll be starting a fourth book in the GnomeSaga series in January. It will be the start of a new volume with some of the old characters and some new ones. I want it to be a tight-knit group of adventurers ... and that's all I can say about it at the moment.
Thanks so much for having me! These were some really great questions.
About the Author
Kenny's love for books flourished early, a habit passed down to him by his uncles. He burned through his grade school library, and in high school spent many days in detention for reading fantasy fiction during class.
The transition to author was a natural one for Kenny. His sixth grade teacher encouraged him to start a journal, and he later began jotting down pieces of stories, mostly the outcomes of D&D gaming sessions. At the University of Kentucky, Kenny took creative writing classes under Gurny Norman, former Kentucky Poet Laureate and author of Divine Rights Trip (1971).
Kenny's latest releases are ROUGH MAGIC (GnomeSaga #1) and THOSE POOR, POOR BASTARDS (Dead West #1) with Tim Marquitz and J.M. Martin.
By day, Kenny works as a Unix professional, and at night he writes and sips bourbon. Kenny lives in Independence, Kentucky, with three cats and a gal who thinks she's a cat.
About the Book
Tinkermage by by Kenny Soward
Paperback, 350 pages
Published December 1st 2014 by Ragnarok Publications
Meanwhile, Stena Wavebreaker is pulled from her seafaring duties by the Precisor General and given command of a raggedy airship to scout the ultraworldly enemy from the perilous skies above the Southern Reaches. Her mission: gain the support of the unpredictable ‘swamp elves,’ the Giyipcias.
Lastly, Niksabella Nur has set off from Hightower at the behest of the grim stonekin leader, Jontuk. The gnomestress must unlock the full potential of her invention, the recursive mirror, and her own powers, to bear what might be the heaviest burden of all. What will she discover along the way? And will Jontuk be able to keep her alive long enough to save them all?
This is GnomeSaga Book Two.