Jon Sprunk is a friend and agencymate who’s enjoyed great success as a fantasy novelist. I had Jon on the blog back in 2012 to promote his third novel, SHADOW’S MASTER. Today is the book birthday of his fourth novel, BLOOD AND IRON, out from Pyr. So, once again, I’m going to step aside and give Jon the floor:
The Origins of Blood and Iron
Hello. I’m Jon Sprunk, a fantasy writer living in central Pennsylvania. Thank you all for this opportunity to tell you about my new series, Book of the Black Earth. The first book, Blood and Iron, comes out this month (depending when this goes live, it may already be in stores.)
The Book of the Black Earth series is set in the same secondary world as my Shadow Saga, but in a different region far to the east of Caim’s adventures. It follows three people as they struggle for freedom in an ancient land called Akeshia, where magic is worshipped and powerful God-Kings (and –Queens) hold the power of life and death over a vast race of people.
Horace is a shipbuilder and sailor who embarks on a Great Crusade for his country, but winds up shipwrecked on the shores of his enemy. Taken captive and made a slave, he discovers a hidden talent for sorcery, and thereby comes of the attention of the local ruling queen.
Alyra is a slave. As one of the queen’s handmaidens, she is lovely, intelligent, and obedient. She is also a spy in the service of a foreign government, sent to turn the greedy eyes of the Akeshians away from her homeland.
Jirom is a former mercenary turned gladiator. Dragooned into the queen’s army, he joins a group of subversive slaves who crave freedom. Yet he’s seen firsthand how the empire treats its enemies, so he must ask himself what’s worse, slavery or death.
Fun fact: The idea behind this series originated in my head more than twenty years ago.
Yep. When I started writing as a young man, I messed around with some short stories and then embarked on my first attempt at a full-length novel. It was about some good people who were lured into Hell to serve opposing demon overlords in a game of politics and war. I got about thirty thousand words into the story before it fizzled, mainly due to my own inexperience. I put the unfinished manuscript aside and moved on to other things. Then, after finishing my Shadow trilogy, I was brainstorming for my next project when I remembered that old book. The idea at the heart of that ill-fated first attempt had never left me. I didn’t go back and read the original (which probably would have soured me on the idea), but I did start plotting a story arc with the basic gist in mind.
I began from scratch. I changed the setting to a secondary world that combined elements from several of my favorite ancient cultures, namely the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Egyptians. I found enough parallels that mingling these cultures felt as natural as breathing.
One of the things I really wanted to tackle in this series was an original magic system. I played around with a few concepts until I hit on one that fit my world and my story. It plays on the basic “elemental” magic (earth, air, fire, and water) with a few twists of my own. Magic plays a big part in these books, so I made it a priority in my worldbuilding.
Lastly, there’s an idea at the heart of this series. A question really. What does it mean to be free? This series will explore the lives of slaves and royals, masters and servants, soldiers and spies. Throw in the presence of magic—the potential of one person to possess the power of an army—and it makes for a volatile combination. Old walls will be broken down, but new ones will surely arise to take their place.
Well, that’s a brief look at my new series. Thank you for reading.
Jon Sprunk is the author of the Shadow Saga (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, and Shadow’s Master) and a mentor at the Seton Hill University fiction writing program. His next epic fantasy series begins in March 2014 with Blood and Iron. For more on his life and work, you can check out his author site at www.jonsprunk.com.