Interview with Anton Strout, Author of Stonecast

 

Stonecast (A Spellmason Chronicle)

Please welcome Anton Strout to the virtual offices today!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Anton Strout] Quirky UF writer of The Spellmason Chronicles who wants to entertain, raise his twins & find time to somehow fit in gaming around all that.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Stonecast?

[Anton Strout] Sure. Stonecast is the second book of the Spellmason Chronicles, an arcane adventure set in modern day Manhattan. It picks up six months after Alchemystic, the first book in the series where we met fledgling artist Alexandra Belarus. Stonecast expands upon her fate as the only practicing Spellmason—one who works magic with stone—and the fate of the gargoyle Stanis, once sworn to protect her and her family but who has now gone missing. Arcane hijinx ensue.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Anton Strout] Years ago the woman who gave me my first short story sale asked for another set in a modern city. I came up with a story about a woman on the day she discovered her family had long been watched over by a gargoyle. In setting up where to enter the short story and leave it, I realized there was more I wanted to tell about the tale than just their meeting. So I pitched a longer form of the story to my editor at Ace Books, and they went for it!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Lexi?

[Anton Strout] Artistic. Arcane. Adorable.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Stanis had a theme song, what would it be?

[Anton Strout] Since we’re dealing with a gargoyle here, I’d have to go with either Papa Was A Rolling Stone by The Temptations or I Am A Rock by Simon & Garfunkel. No, wait, I want to go with the theme to Firefly since it has the lyrics “You can’t take the sky from me”.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Lexi is never without.

[Anton Strout] While she can occasionally put aside the large stone spellbook of her ancestors—the one that holds the secrets of the Spellmasons—she is never without her own notebook, which contains her own variations on spells as well as the arcane secrets she has spent time decoding from her great-great grandfather’s personal library.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Lexi’s greatest regret?

[Anton Strout] Depending on where she is in her life, there are a few possible answers. In Alchemystic Lexi struggled with the choices she made when dealing with the newfound knowledge that a gargoyle has been the Belarus family protector for centuries. I don’t want to spoil anything, but Lexi wrestled with how she resolved what amounted to a magical slavery that her great-great grandfather had been the creator of, thinking he had good reasons to do so.

Her biggest regret overall I think is the constant danger she puts her friends Marshall and Rory in. While they are willing participants, Lexi still doesn’t like the idea that D&D nerd Marshall and dancer-turned-polearm-wielding-paladin-of-sorts Rory might come to harm because of things that have been set in motion by the Belarus clan centuries ago.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Anton Strout] If I look at who I read who has probably influenced my style, I’d have to go with Douglas Adams and Robert Aspirin. They both tell a great quirky tale with a lot of humor and smarts to them. I wish I was a bit more like William Gibson because he’s got a lot of cool factor going on in his work without dumbing anything down for the reader’s sake. The greatest influence, however, would probably be Stephen King. Not because I write horror (although there are scary elements to my urban fantasy), but because I think he taps into universal modern day elements in his writing, which I think I have a tendency to do as well.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Anton Strout] 1. Background noise- I can write in silence, and do when I’m in the thick of trying to absorb the totality of the book near its end, but I like music or chatter going on around me. Some part of my brain latches onto it and frees up the rest of it to go and be creative. Also, if I’m stuck on something, it’s a great way to let influences from the outside world seep in for some problem solving!

2. Tabula Rasa- I’m not one of those writers who has to be in their special place or summon the Muse (I hate that phrase)… all I really need is something to get words down on. I’m a tech nerd at heart, so I prefer outlining in Excel and writing in Word, but that’s not always convenient. I carry a spiral bound notebook wherever I go and can be seen hastily scrawling notes down for my books. Unfortunately, my handwriting hasn’t gotten much better since the third grade, and if I’m writing in a moving vehicle even I have trouble decoding what the heck I was going for.

3. Time- that’s the biggest thing… with a day job, two six month old twins and a book deadline every year, I find I’m having to learn new tricks to make time for actually sitting down to write. I take it where I can get it—on lunch break at Penguin Random House, on my commute into and out of Manhattan, and after putting the kids and wife down for the evening. I’ve given up on sleep. Sleep is for the weak, really…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Anton Strout] My reading has really slacked off this year with deadlines and babies. Hmmm… I’ve been catching up on The Walking Dead graphic novels and have been enjoying their bleakness. The last book I read was Stephen King’s time travel Kennedy assassination one which I really enjoyed. Oh, and I just started Locke & Key by his son, Joe Hill. Loving it.. I may have to check out his novels next.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Anton Strout] I read a lot as a kid, as I suspect most writers do, and while I recall great books like The Hobbit and The White Mountains Trilogy from my early years, it was Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that really hooked me into the idea that intelligence and humor could be mixed in such a manner. I reread it every few years, as well as The Lord of the Rings because I loves me some J.R.R!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Anton Strout] I’m loving being a new dad. That’s hours of my time that are a mix of emotion, laughter, storytelling, and work that I’m surprised to find I’m really, really good at. Then there are the things I try to fit in with vary degrees of success. I can find the time to video game occasionally, but tabletop gaming is a time sink I can’t afford right now. I also realized I haven’t picked up a guitar in over a year after attempting to play one the other day. My hands are still cramped from that…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Anton Strout] I’m fairly shameless, as anyone who has met me at a convention will tell you. Much like ebola in a monkey, I AM EVERYWHERE! You can find me at antonstrout.com, on Facebook, and under the clever and mysterious twitter moniker @antonstrout. Come say hi. I promise not to punch any of you in the neckmeat.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

About the book

NO STONE UNTURNED…

Alexandra Belarus was an artist stuck working in her New York family’s business…until she discovered her true legacy—a deep and ancient magic. Lexi became the last practicing Spellmason, with the power to breathe life into stone. And as her powers awoke, so did her family’s most faithful protector: a gargoyle named Stanis. But when a centuries-old evil threatened her family and her city, Stanis sacrificed himself to save everything Lexi held dear.

With Stanis gone, Lexi’s efforts to master Spellmasonry—even with the help of her dedicated friends—are faltering. Hidden forces both watch her and threaten her, and she finds herself suddenly under the mysterious wing of a secret religious society determined to keep magic hidden from the world.

But the question of Stanis’s fate haunts her—and as the storm around her grows, so does the fear that she won’t be able to save him in her turn.