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Flint Maxwell – “Ansen Kane is pretty much, for lack of a better term, a badass.”

The writer explains his love of fantasy and horror novels and how they have motivated him as an author.

If you are familiar with the happenings of the #SPFBO5 you will have heard about semi-finalist novel Knight and Shadow. Part crazy fantasy and part western, this is an exciting book that keeps you flipping pages till the very end.
I got an opportunity to chat with author Flint Maxwell, and here is what he had to say.

First off, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Hey there! I’m Flint Maxwell. I’ve lived in Northeast Ohio all my life, so I’m no stranger to crummy winters and disappointing professional sports teams, but I still love it here. I’ve been writing, in some form or other, for as long as I can remember. Silly short stories and comic books as a kid, school newspaper articles in college, and now books as an adult.

Cover of Knight and Shadow novel by Flint Maxwell

I’m a huge horror fan, but I have a soft spot in my heart for both the fantasy and sci-fi genres, just as long as they aren’t afraid to get a little dark from time to time. Stephen King is my literary idol. I can practically quote The Empire Strikes Back word for word. I’ve recently become a first-time father to a beautiful baby girl, who’s babbling and drooling all over the place right next to me as I answer these questions. And I love animals, just ask my cat Kevin!

You have a massive catalog of stories behind you. Can you tell me a little about the different series?

Yes, I do write a lot. I started out in the post-apocalyptic horror genre with my Jack Zombie series. That’s 8 books long and follows a horror author trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse. When it all goes down, he uses his vast array of knowledge on the undead to his advantage when most everyone else can’t believe that zombies are actually roaming the streets and looking for flesh. That one’s my most popular series, and I may be biased, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun!
Other than Jack Zombie, I’ve written a horror-comedy series about a group of college-aged monster hunters called Fright Squad, and another post-apocalyptic series where things from another dimension destroy most life on earth. That’s called The Taken World series. I also collaborated with Michael Anderle (of Kutherian Gambit fame) and Martha Carr on a pretty traditional urban fantasy series called the Midwest Magic Chronicles, where a young woman discovers she’s actually a witch with awesome magical powers. Then there’s Knight and Shadow, which is the start of a currently untitled dark fantasy series, and Plastic Girls, a standalone horror novel about a serial killer seeking out the one victim of his who got away. Oh, and I have a couple short story collections, too. Both are filled with weird horror tales.

Can you tell me about Knight and Shadow, and what inspired you to write it?

Knight and Shadow is about a gun knight named Ansen Kane, who, long ago, killed an insane king hell-bent on letting an unspeakable evil free and ending the world. As a result, all those in Kane’s order are hunted down and executed. He got away but was forced to lie low or he’d be executed, too. Of course, certain events transpire and he can no longer remain in hiding. And his story intertwines with a young man named Isaac and a fierce woman warrior named Swan on the other side of the world, who seek Kane’s guidance. So the book’s a bit of a genre mashup. You got some weird western, some traditional Tolkien-like fantasy, some horror, some coming of age, and lots of action and adventure. As for the inspiration behind the novel, that came from my love of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Ever since I read those books, I wanted to come up with my own weird western type of tale with a mysterious but awesome main character. So that’s what I tried to do. Whether I succeeded or not…well, that’s up to the readers to decide.

Knight and Shadow is the start of the Ansen Kane series. Can you tell me a bit about Ansen Kane as a character?

Ansen Kane is pretty much, for lack of a better term, a badass. He’s honorable, smart, and brave, but he’s done some things in the past he’s not proud of, not to mention his body count is probably somewhere in the thousands. Rest assured, those who fall to his gun deserve what they get. I guess he’d best be described as an antihero, like Batman with a cowboy hat and a revolver instead of a cape and pointy ears. He’s saved the world before and he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. For the most part, that’s Ansen Kane.

What did you learn when writing Knight and Shadow?

I learned that coming up with made-up fantasy names and places is hard, very hard. And that my cartography skills could use some work. I had to draw myself a map of the world for reference, and let me tell you, it was not a pretty sight. But I also learned that if you’re a writer and you have a story dying to get out, just write it. Maybe no one reads it and it doesn’t sell millions of copies, but at least you’ll have fun.

Where you surprised where the story took you?

I’m always surprised where a story takes me. That’s the best part about the first draft! Cleaning it up on subsequent drafts…eh, not so much. When I started writing Knight and Shadow, I basically just had an image of a lone gunslinger fighting his way through a fantasy land, but then I got to writing and the characters of Isaac and Swan introduced themselves to me, and I went with it. I’m glad I did, though, because writing their journey was a blast.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I’m a little of both, but mostly I’m a pantser. I get an idea and I see where it takes me. Most of the time it works out, especially as I’ve gained more storytelling skills and experience, but sometimes it doesn’t. I’ll admit I have more than a few abandoned projects sitting on my hard drive because I couldn’t figure out where I was going. So now, if I get stuck, I grab a pen and paper and outline what I’ve written so far and where I’d like the story to go. It’s a delayed sort of plotting, I guess, but it almost always gets me back on the right track.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

 For the most part, writing is energizing. The occasional story will come along and sucker punch me with its stubbornness, and those stories are the ones that get exhausting, but if that happens, I’ll usually start over or move on to something else. If I’m feeling exhausted writing the story, I assume the readers will feel exhausted reading it. Spinning a good yarn and having fun are the most important parts of the job, I’d say, and I think that mentality is why I rarely run into exhaustive writing sessions. Still, any day tapping on the keyboard, whether it be energizing or exhausting, is still a great day in my book (pun totally intended).

What is your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book? That’s a tough one. There’s so many! I loved Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine, and anything by Dr. Seuss. I didn’t read Harry Potter until I was 18 or 19 but if I had read it as a kid, that series would be my number one, easily. But if I absolutely have to choose just one then my pick is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s a perfect story for all ages.

Finally, a question that is always fun. If you were having a dinner party with three literary characters from anywhere in books, who would you choose and why?

Ah, another tough one. I’d pick Tyrion Lannister from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, Jack Torrance from Stephen King’s The Shining, and Annie Wilkes from Misery (also by Stephen King). I went with Tyrion and Jack because they’d definitely know how to party (provided we’re not near any haunted hotels or scheming Lannisters), and I went with Annie Wilkes in case the party ends up getting out of hand.
Honorable mention: Gandalf from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings just in case Annie Wilkes gets out of hand…
No, no, just joking. Seriously, I’d probably pick Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings), Billy Pilgrim (Slaughterhouse-Five), and Roland Deschain (The Dark Tower series) because I’d love to meet and thank them for inspiring me with their courage and heroism. Plus, a dinner party isn’t complete without inviting at least one Hobbit.

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