Carol: Tell me a little about yourself and your writing…
Jon: I’m a patent attorney from New York by day, a fantasy author by early morning, and a husband and father of three young kids the rest of the time. My formative fantasy experience was watching the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit, but we were actually more of a sci-fi household growing up.
We would watch The Next Generation on a weekly basis before switching to Deep Space 9 and Voyager, and then in high school, my dad made a hard push of Asimov’s Foundation and Robot books.
I came back to fantasy after reading Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It was the former that was one of the inspirations for Guild of Tokens. I loved the world of London Below that Gaiman created and set out to create my own version of that, but in New York City.
Jon: How did you come to love fantasy and what inspired you to write Banebringer?
Carol: I grew up in a sci-fi household as well. My fondest memories are of watching The Next Generation with my dad, and Star Wars was an instant favorite. I actually hated The Hobbit the first time I read it–in 6th grade–but I think that was because it was required school reading. In high school, I read The Lord of the Rings (on my own) and then The Hobbit again and loved them both. I always enjoyed reading, but after that, I started devouring fantasy books in particular.
In my early twenties, I discovered Brandon Sanderson. His unique take on magic was what inspired me to try my own hand at writing fantasy, generally. I’m also inspired by my educational background in ancient near eastern languages/history and a perpetual fascination with mythology. As to Banebringer in particular, one night I was watching Dancing with the Stars, and my husband said something like, “Derek must have been given powers by the god of dance.” That spawned the idea for the magic system, which is intricately bound to a (made-up) mythology. The plot then came together in bits and pieces as I developed some ideas for characters that I had, which is often how it happens for me (magic/characters, then plot).
Carol: What about you? Plot or characters first? Or some other variation?
Jon: First, I love that your magic system was spawned by Dancing with the Stars, it’s funny how inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. For me, I came up with the premise for Guild of Tokens first – what if there were a secret section of Craigslist where people posted real-life quests? I wrote a piece of flash fiction with a nameless protagonist going on her first five quests in Manhattan. I didn’t have a notion of who this person was (and the character in the prologue ended up not actually being the main character in the end), so I wrote a few chapters where Jen Jacobs, the protagonist, learns more about the quests and what their purpose is. Then I filled in more of Jen’s backstory as it related to her first few quests and how she reacts to the quests reveals more of her personality and traits, which then fed the plot, and so on.
Your magic system is based on the gods of the world granting (or cursing) people with powers related to the particular deity, but you also took it a step deeper by having horrific consequences if that power is used too much. As a fellow Sanderson fan, I love his magic systems, but I think he realized in Mistborn Era 2 that he made the original Mistborn too powerful and dialed everyone’s power back.
Jon: How did you go about creating your pantheon and how did you come up with the idea of the blowback of using too much magic and using aether as a workaround?
Carol: The Heretic Gods pantheon is based (fast and loose!) on Aztec mythology, just because once I established that Banebringer magic essentially resides in their blood, it felt like it “fit.” As far as consequences go, I looked for a way to incorporate weaknesses into the magic system that would cause conflict, one of which ended up being the bloodbane problem–and that’s related to the mythology and the over-arching problem of the entire series. I won’t say too much about that lest I get into spoiler territory. Beyond that, creating nuanced magic systems is probably one of my favorite parts of world-building–but because I lean toward “hard magic,” that also means that I limit myself in what I can do with the magic. That necessitates coming up with ways around the limitations that work within the rules I’ve already established as well as following the logical consequences of those rules. Writing a sequel for the first time has presented new challenges simply because, while I can continue developing the magic (and do), the rules are already canonized, so no more tweaking the basics!
Carol: Speaking of sequels, what’s next for you? Are you writing a sequel to Guild of Tokens, or do you have other projects planned?
Jon: Yep! I am working on a sequel to Guild of Tokens creatively titled Guild of Magic. I also recently finished a third prequel short story starring one of the main characters from the first book (Beatrice) that wraps up her backstory. At the end of Guild of Tokens, I kind of threw Beatrice to the wolves, so she won’t be a big player in Guild of Magic, but she’s such a compelling character that I’m thinking of writing a standalone/side series to chronicle her further adventures. I have in mind several other stories and characters that would eventually link up with the characters from Guild of Tokens as part of a fantasy Avengers-type crossover series. The other big idea I have kicking around is a portal fantasy version of Land of the Lost, where a family is somehow transported into your typical fantasy world of elves, dwarves, and dragons.
Author Carol. A Park
Carol A. Park is a fantasy author who lives in the Lancaster, PA area with her husband and two young and active boys–which is another way of saying, “adorable vampires.”
When not writing or doing other author-y tasks, you can find Carol working at her day job (Support Lead/Docketing Assistant at a patent law firm), chasing her children, dreaming about playing video games again, or reading.
Her debut novel, Banebringer, released May 1st 2018, the sequel of which is targeted for release in Dec 2019. She has also released a stand-alone novel set within the same world about one of the main characters from Banebringer.
Find her here: https://carolapark.com
Author Jon Auerbach
Jon Auerbach’s love of fantasy began at the tender age of six, when his parents bought him the classic 1977 animated version of The Hobbit (the less said about the recent trilogy, the better).
Jon hopes to pass on his stories to the next generation, including his kids, who have their own copy of The Hobbit that they lovingly call “the Bilbo book.”