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Our SPFBOX interviews continue with John Simons, author of The Saga of Bjorn Unfrid.

SPFBO (the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off) is a free online contest run by author Mark Lawrence. 300 authors compete across ten judging teams to see who will be the winner! You can read more about the contest here.

 

Cover of The Saga of Bjorn Unfrid by John Simons. The majority of the cover is done graffiti style, with the title and author name designed so that they look sprayed onto the brick wall that dominates the image. A spray-painted image of a tall, blong white man with long hair and a sports jersey stands with arms golded. He looks gruff and there's a painting of a crown hovering above his head. A crow is painted watching him with round, cartoon eyes and a pleasant expression. It is perched on four runes: laguz, othala, kaunan, and isaz. In the upper right corner the wall is broken and we have a view into a fantasy world. There is an ominous coattage covered in glowing pink mushrooms.

INTERVIEW WITH JOHN SIMONS

 

Tell us a little about yourself and let our readers know which blog you’ve been assigned to for SPFBOX!

 

I came back to writing after selling my business in 2018. This is my second novel.

The Saga of Bjorn Unfrid has been assigned to The Weatherwax Report


What inspired you to write this book?

About a year ago, horror writer Gabino Iglesias had just landed at the airport to attend the Bram Stoker Awards. On the way to the hotel, the cabbie found out he was a writer, so naturally the cabbie told him what stories he should write if he wanted to be successful and make money. Gabino won the Stoker award that year even without the cabbie’s help. Gabino posted the cabbie’s suggestions on social media. One idea was oddly random yet strangely specific. The cabbie said to write about flying Viking criminals from Toronto. Everyone in the conversation loved that suggestion but no one wanted to write the story.

So I did.

The result was The Saga of Bjorn Unfrid. It’s not the silly parody or mindless action story it sounds like it should be. It’s a dark urban fantasy well-suited to fans of horror.

 

 

In a big departure from typical modern stories, [The Sage of Bjorn Unfrid] . . .  follows a pattern more like a Greek tragedy than familiar genre fiction.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your writing or editing process? What’s most exciting to you about writing or editing?

The key thing for me as I write or edit is a feeling that I get that is like something tugging on my insides. It pulls me along. If I don’t get that feeling, I usually rewrite the scene until I do. Writing is about feeling for me, not intellectualizing.


Who or what have been your major literary influences?
So many. Flannery O’Connor, Arthur C. Clarke, Walt Whitman, Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, Stan Lee, many more… It’s a hodgepodge, and all for different reasons. Some of them (like Oscar Wilde, Stan Lee) point in some way to what I think of as reductionism, where you peel stories back to the most visceral component pieces or the smallest, most mundane parts.

What makes your SPFBOX book unique?
The Saga was not written to be a novel at all. It started as a series of flash fiction following an unlikely protagonist, but that developed into a more cohesive whole as it went. In a big departure from typical modern stories, it also follows a pattern more like a Greek tragedy than familiar genre fiction.

Do you have a favourite character from your SPFBOX entry? Tell us about them!

Yeah, it’s Bjorn of course. He is sensitive and awkward yet somehow still a brutal Viking when necessary.

 

The key thing for me as I write or edit is a feeling that I get that is like something tugging on my insides. It pulls me along. If I don’t get that feeling, I usually rewrite the scene until I do.


How does your work fit into (or challenge) its genre?
Again, it’s really a Greek tragedy in urban fantasy clothes. But there is triumph at the end despite the grief. Bjorn pays a terrible price to discover who he really is. I don’t think fantasy as a genre often lets readers truly experience their grief.

What do you hope readers take away from your SPFBOX entry?

Bjorn is set in a place where the spiritual world and physical world seem separated but aren’t. I think this is closer to the truth than most people realize. Thematically, the big issue is free will vs destiny.


What are you currently working on?

Besides a short story called “Beyond the Beaches of Shoto,” I am working on RinthCon 2324. This is a shared world event where characters from books attend a sci-fi con. This year’s RinthCon has about 25 authors in it, mostly SPFBOX or SPSFC3 contestants. It takes place near the end of August. Last year’s RinthCon was collected in free anthology called “The Collected RinthCon 2323.” You can find it on Amazon.


The Saga of Bjorn Unfrid

 

The omens are ominous. Ancient forces are at play…

…and ancient forces are known to be assholes.

Bjorn knows this because he’s not like other people. He sees the past and future, ghosts and gods. Sometimes he talks to them. But he never expected or wanted to get dragged into the business of the spirit world. He already has his own problems, like how to introduce himself to Anja, the woman he followed to college from Toronto to Texas. He’s pretty sure telling her that wouldn’t go over as a great opening line. Unfortunately, the spirit world and the physical world are tied together and as Bjorn is drawn into the machinations of spirits, he realizes that Anja, his roommate Kev, his doomed new friend Irina, and his brother Ivar face more than broken hearts. Betrayal, torture, and murder threaten their futures.

How many of those broken futures can Bjorn save, and how many will happen because he tried?

 

 

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Purchase The Saga of Bjorn Unfrid on Amazon.

ABOUT JOHN SIMONS

John Simons spun wild stories and considered himself a writer from childhood, even when the world knew him only as a teacher, retailer, business consultant, or founder of a comic convention. Right now he is likely learning a language, thinking about fish or dinosaurs, moaning about how his garden doesn’t produce tomatoes, serving the canines who run the house, or Fighting off his kids, who think his love of martial arts is a reason to attack him whenever he is not expecting it. It probably is.

Steve Hugh Westenra

Steve is a trans author of fantasy, science fiction, and horror (basically, if it’s weird he writes it). He grew up on the eldritch shores of Newfoundland, Canada, and currently lives and works in (the slightly less eldritch) Montreal. He holds advanced degrees in Russian Literature, Medieval Studies, and Religious Studies. As a reader, Steve’s tastes are eclectic. He enjoys anything that could be called speculative, including fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, but has been known to enjoy a good mystery as well as literary fiction. He’s always excited to try something new or that pushes boundaries, particularly from marginalized authors. Steve is passionate about queer representation, Late Antiquity, and spiders.

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