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An Interview with J.A. Pitts

Tuesday, Jun 28, 2011 at 10:11am

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I'm a sucker for Norse Mythology and Urban Fantasy. When I saw that J.A. Pitts' series starring blacksmith Sarah Beauhall fused the two together I became very interested indeed.

Black Blade Blues and its sequel, Honeyed Words both feature a fabulous cast of characters and a unique take on my favourite myth cycle, and I can't recommend the series highly enough. I was fortunate to meet J.A. Pitts at 2010's World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio and he was gracious enough to agree to answer some questions about his writing. Honeyed Words will be releasing July 5th, 2011.

CG: Can you tell our readers about your road to publication?

JP: It's pretty much what you'd expect, honestly. I started writing at a young age, but didn't get really serious until 14 years ago. I sold my first short story to a small ezine -- co-written with the world famous Ken Scholes. Over the next few years I sold another 8 or 9 stories, then I wrote my first novel. It's pretty good, but needs work. It got rejected by Tor. I'd met my editor at a convention. She's super nice. When she rejected my first novel, I kept writing. When I wrote my second novel, I sent it to this same editor who loved it and bought it. Basically, I kept writing and kept submitting. Even today I submit short stories and get rejections. It never really ends. Basically I put myself out into the world. Both at conventions where I networked and met a lot of great people who have supported me over the years (including my editor) and by submitting my work to paying markets.

CG: What attracted you to the Norse myth cycle?

JP: I've always been a fiend for mythology. I really enjoyed the concept of the Norse gods, as they seemed closer to us than the rest of the pantheons. Just my take. They were tragic and doomed to fail in the end, but they also had a lot of hope and a chance at redemption. All themes I'm fond of. Theirs was a life of battle and glory. What's not to love?

CG: I love your reinvention of the twilight of the Norse Gods. Why did you decide to deviate from the myths?

JP: If the reader is familiar with Norse mythology, I wanted them to be comfortable with the ideas, but surprised by what I did with them. If things flowed like the Edda, then there'd be no surprises. I like surprises in story. It's exciting. Besides, I want to use it to tell the stories I want to tell, twist the mythology to my ends. It's the benefit of being the ultimate creator of my world. I get the final say. Remember, an author is really practicing mind-control. I try to get you to see what I want you to see, through type on a page or screen. If I can use something you are familiar with, then it just helps set the spell.

CG: I found it interesting that Sarah's point of view chapters are in first person while occasionally you use third person for other characters. Why the switch?

JP: Partly because I was always told you can't do that. I'm not a fan of being told what I can't do. Also, I wanted to let some of the secondary characters have a voice. I think it gives them more depth. I want the reader to love them as much as I do, and I figured this was a good technique to get that across. Besides, it allows me to reveal things to the reader that I hide from Sarah, which is always fun.

CG: The Society for Creative Anachronism plays a large roll in your stories. Sarah works as a farrier and blacksmith. Are you yourself a member of the SCA?

JP: No, alas. It's something I'd like to do someday, but I just don't have the time. I used to dream about it when I was in high school and college. I would definitely volunteer to go back in time with the rest of my old D&D gang and live out a fantasy adventure. I am strongly considering taking some blacksmithing lessons, though. I want to get more practical experience. It will help the writing, I'm sure. But, getting a chance to hammer some iron would be cool.

CG: Dragons play an important role in your work. Do you have a favourite mythological or literary dragon?

JP: They cover such a wide gamut. Puff the magic dragon? No, I think I have to go with Smaug. I fell in love with fantasy through the pages of The Hobbit. First love and all. I love that he was sly and witty. That and the fact he could totally kick ass. The little detail about his vanity, and how he was felled by that as much as the magic arrow has always intrigued me.

CG: Black Blade Blues was not only an origin story for Sarah, but her coming out story. What were the difficulties in bringing your protagonist to life?

JP: Well, I'm a straight guy, married, in my forties. Quite a world apart from young Sarah. But, I have a very eclectic background and a wide range of friends and acquaintances. I believe we all have basic wants and needs deep down. And, I'm a writer. It's my job to get out of my own head and view the world from other viewpoints. I've been told I succeeded with Sarah. I hope that remains true as her character matures and grows in the next book. I thought the contrast of Sarah learning to accept who she was, at the same time (and reflected by) her need to understand the secrets of the 'real' world to be intriguing. The book can't really succeed without both stories. They're intertwined. Honeyed Words continues her journey into the world she had no clue existed.

JP: How did writing Honeyed Words compare to writing Black Black Blues?

JP: Dude, crazy. BBB had no audience, no expectations. Honeyed Words has to live up to the expectations of the readers. It was terrifying to write. I've done a lot of fretting over whether or not I kept up the level of story and characters from BBB. I think it was the hardest thing I've ever written, and that's with me completing book 3.

CG: Urban Fantasy continues to be one of the best selling categories of science fiction and fantasy. What do you most enjoy about blending the fantastic with modern, real locales?

JP: I think it's because I can make the readers comfortable in a world they are aware of, give them that place to find the familiar before I jerked the rug out from under them and let them see the darker side, the weirder side of my world. And, I love to read the genre. I have a whole essay on this subject over at Grasping for the Wind

CG: Do you plan for Sarah's adventures to be ongoing, or is there a definite end in mind for the series?

JP: I told my editor I would write them as long as people will buy them. You know how the publishing industry works. Each book has to sell better than the previous ones. If Honeyed Words does well, and the third book continues the trend, I'm sure you'll see a lot of Sarah stories in the future. As for the ending of the series. I have a definite story arc to close this out. Just not sure when/if I'll get to tell it. :) Buy books!!

Categories: Interview, buzz, SciFi & Fantasy, New Releases

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Honeyed Words

- J A Pitts

Trade paperback $37.99 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $34.19

From J. A. Pitts, author of the mesmerizing Black Blade Blues, comes the stunning sequel in the Sarah Jane Beauhall series, Honeyed Words

Sarah is a blacksmith, has a night job as a props manager for a low-budget movie, and spends her free time fighting in a medieval re-enactment group. Her world falls apart when she discovers that dragons are real and live among us as shapeshifters; in fact, it is they who have been the secret masters of our world from time immemorial. On top of all this, it appears that Sarah has managed to reforge an ancient sword that everyone suddenly wants...and those who don't want the weapon want Sarah to take on her destiny and become humanity's saviour.

As Sarah tries to make her way in this new world, she discovers just how little she knows of reality. Fairies and dwarves and giants abound, the fault line of the Pacific Northwest is rife with ancient Norse magic. Odin himself appears with ravens at his side and cryptic advice for the fledgling heroine. And the cherry on the sundae? The discovery that Sarah's girlfriend is from a family that has been battling these forces for generations and they look to Sarah as their last best hope.

What's a girl to do when the powers of the world decide that you're responsible for cleaning up the magical mess?

Black Blade Blues

- J A Pitts

Trade paperback $37.99 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $34.19

Sarah Beauhall has more on her plate than most twenty-somethings: day job as a blacksmith, night job as a props manager for low-budget movies, and her free time is spent fighting in a medieval re-enactment group.

The lead actor breaks Sarah's favorite one-of-a-kind sword, and to avoid reshooting scenes, Sarah agrees to repair the blade. One of the extras, who claims to be a dwarf, offers to help. And that's when things start to get weird. Could the sword really be magic, as the "dwarf" claims? Are dragons really living among us as shapeshifters?

And as if things weren't surreal enough, Sarah's girlfriend Katie breaks out the dreaded phrase... "I love you." As her life begins to fall apart, first her relationship with Katie, then her job at the movie studio, and finally her blacksmithing career, Sarah hits rock bottom. It is at this moment, when she has lost everything she has prized, that one of the dragons makes their move.

And suddenly what was unthinkable becomes all too real...and Sarah will have to decide if she can reject what is safe and become the heroine who is needed to save her world.