Interview with Joshua Smith, Author of Immortals

17 Sep 2019

What can you tell us about your new release, Immortals?

Immortals is the beginning of an epic fantasy saga. One of the main characters is A’banna, priestess of the Sorceress, who just ordered A’banna to perform her first human sacrifice. Still slick with the man’s blood, A’banna hates herself and attempts suicide—by water drake. A mystical event interrupts this and causes A’banna to start a journey that takes her from where she grew up to a whole different side of the world. Along the way, she connects with spies sent from a race of Immortals in the north. They believe A’banna has information that can help them defeat the Sorceress and are coming to extract A’banna from the Sorceress’. What follows is a journey across the world, where A’banna and her new allies are pursued by the Sorceress’s dark minions, like minotaurs, snakes, deadly herons, human slavers, zealots who train to murder magic users, and more. Meanwhile, we see political intrigue and espionage, all in the attempts to stop a global war the Sorceress and her allies have set into motion.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Thanks for all these easy questions! Really, there’s so many people. I could talk about various teachers, from learning to use my imagination, to discovering fantasy in a creative writing class in high school, or the fact that I have always loved writing fantasy and science fiction. In college I wrote Christopher Paolini and still have his response letter. A little inspirational treasure. Nicholas Sansbury Smith, who wrote the Extinction Cycle, played a major role in helping me kick off my career. I still remember the day I actually got to sit next to him in a coffee shop and write—I was fanboying all over that moment, repeating the mantra: “Keep writing. Keep writing.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

– Mistborn and The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
– Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
– Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb
– The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

Now, if you were to ask me my favorite series, it would look different. I have too many to choose from, so let me just give you my favorite series:

– Mistborn saga by Brandon Sanderson
– Farseer and The Tawny Man trilogies by Robin Hobb
– Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
– The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
– Extinction Cycle by Nicholas Sansbury Smith (I know, odd choice with the four, but this is honestly one of the best post-apocalyptic series I’ve ever read and I think the genre could learn a lot from him, just as I learn about fantasy from every book I read.)

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Brandon Sanderson, hands down. I’d want to discuss everything from world building and cultures, what makes it takes to craft unique individual stories as part of an epic thread. Oh, yes, and I want to know more about the Cosmere. Who doesn’t? That’s just the first show. I’d book him for two or three. We have quite a bit to discuss! Ha!

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

First, I love writing a character who takes on a life of their own. I can’t adequately express the thrill when a character takes ahold of their own plot and acts contrary to my outline. It’s exhilarating. They feel alive. It also makes killing them off that much harder. Second, I also love designing new cultures and races and writing detailed scenes where these characters live and interact, oftentimes with someone who is totally new to them. Again, I love a living, breathing, imaginative world we can immerse ourselves in during the journey. Third, I also love the choices between which tropes to keep and which to shed. For Immortals, we spend very little time in European influenced settings, although that will be different in later novels. Also, I felt it was fun writing a dark lady instead of a dark lord and not having a typical “Gandalf” or “Dumbledore” figure who could magically save the day and everything would be alright. Balancing the magic system to keep characters from being too over-powered by not diminishing in any way their capabilities was a great challenge.

What is a typical day like for you?

I usually wake up to a child either crying or giggling. It’s a rush to get myself a smoothie, help prep them for school, see them out the door, and a fight not to give into another twenty minutes (read three hours) of uninterrupted sleep), followed by a trip to a coffee shop to work for five or six hours. On a day when the words are just flowing, I could write well into the night.

What scene in Immortals was your favorite to write?

It’s hard boiling it down to one scene. For A’banna, I absolutely loved writing her journey through the jungle, hunted by feathered dinosaurs and the Sorceress’s minions. Nature was always going to be an ally or a foe, since its essences enable the world’s magic system. It felt right to add a mud slide into the jungle skirmish; the whole sequence left me absolutely breathless and mortified at the same time, but mud slides just don’t happen, so A’banna’s early chapters were all building up to it. My absolute favorite scenes, though, include Eleyna Talaccciaro or Shai. They are fierce, resourceful, and good women in terrible scenarios. Lady Eleyna’s trying to navigate a dangerous path between demigods and religious zealot assassins for the betterment of her family and the world, while Shai is figuring out how to survive after a magic incident gone wrong strips her of her long-time romantic partner and spy colleague. She can often cross people the wrong way, but neither woman is helpless. Far from it. The difference is one’s religion mandates she should kill magic users, or essencers, while the other is a natural essencer. How’s that for tension?

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

I have two: One Percent Better Everyday (Shondo) and I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor). I got to “meet” Shondo on an online aftershow during my time with The Quest Army fandom. Shondo was a contestant on The Quest, and really inspired me to look at the sudden disabilities I received from two viruses over six years ago that created seizures and worse. From #1PercentBetterEveryday, I realized that my day or my “better” would look different than everyone else, and that was okay. When I forgot that, Gloria Gaynor’s infamous lyrics could come bolster that so I could get back to that place. With the help of those mottos, I learned to walk again and have now written Immortals and two sequels and am working on the next three, and have been seizure free since February. I’m grateful and excited for the future.

Joshua Smith is the author of the new book Immortals.

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