Author Interview: Jay Kristoff


Jay Kristoff is a Perth-born resident of Melbourne and the author of THE LOTUS WAR trilogy, a Japanese-inspired Steampunk. The first book, STORMDANCER, is out now in a bookstore near you. The second book, KINSLAYER, comes out this month — although some department stores have released it early. I’m halfway through my copy as I write this. And it is AWESOME!

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Kinslayer: AUS/UK cover

You’ve achieved something that is the dream of writers everywhere: a big traditional publishing deal. But both your agent and your publisher are in the US. What have you found the greatest challenge as an Australian author working in that environment? (It’s the fact they drop the “u” out of so many words, isn’t it? ISN’T IT??)

The missing “u’s” do make it hard to deal with. And you have to replace a few of your “s’s” with “z’s”. And then there’s words like “colourise”, which are like DOUBLE WHAMMY BITCH.

Initially I thought communication might be a problem, but between Skype and email it’s drama free. I’ve found myself waking up in the middle of the night to check email on important days, simply because US replies are likely going to be generated while you sleep, which I guess might be a bad habit to get into. But it makes every day kinda like xmas. You’re like, “Ooooh, I wonder what’s waiting for me, I’ll just check my . . . oh, spam invite for Viagra 2 trials. Awesome.”

The biggest challenge is promo after the book is released. The US has truck-tonne of fantasy conventions—as I write this, I’m watching all the tweets from Worldcon on my feed and my face is all 😦 —and as an Australian writer, you can’t hit many of them. We have some great cons down here now, no doubt, but to promo internationally, you really need to rely on book bloggers and word of mouth more than an American-based author does. You can’t drop a hundo and book a flight to Gencon on a whim.

Pro tip: having a rudimentary knowledge of American football and hockey helps in many American-based business transactions. Pick a team, yo. (New York Giants and Detroit Redwings, me.)

Although Yukiko, the protagonist of THE LOTUS WAR, is sixteen, you’ve described the series as a crossover between YA and adult because of its mature themes—sex and violence and whatnot. If you had a teenage daughter, would you let her read the trilogy?

Great question. I’ve never been asked that before.

Would I let the young Miss Kristoff read my books? For sure, if she wanted to. I’d be delighted she was reading anything, tbh. I’m not of the opinion that violence or sex in entertainment is a bad thing, so long as it’s given context, and doesn’t exist for its own sake. I think our society’s casual attitude to violence vs the puritanical attitudes to sex is nuts, but you’re never going to pull that stick out of some people’s botties. Still, the idea that a movie like The Hunger Games (essentially a murderfest) gets a PG rating, but it’s an auto R rating if we show someone’s junk on screen, sends me more than a little ranty-pants.

Truth is, young people are going to be exposed to sex and violence. It’s not a parent’s job to try and shield their kids from the realities of life. It’s their job to give those realities context, and be there to answer questions if any arise. If you shield your kids from the inevitable, they’ll have no coping mechanisms when the inevitable arrives.

Since STORMDANCER came out, has there been anything that has really surprised you, about either the process of publishing or your fans’ reactions? Do you have groupies yet? Has anyone asked you to sign a body part?

So many surprises. You’re never really prepared for it all, no matter what you read. Life is very strange, and kinda wonderful. I was at a Supanova recently, and I had a girl come up to me with a US edition hardback of SD (so I already knew she was hardcore) and she told me it was the best book she’d ever read. And I say, “Oh, thanks, that’s lovely of you to say”, like you do, and she stopped me and said, “No, you don’t understand. This is the BEST book I have EVER read.” And that just knocked me over. The gravity in that moment is something words can’t express. Another girl took her copy of STORMDANCER around the world with her, and sent me photos of this little book I wrote in all these countries I’ve never visited. Stuff like that just blows me away. This thing I wrote on my lunchbreaks, thinking it didn’t have a hope in hell of seeing publication. It’s strange. And so many kinds of awesome.

No groupies. This is for the best, since my wife knows where I sleep. A friend of mine asked me to sign his chest if that counts. He was kinda hairy though, so it didn’t really work.

Pro tip: make sure you wax the body part in question before you ask someone to sign it.

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Jay Kristoff. Image credit.

What can we expect from KINSLAYER? There were so few characters left standing at the end of STORMDANCER; I’m not sure I can deal with too much more heartbreak!

It gets worse :). KINSLAYER is basically The Empire Strikes Back of the series. It’s the dark moment before the dawn. I introduce a few more characters, and some of the minor characters from SD get some time in the spotlight (including Michi, who seems to be a bit of a reader favourite). The war and the stakes and the setting all get bigger (as does the book, consequently; I think the UK/AUS edition is 600 pages :P). The book basically follows three main storylines through three different characters’ perspectives, which all collide by the end of the book. Bad things happen. I delight in making bad things happen. Your tears are as wine to me.

No one = safe.

Once THE LOTUS WAR is complete, do you have plans for future works in that universe, or are you working on something new? Can you give us a clue? I won’t tell anyone (other than the readers of our blog), I SWEAR.

Book Three will be the last book for THE LOTUS WAR series. It’ll be hard to write any more books in that setting after the end I’ve got in mind (mwahahahaaa *thunderclap*). I’m actually working on three different books at the moment. No rest for the wicked.

One is a sci-fi YA book told in an alt format that I’m working on with a buddy of mine—it’s kind of a romance/mystery/spooky thing. It’s been huge amounts of fun to work on, but it’s one of those books that could be pure genius or just sheer, unpublishable madness. We’ll know soon enough—it’s on sub right naow, hence my fingernails being all tattered and whatnot.

I’m also writing a YA post-apocalypse cyberpunk thing. It’s kind of Romeo and Juliet meets Bladerunner with a healthy dose of Mad Max thrown in. Awesome fun to write. And lastly, I’ve got an adult epic fantasy riffing on the “infamous assassin” trope that I’ve been toying with for a couple of years now, which is shaping up to be really cool.

I dunno if any of them are any GOOD, of course. But as long as you’re having fun writing them, you’re spending your minutes well.

We don’t get many, after all. 🙂

KINSLAYER is officially available on 17 September, but keep your eyes peeled because some stores are already stocking it. You can find Jay on his website, blog, Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads

Cassandra Page has been waiting for KINSLAYER to come out since July 2012, when she finished STORMDANCER. True story. You can find her blog here.

Cassandra Page

2 Comments

  1. I didn’t want to freak Jay out by gushing about Stormdancer being the best book ever, but it is… Although reading Kinslayer at the moment I’m thinking that may be the best book ever… I guess that makes Jay Kristoff the best author ever! Not a groupie as such, just a rabid fangirl!

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