Under a Colder Sun, by author Greg James was one of the ten final novels selected by the bloggers in the 2015-16 Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off. It is a fast-paced and vividly visual tale which takes the reader on a swift tour of a world that is relentlessly dark and bleak. At the center of it all is man known as Khale the Wanderer, a fearsome warrior with a repugnant past and a grim future. He is no hero, but heroes don't exactly fare well in the world that James has created. For this post, Mr. James was kind enough to answer some questions about his work and to reflect on his influences.
TK: One of the things that struck me as I was reading Under a Colder Sun was the very fluid nature of the narrative. It is almost dream-like in the way it shifts from scene to scene. I'd be interested in hearing how you went about constructing the story -- did you start with a beginning and an end, or did the tale take shape around certain key elements you had in your head?
GJ: I usually start out with a beginning and an ending though these often change during the process. Khale had been a character lurking in my head for some years, easily as far back as 2006 or 2007. He gestated for a long time, I'd made a lot of notes about him, and had some very clear ideas in my head all ready by the time it came to writing Under A Colder Sun. It was the most fluid novel I'd ever put together as I managed to draft it ready for my editor in just under a month. Something I'd not achieved before and I doubt I will again any time soon.
TK: The theme of a world in decay is a strong element of the story. How and why did you come to choose such a setting?
GJ: Khale was strongly influenced by Karl Edward Wagner's Kane and the weird antediluvian atmosphere of Clark Ashton Smith's fantasy stories. To some extent, I also wanted to see how far I could push things in terms of having a fantasy world that was rotting and decrepit without making things too bleak and barren for the story to be credible. I'm a horror author by origin so I couldn't resist the challenge to see if I could out-dark grimdark.
TK: I noticed one of the character’s careers in Under a Colder Sun was cut short by an arrow to the knee. I know you are going to discuss some of the authors who influenced your work in your guest post, but do you think you’ve also drawn some inspiration from fantasy video game titles, and do you see more of a convergence between the two mediums (fantasy literature and video games) in the future?
GJ: Well spotted on that one – though the Skyrim reference is more of a nudge-nudge wink-wink for the readers. I would say the video games that were more of a key influence on the world and the story would be the Dark Souls series and Chakan the Forever Man; an old Sega Genesis game that was itself based on a limited edition comic book series about an immortal warrior. The latter stuck in my head for years and Khale pays a form of tribute to the game and comic series.
TK: I found Under a Colder Sun to be a very visual novel. If you had the chance to see it reproduced in a more visual medium, what format and style would you chose?
GJ: I think a short comic book series or a few illustrations of Khale and the other main characters a la Frank Frazetta would be pretty cool. I don't think he'd necessarily translate so well to television or film as I think Khale is too much of a bastard for the kind of mainstream audience necessary for success. I might be wrong but that's my gut feeling about the Wanderer. He's an acquired taste and not for everyone.
TK: I haven't yet had the chance to read the sequel, Lost is the Night. Briefly, where does the second installment find Khale and the other poor souls which co-habit his world?
GJ: Lost is the Night picks up immediately after the events of Under A Colder Sun. It's a gothic fantasy adventure where Khale and a handful of characters, some familiar, some new, are trapped in a castle and experience a harrowing dark night of the soul.
TK: Finally, describe your experience with the SPFBO and any impact it has had on you as a writer.
GJ: Honestly, it's all been a total surprise and a pleasure to be involved. I was shocked initially to discover that Under A Colder Sun had made the final cut in the Blog-Off and was to be included in the top ten. My slight hopes for the book have been surpassed by a long way. I can only thank Mark Lawrence for offering everyone the opportunity in the first place – I'm very pleased to see more authors will be getting a chance to be recognised with a second Blog-Off in 2016 – and also my thanks must go to Blair and Jason Chen for inviting me to take part in the SPFBO storybundle (Available HERE). I hope it all leads to bigger and better things for everyone involved. Cheers, Tavish.