Battle Hymns: Name three things you couldn’t live without.
Jeff Salyards: My wife, my kids, my friends. If we’re excluding the living, since they aren’t “things,” then beer, beer, and then maybe a beer chaser.
BH: Own up to a guilty pleasure.
JS: One of the below is absolutely true:
1. I actually love the Wiggles. Their zany shenanigans are hilarious, contagious, and just fantastic, and their songs do not burrow into my brain and lay eggs. At all.
2. My wife has to hide any sweet thing in the house, because if it’s out and plainly visible, I’m eating it. I have the willpower not to actively look for it, sometimes, but if it’s in front of me, forget about it. Even the crumbs.
3. I have a collection of koala paraphernalia: mugs, t-shirts, Pez dispensers, underwear (with and without fur). They’re just so dang cute.
(Editor's Note: My money is on #2.)
(Editor's Note: My money is on #2.)
BH: What music are you listening to these days?
JS: Carly Rae Jepsen. Wait, I’m not a 15-year old girl. I got into Arcade Fire not too long ago, when I was up with a crying kid in the middle of the night (maybe it was me who was crying) and happened to catch one of their concerts. I couldn’t get them out of my head, but in a good way. Gotye is pretty cool—I mean, he’s Belgian-Australian, so he gets bonus points for originality. I keep hoping Audioslave will give it another go, but in the meantime, listening to their last album.
|Best Album Ever?|
BH: What’s your all-time favorite album/record/CD?
JS: You mean, after the Bears’ Superbowl Shuffle? Wow, that’s a tough one. It just depends on my mood too much to narrow it to all-time favorite: Springsteen’s Born to Run, Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Radiohead’s Amnesiac, Guns ‘N Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, Nirvana’s Nevermind.
BH: What was the last concert you went to?
JS: Gaelic Storm a few years ago. But a more interesting story is the first concert I went to. Aerosmith, in high school. And while I look much different now, Steven Tyler must have access to some top-secret anti-aging serum or his drug cocktails over the years synthesized into a formaldehyde proxy, because he hasn’t changed a bit.
My brother, Chris, was supposed to go the concert. Because Chris had a severe case of diabetes, had to undergo dialysis, had numerous operations, he had the handicap sticker and got special seating at events like that. But Chris couldn’t go this time, and his buddy who always went with him was going to have to sit in the cheap seats with the rest of the plebes unless there was a stand-in. Or sit-in, as it were. So he asked me. After thinking about it for all of five seconds, I borrowed the wheel chair and my brother’s buddy and I headed to the concert. We got the primo seating, close enough to make ear drums bleed.
Anyway, I had to pretend to be paraplegic the whole time, and lie through my teeth to the genuinely handicapped folks around me. I blamed my devastating “injuries” on a motorcycle accident. Yes, I am going to hell, thanks for asking.
Hmmm, maybe that wasn’t the best story to tell. . .
BH: Are you a comics reader? If so, what’s something you read recently that you enjoyed? Who’s an artist you love?
JS: I haven’t read nearly as many comics as I used to. As a kid and teen, I collected a bunch of them: X-Men, Batman, Punisher, Avengers, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Jonah Hex. As you can see, I was mostly a Marvel guy. But having said that, I was always partial to Frank Miller—he’s amazing at creating atmosphere and a film-noir kind of sensibility/tone. I loved his Dark Knight and Sin City stuff. Brilliant. And he’s one of those guys who goes where the project is: Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, whatever.
BH: What book or books have you read lately that you thought were especially good?
JS: Perfect segue, as I just finished Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin, a book about supercharged villains/heroes. Paul’s day job is writing comics, and his love of the topic comes through on every page of his debut novel. I heartily recommend this to anyone who likes their heroes deeply flawed and very human. While there are plenty of frenetic fights with superpowers aplenty—cars being chucked around, lasers blasting, giant rats—a large portion of the book is quieter, introspective, character-driven, which always appeals to me.
BH: If you found yourself in a typical fantasy setting, what would be your weapon of choice?
JS: Definitely not a cursed flail that bombards me with the stolen memories of foes I strike down. Braylar has one of those, and that doesn’t look like any kind of fun at all.
I suppose the answer would depend on what I’d likely be doing in that world. A farm boy whisked off by a mysterious mentor and likely possessing innate powers or the heritage that will save the world? No weapon, please—I deserve to die a gruesome death. A soldier? If so, part of a shield wall, a hobelar, heavy cavalry, an arbalest? A grave robber, a caravan guard, a thug? I’ve always believe that weapons are just tools, and you need to pick the right one for the job.
If you’re looking for the generalist answer, a choice that could serve me in the widest range of circumstances, in a city or on campaign, exploring ruins, or running from the law, there’s are a lot of reasons swords are so ubiquitous in fantasy, but one is that they had a lot of utility. As impressive and wicked cool as the later big two-handers are, I would probably go with a longsword from the 14th century (and I mean that in the Oakeshott sense of the word, not D&D—probably type XVI or XVII, for those keeping track at home). A blade I could use with a shield or with two hands if necessary, still exceptionally balanced, light, and fluid.
But if I’m not overly worried about scampering up a siege ladder, spelunking, or fighting my way through dense underbrush, a big Danish axe is all kinds of scary. It says, “The guy holding me is more concerned with splitting you in two than in any damage you might do to him. In fact, I’m betting I’ll cleave you apart and be on to the guy behind you before your weapon even comes close to the crazy bastard swinging me around.”
BH: What would you like to see change or see more of in the Fantasy genre?
JS: Good question. I like books that take risks, that try new paths or search for a new perspective. (Editor's Note: Me too!) While there are some smaller indie publishers who actively support fantasy that’s more challenging or outside most readers’ comfort zones (Night Shade Books, Pyr, Angry Robot), you don’t see these kinds of offering as much from The Big Six. I’m not suggesting the bigs only publish derivative crap, only that their titles tend to be a little safer on the whole. Regardless of the publisher, though, I’d like to see more willingness to push things a bit.
BH: What does the future hold for you? Any new projects you can spill some beans on?
JS: I’m getting rolling on Book 2 in the Bloodsounder’s Arc series. I don’t even have a good non-working title at the moment, so Book 2 it is. The series will be three books for sure, possibly more, depending on how things shape up. So this will keep me busy for the immediate future. Regarding Book 2, I can say that for those readers who were clamoring for more world building, they’ll get it—more about the Syldoon themselves, Bloodsounder, the mysterious Memoridons, the Godveil, the Deserter Gods, political factions, etc. While the narrator, Arki, was generally clueless though Scourge, he’ll be a bit more in the know for Book 2, and the plot revelations will come a lot faster. I like the dynamic of Arki being an outsider, and what it brings to the narrative, so that won’t disappear altogether—he isn’t welcomed with open arms into the Syldoon order going forward, but he will learn a great deal more and at a much faster clip.
Also, for those looking for another strong female character, while I only alluded to Braylar’s sister in the first book, she definitely shows up in Book 2. And she gives her brother a run for it in the badass department (though in a much different way).
BH: Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
JS: Thank you so much for taking a risk by picking up a book by a debut author. Maybe you read a pretty good review somewhere. Maybe you were browsing in Barnes & Noble and the cover grabbed your attention. Maybe Amazon sent you a notice recommending a new juice maker, a book on kites, and Scourge of the Betrayer. Maybe your last name is Salyards. Whatever the reason, I’m equal parts thrilled and grateful that you did, and I really hope you enjoyed Scourge. I appreciate your support more than I can express. Which is why I sent a singing clown-o-gram. He should be there shortly. I apologize in advance for the pie, but it was part of the package deal.
Big THANKS to Jeff Salyards for taking the time to be part of this interview. If it was just me asking the questions with no one answering it would be REALLY boring. Jeff really spiced things up! Seriously, it was an awesome experience. If you still aren't convinced, you really should check out Scourge of the Betrayer it is most definitely worth the read.