Q&A with Jay Posey ( Legends of the Duskwalker series)

Angry Robot recently came out with the Dawnbreaker, the last book in the Legends of the Duskwalker series by Jay Posey. I LOVED Three - and while Morningside Fall was a bit of a let-down, I am so looking forward to finish this exciting series - with the Dawnbreaker. The review is up next - but in the meanwhile, we got chatting with Jay about the inspiration behind the series, his favorite characters and the books that influenced him.

Hi Jay! Welcome to Smorgasbord Fantasia. Thank you for taking time out to connect with me and my readers.
[Jay P.] Hi, and thanks so much for having me!

Jumping straight into the Q&A:

1.Legends of the Duskwalker finally comes to an end, huh? Congratulations! How do you feel now that this series is completed?
a.[JP] Thanks very much! I feel very tired.Actually ... well, no, that’s very much true, but I also have a strange mix of emotion having finished the Duskwalker trilogy. It’s the culmination of about five years worth of work, so it’s almost hard to remember a time when I wasn’t working on the books or carrying around these characters and their world in my head all the time.

I feel very proud of the work I accomplished, and I’m really very content with the way the story turned out. It’s also a huge relief; I didn’t realize how much I had been constantly turning things over in my mind until I’d turned in the Final Final Final manuscript for Dawnbreaker. Once it was done and Angry Robot was happy with it, my brain felt like it had a whole bunch of extra space all of a sudden.

And of course it comes with a sense of melancholy, too. I love the people in those books, and I love the Duskwalker world (as broken as it is). It’s a bitter-sweet accomplishment to say goodbye to them. It’s like saying goodbye to dear friends and family, not knowing when or if I’ll ever see them again.(At least for however long that goodbye lasts.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I return to it again one of these days.)

2.With a series behind you now, was it easier to write each new novel? Or did each book come with its own challenge?
a.[JP] I sure thought each novel was going to be easier than its predecessor but BOY WAS I WRONG.
Each novel got progressively harder for me to write. I’m really glad no one told me that was going to be the case up front. I thought for sure that the second book (Morningside Fall) would be easier than the first, but it turned out to be a pretty brutal experience for me. Then I had some of my experienced writer buddies tell me that the second book was always the hardest.
So that gave me some hope for the third. Which turned out to be an entirely different sort of challenge. Dawnbreaker wasn’t as emotionally difficult for me to write as Morningside Fall had been, but knowing it was The End, I felt enormous pressure to Get It Right. At times I felt like I got lost in the book and couldn’t really tell if anything I was writing even made sense anymore. Which was mildly terrifying.
It also turned out to be much longer than I’d anticipated, so I blew up my deadline. Fortunately for me, the Robot Overlords at Angry Robot didn’t incinerate me as I deserved and gave me the time I needed to get it done right. Several of my early readers told me that Dawnbreaker was my best book yet, so that was very encouraging. I hope that holds true for everyone else!

3.Who is your favourite character from the series?
a.[JP] That’s like asking which of my children is my favourite, which of course I honestly must answer with “All of them!”
I do sincerely love Wren and Cass, and Gamble and her whole team. jCharles and Mol feel like family to me. It’s strange for me knowing these are all people I “just made up”, because they really do seem like real people that I’ve gotten to know and love. So it’s too much to try to pick one of them as my favourite.
There’s no doubt, though, that the character I’ll miss the most is Three.

4.Tell us a bit about the genesis of the Legend of Duskwalker series. Has it shaped up like you initially imagined it or has the story written itself over the series?
a.[JP] The series got its start in three parts.
The heart of the story started with Three. I knew I wanted to write a story about this lone wolf type getting into a situation where he had to care for a young boy; I knew it was a story about surrogate fatherhood, and relationship, and real sacrifice. I just didn’t know where it took place. I had a bunch of different settings I tried, but nothing really felt right.
A second part came from a lecture I had an opportunity to attend where the amazing Vernor Vinge spent about an hour talking about emerging technology, and where he saw things headed for us over the next few decades. That lecture sparked a lot of new ideas for me, and inspired a (still unpublished) short story I wrote about a near-future world where everyone took connection to the internet for granted. At some point, it occurred to me that I could take that world, throw it into an apocalypse, give it a few years to recover, and see what I was left with. That world formed the foundation for the Duskwalker one.
The final piece came as I was figuring out how Three fit into the Duskwalker world. I had so many different inspirations I wanted to explore, but I didn’t know which ones to focus on. So I took a page from George Lucas. I focused on them all! I had all these varied interests in Westerns and samurai and cyberpunk and anime and future tech, and I just decided I could create a world where all of these things could co-exist.
When those three things all snapped together in my mind, I knew I had something I wanted to write about.

Overall, the series arc went pretty much as I had expected; all the major events were ones I knew about from early on. The actual road to getting to them, though, was a different story. A lot of the details surprised me as the story unfolded, and there were several times where I expected characters to do one thing, and they ended up doing something else entirely.

5.How much of your gaming background experience has influenced your writing? Could you give us some instances?
a.[JP] I think there are two big contributions.
The first is in world-building. Games have such power to draw us into new worlds and they can serve as incredible engines for story. Though the Duskwalker series was birthed from a single character concept, developing the world showed me just how many stories could be told in that setting, and I think I looked at my career in developing games (and playing them!) as a rich history of experience I could draw on.

The second was in making me comfortable with leaving certain gaps for my readers. Before I got involved in game development, I always wanted to make sure my readers pictured things exactly the way I did. When I started working in the video game industry though, I quickly discovered that I was surrounded by some amazingly talented artists; sometimes I’d write up a description of a character or an environment in detail, thinking I’d explained exactly what I wanted to see, and a concept artist would come back with something that didn’t look like what I had imagined and was instead about a thousand times better.

The more that happened, the more comfortable I got scaling back on description and trying to focus more on capturing the right impression of a place, or a person, or a thing.

I think that helped me get over myself in a lot of ways, and helped me remember that a book is a collaborative process ... I may have written the words, but the readers are the ones creating the images in their minds, and I’m confident that however they’re imagining it, their way is most likely the right way for them.

6. What authors have influenced your writing? Who is your favourite one?
a. [JP] Far too many to list, and probably far more than I even realize. But a couple of the stand outs:
J. R. R. Tolkien is one for certain, though he has been more of an influence on how I think about writing rather than on my actual writing style. His essay “On Fairy Stories” is rich with thoughts on the power of creative fantasy, and the seriousness with which he approached his craft is a strong inspiration to me.
William Gibson is another one. When I read the opening line of Neuromancer I remember stopping and immediately re-reading it because it so perfectly captured tone and mood. It was elegantly crafted. And I’ve consistently admired his willingness to write what he wants to write, the way he wants to write it. I think he’s an exceptionally brave writer, and whenever I start to doubt whether my writing style is too weird or too me (which happens a lot), I can often find courage in his work.

And though I only recently discovered her, Helen MacDonald’s book H is for Hawk is one that reawakened me to the pure beauty that language can have. I don’t know that I’ve read a more exquisitely written book than H is for Hawk, and I tell my writer buddies all the time that reading it will make them better writers.

7.What are you reading now?
a.[JP] I tend to read a lot of books at once, depending on my mood at any given moment. My current stack includes:

·         Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper
·         Left of Bang, by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley
·         Prayer, by Timothy Keller
·         Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II, by Robert Leckie

And I recently read an advance copy of Jason Hough’s Zero World, which is fantastic.

8.What is next for you?
a.[JP] I’m already at work on a new military science-fiction novel for Angry Robot at the moment, called Outriders, which I’m very excited about. I have a couple of other projects on the horizon that I can’t quite talk about yet, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to here in the relatively near future.

Thanks again for letting me visit! 


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