Mini-Interview with J. M. Salyards
1- Welcome Jason, why don’t we start with an introduction.
Thank you for having me. I write as J.M. Salyards, and my current series, The Next Man Saga, is published by Xchyler Publishing. I live in Maryland with my wife and daughter. We're a very literary family of readers and writers. The unique and fascinating thing about authors is that the good ones write from their hearts and do so with passion. The best way to get to know me is by knowing my work.
2- Your book, Shadow of the Last Men, depicts an apocalyptic and dystopian future. That particular fantasy/sci-fi sub-genre is a favourite of mine, what attracted you to write your series in this setting?
In some ways, we live in a dystopian present. That made Shadow of the Last Men somewhat easier to extrapolate. The work ended up as this hybrid creature of so many different genres out of necessity, rather than any desire on my part. There is wild fusion of high technology and old-fashioned human willpower and grit that has always attracted me about an apocalyptic setting, and the availability of so many moral and philosophical contrasts made a dystopian framework a natural fit for the kind of story I wanted to tell. With traditional fantasy there are handcuffs, and an author might be stifled a bit by the hidebound ways of approaching magic or characterization, racial issues, or class conflicts. I wanted a different kind of magic for Shadow of the Last Men, and as Arthur C. Clarke put it: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I considered that my license to write the story. He also wrote that "... one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying." That cuts to the heart of the book.
3- Do you have a favourite character from the book, and if so why?
There are four main characters in my first novel, and it's difficult to pick a favorite. They're all so different from one another, with animating, informing archetypes that often come into opposition. I don't like to play favorites. When I read a novel, I want my favorite character to be the one I'm reading about at that moment, because it means that the author has managed to inject the right amount of humanity and sufficient conflict into each mind present in the story. That said, Harrow, Quintain and Alouine all have traits I admire and, in some cases, wish that I had. The same can't be said for their antagonist, Carver Delano. Readers and reviewers have universally come to revile that character, so I consider him a smashing success in his own right.
4- What was the hardest scene in the book to write? And the easiest?
Action scenes are fun to write, and when one writes for fun, it's easy. What ends up being difficult is describing horrible things as they happen to good or innocent people. It was necessary, I think, because in a good vs. evil story, the reader can't know just how desperate the battle is unless there is a taste of darkness. There's genuine good, and genuine evil, in the story. On occasion, the line blurs. While Harrow can be considered a good man, he's better at merely being a man. He's good, but very rarely is he nice. To the contrary, Carver is never nice and doesn't care to be. Scenes of cowardice or bullying are hard to write and especially when a character is smashing or degrading something pure out of spite.
5- As Shadow of the Last Men is the first in a series, can you share any teasing tidbits about upcoming books?
What Shadow of the Last Men began, I hope to continue in Volume 2 of the Next Man Saga, Black Sunrise. We'll see some of the focus shift to some characters that there was no room for in the spotlight of the first novel, while ratcheting up the intensity. With the majority of the world-building complete, I can concentrate even more on a brisk and exciting pace. Story wise, it may remind some of an Empire Strikes Back feel. I'll endeavor to keep the stakes high and everything is in place to have a showdown type of climax. Look for Black Sunrise in the first half of 2015.
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