“My spider sense is tingling,” Steph said as we stomped through the jungle, sweating and overheated. “And do you know what that spider sense is telling me? It’s saying, “We’re going to die” that’s what it’s saying to me.”
“I’m sure Jay knows what he’s doing,” Archer replied as he heaved his bag higher onto his shoulder and stepped over a large root. Steph and I turned to glare at him. “What? It’s just a sight-seeing trip around the place. It’ll be fine! Have a little faith, ladies.”
Steph stood akimbo, tilted her head to the right and gave it a shake. “He made us hike through the jungle for four hours to a remote, secret location, Archer.”
Archer made to reply before stopping and turning to look around at the jungle, “Oh shit, you’re right. We’re going to die.”
“Exactly. He’s up to something,” I mused. I felt a gust of wind blow against the right side of my body as a huge chunk of tree fell right beside me.
“No, I mean, there’s an Oni demon right behind you.”
The beast’s arm flung out, caught me in the side like a sledge hammer, and flung me into a tree.
“On three, Steph,” Archer muttered as he and the Oni circle each other. Steph nodded, her eyes locked on . “One…two…THREE!” Archer roared and crashed forward into the Oni while Steph turned and high-tailed it through the forest. “I meant attack!” Archer yelled as he and the Oni pushed at each other.
“You crazy?” Steph yelled back at him from behind a tree. “What chance do I have against that thing?”
“Use your sword,” I grunted as I got to my hands and knees.
“Oh…” Steph reached back and pulled out her new chainsaw katana. “I’ll hit it, you heal, Kat!” she yelled as she rushed in.
“This isn’t World of Warcraft, Steph,” I shot back as I pulled my own chainsaw katana out, started it up, and rushed in to help.
The Oni was in the middle of using Archer for a hackeysack when a piecing cry swept the air. Out of the glare of the sun dove a massive griffin, screaming as it cut through the air toward us. On its shoulders sat Jay Kristoff, pressing himself close to the griffin’s body, his sword arm held out behind him. The Griffin pulled suddenly out of it’s neck-breaking dive, clawing at the Oni’s face and veering right just as Jay’s arm swung around and his chainsaw katana, slashed down and cleaved the Oni’s head in two.
Buruu landed on the forest floor and began cleaning his feathers with his large, deadly beak.
Jay dismounted, panting a little from the exertion. He wiped his katana on the grass quickly and sheathed it with great satisfaction. “May monkeys feast daily on your innards for a thousand years,” I said, wiping the blood spatter off my face.
Jay looked around confused. “What did I do now?”
“I am never going to get this stuff out of my hair,” Steph complained as she pulled bits of matter and gore out.
Jay looked a little embarrassed, as he scratched the side of his nose and tried not to laugh.
“Ooooh! It’s Buruu! He looks so cute! Can I pet his widdle cutesy head?” I asked. I reached my hand out to pat him, but a quick glance at Jay’s stricken face made me draw it back pretty quickly.
“C’mon, let’s get out of here and get this interview over with before we die or Buruu kills Kat,” Steph said, starting to pick her way past the dead Oni. “Your debut novel, Stormdancer, takes place in feudal Japan. Kat, Archer and I both found the world building to be incredibly rich and visual. What kind of research did you do to make this happen?”
Buruu walked beside Jay and we made our way through the forest toward the rebel camp. “One thing I’m always careful to tell people is that the setting for the series isn’t actually Japan. The Shima Imperium inspired by Japanese mythology, society, language and so on, but saying it’s feudal Japan is like saying A Song of Ice and Fire takes place in medieval England. There might be similarities, but Westeros and England are very different places. Same with Shima and Japan. There weren’t many griffins in feudal Japan for example, nor sixteen year old girls who can speak to animals with their minds.”
Buruu huffed indignantly and ruffled his feathers.
Jay gave him a heavy pat on his flank and it was obvious a quick conversation passed between them. “With all that in mind, I did what I suspect most people would do: Drank saké, took one of those freebie kendo lessons you get on the back of grocery store dockets and watched a shitload of hentai.”
Steph, Archer and I scrunched up our noses in mutual disgust. “Hentai? Tell us once and for all – did you put that picture of Buruu up on Google? Because that picture is not right.”
By Buruu’s pleased expression, I was guessed the picture was fairly anatomically correct. “Don’t translate what he just said to you,” I warned Jay who zipped his lips in response.
We arrived at the rebel camp where a rogue air ship was tethered and being prepared for flight.
I sighed, felt the bruises on my body and mentally prepared for more. “Would you consider yourself a pirate or a ninja?” I asked, gesturing at the ship that was no doubt being used for mischief.
Jay laughed and looked on the ship with pride. “Ninja. A very tall, clumsy ninja who probably never gets sent out to ruin anyone’s shit, but still a ninja. I’ve never understood the allure of pirates. At sea for months, eating shitty salted beef and hardtack, never showering, at the mercy of the elements, with a pack of stinky, murderous bastards with bad dental hygiene for company.”
I snickered. “Really? Seems like you’d have a lot in common with them!” Steph chuckled and Archer rolled his eyes.
“Plus, I was never into Kiera Knightly…” Jay added.
Archer burst out laughing. I flipped him the bird and boarded the ship to prepare to embark on a mysterious and crazy mission.
“Tell me the secret to the Universe, Sama,” Stephanie asked, she pointed to the ship. Archer and I were curious to know where we were headed as well.
Jay smiled, his features secretive as he ran a hand over his beard. “Bill Hicks did that far better than I ever could. I’ll hand you over to him,” he replied.
“Notice how that wasn’t an answer,” Archer said to Steph and I with a laugh.
“We noticed,” Steph replied with less enthusiasm.
The crew called their final checks before we embarked, giving Steph and I a queasy feeling of uncertainty.
“Hey look, Steph! Kat! Buruu’s flying overhead! Jay, Buruu is turning out to be a favorite among readers. He’s a fascinating character that goes through a lot of growth. Was this organic or entirely apart of your plan for world domination?”
Jay watched Buruu with pride. “Almost totally organic. I’m into the whole organic thing. Look in my fridge. My eggs are totally free range. Look. LOOOOK.”
I whacked Jay over the head. “Take this seriously, Jay!”
Jay rubbed his head but otherwise grinned. “In initial drafts, he was intelligent from the very moment Yukiko met him – he was capable of complex thought and speech. It was only later that I started playing around with the idea of him beginning the story as almost entirely feral. I found putting him in an animalistic mindset made him far more interesting, and gave him a more concrete growth arc over the course of the book. His more feral moments are some of my favourite parts in the book.”
Buruu landed down and stood territorially between me and Jay. “Anything you want to admit to us, Jay?” Steph asked.
“I modelled quite a few of mannerisms on my dog, actually. The scene where he gets jealous of Yuki talking to Kin – my dog does that when my wife talks to me. Little bastard…” Jay looked at us guiltily and I rolled my eyes.
I went to try and pat Buruu again but Jay coughed and moved in my path. I crossed my arms over my chest and asked, “Out of curiosity, Jay, which character in the book do you relate to the most?”
The airship zoomed through the sky and Jay roared over the sound of the engine. “Probably Buruu. He’s everyone’s favorite, after all (har, har, ego joke). But seriously, there is a lot of me in him.”
“We’ve all seen the pic, Jay,” Archer interrupted. “We know.”
“Gross,” I told Archer.
“I think I just threw up in my mouth,” Steph added.
Jay laughed, high fived Archer and continued, “The way he sees the world, the way he sees people. He’s a bit of a pessimist, he’s sarcastic and acerbic. He’s hard to get to know, but once he’s your friend, he’s there forever. He’s this big, scary looking thing people are afraid of, but inside, he’s a bit of a puppy dog. Yes, I am a big puppy dog. Pat me.”
I indulged and climbed up the siding of the ship a bit to reach his head.
“A little to the left…” Jay corrects me as I pat him on the head. “Lower…”
I lifted my hand back and smacked him across the head with full strength.
Jay rubbed his sore head as Steph asked the next question, “Obviously we here at Cuddlebuggery have read and loved Stormdancer with the force of a thousand battling Arashitoras. But that ending? Damn, you Kristoff. Why did you make me cry?
“Having someone tell me “your book made me cry” is pretty much the highest compliment anyone can give me, you know. Making someone feel something, to laugh or cry or whatever, that’s why I write. So thanks.” Jay smiled goofily.
“But, dude, the ending,” Archer pressed.
“I like tragic endings. I like endings where the heroes pay for their victory. Readers know the good guys are going to win. They know the villain will get his comeuppance, because nobody wants to read a story where evil is doing the triumphant disco dance on the corpses of the protagonists as the credits roll. So to me, it’s a question of “how cool was the way the heroes crossed the finish line?” and “what did they pay to get there?”
“You suck and I don’t agree. How could you do this to us?” I whined.
Jay thought for a moment to come up with an example. “Compare the endings of Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back. (note that I’m not holding Lucas up as some master storyteller or something – the dude straight-up prison sexed my childhood with Crystal Skull, but still). At the end of Star Wars, Luke just shuts his eyes, pulls the trigger, bam, medals and incest kisses for everyone! In Empire, he loses his hand, his innocence and his best buddy. Which ending were you more invested in? More importantly, which had the least incest?”
I seriously considered and weighed his point in the matter. “You suck!” I replied.
“Ignore her. She doesn’t understand the brilliance of Star Wars storytelling,” Steph interceded.
“Yeah, someone woke her up early this morning and she’s been rotten ever since.”
“Really? I couldn’t tell the difference,” Jay replied with a wink.
“Where are we going exactly? And why all the secrecy?” Steph asked as we flew over varied terrain, leaving behind the lush, beautiful forest for barren, sick fields.
“Is Michi here?” I asked. “One of my favorite parts in Stomdancer was the scene where Michi starts mopping the floor with baddies. Total badass. Did you have any favorite scenes while writing Stormdancer?”
“I like writing Michi,” Jay replied. “A lot. You get to see a lot more of her in future books, btw.”
“Score!” Steph and I said as we did a chest bump.
“But you actually said B-T-W. That’s kind of lame,” I added.
Jay rolled his eyes and continued. “I think my favourite scene to write was the battle versus the oni, when Yukiko and Buruu first really become one mind. Having them slip in and out of each other’s thoughts and bodies, having even the reader not know where one of them began and the other ended – that was really fun to write. Plus, the ending. Your tears are as wine to me.”
“You cruel, evil man,” Steph accused him.
I look at the scenery below. Archer and Buruu are arm wrestling, which doesn’t look like it should be physically possible but both are having trouble getting leverage over the other. I have a strong feeling I know what we’re going to be doing. “Stormdancer has received fantastic early feedback. How has the reactions from early readers been so far for you?”
“Amazing. Awesome. I’m kinda blown away at the reaction it’s getting. Having folks make artwork or poems or whatever, having them go out of their way to write rave reviews and tweet to their friends about it – that takes effort, you know? It’s one thing to spend eight hours reading a book. It’s another thing entirely to then spend more of yourself in putting the word out about it. People’s generosity has been incredible – my flint-black heart has melted into a tiny puddle of flint-black goo,” Jay said as he pulled out his chainsaw katana and brought it roaring to life. “Not great news for the circulatory system thing, but hey, you can’t have everything…”
More and more of the land is barren and sick, visible to us as we passed overhead.
“How did you feel when you started seeing Stormdancer “in the wild”?” Archer asked, his arm still locked in a fierce battle with the Arashitora’s.
“It’s a completely surreal experience. It’s funny, I kept waiting for the moment this would all start to feel real. I figured maybe when I got a book deal, or maybe when I saw my cover for the first time? Maybe when I held ARCs in my hand, or opened up the box of first edition hardbacks my publishers sent me,” Jay replied. “None of it feels real. I keep waiting to wake up, or for the other shoe to drop. Maybe there is no flash of lightning or moment of realization. Maybe I’ll be stuck in “holy fuck, is this actually happening?” mode for the rest of my life. If you see me five years from now with a slightly comatose expression on my face bumping headfirst into walls, at least you’ll know why.”
The airship slowed down and visible on our starboard side was a massive factory where smoke fumed from giant pipes interspersed throughout the compound.
“Let me guess,” I muttered. “We’re about to dive in and destroy the place so that they stop polluting the air and water?
Jay nodded. “Do you need me to do anything for the blog tour stop?” Jay asked as he got ready to descend into a battle.
“Just one more question,” Steph replied. “What would you say has been the biggest key to your success so far – apart from writing an awesome novel?”
Jay scrunched up his nose and shook his head. “Am I successful? I don’t even know. I have a book out, sure, but who knows if anyone other than my mum will buy it… Actually, wait, she didn’t buy it. I gave her a copy. Shot myself in the foot there, maybe…”
“Yup,” I agreed. “You gave me a copy. Big mistake, dude. I totally would have bought one,” I replied. “What else do you have for us, sama?”
“I don’t know. Just be yourself? Some folks will hate you for it. But it’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not. Most folks will hopefully get it, and appreciate it, and join you in raising your middle finger at the folks who don’t. It’s just a ride, after all…”
“Trufax. And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s go save Shima!” I called out, pulling my chainsaw katana out of it’s sheath and rushing for the rope to go down on the factory.
“Right. Let’s kick some ass! And not die,” Steph added.
“Off for another whirlwind adventure!” Archer agreed.
And that’s how we saved Shima. The End.
*For nonregular readers of Cuddlebuggery, the Keira Knightly reference is an inside joke that you can read about here.
We want to give a huge thank you to Jay Kristoff for the interview. There’s no one we’d rather fight Oni with.
Also, thank you St. Martins for allowing us to be apart of the blog tour!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://cuddlebuggery.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Jay-Kristoff.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Jay Kristoff grew up in the most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. He spent most of his formative years locked in his bedroom with piles of books, or gathered around dimly-lit tables rolling polyhedral dice. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of. Jay’s debut novel, STORMDANCER, a Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy, will be published by St Martin’s Press/Tor UK in September 2012 as the first installment of THE LOTUS WAR trilogy. Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 13870 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell. He does not believe in happy endings.
Don’t forget to check out Stormdancer, available now!
Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.
But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.
Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.
Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?
Hey, guys. Steph here. Last month Kat and Archer had the opportunity to attend Jay Kristoff’s launch party (I was there in spirits). DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS, MONKEY CHILDREN? It means they both picked up so much Stormdancer goodies that their families are now seeing the book covers in their sleep instead of sheep. Please, save them.
Since there is so much to give away we are doing two different prize packs this time. So you get two chances to win something! The only change to the rules is that you can’t win both prize packs. That would be insanely unfair. Plus, what they hell would you do with all those Stormdancer books?
*Special Kat Bulletin*
We actually stole most of this stuff. The posters were taken right off the walls. We got Kristoff so drunk that he didn’t even know what he was signing by the end of the night. I swear. We could be giving his signed wallet away on the blog right now and he wouldn’t even know. So this is some pretty unique stuff!
Prize Pack 1
1 Hardcover US edition of Stormdancer (signed)
1 Little Stormdancer
1 Small Poster (signed)
Prize Pack 2
1 Paperback UK edition of Stormdancer (signed)
1 Small Poster (not signed)
To enter, please fill out the Raffelcopter form below.
We ask that all entrants be at least 13 years or older to enter.
- The giveaway is open to anyone (US and International).
- When the winners are chosen, it will be announced here and the winners will be emailed. Please check your email because we are only giving the winner 48 hours to respond! Otherwise another winner will have to be selected.
- Please enter your email address in the Rafflecopter form and not the comments!
- Also, please understand that we reserve the right to disqualify any entries we find gaming the system. Cheaters never prosper.