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Beloved Enemy joined Starquest and Children of the Mist to continue the Destiny Trilogy and I'm thrilled to announce was shortlisted for the R.N.A. RoNA Awards 2017, awarded 2nd Runner up in the RONE Awards 2017 and was the winner in the SF/Fantasy category of the 'Best Banter Contest'.


Friday, 8 January 2016

Shadows of the Highridge -Interview and #Contest

It's a real thrill to welcome Jay Swanson to the Flight Deck today.

Please help youself to something cool and sparkling, Jay - I hope you don't mind me being informal - and the astro-bot will be along in a moment with some delicious nibbles.  Ok, let's get started with some things I and the readers are dying to know about you:

 HL: Tell us a little more about yourself, with three things not many people know about you.

 JS: Most people probably don’t know that I was totally into zombies as the craze rose, the fervor pitch of which I personally believe was struck with the release of Left 4 Dead. I loved that game, probably played a gazillion hours of it and could still identify the special zombies by sound alone if you asked me to. Don’t stone me for this, but I think zombies are overplayed today. The undead will always remain an interesting aspect of genre fiction, horror, fantasy, what have you, but zombies… eh. I’m over it.
Except in the occasional dream. Then it’s fun again.

 I. Love. Pizza. I love it so much my sister and I got matching pizza tattoos. Don’t believe me? Check my Instagram.

 And for the final bit of trivia: I can’t tell you because it was illegal and I can’t share illegal things on this blog. I can however tell you about the time I convinced a man carrying an AK-47 to let me climb a massive lighting tower in a West-African port. That wasn’t TECHNICALLY illegal, it just required a little convincing on my part. And it was all to impress a girl.
Isn’t it always? She was South African. I love the South African accents, particularly with British inflection or a gentle dusting of Afrikaans.

 HL:  Hm, I think I agree with you about the zombies, LOL.  What fascinating answers. What do you do for fun when not writing?

 JS: You can do stuff for fun and not write? I need to have a conversation with my publiohyeah that’s me. I run a lot, around 20 miles/week or more. That’s more for health than fun though. To be honest, and this is kind of sad to put in writing, I don’t have a ton of fun right now. I just finished a job that required I travel every week. I flew over 100k miles domestically in 2015 (not counting international trips) and spent an average of 20h/week in transit.  To put that in context, I was on an airplane every four days. So… I’m very good at navigating airports. That’s almost like a game, right?
Now that the job is over, I intend to take up rock climbing and probably a video game or three. Oh, and friends. I’m going to have friends again.

 HL: Oh, we all need our friends! :) When did you start writing?

 JS: I wrote my first play when I was in first grade. My class produced it. I found the tape a few years ago and actually remembered writing it. I was (of course) the badass prince wearing purple boots and a cape. Can’t go wrong with any of that.

 HL: What comes first: the plot or the characters?

 JS: Eggs. No, chickens. Actually for me it’s end scenes and emotional payoff. What is it I’m aiming for? What does that climactic scene look like? Then, once I’m cheering or weeping or laughing or soaring, I start asking other questions. Who’s there? Who is required to be there? Who’s missing? Why? What makes this ending worthwhile? What was it that they had to overcome to get here? I build backwards. It’s fun to open with your first line, to craft it and hone it and hook hook hook – but then you’ve gotta end it somewhere, and while not all great beginnings lead to great endings, all great endings can have great beginnings.

 HL: Tell us about your latest release and what you think readers will enjoy about it

JS: Shadows of the Highridge is a book about how we handle grief, tragedy, calamity, and ourselves. This won’t post for some time, but I’m just now leaving Paris in the wake of the attacks that claimed so many lives in the city and national stadium. Having lived through an incident like that myself, I went into my time there understanding that not everyone would react the same. Not everyone sees these things with the same eyes, or comes out with the same emotions (if their minds even permit emotion to pass through so shortly after).

 Shadows of the Highridge explores that, but not in such a heavy-handed fashion. If you enjoyed Tremors (and can survive Kevin Bacon being an upstanding coward instead of a sleazy adventure-seeker) then you’ll really enjoy this book. I should stop bringing Kevin Bacon up in all of these posts. Shadows of the Highridge is fantasy, it’s horror, and there are some laughs along the way. It’s also a really quick and fun read.

 HL: It sounds like a wonderful read! If someone were to play one of your characters in a movie, which character and what actor would it be and why?

 JS: KEVIN BAC Oh wait I promised to stop doing that. A haggard and roughed up Jake Gyllenhaal would make a decent Vanig, although so would that guy with the huge mustache from Tombstone. I just wish we could get Sean Connery from the 80’s back to play Salisir.

 Cate Blanchett would make a great Hellen (Vanig’s epic sister). And get whoever played Gollum to play the worms. All of them.

 HL: (Grin) and I'm sure he'd be honoured! Have you a favourite actor/hunk? If you’ve answered question 6 would this be the same guy?

JS: My favorite actor/hunk would probably be Nathan Fillion, but I haven’t written any major roles that match his charm.

 HL: What have you learned about writing since you were published that surprised you the most?

 JS: While you get better at writing, it doesn’t get any easier. I mean it does in many ways, but the ceiling is ever-rising. I thought I’d write a masterpiece out of the blocks. Ah, my sweet na├»ve younger self. It’s one of the great joys of the craft and simultaneously one of its most daunting aspects: there is always room to grow.

 HL: What’s you’re writing process? Has it changed since writing your first book?

 JS: Sit, hands on keyboard, music in ears (usually EDM of some variety), and maybe coffee in reach (I only drink the milked-down and sugared up kinds unless it’s straight espresso). My method has changed only in location. I used to write on an old Danish rail ferry converted into a hospital sitting on the coast of western Africa. Now I write primarily on airplanes or in coffee shops (I’m writing this on an airplane over Wichita right now – the view is alright but the dang clouds keep mucking the whole thing up).

 HL: Clouds have a habit of doing that, don't they! You've already answered this really, but I'm going to ask you to elaborate! Do you listen to music when you write and if so, what kind of music – or do you find it distracts you?

 JS: Ah hey, my clairvoyance strikes again. I do write with music – I almost have to. The way I put it to people is that I’ve got this annoying ten-year-old version of myself throwing all kinds of ideas and wants at me at all times and I have to placate him somehow. Turn the music on. White noise with a beat. Get him to shut up for twenty minutes and when he finally has something to say, it’ll be worthwhile.

 HL: Do you have a support system? Do you have a writing community? What valuable lessons have you learned from them?

 JS: My support system is growing, which is really exciting. When I started out I sent my first manuscript to something like 20 people. Christmas day, 2010, from Appelsbosch, South Africa. I think five wrote back. The rest were stricken from my friends list forever (kidding). Those five people who did respond were key to moving forward and remain with me today in one form or another (life takes us all for different rides at different times).

 Now, thanks to conventions and really really generous acquaintances, I’m meeting all kinds of writers whose names I will refuse to drop here (but Mark Twain and I are tight). It’s so refreshing to meet other people like me in the sense that they’re burdened with stories to tell. Some of my favorite conversations have happened over beer in strange places like Saratoga Springs and Spokane (I even alliterate my convention destinations). More to come on that front, I’m sure.

 HL: I certainly agree that we can't do without those fantastic 'beta readers'. What is your personal definition of success?

 JS: Besides saving the world? Hmmm… I’ve been thinking on this a lot lately. I actually spent a few evenings in Paris sketching it out in one of my notebooks (let’s be honest, the fact that I can even say that makes my life pretty amazing as it is). What makes me happy? Where do I want to live and with whom? What do I want to do (because writing on its own may not satisfy me in the end)?
I need adventure. I need friends. Love. Romance. I need to sail the open sea and to dive into the depths of forgotten places. I don’t want to lose those parts of myself. I also need a home base. Something stable. Something known. I need family. I need to create.

So I don’t have an answer for you that is concrete. I would say that the day my writing (and the surrounding projects) can afford me the ability to pack up and leave on whatever journey calls me next would be the day I call myself a writing success. But then again it will be the day I actually fall in love for the last time. It will be the moment I reach some far-flung location I’d only heard of and realize I’ve overcome another deep personal failing. It will be when I can forgive myself the transgressions I hold too dear.All of those moments will be success as well.

 HL: What is your favourite source of inspiration?

 JS: Learning. Any time you read a good book that explains some aspect of the world, sit under the arch of an ancient building and admire arts long-lost, or see a new landscape unfold and break the horizon in ways you never before imagined – those are moments where inspiration lurks. As our mind opens to new emotions, new thoughts, ideas that contradict everything we hold true – as we change – we become agents of that change for others. And change is the great source of conflict, where conflict is the great source of story.

 HL: Absolutely! I couldn't agree more. Is there any advice, as a new writer, that you were either given, or wish you had been given?

 JS: I’m really glad no one told me not to do it. I’ll make something up though:
Don’t assume the publishing world is out to get you (in the negative sense). It’s not. It can be cold and cutthroat at times, but it is a business. Take the time to get to know other writers, befriend publishers, editors, and keep honing your craft. There are more friendly and helpful people around than villains. The gates may be closed to you for now, and your self-published efforts may feel futile, but do whatever you can to keep from taking any of that personally. Remember that no one owes you anything, and you owe your fans and readers everything – no matter how few or how many there are

HL: Very true! What sort of research do you do for your books and what’s your favourite source of information.

 JS: I just read as broadly as I can, and I try to read good stuff. I used to feel obligated to finish any book I picked up – not any more. I don’t have time for bad books, especially when they’re non-fiction (sometimes I’ll finish bad fiction just so I know what the heck the rage is about or to learn what not to do).

 HL: Funny, I've come to feel exactly the same way!  Now, just for fun - if you were an animal, which one do you think you would be, and why?

 JS: Hippogriff – you can fly, you’re huge, tough, sexy, and yet not destined to be evil. If we’re going with the non-13-year-old-Jay answer, I’d be a dog because they’re probably the only species that humankind won’t be wiping out in the near or distant future (survivalist-Jay).

HL: Sadly that has the ring of truth to it! 
Many authors model their characters on people they know. Is this the case with your characters and do you see yourself in any of them?

 JS: They’re all pretty much modeled on the worst and best aspects of who I am and who I hope to be. Or who I hope I never become. I never consciously model any character off any person, but sometimes little ticks or quirks will find their way in, I’m sure. I should probably model some after my grandfathers, because they were total BAMFs in their own rights.

 HL: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?

In Shadows of the Highridge I would say it’s Tolly. She’s got a lot of horrible things on her plate to deal with, and she won’t do it all in the right way, but who does? She’s quick-witted, smart, fast on her feet, tough, and unafraid to speak her mind. Calculating without a lack of empathy. I just like her a lot.

 HL: Who is your most favorite character of all time from any book?

 JS: Samwise, of course, but I didn’t always think that. I tended to prefer the big shiny heroes. Sam used to make me cringe, and while I never disliked him I really struggled with how his story ended. It wasn’t what I wanted for him – it seemed so unjust. He loses Frodo. Merry and Pip get their romance and seem to all but forget he exists. He’s left with a life that’s so… normal (albeit exceptional by Hobbit standards). But then it’s not about what I want, is it?
Sam is the loyal friend, the true hero of LOTR, we all know this. But Sam taught me how to handle happiness for others when it’s not what you would have for them – when it’s not exactly what they would have for themselves. None of us gets to choose our own ending, so let’s be thankful when they’re good ones – normal or otherwise.

 HL: That's a really interesting answer, not what I was expecting perhaps (I was thinking Strider) but yes, Samwise is a great character.
So...where can readers connect with you?

 JS: You can read my ongoing project, Into the Nanten at intothenanten.com. We bill it as the world’s first real-time fantasy blog, filled with illustrations by Nimit Malavia, and from which Shadows of the Highridge spun off. If you’d like to follow me you can sign up for my newsletter, follow me on Twitter @jayonaboat, check out the artwork on Instagram @mindofjayswanson, or come say hi over on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you.

 HL: Is there a question you really, really wish someone would ask, but they never do? If so what would be your reply?

 Interviewer: What’s your favorite word?
Jay: “Parraseux,” because it’s so delightfully ironic for how much work it takes to say.
Interviewer: Why do you have to be so difficult? Speak English.
Jay: Fine.
Interviewer: That’s your favorite word? “Fine?”
Jay: No! Would you stop? I’m thinking.
Interviewer: …
Jay: “Kleptocracy.” Spellcheck doesn’t even recognize it, but it’s an amazing word. Right up there with “Bankster.” I guess I have a thing for portmanteaus. Oh! “Portmanteau.” What a great concept.
Interviewer: You can stop now.
Jay: And XKCD’s take on it with his entry mocking Wikipedia with “Malamanteaus.” GENIUS!
Interviewer: I’m turning off the recorder now.

 Jay: And I totally forgot–END TRANSMISSION

 HL: Love it! Thank you so much for taking time to visit my blog, it’s been a thrill having you here and learning more about you and your writing. I wish you much success now and in the future.

 JS: Thanks for having me! It was a pleasure to thrill, and I hope you’ll have me back by sometime down the road.

HL: I'd be delighted, you're welcome on the Flight Deck anytime - just let me know your timeline and co-ordinates and I'll send down a shuttle for you! :)


Moving along the soil is the quickest way to die; for Tolly to survive she must learn to stay silent.
Life on farms like hers was difficult enough in the face of plague and a decade of drought, but something worse has come to the foothills under the Highridge Mountains. Something that will destroy everything she loves.
 Mere miles away, Vanig’s search for water to revive his farm is cut short when soldiers arrive bearing dark news of disaster striking farms throughout the region – and they suspect he is the root cause of it all. Those suspicions spike when a disheveled warrior appears hundreds of miles from home and takes Vanig hostage.

 Death looms in the shadows of the Highridge.


“Farmer.” Gaptooth grabbed Vanig by the shoulder and turned him. “We ain’t walkin’ no farther. You do your thinkin’ on the way back.”

“Do you think I came out here to ruminate?” Vanig was shocked at how the anger boiled over, but he followed it.

“To rumiwhat?”

“I need to make a survey of these draws.” Vanig shoved the soldier’s hand off his shoulder. It felt good. “Take measurements. Draw. No amount of thinking will move it without knowing just what I’m moving it through. You think because I live out here that I’m some stupid mystic. Sacrifice a goat and maybe this time the rain gods will bless me with abundance? Well they won’t. Gods and man have abandoned this place all the same. It’s a waste; and without someone like me to change that, that’s the way it will stay.”

Crooknose stepped forward to speak, but Vanig held up his hand.

 “I need an hour. Give me that. Go drink your fill and sit down to rest. Gods know you both need it.”

 Crooknose shoved his finger into Vanig’s chest. “Listen here you goat lovin’, dirt humpin’, ignorant piece of shit. We’re leavin’, and we’re leavin’ now.”

 “We are not,” Vanig growled. “So get your finger off my chest.”

“Don’t move. Any of you.” All three of them jumped at the sound of the voice. A new voice, one they didn’t recognize. “I mean it! Don’t move. Take one more step and you’re all dead.”

Jay Swanson is the creator of Into the Nanten, the world’s first real-time fantasy blog. He is also author of a spin-off novel, Shadows of the Highridge, the standalone short novel Dark Horse, and the Vitalis Chronicles trilogy. Jay grew up in Washington State, and has lived all over the world since then. Jay served for three years with Mercy Ships, a medical charity that runs the world’s largest private hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. In each country they visit, Mercy Ships donates free surgeries to the world’s forgotten poor, alleviating the suffering that so often accompanies a lack of access to medical care. He started in IT, then worked as the editor for their international Creative Pool, and finished as the on board Media Liason.

Paris will always have a place in Jay’s heart; he lived in France for two years, but he’s currently working in the US as a consultant on electronic medical records. Basically, he lives on planes.
Jay has a background in design and video production which have been instrumental in his self-publishing endeavors. Jay was telling stories from an early age, and latched on to video as soon as he discovered he could borrow people’s cameras. The stories that would one day become the Vitalis Chronicles began to take form in Jay’s head as movie ideas while he was still in college, and he began writing them down when he realized that they might make good books as well as films (and that if he died in Africa, there would be nothing left to prove they ever existed). He started writing White Shores in May of 2010 and finished on Christmas day of that year in Applesbosch, South Africa.


Jay Swanson will be awarding print copies of Into the Nanten to two randomly drawn winners (US shipping only -- an e-book of Shadows of the Highridge will be substituted to international winners) and a print of the original artwork created for his series Into the Nanten (US only shipping) to two other randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Interesting interview and good sounding book.

  2. Hello Brian, thanks so much for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the interview.

  3. sounds like a really interesting book. The interview was fascinating as well. What video games will you be playing next?


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