Fellow dark scribe Jason Franks has a new novel out – Faerie Apocalypse from IFWG Publishing Australia. If the title doesn’t make you want to read it then there must be something wrong with you. I tracked Jason down and demanded he told me more about his latest piece of fiction, and what makes him tick…
How was the seed planted in your mind to write Faerie Apocalypse?
The first novel I ever read was The Magic Faraway Tree, so this genre has been dear to me since I first learned to read. I was an adult when Neil Gaiman’s STARDUST came out, and that led me to look again at all these adventures I’d loved as a kid. There are some dark ideas underpinning that sense of wonder and whimsy. The tropes keep it very constrained on story and character, and I had this idea that someone from a contemporary society would have to be quite damaged to want to really travel to a pastoral world full of talking animals and magical elves in order to execute some narcissistic quest. The fairy folk are bound to participate, as either side characters or villains, and I wondered if they understood that, and how it would affect them.
So that’s what I wrote. What might be the outcome of characters taking a modern awareness of the genre tropes into fairyland, and how far would the infection spread?
What can readers expect with Faerie Apocalypse?
Faerie Apocalypse is a series of tales in which human protagonists transition to Faerie Land and have adventures. Each one is looking for something different: the most beautiful of fairy queens, magical power, a wayward father, an escape from reality, revenge, or just some kind of purpose. Most of these quests begin the way readers might expect, but they soon go awry. Things get darker yet when the different quests become entangled.
This book is written in a much more writerly style than my usual work for and I’ve put a huge effort into the language, trying to make it beautiful but still pacy. It’s Cormac McCarthy meets Neil Gaiman and I know it’s not going to appeal to everyone–but I do think it’s quite a different sort of book and I’ve been really pleased with the way my advance readers have accepted that.
Tell us about when and where you write? Does the lighting have to be just right? Do you need background music? A feather quill?
I write in my home office, on a computer. I’ve tried going to cafes and all I do is get self-conscious and drink too much coffee and then fret about what to do with my laptop while I run to the toilet.
I do most of my writing work in the evening, once my toddler has gone to sleep. When I was younger I used to have music on as well as the TV, so there was stuff to listen to or look at, but I couldn’t get too immersed in any of it. Nowadays I mostly write in silence.
I don’t write anything by hand. I don’t keep any notebooks.
Faerie Apocalypse isn’t your first book – what lessons have you learned on your authorial journey?
Faerie Apocalypse is my third book, kind of.
My first book, Phillips Head, was a straight-up horror novel that I wrote while at university. That was all about seeing if I could go the distance. If I could manage a novel-sized story and a large cast of characters. The book resultant book is unpublishable, but that’s how I learned how to work at scale. Not long after it was done I started writing both Bloody Waters and Faerie Apocalypse. I forget which came first. I’d alternate on the two projects day to day, or, if I had a whole day free–I was young, single, and sometimes unemployed– I’d do a session on each. Bloody Waters proved an easier book to complete– it had a leaner style, with a linear story–so that was the one I started trying to sell first while I continued to struggle with Faerie Apocalypse.
I guess the big learning from Bloody Waters for me, from a craft point of view, was not to be afraid to cut. The published version of Bloody Waters is 50,000 words shorter than the biggest draft and contains just as much story.
Faerie Apocalypse was a different experience. I had to find a new voice for the story, as well as a different approach to character, dialogue and storytelling. This is probably not something I can use for other projects, but I think it’s made me a much better writer overall.
Just as important as the craft, though, has been to learn to own the work. When Bloody Waters went live I was terrified that people would think it was awful and see me for a fraud, and I basically buried my head in the sand when I should have been telling people that the book was out. It wasn’t until Narrelle Harris blogged about it that I realized it was all going to be ok. It went on to be an Aurealis Award finalist, but it never really found its audience. So that was another huge lesson: it doesn’t matter if the book is good if nobody knows it’s there.
You’ve dabbled with writing comics and penned novels in the horror and dark fantasy genres. Which one excites you the most?
Whatever is my current first draft.
I can’t say that I prefer one medium over the other because they afford different pleasures. The most exciting thing about comics is the collaboration, I think–seeing your words realized visually; seeing how an artist improves the story. Prose gives you the pleasure–and anxiety–of direct contact with the reader. Everything the reader ingests from prose is the way I chose to express it.
As for genre, I love the SF, fantasy, and crime genres, and I’ve even done a bit of realist fiction (the phrase ‘Lit Fic’ makes me stabby). But I’m a horror writer at heart and I think you can see that inflected in everything I do–including my comedy stuff. I look for the bad side of everything. I like endings that will disturb readers, rather than comfort them.
Today, my answers are:
Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, Unforgiven by Clint Eastwood, and Uzumaki by Junji Ito. Ask me tomorrow and I might give you different answers.
What’s next for Jason Franks?
Probably the next thing I have coming out is a short (56pp) horror-comedy-SF graphic novel called Gourmand Go, which I like to think of as Cannibal Star Trek. It features beautiful sequential art by Harold Purnell, Laura Renfrew, Gavin Thompson, Matt Kyme, Cristian Roux, Nicole Lawson, Aly Faye and Ben Byrne. The book is all done but for some lettering and colouring.
I am also probably going to self-publish a short novel called Shadowmancy, just to understand the experience. This project actually began life as a comic serial and has a gorgeous cover and interior illustrations by the Nic Hunter.
Otherwise, I am just grinding out the final draft of my new novel, XDA Zai.
How can people purchase a copy of Faerie Apocalypse?
With gold, paper or credit. It’ll be in stores, or you can snaffle a copy online from the following links:
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/faerie-apocalypse-jason-franks/1127685252?ean=9780646595887
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Faerie-Apocalypse-Jason-Franks/9781925496567