Halloween is when the magical world of monsters and creatures seeps into our lives. What better guest to have on this day than a fantasy writer, who makes a living out of inventing and breathing life into such creatures! For writer Anton Strout, that’s particularly true. His Spellmason Chronicles urban fantasy series features gargoyle Stanis, who, after a long sleep, awakens at the spell of his maker.
NG: The Spellmason Chronicles books ALCHEMYSTIC & STONECAST are such perfect Halloween reads! You’ve kept away from the oh-so-familiar urban fantasy fare of vamps, weres, and fairies, and have given us something more gothic-flavored. Can you tell us about how you came up with this world and the concept of spellmasonry, the arcane art of manipulating stonework to one’s will?
AS: Sure. I’ve always been fascinated by creators, people who make things. In LORD OF THE RINGS, I want to know more about the Elves of Eregion under Sauron’s guidance when they make the Rings of Power. I wondered how that would translate in our modern world, in particular, Manhattan. And as a lover of my fair city’s art and architecture, the idea of writing a series about gargoyles and those who created them appealed to me. Plus I like smashing things a lot, and gargoyles are REALLY good at that.
NG: What’s your advice for budding fantasy writers on how to avoid infodumps? Can you talk about your personal strategy in the series?
AS: There are things that you the writer need to know that the audience simply doesn’t. I get it, writer…you came up with this amazing world and want to give it ALL to me, but that’s the kiss of death. Your world is the seasoning to flavor the dish that is your plot and characters. Too much salt kills a stew, too much infodumping ruins a book. I ONLY care about the details of your world insofar as they affect your character in the moment. For example: I don’t need to have the Fodor’s Guide to Your World in the first fifty pages. But the second your character is hungry and doesn’t have the three distaris for a loaf of bread, I know the currency, and the value of something familiar from my world. Over a book you can dole out all the awesome you thought up, but it’s a mistake to show it unless it’s affecting the characters directly in a scene.