What would you like to tell readers about yourself?
* 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.
Today Jay Swanson will be talking about what sparked the idea for the story.
* When I was living in the Republic of the Congo I sat down with a friend who ran what might be described as the world’s most challenging shipping company and asked him some questions about the region’s history. He’d lived between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire for five years, so I figured he’d have a better idea than I did.
* We were sitting outside at a restaurant that also boasted electronic gambling games I still don’t understand. He picked up his liter of Turbo King, a local beer emblazoned with a leaping lion, and suggested I read Tim Butcher’s Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through The World's Most Dangerous Country. I’d heard my friend’s stories of setting up a trucking operation in a country where the word ‘road’ would have been a generous descriptor. Where entire shipments were lost to a light rain, and the cost and time of driving 550km surpassed that of shipping it down from Europe.
* The beer he drank was beer he’d gotten to Brazzaville through painstaking years of work. Any book he recommended on the subject of this land he’d learned to navigate was one I considered worth reading.
* I’d wanted to write something episodic for a long time. I suck at blogging. I loved the first-person wonder-of-the-foreigner in Eaters of the Dead. And then I read the introduction to Blood River, the book my friend recommended. Butcher describes just how foolish, dangerous, and flat-out suicidal his dream of recreating Stanley’s discovery of the Congo River would be in the modern day Congo. And yet he did it, despite the common wisdom and attempted dissuasion of everyone in his life.
* I put the book down; I knew I had my story.
* Rather than someone traveling into such danger out of a sense of self-gratification or to fulfill a life-long dream, my character would be exiled there. Forced to enter this place under the false pretense of finding a man that he hated, who had been exiled there 20 years before him: Brin Salisir. Salisir I imagined as the Most Interesting Man in the World, but without the Dos XX’s and a lot more blood on his hands.
* Was he still alive? Did he discover the dark cult he had set out to uncover and disrupt? Without trade or continued contact with the fallen state of the Nanten Kingdom, no one knew what was happening there, who was in control, or if there even was any sense of control at all. Marceles would be entering blind, guided by maps whose accuracy had been questionable 100 years before, and pressed by his duty-bound nature to find a man he would rather believe dead and lost.
* The format seemed perfect for a blog; what if I told his story in real time? Marceles’ entries would go live exactly when he wrote them and readers could follow along day-by-day as he fought, ran, and did his best to survive. I reached out to Nimit Malavia, who had illustrated the cover of my third book, and asked if he would be up for illustrating the journal entries. This was the project for which I had always imagined Nimit would be perfect, and he was on board immediately.
* Marceles’ arc as a character follows my own experience in South, Central, and Western Sub-Saharan Africa. The discovery of the self via one’s limitations, both physically and emotionally, but also challenging what we assume we know to be true for no other reason than it has never been challenged. Marceles sees the Nanten through Imperial eyes, educated and conditioned in ways that conflict with how he comes to understand his new surroundings.
* Marceles, like me, has a lot of pride to release before he can be truly effective.
* Thankfully I don’t have nearly so many cannibals or monsters with which to contend.
* If you’d like to follow along with Marceles’ adventures, they’re unfolding right now, live, at intothenanten.com. You can start from the very beginning at intothenanten.com/journal
* Marceles’ thoughts can be found daily on Twitter @MTetrarch, and the illustrations are easy to browse on Instagram @mindofjayswanson. You can listen to the entire first season for free on SoundCloud and follow along day-by-day on iTunes with Season Two.
* 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.
* “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.”
ANNOUNCEMENT! Jay Swanson will be awarding a e-book of Shadows of the Highridge to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour! So be sure to leave a comment AND use the Rafflecopter below. Also, visit the other tour stops for a greater chance of winning!
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