Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Anton Strout, author of the Simon Canderous urban fantasy series and the Spellmason Chronicles, both for Ace Books, as well as many short tales published in anthologies by DAW Books. The second Spellmason book, Stonecast, is available now, and he is currently working on the third in the series. His latest project is The Once & Future Podcast, where he endeavors as Curator of Content to bring authors and readers together through a weekly news show format.
In his scant spare time, Strout is a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the world ’s most casual and controller smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing, which he assures is as glamorous as it sounds.
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from Fashion Week to elvish languages, and more!
What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Answering Tor.com Pop Quiz questions!
Actually, as a writer, I feel I am more than qualified to teach a master’s class on procrastination. There are a million ways I can easily not write. There are books to read, video games to play, newborn twins to tend to… the list goes ever on and on.
My favorite—because it is the most full of destructive non-writing lassitude—is what I like to call The Möbius Strip of Internet Exhaustion.
I know I have to write. There are looming deadlines. I need to write. So what do I do? Rather than open Word, I boot up Chrome. Check Facebook, toggle over to twitter, type something that’s 140 characters of clever, check my e-mail, read my news feed, see if anyone retweeted my clever tweet, Facebook again, post a selfie, check my junk mail folder in case I missed something important (I have not), see if anyone favorited my tweet yet, check Facebook… rinse and repeat.
Word count generated: zero.
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
I’m a big fan of intersecting reality and fantasy in my books, especially since they take place in the modern era and any reality I mix in helps the fantastical feel… well, more real. If I can twist existing history to fit my paranormal needs, I’m a happy little creator. One happy little fact I came across during the writing of my Simon Canderous paranormal detective series:
Did you know that the area behind the main branch of the New York Public Library, Bryant Park, was once a potter’s field burial ground? And what with the Fashion Week setting up their tents in Bryant Park for their big runway reveals… well, let’s just say wouldn’t it be a shame if a necromancer happened to trigger those ancient corpses at the height of the show?
Name your favorite monster from fiction, film, TV, or any other pop culture source.
I’m a bit of a sucker for Gamera, the giant flying space turtle from the Godzilla universe. I have Mystery Science Theater 3000 to thank for that, including the catchy song: “Gamera is really neat, Gamera is full of meat, we’ve been eating Gamerrrrraaaaaa!” He’s adorable, yet deadly… like an Ebola monkey or really all good things in life!
I’m also a big fan of the Gelatinous Cube from D&D because I have to applaud anyone who creates a monster that is essentially a giant cube of Jell-O and yet manages to make fighting it terrifying.
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your new book, who would it be?
I tend to write my fight scenes while listening either to Philip Glass or music from The Matrix soundtracks. Glass invokes a sort of rhythmic unrelenting cadence which helps free my brain up to block out a fight and get the action down. And The Matrix stuff… well, if you can’t fight to that, what can you fight to?
If I had to choose something very drill down specific, though, I’d go with The Crystal Method, and all my fights could happen with “Trip Like I Do” playing in the background.
What D&D character alignment best describes you first thing in the morning?
Once I’m awake, I think I’m a solid Chaotic Neutral, which I think is a strong place for a writer to be (although given the way I torture my characters I bet they would say I’m Chaotic Evil).
But early in the morning, I think I am more True Neutral, mostly because I’m running on autopilot for those first two or three hours. I like my routines. Wake, feed the twins, shower, dress, catch commuter bus to Manhattan, write in transit, coffee and breakfast, then day job.
But it’s during that first morning commute that Chaotic comes more and more into play as the brain meat gets up and running while I try to think of fun new ways to abuse my characters.
Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle Earth (or some other fictional realm)…
My preferred spot, hands down, is Middle Earth, no question. I’m a fiend for Tolkien’s world building. I love the mythos, the magic and the races, despite all the dangers of the world itself.
One of my favorite things to do in the new Lego Lord of the Rings game is to run from Bag End in the Shire all the way across the entire hub world until I am standing at the fires of Mount Doom. I end up with such an immense sense of peace and accomplishment in fully travelling Frodo’s path.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
I grew up loving books like The Phantom Tollbooth and The Hobbit, but it wasn’t really until the third grade—1978ish—that I found my gateway drug—Dungeons & Dragons.
That was the year in school that a new kid arrived and turned out to like the geeky things I like, which was rare then in Western Massachusetts. He turned me on to D&D, which lead to other games as well as a whole world of tie-in fiction to absorb myself in.
Then I bought a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy, which blew my mind and introduced me to the idea that humor could work well in scifi/fantasy. It’s why all of my own books have some elements of humor to them.
What would your Patronus or familiar be?
What I would like it to be is one of those eight-foot tall prehistoric sloths that are hella impressive at the Museum of Natural History. With my luck, though, I would probably be a bonobo running around all crazy-like, flinging its poo at my enemies while beating them with a stick of sugar cane.
List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.
1. I got into writing urban fantasy because Buffy & Angel went off the air, and I missed quirky paranormal so I decided to give it a go myself. Seems to have worked out.
2. Monsters I’ve tackled: ghosts, zombies, chupacabras, carnivorous book cases, gargoyles, witches, warlocks, cultists, Lovecraftian sea monsters, and possibly a Water Weird from the D&D Monster Manual
3. I really enjoy writing The Spellmason Chronicles, and I’d love you to check out either Alchemystic or the just released Stonecast…I’m writing the types of books that I would love to be reading, and I think there’s a good chance you’ll like them if you like anything I’ve said here… so do give me a try, won’t you?
Which language, real or fictional, would you like the ability to speak fluently? Who would you talk to?
If I could speak any language it would either be Quenya or Sindarin, the languages of the Elves of Middle Earth. Tolkien, linguist that he was, really had them fully formed, and even hearing them in the movies they should beautiful to me. And of course I would use it to talk to Liv Tyler, and no one on this earth could fault me for it!