Fantasy writer (and noted anime enthusiast) Paul Krueger‘s new book, Steel Crow Saga, came out earlier this week. He calls it an “epic fantasy examination of colonialism through the lens of Pokémon,” a description that can only be bested by author Emily Skrutskie declaring it “anime as fuck.” To celebrate the release, Krueger dropped by r/Books for an AMA. He talked his writing process, the fellow writers he’d like to be stranded on a dessert (NOT desert) island with, his characters’ signature bar drinks, the cocktail you should be sipping while reading Steel Crow Saga, his top 5 battle couples, Animorphs, and much more. Here are the highlights!
On Writing Advice and Steel Crow Saga:
On tricks for staying on-task:
My main motivational trick is to look into the eyes of my cat. Because you see, if I do not write, I do not make money. If I do not make money, I cannot afford wet food. If I cannot afford wet food, then I have to feed her dry food. And if I feed her dry food, I’ll have to see the sheen of disappointment in her eyes when I look into them. And I…I can’t do that.
*looks off into the distance*
On his next book:
My next book is another fantasy, set in a completely different world from STEEL CROW SAGA. It’s a noir/kung fu-flavored revenge story about two wizards who are mad at capitalism, and each other, not in that order. Title forthcoming, because as mentioned upthread: I really do suck ass at titles.
On the working title for Steel Crow Saga:
My agent tells me the logline he used was “postcolonial Pokémon,” which seemed to have raised all the eyebrows that needed raising. Fullmetal Pokémist was the book’s code name while I was writing it, because a little secret between you and me and the entire internet is that i’m fucking terrible at titles.
On Fellow Authors:
Writers and the books that inspire him:
I find romance authors to be incredibly inspirational. Theirs is a genre with a fairly defined formula, and so they’re all constantly faced with the challenge of how they can add their own original spin on it. Some of my favorites in that arena:
WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon
SECOND POSITION by Katherine Locke
THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER by Jen Wang
and I just devoured and enjoyed Casey McQuiston’s RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE.
Authors he’d want to be stranded on a dessert island (yes) with:
Hoping for an invite to the ice cream Sandwich Islands, Rob?
I would want Sarah Kuhn, because Sarah always has the best dessert taste and she’d know how to make sure we enjoyed the experience.
I would want Neil Gaiman, because I love the image of an extremely grown-up goth man standing on a shore of millennial pink buttercream.
And I would want Sam Sykes, but only after Sam’s taken a bunch of shipbuilding classes so we could escape once we ate the whole island.
His go-to fantasy authors:
Oh, man. We happen to live in a great time for fantasy novels that are doing fun, interesting things with the form: whether that’s updating the medieval European setting, or drawing from different source material than Tolkien, or including scenes where people have feelings.
I buy everything Leigh Bardugo writes. Same goes for V.E. Schwab. I love Sam Sykes for his inextinguishable sense of fun. Fonda Lee for her inventiveness and visceral fight scenes. Erin Morgenstern because her books are a wonder, like a warm jelly tart whose flavor magically changes every time you bite into it
Some Cocktail Fun
On his main characters’ signature bar drinks:
Tala would drink tequila, straight-up. It doesn’t really exist in my fantasy world, but it makes sense from a character standpoint. She and Chow Yun-Fat would get along.
Jimuro would quietly sip warm tea or warm sake, depending on his mood. In either case, his sips would be dainty and delicate.
Xiulan would have tea as well, but she’d dump a whole load of sugar into it.
Lee would drink whatever there was to be drunk, and conveniently skip out just before the bill showed up.
On the cocktail you should be drinking while reading Steel Crow Saga:
I was going through a pretty major Bee’s Knees phase when I wrote the first draft, so I’ll say that:
2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup
Shake over ice, strain, and serve up. If you swap the gin for bourbon and serve it on the rocks, congrats! You’ve just made yourself a gold rush, which is just as good.
Did you know that Krueger loves Fullmetal Alchemist and Animorphs?
On his top 5 battle couples:
Riza Hawkeye and Roy Mustang, because longing is hot, unspoken longing is hotter, and unspoken longing + extreme competence is *clenches fist* the hottest
Zuko and Katara. Sometimes, a couple just needs to be canon in your heart
Steven Universe and Connie Maheswaran, because I like it when battle couples are also wholesome and supportive
Garnet, see above
Rachel and Tobias from Animorphs, because I will always pick something from Animorphs
If Steel Crow Saga was adapted into an anime with FMA-style commercial breaks:
Listen. If I’m ever fortunate enough to have this book adapted into an anime, I’m going to fucking insist
Before he’s even finished speaking, I’m tilting my head to the blood-colored moon overhead and keening the name of Animorphs to the unforgiving sky
At one point, the author’s mom dropped by with some very important questions:
It’s a big one – did you brush your teeth? Bathe? And what’s your answer about napping and binge watching. I want to show your dad!