Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jay Kristoff Author Interview

Photo Content from Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff is the award-winning author of THE LOTUS WAR trilogy, a Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press & Tor UK. Part 3, ENDSINGER, will be released in November 2014. He's also co-author of the upcoming ILLUMINAE (with Amie Kaufman), a YA Sci-Fi... thing, to be released by Knopf/Random House in 2015.

Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 13520 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.

He does not believe in happy endings.


What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That the biggest compliment they can pay me is telling me my book made them cry J

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Base not your joy upon the deeds of others, for what is given can be taken away.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Never finish a writing session by finishing a scene. Even if the scene is working really well. Hit your word count for the day, then force yourself to stop. That way, you’ll be eager to start work again tomorrow, and when you do, you’ll be able to pick up writing immediately, and not be stuck staring at the blinking Cursor of Doom™ wondering “WTF happens next?”

What are some of the common challenges that new and experienced authors face and what advice do you have for over-coming them?
Being a n00b at all this, I can only speak from a n00b’s perspective, but I think the biggest challenge is standing out from the pack. There are hundreds of books published every month, and you’re essentially fighting Tekken Tag Tournament against every one of them.

I’ve found book blogging communities and Goodreads to be an amazing way to get the word out about Stormdancer – there have been so many wonderful people who’ve spent so much of their personal time building up the excitement for its release, telling their friends, making artwork, writing songs and poems and all kinds of awesome stuff. But people generally won’t come looking for you – you need to put yourself out there, be involved in these communities, make an effort to get to know its members as people first, and readers second. Because they really are fantastic people bound together by a love of books, and better friends you can’t hope to find.

But don’t be a wallflower! They don’t get to dance.

For those who are unfamiliar with your novel; Stormdancer, how would you introduce it?
Stormdancer is a steampunk fantasy novel, set in a Japanese-inspired feudal dystopia. The story centers around a girl named Yukiko, who can speak telepathically to animals, and her friendship with the last griffin left alive.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Yukiko?
Writing inside the head of a sixteen-year-old girl isn’t as impossible as I first thought it might be. It’s still difficult, absolutely, but I think any author who isn’t writing an autobiography is stepping outside themselves – it’s simply a question of how far. That’s always difficult, but its what we do.

Is writing a convincing sixteen-year-old girl more difficult than writing a convincing soldier? I’ve never had to fight for my life, never had to kill anyone before they killed me. I’m only imagining what those experiences and sensations might feel like. All authors tell lies for a living. Fortunately, I had my wife on hand to occasionally tap me on the shoulder and say “Sweetie, girls don’t think that way”. :)

Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
It started with a dream I had, about a griffin with broken wings. That image really stuck in my head like a splinter – what is a griffin who can’t fly? What kind of character would it be?

There are some parallels between the Shima Imperium and the world we live in today that I felt compelled to write about. But I don’t want to draw attention to them or come off like an author on a soapbox, so I’ll leave it up to individual readers to decide what they are. Readers can take the story on face value if that’s what they prefer and they’ll still have fun. Hopefully!

For those who are unfamiliar with Buruu, how would you introduce him?
He’s a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. His kind have been extinct in the Shima Isles for over a century. He weighs two tons. His wingspan is twenty five feet, and his talons and beak can cut steel. When he growls, you feel it in your chest.

He begins the story very much a beast – primal and animalistic. He’s angry about what’s been done to the islands, and about the predicament he finds himself in with Yukiko. But as the story goes on…

Well, I don’t want to spoil anything. But he seems to be everyone’s favorite character in the book. :)

Do you have a favorite quote that you keep visible in your work environment to help inspire you?
There’s a quote from Mario Savio that’s pretty much the foundation for the Lotus War trilogy. It’s not visible in my workspace, but it’s always in my head:

“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

If you could introduce Yukiko to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. I just think she might cheer Yukiko up a bit :)

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m still working on the Lotus War trilogy – Stormdancer is only part one. Book 2 will be out this time next year – I’m just about to start working on my editor’s notes for it. I’m almost finished the second draft of book 3.

After that, I’ll either be working on a dark epic fantasy novel I’ve been thinking about, or a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk story. I miss cyberpunk. Someone needs to bring it back.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Read widely is my best advice. Inundate yourself with all kinds of wonderful books. Don’t just read in your genre, and definitely don’t just read in your demographic. Otherwise you’ll end up sounding just like everyone else and playing on the same old tropes.

Other than that, believe in what you have to say (you have to actually be saying something with your work for this to happen) and write like nobody can see you. Don’t be afraid to suck. Clearing out the suck makes room for the good stuff to flow.

Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
Rome. My wife and I got married there. Coolest and most romantic city in the whole world.

What book are you reading now?
Just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Just starting Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

Who was your first girlfriend?
A girl named Joanne. I think I was eleven? She was twelve, and she blackmailed me into going out with her - I’d been up to no good, and she threatened to tell my dad. So yeah, my first kiss was stolen from me under duress. I still remember it quite fondly though…

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
My age. And I don’t outright lie, I’m just very… vague on the topic :)

What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
Stapling cardboard boxes for a bakery. I got paid 2 cents a box. Working at optimum speed, with wind conditions just right and the planets in conjunction, I could make nearly 1,000 boxes in an hour. To this day, I can’t look at a stapler without curling into the fetal position and weeping.

When was the last time you cried?
A few weeks ago, writing a scene in book 3.

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she's determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer is a splendidly meticulous Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy. Yukiko’s world has been separated into four clans with stern rules governed by an unforgiving Shogun. Her world was once populated by mythical beings but now poisoned by a toxic fuel. When the Shogun sends Yukiko and her father to fetch a thunder tiger, an accident occurs in the skyship and Yukiko becomes lost in the wilderness. Buruu, the thunder tiger, who at first wanted her dead because of the skyship accident, is now her closest companion. Yukiko is able forge a bond with Buruu by way of using her rare and risky talent to connect with the tiger’s thoughts. This strong unique bond they formed allowed them to devise a plan for saving themselves and their friends and family. By doing so, the idea of overthrowing the empire also comes into place.

The plot is absolutely gripping and snatches your attention from the very first page. The characters are dynamically beautiful but one outshines them all, the heroine Yukiko. She is probably one of the most compelling characters ever in a book. She’s flawed, feels resentment, forgiving, and always looking for answers. Jay’s description of her tenacity is unquestionably admirable.

Stormdancer is a highly captivating story right from the beginning. Jay’s writing style fits in perfectly to the book’s mixture of fantasy and steampunk. His careful choices of words made each chapter that much more exhilarating and action scenes more impactful. His storytelling is unmatched as he delivers one hell of a complex story. The world these wonderful characters exist in is absolutely beautiful. There is something grand and spectacular about Stormdancer. He has created such an enchanting tale even with the absence of a cliffhanger. Stormdancer is so comprehensive that it could be a standalone book. Readers will find joy that Yukiko’s story does not end as two more books will follow. Jay has created a path for himself to show the world his highly imaginative mind, and readers are eagerly waiting behind him to follow where this magnificent story will go.


“Kristoff's imaginative debut, the first in a series, presents the feudal, dystopian Shima Empire, a menacing Japanese-inspired setting… The innovative setting, fast-moving plot, vivid descriptions, and thrilling action scenes make this a refreshing addition to the steampunk canon.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Soars higher than the arashitora Kristoff writes about; superb.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“With its geisha girls in gas masks and canvas blimps spewing black exhaust as they chug across the sky, Stormdancer paints a vivid picture of a decrepit, steampunk Japan. It's startling to witness a country that so reveres nature presented in such an environmentally compromised position, as it is in the kickoff to Jay Kristoff's "The Lotus War" series. But it's this inventive juxtaposition that makes Stormdancer such a thrilling addition to the increasingly tired yet continuously expanding dystopian scene…. [A] fast-paced, fantastical adventure [that] is sharp as a Shogun's sword.” ―The LA Times

“What's that? You say you've got a Japanese Steampunk novel with mythic creatures, civil unrest, and a strong female protagonist? I'm afraid I missed everything you said after "Japanese Steampunk." That's all I really needed to hear.” ―Patrick Rothfuss, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear

“With airships, demons, and lashings of revolutionary swordplay, this chi-fueled vision of a steampunk feudal Japan will blow your split-toed socks off.” ―Scott Westerfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Leviathan

“Jay Kristoff pushes the steampunk genre exactly where it needs to go, away from Victorian London's over-trodden lanes and into the great wide world. With its rocketing action, eccentric and convincing characters, and deep immersion in heroic Japanese culture, Stormdancer slammed my head into an updated vision of the great chanbara films of Kurosawa and Kobayashi. I'll be waiting for more from Mr. Kristoff.” ―K.W. Jeter, author of The Kingdom of Shadows

“Set in a complex and richly imagined world, Stormdancer draws on inspirations as widespread as epic fantasy, steampunk, and Japanese mythology, effortlessly piecing them together into an alternate history that is as vibrant as it is disturbing. Yukiko is an admirable heroine, made of compassion and courage, but it's the remarkable friendship forged between Yukiko and the majestic thunder tiger, Buruu, that readers will find truly unforgettable. In this breathtaking debut fantasy, Kristoff has given us an adventure teeming with impossible quests and betrayals, rebellion and murder, jealousy and harbored secrets. I eagerly look forward to seeing where his imagination takes us next.” ―Marissa Meyer, New York Times bestselling author of Cinder

“Jay Kristoff's Yukiko and her indomitable thunder tiger's entertaining adventures have just sent steampunk gloriously Asian.” ―Stephen Hunt, internationally bestselling author of The Kingdom Beyond the Sea

“Kristoff's debut is a lyrical triumph of chainsaw swords and thunder tigers that steampunk fans and mythology buffs will devour.” ―Kevin Hearne, author of The Iron Druid Chronicles

“Stormdancer is an intoxicating joyride into steampunklandia with a magical dose of mythology, the supernatural, violence, dystopian themes, and a top-notch brassy heroine who rivals Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games. Yes, I did say that!” ―Huffington Post

“…the plot takes off when the mythical arashitora (literally ‘stormtiger') forms a strong bond with the heroine, Yukiko. Her relationship with the griffin-like creature is especially poignant in light of the personal losses she reveals as the story unfolds… it's the bonds of family and friendship that feel the truest, with heartwrenching effect.” ―Romantic Times

“Japanese Steampunk unafraid to engage with the dark side of the subgenre. The Lotus must bloom!” ―SF Signal

“If you enjoy rich detail and sensual writing, you'll dig it…. Bristling with energy and enthusiasm, this is the start of what should be a deservedly popular series.” ―Library Journal

“Think Lassie, if Kurosawa had been the director and Lassie had been three tons of angry mythical demon-shredding sass bent on pushing Timmy down the well… A colorful cast of supporting characters and thoughtful plotting add further to Stormdancer's appeal, but, really, Kristoff has the reader at "girl meets griffin." The captivating backdrop, graceful prose and army of mechanized samurai are all just added bonuses.” ―Shelf Awareness

“Compelling characters--particularly Yukiko, the Arashitora Buruu, and the artificer Kin--a strong environmental message, and a thrilling battle setting the stage for the sequel. Offer this to fans of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy or Philip Reeve's Hungry City Chronicles.” ―Booklist

“A steampunk fantasy with richly drawn mythical creatures and a tough female protagonist…. Packed full of surprising twists and turns, nonstop action, and intense dialogue.” ―School Library Journal

You can purchase Stormdancer at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JAY KRISTOFF for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Signed copy of Stormdancer & Bookmark by Jay Kristoff.
Winners will receive one Stormdancer Bookmark by Jay Kristoff.


  1. old are you? thanks for the give away and congrats on the superb cover art!

  2. Another great I/R/G Jean! I shared on my page, thanks!

  3. Thanks Jay. You're the best Dude! I owe ya a beer.

  4. Thanks for the awesome giveaway and for making it international.

  5. ACK!!! Thanks so much Jay. I SOOOOOO want this book.

  6. I am so excited to read Stormdancer! I like the advice about not ending with a scene. I didn't consider that while writing and will employ the technique tonight. Thank you for the giveaway!

  7. Thank you Jay! Stormdancer sounds so awesome! :D

  8. I must read this book! It has masterpiece written al over it! I love Japanese stories and steam punk is so cool! I cannot wait to read Stormdancer! Brilliant!

  9. Stormdancer sounds awesome! Thanks for doing this giveaway :)

  10. I'm so crossing fingers for this one, been on my to-read list on goodreads for a while now.

  11. Oh wow, I continue to marvel at the awesome that is Mr. Kristoff! Also, a love for steampunk and cyberpunk? I was thinking to do a cyberpunk for this year's NaNoWriMo. Woohoo, can't wait until I get Stormdancer!!

  12. Thank you for the giveaway! Awesome interview also!! :)

  13. Thank you for the giveaway, this seems like a really interesting story & win or lose I can't wait to read it!

  14. A Melbourne author. Mr Kristoff, you are so close.

  15. Fascinated with the cover art and the Japanese mysticism inspired fantasy of the story, I am looking forward to reading this book. My daughter also loves the cover art. I know she wants to read this book as well.

  16. Thank you so much for the giveaway Jay! I've added this book to my to-reads list:)

  17. thank you so much for the superb giveaway... :)

  18. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

  19. the cover is just amazing... I love it.. thank you for a chance in the giveaway...=)