SHADOWS OF THE HIGHRIDGE
by Jay Swanson
Moving along the soil is the quickest way to die; for Tolly to survive she must learn to stay silent. Life on farms like hers was difficult enough in the face of plague and a decade of drought, but something worse has come to the foothills under the Highridge Mountains. Something that will destroy everything she loves.
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.
Tolly had never run so hard. The house was so far off. How could she make it?
The certainty grew within her: Time was short. Why was she so sure? She could feel the panic rise.
“Tolly!” Nym was chasing her. “Come back!”
No, she thought. Bring them this way! But her lungs were already burning. She couldn’t yell any more. All she could do was run. Please, Nym, just listen.
“Little sister!” A Truan hand heard the commotion and came running from the other side of the house. “Little sister, stop! Kanda says it is not safe!”
Get out of my way, she wanted to yell. Run with me. But all of her air was spent on sprinting. The man was closing on her. She would have to dodge him somehow. She couldn’t let him stop her. He was ten feet away. Then the ground exploded beneath him.
Tolly fell, skidding to a halt as her skirts flew up around her. Scrapes burned along her thighs and up her backside. She heard screams behind her. The dust obscured her view. And then, through falling earth, she saw half of the Truan’s body thrown into the air by a tower of dirt.
No, not dirt, it was living. A snake. A worm. The monster was thicker than ten men standing together and jutted out of the ground twice as high. Three massive jawbones worked separately to hold the torso of the Truan in place. Whatever was happening within the mouth, Tolly didn’t want to see it.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH JAY
-First off, Jay, great to have you.
Great to be here. I really like your hat.
-Thank you. Pleasantries aside: What inspired you to become a writer?
-What th… alright. If you could visit your book’s wo–
Wait, maybe I should expound on that last one a little. The stories I had in mind were always films in my head, not books (although I did always want to write a book). Then one day I decided to move to West Africa and serve on a hospital ship: the perfect place to catch some cerebral nastiness and never come back. I figured it was now or never, so I immediately got to writing.
I’m being dramatic, but it did catalyze me towards action; by the time I made it to that ship I had the first draft of my first book on hand. Thankfully, while a number of my friends got Malaria along the way, I never did.
-Fine, now if you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
Besides save the world?
-Besides save the world.
That depends entirely on which epoch we’re talking, but I’d probably go visit during the Golden Era (read pre-apocalyptic) and do a little gravboot skydiving. Most periods in my world aren’t ones you’d want to dawdle in, but that would be sweet.
-Give us a fun or interesting fact you learned researching this book.
Kevin Bacon has a great smile.
-Where does Kevin Bacon come into this?
Where doesn’t Kevin Bacon come into anything? I was watching Tremors for the first time in probably two decades, just to see how they went about dealing with the worms (because I was really curious how you get people out of such a nightmarish situation and I couldn’t for the life of me remember how they did it in Tremors). This happens when you’re writing, if you’re making things particularly desperate, you build and build the tension and the challenges until damned if even you can’t figure out how to get your characters out of the mess you’ve made.
While the solution in Tremors didn’t help my characters any, it gave me some tools to play with. So I guess a better answer to your question would be that researching the works of others (especially those who inspired you) can help deconstruct the challenges within your own projects.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks and pizza with?
Not Kevin Bacon?
-Is he a character in your book?!
No, I guess he isn’t. Well, from Shadows of the Highridge: Tolly’s too young for drinks and the rest are a little too worn out for me, but I’d probably wind up hanging out with Salisir. I can imagine him drinking Dos XX’s and reminiscing about the gut-wrenching adventures he’s been on, so it would be worth doing just for the notes. Seriously, he’s got more stories to tell than Caesar, and I’m not certain even I’ll get the chance to dive into them all.
And I do love pizza (I even have a pizza tattoo) so this question was right up my alley, thank you.
-If you could go back in time and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Reevaluate your expectations and reasoning. I was in a good place as far as passion and the love of storytelling, but I had some misguided ideas as to where I would end up and when. Don’t do it for the fame, even if that only makes up 10% of your motivations. Fame, money, any form of recognition beyond that of your mom (who didn’t read my books for years either) is insubstantial and fluid. Whether or not you ever ‘make it’ shouldn’t factor in to why you write.
Creating cool sh*t because you love to create, that’s a good reason to get into this.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
Hedonistic Pre-Revolutionary Steampunk Horror Romance. It’s a little too niche for me and I’m not huge on Fabio-esque vampires with over-idealistic views on democracy drunkenly pontificating about the detriment poorly-educated airship pilots pose to upstanding Victorian morals. I mean honestly, just bite them all and make an undead airship union already.
Otherwise I’m game to give almost anything a shot.
-Thanks for joining us. That was… something.
No, thank you. And seriously, can I have your hat?
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.
Find him online:
Jay Swanson will be awarding print copies of Into the Nanten to two randomly drawn winners (US shipping only -- an e-book of Shadows of the Highridge will be substituted to international winners) and a print of the original artwork created for his series Into the Nanten (US only shipping) to two other randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway
-Kit ‘N Kabookle posts on Twitter @desantismt. Tag me for retweets.