Today I am interviewing J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison, author of the debut comedic epic fantasy novel, Fish Wielder, book one of the Fish Wielder trilogy.
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DJ: Hey Jim! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview! Before we actually start this interview, I want to tell you, that strictly from reading the back of your book, it sounds so freaking hilarious and awesome!
But let’s start off with some introductions: for readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
J.R.R.R (Jim) Hardison: Thank you for the kind words about Fish Wielder, DJ. Way back in Ancient Times, when I was in first grade, my teacher Miss Rainwater (I’m not making that up) gave an assignment to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “I am gong to be a wrytr” (spelling wasn’t my thing…still isn’t). Since then, I’ve been trying to make good on that claim. While Fish Wielder is my first novel novel, over the years I’ve written a comedy horror movie (The Creature from Lake Michigan), a TV special (Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy), the show bible and an episode of the PBS TV show SeeMore’s Playhouse (Basil’s Surprise) and a graphic novel (The Helm) which was named one of YALSA’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens in 2010.
DJ: What is Fish Wielder about?
JIM: It’s an epically silly epic fantasy novel about a muscle-bound barbarian warrior and his talking fish who stumble their way into a quest to recover the lost Pudding of Power and destroy it before the forces of evil can use it to take over the magical world of Grome. It’s more convoluted than that, but that’s the gist of it.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Fish Wielder?
JIM: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, The Worm Ouroboros by Eddison, the Barsoom books by Burroughs, and the Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis, for starters. That’s where I began my immersion in the fantasy genre when I was maybe ten or eleven. But then, when I was thirteen, I read A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony and was stunned to realize that epic fantasy could be funny. I also started playing a lot of Dungeons and Dragons around then. Add to that some Monty Python (Holy Grail in particular), Big Trouble in Little China, more Xanth books, the Myth-Begotten series, the Discworld novels, the Fafhrd & Gray Mouser Nehwon chronicles, and the Harold Shea books by L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt, and you’ve got a good sampling of my influences. Oh, and the music of They Might be Giants.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main character(s)? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them?
JIM: One of the key things I wanted to do with Fish Wielder was to take the idea of the super-awesome epic hero and play around with it in ways that would lovingly knock it off kilter. Consequently, one of the two main characters is a straight-talking talking fish who can’t swim or swing a sword and the other is a depressed (and often drunken) barbarian warrior who’s a little OCD about personal hygiene and burdened with the weight of his ridiculously mysterious past. The goal was to create larger than life characters, but approach their existence in a less than epic way. The same holds true for my villain characters (of which there are several).
DJ: What is the universe of Fish Wielder like?
JIM: Fish Wielder is set on the magical world of Grome, which is a cockeyed tribute to many of the fantasy worlds I’ve known and loved. It’s got godforsaken swamps and blasted wastelands, hidden Elvin kingdoms and seedy rogue cities, haunted citadels, cyclopean ruins and dread fortresses of evil. That kind of stuff. Technologically, the inhabitants are fairly backward. They haven’t invented the violin yet, for example. They still have to play viols. They do have a highly evolved system of magic, though, largely centered on puddings. Apart from a wide assortment of hideous monsters, like barfarts, stinkasters and grodes, humans are the dominant species. There are, of course, gnomes and dwarves and the last straggler elves who haven’t yet mounted their giant pigeons to fly back to the mysterious land over the sea where they go when they get tired of everybody else. Grome is a fairly violent land, still recovering from the cataclysmic War of the Pudding that happened a thousand and two years before Fish Wielder starts, and it’s slowly falling under the sway of the evil Bad Religion. So, pretty much what you’d expect.
DJ: Normally when I read a book’s synopsis, I’ll try to find a sentence or two that I can use to ask a couple direct questions about the book. With Fish Wielder though, basically every sentence was gold!
The first line of the book’s back cover tells us “In ancient times, the Dark Lord Mauron cooked the most powerful magic chocolate dessert ever made, the Pudding of Power.” Who is Dark Lord Mauron? What makes the Pudding of Power so powerful and what is it’s magic?
JIM: Well, every epic fantasy novel needs a dark lord, and Mauron is Fish Wielder’s. A thousand and two years before the story starts, Mauron (with the help of his evil advisor, Glurpgrond) was trying to conquer the world. The Pudding of Power was supposed to be his ultimate weapon. Unfortunately, while he was waiting for it to cool enough so he could eat it, an alliance of elves and men (and some talking rabbits) managed to evaporate him and seal his powdery remains in a magic envelope so that no one could revive him. Or so they thought.
What makes the Pudding so powerful is an ancient and well-guarded secret, but basically one of the main ingredients was a massively evil chocolate truffle that was pilfered from the candy box of the gods when they weren’t looking.
DJ: Could you explain the magic system or what type of magic exists in Grome?
JIM: Gromish magic is a collision of pudding alchemy and spell-casting sorcery. Imagine if the wizard Tim from Monty Python and the Holy Grail was a skilled pâtissier and you’ll have the basic idea. There’s high-level ceremonial magic that is mostly religious based, there’s low-level sympathetic and name-based magic that’s used in a more casual way, and then there are all sorts of magical items and puddings scattered about, many of them left over from the more glorious ancient times.
DJ: Fish Wielder also mentions that Thoral Might First and Brad the talking Koi Fish, will have to use “ridiculous amounts of magic and mayhem.” We’ve already talked about the magic, so tell us about the mayhem! What do you like about writing fighting/action scenes, and what do you believe readers will enjoy most in your mayhem scenes?
JIM: There is a significant amount of gleeful and over-the-top violence in Fish Wielder. You know, heads getting chopped off and flying through the air in slow motion whilst spraying green ichor, people getting punched so hard their lungs pop, and lone heroes facings entire packs of slavering giant, two-headed wolves. One of the things I really enjoyed about approaching the battle scenes in the book was injecting wildly over-the-top action with little notes of everyday common sense and realism. That’s one of the things I love most about Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I’m hoping readers will find it both funny and, occasionally, even a bit tense. I used to be in the SCA and I have a little experience with edged-weapon combat, so I had a lot of fun weaving the notes of awkwardness and discomfort that are part of every real fight into the romanticized hero stuff.
DJ: Readers of the interview should have already realized that novel will have a good amount of humor on it. And I can easily see how Fish Wielder is described as “Lord of the Rings, set in Narnia, if it was written by the guys who made Monty Python and the Holy Grail while they were listening to the music of They Might Be Giants.” 😄
Humor can be hit or miss depending on the person, so what type of humor do you write? What do you think the benefits of adding comedy to a story are?
JIM: I tried to deliver an epic variety of comedic styles in Fish Wielder, but I personally think of it as an epic fantasy screwball comedy. It’s got slap-stick, farce, irony, parody, satire, exaggeration and absurdity. I didn’t do a lot of puns. It’s not really a pun book. One of the key things about the story, however, was that I wanted it to be more than just a parody of the genre. I love epic fantasy and I wanted to contribute to the genre with a story that would push the boundaries a bit, maybe provoke a little deep thinking, but generally keep everyone laughing the whole way through.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Fish Wielder?
JIM: It started off as a lark. I was in the midst of writing a fairly dark and serious fantasy story and it got a bit depressing, so I put that one aside and picked up a little thing I had started writing just to amuse myself. It was kind of like a vacation at first—not just from writing, but from the boring and depressing bits about reality. Then, things started coming together and all of a sudden I realized I had a very silly-looking serious story unfolding that I was way more invested in than the dark, depressing story. I love that about writing. It’s kind of like inventing and it’s kind of like a trip. On the inventing front, there are known principles and physics and mechanics of reality you are working with, but if you’re doing it at all well, there’s also a magic spark that brings something new to life. In the trip metaphor, you set off with an idea of an imagined place you’re heading, but as you go, the details of the world fill themselves in around you until you wind up someplace real. So, that’s what I enjoyed most about writing Fish Wielder. It was an amusing and escapist inventing trip.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
JIM: Probably Brad, the talking koi fish. He seems to strike a chord with the people who’ve read the book so far. And the villains. There are also some fairly big twists, turns and convolutions in the book that I hope people will want to discuss (but which I hope they will only discuss with other people who’ve already finished the book! No spoilers!).
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing the Fish Wielder trilogy? Fish Wielder is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when the story is finally told?
JIM: My goal when I began writing Fish Wielder was just to amuse myself. I wasn’t really thinking about getting anything published when I first started. However, I find it difficult to write without a meaning in mind, so I was trying to convey something, right from the start. It’s always tricky talking about the intended meaning of a book (or an epic trilogy in this case) with folks who haven’t read it yet. It just feels to me a bit like giving away the ending. Ultimately, the meaning is all tied up in the things that happen and what the characters get out of that. Consequently, if I tell you what I intended it to mean, I can accidentally suck some of the wind out of the story’s sails for you. And I’d hate to do that. I really don’t like to suck if I can help it.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Fish Wielder that you can share with us?
JIM: How about this one:
“He killed my magic arachnid! I didn’t see that coming,” the sorcerer said to himself out loud. “Could this be that guy from the Goomy Prophecy of Doom, the Chosen One that my mysterious evil master is always warning me about?” He stroked his dark beard until he realized he was doing it again and stopped. “Eh, what are the chances?”
DJ: Now that Fish Wielder is released, what is next for you?
JIM: I am hard at work on the second book of the trilogy, Fish Wielder II: A Fish Out of Water. I’m also writing another installment of The Helm comic series and putting the finishing touches on a comedy/horror/thriller novel.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about It Fish Wielder that we haven’t talked about yet?
JIM: The continent of Grome is modeled after an up-side-down pair of underpants.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
JIM: While Fish Wielder is being marketed as a YA crossover novel, I really wrote it for people like me, whatever their age. I’ve had several ten-year-old test readers and several people in their fifties who found it amusing. So, I guess I’d just like to say that I think the demographic sweet-spot for this book is about 10-102 years old.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
JIM: Thank you for taking the time to ask!
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*** Fish Wielder is published by Fiery Seas Publishing and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Fish Wielder is kind of like Lord of the Rings, set in Narnia, if it was written by the guys who made Monty Python and the Holy Grail while they were listening to the music of They Might Be Giants.
In ancient times, the Dark Lord Mauron cooked the most powerful magic chocolate dessert ever made, the Pudding of Power. One thousand and two years later, the evil leader of the Bad Religion, the Heartless One, is trying to recover the lost pudding in order to enslave the peoples of Grome. Only the depressed barbarian warrior Thoral Might Fist and his best friend, Brad the talking Koi fish, have a chance to save the world of Grome from destruction, but that’s going to take a ridiculous amount of magic and mayhem. Thus begins the epically silly epic fantasy of epic proportions, Fish Wielder—book one of the Fish Wielder Trilogy.
Hi! I’m J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison, the writer of the upcoming epically silly epic fantasy novel Fish Wielder, due on August 23rd, 2016 from Fiery Seas Publishing. I’m also the author of the Dark Horse comics graphic novel, The Helm, named one of 2010’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens by YALSA (the Young American Library Association).
People have asked me, “Jim, why the three Rs?” Well, Rs are a mark of credibility and quality in the fantasy genre. Think of E.R. Eddings (The Worm Ouroboros) and H.R. Haggard (King Solomon’s Mines, She). They each had an R in their name and they wrote great, stirring fantasy novels that are remembered to this day. And then there’s J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. Those guys each have two Rs and they are among the giants and superstars of the fantasy genre. You don’t get any bigger or more well known in fantasy than those guys. That’s the power of Rs in fantasy. They multiply logarithmically. They are like points on the Richter Scale. And I have three Rs. I’m just going to let that hang there for a second. Three Rs.
So, how did I come to write a fantasy trilogy? That’s a long and convoluted tale. I’ll try to keep it brief. I started my professional career by co-writing and producing a low-budget direct-to-video feature, “The Creature From Lake Michigan”. Making a bad film can be a crash course in the essential elements of good character and story, and “The Creature From Lake Michigan” was a tremendously bad film. I like to think that I learned my lesson well, and after a brief stint recuperating as a freelance writer and film editor, I founded my own production company.
During its seven-year run, I wrote, directed and edited live-action and animation productions, including educational films, television commercials and television pilots. Shifting my focus entirely to animation, I joined Will Vinton Studios in 1997. There I directed animated commercial and entertainment projects, including spots for M&M’s, AT&T, Cingular Wireless and Kellogg’s as well as episodic television (the UPN series Gary & Mike). While working at Vinton, I also co-wrote the television special “Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy” with actor Paul Reiser.
I co-founded Character LLC in 2000–a company that advises brands and entertainment properties on their stories. While working at Character I have given story advice to many of the world’s largest brands including Discovery Networks, Target, Verizon, Samsung, McDonalds and Walmart. I even appeared on NBC’s “The Apprentice” as an expert adviser on brand characters. In addition, I’ve done character development work and wrote for the PBS children’s television series “SeeMore’s Playhouse”. After 21 years, I finally completed “The Creature From Lake Michigan” to glowingly positive reviews from lovers of questionable cinema.
These days, I live in Portland, Oregon with my lovely wife, two amazing kids, one smart dog and one stupid dog.