Connie J Jasperson’s The Last Good Knight is the featured book today on The Roaring Mouse. I read Connie’s book on Kindle, although it is available in print via Amazon.
The Last Good Knight tells the story of a gang of mercenaries called the Rowdies. Their captain, Billy MacNess, bumps off rival Bastard John but not before he burns down their headquarters. On the ruins Billy builds a brand new inn dubbed Billy’s Revenge in which the Rowdies come to live.
The knight of the title is Sir Julian De Portiers, or Julian Lackland for short, and he comes to join the Rowdies along with his (unrequited) love Mags. The adventures of the Rowdies form the bulk of the book, interweaving their relationships with a variety of tales and ultimately involvement in politics and wars. The narrative style of the book is reminiscent of an old storyteller, with quips and asides and reflections on events which give the prose a real vitality. I was reminded of the style that Neil Gaiman wrote Stardust in when I read it.
The escapades of the Rowdies tread a fine line between grisly and humorous, and indeed the comedy in the book is dark yet well done. The chapters with the dragon, Bloody Bryan, the waterdemon and the Lady Rowdies are superbly done. In the later chapters we get a more character focused story, with the seemingly perfect Julian Lackland beginning to struggle with some of the traumas he encounters. I was glad that this aspect of his character was explored as for parts of the book he seemed too perfect and his relationship with Mags not fully explored. The finale of the book really moved me (which is tough as I’m a miserable so and so) and got me thinking a lot about my own past and the role of nostalgia and missed opportunity.
Connie’s second book the Tower of Bones has just been released, to excellent reviews. I pitched a few questions at her during one of her rare free moments.
Me: What writer has influenced you most in your work as an author?
Connie: I think Anne McCaffrey and J.R.R. Tolkien are my greatest influences, although there is a piece of every good book I have ever read lodged in my heart. I originally began writing because I could not buy enough books to feed my reading habit, and I had read everything the library had, so I started writing stories that I would like to read. They were pretty awful, of course, but I found that I loved writing as much as I love reading.But strangely enough, I am addicted to playing ‘Final Fantasy’ games, by Square-Enix, in particular the classic console games FF IIV, IIIV, X and XII. These games, created by the genius Hironobu Sakaguchi have wonderfully vivid and immersive storylines and deep plots to them. My second book, ‘Tower of Bones’ shows this influence most of all, as I originally wrote it as the walk-through for an RPG that was never built.
So it turns out that along with J.R.R. Tolkien, I have a Japanese Anime-style RPG twist to my fantasy worlds when I am imagining my beasts and my magic systems. Also my fights tend to be more visualized from a gamer’s point of view.
Me: The Last Good Knight counterbalanced the rather grisly bits (and I’m thinking here about castration, poisoning and serial assassinations) with great comedy. How do you manage to write the comedy sequences without slipping into a Terry Pratchett-style satire?Connie: Well, I try not to dip into satire, although I do love a good satire and Terry Pratchett in particular. But when you look at real life situations, people are really quite entertaining in the way they go about things, and in the way that they think. It is a sad fact of life that nothing is more hilarious than something that seemed like a good idea at the time that has gone slightly awry. Tears and laughter are really akin to each other, and I have found humor in some of the worst, saddest moments of my life. It is the humor amidst the horror that gives us strength to go on, at time.
Me: I found the idea of a knight becoming part of a gang of mercenaries very original. What was the inspiration for that idea?I wrote the book during November of 2010 for NaNoWriMo (National Write A Novel in a Month). It came to me as a short story in which an elderly knight returns to the scene of some of the happiest days of his life. His memories, as he approaches the place that he thought of as his home, and the hopes that he once had as a young man are raw and vivid in his mind. He is old and tired, and he wants to retire from the business of saving the world but there are no heroes any more, and so many people need him. He can’t let them down, but he is at a crossroads in his life.
As I wrote that story which eventually became the final chapter of ‘The Last Good Knight’, I wondered “What sort of life did he have? How did this sad, but strong old man arrive at this point in his life?” It was then that I had my real story, and I found myself immersed in writing about his life and the people he loved. I was so captivated by the story that the first draft of the book was written in just 21 days.Me: The boom genre of the last few years has definitely been YA paranormal romance. Is this something that interests you as a writer or a reader?
Connie: I will read ANYTHING that you put in my hands! I am a ‘sucker’ for a good vampire tale with a sexy plot and a mystery attached! I read every genre and every book I come across, and I love to talk about them. I enjoy a good paranormal romance, but so far I have not been inspired to write one. I do have a sci-fi comedy on the back burner that has a somewhat paranormal twist to it, but that book is far from my mind right now.Me: Your Best in Fantasy Blog demonstrates your clear love of the genre. If you had to pick one fantasy novel or series to be made into a big production (along the lines of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones) what would you pick and why?
Connie: I would say that Indie author L.T. Suzuki’s ‘Imago’ series would be a fabulous big production. It has been optioned for a movie. Also I would love to see L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s sci-fi fantasy classic ‘Scion of Cyador’ made into a big production TV series.Me: Do you feel that print books will go the way of vinyl records i.e. a curiosity/collectors thing only?
Connie: I suppose that I am a bad judge of that sort of thing, really. The feeling of a book in my hands is a pleasure that is indescribable. Conversely, I love my Kindle, and have hundreds of books in it. I could never own that many ‘real’ books, because my little bungalow would never hold them all! I also have a huge collection of well-worn paperbacks and hard-bound books that gathers dust and harbors bits of cat fur (the poor old cat died 2 years ago but the fur is eternal) in my office, or the ‘room of shame’ as I think of it. I can never get my family to help when moving house because of the book collection! I think that both are here to stay, at least for the time being.here.
And in the US Kindle here....
And in the UK print here!
And in the US print right here!!!
Connie's blogs can be found at:
And if you want to read my Amazon review its just over here.