Today I have a special guest: G.K. Werner, author of The Sword and the Way an epic clean fantasy, that spans the Far-East and Viking-controlled Scandinavia. I read it this winter, and I really liked it. It's free on Amazon from April 13 - April 18.
SWORD AND THE WAY: When Reavers slay Jorgan Anderson's kinsmen in a bloody sea-battle, he vows to learn a legendary sword dance, to help his folk defend their longships. His adventure takes him to distant Xaichen, a mysterious land ruled by a bitter emperor.
Jorgan becomes a sword-novice, mistrusted by temple masters, rejected by fellow students—unwittingly tangled in a forbidden romance, imperial schemes, and an arch-sorcerer’s behind-the-scenes manipulation.
Will the young warrior trust the sword or the One? His decision could cost him his life. Get a Free copy of this epic fantasy, today.
Interview with G.K. Werner
E.C. - Thanks G.K. for joining me!
G.K. Werner: It’s a pleasure! Thanks so much for inviting me.
E.C.: Let's get right into the questions. What inspired you to write the Jorgan saga?
Well, I have to admit I got into a lot of swordfights as a kid. Won some. Lost some. Luckily the only swords we had were sticks we found in the woods. Loved the swashbuckler films—Robin Hood, Three Musketeers, Zorro—sword & sandal and Viking films too. Robert E. Howard’s sword & sorcery tales and The Long Ships by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson were among the first books I ever read and still reread.
Studying in the martial arts, I learned how to use a Japanese long sword and short sword—real ones my instructor’s father brought back from WWII commando raids behind enemy lines. Now, martial arts instructors can be divided into two basic types—those who believe in trying to kill you until you learn to defend yourself—and those who believe in actually training you first in empty-handed combat, fighting you at a step above your own, drawing you to their level; and then, four to six years later, picking up a real military sword and trying to cut your head off. The latter was my instructor’s philosophy. The Sword and the Way’s training and fighting authenticity is all thanks to his teaching. (Any inaccuracies are entirely my own.)
Oh and the Kung Fu TV series starring David Carradine is partly responsible for my signing up with a martial arts studio in the first place, and also for parts of SW's setting...yeah, okay, and the blind gatekeeper. But blind archers were part of Far Eastern mythology long before TV’s Kung Fu series—I swear!—so...
E.C.: I really picked up on the Robert Howard influence. And I thought the sword fights (without gratuitous gore) were refreshing. The training scenes really drew me into the book, however, and that's why I'm recommending this.
Now on to an easy question: Do you see any conflict in being Christian and writing fantasy?
That’s a subject debated in many churches and discussed on sites like Speculative Faith from time to time. Back in the early 80s I mentioned to my pastor who was a friend of mine as well that I wrote Christian fantasy as a hobby and he laughed. He said that was an oxymoron. I told him I wasn’t a moron.
(Okay we’ll let that go. I taught middle school too long.) This was before I’d ever heard of Christian fantasy. I’d read Tolkien and knew about Lewis by then, but CF wasn’t a thing and Lawhead wasn’t published yet or anybody else as far as I know. There was no internet or CF fandom. (Yeah, I could’ve been the first to coin that phrase but I was years away from writing well enough to even think about submitting.) I enjoyed Howard’s Conan and just wanted to write stories like his and Leiber’s and Moorcock’s and Swann’s from a Biblical perspective as opposed to Howard’s Darwinesque view of history or Moorcock’s law/chaos philosophy.
Some thoughts: If it’s wrong for a Christian to read or write fantasy, that would mean it’s wrong for anyone to do so—and I don’t believe it is anymore than reading or writing any other fiction genre. This is the old ‘rock and roll is evil’ way of thinking. Art forms are not inherently evil. It’s how they’re used and the nature of a specific work’s content, its message. God created everything and we use His Creation to ‘sub-create’ as Tolkien said. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
As to ‘make believe’ in general, I know the Old Storyteller says, “Storytellers are very great liars.” But, though it’s possible Jesus knew a lad who convinced his father to give him his inheritance only to squander it, it’s more likely the Lord was telling a story for the sake of teaching a truth.
As a Christian, I just want to be sure that my genre tales reflect a Biblical world-view, don’t violate any Biblical truth or principle, and are good clean fun. I want to be edgy, perhaps share a truth or two, or make people consider some Biblical perspective—but mostly entertain. Preachiness is the flaw I hope to avoid. Nobody likes that. Not even Christians. (Preachiness as opposed to preaching which I do like.)
A side note: In recent years I’ve mostly stopped thinking of CF as a thing. I’m a Christian who writes fantasy.
Much of your book takes place during an exciting chase across the sea, what research did you do before writing this novel?
My aunt and uncle used to take my family sailing on the Chesapeake in their forty foot sailboat. One day my uncle took me out in the dinghy that had a mast and sail that could be raised. His teaching philosophy was somewhere in-between the two martial arts instructor styles. He didn’t try to drown me, but he showed me how to steer and tack and come fully about so quickly as we circled back to his sailboat that my head was still spinning as he climbed back up onto his deck, and pushed me off.
To his credit, he did ask me if I understood. But at twelve years old you don’t want to look stupid or be a scaredy cat so you put on a brave face instead of throwing up and venture out into the great unknown. I worked the tiller well enough and remembered to duck the boom each time I proudly (and remarkably) changed tacks, but for the life of me I couldn’t make the thing turn around. I can still see my
screaming mother fading in the distance as I tacked port and starboard, port and starboard straight toward
the incoming freighter lane.
In desperation, and because I was so good at tacking by now, I just tacked myself smack into a sailboat riding conveniently at anchor, hit it perfectly, broadside to broadside. I pounded on the hull for what seemed like an hour before the owner came on deck and leaned down over his rail to lower my sail and mast. I didn’t even want to stand up in the dinghy to do it myself. Mortified, I out-oared and rowed
back to my uncle’s boat. That was my first and last experience sailing a ship.
Researching the correct terms and even changing a few to older versions (steerboard instead starboard for example) is a lot less harrowing than sailing a ship. Hopefully, I didn’t get much wrong. I’ll stick with sailing through fantasyland with Jorgan and his crew.
The last book in the series takes place in a futuristic fantasy setting. Was this a challenge?
Actually, it came about spontaneously as I started writing a SF tale that had lain in my drawer for years in the form of notes, outlines, and a few scenes. The heroes and villains just naturally morphed into descendants of the cast from Jorgan’s Saga (not to mention a couple of still living characters). I like to think of Skipjack as a futuristic urban fantasy. It’s chronologically the last Game Within story (probably
three books). It wasn’t the first time this sort of thing had happened either. First of all, Jorgan is a combination of three other characters and stories I was developing in the seventies—a Conan rip-off, an Achaean warrior in Greece’s heroic age, and an early twentieth century archeologist/linguist/occultist I had to abandon when the first Indiana Jones film hit theaters. (I kid you not! Apparently everybody uses the same 1930s pulp magazine tales and cliff-hanger serials!)
Then my Greek hero also morphed into a Panthian hero, (a two book story in the Game Within universe not yet published). Next, Elizabethan adventure tales I wrote in the eighties in homage to Dumas’ musketeers books morphed into the story of Brythland and Pallavarian heroes set some eight hundred years after Jorgan’s time (another two book Game Within story not yet published). Including The Sword and the Way (a five book story), that makes an eventual four stories (12 books if anyone’s counting) set in the Game Within universe. God willing!
I’ll need a nap when they’re all finished. (So will my readers? Hey, I heard that!)
That's it! Thank G.K. for joining me. Audience>> Don't forget to pick up this epic tale Sword and the Way (it has vikings fighting ninjas) for free today on Amazon!
G.K.: Great questions! I’m very grateful to you for interviewing me on your fine blog, and very grateful to you and the folks who have enjoyed my tales so far. God bless!
All answers, the G.K. Werner author photo, and book description on this page: Copyright (c) 2019 G.K. Werner. All other material remains Copyright (c) 2019 E.C. Stever. All rights reserved.