Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Q&A with J.G. Gardner




J.G. Gardner is the author of the new fantasy novel The Path from Regret.


Q: What inspired you to write The Path from Regret, and how did you create your characters Thorne and Carlion?


A: The inspiration came from reading countless science fiction and fantasy novels and invariably not liking some part of the story. I’d find myself saying “That’s not what this character should have said,” or “The action would have been so much more interesting if they had done X, Y, and Z.”


I tried writing short stories without any success when I was much younger, and hadn’t done any creative writing for a number of years until my children were born. I’m lucky enough to have a job that offered paternity leave, and during the cyclical nature of infant childcare I found myself thinking about those old stories again.


I finally decided to try creative writing again and found my old notebook and started putting together the outline that eventually became my debut high fantasy novel, The Path From Regret. Ultimately, I wrote the book that I wanted to read.


As for the creation of the two viewpoint characters (Thorne and Carlion), I wanted a contrast between two people at different stages in their lives, and what they thought was important was very dissimilar.


Thorne is a middle-aged wizard and is trying very hard to forget his past mistakes. He can do incredible magic, but all his talents are left unused because he can’t find something to strive for and he simply feels like his life is a pointless struggle. What he’s really looking for is emotional relief and a clear conscience.


Carlion is a young knight whose life took a dramatic downward turn and now is trying to make things better again all by himself. He’s proud and doesn’t want to ask for help, but he’s not making much headway in improving his situation. He makes more problems in his attempt to fix old mistakes, but his pride and stubbornness prevents him from seeing that he’s going about it in a very ineffective way.


When they are forced to work together, Thorne and Carlion aren’t happy with their situation and much of the interpersonal conflict in the novel is from the two of them butting heads.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I plan and outline quite a bit before I write, so I knew exactly how the novel would end. I have a complete synopsis for the novel before I write the first chapter. I find this keeps the focus tight on the most important aspects of the story and then I don’t need to rewrite big chunks because I went off on some tangent.


That being said, while I might know a specific plot point, what actually happens scene-to-scene is created with much more spontaneity. I often know that the characters have to get from A to B, and that they’re going by ship, but what happens along the way that makes it an interesting scene to read is where I get to be more free-form and creative.


Q: How did you create the world in which the story is set?


A: The world is vaguely like early Renaissance Europe in terms of technological advancement and culture, but to me the setting was not as important as the magic system. I wanted magic use to have realistic limitations and be physically and permanently damaging to the practitioner.


Too often I read fantasy where there is very little cost to using magic other than the user gets tired. I find that very dull, so I wanted a magic system that had real consequences, and I thought the idea of magic as a chronic disease was interesting.


In the book, some wizards are born being able to use magic, so their fate is already sealed, but there are others who choose to be wizards. Why someone would knowingly cripple themselves to be able to use magic (as is the case for Thorne) is an interesting idea to explore.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: For both Thorne and Carlion, they’ve made some pretty big mistakes that they have a very hard time moving past. However, over the course of the story, they both make choices that often make their situation worse.


The title “The Path From Regret” could be considered a play on the idiom “road to redemption,” but in the case of the novel, both characters are trying to leave something bad behind, but it’s unclear if they are actually moving toward something better.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: In the novel there is a very brief scene where one of the secondary characters talks about his life before becoming a mercenary and the sad story about the kidnapping of his wife by a powerful wizard. My next book is a full account of what happened. You’ll see familiar faces and locations, but also some new additions to the cast.


I wouldn’t call it a prequel because it is a stand-alone novel, but there is some continuity for a few of the characters. For me, this is just trying to have an internally consistent world, and not an attempt at writing a series. My intent is for each book to be independent.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: For updates and other information about my writing, you can go to jgardnerauthor.com.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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