We recently caught up with Howard Andrew Jones, sword-and-sorcery scholar and novelist, as well as the Managing Editor for our very own Tales From the Magician’s Skull. We talk about his work on the magazine, the writing of fantasy series, and get a taste of his latest all-new epic sword-and-sorcery series, The Chronicles of Hanuvar!
Howard, thanks for taking a break from everything to bring us up to date on the latest from the House of Jones. And congratulations on the milestone of ten (now eleven) issues of Tales From the Magician’s Skull! Tell us a bit about, first of all, how rare and special it is for a magazine specifically devoted to sword-and-sorcery to both a) exist and b) still exist (!) while only growing stronger in both its reach and contents.
The Skull would tell you that it’s the greatest magazine in the history of existence. I’m not sure I’d extoll its virtues THAT far, but I’m mightily pleased with what we’ve printed so far and am excited to show you what we have coming up. I don’t know that there has EVER been a magazine solely devoted to sword-and-sorcery that looks this good and has fiction of this quality.
What would you say are some of the highlights of your time as editor for TFTMS?
Honestly, my three biggest joys are reading the wonderful stories we get, seeing the art that’s created for the stories, and hearing from readers who love those stories. After that, I truly enjoy working with our regular staff and volunteers. I think anyone who’s seen one issue could probably guess it’s a labor of love, but regular readers can surely tell.
What sort of future directions do you want to go with the magazine?
Right now we’re working with another firm who’s going to be converting the PDFs into more Kindle friendly formats. Those are the only major changes we foresee in the immediate future. We’d like to keep doing what we’re going.
Your latest novel has just hit stores in the form of Lord of a Shattered Land, the first installment of an all-new series from you. Tell us a bit about Hanuvar – a character that has appeared four times in TFTMS over the years, as well as several other places including a recent all sword-and-sorcery issue of Weird Tales!
I like to tell people that his adventures are a little like those Aragorn would have had if Sauron had won. This is old school sword-and-sorcery for a new millennium. I signed on for a five book deal with Baen and am hard at work revising book three right now.
The long form description is this: When their walls were breached at last, the people of Volanus fought block by block, house by house, until most fell with sword in hand. Less than a thousand survivors were led away in chains.
The city’s treasuries were looted, its temples defiled, and then, to sate their emperor’s thirst for vengeance, the mages of the Dervan Empire cursed Volanus and sowed its fields with salt. Their victory was complete apart from one detail: the greatest Volani general had escaped alive.
Against the might of a vast empire, Hanuvar had only an aging sword arm, a lifetime of wisdom… and the greatest military mind in the world, set upon a single goal. No matter where they’d been sent, from the festering capital to the furthest outpost of the Dervan Empire, Hanuvar would find his people. Every last one of them. And he would set them free.
I’m sold! Your project prior to Hanuvar, The Ring-Sworn Trilogy, would have been different from Hanuvar and your earlier sword-and-sorcery tales of Dabir and Asim in that it wasn’t rooted in short fiction. How would you characterize the differences in conception and execution between series that are or are not based on earlier short stories?
While Dabir and Asim started as short stories, they weren’t designed to interlock the way the Hanuvar stories do so that each one can stand alone but builds toward a longer cycle. Each book is designed like a season of television in that each chapter stands alone but has ongoing arcs and recurring characters and then builds toward a season climax — and then each book builds on the one before into a larger story. Ring-Sworn is really one long story split over three books. Hanuvar is a bunch of independent episodes that form a complete picture once you step back from the whole thing.
Hopefully it’s also a lot of fun to read, as well — it certainly is the most fun I’ve had writing in a long time.
The next Hanuvar book, The City of Marble and Blood, will be hitting the book stores in just a few weeks! Tell us what we can expect in this installment – and maybe drop a hint at what to look forward to in the unfolding Chronicles of Hanuvar as the series continues.
Well, by book two Hanuvar has crossed the mountains and entered the heartland of his enemies. His is a stealthy war of liberation, buying the freedom of some of his people and arranging for the escape of others, aided only by a young playwright, the daughter of a hated political rival, the tattered remnants of his old spy network, and the unlikeliest ally of all, the general who had once defeated him.
Arrayed against them are the mighty legions, the sorcerous Revenants, and the wily Metellus of the Praetorian guard, ever alert to seize advantage. To add to their troubles, someone is drawing unwanted attention to the helpless Volani slaves by murdering influential Dervans and leaving the sign of the sacred Eltyr corps beside their bodies. Someone who might well be Hanuvar’s lost daughter, who’s fought her way from captivity and was even now being hunted through the countryside.
Worst of all, a magical attack has left Hanuvar with a lingering curse that might change him forever . . . or lead him to an early grave.
You really know how to tease a story, Howard. Thanks as always for sitting down and chatting with us, and I think I can speak for a lot of fans when I say we can’t wait to see more Hanuvar — and more Tales From the Magician’s Skull!
To catch up on the latest from Howard, check out his many fantasy series, or learn his thoughts on fiction and writing, be sure to visit his website, HowardAndrewJones.com.
And for the latest in unparalleled sword-and-sorcery adventure, grab a copy of Tales From the Magician’s Skull No. 11!