Here’s the first interview in my new series as promised. Kicking the interviews off is fantasy author Benjamin Sperduto, a swell guy I’ve had the pleasure of editing. His latest book MIRONA’s LAW published by Curiosity Quills Press is out now.
Introduce yourself to the readers. Tell us about some of your hobbies.
My name is Benjamin Sperduto. I teach history and government at the middle and high school levels. When I’m not teaching or writing, I enjoy playing roleplaying games and playing/recording music. Earlier this year, I put together a group that’s attempting to play twelve new roleplaying games over the course of twelve months, which has been quite a challenge. We’re chronicling our efforts with an ongoing podcast called “12/12 Project”. On the music front, I used to play guitar in a band and I’m always threatening to start a new band but it’s hard to get something like that off the ground when you’re not a high school or college student with lots of time to devote to it. Last year I started to record electronic music on my own, which has been a lot of fun. So far I’ve released six albums and one EP on BandCamp under the name Morana’s Breath.
Tell us about your latest book MIRONA’S LAW.
As the sequel to The Walls of Dalgorod, Mirona’s Law picks up about a month after the first book’s climactic battle. Although the main protagonist, Serafima Vladekovna, still reigns over the land of Rostogov, her rule and her health are eroding fast as the scheming noble families of the city of Dalgorod plot against her. A few new threats emerge throughout the course of the book, forcing her to consider increasingly drastic measures to safeguard her position. At the same time, Mirona’s Law takes readers to the Krovwood, the great forest to the north of Rostogov, to follow the struggles of the Idanlucht, the non-human tribal society known by Rostogovians as the Dikarie. My favorite thing about the book is that none of the characters face easy choices, and every decision they do make turns out having far greater consequences than they anticipated. Unlike The Walls of Dalgorod, which was structured as a race against time, Mirona’s Law is driven more by a steadily growing sense of dread.
What inspired you to become a writer and what drew you specifically to writing fantasy?
In retrospect, I think the biggest early influence on me was the Elfquest comics by Wendy and Richard Pini. My mom’s friend gave me the collected, colorized volumes when I was three or four years old and I kind of grew up with them. When I was very young, I just appreciated the great art and the cool concept of elves riding wolves and fighting trolls. Over the years, though, I grew into the more mature themes the series explored. I get as much enjoyment out of them today as I did when I was five years old, which is a pretty impressive artistic achievement. My childhood media diet probably also explains why I’m drawn to fantasy. Between reading Elfquest, playing with Masters of the Universe toys, and watching movies like Conan the Barbarian and Dragonslayer, it would have been weird if I didn’t wind up writing fantasy.
You also make music. Do you find music and writing have any similarities? Does your writing ever influence your music and vice versa?
I find that it’s a bit of a different creative muscle, but there are some similarities in that writing a song is similar to telling a story. Instrumental music is all about eliciting a specific feeling from the listener, so in that sense, I suppose it’s very much like writing fiction. I’ve never had a case of the music influencing the writing, but I’ve recorded several songs that were inspired by something I wrote. The songs “The First Price” and “Lena’s Song” are both based upon short stories of the same name, and the song “The Olden City” was inspired by an unpublished novel project. It’s interesting trying to convey the key themes from a piece of fiction in another medium. I’d like to do more of it in the future.
Does your day job ever influence your writing?
I would have answered this differently just a few weeks ago, but I’m currently working on a middle grade fantasy novel and I’m finding quite a lot of inspiration from teaching and being around ten to twelve year olds all day. Many of the characters will probably end up being an amalgamation of several different students I’ve encountered over the years. I was really worried about trying to write for a younger audience, but hopefully the experience of being a teacher will help me to do it credibly.
If you were a supervillain or superhero what would your name and origin story be?
Considering I’ve never been able to bring myself to play through a video game choosing the “bad” morality path, I don’t know if I could be a supervillain. In D&D alignment terms, I’m definitely lawful good (but I’m still a fun hang at parties). I’d probably wind up with some incredibly uncreative goth-sounding name like The Raven or Darkfire that the fourteen year old in me thought was cool. In other words, I’d end up looking like Spawn or Batman, but I’d be an insufferable goody-goody like Superman. As far as the origin story goes, I’d have to be an accidental superhero because I pretty much tend to fall into everything I do without intending to wind up there.
What are you currently reading? Any favorites you’d like to recommend?
I’m trying to consume a lot of middle grade fiction right now just to get a sense of how to write for that audience. At the moment, I’m working through Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and the Harry Potter books. I’ve actually never read the Potter series, despite pretty much every person in my life telling me that I need to read them. As far as recommendations go, my all time favorite book is Frank Herbert’s Dune, and I think everyone with any interest in fantasy should read Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone series. The most recent things I read that blew my mind were China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station and The Scar. Those books made me completely rethink everything I thought I knew about writing fantasy.
If you could give one piece of advice to other writers what would it be?
Persistence, persistence, persistence. Putting the words to paper is only part of the challenge. As a writer, you will encounter obstacles and setbacks that make you question why you ever wanted to do this in the first place. You’ll face disappointment and frustration, but it’s important to remember that most of us go through the same struggles. There are so many things beyond your control as a writer that you can drive yourself crazy worrying about them all if you’re not careful. The one thing you can always control, however, is your willingness to persist through difficulties and see your vision through to the end.