Phenomenal People Interview: Keith Blenman
This is an interview of a wonderful, witty and imaginative author: Keith Blenman. Be sure to check out his interview and check out his new novel!
1. So you wrote a book. Tell us about it.
Certainly! Where do I even begin? This is my first novel. It’s a genre-bending fantasy, horror, adventure titled Necromantica. And as long as I’m listing off genres, it’s a love story. It’s a black comedy. It’s everything. The tale itself circles around an orc invasion. Throughout the kingdom, called Fortia, entire villages are being slaughtered off. It’s a massacre everywhere. To the point that the king is gathering his remaining forces to the only remaining city. They’re going to make one final stand. So pretty much the entire novel is staged during this massive, apocalyptic battle.
As for the story itself, without giving anything away, it’s about two notorious thieves, one of which is a necromancer. The pair are taking advantage the situation. While the king’s beleaguered army is fighting for their lives, our protagonists are making their way through the city, trying to reach the king’s castle to steal a magical artifact. And I use ‘protagonists’ loosely. There really are no good guys in this story. Just different degrees of villains, all of which are battling through Hell.
- Tell us about some of the work you have done in the past?
I normally write shorter fiction. Novella/novelette length projects. I’ve been self publishing for years. My previous book, Tender Buttons Two is more of a performance than a story. It’s a “sequel” to Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, which she published in 1914. The story itself is about Gertrude Stein taking the English language hostage and the grammar police of Scotland Yard have to diffuse the situation. It’s a great story for English Majors, but I think all of five people in the world will ever make sense of it.
Prior to that, I’ve been working on a series of monster stories called Roadside Attraction. They’re about an immortal, hillbilly, misogynist monster hunter and his feminist lesbian sidekick hunting assorted classic monsters. The first book, Siren Night, the duo are hunting sirens. The next two books are near completion. I’ll probably publish them together. Hopefully around Halloween. In those they’re hunting vampires in one. A ghost in the other.
So yeah. I bounce around a lot in my fiction. I also have my quasi-non fictional blog, This Worthless Life (keithblenman.blogspot.com). And a fictional/fantasy blog called The Keep (largoafis.blogspot.com). That blog actually takes place in the same world as Necromantica, but is a lot more light hearted. Like it’s sort of a parallel universe/comedy version of the same world.
Click here to find the book on Amazon.com
- Who is the book going to appeal to, what is the genre etc.?
Well, like I said, there’s a lot of genre bending going on. Necromantica takes place in a fantasy world. One of the two thieves, Mornia, is a necromancer. So she has powers that allow her to control and manipulate the dead. There is wizardry. There are orcs. There is a dragon of sorts. It’s all very much my own unique takes on this stuff, but I’m sure fans of the genre will feel right at home.
At the same time I don’t want to dissuade a broader audience from checking it out. At its core, this is a story about a relationship. It’s a love story. I’ll discuss the two main characters more later, but the two thieves, these are two people who’ve never been given a fair chance. On their own, they’re both tragic and flawed. But they’ve found each other, in a dungeon of all places, and become devoted to one another. For anybody who likes their fiction a little dark and twisted, it’s fun to explore the romance between these two monsters while picking away at all the little things that make them tick. All while leaping off fiery rooftops, swords first.
- What inspires you to write action/adventure/fantasy?
Fantasy lends itself easily to characters being put in these over the top, high stakes physical or emotional situations. It’s a fun place to play. I mean, who doesn’t have the daydream of being in a high speed chase? Who doesn’t want to say they’ve stepped foot in a haunted castle? Sure, there’s the fear and anxiety. But there’s also the intrigue. When I write fantasy, I can go back to childhood fears. I can develop entire worlds and impossible locations. Want to climb a mountain that rolls like a ball as you ascend it? Want to fight the high school bully when he’s a hundred feet tall, made entirely out of eyeballs and spaghetti? In fantasy, the rules are what you make them and you can get away with pretty much anything. Don’t get me wrong. For a good narrative, the world should never contradict its own logic and the story itself should always remain in developing interesting characters, putting them out of place, and on top of the grandeur of make believe, making sure they still experience these simple, human moments that force them through change. All that stuff. But when you’re writing fantasy, the gloves are off. It’s that much easier to discover and explore the impossible. And as a reader, it’s easier to imagine and accept the impossible.
- How are you able to create a completely original world?
Oh man. Is any world ever completely original? I mean, even in the case of Necromantica, a made up world, a made up kingdom, there’s always a pre-existing foundation. Even if you’re writing a world where gravity doesn’t exist, that world exists because of your concept of gravity. When it comes to world building, there’s no such thing as an empty canvas. And the tendency is to always focus on the things that fascinate you. This story’s kingdom, Fortia, is a reflection of so many things. I could go on and on. But if I had to single out one aspect, religion was a major influence for this story. Religion and space travel were two things that structured the environment. The debate between science and faith has always fascinated me. So this world I dreamed up has seven unique moons, and the Fortan people’s religion is based entirely around that. Every moon is named after a God. Every god represents a certain principle or portion of their moral code. King Stolzel is regarded a holy figure, a representative of the gods. This is reflected in the city itself. There’s a whole Tower of Babel thing going on. All the buildings are massive. The cityscape goes on for miles. The king’s palace is taller than the neighboring mountains. The city gives off this major vibe of manifest destiny run amuck.
To contradict that, there’s a lot the people of this world wouldn’t comprehend. Like how every moon has its own gravitational forces and how these forces are impacting the weather and shaping their planet. So something they might observe is that whenever this one moon is bigger in the sky, there are more storms. They regard that as the moon of an angry god. For the readers, it’s just a moon.
There’s evidence in the introduction of the story that there are ghosts and there is a true god or afterlife that these spirits can’t reach. But it’s also a phenomenon the characters in the story can’t observe. So there’s a distinction between the truth of their existence and the faith of the people. The construction of the world is built around that entire discussion, but it’s a fantasy so I can explore multiple sides of all the related arguments, keeping it within the context that’s just a fun, exciting adventure about two immoral people in a kingdom that incorrectly perceives itself as holy, at the brink of its destruction. Or simply, orcs are wiping out the kingdom as two thieves murder their way into a castle.
- I don’t read fantasy or action/adventure, why should I read this?
Well I hope my previous answers piqued your interest. Really, I don’t read much fantasy myself. I mean, some of the more popular things, sure. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter (multiple times over). I think the most obscure fantasy I’ve read are the first few books of the Legend of Drizzt series by R.A. Salvatore. Which is not obscure at all. For lovers of the genre, Drizzt is a household name. I can’t believe there aren’t movies of him yet. Anyway, I’m a complete lightweight in fantasy. I write genre fiction, but I’m more influenced by authors like Tom Robbins, Harry Campion, and David Mitchell. Lately, I’m on a big David Sedaris kick. I also read a ton of Stephen King, Michael Crichton and Anne Rice growing up, which is probably why I’m so into monsters meshing with science. I always tell people that even if there’s a genre you’re not a fan of, still give it a shot every now and again. Just because there’s a category you’re not wild about, it doesn’t mean there isn’t something in there that won’t appeal to you. “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.” That sort of thing. Check out Necromantica because it’s a good story. Also because it’ll totally help me feed my pets. I have two other jobs so they’re not exactly starving. But if this book sells my cans-of-wet-food budget skyrockets.
- They say that the way to make fantasy accessible is to create characters that are relatable. Tell us about some of your characters.
The main characters are the two thieves. Mornia the necromancer elf. Lama, a human, best known as The Fish Thief of Luna Falls. Most of the story (not the introduction) is written in this quasi first and second person narrative. Lama tells the story as I, and Mornia is described mostly as You. I’ll be the first to say, it can be a bit jarring for some people. But it creates this wonderful intimacy where the reader is sort of given the role of Mornia. On top of that feeling of being in love. The other person always becomes You. “You’re the first. The last. My everything.” It takes some readers a bit of getting used to, but the payoff is worth it. So for me to discuss Mornia, I’m kind of describing the role that you’re playing in this narrative. She’s a young elf woman, who actually has a lot of mystery surrounding her. Right from the beginning, we know she’s a criminal. We know she’s a necromancer, a wizard who can control the dead, and that she’s heading into this battle to steal a specific object from the king. Who she truly is I’ll leave for the reader to discover.
As for Lama, her love, her partner in crime, a lot about him is discussed right from the beginning. So I’m not spoiling anything. He’s our narrator. He’s maybe not the brightest guy in the world, but an excellent thief and probably most at home while doing something sinister. Even if there’s a little piece of him conflicted about it. I don’t know how relatable his life is for everybody, but he’s a guy who was never given a fair chance. As a boy, he was born into poverty. He was abused. He was made to fight dogs for profit. So even at a young age he became a ruthless, little brawler. At one point he tried to live an honest life. He wanted to be knight and made it as far as being a squire, but was always reckless. He has quite a mouth on him. So most of his life we worked for whoever would pay. And he wasn’t too picky over the work. He was a thief. He was an assassin. Over all, a thug. A rogue.
When Lama meets Mornia, he’s been imprisoned for several years. He’s been given a death sentence and is pretty much at peace with himself. For all his crimes, he’s guilt-free. He’s reflecting over his life when in walks the girl of his dreams. They’re not exactly fast friends, but their cells are next to each other and once they form a bond it’s powerful. Hopefully, without sounding too much like a bad 80’s teen movie, she awakens something in him. She shows him a side of himself that he never knew existed. For that, he devotes himself to her. It’s not enough for him to spend his final days knowing he’s made such a connection. He feels indebted. He decides to save her from their prison. While a majority of their story takes place over through the one major battle, their relationship spans about a decade. So we get to see who they become over that time and the consequences of their bond.
- Is this a plot-driven book or a character driven book, or both or something else altogether?
Definitely character driven. The plot is fairly simple. The two murderous thieves have to get from point A to point B. Probably with a lot of carnage along the way. The why of the plot, and the driving force of the book is the relationship between Mornia and Lama. Who are they? Why are they risking everything, running into this battle between countless monsters and an army of men who want them dead?
- What is the underlying theme of the book?
I think I’m going to leave that one for the readers. I mean, I definitely pack in my layers. All my science versus religion stuff is present but by no means the main focus of the story. Any good discussion is a tapestry. There’s a lot in this tale about morality, love, nationalism, and nature. Power, faith, devotion. Different people will latch onto their own relevant points. Or none at all. Some people might read my book and say something like, “I liked the way the zombie gutted that dude.” That’s cool too. This goes back to high school English, where they claim there are no wrong answers. The feeling is always that if I say a right answer, people will stop looking for other ones. This is probably coming off way too egotistical. I’m promise I’m not this full of myself. But, you know, as writers, our nature is self-expression. We put our souls on paper every day. So all these different threads are present. If somebody reads into my madness and discovers some profound meaning or an argument in the story, whether it’s exactly what I wanted to say or some gross misinterpretation, I want them to have that. And I want somebody else to argue otherwise. That’s why we do it. The discussion. The experience. Also I get to make up kick ass fight scenes and have people leap from rooftops. That stuff too.