I'm so sorry this is late, dear readers! It's been a day. Part good, part bad, mostly late. Anywho.
Walden Pond Press is giving away a signed hardcover copy of The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson! Read on for more info about the book and author, as well as a Q&A!
About the Book
The Dungeoneers is an action-packed, funny, and heartbreaking middle grade fantasy-adventure from the author of the acclaimed Sidekicked and Minion, John David Anderson.
The world is not a fair place, and Colm Candorly knows it. While his parents and eight sisters seem content living on a lowly cobbler's earnings, Colm can't help but feel that everyone has the right to a more comfortable life. It's just a question of how far you're willing to go to get it.
In an effort to help make ends meet, Colm uses his natural gift for pickpocketing to pilfer a pile of gold from the richer residents of town, but his actions place him at the mercy of a mysterious man named Finn Argos, a gilded-toothed, smooth-tongued rogue who gives Colm a choice: he can be punished for his thievery, or he can become a member of Thwodin's Legions, a guild of dungeoneers who take what they want and live as they will. Colm soon finds himself part of a family of warriors, mages, and hunters, learning to work together in a quest to survive and, perhaps, to find a bit of treasure along the way.
Q&A with John David Anderson
Read Now Sleep Later: Tell us what inspired The Dungeoneers. Was it something from real life or something from fantasy that finally sparked the premise so you could turn it into a novel?
John David Anderson: I’m a fly-by-seat of your pants kind of writer. I don’t outline. I seldom have a plan. I’m lucky if I have a general sense of direction. I go where the story takes me, and The Dungeoneers was literally a “I wonder what happens next?” kind of experience for me. Every day I would sit down to write with wide eyes, eagerly anticipating Colm and party’s next adventure. So the novel started for me just the way it starts for everyone—with Colm complaining about his sisters, one of whom gets sick. I knew he was going to try his hand at pickpocketing. I knew he was going to be good at it. That’s pretty much all I had. The rest, I think, was a great, big blended mess of fantasy tropes from books and films and games (both video and board) dating all the way back to my childhood, cobbled together the deeper and deeper I got.
I will say, though, that my parents often struggled to make ends meet when I was young, and I grew up with a sense of both the powers and dangers of money and the vast disparity between the have-mosts and have-a-littles. I think that sense of class disparity—and the notion that men of talent can find their own path to riches—informed upon the novel from day one. That and the significance of friendships and the price of loyalty were probably the chief motivating themes that drove me forward.
Mostly, though, I had fun with it. I had more fun writing The Dungeoneers than any other book I’ve written. It was basically just one giant roleplaying game for me.
RNSL: If there would be no consequences for you, what would you steal (for the greater good, anyway)? Are you good at sleight-of-hand? (Alethea for example would probably steal kittens. She is pretty sure Thuy and Kimberly would steal all the yarn and books--then distribute them to those in need.)
JDA: If it was for the greater good, I’d probably say I’d go all Jean Valjean and steal food for those in need. There are a lot of problems out there in the world that need solving, but hunger really seems like one that we—as intelligent as we are as a species—could have figured out a solution to. According to some estimates, as many as one out of every nine people suffers from hunger or malnutrition. I know it’s a Robin Hood kind of answer, but if you’re going to be an outlaw…
On a lighter note, if it was me, and there were no consequences or downsides, I would steal Lego. Lego, for me, is the epitome of extraneous expense. I love them. I love the feel of them, the sound of their clicking, the mathematical genius of their construction, but I can’t (usually) justify forking over forty bucks for 300 little pieces of snap-together plastic that’s just going to sit on my shelf. If could just steal them, then I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about spending money on them, though I would feel guilty for stealing them. I guess there’s no Lego without guilt.
I would say books, but I’m a writer. If I want a book, I go out and buy it anyways.
RNSL: Did anything specific inspire your cast of characters for The Dungeoneers?
Not really. I’d say my motivating principal was contrast. Obviously I needed a balanced party in terms of talents and professions, but also in terms of foibles and concerns. I wanted them all to be dungeoneering for different reasons, to each have something specific they were questing for, whether it was Serene overcoming her fears, Lena living up to her name, or Quinn gaining control over his power. It’s not all about the gold—though that certainly has its appeal, as Colm Candorly will tell you. The characters were all very distinct for me, which made them easier to write and easier to appreciate. What started as a story just about this one kid picking pockets in the street really became an exploration of this makeshift family getting each others’ backs, growing alongside each other. It’s an ensemble piece.
RNSL: If you still play RPGs, do you always play the same type of character, or do you switch around and try to be different? (I usually try to stay with Barbarian or Paladin... hack and slash, don't get in my way!)
JDA: I play a version of Pathfinders with my family, and I like to switch up who I play, though I tend to gravitate towards multi-talented types. Swordsmen who can enchant their blades with flames. Spellcasters who also happen to be good at throwing daggers. Talking pigs who can transform themselves into fire-spewing dragons. I tend not to play healers. I don’t want people counting on me to bring them back to life all the time. Too much pressure. I also don’t play guys who wear lots of heavy armor, mostly because I feel like they’d get too sweaty.
RNSL: Would ever you consider writing up part of the premise as an RPG? Or at least make up some character sheets for Colm, Finn, etc. :)
JDA: Funny you say that. I actually have Pathfinders sheets and stats for each of the four major characters from the novel. When my family and I played I was Quinn Frostfoot.
I do create board and card games in my spare time, and if (for some blessed reason) The Dungeoneers was ever to become a thing—you know, like big big—I’d be more than happy to branch out and adapt the story to a more playable format. I think a lot of cool things are being done with game books and interactive fiction now, especially on mobile devices. I can certainly imagine The Dungeoneers taking that form. Maybe some computer genius out there can help make it happen!
RNSL: Did you encounter anything particularly challenging while writing The Dungeoneers that's different from your previous books?
JDA: Honestly third person perspective is a challenge for me. First person narratives come easy because there’s no negotiation, no competition between my voice and that of the main character. I appreciate the limitations that first person narratives provide, so the freedom that comes with panning out to a third person viewpoint—even one focused on one character like Colm Candorly—is daunting at first. I wanted to create a narrative voice that could poke fun one moment with tongue thoroughly in cheek and then get completely serious about the world and its dangers the next. That was tough.
Also the sheer scope of the book was bigger than my previous novels. More characters, more subplots—and so much I wanted to cram in, explore, and make fun of. I’m just grateful my editor let me keep most of it. It’s a hefty book. But fantasy novels aren’t always known for their thinness.
RNSL: We love the cover. Did you have any input on the final art? Any thoughts you would like to share about it? (It makes us want to grab our dice bags and go on an adventure.)
JDA: Awesome, right? The cover is the work of the incomparable Dan Santat and, at least from my perspective, it was pretty solid right out of the gate. I do remember two significant changes, though. The first was that Quinn was way too confident in the beginning—his facial expression suggested a Gandalf-level of competence, and I remember saying that he needed to be a lot more worried about the spell he was casting (it will make sense when you read the book). The second issue was Lena—we needed her to be hardcore barbarian but still obviously female. The solution, I think, was to just give her a different haircut and more weapons. Other than that, it’s exactly the kind of book I would have picked up as a ten year old aching for a little dungeon diving adventure. I adore the wrap around and the font, but most of all I think I like how it focuses on the team effort. After all, the book isn’t called The Dungeoneer.
Now I’m off to play with my Lego.
About the Author
John David Anderson is the author of Sidekicked and Minion. A dedicated root beer connoisseur in his spare time, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org. Tweet @anderson_author and find him on Facebook.
Blog Tour Schedule
6/2/2015 - Maria's Mélange - mariaselke.com
6/5/2015 - Unleashing Readers - unleashingreaders.com
6/6/2015 - The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia - hauntedorchid.blogspot.com
6/7/2015 - Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers - insatiablereaders.blogspot.com
6/8/2015 - This Kid Reviews Books - thiskidreviewsbooks.com
6/8/2015 - Ms Yingling Reads - msyinglingreads.blogspot.com
6/9/2015 - Read Now Sleep Later - readnowsleeplater.org
6/10/2015 - Charlotte's Library - charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com
6/11/2015 - Nerdy Book Club - nerdybookclub.wordpress.com
6/12/2015 - The Hiding Spot - thehidingspot.blogspot.com
One intrepid adventurer will win a signed hardcover copy of The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson. US only, ends 6/25/2015.
- Open to US only, ends 6/25/2015.
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