Page 1 of 5
INTRO: Since John Marco's first interview with sffworld.com, he recently saw publication of The Saints of the Sword, the concluding volume of his critically acclaimed fantasy trilogy Tyrants and Kings which has also been translated in several languages. He also recently switched publishing houses, moving from BantamSpectra to DAW books. In this interview, we discuss The Saints of the Sword, the world of Nar (home to Tyrants and Kings), his next project The Eyes of God and publishing in general. John is a good guy and a great writer who lent us some of his time for the interview below.
Q: One of the themes you touched upon in Saints of the Sword was the idea that people can change or redeem themselves. The changes that Biagio experienced throughout the series were noticeably for the better, in the long run. Conversely, the character of Nicabar was cast as a villainous character up to and including the final volume. The fact that Biagio is a redeemed drug addict is something that we see in the news everyday, which readers can relate to. Biagio even says early in the novel, "Destiny is for the weak; strong men build their own lives." Is this something that you wanted to convey, that if a person is strong enough they can make their lives better; or if not they only have themselves to blame?
A: Yes, I guess that was what I was saying. As you pointed out, the idea of redemption is the central theme of The Saints of the Sword. After all the war and killing and Machiavellian plots of the first two books, I wanted to soften the tone a bit and show that although people can be horribly scarred mentally, they still have the power to overcome obstacles, do the right thing, and create good lives for themselves. I try not to get preachy in my books, because as I always say no one needs me to tell them that war is hell or that drugs are bad, etc., but we see this everyday in our society-people overcoming terrible pasts or circumstances. And I'm always fascinated by people who do it. They inspire me. So in some small way I wanted to convey that idea in my book. And interestingly, the Biagio character makes his statement about overcoming destiny to a young person, the kind of people who probably need to hear that message most.
Q: Richius Vantran was the main character of The Jackal of Nar, a strong contender for that role (among other characters) in The Grand Design, but in Saints Biagio pretty much stole the spotlight. Is that something you intended, with your soft spot for the villainous characters, or was Biagio's emergence as the focus of Saints a case of "the story writing itself," as many writers say? Or maybe a little bit of both?
A: No, Biagio was always intended to be the "main" character of the third book, although even he shares the spotlight with others. I wanted his story to come full circle, because all that you really get of him in the first book is just a glimpse, and in the second book he appears to be nothing but a madman, except for subtle flashes of sanity. But I never really thought of him as a villain in the conventional sense. He's certainly not good, but he's not evil either. So in the third book, I wanted to show his better nature, the man underneath all the drug addiction and anger. Some readers have been troubled by this, because they liked him better as a "villain." I can understand that. Villains are fun, and sometimes when they show their humane side they lose their luster. On the other hand, there were readers who were aching to see Biagio's decent side, because they knew it was there all along.
As for the story writing itself, I have to say that the third book was fairly easy to write because I knew what I wanted to accomplish. But it wasn't because the characters took over. I'm happy to say that almost never happens to me. The characters pretty much do what I tell them to do.