A new day and a new interview dawns for our SPFBO interviews. Today’s is with Jon Auerbach, with his entry Guild of Tokens. I welcome him into the Thousand Scar’s hideout. Fortunately, they’re off doing necromancer mercenary things, so it should be safe for a few hours…
As always, I have a list of my current interviews for SPFBO(5) down below. Check out whichever you like!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I’m a father of three young kids who writes urban/contemporary fantasy. I started writing fiction for the first time about six years ago after stumbling across one of Chuck Wendig’s Friday flash fiction challenges.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I usually start with a broad premise and the major story beats and then flesh out how to get from A to B after getting a feel for the main character. Sometimes things can go off in a direction I wasn’t expecting, like when I added a throwaway minor antagonist in one chapter who ended up developing into almost a second main character.
Tell us about your current project.
My SPFBO entry, Guild of Tokens, imagines what if, buried somewhere in the too-numerous-to-count categories of Craigslist, there was a section called Quests? It’s got elements of urban fantasy, questing fantasy, a bit of LitRPG, and then for good measure I threw in some historical fantasy through epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
This is my first entry into SPFBO. I’ve followed the contest the last two years and was really excited to be able to enter this year!
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
The main character of Guild of Tokens is Jen Jacobs, a 20-something computer programmer living in New York City, who stumbles upon the secret Quest board in the middle of another all-nighter at work. She’s intrigued at first by the Quests, as they’re a fun diversion from her otherwise lackluster life, but when she begins to learn the truth about the Quests and the magic behind them, Jen soon finds herself in way over her head.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Read as much as you can in your genre. It’s helpful to know the genre expectations/tropes so that you can both use them in your own writing and also subvert them to give readers something they haven’t seen before. Robert McKee’s Story provides a good grounding in story structure and I’d also recommend Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid. Try to write every day, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
Well, since Guild of Tokens is set in New York City, where I live, a lot of the locations are drawn from places and peculiarities I’ve encountered. For instance, a random alleyway on the Lower East Side called Extra Place and a locked door in the side of the Washington Square Park Arch.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Paying off all of the set-ups I had thrown in at the beginning of the book in a satisfying way. Guild of Tokens involves a lot of real-world items with magical properties, and at one point I had four or five of them that I needed to somehow tie together by the end. Fortunately one of my friends let me talk his ear off on several occasions as I worked through the plot.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I write every morning (or try to) at the coffee shop a couple of blocks from my office. When I’m close to a deadline, I’ll also write in the evenings, but I find it’s much harder to get the words down then.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Probably when Jen and her morally grey mentor/partner Beatrice have to sneak into the Metropolitan Museum of Art to steal a magic item that’s been hidden in one of the exhibits. I got to plan my own Ocean’s 8-style heist but with magic and less people.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
Guild of Tokens is my first book, so pretty much everything! It’s been a long road but hopefully I’ll be able to take all I’ve learned and be able to write book two much faster.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I started out as a pantser when I began writing the book but by the end turned into more of a plotter/gardener. When I was pantsing with only a vague idea of where the story was going, the plot meandered way too much, so I outlined in a more substantial way for the back half of the book and it really made things much easier.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
For Jen, it’s an ongoing process, as she’s kind of a stand-in for the reader, someone who’s thrown into this hidden world filled with crazy magic and she’s trying to just tread water. For Beatrice, I wrote a set of prequel short stories that fill in her back story, and those really helped develop her character.
What are your future project(s)?
Right now I’m outlining the sequel to Guild of Tokens, creatively titled Guild of Magic. I’m also writing a third prequel short story starring Beatrice that will go out to my newsletter subscribers next month.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
Don’t know that I have an absolute favorite but I loved Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, and Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Playing video games with my kids (we’re in a big Pokémon phase at the moment), brainstorming ideas for future books, and taking a few minutes to myself on the weekend to get a cup of coffee at the coffee shop around the corner from my apartment.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
A point-and-click adventure game designer. I loved the classic LucasArts games as a kid and Guild of Tokens is partially inspired by the puzzles of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle.
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
Probably our moon, so I could take in the view of Earth, jump around, and then still make it back home later that week.
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Door, from Neverwhere, so we could go anywhere (sorry if that’s cheating), Fitz from Realm of the Elderlings, who would provide the muscle in case we got into trouble (and also help us talk to animals), and Wayne from the Mistborn Era 2 books, who just seems like an interesting person to be around. We could either hop between the world’s museums stealing priceless artwork or explore some remote island (as long as there was at least one door).
Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
I try to blog semi-regularly on my website, I’m pretty active on Twitter (@jaauerbach), I post writing updates and other book-related stuff on my Facebook page, and I’m more active on Goodreads as a reader.
You can get a copy of Guild of Tokens on Amazon by going to https://www.books2read.com/guildoftokens.