Q&A With Michael Ripplinger (Author Of New YA Novel: Yesterday’s Demons)

I have a marvelous treat in store for you all today.

You’re going to love it.

Michael Ripplinger graciously consented to answer some questions about himself and his upcoming YA Fantasy novel, Yesterday’s Demons. I had the opportunity to read an early version of the book, and I enjoyed it greatly. It has monsters, swords, adventure, budding romance, character growth, epic story, and some great secrets to learn along the way. What’s not to like? You can read the first chapter right now for free on Michael’s blog.

You’ll enjoy the interview. At one point Mike (who is a friend) calls me an evil man. I didn’t pull any punches with the questions!

I’ll tease you with the beautiful cover, and then we’ll get down to business.

yesterdays-demons-cover-final-small

William Munn: What is it about Yesterday’s Demons that made you decide to write it? What is the driving force for this particular novel?

Michael RipplingerI’ve had the idea for Yesterday’s Demons for somewhere around 17 years now. Growing up, I was a huge fan of RPGs, especially Japanese video game ones. Phantasy Star and its sequels were my favorite games in the whole world — and they still are. Fast forward to the late 1990s and I was working at Toys “R” Us. I’d taken a break from video games for a few years but working daily in the video game department, I quickly realized there were some pretty cool looking new RPGs on the market, including Final Fantasy VII and Wild ARMs. Playing those two games especially made me realize what love I had for the epic storytelling of RPGs. I wanted to make one of my own, but although I’m a software engineer by trade, I’m not a game designer, and in the end, I wasn’t interested in writing a random monster encounter algorithm or an overworld map. I just wanted to tell a story. So that’s the first inspiration behind Yesterday’s Demons. It’s my love letter to the JRPG genre and all of its wonderful tropes.

The second inspiration was my own lifelong struggles with fear. The earliest thing I can remember is running in terror and hiding in the garage from a neighbor who was trying to give me a lifesize plush lion he’d won at an amusement park. My parents say I was probably just two years old when this happened. I used to watch Unsolved Mysteries with my grandmother, then be unable to raise the blinds on my windows for fear that a killer or an alien would be watching me from outside. I convinced myself there were monster-generated sounds in the basement so many times it isn’t funny. I’ve run away from panhandlers who were probably just looking for a bite to eat out of fear that they would attack me. As I got older, I learned to control these fears and tell my conscious mind they were just in my imagination. But my struggles with them led me to see just how many different flavors of fear there are: fear of monsters, fear of failure, fear of social judgment. And then there’s healthy fears, like wearing your seat belt for fear of reckless drivers. And so I wanted to tell a story about how much fear influences us, and how much it can control us.

WM: You live in Texas now. Where did you grow up and what made you decide to go San Antonio?

MR: I grew up in Rockford, Illinois, which is about 90 miles west of downtown Chicago and not far from the Wisconsin border. When I first married my bride, Rose, we lived in Rockford, but after our first child was born, she got homesick for San Antonio, which is where she was born and raised. The short answer is the one you read on bumper stickers ’round here: “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.”

WM: I’ve read an early version of Yesterday’s Demons, and I had a bit of a hard time putting a name to its genre. What type of story is it and what makes it stand out from other YA novels?

MR: You’re very right, the book dabbles in a lot of different genres. It’s primarily an epic fantasy, but it takes place in a world that resembles the old West, and there are significant science fiction elements. The action begins with a mystery and hey, it’s a book about fear of monsters, so there are a sprinkling of horror elements, too. But I think this eclectic mix is what makes it stand out.

Another thing that makes it different is that it is not dystopian, even though today, so many YA books seem to be about dystopias, and even though the world of Yesterday’s Demons is one that lost all technology and magic two hundred years earlier. There’s plenty of food and freedom on planet Verde, and most of the time, the monsters leave you alone if you don’t seek them out. As a whole, the people are happy, as is Siv, the protagonist. He just knows he’d be so much happier if he could get rid of his paranoid fears and find some peace.

WMI agree, Yesterday’s Demons is not dystopian, and that is a welcome relief. Verde is a very cool world, and without spoiling too much, can you tell readers what level of risks there might be in a world like Verde? Seems pretty safe except for the occasional monster.

MRYeah, Verde isn’t a dystopia, and is pretty safe except for the occasional monster. Actually, the whole planet is pretty safe… except for the two-thirds of it that are a poisoned wasteland called Terrascorcha. Two hundred years ago an event called the Blackout occurred, and all of the planet’s technology stopped working. That wasn’t fun — airplanes dropped out of the sky in mid-flight, for example. At the same time, all of Verde’s magic users disappeared. Technology and magic were replaced by monsters — native animals mutated into beasts. Everyone who survived the Blackout moved south, where the land wasn’t poisoned. And they’ve been there ever since. Monsters are the only life in Terrascorcha today. But still, I say Verde is a pretty safe place because all of that bad stuff is confined to Terrascorcha. Stay away from there and you’re fine!

And unfortunately, a vast majority of what I just said is all a lie, and none of the book’s characters know it yet.

WM: You are a self-proclaimed breakfast cereal aficionado. I eat cereal, at least, a couple of times a week, and I have probably five different flavors in my cupboard at any given time. Do I have a thing for breakfast cereal too? What makes you different?

MR: Who doesn’t have a thing for breakfast cereal? Add milk and some fruit and it’s three of the four food groups in a bowl. It’s colorful. It’s sweet, yummy, and sweet again. If feeling this way makes me different, then I don’t want to be normal. I say cereal today, cereal tomorrow, cereal forever! It’s part of a balanced and nutritious breakfast.

WM: This has been great! I have one last question if you’re willing: If you were forced to pick only one, either sci-fi or fantasy, which would you exorcize from your life?

MR: Hmm… can I cheat and say I’ll give up both in exchange for “speculative fiction”? No, I didn’t think so. If there could be only one, I’d keep fantasy. I love spaceships and robots, but I love swords and spells just a bit more. And you are, of course, an evil man for even making me consider this.

WM: Maybe I was in interviewer in a former life. I feel very similar and wouldn’t want to answer the same question!

———-

Now, dear readers, get on over to your favorite ebook retailer and pre-order a copy of Yesterday’s Demons by Michael Ripplinger. You won’t be sorry! For the truly lazy, like me, here are some links: Amazon | Barnes and NobleiBooks | KoboSmashwords

Until next time.

TEASER ALERT! I have 502 words of Rue From Ruin – Part 6 in the can. With any luck, you’ll see it before April 1.

Friday Link Pack 3/11/2016

Hey there link likers!

I have some fun stuff in store for you today. First, let me entreat you. If you like my #FLP posts, you may also enjoy my Twitter feed. Feel free to follow me for occasional bits of random goodness. You may even get the jump on a few of the things I post here.

Alright. On to business. Link business.

WRITE-ING (Note to self.)

Tor.com Gets Mushy About Rejection
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s repressed guilt. For whatever reason, and in a roundabout sort of way, Tor.com is telling us “It’s not personal” when they reject our manuscripts. We knew that, Tor.com. However, the article gets downright brilliant below the fold when the author starts talking about all the structural reasons manuscripts get rejected. Nice save!

TOOLS

Tabletop RPGs As Writer Trainers
polyhedralDice

Ok, this is an older article (2011 I think), but Chuck Wendig say it as only Chuck Wendig can. He lays out all the facts in his typical entertaining and CONTENT ADVISORY style. Don’t believe me? Clicky clicky, folks. Clicky clicky.

SCIENCEY

Chart of Cosmic Exploration
This chart may well be the most delightful representation of human exploration of the Solar System that I have ever seen. Don’t miss this one if you have a sciencey streak.

THINGS I LOVE

I’m Cheating Today
I don’t feel sorry. Today is their day. I used to LOVE this band. These days I only semi-aggressively like them. What can I say? It’s not them. It’s me. I’ve changed, and they didn’t. Still, nostalgia compels me.

Yesterday’s Demons Is Available For Preorder On Amazon
This is not a drill. Go directly to Amazon and order this book. I was a beta reader for it, and I’ve reserved my copy. You do the same. I’ll wait.

GIF OF THE WEEK

If I’m still learning to write consistently, this cat is still learning to cat:

vxhjk3o - Imgur

OH. YOU’RE STILL HERE. AWKWARD.

Soon, my friends (both of you), you will learn about Clah. Who or what is Clah? You’ll have to tune in next week to find out.

It’s Not What You Do…

It’s what you don’t.

The inestimable Michael Ripplinger once pointed me to this video (that granted is aimed at a tech audience) at one of the many times when I was feeling overwhelmed in the past year. It was the right thing for me to hear both then and now.

The gist is this: when you have a purpose, stick to the things that will further that purpose. For example, if you want to be a writer, write. Don’t spend all day every day reading other’s fiction, trying to find the best tools, getting the perfect location setup, and reading *gasp* blogs.

Spend the majority of your available time actually NOT doing those things.

Spend it writing.

Here is the original video by Scott Hanselman: It’s Not What You Read

 

Now allow me to charm you with a “don’t” GIF of Andre the Giant.

andre

Gross Misuse – Flash Fiction In The RFR Universe

Happy Halloween! Well, tomorrow anyway. You get the idea.

pumpkin

Behold! A flash fiction story in the world of Rue From Ruin. It is not an official part of the story, but it is intimately related to it. I repeat, this IS NOT RFR – Part 5. If nothing else, it’s a bit more light-hearted than Rue. It also has a different protagonist. Thanks as always to my lovely sounding board, Meri, and also to my good friend Michael Ripplinger, for keeping me from publishing an unreadable Halloween nightmare of crappy writing.

At any rate, it was an absolute blast to write. Perhaps Gross Misuse is the start of a new tradition on the blog. Flash fiction for Halloween in the world of one of my longer stories.

I hope you enjoy…

Gross Misuse

It was usually quiet here. I remember the first time I was placed in my dark, narrow home with my brothers. So cozy.

The cleanings once happened regularly. Strong chemicals were employed, removing the buildup of time. But those days were gone, and it had been some time since the people in gray and white had come. My siblings and I were no longer our spotless and shiny selves.

There is absolute despair in disuse. Always lying still; never called upon for the job for which you were made. Though – I would never have wished for what happened this day.

The day passed slowly like any other but pass it did. The light of it bled through a crack in the door to our darkened home. I longed, as always, to be brought out into that light. The world needed to know I hadn’t lost my edge.

When night fell, my brothers and I lay in silence as our domicile returned to nearly complete darkness. We heard a crashing noise, quite strange after what seemed like ages of stillness. It startled me, but, of course, I could not jump. It is not in my nature to do so.

A terrible snarling followed the crash, and a high pitched sound howled into the night.

My home was torn from its enclosure, and everything I knew was turned upside down. The violence of this sudden eviction was such that my brothers and I flew from our confined space. Our oddly-shaped cousins from neighboring homes met us in mid-flight. The sound of our meeting was a cacophony of tinkles, clangs, and clinks.

During that split second in mid-air, I wondered if I would be stuck somewhere at the end of my impromptu flight. Would I be left, dulling, half embedded in some weaker material?

No. That was not to be my fate.

A strange, strong grip plucked me out of the air. It was firm and rough; more so than any hand that had held me before. It also seemed to… smoke. That’s probably not the right word. It was like I was made of dry ice and evaporation was squeezing its way out from between where we touched. Having been forged at over nine hundred degrees Celsius, I knew it wasn’t I releasing the foul-smelling vapor into the air.

The hand seemed to tremble as if in pain but tightened its grip in response. It bubbled a wet and putrid ooze against me. The hand’s owner ran, chasing a second form at the edge of sight. The figure was difficult to make out at such high speed. I caught a glimpse of my captor as he wiped his scruffy face with the back of his arm. We had burst out into the moonlit night, and his rough features were mostly visible. He was hairier than most men I’d seen. Unkempt. Something was off about him as well, but I couldn’t quite place it.

There was no time to ponder the strangeness of it as my abductor sprinted and leaped to catch his prey. He slashed out powerfully with me. I found my target and reveled in the feeling of slicing through skin, flesh, gristle, and even bone. I hope you’ll pardon the cliche, but I was like a hot knife slicing through butter.

The feeling was exhilarating at first. I was meant for this! Cutting, chopping, carving, slicing – but no, not into a living being. Not like this.

I was an instrument of the glorious kitchen. Made for working with food, not killing things like some crude slaughterers implement.

Still. I cannot deny the pleasure I felt in my heart at being put to use.

It almost distracted me from the howl of pain and the stench that rose from the body I had cut. It was the same reaction that came from the seething hand that held me. I noted that there was blood on me now, and it was boiling and steaming as well. The odor sickened me.

My captor leaped at his prey knocking him to the ground. He laid my frothing blade against the neck, daring the creature to move. A thin wisp of mist rose from the spot where my edge rested firmly. I couldn’t quite see my victim’s face. Its neck was enormous and was covered in unusually thick, coarse hair. This creature was even stranger and stronger than one that grasped me.

I resigned myself to the fact I had become an instrument of death. I would probably end up in an evidence lockup.

Then, my wielder began to speak.

Perhaps this day would end without a death on my conscience after all. As a silver butter knife, I never expected to be holding onto that hope so feebly.

—–

If you enjoyed Gross Misuse and are unfamiliar with my serial story Rue From Ruin, you should check it out. I have a least three readers who think it is extra neat!