Merry Christmas, my darlings! I hope you're having the most wonderful time with your friends and family.
Today I am happy to welcome author Kenny Soward to The Library. Kenny recently released TINKERMAGE, the second book in his Gnome Saga and he's here to share one of his reading experienes... or rather two - 25 years ago and now.
So without further ado...
Rereading Robert McCammon’s Swan Song Twenty Five Years Later
By Kenny Soward
Whenever I read a book, I have the annoying urge to compare the author’s style to my own. It usually goes like this ... “Oh, they’re pretty good,” leading to “They need to work on this or that,” upgraded to “Well, this is actually pretty phenomenal,” and finally ending with “Ugh, I’ll never be this good!”
This habit is no doubt instinctive – I’m sure a lot of authors do it – but it’s become a bit of a nuisance to me of late. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to put myself in comfy reader mode rather than critical writer mode on more than one occasion.
Listen, self. Just enjoy this book and quit with the comparisons. Have fun, damn you!
Only after I settle myself down can I fall into a book and feel its natural ebb and flow take control. I can then process my observations with a relaxed sense of wonder, a vaguely aware type of feeling, keen on learning something if I can. Rereads are especially entertaining for me, because anything I reread is probably something that influenced me in the first place, so bracketing a second reading around my own writings gives me an interesting perspective on just how far I’ve come.
There’s the first perception of the book and the now perception ... with all my feeble attempts at becoming a competent storyteller thrown in between.
Recently, I reread one of my all-time favorite books, Swan Song, by Robert McCammon. I remember exactly what I was doing the first time I read it. I had just taken my second-to-last exam before summer break at the University of Kentucky, and I had three days to kill before my final final. So, rather than study for that last test, which is what any enterprising student would have done, I powered through Swan Song while taking some nice healthy naps in between sittings.
I remember the book being magical. Mesmerizing. The names were great; Sister Creep, wrestler Josh Hutchins, dubbed the ‘Black Frankenstein,’ and Sue Wanda, or Swan. And let’s not forget Roland Croninger and Colonel Macklin and The Man With The Scarlet Eye. I remember pulling for Sister and Josh and all the folk of Mary’s Rest. I wanted to protect Swan just as much as Robin. The end left me aching to know what happened to the survivors of that great struggle. Did they live happily ever after? What other challenges did they face in the following years? Did we humans do better the second time around? That, my friends, is the sign of a great book.
I also remember floating through that final exam, still high from my binge read.
I’m happy to report nothing has changed. Swan Song is still just as amazing as I remembered it, even more impressive to me now that I’m a working author and know a thing or two about the craft of writing. I can see now that McCammon opted for a simple plot in lieu of strong character building and powerful scenes. There isn’t a single chapter in this book that isn’t interesting or doesn’t draw something new from at least one of the characters.
The other thing that strikes me about this book is just how well it holds up to today’s other post-apocalyptic novels. Because human beings are basically blown back to the Stone Age by nuclear weapons, there’s very little technology, so it seems the story could easily take place in present time. Some of the dialogue might be a little dated, but it’s an endearing quality if you ask me. And the way McCammon allows his characters to find beauty in the simple things in life – human interaction, basic kindness, and the idea that people can be good – gives me hope that we can achieve this, somehow, in our crazy world today.
How does the critical writer in me compare my work to such a great work of fiction? Well, let’s just say I’m a better writer now than I was when I first read Swan Song, but there’s still a lot to learn, a lot to practice, and a lot to do before I achieve anything even close to this masterpiece.
Have you reread anything lately? Does the work hold up to your expectations?
Kenny Soward grew up in Crescent Park, Kentucky, a small suburb just south of Cincinnati, Ohio, listening to hard rock and playing outdoors. In those quiet 1970's streets, he jumped bikes, played Nerf football, and acquired many a childhood scar.
Kenny's love for books flourished early, a habit passed down to him by his uncles. He burned through his grade school library, and in high school spent many days in detention for reading fantasy fiction during class.
The transition to author was a natural one for Kenny. His sixth grade teacher encouraged him to start a journal, and he later began jotting down pieces of stories, mostly the outcomes of D&D gaming sessions. At the University of Kentucky, Kenny took creative writing classes under Gurny Norman, former Kentucky Poet Laureate and author of Divine Rights Trip (1971).
Kenny's latest releases are ROUGH MAGIC (GnomeSaga #1) and THOSE POOR, POOR BASTARDS (Dead West #1) with Tim Marquitz and J.M. Martin.
By day, Kenny works as a Unix professional, and at night he writes and sips bourbon. Kenny lives in Independence, Kentucky, with three cats and a gal who thinks she's a cat.
THE ENEMY EXPOSED. Nikselpik Nur has become the city of Hightower’s staunchest—albeit unwilling—ally. He’s hardly learned to cope with his debilitating bugging addiction, much less take on the duties of being the city’s First Wizard. Can he embrace this new path? And will he?
Meanwhile, Stena Wavebreaker is pulled from her seafaring duties by the Precisor General and given command of a raggedy airship to scout the ultraworldly enemy from the perilous skies above the Southern Reaches. Her mission: gain the support of the unpredictable ‘swamp elves,’ the Giyipcias.
Lastly, Niksabella Nur has set off from Hightower at the behest of the grim stonekin leader, Jontuk. The gnomestress must unlock the full potential of her invention, the recursive mirror, and her own powers, to bear what might be the heaviest burden of all. What will she discover along the way? And will Jontuk be able to keep her alive long enough to save them all?
You can buy your copy of Tinkermage HERE.
GIVEAWAY: One lucky commenter will win an e-copy of Rough Magick, the first in Kenny's Gnome Saga. This is a wonderful, wonderful book and I wish you all good luck.
I'll just repeat Kenny's question: Have you reread anything lately? Was it as good as you remembered?
Again, Happy holidays to you and yours! Stay away from those peanut butter balls.