Book Tour Q&A: The Trials of Ashmount by John Palladino
Today we're taking part in the book tour organized by Escapist Book Tours for The Trials of Ashmount by John Palladino! Continue reading for the book blurb and a Q&A with the author.
About the book
Cedain is destined to collapse.
Across a world rife with blood, betrayal, and brutality, five people wade through unexpected tragedies.
An egotistical student, a fleeing refugee, a nomadic warrior, a fallen noble, and a criminal in hiding navigate the sinister dealings of politicians, two sudden wars, and nefarious lies that surface at Ashmount—a university dedicated to teaching the five branches of magic.
Survival means adapting or dying.
On to the interview...!
Thank you so much for joining us for this Q&A! We’ll start off with one of our standard podcast opening questions–tell us something great that’s happened recently.
I think the most recent greatest thing that’s happened is this Escapist Book Tour. So many people were interested in signing up to read The Trials of Ashmount and I’m so happy to know it has captured so many people’s attention. By the time this interview comes out, it’s very possible there will be 1000 total copies out in reader’s hands, and that, to me, is wild. I never would have guessed my debut novel would garner this much attention.
What are you currently reading or what’s up next on your TBR? What made you pick up this book?
I am about to start reading The Hellborn King by Christopher G. Brenning. The reason I’m reading it is as a buddy read with booktuber Steve Talks Books where I may appear on a discussion with Christopher and Steve. We shall see! It’s a grimdark novel, which is my favorite genre so I’m excited to begin reading it.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I was in high school. I actually wrote and completed an entire sci-fi novel when I was a junior (and still have a good portion of the original manuscript!). I’ve always wanted to write for a living and it wasn’t until Covid began that I took a serious stab at it. When Covid happened, my work reduced my hours, pay, and other benefits. I became so fed up that I quit. Then I decided it was the best opportunity to make an attempt at writing.
How do you spend your free time when you’re not reading or writing? Do you have any hobbies or interests that you can talk to us about?
I enjoy some video games and tabletop RPGs. Most often when I’m not reading or writing however, I’m sinking my time on social media.
Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influences?
My favorite current writers are Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin. I’d say they’re also my greatest influences.
If you could collaborate with any one author, who would it be and why?
Easily Joe Abercrombie. I think that we have somewhat similar writing styles and I love his humor/wit. I think we’d come up with some pretty fantastic stories.
What is one thing that you love about the current state of SFF and what is one thing that you wish you saw more of?
I love the variety of storytelling we’re getting nowadays. When I was younger, it felt like every novel in the genre was recycled – same plots, tropes, characters, where it became very predictable. Something I wish I saw more of… uncomfortable/unhappy/realistic endings akin to how The First Law Trilogy ended. The way that series ended was a huge punch to the gut because of how everything ended up. I haven’t read that series since it first released and I still remember it.
What is one book you want to shout about to the world? What about it makes you love it so much?
I think the third Game of Thrones book, Storm of Swords, was absolutely brilliant. I don’t think it needs much shouting, but I just loved how many awful things happened in unexpected ways.
What are your favorite types of stories? Of characters?
My favorite types of stories are the ones where you can’t be certain anybody is safe. That unpredictable nature of a brutal war or a band of adventurers who keep dying off. I love a book when I don’t know who’s going to live or die. My favorite characters are often the funny/witty/clever ones who have little combat ability. Jezal from First Law or Tyrion from Game of Thrones are pretty good examples.
How much do you plan when you write? What’s your writing process like?
I don’t really plan. For The Trials of Ashmount, I knew I wanted to have a character with a stutter, I knew the basics of the magic system, and I had a very basic idea of a few other characters. Then I just sat down and started writing. Once I got about halfway through the book, I knew I needed a bit more of a plan, so I ironed out a basic trajectory of the overall plot. I know how the fourth book (last in the series) will end plot-wise, but I have absolutely no clue which characters will be there.
Is this your first book? If so, what lessons have you learned from writing it? If not, what lessons did you learn from writing earlier books that you brought into this one?
This is my first book I wrote with the intention of publishing – otherwise I wrote one more in high school. I think every writer learns a substantial amount from each book they write. I’m not sure there was anything concrete I can point toward, but I do know the sequel has a much better flow (at least, in my opinion).
What do you think characterizes your writing style?
I like to think I inject a bit of humor/sarcasm into my writing. I also think that I’m much better with characters than other things. I would suggest that my prose is simplistic and easily consumed because I’m too stupid to write flowery/clever stuff.
How much of yourself do you write into your stories?
Not a lot, although I have a few fun facts about Kelden and Villic. When I finished the first draft, I realized Kelden didn’t really have a personality. He read as a very basic, bland epic fantasy main character. So I figured one of the easiest and best ways to spice him up would be to give him more of a dickish personality. I went back and added a bunch of what some people might call emotionless/psychopathic thoughts (a lot of which are behaviors based on myself… not that I’m a raging psychopath, but I am somebody who doesn’t really experience a lot of emotions compared to other people, and I figured it might improve the character a bit). For Villic, his social anxieties/introversion is 100% based upon my experiences as a child. I used to have a super difficult time talking to most anyone who wasn’t in my immediate friends/family and often froze in fear. The mere idea of talking to people used to crush me.
What comes first to you when you’re writing, the world, the characters, or the storyline?
That’s a great question, and one that I’m not sure I know. I’ve noticed that often my first idea for a story is a new magic system or character, but I’ve really had new ideas form from all different aspects.
They say to never judge a book by its cover, but a cover is still a marketing tool that helps sell books. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of your book?
The moment I came up with the idea for Ashmount, the magical university, I knew that it had to be the cover art of the book. Visually, I just thought it would make a stunning image – a school with a magical bubble shield sitting beneath an active volcano? That has to resonate for fans of fantasy, right??
Can you give us an elevator pitch for your book?
Five people find themselves in unfortunate situations because of war, politics, and conspiracies. As they’re slowly pushed together, the world becomes more dangerous and chaotic, and survival all the more unlikely.
Describe your book in 3 adjectives.
Deadly, magical, and political (I don’t know… I’m not so great at these types of exercises)
How different is the final version of this book from the first draft?
Quite a bit. One of the 5 main POVs wasn’t a main character in the first draft, and only had 3 very short chapters. Their role was expanded to become a main POV after talking with my alpha readers/editor about plans for book 2 and why they had those chapters to begin with. Since people liked the character so much, expanding the role into MC status was easy, and now that character is often cited as people’s favorite or second favorite character.
Can you tell us a little bit about your characters? What are your favorite kinds of characters to write?
My favorite characters to write are those with a unique quality—whether it be a disability, a strange habit, a perhaps a strange way of speaking. These attributes can really enhance a character, I think. There are five main characters in The Trials of Ashmount. Kelden is the son of a baker and smarter than most of the villagers he’s grown up around. This has made him arrogant and sort of an asshole. He feels like he deserves a better life than he has. Seradal is sort of the opposite of Kelden. She grew up in a small village as well, but for Sera, she doesn’t feel similarly to Kelden (other than they both strongly desire to leave their hometowns) and is much nicer than Kelden. Edelbrock is all about status and power. He desires wealth and respect, and doesn’t really care what it takes to achieve it. He’ll murder somebody, enter a sexual relationship with basically anyone, he really will do whatever it takes to move up in social/financial status. Demri is a Magicus (what the mages are called) with a serious stutter and, like Edelbrock, is very self-serving. Though instead of social or monetary status, Demri is on the warpath to achieve revenge. He also has a few other things he cares about but mentioning them may be a bit of a spoiler, so I won’t. Lastly, there is Villic of the Splintered Manes, a nomadic warrior with crippling social anxieties. I think through Villic’s devotion to his clan and gods, and also because of his social anxieties, he's easily the most naïve and child-like of the cast. He’s actually based on my experiences being shy when I was a kid, and so I think naturally he feels a bit younger (mentally) than maybe I originally intended.
If you could choose one worldbuilding detail (a place, ability, or creature, for example) from your book to exist in the real world, what would it be and why?
Uh… yikes. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot I’d want to be real in my book. I think perhaps the Imbuer magic. Having magic would be cool, of course, but I think it’d be fascinating to have another “being” inside your head, who conversed with you, knew everything about you, but couldn’t talk to anyone else. You’d have no worries or paranoia that this being would be able to betray any of your secrets, so you could be 100% honest with them. That being said, it might get old having somebody invade your thoughts constantly, as one of the characters in Trials knows all too well.
In your opinion, what kind of reader would like this book?
I think Joe Abercrombie fans would find a lot to enjoy. People that like complex/hard magic systems would, too.
What would you like readers to take away from this book?
Whatever they want. I think every reader is vastly different from one another, and if anybody takes anything positive away from the book, I’ll be ecstatic.
Do you have a favorite quote from your book that you can share with us? What about this quote in particular makes it your favorite?
Yes. To set the quote up really quick, it comes after one of the characters learns something they didn’t expect, and when learning this, they realize how screwed over they are. I don’t know why this resonates for me so much, but the quote is this: “Fuck. He may have even whispered it.” This quote comes at the end of one of the first chapters, and when I wrote it, I just sat back in my chair and I was like, “oof”. Because we’ve all been there, when something so utterly shocking has just occurred, something so wild, that we’re just stunned for a moment.
Is there anything you can tell us about any current projects you’re working on?
Book two, Buzzard’s Bowl, is currently with my editor, Sarah Chorn. I’m also almost done writing a short story anthology called Before the End which is almost completed. These short stories all take place in the same world as the Tragedy of Cedain series. Some stories will feature characters from The Trials of Ashmount, while other stories will have original characters… and there is even a few introductions for characters in Buzzard’s Bowl… and maybe even book three (not quite sure yet, we’ll see).
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us! Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to leave for our readers?
I just wanted to thank you for having me and reading The Trials of Ashmount. The support means the world to me.
And finally, where can you be found on the internet if our readers want to hear more from you?
I’m most active on Twitter @AgrimBastard. I also have a website that I use infrequently, johnpalladino.com. And, if you’re a Facebooker, you’ll find me at facebook.com/AGrimBastardAuthor for my author page. Remove the “author” from the URL and you’ll discover my very quiet personal account.
Where to buy the book:
Universal Link: http://mybook.to/TheTrialsofAshmount