Andrew S. Cioffi was one of the first authors to feature on One Thousand Worlds and it's great to welcome him back today, as he becomes the first author to be interviewed on the blog. It's a double first, because this is the first time Andrew has been interviewed. Fantasy and Sci-fi authors wishing to be interviewed can check out the interview tab.
Andrew is offering a fantastic prize. Up for grabs is a signed copy of Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire: Book I of The Painted Shōgun, together with a signed bookmark and a signed print of the cover artwork.
Click here to read Andrew's original feature:
Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire (Book I of The Painted Shōgun) by Andrew S. Cioffi in One Thousand Words
Tell us about your latest book.
Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire is my first and only to date. It's the first book in a series called The Painted Shogun.
In terms of genre, it's an epic historical fantasy that is suitable for most age groups from YA on up.
This is my love letter to all of the Asian cultures and traditions and legends that have captivated me. It's a samurai novel, it's a story of festival Dragons, there are very real martial arts philosophies and practices, and very real emotions bound by very real custom and restraint. At times, real customs are embellished, at other times, everything is invented. My hope is that it's seamless. There's also boat loads of flaming arrows, too, and a little imagined contest that puts archers in a horse-bound joust...
The structure follows three unique and seemingly independent story lines. They intertwine and spiral towards one another as the stories progress.
The first story follows Tsukiko, who is a ten year old girl that can't sleep at night. Bad things happen where she lives, and life as she knows it changes very quickly. 'Kiko's story follows her as she plots the death of the Shogun that destroyed her village.
Michio is the second main character. He's six. His story follows him as he is entered into the rigorous training of the Yoru warriors (who are inspired by true-to-life ninja). Along the way, he meets Mizuyo, who is a silly old fisherman, always arguing with his bird. Mizuyo tests the boys spirits, while his training tests his body. He's a hell of a kid.
The third story line follows the Dragon-Riders. They train to make war. Their Dragons are the warriors, but they play an important part of village life in Onidara as well. And they are unlike any other Dragons and Riders ever written. In this story, Ginjiro is the dark horse to be the next Rider. The early front runner, though, has quite a bit to say about that.
At its heart, Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire is a folk tale, and one that I hope people find as immersive and enjoyable as I did to write.
How many books have you written?
Just the one (see the next and previous responses)... So far.
What are you working on at the moment?
At this point, I'm always writing. Currently, I'm writing Book II of the Painted Shogun series. Some of the new scenes are pretty intense and I'm thrilled with where the characters are taking me. I enjoy every moment that I spend with them.
Otherwise, I got a text about three weeks ago from my younger brother, who happens to be my cover artist. He is insanely talented. Anyway, his message was "Hey. Write a manga so I can draw it." It was a spark, and a fairly powerful one, to be differently creative. Man, it’s a challenge to write scenes that way. It's also allowed me to be collaborative, which has flexed a different set of writing muscles. We've come up with a story that I'm really proud of and his artwork so far is beautiful. It will take place in the same universe as The Painted Shogun. If the novel is my (quasi) unified and peace-time feudal Japan, the graphic novel is my warring feudal China. It will center on the titular Gongfu Mountain.
Beyond that, I have three one-off novels outlined (one actiony, one folksy, and one angsty, which is purely for giggles). There's also a series of short stories that are happening when I need a break from a fairly draining chunk of the sequel.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Ooh that's a great question. It can be tough. Especially around my family and given the way I write. But they are absolutely the secret to staying sane. I don't tell them that enough.
When I write a scene, I have to convince myself that it's believable. That often means feeling what the characters feel. It's easy to get mad, and it sucks because that one doesn't go away as easily as writing elation, but it's such an important part of some of my characters. They need to be compelling. My kids, for sure, keep me sane in those moments. I have two now, my boy Alex is three, and my daughter Rosemary is one, and we have one on the way. (If you're keeping track, that'll be three under the age of four; not sure I'll stay same for long). I'm spoiled with the most happy-go-lucky kids and those two and my wife keep me grounded.
I've also got a big extended family. There's always something going on and when we get together, they're all super supportive.
How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
Tons. But not in the obvious ways, not at first read, anyways. There are some heavy and quite painful things that the characters endure. In so many ways, my heart is with Michio. I never went through what he does, and I never want my kids to either. I've had a lot of people ask how autobiographical that stuff is. It's not, but that doesn't mean it's not very real for a lot of the kids that will read this book.
My favorite childhood memories are in there, whether it's in the face of a fisherman, the silly little sayings of a wardrobe keeper, or even a corny joke or two. They know who they are. Beyond that, it's the celebrations and the food. So much about respect and family, at least the way I was raised, is taught around a dinner table, and that's in there in spades.
I was also painfully shy growing up. I tend to be introspective. The quiet moments are more important to my writing that the bombast action scenes, even though the Dragons are attention grabbing.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
It's importance. I saw it early on. I used to love doing my homework, and I learned that I could do better if I worked at it. That excited me. Haha. As early as the second or third grade, I connected doing well in school with success later on. That's a big part of why I work in education now (I'm a disability services provider on the university level).
If you could meet any of your own characters, who would it be?
Tomogawa-Sensei. He's a gentle soul, and an honorable one. Satoshi Tomogawa is one of the school teachers at the training grounds where the Dragon-Riders learn. He is also the field medic.
"There was a doctor that lived there year round. Satoshi Tomogawa-Sensei was his name. He took care to mend the students’ injuries, cure any ailments, oversee the care of the horses, and help to keep healthy the retired Dragons that assisted with the training. He also was a teacher, instructing the students in the physiology of men, equines, and Dragons alike."
When we meet him, much of the students' training with him is over and the novelty of his way with kids has worn off, but he's got charm. He's an inquisitive mind. To me, Tomogawa is that whiz-bang teacher that you look up to as a kid. The real joy is to grow up and realize what a giant they really were. He has a lot of the characteristics that I admire, and I bet he'd have some great stories to tell over sake.
Do you have a favourite character among the ones you've invented?
Absolutely. Mizuyo. He's a blast to write. For those of you that haven't read it (yet), Mizuyo is a cormorant fisher. Fishing with cormorants is a tradition taken for the real world that is associated with some of my favorite aesthetics. There is a grand tradition of it in the book and it's an integral part of the economics of those southern islands. Most of the fishers are stoic, but there is something odd about him. If anyone inspired him, it was Rafiki from the Lion King.
I really get a kick out of exploring the 'return to child-like wonder' that some of our elders are lucky enough to experience. You see it in different ways in a few of my characters in The Painted Shogun. It's also something I'm psyched about in a new character that you'll see in Gongfu Mounain.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A pipe maker. I've done my fair share of woodworking, and a fair share of that was spent carving free-hand pipes. There is something peaceful about working with your hands. And there's not much more rewarding than a warm piece of briar in your hand. The dream would be to have a small pipe shop and be able to write, write, write. One day...
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
What do you think about when you are alone in your car?
This may sound cliché, but my stories. Especially if I get stuck. I write every single word on my phone. Every outline, every character sketch, every back story, every piece of world that I've built. When I can get my hands off of my phone and scheme, I tend to do some of my best work.
That, or how much I'm enjoying the new Dream Theater album...
What song best describes your work ethic?
Lateralus - Tool
Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire is available on Amazon.com
Find out more about Andrew S. Cioffi
Find out more about Andrew S. Cioffi