Exclusive Interview: “Curse Of The Bastards” Co-Authors Brian Keene & Steven L. Shrewsbury

 

With Curse Of The Bastards (paperback, Kindle), writers Brian Keene and Steven L. Shrewsbury are sending their aged savage Rogan on yet another adventure. But as they explain in the following email interview, this time…it’s personal.

Brian Keene Steven L. Shrewsbury Curse Of The Bastards King Of The Bastards Throne Of The Bastards The Rogan Series

Brian Keene, Steven L. Shrewsbury

(Brian Keene Photo Copyright: John Urbancik, 2014)

 

For those who haven’t read the first two books, King Of The Bastards and Throne Of The Bastards, what is The Rogan Series about, and what kind of a world does it take place in?

Steven: Rogan is an aged savage, had been around the world (a realm before the great flood where a lot of things were different), fought his way into a kingdom, and then gave it up. He still is roaming out there with his nephew, the archer Javan, seeking to see what lies over the next hill. The world is rife with bad folk, devils, monsters, Nephilims, and whatnot.

Brian: It was inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age, which was a big influence on us both. But very different from that, as well, just as Rogan is very different from most traditional sword and sorcery characters. Steve has written solo tales of when the character was younger, but when we meet him in the first book, King Of The Bastards, he’s old and retired. He doesn’t want to fight for kingdoms or armies or be involved with politics and the minutiae of civilization anymore. He doesn’t necessarily even want to fight any longer. But people keep forcing his hand.

And then for those who have read the first two books, and thus can ignore me writing SPOILER WARNING in all-caps, what is Curse Of The Bastards about, and how does it connect to the previous book, Throne Of The Bastards?

Steven: It takes place a bit after Throne, but is an independent book. If you have never read the first two, this is an easy adventure on its own. Far from the other two works, this one takes place more in the cradle of civilization, in the land of Nodd. Rogan and his crew encounter the daughter of famed merc Gorias La Gaul determined to take on the forces within Nodd. Rogan doesn’t want to help, but is forced to when his nephew is kidnapped and taken within Nodd. They then encounter all manner of bad folks and a General sporting the soul of a dragon…rebuilding the body of a dragon for himself.

Brian: And that age thing is even more prevalent. Rogan realizes he is quickly approaching the end of his saga. He’s noticing how the heroes and legends he looked up to are now forgotten, and — although he’d never admit it out loud — he’s fearful that the same thing may happen to him.

When in the process of writing King Of The Bastards and Throne Of The Bastards did you come up with the idea for Curse Of The Bastards?

Steven: Brian was talking of visiting the home of Hunter S. Thompson and how someone nearby had no idea who that was…and that is how Curse starts, with Rogan visiting the home of the late Gorias La Gaul, his hero, and how no one cares…and the thought occurs to him will that be that way with him? Just a fable on bar songs? Thus he comes to terms with such an idea in this book.

Brian: [laughs] It wasn’t just someone nearby. It was the mail carrier. You would think the mail carrier would know a historic location like that was on their route. But yeah. That bothered me. Nobody I talked to in Hunter S. Thompson’s hometown knew who he was. And if he could be so easily forgotten, then what about the rest of us writers?

Even before you mentioned him, it seemed like Throne Of The Bastards, King Of The Bastards, and Curse Of The Bastards were are all fantasy novels, but more in the vein of Robert E. Howard’s Conan The Barbarian stories than J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. Is that how you’d describe them?

Steven: It is more Howard than Tolkien: bawdy, raw, and brutal. It is sword & sorcery with many horror elements in it, and plenty of fantasy, but not the usual tropes, per se.

Brian: Exactly. If you’re looking for elaborate descriptions of royal meals and the interior designs of elven palaces, you’re going to be disappointed. Those things are fine. No judgement on those who enjoy that. But it’s not what these books are.

Moving on to the always popular questions about influences, are there any writers, or specific stories, who you each think had a big influence on Curse Of The Bastards but not on any of your other novels, and especially not King Of The Bastards and Throne Of The Bastards?

Steven: Howard, of course, but surely Karl Edward Wagner and Manly Wade Wellman. I read many historical non-fiction works about pre-flood times, and the possible location of Nodd. Some of that bleeds into a work like Curse. Stuff like Thor Heyerdayl’s Search For Odin as well.

Brian: Same for me. Howard. Wagner. Wellman. And I’d add Lin Carter’s Thongor, and an oft-forgotten Marvel Comics character created by Steve Gerber: Korrek the barbarian.

What about non-literary influences; was Curse Of The Bastards influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?

Steven: Perhaps the music of Black Sabbath’s 13 and Johnny Cash’s Live At Folsom, which played a lot as things formed. I have that Ancient Aliens show on at times, not that I believe much of it, but the places are cool to see.

Brian: I always listen to music while I write, but it’s at random, so while music certainly is an influence, I can’t think of anything in particular.

And Steven, what about your cat? Aside from often taking over your writing chair, how else do you think they influenced Curse Of The Bastards?

Steven: Kiki (or Zenobia) was a female when they spayed her, but I think she defines herself as Overlord and Queen Of The House. She showed up after Curse was wrapped, though. She is beside me each morning as I write these days now, if I’m on the couch.

Queen Kiki, First Of Her Name, Overlord, Queen Of The House, Taker Of Chairs

 

As we’ve been discussing, Curse Of The Bastards is the third book of The Rogan Series. What can you tell us about this series? Is it an ongoing thing, a set number of books like a trilogy…?

Steven: Rogan is older in these three, but I am doing a series of books that shows him as a younger guy, and how he grew to be more jaded. The first of these, Killer Of Giants, was just released by Seventh Star Press. He is 24 in that one. Others will follow in time, but I have no set amount in mind. Bladespell is the sequel to Killer, and I’m working on one that follows that right now with the kitty beside me. I do have two others in mind that take place after Curse, one inspired by smart ass remarks by Brian playing Rainbow songs, but that is another matter. In time, Rogan will run up against the great flood…

Brian: I think, for me, I’ve written about what I wanted to write about with this character — getting older. But I would never think of Rogan as my character. He’s Steve’s, one hundred percent. I know Steve has other stories to tell about him, and I think they should be his to tell, alone. But I will be first in line to read them.

I asked earlier if Curse Of The Bastards had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think it, and the rest of The Rogan Series, could work as a series of movies, a TV show, or a game?

Steven: it could be a series like Game Of Thrones or Last Kingdom. A stand-alone film might be okay, too, mixing King Of The Bastards and Throne Of The Bastards.

Brian: But we have to be careful what we say…it is currently making the rounds with some of the streamers as a pitch.

And if one of them gives you the green light, who would you want them to cast as Rogan and the other main characters?

Steven: Lord, I dunno. If Sam Elliot mated with Jason Momoa…but offhand. Meh. Rory McCann perhaps, aged.

Brian: It’s got to be somebody in their 70s, but still with physical and mental gravitas. Someone who still smolders. Jonathan Banks (who plays Mike on both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul) has the personality and the expressiveness and the sheer emotional weight. But he’d need a wig. [laughs]. Jeff Bridges, possibly? Sam Elliot if they beefed him up a little?

Kind of surprised neither of you said Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s 74. Anyway, is there anything else you think people should know about Curse Of The Bastards?

Steven: It’s not a typical sword & sorcery tale, but not for the squeamish. It has a cool undead dragon in it.

Brian: Yeah. Zombie dragon. If you just read those two words and got excited, then this is the book for you.

Brian Keene Steven L. Shrewsbury Curse Of The Bastards King Of The Bastards Throne Of The Bastards The Rogan Series

Lastly, Brian, if someone enjoys Curse Of The Bastards and the rest of The Rogan Series, which novel of Steven’s would you suggest they read next? And Steven, same question for you about Brian’s oeuvre.

Brian: Check out Killer Of Giants. It’s a tale of a younger, less-grizzled Rogan. I loved it.

Steven: I suggest The Lost Level, as it captures the adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs and more in a raw light.

 

 

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