Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” For writer Jennifer Roberson, however, her newest journey begins with Life And Limb (hardcover, Kindle), the first book in Blood And Bone, a new, ongoing series of cowboy-flavored urban fantasy novels. In the following email interview, Roberson discusses what inspired and influenced this first installment, including the impact her pooches had on her process.
Photo Credit: © Ali Cox
To start, what is Life And Limb about?
It’s The End Of Days, and two perfectly ordinary young men who are strangers to one another have been conscripted to join the heavenly host in a battle against Lucifer’s spec ops troops: demons who now inhabit characters from fiction, history, myths, legends, and folklore. But Gabe and Remi — an ex-con biker and Texas cowboy — must also come to grips with the unwelcome discovery that they themselves are not entirely human, even as they climb the steepest of learning curves.
It’s myth, and magic; gods and goddesses; angels and agendas.
Where did you get the original idea for Life And Limb, and how, if at all, did the story change as you wrote it?
I like “buddy” books, TV shows, and movies. Butch and Sundance, Mulder and Scully, Aziraphale and Crowley, etc. Originally I wanted to feature a male / female pairing but I realized the books would probably end up sounding too much like Tiger and Del from my Sword-Dancer series, especially as it’s a first-person male narrator, so I swapped it out for two guys. And I’m very glad I did because it gave me Remi. Gabe the biker was always intended to be the narrator, but when Remi popped into my head — drawing on my own experience around cowboys and rodeos — I felt I’d hit on something different, and fun. But I’m a very organic writer, and because cosmology and lore is so vast, the story will keep changing as I introduce new characters and challenges.
Life And Limb is an urban fantasy tale. But are there other genres, subgenres, or combinations of them at work in this story as well?
My editor describes it as a “dark fantasy Western,” which I realized is entirely apropos. Because Remi is a cowboy, and from Texas at that, there is indeed a strong Western flavor. He’s the classic hero striding down the streets of Tombstone or Dodge City to meet seemingly insurmountable odds at high noon. But there’s also, in Gabe, the modern equivalent featuring a leather-clad gunslinger mounted on a very different kind of horse.
Prior to writing Life And Limb, you wrote a number of novels, including eight each in the Sword-Dancer Saga and the Chronicles Of The Cheysuli series. Are there are any writers or specific stories who had a big influence on Life And Limb, but not on anything else you’ve written?
With Life and Limb being very different from my epic and adventure fantasy, I am trying to build my own skewed, occasionally screwball version of events. In the midst of all the sturm and drang of the battle to save the world, we’ve got a biker protagonist who is an unabashed fan of fantasy and science fiction, and a country music-loving cowboy with all the mannerisms and philosophy of Texas. Both bring their own senses of humor, and that plays an important role. So while my books are very different, of course, I think you can see a faint flavor of Jim Butcher and Terry Pratchett. Maybe just a few grains of their talented salt.
What about non-literary influences, such as movies, TV shows, or video games; did any of them have an influence on Life And Limb?
Movies and TV shows most definitely. I intend it to be a very visceral, visual series, and it harkens to many of the archetypes and themes found in so many shows and films. I call it a “kitchen sink” series in that everything and the kitchen sink will be thrown into the mix, including literature, pop culture, movies, myth, and music. There are homages and references to many favorite f/sf shows. I think readers will sense overtones of popular genre shows such as X-Files, Supernatural, Once Upon A Time, Grimm, Highlander, and others.
And what about your side gig as a breeder and exhibitor of Cardigan Welsh Corgis; how did that impact Life And Limb? Because I know a lot of Corgi owners, and they are obsessed with their dogs.
I am obsessed with my dogs, as anyone who knows me personally or hangs out on my Facebook feed is aware. They impacted Life And Limb because they made me get up from the computer to play with them, which gave me a needed break. They also accompany me when I’m outside in the yard pacing and plotting. And because Corgis are very silly, happy, funny dogs and they make me laugh.
Now, Life And Limb is the first book in a series you’re calling Blood & Bone. What can you tell us about this series in terms of whether it’s going to be an ongoing one or a set number of books?
It will be an ongoing series. When you mix in cosmologies and oral histories from various cultures across centuries and locations, mythical and real, you’ve got a lot to drive the story forward. The battle between Good and Evil is endemic to every culture.
So do you know how many books there might be, what they’re called, and when might they be out?
Because it’s an open-ended series I can’t predict how many volumes there will be, but I can say that the second, Sinners And Saints, has been scheduled for March 2021.
Nice. Earlier I asked if Life And Limb had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, and video games. But has there been any interest in making a movie, show, or game out of Life And Limb and the Blood & Bone series?
At this very early juncture, no. Perhaps once the series has legs under it. That would be fun.
Do you have a preference to how it’s adapted?
I do think it’s tailor-made for a limited series on a streaming provider such as Netflix, HBO, Amazon, and others. Because I feel like I’m in the middle of our contemporary world, since it is the one I know, it feels more like a movie or TV show than traditional fantasy novels do. There have been options taken on the Sword-Dancer series and my Robin Hood and Scottish historical novels, but I think it’s too early for Blood & Bone to make the list of possibles.
If that happens, do you have any casting suggestions?
There is definitely one actor I’d love to see in a role, since I pictured him as I created the character. That would be [A Star Is Born‘s] Sam Elliott as “Granddaddy.”
And would you want to work as the Corgi wrangler on it, or would you leave that job to someone else?
Well, so far the only canines in the series are black dogs, the barghests of folklore, and they don’t take wrangling very well.
Finally, if someone enjoys Life And Limb, what urban fantasy novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for Sinners And Saints to come out?
I am reluctant to name names because I always fear I’ll leave someone out, but first I’d send younger readers back to the man I consider the father of modern urban fantasy, and that’s Charles de Lint. He repopularized it. But I’d also direct them to Tim Powers. He is not known as an urban fantasy author per se, but many of his novels, in my mind, qualify. For the authors who have taken the genre and run with it in new ways, I’d again cite Jim Butcher, but also Tad Williams and his Dirty Streets Of Heaven.