With Smells Like Finn Spirit (hardcover, digital, audiobook), writer Randy Henderson concludes the funny, off-beat fantasy trilogy he began with 2015’s Finn Fancy Necromancy and continued with 2016’s Bigfootlose And Finn Fancy Free. But while Smells Like Finn Spirit may be the end of this story cycle, it may not be the end of this series, as Henderson explained when I queried him about this “final” chapter.
To start, what is Smells Like Finn Spirit about and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous two books?
Smells Like Finn Spirit is the song in your heart, the first rays of the spring sun after a long and bitter winter, the first sip of a perfect peanut butter milkshake, the…
Oh wait, no, that’s Love. I always get the two confused for some reason.
Smells Like Finn Spirit is a darkly humorous contemporary fantasy set in the Pacific Northwest, with a slight detour into the Fey Other Realm. Finn is a magic user from a comically dysfunctional family of magic users who gets caught up in saving the world from some really jerky arcana supremacists, when all he really wants to do is play some classic video games and have quality time with his girlfriend.
This book takes place three months after the events in Bigfootloose And Finn Fancy Free, when Finn is dealing with the aftermath of the terrible events, and of his hard choices, in that book.
When you and I spoke previously about Bigfootlose And Finn Fancy Free [which you can read here], you said that you had, “mapped out high level concepts for the next seven or so books to start” but that you had also come up with, “two and three book story arcs.” How different, if at all, is Smells Like Finn Spirit from what you originally planned it to be, and what prompted those changes?
Smells Like Finn Spirit is exactly what I had planned, insofar as it completes a three-book story arc and makes for a nice self-contained trilogy with the first two books. Should Tor [the books’ publisher] decide they want more Finn books, I have a two-book arc planned for the next couple of books, then another three-book arc after that.
I planned them out this way not only because I enjoy multi-book story arcs, but also because the traditional publishing industry is a strange and fickle beast, understandably driven largely by financial decisions. This way, I could go contract to contract, trying to get a contract for just enough books to complete the next arc. Then, when the series inevitably reaches its end, I will not leave readers hanging in the middle of a developing storyline.
As you were writing Smells Like Finn Spirit, did you ever think that maybe this shouldn’t be the end of this story arc?
Well, not until you asked me! Now I’m having all kinds of doubts. Is it too late to recall all of the books and ask everyone to forget what they read so I can make a quick change? It is?
Along the same lines, did you ever think to do something in Smells Like Finn Spirit, but then realize you couldn’t because of something you’d done in Finn Fancy Necromancy or Bigfootlose And Finn Fancy Free?
Honestly, I sometimes just ignored such problems and wrote whatever I wanted anyway. This series for me was more about having fun than worrying that a reader was going to catch the fact that you turned left in the Jefferies tube to reach the Omega 13 in book one, but then I made folks turn right to reach it in book three.
Not to say I ignored my own rules entirely, especially on the big stuff. But if the story I was telling in the current book needed the character to do something for maximum awesomeness or emotional impact, I didn’t let any minor contradiction get in the way of the storytelling.
Certainly, I had not planned to write a series from the start, so when book one sold and I had to write the next two books on deadline, I basically had to make them up quickly as I went along, which increased the likelihood of this kind of issue. For my next series I am definitely plotting all of the books out in advance, at least at a high level, to help reduce the odds I will run into such problems.
Obviously, readers will get more out of Smells Like Finn Spirit if they read Finn Fancy Necromancy and Bigfootlose And Finn Fancy Free first. But does Smells Like Finn Spirit stand on its own, or do people have to read those other books first to know what’s going on?
Smells Like Finn Spirit is when a lot of developing relationships and conflicts from the first two books come to a head. So if you do not read the first two books, you’ll be missing some of the emotional and narrative depth, such as it is.
I do of course give reminders in the first chapter of what came before, because even if you have read the first two books there may have been a gap of months before you got to Smells Like Finn Spirit, and it is likely you’ve forgotten what happened anyway. So you could probably get away with reading it standalone, especially just as a strictly fast-paced adventure story. But I honestly wouldn’t recommend it.
So do you think there are any writers or specific books that influenced Smells Like Finn Spirit that were not an influence on Finn Fancy Necromancy and Bigfootlose And Finn Fancy Free?
Shakespeare. You may not have heard of him. I think I pretty much discovered him before anyone else, just saying. He’s going to be big. I said it here, so now there’s proof I said it first.
What about non-literary influences, do you see any movies, TV shows, comics, or video games that had an impact on Smells Like Finn Spirit? Besides Nirvana’s Nevermind album, of course.
Smells Like Finn Spirit features a lot more video game influences than the previous two books. In fact, two scenes feature very strong and obvious video game influences. I won’t say which games, but they are mostly arcade and Nintendo games from the early 1990s.
Since this trilogy is done, and your Finn stories are done for now, do you know what you’re going to write next?
I am working on a second-world epic fantasy series that I am extremely excited about. And I have a magepunk YA waiting in the wings for me to tackle as well. I feel both could be truly great series, especially since I feel I’ve grown and learned a lot in writing the Finn books, and I am filled with all of the hopes and doubts and angst a writer is filled with when creating a new story with new characters. It is wonderful and frightening both.
Has there been any talk of turning Finn Fancy Necromancy or this series as a whole into movies or a TV show?
No real talk of it except from readers.
Objectively, I think Finn Fancy would make a perfect television series, like The Addams Family or Arrested Development meets Supernatural. Maybe Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps will pick it up. He seems to appreciate a cool ’80s vibe. [Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps produces the show Stranger Things.]
I always said, if someone wanted to make a TV series out of these books, I’d take the check and let them do whatever they wanted. They’re all about the fun and the adventure and relationships, it isn’t about a specific storyline to me. And stressing too much about what someone else is doing with my material would just lead to madness and distraction.
If it was going to be made into a TV show or movie, who would you like them to cast in the main roles and why?
Well, Finn started out as basically me with magic. So, you know, Hugh Jackman would be an obvious choice appearance-wise. But he doesn’t quite fit the role.
So I guess anyone they wanted. I would want them to keep Reggie and Dawn as African American. Finn’s grandmother was Mexican, so if that were reflected in the casting choices that would be nice. And keep Sammy and Reggie as gay. Otherwise, anyone who can play both humor and drama well. Or looked good enough playing it badly that people still watched. Whatever works.
Finally, if someone has read these three books, what would you suggest they read next and why?
Well, if you’re are looking for something along the lines of the Finn Fancy books, then I’d say the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, one of Lish McBride’s YA fantasy series starting with Hold Me Closer Necromancer or Firebug, Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines, or anything by Christopher Moore.