I’m splitting this interview in two parts, not because Garret is a chatty fellow (which he is), but because I have come to learn what a bite size really means on the Internet.
I met Garrett while seeking reviewers for The Scriptlings. Having sent messages to a ton of people that day and having got no answer, I was understandingly excited when I got this message from Garret, barely two minutes after writing to him:
I tried to read this all the way through, but about two paragraphs in I was like, “gimme, gimme, GIMME!!!”
Garrett Robinson is one of those artists whose creativity spans more than just one form of art. Here is what I had to say about his hilarious novel The Ninjabread Man:
This book is so funny, that I was L-ingMAO while still reading the dedication and authors’ note. It only gets better from there.
If you’re a Terry Pratchett fan, then you will be thrilled to find a winged species of Feegles amongst the main protagonists – swearing, debauchery, recklessness and all. They are so well integrated that their presence smashes the borders of mere fan art. Indeed, I daresay Pratchett himself would approve of it.
On top of finely crafted (or baked, in some cases) characters, The Ninjabread Man stands out through its impressive cinematic quality. Since one of the authors is a movie director, that should hardly come as a surprise.
What should surprise you, though, is the fact that the authors somehow contrived to include a ton of witty references pointing back to the story and characters themselves. For a relatively short story, this is an amazing feat of wordsmithing – seeing as you would normally expect this kind of fine literary device in a sequel, rather than on the original work.
Sorin: How does being an author compare to being a co-author?
Garrett: There are good parts and bad parts to both. I’m a bit of an admitted egoist, and so not having the final say as a co-author grates on me occasionally. I’m able to put aside my personal feelings and come to a compromise for the good of the story, but it doesn’t get less annoying each time—which is totally illogical, because every single time we compromise, I look back on it in retrospect and go, “Oh, yeah, that was totally the right decision.” Having a good co-author is like having a fantastic content editor. You catch each other’s gross plot inconsistencies, out-continuity, and generally weak story ideas. You also get two different viewpoints on any story problem, so it’s easier to work through each one. And you only have to do half the work on thinking up the next twists and turns in the story. It’s a really, really great way to work.
That being said, there are things I like working as a solo author. They don’t outweigh being a co-author or vice versa; it’s just different. I like having full control. I like being able to go places that a co-author won’t necessarily go. There’s something freeing about being the only one responsible for where a story will take me.
After Realm Keepers is done, I’m embarking on my solo fantasy series, the one that’s been building in me for years now. It’s very adult, very epic, and very fun. It’s important to me that it’s the best thing I ever do, so I’m probably going to write it and then sit on it for a while—maybe years. I don’t know. It’s not coming out until it’s perfect. But I’m looking forward to taking everything I’ve learned about storytelling while working with Z. C. Bolger and applying it to a solo project.
Sorin: Some people think that fantasy and humor should not mix. What would you like to do to these people? I promise I’ll help.
Garrett: I want to pat these people on the head like the little simpletons they are. Anyone who says fantasy and humor are incompatible is woefully ignorant of the genus of all modern fantasy, which is of course Tolkien. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are absolutely saturated with humor (The Hobbit more so). The antics of the hobbits, and occasionally of Gimli and Legolas, are often hilarious, both in the books and in the movies. Humor isn’t the focus of the series, but it’s an integral part. Without an occasional moment of levity and humor, the series would be a much less rich, satisfying and real place for us to spend our time.
Also, two words: Terry Pratchett.
Sorin: Then I guess I won’t be needing this crowbar… Is there any type of scene you will not apply humor to?
Garrett: Basically, I won’t apply humor to my own personal “cardinal sin” list. Most people have a list like this. It’s the things that are absolutely, totally unforgivable. Bad acts you can’t come back from.
Some authors won’t write scenes from their cardinal sin list at all. Famously, Johnny B. Truant of the Self Publishing Podcast won’t write scenes where children or animals are harmed. I don’t take it that far. Nothing is off the table in my fiction. But I won’t apply humor to certain scenes.
Rape is definitely one of them. At the end of Non Zombie, Cliff’s wife is nearly raped. Non Zombie is a humorous book, but I couldn’t have made that scene funny. It would have made me feel ill to try.
The death of parents is another big one. Many characters (in all fiction and in my own works) lose parents. It’s not a funny thing, and I’d feel terrible trying to make a joke about it. I lost my own mother a few years back, and nowadays I can’t even stomach “yo momma” jokes.
Sorin: Like I said before, The Ninjabread Man is, to a certain extent, Discworld inspired fan art, but I believe there is so much more to it – enough for Terry Pratchett himself to love it. Did you get any kind of reaction from him or from fans?
Garrett: My God, if I’d heard anything from Terry Pratchett I would have shouted that across the internets. We did get a lot of love from fans who recognized the inspiration from The Wee Free Men. It was important to me that we were very open about them in the dedication. If people enjoyed the Scotts, I hope we funneled some of them to buy Pratchett’s book.
Fortunately, we haven’t gotten any flak for the Scotts. I was afraid people would accuse us of “ripping off” Pratchett. It’s a dicey line to walk, but I see it as akin to the hobbits, or orcs. Hobbits and orcs basically didn’t exist before Tolkien, and yet now everyone uses them in their fiction. Are they ripping off Tolkien, or did he install a new creature in the collective consciousness of human art that we can all make free use of? I believe the latter.
Sorin: Did you ever meet your fans? Any juicy story you want to share?
Garrett: I’ve never met a fan in person—not in the way I think you mean. My roommate reads my books ravenously. She’s one of my biggest fans. But I knew her well before I started writing, so that doesn’t really count. And I did a live event recently at my old high school, and some of the kids there bought Midrealm. But they weren’t fans before that, so that’s different.
I came so, so close to having a beer with a reader in Florida, but his wife got ill right at the last minute. Other than that, it’s all been online interaction. Which is fantastic in its own right. I think people are freer and less inhibited on the internet, even if they’re NOT hiding behind anonymity. A person can reach out to me via email or on my website, and even if they’re a little shy or introverted in real life, they can gush about a book. It’s great. I wonder if, when Z. C. and I start doing conventions next year, we’ll have people as engaged in real life as they can be online.
This concludes the first part of the interview.