Author Anton Strout on Gargoyles, Gaming and Twins

Books Entertainment

Urban Fantasy author Anton Strout is a lifelong geek with an interest in comics, video games, RPG, and various other geeky stuff, like the shows Gargoyles and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but his latest project is a little more time intensive: He and his wife welcomed twins to their family in May.

His newest book, Stonecast, comes out on September 24th, and he’s also taking part in the Worldbuilders charity run by author Patrick Rothfuss. Strout is donating one dollar from each of his preorders to Worldbuilders, and Penguin has agreed to match that up to $1,500.

In an interview with GeekDad last week, Strout talked about his writing influences, why he’s so high on Worldbuilders, and about juggling parenthood, a day job and writing. Oh, and finding time for gaming in all that.

GeekDad: What’s Stonecast about?
Anton Strout: Stonecast is the garg-tastic sequel to Alchemystic and is the second book in what is known as The Spellmason Chronicles. For centuries the Belarus family has been watched over, but only now in our modern era does artist Alexandra become aware of this fact.

Once thinking her family’s legacy lay in real estate, she has now taken up the arcane arts that helped create Stanis, the centuries old gargoyle once sworn to protect them. But with Stanis missing and the threat of a growing war with enemies from his past, Alexandra and her friends struggle to unlock the ancient secrets of Spellmasonry.

We’ve got gargoyles, alchemy, secret societies, a pole arm wielding paladin dancer, a D&D nerd running a game shop, enchanted brick golems… you name it, The Spellmason Chronicles has got it.

Hmmm… it would appear that I have written the series because I miss both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Disney’s Gargoyles cartoon.

GD: Why were you attracted to the Worldbuilders charity and how does it work?
AS: You always see those articles out there on how money gets allocated when you give to a charity. And so many of them seem to split the money so many different ways, I wondered how much of my donation ever got the actual person in need of it.

Then I saw author Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear) start his Worldbuilders charity, which gives its proceeds to Heifer International. From its inception, a metric ton of authors were rapidly getting on board with Worldbuilders, and once I heard about how the money gets used, I did too.

From Pat’s own words:
“Heifer International helps people raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. Heifer promotes education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry all over the world.

They don’t just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear, and eggs to eat.”

My money goes directly towards the purchase of those things. I like that, and a lot of other people do, too. Worldbuilders has become a phenomenal success, even I’m sure beyond Pat’s wildest imaginings.

GD: How did you get involved?
AS: It is no secret that Patrick Rothfuss and I are MUTUAL DIRE NEMESES! For goodness’ sakes, the man had fortune cookies made up calling for my death! [NOTE to GEEKDAD: see picture with email… feel free to use, as it cracks me up]

Fortune Cookie o DoomWorldbuilders is Pat’s baby, and I couldn’t just let him show me up. He’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Heifer International, and I can not live in a world where he comes off as a do-gooder. No, I could not let that stand!

So I joined in on the Worldbuilders giving, like many other authors. For the first few years I offered up signed copies of my books or auctioned off read and critiques, which I’m happy to say raised a fair amount of money.

And not too surprisingly, it felt gooood. My heart grew three sizes that day, some say. I found myself wanting to do good. Well, more good. And that’s when I came up with my preorder campaign.

I started this idea last year with Alchemystic, book one of the Spellmason Chronicles, and I’ve carried it over to the release of Stonecast, thanks to my previous success with it.

For every copy of Stonecast preordered before the book releases on September 24th, I throw in $1 to Worldbuilders. What’s cool is that for the first $1,500 of that, Penguin will match my donation, essentially doubling it. It’s a win all the way around. Readers get to try out a new book, my nemesis gets to bankrupt me, and the charity gets twice the money.

But Worldbuilders will be going on for a good chunk of this fall with a lot of cool other author giveaways, swag, rare items, and special offers. You definitely need to check it out if you haven’t already. You’ll do good, feel good, and end up with awesome things coming out of it.

Head on over to Patrick Rothfuss’ blog and check it out. I’ll wait…

GD: So how is the time management going between your writing, your day job, and your family at home?
AS: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH! *ahem* Well, with twins in the mix now, I find I have to — pardon me while I coin a few gaming terms — min-max and munchkin my way through my week. Right now, almost every waking second of every day is accounted for.

But I still have to cram the writing into it… if I want to produce a book a year, that is. I’d like to do two books this year, if I can, but we’ll see.

Here’s how I get through my day and get words down:
My day job is actually with Random House Penguin, who publish me, but trust me–it is not at nepotistic as it sounds. After all, they still have to deal with me in the halls every day. I live in New Jersey (insert your own joke here) and hand write in a notebook on my hour commute into Manhattan. I then enter that writing into my computer during my lunch break, and then hand write on my way back to New Jersey. Around ten at night I enter those words in. Those two bits where I get the words into the computer is sort of an initial edit point for me… followed many months later by more edits once the first draft is finished.

Right now, the area that gets hit the hardest time-wise every week is the gaming. It’s hard to invest in the world of Skyrim when I’ve got my own literary worlds to create, but I try to fit a little gaming in when I can. Sometimes I reward my writing accomplishments with time in games, but even that had been very limited this year.

But if I make the bestseller list, maybe I can free up some part of my day to fit in my growing pile of games… Tomb Raider, The Walking Dead, Dishonoured (a replay of Baldur’s Gate on the iPad), the upcoming LEGO Marvel Super Heroes… *weeps*

GD: Your biography says you’re a video gamer and an RPG-player. What are your favorite games?
AS: Well I named the main character from my first series (Simon Canderous) after a Mandalorian warrior from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, if that tells you anything. And there’s a Manhattan game store called “Roll For Initiative” in Stonecast. I might also have snuck in the Monster Manual and a Water Weird.

Other video games… let’s see. Loved the old style Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, all the LEGO games, the Grand Theft Autos, Bioshock. I love swinging around Manhattan in just about any Spider-Man game. Sometimes I forget to do the missions because I’m so happy just swinging around. And The Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time holds a special place in my heart. Probably the first game to move me, to make me cry. Something about the transitions back and forth from childhood to adulthood left a very bittersweet feeling in me. That’s when I realized the narrative power that video games could have as art and entertainment.

Tabletop-wise, I cut my teeth on old school Dungeons & Dragons growing up, and have been going to Gen Con for the past fifteen years or so, even though I don’t have the time for the game these days. I loved Call of Cthulhu, Top Secret, Marvel Superheroes.

These days I really only have time for more short term games: Munchkin Zombies!, Gloom, Zombie Dice, Cards Against Humanity. As book deadlines approach, I need games with finite goals that end so I can get back to writing.

GD: What’s your favorite geeky memory? Have you worked any of your geek interests into your books?
AS: I remember very specifically going to see The Empire Strikes Back. I was ten, and the movie theater was one of the old Gothic-y Main Street types.

I remember A New Hope and Return of the Jedi too, sure, but Empire blew me away. It was an effing cliffhanger, after all! And the reveal (super retro spoiler alert here) that Darth Vader was Luke’s father blew my tiny ten-year-old brains across the theater.

I rushed home and spastically told my family all about it, drawing blank eyed stares from my grandparents. I then spent my allowance on as many packs of trading cards — the kind with stickers in them, not gum at that point–and practically carried around the one of Luke dangling one handed in Cloud City as Darth reached out to him after the big reveal.

My proudest geek moment as a kid, however, came when I beat Dragon’s Lair on one quarter at the local arcade. I ran three miles to go tell someone… damn you pre-cell phone era! *shakes fist at the past*

GD: Does your wife share your interests?
AS: When we met, I wouldn’t have thought so.

She tells me she previously hadn’t dated anyone who had played Dungeons & Dragons, and there was a little trepidation oh her part. I may have had to convince her to give it a try. But no, when we met, I didn’t think she necessarily shared my interests, not that she would have had to. I’d hate being with someone just like me.


But one day we were playing old school Super Mario Brothers on my Wii and I watch her go and hit all the secret areas on one of the levels without a second of hesitation. Then she downloaded Bonk’s Adventure and I realize she had some serious skills on all the old world games. My wife was a closet gamer!

She’s partial to local co-op games or ones where you make with the smashy-smashy for loot, but we’ve logged a lot of hours over the past eight years on a variety of games. And though it hurts me to confess it… she’s also a natural talent, and I geekrage at how she handily beats me at a lot of them.

She’s also a fan of a lot of the superhero movies I love and The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. She’s been to the full orchestral Lord of the Rings concerts at Radio City Music Hall with me.

Either she truly likes the stuff or she’s really good at indulging me. Whichever way it is, it works.

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