J.M. McDermott published his first novel, Last Dragon, in January, 2008 under the Wizards of the Coast Discoveries program. Last Dragon drew immediate praise from both fans and critics for its stylistic prose and unconventional narrative structure. The book went on to make the ‘Editors Choice’ top ten at Amazon.com.
Apex Publications published the eBook versions of Last Dragon in June, 2009. In 2011, Apex re-issued the print version.
Prior to the publication of Last Dragon, McDermott was a prolific short fiction and poetry writer. His work has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, GUD, Dark Recesses, and more. He maintains an active blog at jmmcdermott.blogspot.com.
JS: It’s fun reading reviews of Last Dragon. Critics often struggle to describe the book in any meaningful fashion. Outside of calling Last Dragon ‘dark fantasy’, do you label it as any current sub-genre type of fiction?
JMM: I’ve always called it, to myself and others as ‘anti-epic’ fantasy, wherein I am intentionally doing everything that makes epic fantasy ‘Epic Fantasy’ completely and totally backwards. By doing this, I think I’m pushing what is possible for a genre book to be. I’ve been known to describe the book as ‘Pulp Fiction’-stle epic fantasy with non-linearity and high artistry done in a genre with little history of it, with an emphasis on the personal interactions between these characters more than on their deeds.
I actually see a lot of similarities to my book and to whatever it is that is developing in the slow burn down from New Weird, especially the work of writers like Sarah Monette and Hal Duncan, who are both brilliant. I hadn’t seen any of their stuff, obviously, when I was writing the book seven or eight years ago, but I think we probably share a lot of influences, or perhaps influences of influences.
These days, when people ask me to describe my book, I often just shrug and advise them to google. It’s been a few years, and I think critics have done an excellent job describing the book. Even reviewers that didn’t care for the book communicate successfully what it is the reader will experience, and I know I’m very grateful to them all for that.
It’s a dense book, surprisingly long for it’s relatively short length, and it is difficult to explicate exactly everything I was trying to convey in some sort of a manageable soundbyte.
Look, just check it out for yourself. Fictionwise will let you read a whole chapter for free, right?
JS: I’m delighted you queried us in regards to the e-rights for Last Dragon. You could have went to a number of larger e-book publishers, so why Apex?
JMM: First, I have to say, that I was especially interested in an eBook because I had heard from reader who, for whatever reason, have difficultly acquiring paper editions of books. I had gotten in the habit of just shooting them a PDF I had slapped together if they promised not to be book pirates. I think it’s safe to assume that readers are basically well-intentioned, upstanding individuals, and trustworthy. Thus far, I’ve been proven correct.
Then, one day, it occurred to me that I actually owned eBook rights to my book. I poked around a couple afternoons to figure out what to do with these rights. This is where Apex comes in.
Apex is one of the highly-respected indie shops active in the genre that gets titles reviewed everywhere genre books are reviewed. When I noticed Apex was getting the eBook editions for sale at every eBook store I could think of, and more, with good cover art, querying them about this little side project entered the realm of a no-brainer. I want my book up for sale everywhere it can be sold, so every reader can find it in the format they prefer, and I want it competitively priced so my readers can afford it.
Apex was the first shop I explicitly queried about doing an eBook.
JS: Your use of language in Last Dragon is to be commended. Are you secretly a Pulitzer-winning poet?
JMM: No. I am, however, a Rhysling-nominated poet, right this moment, in the Long-Form category, for “3 Poems called Cosmic” in Abyss & Apex’s third quarter issue, 2008.
JS: I found it interested in how you portrayed the book’s female protagonist, Zahn, in such an unconventional manner. She’s not especially likable, kills plenty of people, and isn’t looking for love. Do you plan on bringing her back for a sequel?
JMM: No sequels. This book was, to me, about culling down a multi-book epic fantasy series into one, and only one, tome. The entire story is already told. If there were any sort of sequel involved, it wouldn’t be with any of the main characters, and it would probably need to be in a very different, unexplored region of the world. Even then, it would require multiple wheelbarrows full of money and public outcry on par with a Presidential election. I’d also be—rightfully—accused of “selling out”.
JS: Do you have any books coming out that we should know about?
JMM: Some writers seem to have a book coming out every single year. They write a strange book. They sell the strange book to a major publisher. We read the strange book. Boom Boom Boom, over and over.
I’ve actually gotten very close to the end of another book that my agent has politely suggested might not be New York Times bestseller material. I’m polishing it up, with my agent’s gentle guidance and the borrowed eyes of some trusted friends. Hopefully, when we’re done, this strange book might actually be marketable.
In the meantime, I write short stories and poems. My next short story should be out from Weird Tales, soon. I’ve got more on the way, from a few other notable folks. Poking around on my blog should point anyone who’s curious to lots and lots of things already in the world, and keep you informed of what’s coming next at jmmcdermott.blogspot.com).
JS: As always, a pleasure, thank you for the interview.
JMM: Thanks for your time, everyone, and I hope you enjoy reading my book!