Interview with Chadwick Ginther, Author of THUNDER ROAD
Chadwick Ginther is a Canadian author based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His short stories have found a home in On Spec, Tesseracts and the Fungi anthology from Innsmouth Free Press; his reviews and interviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, The Winnipeg Review and Prairie Books NOW. A bookseller for over ten years, when
he’s not writing his own stories, he’s selling everyone else’s. His first novel, Thunder Road, is now out from Ravenstone books. He was kind enough to answer some questions about himself and his work.
Paul Weimer: Who is Chadwick Ginther?
Chadwick Ginther: The short answer is that I am a reader and a writer. I learned to read at very young age from comic books, hard wiring my brain for the mythological and fantastic and I’ve never looked back. I’ve worked a variety of jobs in my time, but most of my adult life has been spent as a bookseller. (As addictions go, books are about as good as it gets.) I’ve written stories almost as long as I’ve been reading them, but it was working in a bookstore and seeing authors launching their books almost every day that really kicked me in the butt and made me decide to take the craft seriously and start submitting my work.
My debut novel, Thunder Road, released in September 2012 and the next book in the series, Tombstone Blues, is due this fall.
PW: Thunder Road is your first novel, and you have some stories under your belt as well. Even with a brain wired for the mythological, what drew you to use Norse mythology in particular, in Thunder Road?
CG: Norse mythology is my favorite myth cycle, even if I came across the Greek myths first. When I found D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myth in my hometown library, I checked it out so many times that the librarian finally suggested that “maybe another little boy wanted to learn about mythology,” but to her credit, she never stopped me from reading it one more time, and I never stopped. There was something about Thor and Odin and Loki that made them feel more relatable–more human–to me and that made them a good fit for my blue collar protagonist, Ted Callan.
I also like writing about my home, and if you look around the province of Manitoba, Norse mythology is everywhere. A large population of Icelanders settled here in the late 1800s and they brought their myths with them. There are towns named Gimli and Baldur; a rural municipality named Bifrost. Manitoba also a lot of wilderness and folk tales of Sasquatch and lake serpent sightings. What a perfect place for a writer to hide giants and dragons!
PW: Without getting too much into spoilers, it becomes clear in Thunder Road that the events from the perspective of the mythological beings takes place after Ragnarok. What was the inspiration for setting the novel “After the end”?
CG: Ragnarok is a great story, but it’s been also been told and retold many times. I read a lot of Marvel’s Thor comics growing up, and they’ve done the Ragnarok cycle at least twice that I can remember, and I always felt that what they did immediately afterwards was more interesting. It was new. There are enough gods and goddesses that are said to survive Ragnarok and (and enough that aren’t specifically mentioned as having died) that I felt I had more than enough material to work with. Setting Thunder Road post-Ragnarok also allowed me to acknowledge to Norse myth fans that all of those great legends happened. I won’t be changing your favorite tale to suit my story, I’ll be telling my own story with a few faces that might be familiar to you.
PW: Ted Callan, as you said before, is a fully blue-collar hero. Former oilfield worker, working class, beloved old car. Given the usual contrasts for such characters (e.g. Thor as Dr. Donald Blake), what was the motivation to make a mythologicalized character out of a working class man. What do you think that brought to the story?
CG: I grew up around farmers and mechanics and there was something about the working class voice that spoke to me as a writer. One of the reasons why I enjoy reading (and writing) urban fantasy is the juxtaposition of the magical and the mundane. I wanted to take a strong, confident man, who’d always thought himself capable of handling anything, and then confront him with threats completely beyond his understanding. For that reason, I also didn’t want a character who started with any real grounding in the mythological or belief in the supernatural. As Ted learned about the world he’d been thrust into, it helped to explain the Norse myths to readers who might be unfamiliar with the sagas. I also thought about the kind of person who didn’t suffer fools lightly would be irritated by traveling with a seer and a shapeshifter and there would be good conflict in the character interactions.
PW: What surprised you in the writing of the book? Are you an extensive outliner, or a pantser? How much of the story as it unfolded surprised you as the author?
CG: I am definitely a pantser. The closest I come to an outline is making a soundtrack for my stories, and arranging the songs to flow like story beats. I’ll listen to that soundtrack when I write or take it for a walk or a drive if I ever get stuck.
There wasn’t much of a plan when I started writing Thunder Road. I had just finished a sword and sorcery project and I wanted a change. I knew that I wanted magic to intrude on the life of a blue collar guy, but that was about it. I wasn’t even sure that Thunder Road was going to be a novel or a short story when I started. The first scene I wrote was from Chapter 2; Ted’s unfortunate first night in a hotel in Winnipeg, and I wondered, “Who is this guy, and how did he end up here?” After I went back and wrote until I caught up to that scene, I was hooked on his voice. Since I’d already included dwarves and some Norse references, I knew that I’d carry that forward, but the entire writing of the book was like driving at night. I could just far enough ahead to keep going forward, without being able to see my destination until I arrived there.
My most consistent surprise was the character of Loki. Not so much that he did show up, but when, and where, and what he’d do when he got there. He was simultaneously the most fun and most difficult part of the novel to write–which I thinks suits a trickster perfectly.
PW: Speaking of that soundtrack, some authors do like to create soundtracks or aural companions to their novel. What sorts of songs are on the soundtrack for Thunder Road. Is there a list of them somewhere?
CG: The Thunder Road soundtrack is mostly a mix of classic and modern rock, although I also pull from industrial, classic country, and blues when I write. I like songs that are full of huge bombast or deep melancholy, which thematically fits the Norse myths quite well. Thunder Road‘s title–and its chapter titles–are also cribbed from songs, and while those titles don’t always match the final soundtrack, I do try to match them to the feel of each individual piece of writing. As for the full soundtrack, the blog As You Were hosted me for a guest post leading up to the launch of Thunder Road, and there is a complete list of the soundtrack in that post.
PW: The description of how you started to write the novel reminds me of how Roger Zelazny opened and started writing Nine Princes in Amber. What authors influenced you and your writing style and techniques?
CG: Oh, I love Roger Zelazny! If I am ever pinned into a corner and forced to admit to a favorite book I’ll list Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles (something of a cheat to list a ten book series, but it’s so hard to choose!) so he is definitely an influence. Guy Gavriel Kay was the first writer I knew to be a Canadian (and to have lived in my home province) and somehow that made the idea of becoming a writer more believable. Writers always came from somewhere else to me then, somewhere glamorous–London, Paris, New York. To my mind they didn’t come from Canada and they certainly didn’t come from rural Manitoba. When I was first starting out writing fiction, I stumbled across the wealth of writing advice that Robert J. Sawyer has posted on his website and that helped me to know what to do to self-edit and polish up those rough words into something worth submitting. Robert even critiqued the first chapter of Thunder Road while acting as a writer-in-residence in Saskatoon. It was another Winnipeg writer, the late Michael Van Rooy, who first told me I was ready to submit my work and gave me the push I needed to click “send” that first time. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series started just as I became serious about writing and getting published. Reading those books made me want to move my fantasy from a secondary world to our world. Joe R. Lansdale, who can bring rural settings to life and make poetry out of profanity, is a master of so many genres, and I’ll read anything that man puts to the page.
I feel I need to list two others who are not known as novelists, but influenced me all the same. I learned to read with comic books and Chris Claremont’s epic run on Uncanny X-Men was a companion for much of my youth. Also, Gary Gygax, because the very first stories I ever told were told through the lens of the Dungeons and Dragons game and I came to love creating characters and adventures long before I considered writing them down.
PW: Thunder Road is now out (in Canada anyway). What next can people expect from you? Any conventions in your future?
CG: My second book, Tombstone Blues, releases this fall, so I’m in the final stages of worrying about it while I’m in the home stretch of my discovery draft for the final book in the Thunder Road Trilogy.
As for appearances, I have a few in the near future. In August I’ll be reading from Thunder Road as a part of Islendingadagurrin, Manitoba’s Icelandic Festival, and attending When Words Collide in Calgary (one of my favorite Canadian conventions!). Can-Con in Ottawa is hosting the Prix Aurora Awards and since Thunder Road is nominated for Best Novel, I’ll be there in October.
PW: One last bit: How and where can readers find you on the internet?
I’m on Twitter as @chadwickginther and on Facebook. Thunder Road has its own Facebook page where I try to post most of the book and mythology related things. If people want to read my ramblings on mythology, writing, movies and comics, I blog about them on my website. Please stop by and say hello!
Thanks again for taking the time to read Thunder Road, Paul. And for doing this interview. Much appreciated!
PW: Thank you, Chadwick!
Filed under: Interviews
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