Today we feature Joshua Unruh and his fantasy novel Saga of the Myth Reaver Vol 1: Downfall. Joshua is a stay-at-home dad and professional author who refuses to think of either as being unemployed. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, his son, his father-in-law, two dogs, and absolutely no peace. Still, he manages to write a little bit. He strives to make everything he writes clever, interesting, or funny. Like Meatloaf said, two out of three ain't bad.
Joshua is a lover of genre fiction, especially superhero comics and hardboiled detectives, and this comes through in his genre-bending style. Weird Westerns, nihilistic Norse-style fantasies, YA espionage stories, and hardboiled Noir tales with shades of fantasy or science fiction are just a few examples of the twisting and warped hallways of his imagination.
What role do you believe speculative fiction plays in society?
I don't know about society, but for me, the speculative part lets me use fantastical or sci-fi elements to shine a spotlight on different bits of the world around me. If I hide it among ten-year-old supervillains and armies of robots, then the coming of age story sneaks in nearly unnoticed. If I tell a story of a talented man who wins constantly but still doesn't feel fulfilled, that's going to leave a lot of people cold. If I make the striving and winning all about killing monsters, then it almost becomes soft allegory. The speculative part lets me disarm my reader and maybe get them to think about something very commonplace in a vastly different way.
Why do you write in this genre?
The everyday world doesn't have to be boring, but the fact that it's the everyday world means we often think it is. The everyday with a touch of weird or fantastic is more exciting. Imagination is spice, whether that's monsters or flying ships powered by steam or intrepid people plying the spaceways.
How did you come up with the idea for this series?
I love Noir storytelling very much and have for my adult life (and a bit before). The poetic description of personal foibles resulting in ultimate downfalls is endlessly fascinating to me. But I'm also a lover of mythology, and during a rereading of Beowulf I realized how much epic poetry in general and Norse sagas in specific have in common with Noir.
But of course, the ways those stories were told could not be more different. I decided to try and write something with subject matter that would be at home in a saga through the lens of Noir storytelling rules and conventions.
What was your biggest challenge in writing it?
I had to find a balance between modern language and the poetic, sometimes almost stilted in its formality, language of epics and sagas. Kennings are the best example of this. Noir storytelling, especially in the hardboiled detective area, is famous for its metaphors and similes. Dead men are heavier than broken hearts and women can give looks you feel in your hip pocket.
Kennings are very like this. They're poetic other-names for things, such as calling a sword a "wound hoe," blood "life tears," or battle the "storm of spears." And of course, through all that playing with language, I had to make sure I had the rip-roaring action and visceral, gut-wrenching violence Vikings demand.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on a Batman story for the next Kindle All-Stars anthology which you can read about here. I'll have a Weird Western called Hell Bent for Leather published in the next few months (I wish I had a specific time frame, but it'll definitely be this year and probably sooner rather than later). And the latest long form thing I'm working is actually the sequel to Downfall. It's called Ascension and will be the closing chapter in The Saga of the Myth Reaver.
About The Saga of the Myth Reaver Vol 1: Downfall
Noir: Everyday men and women drowning in the murky, corrupt waters of their own flaws.
Saga: Peerless heroes fighting epic battles yet ultimately doomed to fail.
At the crossroads of these two literary traditions stands The Saga of the Myth Reaver.
The Nine Worlds have never seen a hero like Finn Styrrsson. Blessed with an unmatched thirst for victory and the supernatural strength and vigor to slake it, Finn might have been the greatest warrior-king his people had ever known. But he was born the youngest of eight princes with a conniving eldest brother who won’t abide the threat Finn poses to his rule. Despite Finn’s unfailing loyalty, he is forced from his home to forge a new destiny.Already a powerful warrior and deadly reaver, Finn discovers that he above all others is equipped to kill the monsters, the giants, the myths that besiege Midgard. He becomes the Myth Reaver and a living legend.
Yet despite his prowess and fame--indeed because of them--Finn never wins that which he most desires. His longing for home goes unfulfilled. After a lifetime spent battling dread monsters and shining demigods, Finn realizes that in all the Nine Worlds, there is only one enemy whose defeat can give him the renown he so richly deserves.
Whether it's in search of glory or a glorious death, Finn always overlooks his true enemy. That mistake will be his downfall.
Downfall is the first book in The Saga of the Myth Reaver.