Book Name: Guardian of the Sky Realms
Author: Gerry Huntman
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Publication date: September 1st, 2020
Published By: Meerkat Press
Book Acquired: ARC, Publisher
Maree Webster—an “almost-emo” from the western suburbs of Sydney—hates school, has few friends, and is obsessed with angels and fallen angel stories. Life is boring until she decides to steal a famous painting from a small art gallery that has been haunting her dreams: swirling reds, grays and oranges of barely discernible winged figures. There, she meets a stranger who claims to know her and stumbles into a world where cities float in the sky, and daemons roam the barren, magma-spewing crags of the land far below. And all is not well—Maree is turning into something she loves but at the same time, fears. Most fearful of all is the prospect of losing her identity—what makes her Maree, and more importantly, what makes her human. Guardian of the Sky Realms takes the reader on a journey through exotic fantasy lands, as well as across the globe, from Sydney to Paris, from the Himalayas to Manhattan. At its heart, it is a novel about transformation. Book two of the series will be released in 2021.
My Interview with the Author:
1) Tell us something about yourself that no one knows. A funny secret perhaps?
I’ve been on this planet long enough to have done some silly and stupid things, and have had the odd moment of bad luck. More the former, mind you. While my youth was not entirely misspent, I can give you a little story from when I was about 20. Christmas Eve, going with the boys out for some partying and (insensibly) heavy drinking. At that time scotch and sodas were my preference. Knowing that the bar we went to would close around midnight, I gave the bartender a bottle of whisky to look after for me, and to hand over when I left. This worked perfectly, and instead of being moderate, youthful male silliness took over and in the next half hour I glugged half the bottle. Messed up. Big time. Somehow, I ended up sleeping on the lounge room floor of one of my friend’s (read: his parents’) home. The parents didn’t know I was there, and when they saw me the next morning, and my colour (bluey-white, apparently), they called an ambulance thinking I had died. I was just fast asleep. It took quite a while to shrug off this event among my friends, and to get over the embarrassment with my friend’s parents.
2) When did you start writing?
I actually had the creative urge when I was about 11 or 12 years old. So much so, that I insidiously wrote creative writing stories for some of my friends at school, passing them off as theirs. I also remember, again around that age, sending several short stories (typed and snail-mailed) to a publisher, and receiving a reply (a rejection that very kindly said that they loved the stories and look forward to seeing more work when I was older). When I was in my teens I moved my creative urge to role-playing, and was very active in the field for many years, writing scenarios for conventions and publications. While not ‘writing’ per se, it was a very good apprenticeship, building many of the skills that I use today. I only seriously pursued writing as an adult about 15 years ago.
3) What was the source of inspiration for this book?
Guardian of the Sky Realms is an outlier for me, as I don’t often write juvenile fiction. I was in a fantastic writers group for a number of years and we had a weekly challenge, where each of us took turns setting up challenges to write short stories or vignettes. We could set a task specifically, or ask everyone to write a story based on a photograph, or art piece, or even a song. One such challenge was an abstract painting by a very talented Californian artist, and it instantly inspired me to write a story about a teenage girl who was obsessed with that same painting (albeit in a fictional setting). It was a short piece, and ended with the girl entering an amazing world, through the painting that acted as a portal. It was inspiring enough for me to fairly rapidly convert it into a book.
4) If given a chance to co-author a book with another author, who would it be and why?
I have many author-friends and it makes sense, if I were to imagine a co-operate effort, to consider one of them. One such friend is Jack Dann, who is a giant in the speculative fiction field, and you could say that we are very good pals. I would absolutely love to collaborate with him, and it would definitely be a mature reading piece.
5) If you could be any character from Guardian of the Sky Realms, who would you be and why?
It’s hard to bypass the main protagonist of Guardian of the Sky Realms, Maree. The story is really about her, and she gets the greatest challenges, and is key to these challenges being overcome. This is a middle grade book, focused on adventure, and she is the adventure. By being Maree, I would witness almost the entire tableaux of the story, dive into the moments of sadness and despair, and soar with her successes.
6) Do you prefer hard copies or soft copies while reading?
I prefer hard copies when I read. I really can’t tell you if it is largely related to my generation or not, but I can say that when I read I love holding the entire story in my hands, and being able to read easily lying down, sitting, and so forth.
7) What is your favourite scene from the book?
My favourite scene from Guardian of the Sky Realms is the one that usually makes me a bit teary. Without wanting to give too much away, there is a scene where an important character dies, and another character, a French-speaking gargoyle, sticks with this dying person until the end, despite putting his life at risk. The whole point of this scene, aside from the sad ending and sacrifice of a character, is the point that love is the most important motivator of all. The gargoyle loved this character, and would never abandon a true friend.
8) Your ultimate top 5 books.
Gosh, the toughest question, and always has been. I’ll answer in the context of different periods of my life, to reflect how they influenced me, and my further reading and writing.
- The Adventure series by Willard Price – my first exposure to non-graphical stories, and full of escapism and adventure. Written in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s in the main, they were also products of their time – very much boy’s own adventures. South Seas Adventure was by far the best. This catalyzed my love for reading.
- The Lensmen series by E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith – again, old stuff but resurrected in the 70’s with the pulp fiction boom, and amazing, cosmic space opera. I read this stuff in my early teens and just lapped it up, and it consolidated my love for speculative fiction and escapism. The first book Triplanetary, is noteworthy.
- The Forever War by Joe Haldeman was the first speculative fiction piece I read (sci-fi to be exact) that didn’t just draw me into the story, but made me think beyond the plot to the extent that I wanted to write like that. I was still in my teens when I read this, and I have a special place in my heart for the novel. A few years ago I had the pleasure of having dinner with Joe and his wife (among others) in Baltimore and had the opportunity to talk about it with him.
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkein. Well, I’m probably not alone, but through my teen years and even into adulthood, this book transported me more effectively into another, imaginary world more than any other. I have read this trilogy more times than any other book or set of books, by a long shot.
- I’m very conscious of the lack of female writers in the list thus far, and certainly the first two or three were a product of my environment in the seventies. It’d be wrong, however, to say that I didn’t read superb female writers and many were among my favourites throughout my life, if not, in fact, taking on the greater number of, say, my top 200. Ursula LeGuin, Shirley Jackson, N. K. Jemesin, Katherine Kerr, and the list goes on. All contributed to my enjoyment of this wonderful field. However, if I were to look back at a book or series that, again, had more of an influence on my life than most, and that can be added to the ‘top 5’, I would say the Saga of Pliocene Exile by Julian May fits the bill, and most notably The Many-Colored Land.
9) Are you working on any new projects? When will we see them?
Since becoming a full time writer, my output and my list of projects have grown. Aside from keeping my short story writing simmering on an ongoing basis, the next manuscript I’m due to complete is the sequel to Guardian of the Sky Realms (titled Champion of the Sky Realms) which will be released by Meerkat Press in 2021. I have a mature-reader Fantasy novel near completed, but needing a lot of revision, and I have plans for a science fiction/horror piece which will require a lot of research before the word production can commence. My goal is to see a title come out a year from 2020 onward.
10) Do you have a routine that motivates you? Can you share it with our readers?
I’m answering this question during Stage 4 lock down in the city that I live in, due to COVID-19. It does change routines and it coincided with me turning to full-time writing and publishing. Nevertheless, I have a framework that works for me, and I know will settle better once we are over the pandemic hump. For me, writing every week morning – putting in a good 4 or 5 hours each time, is the backbone of my routine, and generally I will do my publishing work in the afternoons. Weekends are normally set aside for non-professional activities, including the most important family time. When the inspiration in my writing runs hot, then the rules can be broken, but it is a case of making it the exception rather than the rule.
Gerry Huntman is a writer and publisher based in Melbourne Australia, living with his wife and young daughter. He has sold over 50 short fiction pieces, most of which are dark and for mature audiences, but he also has a love for middle grade fiction. He loves travel and gets many of his story ideas from distant lands and culture, but is equally happy with the cafe set in his hometown.