Author: R. Scot Johns
Title: The Saga of Beowulf
Hardcover: 640 pages
Publisher: Fantasy Castle Books (Oct. 2008)
Genre: Heroic Fantasy
First Sentence: “Flames rose in the darkness, illuminating the scarred face of a grim warrior.”
The Saga of Beowulf is the first complete and accurate novelization of the epic Old English poem Beowulf, chronicling the tragic wars of the rising Nordic nations, the endless blood-feuds of their clans, battles with mythic creatures in an ancient heroic age, and the final, futile struggle of one man against the will of Fate that made of him a Legend.
The story follows the young Norse warrior Beowulf as he embarks upon a fateful quest for vengeance against the creature that slew his father, setting in motion a sequence of events that will bring about the downfall of a nation, all the while fleeing from the woman he has sworn to love. Based on extensive historical research and steeped in Nordic myth and lore, the saga unfolds across the frozen fields of Sweden and the fetid fens of Denmark, ranging from the rocky heights of Geatland to the sprawling battlefields of ancient France, as our hero battles men and demons in a quest to conquer his own fears.
“An epic adventure 1500 years in the making,” this classic tale now comes to life once more in a bold new retelling for a modern audience.
R. Scot Johns is a life-long student of ancient and medieval literature, with an enduring fascination for Norse mythology and epic fantasy. He first came to Beowulf through his love of J. R. R. Tolkien, a leading scholar on the subject. As an Honors Medieval Literature major he has given lectures on such topics as the historical King Arthur and the construction of Stonehenge. He owns and operates Fantasy Castle Books, his own publishing imprint, and writes the blog Adventures of an Independent Author, where you can follow his progress as he writes The Jester’s Quest, his second novel.
You can visit his website at www.fantasycastlebooks.com.
Where did you get inspiration for your book?
Being a fan of Tolkien, as most fantasy authors are, I was interested to learn more about the stories that inspired the professor’s epic work. Foremost of these was Beowulf and the mythologies of the north. I immediately fell in love with Beowulf. It captivated me. Something about this ancient folk tale from the cold northlands called out to me, and so I followed. Not content merely to read the work in someone else’s words, I studied Old English and undertook my own translation, that I might read it in its original language. Throughout that process, while enjoying the work immensely myself, I became consciously aware of how negative the experience of reading this ancient tale was for the average college student, a multitude of whom would groan beneath its weight each midterm, and how few speakers of the modern language could appreciate this oldest of English epics. So it was that I decided to bring the story to a modern audience, in as accurate and entertaining a way I could manage. I had devoured Gardner’s Grendel, and plodded my weary way through Crichton’s mess, but no one had yet attempted to tell the entire story as it lurked within those lines of ancient verse. From the fog-bound fenlands of the Danish isles to the battlefields of ancient France, The Saga of Beowulf is the result of ten years’ effort, the first complete novelization of that earliest of English tales.
How did you get your book published?
I started my own publishing company. While waiting for months and months to hear back from trade publishers I began to look into print-on-demand technology and learn about the changing face of the publishing industry. Never one to sit around and wait for others to do what I could do myself, I was quite excited to learn that I could now publish my own book – not in the vanity press sense of bygone days, but by producing and promoting my own work using newest technology. Having always been a hands-on, do-it-yourself type – I wrote, edited, typeset, illustrated, and did the cover art and layout for my book before ever sending it out -, this was my ideal solution, akin in many ways to those earliest days of printing when pamphlets were hand-printed and peddled on the corner.
Of course, publishing my own book meant I also had to market it, and this has been a very steep learning curve: from building a rich website to creating promotional videos and ebook editions, things I’d never thought to be a part of becoming a writer. But I likely would have had to do all that myself anyway, even had I gained a trade contract (I stopped bothering after only the third rejection), given the low budget a genre novel like mine generally receives. Owning my work has allowed me to control every aspect of its production, from page layout and artwork, to the price and discount retailers are given. But the best part is the pride of ownership my effort nets.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
Read. Read all the time. But most of all, read what’s good. Read the classics. “Good stuff in, good stuff out,” I like to say. Sort of a “you are what you eat” philosophy for the mind. We are all very much the products of our environment, and if you read crap that’s what you’ll think good writing is. Be critical of everything your read, and especially your own work. Develop your ability to discern what is good writing, and adhere to it at all cost.