Thursday, October 5, 2023

Interview with Author Jonathan N. Pruitt


1.      Why did you write this book? A few years ago, I found myself at a standstill and I was struggling to find a new sense of purpose. One version of me I’d spend decades cultivating was burning before my eyes and I was struggling to determine what I could do of value with my years remaining.


Ever since I was a child, I’d dreamed of writing a fantasy series. In the imaginary schematic of my life’s plan, I’d envisioned starting the series sometime in my forties or fifties.  Well, that life goal got moved up at gunpoint, but I’m glad I received the chance to act on the goal, no matter how it came about.


I wrote The Amber Menhir to be the fantasy book of my fantasies. I’ve always wanted to write a fantasy in a dark academic setting, featuring lots of barbed dialogue and intrigues. When reading Game of Thrones or its sequels, I always found myself longing to watch Cercei and the Queen of Thorns exchange a few more quips. So, I’ve populated my pages with that kind of fare.  I’m proud of what spawned.


2.      What is it about and who is it really for? That’s an interesting question! At face value, the book is about an elite group of vampiric intellectuals who’ve convinced the world that it’s in danger, and that their blood magic is the only means to save existence. This obvious bears no similarity to reality, right? Of course not.


Three poor, unfortunate sweetlings (heroes) enter The Amber Menhir, one of several institutions of magical learning and research, in the hopes that they might help save the world. They soon learn, however, that those students who challenge the status quo find more than their ideas on the line…

I’d call the book a combination of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Animal Farm. If you want a magical adventure with biting satire along the way, then welcome.


Some aspects of society are going to lose their minds over The Amber Menhir, and some already have. Come join the fun.


3.      What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book? First and foremost, I wrote each book to be entertaining. There are oily villains, endearing protagonists, acrimonious sorcerers, and malevolent cats. I mean, what’s not to love about all that?


A smidgeon deeper is a statement about how sound logic can still take one to dangerous places. The evils in this fictitious world stem from reason’s whelping breasts. Even the antagonistic scholars in this story are, in earnest, working toward noble goals, but that hasn’t stopped them from committing evils.


Similarly, each protagonist in the novel does something reprehensible at some point, at least at face value. There are murderers, thieves, liars, and self-worshipers, and that’s just among our ‘heroes’.


Readers are reminded to be careful in their fight toward a utopia, and to recall that your idea of a utopia is likely the dystopia of your neighbor.  We all need countervailing forces to prevent any one idea or line of reasoning from running amuck.


4.      How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? The title was a saga. For the longest time the running title was A Sinking Monolith or perhaps The Sinking Monolith, but the PR and marketing folks said those were both a drag. The names of the looming institutions of magical research and learning in my world are call ‘menhirs’, named after the mysterious standing stones that pepper western Europe. Menhirs in our own world evidence long-extinct societies and inspire conjecture and myth. In this literary world, the menhirs inspire equal parts awe and suspicion.


As for the cover design, it features an hourglass glutted with blood-hued sand. The magic used by scholars in The Amber Menhir is blood magic, both in the sense that its hereditary and fueled by the wielder’s own life… or that of a donor…


5.      What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? Go easy on yourself. You’re allowed to take breaks. Your drafts are allowed to be iffy or outright bad. Bad writing and good writing are twins. It’s just the removal of a blemish here or the adjustment of a beauty mark there that makes a passage hum. Fuss with a passage, but then take time away. It’s the back a forth that brings a scene to a moment you can be proud of. It takes time and it’s an iterative process. There is no rush. Producing one great work is far better than a thousand pieces of shlock.


6.      What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?  Ack! I’m worried I’m too new to produce a solid answer.  I suppose I consume about half of my bookish content by audiobook. I don’t think I’m alone in that, and I suspect the number of people who do the same will only grow.  That’s why I aimed high for an accomplished actress to narrate The Amber Menhir. We landed Chermai Leigh in the end, and I couldn’t be happier. She’s been in Pokémon, Street Fighter, My Hero Academia, Sailor Moon, Cyperpunk 2077, and a whole lot more. She possesses an amazing range, and she brings it to bear in The Amber Menhir.  Listeners are in for a ride!


Provided the book experiences some success, I’d like to recruit an illustrator to produce storyboard-like sketches to coincide with the audio for a more immersive experience. We’ll see how that pans out. My goal is to make the border between the bookish world and folks who enjoy video content thinner and thinner.


7.      Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book?  You bet. I spent my life scaling the ivory tower of our world. Then I twisted and warped the most troublesome elements of our academia to the produce the dark scholars of The Amber Menhir. Some of the dispositions and quotes in the book are near replicas of what I’ve observed in our world, though nothing is overtly autobiographical. All that being said, by the end of the series, readers will see that every side of an issue is treated with respect. Nobody acts from wholly evil origins and every character, both in life and page, is a grey. If you think you’re not, you’re being naïve.


8.      How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to? I call my style the lean, epic fantasy. Though I admire the works of others (Martin, Tolkien, Jemisin, Maas, Rowling, Rothfuss, Jordan, Sanderson, Mieville, Butcher, and on), I’m too self-critical to allow myself the volume of their writing styles. Every sentence in my book received a strip-search to ensure that it said just what I intended it to, and concisely. 


After wandering in the forest of my own writing and editing (and editing) for months, I finally turned outward to catch up with my favorite authors. Only then did I appreciate how much more critical I am toward my writing than anyone else’s. The result in a fast-paced narrative that accelerates until it barrels towards its conclusion.


9.      What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book? I’d say the greatest challenge was overcoming the (mostly justified) fear that my past would punish me for my efforts as an author. My history is a bit, um, speckled. There are many people who would like nothing more than to see me fail, and already they’ve set their sights on The Amber Menhir.  But then, I’ve had this childlike hope of one day writing a fantasy series. In the end, the tug-of-war between fear and hope was won by the latter. The fact I’ve attempted to move forward with my life has attracted ire, but I can’t let that stop me.


10.  If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? The Amber Menhir is going to be a controversy. Already tens of thousands of people on Twitter are aware of its existence, and they do not smile upon its content, though they know little of it. At the same time New York Magazine is running a profile piece on its genesis and its relationship to my past.  People are going to say a great deal about what the book says or doesn’t say, whether it’s good writing or not.


I’m confident the story will be fun for people, both upon the page and in the broader media. For my part, I’ll continue to spin my tales and hawk my wares, though I fear my strongest literary device will forever be my own life. Read The Amber Menhir and weigh in on it yourself.


BIO: Avoiding the usual expectations of Fantasy by way of satire, humor, and a race of nefarious cats, the first in Jonathan Pruitt’s The Shadows of the Monolith series, “The Amber Menhir” arrives this October from Spinner Loom Press. Having earned the title of the world’s most infamous spider biologist, Pruitt’s penned a grimdark fantasy that lampoons the academic and scientific communities, while also offering an immersive, diverse, and fast-paced story along the way.  For more info, please see:


“We have the choice to love, befriend, recruit, call to arms, associate, and support who we believe in, and more importantly,

who we believe, believes in us.

I think that's what we all want.

To believe in and believed in.

We all must earn belief in ourselves first then for each other

Earn it with you, then earn it with me, then we earn it for we.”

— Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey


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Brian Feinblum should be followed on LinkedIn. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog, and El Chapo, a pug rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.4 million pageviews. With 4,600+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult:

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