Today folks I honoured to have Steven Shrewsbury and Peter Welmerink over for a chat. Steven is the author of such greats as Hawg, Thrall, and Tormentor. And Peter is the authot of A Parting At Sunset And Other Tales. The two of them have come together to write Bedlam. :-
Pieced together from recovered scrolls of sagas and skaldic poetry, here begins the journeys of Norse mercenary Alanis Johansson and berserker Erik Bedlam. In this first installment of Bedlam Unleashed, we open with Alanis and Erik fighting for the High Irish King, Brian Boru. They leave this battle at Clontarf with hopes of heading home, however the North Sea brings an ominous drakkar into their path, and Erik and Alanis soon find themselves in a scrimmage on this ship filled with the dead.
They land in Scotland, where they encounter dragons, druids, and treachery. Then, with a bounty of gold, they head south, where Alanis experiences a vision rank with specters from his haunted past.
GNOH – Hi guyshow is it going?
SS: Oh, busy. Working a lot and trying to get more writingstuff lined up as the holiday season approaches.
PW: Chill winds are ablowin’ in this neck of the woods and Ibelieve our state still ranks right up there in unemployment figures. I amthankful to have a job though so…
SS: Having the job I have, though is kinda akin to likingStalin…great for a hand every so often but what a prick to have around all thetime.
GNOH – Could youtell us a little bit about yourselves?
SS: Born, raised, and live in rural central Illinois, aboutthe heart (not quite the colon) of America. I’m about as blue collar as a fellacan get and enjoy sports, history, books and the occasional adult beverage.First things I heard were dramas on tape of THE BIBLE and TARZAN which probablyexplains a lot. When my brother Mark went to the service, aside from his BLACKSABBATH 8 tracks I loved the Robert E. Howard books he left behind. I’vewritten a slew of stories and several books. I think my first poem was pubbedin 1987 when I was 19.
PW: Hatched, raised and have so far stayed in this area ofMichigan and the U.S. I grew up not far from miles and miles of woodland and,coupled with cutting my teeth on Sgt. Rock comic books, REH Conan and ERB JohnCarter books; it all equated to lots of action and adventure…which is what Iwrite: tales of action-adventure. My first published fantasy piece was in 1998,a short story entitled A PARTING AT SUNSET.
GNOH – So how didyou two first meet?
SS: Drunk tank at a Bears game. No really, online somewhereor other.
PW: Let me clarify. I had been reading Michael Moorcock’sELRIC books back in 2002 or some time therein and was vastly interested in thealbino dark prince. I don’t recall if I googled “albino warriors” or what (itseems a long time ago and I am sure a few brain cells have been killed since)but Shrews’ DACK SHANNON material came up, I contacted Shrews through e-mail,and the rest is a big crimson blur of sword-slashing, keyboard-abusingactivity.
SS: Yeah, that sounds about right now that you mention Dack.Pete liked the same sort of fantasy I did: Brutal and no dwarves, unless yawanna use them as foreign objects.
GNOH – And howdid you two come to work on Bedlam?
SS: In an exchange of emails on Robert E. Howard and Vikingsit all seemed to take shape. I’d never done a collab exactly like this one,where one or the other started and exhausted himself on the tale and the otherguy picked it up, embellished and ran.
PW: I’d always been interested in collaborating on abare-fisted, blood-n-guts high adventure sword-n-sorcery fantasy piece and,after a few discussions, finding Steven’s work and interest leaned in the samedirection, I asked if he’d be interested in working on a project together.Being Shrews and having a brutal imagination that never seems to quit, as hementioned, we started kicking around ideas. What unfolded was a savage Vikingberserker with a gruesome head wound (axe shard buried in his cranium) makinghim see things not of this realm. We built from there.
GNOH – Can youtell us about the book?
PW: BEDLAM UNLEASHED is set in the early 11thcentury and centred on the travels and travails of two Norse marauders, ErikBedlam and Alanis Johansson. The first book/part, Instrument of Extinction,introduces the duo.
Erik is the aforementioned Viking berserker with a nastyhead wound which keeps him out of sorts, seeing strange things normal non-braindamaged folk do not. It also makes him very hard to predict. Allies shouldn’ttake their attention from him. Foes may as well dig a six foot hole and throwthemselves in it.
Alanis is and/or has appointed himself in charge of theraging behemoth that is Erik Bedlam. There is a subtle back story on hisreasons he feels obligated to the damaged man, one that would surely get himkilled. He carries some other burdens of guilt with him which plague him duringthe course of the story and books. We’ll just say after all the strange andhorrific events both men are put through…Erik, he laughs all the way through,while Alanis, though he always struggles on courageously, by stories end hewould probably be comfortable in a straight jacket if such a thing existed backin those days.
GNOH – How didthe two of you go about writing the book?
SS: We wrote it in different sections and at times one orthe other had the idea for the next part. I’d slam out a piece or Pete wouldand exchange, embellish. Certain parts are 75% the other guy and so on. Othersare a perfect meld. A later chapter Pete wrote about all of that chap while Idid nearly all of another. Peter turned out to be a grat foil for my unbridledviolence and ideas, plus, I think I yanked a bit of darkness out of him in theprocess. He writes with more color than me, that’s for sure.
PW: To me, Shrews has always had a great base of knowledgewhen it comes to all things of ancient history. When we kicked around the ideaof the Bedlam tale, where to begin, it was simply a matter of him building theskeletal framework—location, prominent characters, etc—and then I startedpacking on the meat and muscle. Once the body started taking real shape, itseemed very easy for us both to make this thing walk and talk.
We never met face to face during the project, but workedover the phone and via e-mail. Shrews would write some, volley it over to me,I’d write some, volley it back to him until about 97,000 words later, BedlamUnleashed was complete.
GNOH – Howcritical were you of each other’s input, and was there any spitting of dummies?
PW: Considering I hadn’t done a collaborated writingexercise like this before, I have to say the project flowed incredibly smooth.We’d bounce ideas and little story segments off each other, put them down onpaper, i.e. Word doc, volley them back and forth to each other, and go fromthere. I don’t think we had a critical call against either of us due to thingsjust flowed, we were writing in the same mind and voice. I don’t recall ever atime where one of us said, “You ass. That’s not gonna work.”
SS: True enough, we worked really well together.
GNOH – The bookis set in Scotland, great place to set a book by the way. What made you decide on Scotland?
SS: It starts at the battle of Clontarf and the Norsemercenaries departing are victims of a storm that deposits them on Scottishshores. They travel through the land and down the coast in time.
PW: The overall story doesn’t keep them in Scotland. Thesecond book starts still in Scotland, but then runs down into England. Bystories’ end (Book 3), they will end up on the south-easterly shores ofBritain.
GNOH – And arethere any Mcleods in the book, and if not why not? I don’t want no lily livered excuses.
SS: Jim, if I knew ya when this was done originally, therewould be.
PW: I think about page 64 it is. Look for the young gent whoyells, “The beasts meet the afterlife this day!” Some distant Mcleod ancestorpossibly–the young gent, not the beasts. We didn’t name names because wedidn’t want you to get pissed and not interview us. Ha!
GNOH – Did youuse any of Scotland’s great and rich mythology in the book?
SS: Oh, yeah, there are a few spirits and a few historicalfolks that I won’t give spoilers on. It was goofy that this one guy was reallyalive at the exact time when Alanis and Erik were there. Ironic orsynchronistic, I dunno. Of course, they encounter something dire by Loch Ness,but the cannibal highlander? Well…
GNOH – Can youtell us what to expect from the two planned sequels
SS: Bodies. Lots of bodies. The two journey on down intoBritain and more Lovecraftian evils appear.
PW: Book 2 ETERNITY IS NEAR and Book 3 BEDLAM IS DEAD arefinished and are scheduled for release January 2012 (Book 2) and April 2012(Book 3) with all 3 parts put together for a “omnibus” edition October 2012. Iam hoping to negotiate a little something extra to be installed in the omnibusedition to entice new readers and prior reader-purchasers to pick the “bigbook” up when available.
As far as what to expect, Book 2, Erik and Alanis enjoy soggyboots running about after some antler-crowned monstrosity round Rannoch Moor,then they leave the green lush lands of Scotland and venture into 11thcentury England trying to find some means to get home. They stumble into theport town of Bridlington, get into a tiny little scrap (Ha!) at a localdrinking establishment and find…chivalry is dead. The remainder of the bookintroduces the duo to a Viking princess held captive by a one-eyed wizard andan Elder God entrapped beneath a crumbling fortress who yearns freedom. Did Imention vampiric dwarves?
Book 3 has amphibian horrors from the deep, Alanis headingoff on his own to take a little breather from all the insanity only to find hiskind aren’t the only ones who like to inflict pain and death on the Englishfolk, Erik getting into a jousting match, the lads assisting in exorcising anasty demon, and, well… the reader may need to be resuscitated by the timethings come to a close.
GNOH – Cheers guys I can’t wait to dive into this one.
SS: Don’t hit your head. You will enjoy the romp, promise.
PW: We aimed to write naught a boring sentence. Thanks, andenjoy..
Folks you can pick up a copy of the book by clicking the links below