Friday, February 1, 2013

Of Myth and Magik: An Interview with Jody Lynn Nye

Today, we are excited to feature an interview with Jody Lynne Nye, author of the recently published novel Myth-Quoted.  This novel is part of the Myth-Adventures series, which Robert Lynn Asprin had started in 1970s.  Nye teamed up with Asprin in the 1990s and continued the series after his death in 2008--in today's interview, she tells us a bit about the Myth-Adventures series in general, as well as some of the highlights of Myth-Quoted.  Enjoy!

Jen Miller: Myth-Quoted is clearly a book that is part of a long-established series.  For readers who are new to the series, can you give us a bit of background information on the main characters and what some of the issues coming into this novel are?

Jody Lynn Nye: Skeeve is an apprentice magician who wants to use his talents to become a master thief. When the first novel, Another Fine Myth, opens, he is trying to avoid showing his lack of progress to his master, Garkin. Garkin is dismayed that Skeeve wants to use his great arts for such unworthy purpose. He gives him a pep talk and offers to summon a demon, Aahz, to show him the great powers of magik (this is how we spell the word in the Myth-Adventures). He creates a most impressive spell, but is shot dead by Imp assassins. In Skeeve’s eyes, Aahz is a terrifying creature, with green scales and long, sharp teeth, but he’s just a fellow magician from somewhere else. “Demon,” in this universe, is short for “dimensional traveler.” However, Garkin pulled a practical joke on his old buddy Aahz (in response to others that Aahz has pulled on him in the past) and taken away his powers. Unfortunately, the only person who can take the spell off is Garkin, and he is dead. Hence, Aahz and Skeeve have to form a partnership to survive, the magikless magician and the untrained apprentice.

During the book, they form a fellowship with other freelance adventurers, such as Tananda and Chumley, a sister and brother from Trollia. Skeeve also acquires a young dragon, whom he names Gleep for the only sound the dragon appears to make. The partnership grows over the course of the series to include Massha, a large lady magician who is skilled in using arcane devices; Guido and Nunzio, a couple of Mob enforcers who are sent by Don Bruce and end up working with Skeeve and Aahz; and Bunny, a Mob moll and Don Bruce’s niece whom he sends as a ‘gift’ to Skeeve to tie him more closely to the Family. Other, peripheral characters come and go, such as Aahz’s cousin Pookie and her partner in crime, Spyder. The glue that binds all of these characters together is Skeeve, who is a decent, caring, trustworthy fellow and a true friend. They form a partnership they call M.Y.T.H., Inc.

Coming into this novel (number nineteen in the series), the partnership has undergone considerable changes. Bunny is now the head of the operation, and wants to prove herself as a leader. She takes the job to monitor and bring to a close an election in another dimension that has been limping along for five endless years. The partnership is none too thrilled to become involved in a political campaign, but they do because the aim is to make the contest a fair one. Naturally, it’s never going to be easy. There are many obstacles, most of which are not evident at the beginning.

JM: Wordplay and fun with characters' names are clearly part of the fun of this series.  My personal favorite was the connection between Aahz and the Wizard of Oz (although I have to admit it didn't hit me right away).  Is there a turn of phrase from this novel that you're particularly pleased with?

JLN: Oh, yes, many. Ecstra is the eager young journalist. I love inventing new dimensions, especially when I can tie the name to a characteristic of its inhabitants. The Kobolds of Kobol, for example, are experts in computer technology. A kobold is German sprite, so they fit in with other races in the universe, such as Imps (from Imper) and Deveels (from Deva). The name of the dimension in Myth-Quoted is Tipicanoo, a historical nod to another deeply-contested election. The denizens of this dimension are therefore known as Tipps, a name I had some fun with. Once the groundwork has been laid, though, the jokey phrases and names might as well be ordinary, because I need to treat the situation seriously. In comedy, you have to commit to the joke and run with it if you want to have credibility with your readers. The laughs come from the absurdity of a situation that the characters accept as real, even normal.

JM: One of the things about this novel that intrigued me the most was the connection to the "real world"--Aahz frequently uses figures of speech that are familiar to readers, but unfamiliar to Skeeze, and the quotations at the beginning of each chapter are attributed to people who (at the very least) bring to mind real-world people like Charlie Sheen, Tina Turner, and Abraham Lincoln.  How do you see your Myth novels interacting with and drawing from reality?

JLN: There is no connection between the Myth world and the one we inhabit. The people who are the most like us are from Klah, which makes them in the parlance Klahds. The tropes, expressions, and so on that Aahz quotes come mostly from dimensions other than Klah. Skeeve comes from a backwater village, so he lacks even the sophistication of big cities in his dimension, making him a fun foil to bounce the absurdity of everyday expressions we use. The quotes at the chapter heads are no more part of their personal experience than the binding or the copyright information. The Myth novels draw from numerous Earth analogues. When Robert Asprin began the series, it was intended as light-hearted Hope-and-Crosby-Road-Pictures series of picaresque adventures, the diametrical opposite to the heavy, ponderous, and all too serious epics written by David Eddings, JRR Tolkien, Lord Dunsany, and others.

JM: Along similar lines, while Myth-Quoted is humorous and light-hearted, it can also be read as a fairly pointed critique of the current political situation in the United States.  Is this one of the effects you hoped this novel to have?

JLN: My intent was to entertain. The timing of Myth-Quoted was rather coincidental. This book was intended to come out before both Myth-Fortunes and another one, but was pushed back at the editor’s request. Myth-Fortunes, which plunges M.Y.T.H., Inc. into the ultimate pyramid scheme, touches on Aahz’s own feelings of mortality, therefore preceded it, so it came out only a few months after Bob’s passing, rendering it even more ironic than it was meant to be in the first place. Myth-Quoted, on the other hand, has a much stronger punch than it would have if it came out when it was intended, around the time of the previous election.

 It’s difficult not to notice the shortcomings of the current political atmosphere, so why not make fun of it? The Myth-Adventures have dealt with numerous other situations, including war, identity theft, larceny, addiction, estrangement, and other serious issues. The main plot lines, though, are usually side issues. I don’t belittle patriotism or denigrate democracy, but I happily skewer the dishonesty of the people involved in the system, the ridiculous hoops that a candidate is expected to jump through to gain elective office, and the trivia that becomes important during a campaign instead of what is really important.

JM: What is going to happen with Bunny and Skeeve next?  Skeeve is clearly attracted to Cousin Sylvia, but I get the impression that there is something more going on between Bunny and Skeeve.  Any chance you can give us a hint whether anything romantic will happen between the two of them?

JLN: Skeeve is more afraid of Cousin Sylvia than attracted to her, though it would be hard for a young man not to notice her very obvious charms. Skeeve cares deeply for Bunny, but he’s not ready to settle down. Everyone will just have to wait and see where it goes.

JM: Thanks so much for your time!

JLN: Thank you for the interview. I really appreciate it. I invite everyone to come and visit my websites, and I’m also on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you again!

By Jen Miller with Jody Lynn Nye