Author: A.C.F. Crawford
Page Count: 298
Published: March 9, 2013
Read It & Reap Date: February 11, 2014
Book Description: Hardened sailor Ytzak Anan is an outsider. The color of his skin holds him back in a brutal, post-colonial world. And now his dreams of captaining his own ship, along with all his savings, have been stolen by a faithless lover.
Up a mighty river and out to sea once again, Ytzak searches for meaning and a new start. But the cruelties of ruthless men dog his steps, and mysterious forces seem to be guiding his journey for purposes unknown…
In this explosive debut, author A. C. F. Crawford has created something new in the realm of fantasy.
From high-seas adventure to a climactic clash with a malevolent autocrat, from back alley brawls to arcane shamanic sorcery, Sailor of the Skysea explores a mythical world with a truly American feel.
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Q & A with A.C.F. Crawford
Q: Tell us about your protagonist, Ytzak Anan.
A: Ytzak Anan is, first and foremost, a sailor. He has worked on the water since he was a small child- first on his father's fishing boat, and later on merchant vessels at sea. He was born about 25 years before the start of the story, to a white fisherman and a black escapee from a nearby plantation. In addition to working at sea, Ytzak has worked odd jobs on the docks of port cities throughout the Skysea, and for a couple of years in his late teens, was one of the best prize-fighters in his adopted home city of Riverbay.
Ytzak has a keen, mathematical mind that is put to good use at sea. He has a natural talent for navigation, though due to prejudice he rarely occupies positions worthy of his skills. Even though the nautical field is more egalitarian than most others, it still suffers from the racism endemic to this post-colonial, post-plantation society.
Ytzak is a bit introverted, and minds his mother’s advice to try and stay in the background. His ambition is to acquire a ship of his own- to be "master and commander" of a sea-trader, and sail where he will. Before the story starts he has almost saved enough to purchase a ship.
What is most interesting about Ytzak is his struggle to do the right thing. He is certainly a man of action, but whenever he can he takes the time to think about the right course to take. He struggles with anger and guilt over events in his past.
Ytzak has medium-brown skin and short, tightly curled black hair. He has round, youthful features. He stands just under six feet tall, and is built like an NFL linebacker, probably weighing in at about 230 lbs.
Q: How would you describe your writing style?
A: I think I’m a pretty straight-forward writer. Most importantly, I want the reader to understand “who, what, and where”, with enough information to at least have an inkling of “why”. Just about the entire novel is told from the point-of-view of the protagonist, so the reader won’t know anything that Ytzak Anan doesn’t know.
Once I’m in a character’s head, so to speak, the story almost writes itself… all I have to do is type in what that character would do in this particular situation. I had an overall framework for the story, but the characters’ decisions often surprised me, even as I wrote them!
Q: How does the setting of your book make it stand out from other fantasy stories out there?
A: The majority of “constructed world” fantasy novels are set in a world with parallels to medieval Europe. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and I’m a great fan of many such novels and series. But unlike those, Sailor of the Skysea’s setting has much more in common with colonial America and the Caribbean. A new land was discovered, and native inhabitants were uprooted and displaced by colonists and their black slaves. Unlike the history of the real world, the connection between the new lands and the old in my novel was abruptly cut off. This altered the socio-economic conditions of my world- white colonists could no longer rely on reinforcements from the old powers to help them suppress uprisings by angry slaves and natives, and a new equilibrium was reached. In fact, the spiritual traditions of the non-whites give them some advantages over the more rigid culture of the colonists, and provide my novel with just a touch of the supernatural.
In addition, the story and journey of Ytzak Anan is a personal, rather than epic, tale. There are no great kingdoms at stake here, and no great evil forces lurking in the shadows, waiting to destroy humanity. What is at stake are the lives, aspirations, and innocence of Ytzak and the men, women, and children he meets as he tries to put his life back together after a shattering betrayal.
Q: Can you describe your world-building process? For example, did you have the setting/scenes already in mind when you began or did they develop along with your story?
A: I actually had the story in my mind before the world- a long journey on a river, followed by a journey at sea, capped by the conflicts of the last fifth of my novel. The setting came rather organically as I tried to imagine what kind of world this story would fit in most comfortably. And the more I got into this world, the more interesting it became to me. What happens to a slave society if the slave-owners no longer have the numbers to put down slave uprisings? What happens to a plantation economy when the market for cash crops collapses? How does such a society repair itself? What political and social constructs would emerge? What tensions would remain? I did quite a bit of research, especially on some of the logistics and mechanics of sea and river travel before steam-power was invented. Journeys against a river’s current, in particular, were back-breaking work.
Q: What was your favorite scene to write?
A: My favorite scenes, and I think some of the strongest part of my writing, are action scenes. I love coming up with the choreography of physical conflicts- muddy and bloody and gritty as they often end up. If I had to pick one scene, I suppose it would be the “battle” at the end of Part III.
Q: Do you have any hidden talents?
A: I’m a fully qualified Nuclear Engineer Officer for the Los Angeles Class Fast Attack Submarine, though I’m no longer in the Navy. I also play the piano a bit. I’ve written a few piano tunes along with one string quartet.
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: I’m re-reading A Feast for Crows, by George R. R. Martin (book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire). I believe it’s the least popular entry of the series so far, but on a second reading I’m finding a lot to like in it.
About the Author: A. C. F. Crawford was born outside of Atlanta, GA, and grew up in and around New Orleans. He studied Physics and Astronomy at LSU, and after graduating, served as a Nuclear Submarine Officer in the US Navy. He lives in Arlington, VA.
His website is www.sailoroftheskysea.com. He is working on two more novels, one of which continues Ytazk's adventures in the Skysea.