Author Interview: Josh Strnad on "Pantheon"

Ana: Josh, an excerpt from your novel “Pantheon” was submitted in the ABNA 2010 contest. I remember being really impressed by your style of prose - you really brought out all these vivid details as you introduced us to two very different fugitives: the cowboy Lamont and the solitary Emma, contemplating her fearful past in a cramped sleeper car. At the time, I think I compared your excerpt to the literary equivalent of a painting - beautiful, vivid, and with incredible attention to detail.

Can you tell us more about your novel and where it goes from the end of the excerpt? What sorts of themes do you explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience?

Josh: The excerpt you mention was only the first chapter of the story, meant to do little more than introduce the reader to the two main characters. Lamont and Emma both come from troubled backgrounds, but have different approaches to the ways they deal with them: Lamont is running from his past, driven by fear and shame, while Emma is pressing forward with hope for a brighter future.

The story kicks into gear when Lamont and Emma are accosted by the gods of Greek mythology (disguised as mortals in the town of Pantheon) and embark on a quest to find Pandora's box. With the fate of the universe at stake, they both are forced to take a hard look at themselves, and do personal battle with their own demons.

Pantheon, for all its wild west/fantasy action, is at its core a novel about hope and second chances. It’s a novel about looking beyond ourselves and our present circumstances and finding the love and acceptance we're born longing for.

Ana: I love that you've taken the idea of gods meddling in human affairs - a common occurrence in mythology - and brought it to this newer, western setting. What was your inspiration when writing your novel? Were you influenced by a specific author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? 

Josh: I approached writing Pantheon as though it was a summer adventure movie, tossing in a little humor, a little romance, a little magic, and a lot of action. I like to think that Pantheon is a story with something for everyone - I don't mean it's a literary masterpiece or anything like that, but rather that it's a fun, light read.

Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint my influences, because I've read / listened to / watched so much stuff over the years. Pantheon started out, actually, as an idea a buddy and I had in college. We developed the core of the story together, then I wrote the book after graduation.

That said, my strongest influences for Pantheon were probably C.S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia" (a series of books that all but defined my childhood), and Joss Whedon’s short-lived but brilliant sci-fi/western TV series, "Firefly". Readers may detect a hint of "Indiana Jones" in there as well. Other obvious influences for Pantheon include Greek mythology, and TV westerns such as "Bonanza" and "Gunsmoke".

Ana: I love "Firefly", and I can definitely see the resemblance now. I think it's interesting that a lot of your influences are television shows and movies - I remember that "Pantheon" felt like a very "visual" novel and that your prose had a real knack for picking out visual details and bringing them to the written page. If you could compare your novel to any other existing work, which one would it be and why?

Josh: Honestly, I have no idea. There have been other cross-genre fantasy/western novels before, (Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series springs readily to mind) but "Pantheon" is a very different sort of story. The best answer would probably be to look at my influences listed above - Narnia, Firefly, and Indiana Jones.

Ana: Is this your first or only finished work, or have you written other novels? If you have written other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Josh: "Pantheon" is my first and only finished novel, but I have a second book in the works. My current project is a science fiction, but more contemplative than high-action. I'd compare it, a bit, to things like "Gattica" and "Never Let Me Go". I'm pretty excited about it, but it's got a long way to go before it'll be finished.

I may go back to the Pantheon universe and write a follow-up someday, but I'm not holding my breath. I have fragments of ideas that I think would be fun to explore, but nothing that constitutes a solid story yet.

Ana: I was first introduced to your novel through the Amazon Breakthrough Award contest of 2010. What prompted you to enter the contest, and what were your overall feelings towards the contest in general?

Josh: Well, I suppose I entered the ABNA contest for the same reasons that most people do: I wanted to win and get the publishing deal. I didn't, of course, but I did make it to the quarter-finals. I was happy just to have made it that far.

Overall, I liked the contest, and I'll probably be entering it again in the future.

Ana: Are you currently published or self-published? Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy?

Josh: Pantheon is currently self-published as an eBook. It’s available for both the Kindle and the Nook. (Only $4.99! Tell your friends!) It can also be read on your computer or smartphone via the free Kindle or Nook apps.

Ana: Josh, thank you so very much for being willing to participate in this guest blog interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Josh: Thank you for having me, Ana. It's been a pleasure.


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