A Q&A with Mark Teppo, co-author of The Mongoliad: Book One Q: How did you get the idea for The Mongoliad? A
: It all started with sword fighting, of course. My co-authors and I are part of a Western martial arts study group that practices in a non-descript loft in Seattle. A lot of the initial impetus for the group came from Neal Stephenson who had realized the sword fighting in his earlier novels was lacking the input from individuals with actual expertise. In the course of learning about the history of Western martial arts, he coaxed a couple other writers into the same circle. From there, the idea of writing a saga about the complex history of Western martial arts was born. Since the idea grew out of a group experience, it seemed best to continue the collaborative aspect of the project, and that was how the core team of Neal, Greg Bear, E.D. deBirmingham, Joseph Brassey, Erik Bear, Cooper Moo, and myself came together.
Q: The Mongoliad trilogy began as an online subscription service. How would you describe this first incarnation of the trilogy? A
: At the time, we were also talking about new ways of interacting with our audience, and an online subscription service seemed like an interesting experiment. The edition that grew out of that experience is best characterized as a serialized work-in-progress. Not only were we conducting an experiment in writing collaboratively, but we were also learning what it was like to interact—in near real-time—with our readers. It was, in many ways, not unlike the manner in which Charles Dickens wrote his own novels. The first iteration of many of his classics were serialized, with Dickens shaping and revisiting his plots based on readers' responses to the episodes. He even started to think of the episodes differently—writing more cliffhangers than one would normally use in a traditional novel format
Q: How is the Mongoliad trilogy different from the serialized version of The Mongoliad? A
: We wrote the serialized narrative in one long rush, constantly shifting stories and plotlines in response to writer availability and to what our audience was talking about. I don't know how well it will read after the fact as I think there was a certain amount of inescapable frisson that went on during that process. But it was a serialized experience and much of that emphasis is a weekly cliffhanger, which doesn't necessarily translate well to three separate volumes.
The trilogy that is being released via 47North is a much more coherent narrative where the emphasis is now on world-building and story-telling. The Mongoliad
has a beginning, middle, and end, but it's also the starting point of a huge explosion of stories and characters—in the medieval world and beyond—that is still forthcoming. We know so much more about Foreworld now (the world in which The Mongoliad
takes place) that we are able to properly understand these characters' place within the larger narrative that has yet to unfold.
Q: What are the strengths of this book-length version of The Mongoliad? A
: Firstly, each of the three volumes of The Mongoliad
have been polished, re-structured, and re-edited into the definitive edition of the narrative. The 47North publication is the authors' preferred text. As we said, throughout the serialization a book is never really done for the writers until they can hold it in their hands. We're old school, that way. It's done when you put it on the shelf.
Secondly, having been the guy who had to take it all apart and put it back together across three volumes, I think it's a much stronger narrative now. There are four story branches that move back and forth across the year 1241, and lining up intersection points between the branches was complicated in a serialized non-linear format. The 47North edition allowed us to build a better pace and structure for the narrative.
For example, the Rome branch, which began immediately in the serial, doesn't begin in the 47North edition until Book Two. Which makes sense in a linear story-telling fashion because the events that occur in Rome take place much later than the initial events in Book One. In the serial, we didn't do it that way—much to our chagrin. But we couldn't do anything to fix that misstep. Until now.
“This off-beat alternate history of Eurasia could be your new obsession.” –i09.com
“This story is pure adventure, with much swordplay and swashbuckling.” –Kirkus Reviews
“A terrifically engaging book that pulled me along at least as quickly as The Hunger Games. Think Lord of the Rings without all that pesky fantasy…Five frighteningly accurate historical sword fights out of five.” –Fanboy Comics
"While there might be some truth to the saying "too many cooks spoil the broth", it doesn't apply to The Mongoliad: Book One. In fact it's a distinct advantage in a book where we see the world through the eyes of such a diverse group of people. Differences in voice make each character a distinct individual while not detracting from the story's coherency or cohesion. The overall narrative actually flows far more smoothly than usual for a book covering as much ground as this one, as events build upon themselves naturally and logically. While there's no indication as to who wrote which parts it ends up being irrelevant. After the first few pages you'll find yourself so wrapped up in the story you'll no longer care who the author is, you'll just want to turn the page to find out what happens next." -Blogcritics