Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Author Interview: The Hazardous Players

Please give a warm welcome to The Hazardous Players, the authors, illustrators, and voices of their creative children's book series: Knighttime!
The Hazardous players consist of Lewis, Justin and William.  Three socially awkward adults who after frequently running into each other at various geek gatherings such as comic book conventions, became friends. After discovering that had each of us had a hidden aptitude for odd voices and a secret desire to act we created Knighttime.  Knighttime is our attempt to pull our talents overcome our insecurities and construct a fantasy world that is epic and absurd. William will be representing the group for this interview.
3LB: Your way of presenting a story is very different from the traditional way, since it’s electronic. Who came up with that idea, and why?
First off, we just want to thank you Lucia for allowing me to blather on about our troupe and introduce The Hazardous players to your readers.  We appreciate the opportunity.
     Since I (William) was a smallish childlike person I have loved storytelling, books, film, plus, I collected (and still do) comic books. When I was younger there were still a few episodic radio dramas broadcast. When I could I would turn the radio on late at night, with the volume low, hoping not to be discovered by my parents. They were amazingly evocative, building a story through performance and sounds.
     When my son, Sam, came along I did what many parents do which is excavate 

my own childhood and foist it on the next generation. Fortunately for me Sam did not reject my geek interests and would excitedly watch Godzilla films with me, visit the comic books shops and seemed to enjoy my dramatic interpretations of new and classic fantasy novels, such as Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings.
     Now, Sam’s birthday parties over the years had become a way for me to express much of my repressed creative energy, and I turned these into rather elaborate events. One aspect of the parties were seriously complex treasure hunts. I would spend weeks planning, building wooden chests with multiple locks, finding tunnels and climbing trees, hiding clues throughout the park near our home.  On his tenth birthday I attempted to make a series of recordings that when found would have characters that would give directions to the next clue. These characters were Sir Cottington and Sir Bratwurst who are now the stars of Knighttime.
     After the party I played the recordings for a few friends, including Lewis and Justin, and they all encouraged me to expand and develop a story around the knights.  I asked them to contribute their talents as well.  I thought it would be interesting to utilize the internet to build a larger multimedia narrative, using art, video, writing and the audio.  This allows us to play with narrative forms, to develop different stories that are occurring in tandem with the central Knighttime story, adding art and video along the way. Of course this made me think of the radio programs I used to listen to and I hoped that maybe Knighttime could recreate that feeling of anticipation I had as a kid waiting for the next episode of Radio Mystery Theater to be broadcast.
3LB: Do you feel publishing your story in episodes is/may become more effective than presenting the entire book at once? Also, do you think making it auditory will hold in the interest of the audience more?
I love books and nothing can replace the experience of reading a truly excellent book.  Audio is just a different form of storytelling, gets you using a different part of the brain.  In college I took classes in sound design which helped me understand how to make a story engaging with sound effects and incidental music. And hopefully that combined with decent performances and good writing will pull the listener in, get them hooked, not that this is always the case with Knighttime, but we try.  It is also fun to produce and hopefully that comes across when people listen. It is exciting when someone tells us they listen to the episode repeatedly or tell us to hurry up already and get the next episode posted.
3LB: Tell us a little bit about your latest project, Knighttime.
Knighttime is a evolving fantasy world inspired by writers such as Douglas Adams and Terry Prachett, with a healthy dose on Monty Python.  The central story follows the adventures of the less than noble and not particularly courageous Sir Cottington and Sir Bratwurst.  As they traverse their world of Udenland on whatever pointless task the king has sent them on, they encounter their rather eccentric fellow countrymen. Frequently they spend much time trying to avoid being eaten by the many dangerous and magical creatures that also inhabit Udenland.  One of their unlikely companions is Nigel, an Emerald Forest Twin Tail, one of the most intelligent and potentially dangerous dragons known to exist.  Unfortunately he frequently finds himself in the position of rescuing Sir Cottington and Sir Bratwurst from their latest misguided exploits.
     The Story of Sir Cottington and Sir Bratwurst is presented in episodic audio drama with accompanying art.  Elsewhere on the Hazardous Players site you can find character files, sketchbooks, a short Knighttime film, our blog- The Hazardous Dispatch, and the Henchwood Guide.
     The Henchwoods Guide represents Professor Flannigan Henchwood's lifelong pursuit to catalogue every magical creature and plant throughout Udenland and beyond its borders.  The Guide gives details of behavior, eating habits, migration patterns and much more of each beast and plant.  Frequently the entries also include the musings of Professor Henchwood as he recalls the expedition in which said beast was discovered.
     Knighttime is attempt to play with narrative, to give the audience varied mediums to experience a story.  We plan on experimenting with the internet, to try to build a multi layered world that is fun with characters people grow to care about. Eventually we will make recordings available and hopefully books, chapter and art.
3LB: Who do you enjoy writing more: Sir Cottington or Sir Bratwurst?
Well, the two of them have an Abbott and Costello type dynamic.  Sir Bratwurst is the straight man to Sir Cottington's buffoonery. Sir Cottington is very clearly a bit of a dimwit which makes it fun to see what idiotic things we can come up with for him to do and say.  Every once in while he has a flash of intelligence, but that is usually quickly followed by some completely moronic observation on his part. I have to say his bombastic voice is fun to do.
     Sir Bratwurst’s job seems to be to point out to Sir Cottington that he has once again made a fool of himself and led them into another dangerous situation.  Bratwurst can be fun because his humor is much more understated and dry as compared to Cottington.  He merely points out the obvious to the oblivious Cottington, and though he is smarter the Cottington, he shares Cottington’s cowardice.
     One of the most fun to perform is Sir Cottington’s older brother, Sir Rodney, who is quite insane.  He shows up at the most unlikely times and spouts unintelligible rants, which leave everyone bewildered.  He is loud, crazy and wholly involved in his own delusional world which is much weirder than Knighttime. He has a knack of showing up at the most intense and dangerous moments in the story and totaling missing the point.
3LB: Where do you get the inspiration for each episode? Are the events in the story based off of anything else, real life or fictional?
I can’t say there is inspiration for each episode, we wrote all the scripts at once to try to get a cohesive narrative.  We all grew up with an interest in fantasy with Tolkien being a big inspiration early on, and as I mentioned before, Adams and Pratchette.  I turned my back on fantasy in my twenties as I tried, and failed, to become hip. But, once a geek, always a geek. Once I started reading Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to my son I fell in love with it again.
     Knighttime is inspired by the whole fantasy genre with a large dose of absurdist humor. We try to take the conventions of traditional fantasy and play with them.  So, I’m sure as you listen and read the stories you begin to see parallels to other tales found throughout the vast body of fantasy literature, but with a farcical twist.
      The Henchwoods Guide, though, is becoming a bit more relevant and connected to real world issues.  Through the entries we have been attempting to write with a nod towards environmental issues.  Of course it is fictional, but the problems facing much of the magical wildlife of Knighttime is similar to what happens in reality. Loss of the environment due to human encroachment, poaching and general misunderstanding of the new and different.
 Plus, the Henchwood guide is allowing us to play with ideas in science, which is another interest of ours.  Creating fictional branches of science and then having characters experiment and debate the outcome, all with a sense of humor.
3LB: Essay question: Time to be creative! Get those brain juices flowing and use them to write a short story from Knighttime. It can be an introduction to your entire project or an episode from the middle.
The two knights strode towards the castle gates.  Along the way they greeted passerby’s, engaging in random conversations, bartering with the farmers over wilted vegetables offered at the many shabby stands lining the muddy streets, occasionally they paused and pet a mangy cat or dog.  It was clear to those who were monitoring the Knights progress across the square that haste was not a priority here.  Their lack of urgency was very telling, especially considering who these two knights were.
     Sir Cottington and Sir Bratwurst had been officers in the Royal Guards for decades, knighted by Queen Ester years before her son, Theodor ascended to the throne. The two were legendary throughout the Kingdom of Udenland, tales of their exploits were told with great flourish throughout the land. Children recreate their adventures, arguing over who played Cottington and who played Bratwurst.  Fights erupt in many drinking establishments as inebriated Udenland citizens debated the details of the knight’s crusades. Aspiring poets and musicians attempt to compose inspiring verses elucidating their infamous deeds. Yes, the inhabitants of Udenland, especially the residents of Azura, Udenland’s capital city take a certain pride in Sir Cottington and Sir Bratwurst for they are most cowardly and incompetent knights that have ever existed in Udenland's long history.  Their particular brand of buffoonery was an essential form of entertainment to many, elevating them to celebrities, though the knights themselves are completely unaware of the nature of their acclaim.
     As beloved as they are by the citizenry they are equally despised by King Theodor, who frequently curses his mother forever bestowing them the honor of knighthood. He sees them as blight on his regime, a stumbling, moronic embarrassment that leaves him with a pounding headache.  This festering hatred had led him and his closest advisor, Reg, to continually conceive of pointless, yet extremely dangerous tasks for Cottington and Bratwurst. Whether it is quest to distant lands, fraught with vicious beasts and undomesticated magic, in search of some useless “mystic” artifact or simply ordering them to clean the windows of the high tower.  Each task given in the hopes that the knights will meet their grisly end, relieving the king of his consuming contempt, yet, somehow, though sheer luck or by some improbable accident, the knights always survive, returning in one piece, accompanied with another ridiculous tale.
     This morning the king sent word to Sir Cottington and Sir Bratwurst that, once again he has commanded their presence before him at exactly eleven.  This explained the knight’s leisurely gait through town, their general lack of enthusiasm to arrive at their scheduled appiontment.  Why suddenly a particular turnip needed close scrutiny or the urgency to have yet another meandering conversation about the unseasonal weather in East Canker County. They know what awaits them once they navigate the castles maze of halls and enter the throne room, yet another treacherous mission involving sharp teeth and unpredictable hexes.
     As Sir Cottington made his way through the crowd he rested his hands on his ample stomach, nodding and greeting each person he passed. Sir Bratwurst, a full two feet taller than Sir Cottington and a good hundred and fifty pounds, lighter walked alongside the senior knight with a faint look of panic on his face.
     “Sir, perhaps we should get ourselves to the king.” He said nervously.
     “But why Bratwurst, look” Said Cottington, suddenly darting to one of the fruit stands, “The rossenquats are in season.” He held a reddish melon sized fruit and stared pleadingly at Bratwurst, “We should really have some, don’t you think?”
     “Sir, you hate rossenquats, you say they make your teeth itch. I really think we should be going”
     Cottington sighed and dropped the fruit back onto the pile he had taken it from.      “Fine, if you insist.” His eyes suddenly went wide and he shot off to the neighboring stand, “Look Bratwurst, gorgon berries, doesn’t a gorgon berry pie sound perfect right now.  We could take these to my mother and she could have the pie ready by dinner. Sounds good, eh Bratwurst?”
     By the time Bratwurst had caught up with Cottington, Cottington had already stuffed several handfuls of the berries into his mouth, his face and moustache stained bright green from the gorgon berry juice. As Cottington spoke green tinged saliva landed on Sir Bratwurst’s Tunic.
     “Sir!  I just cleaned this and I believe it is imperative that we make haste to the King” Bratwurst looked up from his futile attempts to dab the gorgon berry juice from his tunic and discovered that Sir Cottington was already moving onto the next vendor, stopping to pat a particularly unpleasant looking dog. Sir Bratwurst rolled his eyes and followed.
     “Sir, really, this is not the time.”
     “Of course it is Bratwurst, and look the new Clithrow chainmail is in.  Look at that quality. Nobody makes chainmail like Clithrow.”
     Sir Bratwurst started to protest, but stopped himself, mouth hanging slightly open and shrugged.  He ambled up to Sir Cottington at the Clithrow stall, picked up a chainmail shirt and inspected it. He gave a sigh of defeat and said, “You know Sir, the new rings do seem a bit more tightly woven.  Better protection I suspect.”
     “Yes, yes, and see here Bratwurst, the leggings are very flexible, better for running. I believe Mr. Clithrow has outdone himself this year.”
     As Bratwurst moved closer to take a look at the leggings, the Horace Clock Tower high on Tortoise Hill struck noon. The sky began to darken slightly, threatening rain.  The venders squinted at the clouds, looks of concern on their faces.  The feral dogs and cats began to migrate towards the garbage shoots near the kitchens, knowing that the remnants of midday meal would soon be making their greasy arrival. And, deep within the castle, surrounded by elaborate tapestries depicting Udenland’s questionable history, sat the King, head in hands, teeth grinding, frustration mounting as he experience yet another pounding headache.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
We very much enjoy producing Knighttime and though there can sometimes be a 
bit of a wait between episodes we try to add to the site regularly, whether it writing or art.   In the future we would love to receive fan art and stories to add to the site as well, to have Knighttime become an online community. It has been hard to get noticed in the vast universe of the internet, we appreciate the opportunity to do this interview here at iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books. We hope it will encourage folks to drop by and tell friends if you like what you find.

 Thanks again for having us,

The Hazardous Players
~~~
Thank you, William and the rest of The Hazardous Players! Find out more about them at:

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