The Big Idea: Anton Strout
Ever since I crushed in a man’s skull and dropped his lifeless body two miles down into Gramercy Park I knew it was love.
But that’s not the only fun of writing a gargoyle driven series, although crushing fleshy humans is certainly high up on The List.
Long have I loved New York City since moving to the borough of Manhattan in 1994. The Big Apple is after all steeped in a long, glorious history, much of it dark and bloody. Walk around the South Street Seaport when it’s late and practically abandoned and one can easily imagine the shuffling and shambling horrors of the night creeping up the cobblestoned street behind you. It’s easy to see why it’s become the city I’ve set both my urban fantasy series in, and despite the amount of destruction I’ve fictionally caused New York, it does come from a place of love and respect.
My love affair with the City That Never Sleeps started in my first four books that featured paranormal detective Simon Canderous, but it was only with The Spellmason Chronicles—Alchemystic and the just released Stonecast—that the city’s art and architecture literally gets a chance to come to life… in the shape of gargoyles, or as they prefer to be called, grotesques. Am I disturbed that all of my work is about Manhattan, my love for it, and apparently, my unsated desire to destroy it? Not particularly, since there’s a lot here to inspire a writer wanting to blend the macabre, the humorous and the urban.
One of my favorite views of the Big Apple has always been the nighttime panoramic view of Manhattan driving in from Queens over the 59th Street Bridge. The whole city is spread out in all its colorfully lit glory which even after twenty years I still find breathtaking. But once actually in Manhattan, that’s where the true beauty lies, especially if you’re hoping to find something fantastical… like, say, the hidden details of gargoyles in the architecture.
I’ve been obsessed with the creatures since college after learning their decorative and functional purposes in real world architectural design. And once moving to Manhattan it only increased. I highly recommend checking out GargoylesOfNewYork.com to see some fantastically creepy examples of the myriad figures carved into the skyscrapers here. Some are full bodied, but many are just the heads and faces of creatures which I can’t help but imagine coming to life, pulling the rest of their bodies free from the building facades. Even now, I look up into the night sky of the city and hope to catch the shadow of open wings racing along the concrete canyons.
So, yes, the idea of silent stone sentinels living through the centuries was easy to imagine and want to bring to life, and not just because I watched Disney’s Gargoyles. Several years ago the opportunity came up to write a story for an urban fantasy anthology, and I jumped at the chance to tell this one small tale about one particular gargoyle and the family he had been set to watch over centuries ago. In figuring out the moments leading up to that short story and the moments that might follow it, I realized that there was an even grander tale to be told, in novel form.
And thus The Spellmason Chronicles was born, allowing me to bring the actual city of New York to life, infuse it with magic, and yes, destroy it. You always hurt the ones you love, right? But really: why create such wonderful toys like living stone creatures only to leave them with nothing to smash and destroy?
That’s just cruel. The Spellmason Chronicles: Come for the gargoyles, alchemy, and architecture, stay for the smashy smashy.