Josh Viola and Nicholas Karpuk's "The Bane of Yoto"is a science-fantasy novel of the first order. A surprisingly quick read for a nearly 500-page novel, "The Bane of Yoto" is a movie franchise waiting to happen for fans of the genre.
The novel deals with two brothers, Eon and Yoto, who are part of the Numah, a race enslaved by the savage Olokun. Set on Neos, a moon colony inhabited after their home world of Ajyin was destroyed, the Numah toil in the mines of Neos, and infractions are punished with a trip to a battle arena and a grim end.
Eon thirsts for revenge and a revolution to overthrow the Olokun. Yoto, his younger brother, has chosen a different path, and while he quietly attempts to make life better for his fellow Numah, he also is content being an overseer of their mining life, avoiding conflict and trying to quell the plans of his brother.
All that changes when a foiled assassination attempt, the beginnings of a Numah uprising and an amazing physical transformation of Yoto thanks to a magic dagger combine to bring down the Olokun's tyrannical reign.
The story's climax features a pulse-pounding showdown in the battl earena and the revelation of the secret behind Ajyin's destruction. It also sets the stage for the next book in what promises to be a long and successful series featuring the brothers and the first book's characters.
Q: What were the inspirations for "The Bane of Yoto" Was there any particular movie/video game/tv show that started you thinking?
VIOLA: The Bane of Yoto is the culmination of many different movies, video games, books, anime films and comics. Obviously SciFi/Fantasy genres stand as the major inspiration, and those that have heart - Terminator 2, Donnie Darko, LOTR, District 9, King Kong, The Crow, Akira, The Incredible Hulk, Harry Potter, The Last Apprentice, Ender's Game - the list goes on.
Braveheart, though not specific to the genres mentioned, played a huge role. Eon, Yoto's brother, is the William Wallace of the Yoto-verse.
Monster movies were a big inspiration too. I grew up with them. Godzilla and Gamera - you'll see similar aspects touched upon, especially in the final act of The Bane of Yoto. My goal was to take those concepts and make them believable in my world. Whether I succeeded or not will be up to the reader, but I tried to make giant monsters, action and ultra-violence all have a place in a deep, personal story that relies on its characters and their emotional hurdles.
Q: Tell us about the collaboration with Nicholas Karpuk. Were there many disagreements on character direction?
VIOLA: From 2008- 2010, I was an instructor of Game Art and Design, and Nick was a student of mine. The class was Intro to Game Development and Design, and I used Yoto as an example for character/story development and how to turn those characters into game art assets. Nick's writing really impressed me and we'd often chat about Yoto. At the time, I was being coached by NY Times bestseller, Steve Alten, in the writing process; because I knew I wanted to turn Yoto into a novel - something I'd never tried before. While I was teaching at two different campuses at around 12 hours a day, finding time to write was challenging.
I approached Nick and asked him if he'd like to help me turn Yoto into a novel. I had already started writing and had prepared an extensive bible and outline for the story, so most of the characters and ideas were already in place. I think Nick knew what my goal was with the book and aimed to meet those goals. The character Nick really helped me flesh out was Cadoc. He generated some ideas that really made him a nasty villain - I loved it.
The process was simple. We would write and trade chapters. Nick edited and suggested ideas, adding elements to my work just as I did the same to his work. When Nick made new contributions, it ultimately came down to whether it met the vision of my outline. If it didn¡¦t, more development was made to make it work. Because I had never written a novel before (most of my writing existed as short stories or relative to the game world), the Bane of Yoto went through many edits. I took the manuscript and added/cut/remodeled it into the story it is today - the full process taking over 3 years. Suggestions from my good friend and fellow author, Keith Ferrell, helped me see Yoto from an outside perspective and fine tune a lot of elements.
Q: The story starts in the middle, as it were, after the destruction of Ajyin and before the revolution. Any reason for that? Were you setting up the prequel?
VIOLA: Well, I always saw The Bane of Yoto as Yoto's story. Ajyin's destruction takes place before he was born, and I didn't want to dive too deep into those elements, at least not when I was writing this book. I also never planned to show Yoto as a child - he was always an adult to me, and I think that's because he is a reflection of myself. I couldn't picture him at a different point in his life, at least not believably. It wasn't until the end of the writing process that I rewrote Part One, what I consider the prologue, which shows Yoto and Eon as children and how vulnerable they were. This was necessary to establish why they had become who they are in the bulk of the book.
Regarding a prequel, I'm actually releasing one later this year. I hired my friend Keith Ferrell to write it based on some ideas I wasn¡¦t able to include in the first novel, and I'll be editing. It'll be a novella of around 30,000 words that focuses on Vega, from child to adult, and what the world was like on Ajyin and the relationship between Numah and Olokun. You'll see him rise to power and discover Lagaia, up until the Arbitrators' legendary "attack." It will be titled, "The Bane of Yoto: Bloodmoon" and will be available as a free eBook.
Q: Tell us about your brother, Cody, the inspiration for Eon. Was there a particular moment in your life where he tried to steer you in a certain direction?
VIOLA: In the book, Yoto is the younger brother of Eon. Eon is directly based off of my brother, Cody - only two major differences: Eon is an alien. And Cody is actually my younger brother. That being said, my brother and I are very different people, but we have a very strong connection. Our personalities come out a lot in this book. As Cody was reading it, he'd often laugh at the scenes with both Yoto and Eon and say, "you really nailed it."
Eon's fascination with politics, weaponry and making a difference in his world all reflect my brother in one way or another, but I wouldn't say he's ever tried to steer me in a particular direction - the blame falls on me for that one. Plus, much like Yoto, I'm far too hard-headed to give into anything he'd suggest.
Q: You took a somewhat circuitous route to writing the novel. Do you think you would have written the story in an age where fewer people read if you didn't believe it could be turned into a video game and other properties?
VIOLA: The core of what Yoto is can only be found in the novel. No video game or comic can do what the book does. I¡¦ve always felt that the only way to really tell Yoto's story was via a novel. Everything else is just a companion and my creative outlet for sharing the story to different people who may not have found the book any other way. The 3D comic app is available to draw users to the book. It has things the book doesn't, cool art, 3D technology and music. But I can only tell a part of Yoto's story this way - albeit, a damn cool way, but those participating that want to know more will need to read the story.
I do hope that the 3D comic interests nonreaders and functions as a tool to open them up to reading as a whole.
So while I've got various other products, from the 3D comic app to PlayStation 3 Dynamic Themes, the book has always and will always come first for me. As for the game, we've only developed a prototype so far. We're waiting on a publisher.
Q: Will you continue with Celldweller as the music for future Yoto? Or will you be considering other bands?
VIOLA: Celldweller will always be a part of Yoto. Klayton is Celldweller. He owns the music label, FiXT, who published my book. I specifically wanted Celldweller attached to Yoto and that will never change. I've also worked on various projects for Celldweller. I created album art for his single, "First Person Shooter" I was the producer and art director on the "Celldweller 3D" app, art director on the "Klayoto" Celldweller tshirt design, and he recently hired me to direct a music video for one of his biggest, new singles, "Unshakeable."
So, again, Celldweller will always be a part of Yoto, but I¡¦m already in talks to include more artists. Two FiXT "bands" I hope to feature in Episode III of the comic: Blue Stahli and Josh Money. But I'd also like to try to rope in Linkin Park. I was an artist on their official 2003 postcard set and co-hosted their Projekt Revolution Denver show in 2004. I'd love to have them involved. But since their major blowup in fame, I haven't been able to contact their management.
Q: How far out do you have the Yoto saga mapped?
VIOLA: I've begun writing the second book, though that's slowed to a halt during the marketing craziness of the current installment. I plan to dive deep into that sometime next year. I have a detailed outline for books II and III, as well as the prequel I mentioned earlier. Book II will likely be a solo project rather than co-written by someone else, but I also have two additional side stories I'll be hiring some fellow authors to do, Nick being one of them, and my friend, JC Hutchins.
Q: What's the one thing you would tell someone about the novel before they read it?
VIOLA: Strap in and prepare for an addictive story. I'd really just thank them for diving into Yoto's world and encourage any discussions it may evoke.