On to the interview!
The Forever Knight was my introduction to Lukien’s world, but I know that there were three previous books. It stands alone very well, but are there any things that people who are starting off the series with The Forever Knight should know about the story so far?
People who have seen the previous books knows how big they are, so there actually is a lot that happened in the first three books. They set up the land that Lukien inhabits, but really The Forever Knight introduces almost all new characters, and the only one that really has any play in this book from the previous stories is Lukien himself. That was done deliberately, because as much as I care about the previous books I really wanted to make as clean a break as possible from them. Of course it’s definitely helpful to read the previous books; there’s just no way around that. Thankfully, most people have said they had no trouble following this new story.
I read that this is the first book in the series that is written in first person – is that true, and if so, why did you make that switch?
The switch to first person was all part of trying to make this Lukien’s story, and to break away from the previous books. The three books that came before it are more typical “epic” fantasy, with lots of different characters and plot threads. I wasn’t interested in doing that again with this book. Lukien’s “voice” came through too clearly for me to want to concentrate on other characters. I wanted to capture that voice and tell his story alone. It was a bit of a challenge at first, because I had never written in first person before. It will be up to readers to decide whether or not I succeeded, but personally I’m quite happy with the results.
I’m really fascinating by world building, and I’d love to know more about how the process of creating Lukien’s world worked, and what you find most interesting and unique about the world.
For a lot of people fantasy is all about world-building. No matter how much writers concentrate on things like character, world-building is an essential part of fantasy story-telling. I don’t really think it’s the thing I’m best at, but I do try to make the world feel as “alive” as possible. Often, my stories are about culture clashes. There’s usually two very different kinds of societies that are at war or meeting for the first time, and that means accenting the differences between them. It’s those differences that I wind up concentrating on—like the different religions, architecture, social values, and so on. In any one of those topics there’s a ton to exploit and build upon, and that’s usually what I do. If it’s a religious society, for example, I concentrate on that and build around it. Then, the details kind of fall into place.
The Akari are fascinating characters – long dead magicians conferring power to humans. Do we learn more about their history and motivation in the previous books, or is that something that still needs to be explored? Everyone has an agenda, and I’m really curious to see what theirs is.
Oh, the Akari are hugely important in the previous books, and I had to give something of an introduction to them in this book so people would have enough information to understand what was happening. They’re a long-dead race that was wiped out in a genocidal war, but they understood the spirit world and that life continues after death, and they use that knowledge to help less fortunate “mortals.” Usually they help blind people to see, crippled people to walk, that sort of thing. In Lukien’s case, however, his Akari has given him a kind of immortality. It’s definitely a blessing and a curse for Lukien.
What other projects are you working on at the moment? Is it a new Bronze Knight novel? How long do you think the series will be?
Right now I’m working on a novel called The Bloody Chorus. It will be the first of a planned trilogy that takes place in a brand new world from all my other books. This will be a return to the more traditional “epic” kind of writing that my readers expect from me, and I think they’re going to enjoy it. There will be more Bronze Knight novels, though, probably two more. They’re already under contract, and I’ll get started on the next one after I finish my current book project. I also have a short story to write for a military fantasy anthology, and I’m jazzed for that because I love writing short stories.
What is your writing process like, both when conceptualizing a novel and day-to-day?
I sometimes refer to myself as a “journeyman writer.” I love it and I do think of it as an art, but I don’t sit around a lot waiting for inspiration to hit me. I look at it like a job, because when I don’t approach it that way I procrastinate, and that’s no good to anyone. Even when I’m conceptualizing a new book, I usually have some idea by then what I want it to be about, so I have something to build on. Then I break out the notebook and pen and start scribbling down some broad strokes. After that I start outlining. My outlines are always a mess, but it’s the kind of thing that I alone can follow. They’re not really linear, if you know what I mean. They’re kind of like a cluttered but familiar desk.
As for the actual writing, I take it one step at a time from beginning to end. I don’t jump around as some authors might, writing scenes out of sequence. That would be too confusing for me. I like to plow straight on through.
What ideas and themes do you like exploring the most in your books? (Somewhat relatedly, the end of The Forever Knight hints at a whole new world of possible ideas to explore, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where that goes.)
I love this question, because every book I’ve ever written has had a theme. I’m not sure that readers know that or pick up on the themes, but they’re always there and always keep me on track. A favorite theme of mine is revenge. It comes up in a lot of my books, and especially in The Forever Knight. All other themes take a backseat to revenge in this story! But I also like more positive themes such as redemption, which is another idea I lean on a lot in my stories.
A fun one: what character from another fantasy universe would you want to team Lukien up with? He seems like a perfect character to have a sidekick, just because he’d be so annoyed by one.
You’re right—that is a fun question. Lukien does tend to get a bit irritated by others, and it’s hard to think of him with a sidekick because he’s such a loner. But I think Aslan from the Narnia books would be a good companion for him, because Aslan is so cool and calm and Lukien is so hot tempered. I bet he could learn a lot from Aslan. I could definitely see Lukien walking along with a lion as his side.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I always like to say how much I appreciate the help of book bloggers like you, Kriti. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my book on your site.