Monday, August 27, 2018

Interview with fantasy author Aidan Russell

Fantasy author Aidan Russell joins me today and we’re chatting a bit about his newest novel, The Shattered Blades, The Land of Nod: Book Three of the Judges Cycle.

During his virtual book tour, Aidan will be awarding a Kindle Paperwhite to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too.

Aidan Russell is a Marine Corps veteran living in Las Vegas. He spent his youth following the adventures of wizards and space demons and decided one day to write his own tales. His short fiction is available in the Never Fear and Uncharted Worlds anthologies. When not writing, he enjoys skiing and heavy metal.

Welcome, Aidan. Please share a little bit about your current release.
The Shattered Blades is the third book in my epic fantasy series, The Judges Cycle. The war between good and evil across the Land of Nod has officially begun. Armies are on the march and battle lines are formed. For the heroes of the story, however, their fighting appears to have come to an end. In the first two books, Road of the Lost and March to Shadows, the Elven warrior, Reslo, and the two Templar knights, Gratas and Jerah, fought against the ancient evils that stirred and conspired to bring about the war at hand. Beaten to the point of near-death over and over, they now find themselves parting ways and returning to their homes. Reslo returns to his family in their forest homeland, but he cannot allow himself to rest. He made a promise to his Templar friends to recover their lost relics, and the enemies he encountered in Road of the Lost still lurk within the forest. Gratas and Jerah return to their kingdom and take up residence in the small town of Dunkhau, where they must guard a foreign princess, forced to flee her lands. While Dunkhau is idyllic on its surface, trouble brews in the shadows, and within the souls of the heroes as they struggle to return to a peaceful life.

Princess Heiradra, long from her home and under the watchful eye of her guardians, finds her life much more complex than the daily routine of breakfast and lounging about that she experienced back in her palace. Long and away from her homeland, she finds it hard to rest knowing her kingdom is besieged. However, he does not let the distance keep her from joining the fight.

What inspired you to write this book?
The series formed in my head shortly after I finished Lord of the Rings for the first time. Like Tolkien and his world, the Land of Nod and its story “started with a map.” My friends and I were active in the old AOL Rhydin RPG chatrooms, so I drew up a map for a fantasy world that could be our own. As backstory, I turned to two of the oldest written works: Beowulf and the Bible. In the Bible, Cain is exiled to the Land of Nod for murdering his brother. We never hear of Cain or Nod again. The author of Beowulf, while describing the monster Grendel, states that Elves, Ogres, and evil phantoms were all born of Cain following his exile. So, I thought to myself, what if Nod were some far-off land of high fantasy and adventure that existed apart from our own world. And, what if the inhabitants of that land forgot from where they came and the origin of their land. From there, I built the type of story that first got me into the fantasy genre: one of knights and princesses facing off against dark lords in cahoots with demons.

Excerpt from The Shattered Blades, The Land of Nod:
The dizziness flared when the Dragon dropped Reslo into a puddle on a flat rock. He took a moment to catch his breath. He even sucked up a mouthful of the fresh rainwater from the puddle. He pushed himself to his feet, drew Moreathar, and faced the Dragon.

“Why did you take me away? How could you flee? I almost had Mdychi.”

Qa’sin spun to face Reslo. For a moment, the storm subsided as his great bulk and wings tossed aside the wind and rain. Eyes that glowed like dew-covered moss stared down on the Elf. The firelight within the Dragon grew brighter through his scars.

“Your father tried to fight me the first time we met. I see you’ve inherited his temper. Perhaps his stupidity as well.”

Reslo knew the Dragon was correct. It would be stupid to try to fight the titanic beast. Moreathar was a mighty sword, and Reslo a great warrior, but neither possessed the strength to defeat Miradep’s Dragon. Besides, they had no feud with him. If anything, Reslo owed the Dragon a debt of honor, as his children would after him.

“Why did we flee?” Reslo lowered his blade.

“Because you would have been killed,” Qa’sin said, “and I need you to help rid me of that scourge.”

“What scourge?” Reslo slammed Moreathar home in its scabbard.

“That… That Dragon, no… not a Dragon. That abomination…” Qa’sin sputtered and his serpentine tongue slithered as he stumbled through his words. “Among what remains of our people, it is called the Pythoness. The Witch Dragon is what it calls itself. We must kill it and end its desecration of this forest at last. It eludes me, hides from me. That is why I need you, warden, tracker, hunter.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m currently working on a short story that takes place in Nod that involves Dwarves, beer, and a heist. I’m going to be giving it away to my newsletter subscribers.

After that, it’s back to work on book four of the series. The outline is finished and now I just need to sit myself in front of the keyboard and get to writing!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
There were two defining moments when I donned the mantle of “writer.” The first occurred when I wrote and published my first short story, a police procedural/serial killer horror, for the anthology, Never Fear-Phobias. After that, I got serious about needing to finish and publish the epic fantasy stories that were brewing in my brain. I started to attend conferences, seminars, and really became serious about needing to be a writer in my own right.

There second moment came when I published my first novel, the first book in this series, Road of the Lost. That was it. I had a book out, and that book was part of a series, so since then I’ve had to squeeze in as much time as possible between the day jobs, planning a wedding, exercising, walking dogs, etc., and get the words down. Book one was out, and people needed book two, then book three, and now they want book four. I won’t be pulling a George R.R. Martin. Book seven will be released and I won’t make people wait ten years for it either. When writing becomes a daily force of habit, that’s when you know you’re a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I still have a day job working with a local law enforcement agency. The schedule ranges anywhere from the usual 40-hour work week to “OH MY GOD WHEN CAN I SLEEP?” The biggest thing that helps with writing is not “finding” the time to write, but rather “making” the time to write. I use a day planner (or rather, I bought a day planner that I sometimes use), to carve out chunks of time to write. I’ve recently started using writing sprints after reading Chris Fox’s book “5,000 Word Per Hour.” I certainly haven’t hit that milestone of productivity, but I find when I have things to do around the house, if I set a timer to go off at the 45-minute mark of every hour, and then I plop my headphones on and force the words out for 15 minutes, I can get a lot done.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if I’ve figured it out yet. For the readers out there, let me know if you’ve found it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be everything from a hockey player to a fighter pilot. Then, around the age of 17, out of nowhere I decided I wanted to be an infantry Marine. Five days after high school graduation, it was off to boot camp with me!

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