pinterest-7bf66.html Reviews by Peter: Interview with Tiger Hebert, Author of Beating Back the Darkness series.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Interview with Tiger Hebert, Author of Beating Back the Darkness series.

I met Tiger Hebert when he requested me to review his debut novel, Dragon's Fire in 2015. I liked what I read in the synopsis so it came as no surprise that the reading of this novel was a wonderful experience. As with all new authors, whose books I review, I offer them an interview when time and availability permit me to do so. 

What follows is my interview with Tiger Hebert, author of well-crafted fantasy novels and excellent worldbuilding. Tiger gives us an in-depth look at this world of Aurion he has created where Dragon's Fire, The Chronicles of Aurion and this newly released novel, The Halls of the Fallen King take place (release date, August 14, 2018). 

This is a rather long interview, so for readers who are only interested in Beating Back The Darkness series, you can skip the first half and commence at the "Now let's discuss the Beating Back The Darkness series" section

Without further ado, let me hand you over to Tiger.

Welcome Tiger, thanks for stopping by to talk about your journey to being a published author and the world of Aurion you have created.

How about we start with you telling us a little about yourself?

Hello Peter! Thanks for having me.

Well, I am a thirty-something-year-old husband and father of three little ones and we currently live just outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. We moved a lot when I was growing up, but the majority of my upbringing was spent in and around the tiny town of Livermore, Maine. I am the oldest of four children. My mother was young when she had me, so my grandparents took a very active role in my life from the beginning.

I was anxious to leave small-town life behind and took off right after high school. I tried college and a few jobs before I ended up in the United States Air Force. My time in the military, despite the frustrations and challenges it brought, was the birthplace of much of who I am today. It was in the service that I first began to write and it was also when I first met Jesus. Now over ten years removed from my military service, I’m a regular guy with a day job, who aspires to leave it all behind for writing.

What inspired you to become an author?

  You know, my story is quite ironic, if not comical. My grandmother tried desperately to share her passion for books and reading with me from a very early age. She was a very bright and articulate woman, and one of her greatest loves was the escapism offered through the many books she read. I, however, refused to read. I loved stories and Reading Rainbow was one of my favorite shows, but I wanted no part of the actual reading. It didn't matter how many times she read Green Eggs and Ham or Bambi, I only wanted her to read the stories for me.

My family jumped through hoops to make sure they could buy me a Teddy Ruxpin, which was an impossible gift to find, hoping it would encourage me to learn to read. It didn't work. They bought me the fancy Socrates educational computer system. It didn't work. Nothing worked. Reading was very hard for me at an early age, and when I started school, I struggled. I really struggled so much, that I remember being put in the “special” classes. One year my family decided to put me into summer school. I had an amazing teacher who let us read about trolls and ogres and giants, and we did activities to make the books come to life. She made it fun, and it changed everything.

School became easier for me, and I started to excel. School forced me to start reading books for book reports. At an early age, I became a fan of Jack London, R.L. Stine, and Michael Crichton. Oddly enough, despite never actually reading any Tolkien or C.S. Lewis books, I fantasized about penning my own fantasy epic one day. However, a fear of failure prevented me from ever moving beyond the first page.

Eventually, when I started writing in my early twenties, I told myself that it was only an outlet. I wrote lyrics and poetry simply for the purpose of expressing my anger and bitterness. It was sort of a therapeutic, private matter. However, after some people discovered my writing and encouraged me, I began to share it. I was surprised how well received it was. There was a problem though, the writing was dark. After I surrendered my life to Christ, I realized that I needed to surrender my writing as well. So, I made an oath to the Lord that I would not write again until I knew that it would honor Him. I kept my promise. I essentially stopped creative writing, for the next five-plus years. I wanted to write and I felt compelled to write, but I didn't know where to start and I feared that if I started, I would break my vow. The desire never left though.

In the latter part of 2011, the Lord began to burden me with the fact that I was not using what He gave me. There were nights where He made me restless until I wrote something. I would respond with a simple psalm or the lyrics to a worship song and then I would go back to not writing.

Then in December of that year, I felt the Lord really challenge me. He basically asked me two questions. Who gave you the ability to write? Do you think I would give you that ability, and not want you to use it? I am sure He said it more eloquently than that, but you get the gist of it. So, I told Him that I would try to trust Him, but He would have to guide me all the way because I didn't trust myself. I reaffirmed my desire to honor Him, which looking back was more my attempt to validate myself than to convince Him. Then I began writing chapter one, Fire on the Mountain.

How do you develop your novels, by extensively plotting it out (plotter), or as it came to you (pantser, that you write by the seat of your pants) or was it a bit of both?

I started as a pantser. I had no idea what the story would be or where it would go. I was a reformed World of Warcraft junkie, so naturally I wanted to have humans, orcs, and dwarves, and of course, it had to have at least one dragon, but the storyline was a complete unknown. The only actual plan that I had from the beginning, is that I wanted a lot of short, fast-paced chapters in the beginning so the reader would get thrown into the action right away.

I think I made it through about the first five or six chapters before I had a clue where it was going. Then without any great effort on my part, the Holy Spirit really began to just share an entire outline for the whole book and beyond. I was pretty blown away because I didn't know that Beating Back the Darkness, which was my original title, was actually a series. I thought it was a one and done type of deal, but that was not to be the case. I furiously took notes creating mind maps of the general outline. Then I got back to writing.

I do really enjoy writing by the seat of my pants. It is fun and liberating, but I have found that often it leads to a painful amount of rework and editing, due to the intricacies that I intend to weave into each story.

What obstacles did you encounter in this endeavour to write this series? How did you overcome these?

I think doubt and busyness were the two biggest obstacles. But the truth is, if I had more faith in what the Lord was calling me to write, I would have made writing more of a priority. I often struggled with wondering if I was wasting my time writing a story that no one would read, or that if they did read it, they would think it was rubbish. I tried to really trust that it was God who called me to write and not just my own desires, but it was a battle.

The writing itself was pretty easy, especially with that book, because it was my first one and I didn't know anything. I didn't worry about mechanics or rules, I just wrote. Now that I am learning much more about the craft of writing, I am being burdened by all of the nuances that I am trying to incorporate into my writing.

With Dragon's Fire, the only challenging part was creating the history of Aurion. As you know, Dragon's Fire touches on a multitude of historical events. Aurion's timeline dates back thousands of years, so making sure that the histories were congruent was challenging at times. Needless to say, I rewrote the timeline over and over again.

How has writing and being an author impacted your relationship with Jesus Christ?

Great question.

Writing has been a trust exercise in many ways, and I believe it always will be. I have had much bigger tests of faith in life, but there is something about writing that is a different type of trust. Writing like any art is very personal, even intimate. To share that writing means letting the outside world in and leaving yourself vulnerable. That is not an always an easy task, especially when you are writing about the very Stone that the builders rejected.

Do you have a favourite genre that you read?

I do like to read self-help books about faith, marriage, and finances, but fantasy is my favorite. Especially the emerging Noblebright genre, which offers a much-needed contrast to GrimDark. I do not get much time to read through so a single book can take me a couple months.

What do you like doing when you're not writing?

I love the outdoors! My children are young, so we don't take many adventures yet, but they are finally getting to the age where camping and hiking are possibilities. My wife actually hooked me up on Father’s Day this year, and we did our first family hike at Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina. I, of course, love to read fantasy and sci-fi and I am also a huge sports fan, especially American football.

What have you learnt about becoming an author?

Being an author is really about being an entrepreneur. You have to build a name for yourself that is unique in the market, and that is just as important as the books themselves. It is also a long-term commitment. While some authors do have success very early in their careers, I understand that the current averages suggest that it isn't until your 5th book is released that you can start to earn a living off it. I working my tail off to beat that average.

You write well. Have you always found this to be an easy feat? Some authors engaged in a writing course or other such mentoring before they wrote their first novel. Did you participate in any of these? If so, would you encourage other budding authors to do so?

I have always found it easy to write. People have often said that I had a way with words, and to an extent, that has proven to be true. I do wish I had studied writing though. I have a degree in communications, but I would have been better served by actually getting some form of an English degree. Apparently, I’ve picked up a few things along the way, at least that’s what my editor and beta readers tell me.

Now let's discuss the Beating Back The Darkness series. 

For those readers who are unfamiliar with this series, here is a rundown of each novel: 

A rising tide of violence is spreading across the land, and it threatens to cast all of Aurion into war and chaos. Slayvin, a dragon straight out of nightmare, is at the heart of the corruption. Using dark, and sorcerous power, the shadow drake bends and twists the will of those who would seek his power for their own.

As the dragon wages his war, the survivors are left with a choice; forge unlikely alliances among the disparate races, or become enslaved. In either case, the future is grim. It is a future of war. Axes are sharpened, bows are strung, and cryptic prophecies are examined for the one thing that is all but lost—hope. 

Two priests leave their jungle paradise, on a quest to recover a long-lost artefact. An artefact so powerful, so dangerous, it would forever alter the course of history. As they draw closer to their prize, they dig into the artefact's past, and the pivotal moments in history it altered. 

This novella is a prequel to Dragon's Fire.

The Halls of the Fallen King (Beating Back the Darkness, Book 2)

Release date: August 14, 2018. 

The Black Dragon's War is over, but the world has more trouble awaiting just below the surface. 

As the people of Aurion celebrate the defeat of the black dragon, magical energy continues to emanate from the dwarven ruins at Duroc's Refuge.

Orc Chieftain Theros is tormented by the loss of his brother, but his concern for his people pushes him to action. The mighty warrior is joined by four other brave warriors who descend into the depths of the mountain keep to stop the catastrophic buildup of energy.

Their dark journey has already uncovered centuries-old secrets, and the deeper they penetrate the ruins, the more perilous the journey becomes.

Their world – and others – will be changed forever… 

 How long did it take you to write this series so far?

That is a tough question to answer because I started writing Dragon’s Fire in the closing days of 2011 and did not finish until the early summer of 2014, but there were massive gaps throughout. Had I developed more writing discipline, I could have finished the manuscript in less than a year.

The Chronicles of Aurion was my second book, and with it being a novella, I was able to produce it much faster. I think the timeframe was about a year from plotting to release.  

The Halls of the Fallen King is also a bit tricky to pin down because it was spread out from the middle of 2015 and is just now being released in August of 2018. So, the time frame stretches out over three years, but with the all the gaps in between, it’s had to say how much time it actually took. 

Beating Back The Darkness is a fantasy series and an epic one at that! You have stated that you like reading fantasy and wanted to create your own when you were at school. In this genre and in that of science fiction, world building is an essential foundation where an infrastructure is developed to enable the world of the novel to be realistic, believable and credible for the reader. You have created this very convincingly with those criteria present.

You have: 

· a map of the Darnisi continent with its cities and basic topography, (located in Dragon's Fire)

· various species and their history,

· ancient prophecy,

· spirituality based on the bible and the gospel

· demonic oppression and possession

· a supernatural intervention of spiritual beings

· A prequel novella, The Chronicles of Aurion, a series of short stories that serve as a prequel to the Beating Back the Darkness series.

· basic ancient language, carvings and symbolism that ties in with the history and spirituality of the races of Aurion 

· Elder Stones containing God's power initially created for a specific use by the Seraphim Order before they became fallen angels, but these Stones have fallen into the wrong hands and used for greed and power. 

· history of magic (Qarii and Qarim), and of gifted individuals, known as Keepers, (for the seven different blessing for the seven different types of Elder Stones). 

Tell us how you achieved this and/or what influenced this creation. I bet you had fun in the process of this too! 

It was a blast! Initially, I just started telling a story about a place that I would love to experience. I wanted a world that was more than just a bunch of people that didn't like each other, I wanted a world that was rich history, language, faith, and conflict. So, I tried to carve out a little piece of the world one chapter at a time. The real challenge was finding a way to accomplish it in such a fast-paced story.

Aside from God, my main influences were Lewis and Tolkien's works, the Dragonlance Chronicles, and the Warhammer, Diablo, and Warcraft universes respectively. I didn't necessarily want Aurion to look like any of them, but I studied some of the things that I felt made them distinctly their own.

I think those influences can be seen throughout, and it is quite well received, but the more I read, the more I realize there are so many more opportunities to build greater depth. I really admire what has been done by Brandon Sanderson has done in Mistborn and Stormlight Archives and what Steven Erikson has done in The Malazan Book of the Fallen, and I’ve tried to really apply what I’ve learned from them into my own work.

When you wrote of the ramblings and musings of Jonus Quillbearer VII in the chapter titled Here There Be Dragons, I was transported to another world as you were very successful in composing that in a totally different writing style to the rest of the novel to reflect it being written by the character of Jonus. I really wanted that book to continue. It also provided a unique way of providing the background of the dragons instead of including that as part of the narrative somewhere else in the story. As a new author, did you find it hard writing in another writing style?

I am so glad you liked it! I was equal parts proud and nervous about that chapter for that very reason. I actually wrote that chapter near the end of the book. I felt that there was an opportunity to give a little more backstory to the nature of dragons as they exist in Aurion and it gave me an opportunity to place Mr Quillbearer on center stage.

Once I decided to write the backstory, I knew that it really needed to come much earlier in the story, the problem was that our quirky friend Jonus had not been introduced. Fortunately, he is our resident historian, so the historical text made it a perfect fit. Writing it with a different style was easy because Jonus had such a unique and fun personality. The only tricky part was deciding how much to include and where to put it. Ultimately it felt that the most appropriate way was to allow the readers to experience Slayvin first, then offer some backstory later.

In Dragon's Fire, my favorite characters were Duncan, Dominar, and Mistress Kiriana. Can you shed any light on those characters? Perhaps their background, what you think of them, and why you depicted them as you did.

These were fun characters to create! Duncan, this wonderful learned sage, who has spent his entire life studying the various prophecies. I didn't want him to come across as Gandalf or Elrond, so I made him small and a bit silly in appearance, rather than grand an awe-inspiring. He's just a little old dude who happens to have a pretty tremendous amount of knowledge. I love that he knows these great things of God, but at the same time, he is so human that he can't help but be perpetually annoyed with Jonus's innocent exuberance.

Dominar is probably one of my favorite characters. I had a friend ask me if I Dominar was supposed to be a representation of me. Honestly, I was flattered, even though the answer was no. When I originally set out to write the story, I did not have any (conscious) intentions of having my characters representing myself or anyone that I knew, aside from the Frelsarine. Initially, my thought for Dominar was a dwarf that went against the common conventions. I did not want another Thorin Oakenshield or even a Gimli. I wanted someone unique. I wanted him to not only be fatherly, but even grandfatherly. I wanted Dominar to be a man of integrity. I wanted him to be loyal, kind, patient, and wise. But I wanted him to be able to have fun and to be able to laugh at himself sometimes. In short, he wasn't the man I am today, but maybe more the man I aspire to be someday.

Mistress Kiriana was one of the most exciting characters to write, especially early on in Dragon's Fire. She was actually the first character that I really saw. She is an amazing young woman, but as they say, it's complicated. One moment she is a fearless Master Slayer saving lives and serving up death like nobody's business, then the next minute she is quiet, timid, and unsure of herself. She is complex, for reasons that we only begin to understand in Dragon's Fire. I think she is a character that not only women, but men too, will be able to relate to because she is amazing, but more importantly, she is broken. What I hope people will be able to see with her (especially going forward), is that even though she is broken, she is still awesome. I think people need to see that, because it's real. We are broken.

I also found Kiriana to become one of the most intriguing characters in the story for an odd reason too. Once I started getting reader feedback, I noticed that most people were slightly disappointed with her role in some parts of the Dragon’s Fire. I won't spoil anything, but readers were hungry for more of her. Well, the Master Slayer is right at the heart of the action in The Halls of the Fallen King so they won’t be disappointed.

In Halls of the Fallen King, I found myself favouring Theros. What run down can you give me concerning him?

I love Theros and to be perfectly honest, sometimes I have to remind myself to escort him off the page to allow the Dominar, Sharka, Nal’drin, and Kiriana to take center stage. When I do it, I’m glad, because they have so much to offer us. But Theros is a character whose story is very important to me.

My inspiration for Theros is directly from my days playing World of Warcraft. Back in my younger years, I played an orc character who was ironically enough named Orcrist, who I later renamed Theros.

When I envisioned him, I very much saw him as a massive, bald-headed, and slate gray skinned orc with blue eyes who otherwise matched the general WoW depiction of an orc, rather than the more grotesque and evil depictions that pervade pop culture like Tolkien’s work or even the Warhammer Hammer universe (Why did I choose gray skin for Ogron and Theros when the rest of the orcs are various shades of green? I just wanted him and his brother to be different).

When I wrote him as a character I wanted this ferocious hulk-sized behemoth who was an absolute terror on a battlefield who smashed enemies to bits with two iron maces. I wanted Theros to be that fierce, battle-scarred warrior, but he had to be a noble and cerebral leader. Yes, he is a fearsome and even savage foe, but his is so much more than that off it. All of the orcs are.

But the scars have added up, the battles have taken their toll. He’s experienced tremendous losses in his life, and they seem to keep coming. He effectively is dealing with severe PTSD and the burden of trying to protect the lives of those around him. He stands at the epicenter of a conflict far bigger than anyone knows, as a tragically broken, and dangerous man. 

Some authors who have portrayed the character of Jesus in their novels have found this to be a humbling experience while others refuse to include Jesus as a character as they feel they would not do His character justice. You have chosen the former. How did you feel developing His character, how He would act, what He would say? Do you feel the same way as those who have characterised Jesus mentioned previously? I must say that I was very emotional in your depiction of Jesus (Aneri'On) when I read this.

I think that is who Jesus really is, is a person that stirs our hearts. I am honoured that God would allow me to portray Him at all, and I am thankful that He helped me do it in a way that resonated with you, and hopefully many more.

I don't know that the word “humbling” was ever in my mind when I was trying to create Aneri'On, the Frelsarine, but it was exactly that. Perhaps for a different reason though. I knew that the Holy Spirit would not lead me astray, but I struggled with something else. The fact that the story is really centered around so many other characters, felt weird. It seemed like He should have been front and center from start to finish, and He wasn't. It felt like I was doing Jesus and injustice because we don't actually meet Him until so late in the story. I never felt the Holy Spirit leading me in a different direction though.

The first three instalments in this series really do transport the reader into the world of Aurion with its rising tide of violence that is spreading its lands, threatening to cast all of Aurion into war and chaos. You have created a richness and depth to the plot and characterisation. You have set a high standard. What have you planned for the rest of the series?

One of my brothers told me that I had set the bar too high for the first book in the series and he was worried that it would be hard to follow up. I must admit that I had the same concern at one point in time as well for one simple reason: Aneri'On. He told me that it’s hard to have a bigger story than what just unfolded. He had a great point, but I’ve got some pretty big plans, which I will get to in a moment.

But I realized that in my effort to create an exciting fantasy thrill ride that kept readers on the edge of their seats, I didn’t always get as intimate with some of the characters as I could have in Dragon’s Fire. The effect was the people devoured the book, which is a good thing, but sometimes they were left wanting more—specifically from certain characters. This gave me a huge opportunity. I knew that as I continued to write out the series, that in order to allow the reader to get in closer to each character, that I really had to develop better pacing instead of just keeping my foot on the gas from start to finish. I think I’ve done that quite well in The Halls of the Fallen King, and as the early reviews continue to roll in, apparently the readers agree with me.

In terms of the series itself, the current plan that there will be at least 5 total core novels in the Beating Back the Darkness series. There will also be other short stories and perhaps even novellas like The Chronicles of Aurion that will run in parallel at certain junctures, with tie-ins to the overall story. Generally speaking, each core book will initially have its own story arc, but will ultimately tie into the larger, grander story arc, which will not always be evident until later. 

The second core novel in the series is the newly released The Halls of the Fallen King. It picks up a few short months after the dramatic conclusion of Dragon's Fire. News of dangerous levels of magic are radiating out from an abandoned dwarven city, and our small group of heroes must find out what’s going on and try to put a stop to it. As our heroes venture underground into The Halls of the Fallen King, they discover a new world. A dark and tragic world of mystery and magic. While our heroes think that they are reaching the end of their quest, they discover that their journey is just beginning…

In a few instances, you have a few of the characters speak in either a foreign language or an ancient language of their species. Are these languages entirely a creation of your imagination or are they based on existing languages?

The languages themselves were my own creations. I would love to actually build out those languages further, but I am not sure if or when that would happen. I just wanted to make sure that each language had its own sound and feel.

In a similar vein, are any of the character names created in this way?

Great question!

When I envisioned how I would depict the savior in my world, I really thought about how the Jewish people must have thought about the coming Messiah as a conquering, warrior king. Then I gave him a look that fell somewhere between a warrior or paladin from World of Warcraft and a Viking. Then as I thought about the Viking aspect, I decided I wanted to take the Norse aspect a little further. So I began looking at Scandinavian names and translations.

The Frelsarine title was derived from the Swedish and Icelandic translations of Savior. The Swedish spelling is Frälsare, the Icelandic being Frelsarinn. Interestingly both languages have a different translation if you do not use savior instead of the proper noun Savior.

To keep with the Nordic theme, I wanted to give Aneri'On a name the seemed Viking-esque, but I couldn't find any names that I loved, so I created one. While I do like names with apostrophes, there is an added significance here because Aneri'On capitalizes on the A and the O, to represent the Alpha and the Omega.

Most authors struggle with fight scenes and battle strategy/warfare. This, I presume, is the first time you have written these type of scenes. Have you had any instruction, advice or practice prior to writing this series? I ask because your fight scenes/battle strategies are convincing and add credibility.

Nope, none of the above. I have always been a fan of movies like Gladiator, Braveheart, Troy, and the more recent version of King Arthur in addition to the epic fantasy movies like Lords of the Rings and The Hobbit. I also played a lot of these types of action games when I was younger, so I always had a pretty good visualization of various forms of combat, so this felt pretty natural to me.

In terms of the strategy, I am probably quite strange, but I often pondered how I would have built, defended, and sieged cities in ancient times. I understand that sieges were often wars of attrition more than brute force, but I always found that creative tactics and devices to be far more interesting, so I wanted to focus on those, while still making it believable.

It appears that you have two "magic" systems at work in the world of Aurion. What were the inspirations for your magic systems?

Being a reformed gamer and an avid reader, I’ve been exposed to a lot of really neat concepts. The first part is that I definitely wanted to have two distinct systems of magic, though at times they could be misunderstood to be one and the same—though they are not.

I wanted that light vs dark duality, and that is why each of the magic systems has a different source (and rules). The magic systems themselves were my own creation, but there were several additional elements that I found from other influences, that I really wanted to take a piece from.

I really enjoy element-based magic systems, so you see that unfold in The Halls of the Fallen King, but I didn’t want it to be shallow or a carbon copy of what’s already out there. So, I took some small ideas from the work of Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson, and Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman. They were all small components that I liked from each, that I took a little sliver of and used them to form my own dual systems.

From reading Christian fiction extensively, I believe that a Christian author’s writing should be a way of sharing his faith/relationship with God. I wrote in my review of Dragon’s Fire,

"If there is a glue that binds everything together in this novel, it is the spiritual aspects. Hebert does not hide his love of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is where his love of Jesus shines through and reflects his personal relationship with Jesus.”
I have a suspicion that this is why you made it very obvious and prominent the biblical themes/doctrines (e.g. forgiveness, salvation, repentance, God's agape/unconditional love, spiritual warfare, to name most of them) in the series. Your thoughts on this? In stating the above, I am not implying that other authors who have not made these themes this obvious that this has any reflection on their relationship with God. There are many variables that would govern this in any Christian novel.

First off, thank you. I take that as a compliment of the highest regard. My first intention was to create a wild and exciting story that would honor God. I wanted it to be a story that Christians would feel comfortable reading, without feeling that they are compromising their faith. It was also really important that a person of a different faith, or no faith at all, could pick up the book and enjoy it. With that being said, I really wanted to write a thought-provoking story that would edify and encourage all people. I wanted to write such a story that prompted an internal dialogue for the reader. I would love for people to have a God encounter while reading this novel. With that being said, if it simply challenged them to re-examine life and things like salvation, forgiveness, and true love, then I have succeeded.

I mentioned in a previous question The Chronicles of Aurion. Tell us more about this and why you wrote them.

As a relatively new author, I realize that many people will be wary of taking a chance on my writing. I also understand that successful authors will repeatedly tell you that the best form of promotion is to write the next book. It didn't take long to realize that one (not all) of the reasons for this is that when authors release a new book, they generally start to give away one of their older books. This allows readers to take them for a test drive before committing cash. I am certain there is also a psychology behind readers trusting an author who has written five books versus someone with a single title under their belt.

I knew that The Halls of the Fallen King was going to take a while, so I decided to take a short break, and instead focus on a prequel of sorts, enter The Chronicles of Aurion. TCoA is a free series of short stories that will allow the readers to get a very small taste of the world of Aurion, or at least what it used to look like. The first story takes us to the old world continent of Antirri a little over 300 years before the events of Dragon's Fire. The series takes the reader through a series of key stops in history. It will not be readily apparent to the reader at first, but by the time the series has been completed, the reader will be given bits of backstory that actually helps set the stage for both books one and two.

Without giving too much away, what can we expect from Book 3 or the rest of the series,? 

Ohhh, this is a tough question to answer without spoilers so I will have to be very, very vague. But what I can say is that our heroes will find themselves in a very foreign situation in the next book. It will force them to experience an entirely new way of life, and the hope of life ever returning to normal for them will seem to be fleeting.

They will have to find new allies and new ways of doing things if they are to survive. The events of book three are actually quite pivotal, despite initially seeming disconnected, and it sets up the groundwork for the rest of the series. The happenings that take place in Book 3 put catastrophic events into motion, which cannot be undone, leaving a massive impact that will be felt across the entire EverSphere. 

When is the Tales From Darkness being released? 

I have a few projects that I will be hard the rest of this year. The first is my yet-to-be-named short story for an upcoming Myths & Legends anthology. I am incredibly excited about the short story I have lined up for it, it’s going to be fantastic (sorry, no spoilers)!

Once I have it submitted, I will pivot back to Tales from Darkness. Fortunately, the story from the anthology will also be a part of TfD, which is really cool. Then I hope to spend the rest of the year working diligently on with a hope of finishing it before Christmas. A LOT of work has to happen for that to even be possible, but that’s my goal.

You have described this novella as

........a collection of vignettes that serve to introduce readers to new faces and places that will be explored in future installments of the Beating Back the Darkness series (The Chronicles of Aurion, Dragon's Fire, & The Halls of the Fallen King)

Does this novel fit into any reading order with the current 3 novels?

Excellent and important question! The stories won’t be too specific about the exact time frame of when they occur, but for the best experience, readers will want to read them between books 2 & 3.

Speaking of reading order, I found it better to have read The Chronicles of Aurion after Dragon’s Fire and before The Halls of the Fallen King. I say this as the storyline is directly related to this new novel with only a hint of it being related to Dragon’s Fire. Does this matter? 

This is always a tricky question to answer for me, but it is one I always enjoy trying to tackle! As most people know, I actually wrote TCoA after Dragon’s Fire, so there are some key world building elements that the reader will get exposed to that were simply not present in Dragon’s Fire—mainly the Elder Stones and the presence of magic. This naturally makes it fit in nicely with The Halls of the Fallen King, and the story of King Duroc.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the simplest explanation is that magic had largely become a forgetting thing in the world of Aurion, so our heroes had zero intimate or personal knowledge of it during Dragon’s Fire. Unlike the heroes and villains of ages past, Theros and Co. don’t actually begin to encounter the magics until they venture into the under-mountain realm of the dwarven king, where it becomes all too real.

So, while it does serve as a prequel to the whole series and offers some hints into the backstory for Dragon’s Fire, some people do prefer to read it between books 1 and 2. Either way, it is a good and cheap way for people to get a taste of my writing style and see if it is a fit for them, before diving into Dragon’s Fire.

Do you feel that the description of the magic you have created via the use of the Qarii could be construed as demonic? What did you base this on? 

I don’t want to provide any spoilers, but absolutely. The entire competing nature of the dual magic systems was for this exact reason. I think that it just provides so many story options to me as the writer throughout this whole series, and it provides some real problems for our characters that we haven’t even begun to see yet. 

Comments from early reviewers have been very favourable and more than encouraging. Has anyone compared this series to Lord of the Rings? I stated so in a Facebook post. How does this make you feel? 

I am actually blown away by the reviews so far. It is incredible that it is being received so well. I give God all the honor and glory because I’m just exercising what he has given me. To be honest, I was optimistic but quite nervous after the 1st draft of the book was done, so I went through the entire book and did a major revision this spring. The book actually got about 18% longer! That isn’t supposed to happen during revisions, the books are supposed to get smaller, but I generally toss conventional wisdom aside and focus on what the story needs. It was too flat, it needed more depth, so I added it. That’s a big part of why it took so long to get this one out, but it seems that it was worth it.

It is no secret that Tolkien’s Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are some of my most obvious influences. I think any comparisons are very fair—and ones that I happily embrace—but I would say that there are probably equal influences from my youthful days as a gamer. The fantastical worlds that I explored through the Diablo and Warcraft franchises are almost insuppressible in my work, simply because I spent so much time in them. 

If either Dragon's Fire or Halls of the Fallen King were to be made into a movie, who would you like to see cast as Aneri’On (Jesus), Theros, Dominar, Duroc, Kiriana, Skarka and Nal'drin? 

Oooh, that is a fantastic question. I honestly don’t know that I have a good answer for you. A lot of it would have to be heavily CGI though, which would give way to a lot of voice acting, etc.

When it comes to fantasy, I am generally a fan of using lesser known actors/actresses to play the roles. That being said, I love Idris Elba, so even if he was just a voice actor, we’d have to find a spot for him. So, I’d have to find a place to get him to handle one of the key characters.

Brian Cox might also make a really good Duroc, I’m just not sure how they make him dwarf sized. ;)

Where did you get the inspiration for the Elder Stones?

I am a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series (I actually need to hurry up and finish Oathbringer). In the fantastic world that he has created there is a source of magical power called Stormlight, but it is solely fueled by these deadly storms that ravage the world. One of the ways to trap this magical energy is through the use of special gems. These gems come in a variety of sizes and colors based, and they double as a currency based on their rarity. I absolutely loved the way the gems are implemented into the world and I wanted to do something with stones that could interact with the world’s magic, but I didn’t want them to be common or anything. Instead, I wanted them to be more of a rare artefact.

Now as seen in The Halls of the Fallen King, other stones actually can respond to the presence of magic—which is further explored in Book 3—but they cannot compare to the Elder Stones. 

I found it very effective having snippets at the start of each chapter of the two backstories, one of Duroc’s discovery of the Qarii and Qarim in his quest to find and master the Elder Stones, the other being the rebellion of the Seraphim order who controlled the Elder Stones. Have you thought to expand on these two stories as either novels or novellas so readers get the full story? This is an excellent world building by the way. 

Thank you so much! I’m certainly not the first to try it, but it was a bit of a gamble to see if the journal entries I had planned would work. It seems that it has paid off. I was hoping to find an effective way of adding to the world building and backstory without being disruptive to the overall narrative.

I do not currently have any plans to expand on those individual texts into stories though.

Will you be providing more of the content of the book, Keepers of the Flame, in subsequent novels? I would have liked to have had more of the contents of this book to balance out the background to the faith and history of Ynu with that of the snippets of the dark arts of the Qarii and Qarim.

Yes! I plan to expand these type of journal entry chapter headers through the rest of the core series, but with different books. I’m considering using excerpts from Keepers of the Flame for Book 3.

The balancing act is something I am keenly aware of and sensitive too, but with everything I have planned for the rest of the series, that balance is going to see completely out of order for a while. Don’t lose hope though, Peter!

The introduction of the Keepers and their abilities have only been introduced in this novel. I presume this will be further developed in the remaining three novels and will play an integral part in dealing with the demonic and dark arts leading to this series conclusion?

Absolutely! The Qarii, Qarim, and the Keepers will be central to the conflict throughout the rest of the series. This is a world(s) where the magics were largely forgotten altogether, and certainly the truths of their nature even moreso. As they are rediscovered, some of the truths are not. Our heroes have a lot of learning and growing to do along the way—if they can stay alive long enough—and they’ve got a lot of mistakes to make along the way. Lots.

What take-home message do you want readers of Dragon's Fire, The Chronicles of Aurion and The Halls of the Fallen King to embrace?

For the people that are un-churched or uncomfortable with “religion”, I hope that they are uplifted when they walk away from these books. I hope that they realize that there is always hope, that nothing is impossible, and that amazing things can happen with just a little faith.

I also hope they walk away with a new idea of what a hero looks like. I hope they see champions like the mighty Theros Hammerfist and fiery, kick-butt women like Kiriana and Sharka, and appreciate their heroism—but at the end of the day, they realize that Aneri'On is the real deal. He loved, He forgave, and He sacrificed everything for those who hated Him. That is what a real hero looks like.

For those that are Christians, the easy answer is that Jesus of Nazareth was and is still the Christ, our risen Lord. He is the God that loves his children so much, that He chose to taste the bitterness of persecution, betrayal, and death, simply to be with us. And that because of His unrelenting, undying love for us, that we are free to do just that. 

Anything else you would like to say about The Halls of the Fallen King, or the rest of the Beating Back the Darkness series? 

The Halls of the Fallen King is a very exciting story, and I am so glad that I am finally able to share it with my eager fans. It looks and feels a bit different from the sprawling epic that is Dragon's Fire because the scope is narrowed in on a core handful of heroes as they descend into the dwarven ruins of Duroc's Refuge. The great thing about the scope change though, is that it allowed us to get more intimate with our heroes. We get to know Theros, Kiriana, Sharka, Nal’drin, and Dominar so much more—and readers love it! I had admittedly huge expectations for this book, and based on the feedback I am getting from readers, I think we may have exceeded even those expectations.

What’s next?

Vacation!! Seriously, after all the time and effort that has gone into this project, my vacation is actually coming at the perfect time. Plus there is the whole bit about it being my 10-year anniversary. 😉

My wife and I are very fortunate to actually be able to get away for some much needed, and long overdue R&R. We will have our toes in the sand in Belize very soon, probably before this interview is published!😊

After the sun sets on our vacation, I have two projects that I need to work on. One is a yet-to-be-announced fantasy & sci-fi anthology, and the second is that I plan to finish my fourth book, Tales from Darkness. TfD is a collection of short stories that I’ve written in the Beating Back the Darkness universe. All of the stories will run in parallel to the core series. TfD will introduce readers to new faces and places in my worlds, which will ultimately tie into the core series somewhere down the line. My previously published short story Paid in Blood is a perfect example, and is one of the stories that will be included in the book.

As soon as those two projects are done, I plan to resume working on Book 3! I would love to provide an estimated release date, but that would be impossible right now.

Apart from the Beating Back the Darkness series, what other storylines or genres are you developing?

The Beating Back the Darkness series is the only project that I am actively working on right now. I have a boatload of story concepts written out, but this series is my primary focus at the moment.

I think I will primarily write in the fantasy genre, but there are a variety of sub-genres that interest me ranging from YA Portal Fantasy to Asian and Norse Inspired Fantasy to Steampunk.

I also have some non-fiction on my heart. I don’t know if it will be in the form of a devotional or not yet, but I do have some specifics on the aspect of building your faith.

Where can readers find you?

Where can readers buy your books?

I will also be selling signed copies of all my books through my website starting in September 2018. 

Any closing comments? 

Thank you, Peter, for all your time and enthusiasm, and a big thank you to all the readers out there. Without you, we are just telling ourselves stories we already know.

For those that have enjoyed my books, please reach out to me. I love hearing what people have to say about the stories. Also please consider leaving a review on Amazon. It helps tremendously!

And don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter on my website. You’ll get a free book just for signing up.

Tiger, what a great interview! Thank you so much for introducing us to the world of Aurion and the Beating Back the Darkness series and insights into your author's world. I am sure once readers read this interview they will want to investigate this Beating Back the Darkness series. I have loved every minute of reading/reviewing your novels and interviewing you. You are one new author to follow and support. 

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