Monday, April 26, 2010

Guest Author - Michael J. Sullivan (Interview & Giveaway)

Lisa Hurley our fabulous roving SFF reviewer recently completed a series of reviews here at of the first four books in the Riyria Revvelations fantasy series by Michael J. Sullivan, including the most recent, The Emerald Storm, which was released on April 8. Of the newest book Lisa said, "For fans or for newcomers to the Riyria Revelations, The Emerald Storm is a breathtaking read that manages to invoke the spirit of classic literature - from the Odyssey type journey of the Storm's crew, to the foreign jungles and violent trek that invoke images of Heart of Darkness."

Lisa recently conducted an in-depth review with Michael about the birth of the series and it's climb to success and popularity. Michael has generously offered a copy of a book from the series to a commenter, so check the Giveaway Guidelines at the end of the post for details. Michael will be dropping by to chat, so please take a moment to say hello and leave a comment or question.

Lisa Reviews: The Crown Conspiracy | Avempartha | Nyphron Rising | The Emerald Storm

Thank you Lisa and Michael for being here today!

Lisa:. So, Michael, where did the inspiration for the Riyria Revelations come from? Did Royce and Hadrian appear in a dream, threaten your life, and demand that you write down their story?

Back in the winter of 1989/90, my wife and I were living in a tiny place called Troy, Vermont, a small village near the Canadian border. We had only just moved there and this was our first full winter. Any winter in Vermont is challenging but we were also going through some tough times. We were living in a mobile home that cost less than our car. We still had our house in Michigan that wasn’t selling and that was going to prevent us from building our house in Vermont in the spring. Add to that the fact that the water pipes froze like clockwork each week, we were living on spaghetti and peanut butter and jelly, and the kerosene heater kept running out of fuel in the middle of the night and you can guess it wasn’t the best of times. Coydogs (wild packs of coyotes/dogs) swarmed the trailer at night, prompting me to get a rifle. And my wife had just given birth to our second daughter, so neither of us got much sleep.

I wrote of my growing depression to a friend back home in Michigan, Peter DeBrule (who incidentally the Emerald Storm is partially dedicated to) who in an effort to try and lift my spirits and distract my attention, wrote back with an idea for a “chain story.” He wasn’t a writer, but he knew I was trying to be one so he wrote a couple of paragraphs in which two unidentified men enter a medieval tavern. One was big, the other little, they were expecting friends and they took a table after persuading a surly local to move by buying him a pitcher of beer. That was pretty much it—only a couple paragraphs amounting to half a page of typing.

So then, I took up the story. I wrote maybe ten or twenty pages in which I made the big one a sword fighter and the other a thief and named them Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn patterning them after the heroes from my first two books that I created more than a decade earlier when I was in high school.

With a third friend, Steve Gillick, who at that time was going to college in New Orleans, we collectively wrote, by way of snail-mail, perhaps fifty pages of a little story we entitled “Blades.” Pete and Steve, lost interest and the story was forgotten with only a third of it done, but I always liked Royce and Hadrian and that was the birth of the two characters, although they were not Riyria yet. That wouldn’t happen until nearly ten years later.

Lisa: What was the story Blades about?

Writing ad hoc as we did it was more like doing a literary version of improv. It was difficult to move the story in any consistent direction when the other two contributors were taking it other places and there was a week to a month delay as we waited for the mail. So it meandered a lot, but generally it was about Royce and Hadrian who were the leaders of a rag-tag band of adventurers forever struggling to explore and pillage the depths of a buried city called Kolmar, but always narrowly escaping with their lives. Blades was their last attempt to gather together their old team and go in again.

Lisa: Did any other characters get their start in Blades?

Actually, yes. Esrahaddon, who was Royce and Hadrian’s arch-nemesis was in Blades, only he was a decidedly more evil character. Arcadius was in it too, who was part of their team. There was even a Modina, only she was a countess and the wife of the Earl of Chadwick, and nothing like the Modina of the series. When I was trying to come up with a name for the empress I remembered her and it felt perfect. There were several characters that never made it to Riyria—at least not in total. One character named Berenger, was a favorite of my friend Steve’s so I deliberately left him out not wanting to step on his creation.

Lisa: What about the other characters? Was there a problem with you using them?

I had no problem using the rest of the cast as I invented and named them all—even Berenger, but Steve really built that character and made it his own. (He also built Wyatt and Elden, and did a great job with them too, but he made them too much a copy of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, so in Riyria I took them a different way.) I had a habit of writing a lot more than the others and even going back and re-writing their segments to “fix” them. I remember that this irritated Pete, understandably so, and likely contributed to the death of the story. It was quickly becoming no longer a chain story with three contributors but instead, my story.

Lisa: So how did Blades become the Riyria Revelations?

Well, like I said, it was forgotten. The letters stopped coming so it just died, which is ironic as it was just about the time we all obtained the ability to email. For the next couple of years or so, they would talk about resurrecting the story, but it never happened, and I truly liked Royce and Hadrian. I knew these two guys, which was part of the problem with Blades. I hated it when Pete or Steve would make them do or say something I knew they wouldn’t. They were always in the back of my head and I wondered how, if I were to really sit down and rewrite the series, how would I do it. This is something I would think about while doing dishes or walking the dog. And I envisioned this scene where the two are climbing a tower of a castle to steal something only to discover too late it was a setup. I just thought that would make a great beginning to a story, but I was never going to write it, because I had given up writing.

I had spent ten years writing thirteen novels of nearly every genre. I studied the classics, the Pulitzer Prize winners, and the blockbuster novels. I sent out submissions daily to agents and publishers and after a decade had nothing to show for it but a wall plastered with rejections. Steve had graduated with his doctorate and had become a professor. Pete had moved on to a job at General Motors. All of my friends had careers, and I was like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin that was never coming. So when we left Vermont, I quit writing and looked for work as a commercial artist.

I was successful. In two years, I opened my own advertising agency. In three more, I had offices taking up a quarter of the eighth floor of a glass tower office building and clients like AT&T. I was so busy I never thought of writing. I didn’t even read. Then my daughter, who was at that time about thirteen, was having trouble in school with reading. She didn’t like it. In seeking a way to interest her in reading, I bought this book called Harry Potter, and being bored one day I picked it up. It was fun and reminded me of when I was thirteen and discovered Tolkien. It reminded me that reading books could be a blast, and that got me thinking about writing again.

At that same time, I was watching this show called Babylon 5, a sci-fi television series in which the creator, J. Michael Straczynski, created the show’s five-year story arc before the pilot aired. This allowed him to do fantastic things with the series. As a viewer I could look for clues and try and figure out where the story would go knowing it was indeed going somewhere fulfilling. I thought this was great. I thought this was the future of television. Then reality tv arrived and I stopped watching television altogether. Still I wondered, if I were a producer what would I do for a tv series? There were (are) tons of police/legal shows, medical shows, and sitcoms. What I rarely saw was westerns and period shows. Westerns had their heyday, but a good medieval fantasy had never been successfully realized. Usually they are silly attempts at comedy, or overly dramatic — amounting to the same thing. So I envisioned a medieval fantasy television series setup in the multi-layered plot that J. Michael Straczynski used, with episode plots, season plots and the long series plot. A story that was serious, but with some humor to make it believable. I decided I would use Royce and Hadrian as the stars and begin it with that scene of them climbing the tower. Of course, I wasn’t a television producer… too bad I thought.

Then it hit me. I could do the same… with books. I began thinking seriously about Royce and Hadrian. And that’s how the Riyria Revelations was born. Probably a longer answer than you wanted.

Lisa: Do Royce and/or Hadrian draw any parallels to people in your life, or perhaps yourself?

In order to make characters feel real, I draw on experience, so yes, Royce and Hadrian are both part of me—the glass half-full and the glass half-empty sides. There is a part of me that is chivalrous to a fault, and the other side that is practical to the point of cynicism. My wife insists that while she sees both in me, the dominate side is Royce. I am only five foot eight and have been slender and agile all my life so I think that also adds to it.

Lisa: The Riyria Revelations is a medieval fantasy. Is this the type of genre you yourself like to read? What is your favorite genre?

The first book I ever enjoyed reading was The Hobbit, and my all-time favorite novels have all been fantasy, but I outgrew the fantasy genre by the time I hit twenty. Of course, there is the problem of language here. What does the term “fantasy” mean in regards to literature? Technically, any book of fiction is a fantasy—as it is a made-up story. When I hit twenty, I started reading Stephen King. This is technically still fantasy, but I never thought of it that way. I also never considered him a horror writer, as strange as that may be because I read The Stand first which I don’t put in that classification. In fact, all the stories by him that I loved, I would never classify as horror. I then went on to Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Asimov’s Foundation. I also enjoyed Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath—interesting pairing, eh? The fact is, I have spent most of my adult life reading as a means of educating myself rather than for enjoyment, so I never hit on a favorite genre. It wasn’t until I read Rowling’s great series that I remember how much fun it could be. Nowadays, I am playing catch-up trying to read the works of other fantasy writers just so I don’t sound stupid when people ask me about my own genre.

Lisa: As one reads these books, we become drawn more and more to Royce and Hadrian, even though they’re not traditional “good guys”. Why do you think that is?

The short answer is: I planned it that way.

Royce and Hadrian are good guys, they just aren’t prince charmings. When I conceived the series I wanted to avoid the common pitfall of the stereotype fantasy story. You know what I mean: young boy destined for greatness, prophesied to defeat an evil but he has to go on a quest to find the one weapon to do it. There is always an ultimate evil for no other reason than because the author says so. And the good guys are saints. I didn’t want that. I also didn’t want to go the other way with the gritty anti-hero. I like books where I like the main characters. I won’t read books where I don’t. And I like the “bad guys” to be believable, not just “evil.”

So Royce and Hadrian are, at least on the surface, normal guys. They don’t have superpowers, they make mistakes and they have both led hard lives, but they don’t moan about it. That might be the thing right there. When you come to understand what these two have lived through, what awful lives they have led, you sympathize and like them all the more because they don’t complain, and still manage to have a sense of humor. That’s the kind of person people like—at least that’s the kind I do.

Lisa: Your writing is very polished. Did you have any formal training in creative writing? What advice do you have to up and coming writers in the fantasy /sci-fi genres?

Thanks for that. Not everyone is so kind in their assessment of my skills. No, I have no training at all. I’ve never had a class, and I’ve never read a book on writing. I never even did very well in English in school. When I graduated high school, I wanted to do two things, write books, or paint the cover art for books. I went to art school until my scholarship ran out, because I knew I could never be a writer. I was horrible at spelling and grammar. And no that’s not what editors are for. They help—oh yes they help—but you still have to know how to write a sentence.

Everything I know about writing is self-taught. It came from reading books I would never normally read, and studying them to see how the author did things. Then I wrote, and I wrote. I wrote whole novels start to finish, and edited them. I wrote one a year for more than a decade. I wrote in almost every genre and in totally different styles mimicking other writers. (Incidentally, this is the same way I taught myself to paint.) I’m not saying this is the best way, this is just the way I did it. And if you are following my story at all, you might realize I tend to do everything the hard way. I am reminded of the Muppet Movie when Gonzo said he was going to Bombay, India to break into motion pictures. Kermit asked why he didn’t come to Hollywood with them, to which Gonzo replied, “Sure, if you want to do it the easy way.”

Lisa: How is it that you are doing it the hard way?

Putting out a six book series, one every six months and bucking the gritty/urban/noir/steampunk trend with a throwback traditional fantasy story without any sex, and hardly any profanity is hard. Writing each novel as a complete story while maintaining a strong story arc is really hard. And doing it through a tiny independent publisher is sort of insane. To get as far as I have—to have you interested enough in my work to do this interview—is amazing as the only source of getting the word out about my books is from myself or my wife—or now from readers who are beginning to spread the word on their own. I wonder how well the books might be doing today if I were published through Tor or Random House, and if a couple of copies of my books were in most bookstores. Being published through little Ridan, I’m not even eligible to submit my work to many publications for review let alone awards. It reminds me of Count Pickering speaking to Hadrian, “But not being noble born, you aren’t allowed to enter a tournament.” I don’t even have a literary agent, although I did just acquire a foreign language rights agent.

Lisa: Why is that?

I’ve had a number of inquiries from France, Germany, Poland and even Random House of Spain asking about the foreign language rights. I never took them seriously but recently, three major publishers in the Czech Republic made offers. They actually sent contracts. I don’t know anything about this sort of thing so it was time to get an agent. There I was with an established book series that has good reviews and—considering my ability to market it—excellent sales, and contracts in hand for foreign rights, and still I had a hard time getting an agent. My wife sort of stumbled on the one we found, and I’m glad she did as she looks to be fantastic.

Lisa: What are your absolute top five favorite books, and why?
  • The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings series
  • The Harry Potter series
  • Watership Down
  • The Stand
  • Atlas Shrugged
These are in order, and the top four are the only books I classify as “ten’s.” What makes a ten for me is a book with characters I like, and I mean in the way that I would love to have them as real-life friends. They also have to have a setting that I would like either to visit or actually live in. And lastly they need to have a good strong plot that makes sense. These are the only books I’ve ever found that do that. Atlas Shrugged is a nine on my list and perhaps the only nine. A lot has been made about the ideology behind the book, but that’s not why I like it. I loved this book for its original mystery story, the writing style, and characters. I learned a great deal of how to write from studying this.

A real good litmus test for a good book—like a movie—is if I would read/watch it again. I almost never reread a book, but I have reread all of these. And I think the reason why is because the characters and setting are places and people I honestly enjoy spending time with. I like all sorts of other books. I find them interesting and entertaining, but I love visiting Hogwarts and having lunch with Ron, Harry and Hermione, or wandering through the lush fields of the Shire with Sam and Merry. And it would be exciting to help rebuild the world with Nick and Stu, or just sit in the tall green grass on the high downs with Hazel and Fiver and watch the sun rise on a perfect spring morning.

Lisa: I have to ask this, because I couldn’t stop thinking about it while I was reading Avempartha – there is a character named ‘Thrace’ who appears in this book – is this an homage to Battlestar Galactica’s Kara Thrace?

Sorry. I’ve never seen Battlestar Galactica. Well, no, I take that back, I did watch the pilot, but that was it and I don’t recall the character in question. I try to keep the names of those in a family to be similar. Alric and Arista for example, Theron and his son and daughter, Thad and Thrace were another. All of those were made up off the top of my head. The funny thing is, that when I do that, when I make up stuff like names on the fly as I write, I pause and think, shouldn’t I take some time to really think about this. What if what I write here becomes popular? What if decades later, there are movies and clubs and Broadway plays based on this and they are using this stupid name unduly burdened because it is now ingrained in the collective psyche of society. I thought that about Tur Del Fur—which is hard to say and sounds like the Swedish Muppet chef, but then I laugh at my own insanity wondering why I am spending so much time worrying about that which will never happen.

Lisa: The Emerald Storm is a really fun journey from start to finish. There is this underlying dark thread, though, as if some kind of conflict is brewing underneath all of these layers of plot. There are two more books that have yet to be released in the Riyria Revelations series – can you give us any hints as to what we can expect?

Ha-ha! So now we get to the meaning of this interview. This has all been a ploy to find out what happens next! The series is made up of what I call a very tightly knit weave of a plot. It is like an extremely intricate web of connecting threads. Almost everything in it connects to everything else, and often what appears to be unimportant, is the most important. For example, Avempartha might appear as an aside story. It sets up Nyphron Rising certainly, by getting story threads moving, but it is the bedrock foundation for the sixth book. As a result, it is hard to say a lot without giving too much away. By now, you know that there are unexpected twists in this tale, but the reality is that I saved most of the “revelations” for the last book. The funny thing is that when you finish the fifth book I suspect you will find that hard to believe.

Each story has been different. Different in tone, setting, plot, and outcome. The first two were almost typical fare, the first being nearly a Disney-like fairy tale plot and the second the standard village plagued by the beast scenario. Granted I put my own special twist on these, but you get the idea. The next two don’t fit standard molds at all.

The last two books, I have always thought where the best in the series. If you look at each novel in the series to date, you see the pattern of a build up to the climax that is the most exciting part of the story. If you realize that this whole series was constructed as a single story, you should understand that the last two books will comprise the climax of the series. And I do work hard to make the climax of my books satisfy the reader’s anticipation.

If you have read Storm, then you already should have a very good idea what to expect in Wintertide. The title should be ominous by now. If you have been reading closely you’ll know that many things are all focused on that upcoming holiday. It is the focal point, the confluence of the series. Everything will come down to that date and nothing will be the same after it. The world of Elan is about to change forever. It will be a big change and it will all begin on Wintertide.

Lisa: Are you working on any other short stories or novels? Will any of them take place in Elan? You know us fans are going to need something after the Riyria Revelations series ends.

You sound like my wife. She nearly cried at the end of the series and was depressed for weeks because there was no more to read. Royce and Hadrian have become her friends and she longs to go on more adventures with them. One day she looked at me and marveled, “You can make them come alive again whenever you want to…that’s not fair.”

There are a great many things I could still do with the series. I purposely left a single unanswered plot thread unexplained. It is exceptionally minor insofar as the series is concerned, and I am certain no reader will even be aware of its presence unless I were to point it out—that’s how insignificant it is. But it’s a thread that leads to a huge revelation about the series that I could, if I so chose, use to build a second series on. There are also the obvious additions such as Royce and Hadrian the Early Years. I could also do a trilogy concerning the fall of the First Empire and how Esrahaddon and Jerish save the Heir. And of course there is the vast epic tale of Novron himself. This could easily be another six book series if I ever fully fleshed it out.

But honestly, I never intended to be a sword and sorcery author. To me, it would be like being typecast as an actor. I have lots of other stories I hope to write. Only the fans of Riyria may not like them, as they will be very different; different genres, different styles. I will want to stretch myself, push my limits and see what else I can do.

I already have another novel ready to go, but it is a standalone literary fiction, a much more serious sort of thing written in a completely different style. After that, I will likely release Antithesis. This book I first wrote back in 1985 was originally entitled Wizards. It was the first novel I ever seriously tried to publish. It is a fantasy, but it is set in the modern day and it needs to be completely re-written. I have to take the original, which is the equivalent of a campy 1960’s tv series and turn it into the multi-million dollar, blockbuster, big screen adaptation. My daughter has been waiting on this one for a long time.

Lisa: Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

Yes. I would like to say, thank you.

I really mean it. As I already mentioned, I’m doing this the hard way and alone I don’t stand a chance. If it wasn’t for the Internet no one would know about this series. And while my wife has done an astounding job of getting the word out through forums and websites, she and I amount to two voices shouting in a very loud wilderness. My books do not greet you as you enter the local Barnes and Noble or Borders, and very few libraries carry it because I’ve never had a review in Publisher’s Weekly or the other publications they rely on.

Nevertheless, more and more people are buying the books. They’re even stealing them—posting PDFs and selling them to readers for the cost of memberships on sharing sites. I don’t so much mind the sharing, but I find the selling distasteful.

So how is it possible that these few unknown books, by an unknown author have done so well? How is it that I have been placed in the same category as Eddings and Feist, or more recently added to a list of names such as Patrick Rothfuss, Jim Butcher, and Joe Abercrombie? I mean, that’s just crazy. And how did my first book, Crown Conspiracy sell out its first printing? It is because readers have taken the time to tell a friend. It is the most effective marketing there is, and the one that no amount of money can buy. So yes, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who handed the book to a friend or family member and said, try this. Or who posted a review on a blog or Amazon, and to you Lisa, for this interview. Without you folks, the entire series would be sitting in a dusty cardboard box along with all the rest of my manuscripts. I owe you big time.


Michael is offering a copy of a book from the Riyria Revelations series to one lucky commenter.
  1. To enter, ask Michael about his writing or tell us about a favourite fantasy adventurer.
  2. Open to US and Canada.
  3. Leave a way to notify you if you should win.
  4. Blog, tweet, post on Facebook or other social network sites for an extra entry. Leave a comment here to let me know.
  5. Giveaway open until Midnight, May 5, 2010 EDT.


  1. Great interview...I've loved the series and can't wait for the final books. My question revolves around two characters that I love for very different reasons.

    The Monk from the first book, Myron is so funny and interesting. I notice that in the other books he is mentioned in passing which I take as a sign that he might come back at some point. Will we see him in either of the last two books.

    Luis Guy is an interesting villian again he seems to have disappeared but I keep thinking he will have to get a smack down from Mavin Pickering, will he get is "due" before the series is over?

  2. Brian,

    Myron is beloved by just about everyone who has read the series, including me. I was very tempted to keep him as a regular in the story, but decided it wouldn't work, that I would have to contrive the plot too much. Also too much of Myron might kill his appeal. But don't worry, you will be seeing Myron again very soon. I always planned for him to return from the moment I wrote Crown.

    You have also not heard the last of Luis Guy. I'm pretty certain that every character I've introduced in the story is accounted for by the conclusion of the series--even those you'll likely have forgotten about.

  3. Wow, what questions are left? Hmm. I'll ask one as a writer. I noticed the name thing as I read the first three books in this series, and I found it interesting that you used the same letter to begin familial names like Alric and Arista, Thad and Thrace. As a new writer, I've always been advised not to use similar names for characters in that way, especially those sharing scenes. The reasoning being that it confuses the reader. Mind you, I've never agreed with that. I think that's not giving the reader enough credit. What are your thoughts on this 'rule'?

  4. Renee,

    Did I mention I never learned how to write?

    One of the last editors working on Emerald Storm mentioned that he felt it was unduly complicated by so many characters whose names began with D, such as Drew, Derning, and Defoe. All minor characters, all sailors and easy to confuse. One even has two names. I had to agree that in this instance, he was right, and I would have done something about it if I wasn’t so close to the release date.

    As for the Essendon and Wood family, those are all major characters and not likely to be confused with each other, and I wanted to delineate groups through the use of naming in the old historical clan style. I actually do a lot with names and the spellings of names (trust me, I don't create unpronounceable names for no reason) in this series although the most important instances of this are not revealed yet for plot reasons.

    So, yeah, in retrospect it’s probably a good idea not to confuse the reader with similar names if you have no reason for doing it.

  5. I haven't read this series yet but I'll have to get it. It sounds really good.

    As a writer do you think it's hard to convince a publisher that you can sell books in a different genre than the one that you've already become known for?

  6. Sandy,

    Probably, which is why I'm not planning to bother going through Ridan (my present publisher.) When Antithesis is ready I intend to shop it around. I'll try again to get an agent and thereby hopefully a mainstream publisher as if it was my first book. Given my track record of obtaining agents and publishers, it will be a challenge. Everything in this line of work is a challenge, that's why we authors get paid the big bucks...and if you believe that, I have a bridge in New York I'd like to sell you.

  7. Great interview!
    I haven't read this series, but I certainly will.
    Please enter me.

  8. Honestly and not to brown nose, but I loved The Crown Conspiracy. Hadrian and Royce are just awesome characters and their interaction is perfect. I also love a fantasy series that doesn't have to to be 1000 pages per book.

    I'll be reading Avempartha shortly as it just came in the mail.

    Thanks for the interview. :)


  9. Well, the only question I don't think was ask in the interview was Did you ever think of becoming a writer?
    Have not read any of your books but have added them to my to buy list and you to my new author list. Thanks for stopping by to chat.

    follower via google


    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  10. twitter(@misskallie2000)

    tweet 4-26-10
    Latest: Win SciFiGuy, Guest Author - Michael J. Sullivan (Interview & Giveaway) less than 5 seconds ago

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  11. Do you plan to introduce any characters soon that sport the badassness of your 'stache?

    I have found that baby face protagonists require a lot more "loving care" to keep them from succumbing to their own personal issues/fatal flaws.

    those who have wild facial hair, neatly trimmed lip hair, giant mutton chops, etc.. they also succumb to their personal issues/fatal flaws, but they look like gods when they do so.

    just had to throw it out there :)

  12. I liked what the interview said about "a web of threads" it is really evident. I've read and loved all four that are out so far and I really appreciate that they come out on a reasonable release schedule.

    Part of the genius of this series is there is so many different ways it can go. I've got a ton of "theories" that run around in my brain and I'm sure you'll take me somewhere I hadn't thought of.

    My question is...did the series always have the ending that you've made since day 1 - or did it morph and change over time?

  13. Miss Kallie,

    Not certain I understand your question."Did you ever think of becoming a writer?"

    After having penned 19 novels, and publishing 4, I don't think it would be unreasonable to consider myself to already be a writer.

    Do you mean did I ever intend to be a writer? I did start writing stories when I was 13 and started writing full-fledged novels by the time I was 15, but I never expected I would get published. Even as little as three years ago, the idea of being a published author was only an absurd dream like winning the lottery. No one expects it, but that doesn't stop you from buying tickets.

  14. Erisian,

    I'm just glad you think I look like a god. And don't forget that Luis Guy had both a nice moustache and beard.

  15. I'm about halfway through The Emerald Storm and really enjoying it. I love that this series is finished, so the book releases are so reasonable. I wish all series had known ending dates! Did you always plan to break the books out into a 6 book series? Or (especially since you didn't think you'd ever really publish it), did you write it as one super long book?

    What a great interview...I'll come back and finish off the last two questions (skipped due to fears of spoilers) when I've finished.

    PS I'd love to be entered in the contest. Thanks! krossgen AT yahoo DOT com

  16. Samanatha,

    Excellent question. Hummm…how much space does a comment allow? Thank Maribor this isn’t twitter.

    The very end, changed many times and was still up in the air as I wrote the final book. It went from a happy ending, to an extremely sad ending and just about all shades in between. I had finally settled on one conclusion that worked while everything else felt contrived, but in my gut I just wasn’t happy with it. Then while in my car, caught in a terrible rainstorm it hit me as if it had been one of the bolts of lightning flashing around me. In fact it hit me much the same way it is revealed in the story.

    But the very end, is not necessarily what you mean here, as you know nothing about it. You are likely referring to the big plot, the grand story arc that you are trying to piece together. That was set in stone before I began writing Crown. It all came about while trying to think of a “bad guy” for my story. Everything that initially came to mind was so cliché or tired. An evil wizard, demon, dragons, etc. When I finally hit on what I thought would work, everything was built backwards from there.

    Of course, as I wrote sometimes I would be filling in a plot that I knew was logical and sound and all that, but well, it was also boring. At those points, I paused and asked myself, if it didn’t have to make sense what would be really cool to have happen. I would come up with a crazy, but exciting, idea then challenge myself to find a way to make it work. I did that a number of times.

    So yes, it stayed the same in the general sense but it changed on a more specific level. It would be great to get a room full of people together after the series is finished so I can finally explain it all.

  17. Katy,

    No need to skip questions in the interview. I was careful to avoid any spoilers.

    Yes, the story was conceived as episodes. I wanted book length plots, cross-book plots and the series plot to all work together in harmony as a way of always keeping the reader interested while telling a much longer story. I also wanted the characters and relationships to grow slowly over time. Where some authors establish the main characters completely in the first novel, forcing them to introduce more main characters with each book, I held back information on Royce and Hadrian in order to give the reader something to look forward to right up to the end of the last book.

    Technically, I believe it started as a five book series, where I had a vague idea of what would happen in each book, but Nyphron Rising wasn’t a part of that. After finishing Avempartha, I realized the geopolitical transformation from Avempartha to Emerald Storm was too abrupt and I would need a whole new book to fill that transition period. So Nyphron Rising was actually a filler episode in a way, as I didn’t have a plot for it when I started writing. By the time I finished, Nyphron Rising had altered the landscape of the rest of the books dramatically. Some good characters became evil and some evil ones turned good.

  18. Wow, the books look great. This would be a new series for me.

    My favorite fantasy adventurer(s) would be pirates, knights, and elves. I do not know that I could name a specific one.

    Elizabeth Haydon has some fantastic characters in her Rhapsody series.

    Tweeted here:

    robin [at] intensewhisper [dot] com

  19. I've bumped these books up on my tbr list. I love to know about the author, who writes the books I love, and not just the books that are sold.
    This interview was great and to be honest the lengthy replies have left me with few questions before diving into the books.
    I look forward to reading the series entirely when its finished, I get impatient waiting for new installments to be published by authors I enjoy, so to find a series like this I can sink my teeth into is great!

  20. Very interesting interview the book series looks very interesting will have check them out. Thank you for pointing me to these.

  21. Thanks Lisa and Michael!

    Are there any artists, visual or musical, that you feel evoke Elan or any particular characters therein?

  22. Greetings, Michael from your longtime fan and fellow writer! Somehow, I missed the fact that TES had been released. I am very keen to dive back into the story.

    Like you, I am mostly self-taught as a writer. I took one creative writing class in college, but really, everything I've learned about style and technique has been from the copious amount of reading I've done over the years. I study my favorite authors' writing styles as if attending a master class taught by them. When I sit down to compose my own works, their styles are always at the back of my mind, lending flavor to my own unique voice.

    I totally feel your pain and frustration when it comes to trying to get your work noticed by a wider audience without the marketing support of a major publisher. My books have been favorably reviewed in both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, and yet, I'm still shut out of Barnes & Noble and Borders and the major fantasy review sites won't look at them. I also have to rely on word of mouth but that only goes so far. Thank you, by the way, for reading my books. Your support means a lot.

    I may have asked you this before, but do you have very specific visuals of the faces of your characters and if so, are some or all 'cast' with well-known actors? For instance, who would play Royce and Hadrian in the feature film adaptation?

    Leslie Ann Moore
    author of The Griffin's Daughter Trilogy

  23. Annie,

    I once considered publishing an iTunes playlist of the music that I used to write the book to and the songs that helped inspire sections. Most of the characters have theme songs—songs that when I heard them help define either their character or a major scene they starred in.

    Dougie MacLean’s album Dougie MacLean With Strings was the soundtrack to Avempartha—brooding Celtic ballads.

    Vanessa-Mae & The London Symphony Orchestra’s version of “Scottish Fantasy” was the theme to Nyphron Rising

    But by far Loreena McKennitt and Mary Fahl are the artists I would say most define the series. I won’t say the exact songs yet, because it might give too much away. Although oddly enough Arista’s theme was written by Randy Newman. Go figure.

    As far as visual artist, I tried (and I feel failed) to capture Alan Lee’s misty watercolor style for the book covers.

  24. Michael,

    Which actors will you choose to play Hadrian and Royce when you sell the film rights to a big Hollywood producer (and, of course, retain the right to cast the films)?

    Thanks for the wild adventures!

  25. Hey Leslie! It has been a while.

    Hope your Griffin's Daughter Trilogy is doing well.

    I have very specific ideas about who could play the characters in a movie, but I'm still not saying, and for the same reason you don't see images of characters on the covers of my books. I want people to be able to see them they way they want least until the blockbuster film comes out and they redo all my covers with images from the film.

  26. I see it took me too long to compose and post my first comment... as Leslie beat me to my question.

    I knew what the answer would be, but I still wanted to put it out there.

  27. Danielle!

    Ha! A second inquiry into the actor-front. To be honest the actors I picked for Royce and Hadrian back in 2002, are too old to play them now I suspect. So I keep thinking of new ones. But no, I won't tell you.

  28. Re: Actors

    You mean I'll have to make up my own character reference sheets?!?

  29. Great Interview!

    Hey Michael, You probably won't answer this but I thought I would try. Arista has had some doomed relationships in the last two books - will she ever find "true love" as The Princess Bride states - or is she just going to be a kick-butt magic wielder?

  30. Jane,

    Honestly, would you really want me to answer that one?


    1. Arista finds true love.
    2. Arista becomes kick-butt sorceress

    I noticed you failed to list...

    3. Arista dies horrible death.

    Are you tempting me?

  31. Well, Michael, you know I love your books! I'm just even more impressed now that I've read this interview! And I thought I knew you/your story! LOL I cannot WAIT to see the last books!

    I did have a question, but it has disappeared, of course. I'll ask later, if I ever remember.

  32. And now that I've read the comments ... I want the music! LOL I love music almost as much as I love reading, and would find your inspirational music fun to listen to!

    Oh, and for what it's worth, I like how the related characters have similar names. And the sailors in Storm didn't confuse me at all. Not even with the one with two names.

  33. There were some really great questions from the fans! I'm glad everyone enjoyed the interview, Michael really went over and above what I had originally asked, and I had a great time reading his responses.

    Michael, I'm a bit disapointed that you're not a closet Battlestar Galactica fan. If you ever get around to watching the series (which, since you loved Babylon Five I think you'd enjoy), I think you'll find that Arista and Kara Thrace have a lot in common. I'm hoping there will be a scene in one of the upcoming books that has Arista kicking some serious butt - that would make my day. :P

  34. Lisa,

    I didn’t realize when I answered your question about whether Thrace had a connection to Battlestar Galactica that the miniseries/pilot remake of that show aired in 2003, and by then I had finished writing both Crown and Avempartha and was deep into Nyphron Rising. I remembered watching the show when it debuted because I was a fan of the original series, but I was very disappointed, and I can’t recall why, but something rubbed me the wrong way. Now that I have your recommendation, I will have to see if there are DVDs of the series at my local blockbuster.

    As for Arista kicking butt… I didn’t write this series to get published. I didn’t write it to make a social commentary. I didn’t write it to shock people, or try and be the next new thing. I wasn’t trying to be poetic, or insightful, or profound. I wrote this series because I wanted to write the kind of story that I wanted to read. If you like the series so far, I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed with the rest. You might have noticed that in Crown, Hadrian hardly ever fights. For all his threat, Royce rarely kills. And Myron…well, let’s not talk about Myron yet. When Wyatt first showed up in Avempartha, you might have been wondering what that was all about? Why introduce this character for not much reason? The point is, I make you wait for a lot of things, and that is harder to do as a writer than it is to wait as a reader.

    You just need to trust me. I have a plan.

  35. Great interview! Cool to learn a few new things of the books and of Michael.

    I am really looking forward to the rest of the series. There are more questions running through my mind of the series. The first few books could very well have been read as stand alones, but I would definitely read them in order to get the feel of the characters and happenings.

    Thank you for the extensive interview. I did enjoy reading it. Although, we really didn't get much for future happenings in the series. ;)

  36. This was a fantastic interview. I have heard so much about this author, but have not had a chance to read any of his books.

    Thanks for the opportunity.

    icewoman96 at gmail dot com

  37. Great interview. You are new to me. As a writer, how does you day begin? Do you have any freaky habits you must do before you write? When you finish, how do you celebrate?
    I find you so interesting. Thanks for the giveway. warmly, Lisa


  38. I personaly haven't read this series. But I'm entering for a friend that does. Please enter me.

  39. I love the titles of The Riyria Revelation series. I know all six titles are released. Just curious if you had the titles all plan out before you started the whole series or did it come to you during the writing process? Thanks!

    vision.nguyen AT gmail DOT com

  40. Lady Graeye,
    I get up around 7am , get a cup of coffee and settle in front of my computer. I write until noon or so, then break for lunch. Now if it is summer I’ll take the rest of the day off, because my upstairs office gets too hot. In winter, I can put in more hours, lots more hours, which is why my writing season is September through April. I tend to spend the summers thinking my stories, and in winter, I write them. Although lately all I’ve been doing is editing, or rewriting the Riyria books. I also spend a good deal of time reading other author’s manuscripts and providing feedback. Once you get published, people think you know stuff.

    No freaky habits, but I have to wonder if I would even know.

    I do celebrate the completion of a book. It is something of a high when the last word goes down and you know you got it right. I’ve been known to take my wife out to dinner, or have a drink with a friend. Most of the time, I’ll just go for a joyful bike ride in the warm spring sun with a cranked iPod.

    I always do the titles last. The last three were easy, and Avempartha was a no brainer (although my first publisher wanted to change it because he felt people would have a hard time asking for it at a bookstore.) But The Crown Conspiracy and Nyphron Rising were a pain. Originally Crown was entitled Heir to the Throne. My first agent suggested I change it—no one liked that one, too typical I expect. The original title for book 3 was Legends and Lore, which I struggled to come up with. It was later overturned in favor of the more Googleable Nyphron Rising, which my wife and I brainstormed over dinner at a Bertucci’s restaurant.


For bloggers comments are like water to a man (or woman) wandering in the desert. A precious commodity. I love to hear from everyone and do my best to respond to every post.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...