Kings Of The Wyld – An Interview With Nicholas Eames

30841984If you haven’t gotten your hands on Kings of the Wyld yet, by Nick Eames, then you are missing out (review here). It is definitely going to be one of my top books of 2017 and every other reviewer and blogger I know is talking about how much they love it. On top of Kings being an amazing book, Nick is a great guy who kindly agreed to answer a slew of interview questions we sent him. Some of the questions and responses are mildly spoilery – so I would skip this and come back if you have not read the book yet (which you should, immediately. Seriously go read it). The questions and responses are below!

Compared with those belonging to Clay Cooper, how does your arsenal of shrugs measure up?

Not even close! Clay tends to underestimate his own intelligence, and so relies on shrugs to avoid saying something foolish. I, on the other hand, sound foolish all the time.

The Rot is a major part of the world, and character development in your story. Are you drawing from personal experience or was it more of a thought experiment for you?

The latter, for sure. The Rot—and the arbitrary menace it represents to the mercenaries of Grandual—is vaguely representative of the STD’s (including HIV) that afflicted many ‘Golden Era’ rock stars. It’s not something you are guaranteed to get when you venture into the Heartwyld, but it’s always a risk.

It actually played a lesser role in the original draft of KINGS. Thankfully, I was asked to flesh out the story a bit during revisions. The result was a few very poignant scenes that it’s hard to imagine the book without.

Can dragons swim?

Great question! The answer is yes—about as well as dogs can swim. They cannot, however, breath underwater…

How many band names were inspired by real bands?

Most of them were inspired by songs, since using direct band names (outside of a few exceptions like Neil the ‘Young’) is a little on the nose. Some cool (in my opinion) examples are the Wheat Kings (A Tragically Hip song) and Courtney and the Sparks (named for the Joni Mitchell album The Court and the Spark).

A lot of people think Saga is a reference to the Canadian band of the same name. In fact, it was the name of a sword that belonged to the main character in an unpublished book I worked on for almost a decade. Saga is an homage to that.

Were there any monsters you wanted to include but didn’t? If so can you give us a peek?

Ha! I think I got them all. I can tell you, however, that a major plot point in book two revolved around fighting a dragon. But then I thought: “Nope. The dragon’s been done.” So it’s going to be something quite different—but just as deadly.

You admirably managed the difficult combination of emotional and comedic throughout the book. How did you manage to have such a humorous book still resonate so strongly?

Firstly, thanks for saying so. I think two things contributed to this. One is that I’m a hopeless sap, so even though I tried to make the book humorous and lighthearted the whole way through, I can’t help but try and add poignancy here and there. It’s in my nature—and I think life can be funny and sad and scary all at once, so I’d hoped this book would reflect that.

Ultimately, I owe a great deal to my agent and editor, who suggested which scenes were perhaps so ridiculous that they undermined the more serious aspects of the book. To their credit, they let me keep a few of them anyway (Moog tripping over his robe on the hillside, Moog throwing honeyed hams at his enemies, etc). Alas, because of them you’ll never see Moog eating a urine-soaked carrot from a vegan cannibal’s vegetable garden. It’s all about balance…

Who is your favorite band member?

Clay, for sure. Moog is a very close second. But honestly, I love each of them so much.

Will we ever visit Clay’s inn in future books?

*nods enthusiastically* I’m not at liberty to say, sorry. Another great question, by the way. I really appreciate the interest in the lives of these characters beyond the book.

Did you write Kings simply in order to make a really bad portal reference?

You mean a REALLY AWESOME portal reference? That joke just materialized out of nowhere as I was writing the scene and I am so very grateful it did. I know some of these references take readers out of the book—but a lot of things (waiters, stop lights, falling asleep) take you out of a book. It was important to me that fellow gamers could read this book and think, “This Nick Eames guy…he’s one of us.”

I stayed up unreasonably late on a work night in order to finish the last 30% of your book. What’s the most ill-advised thing you’ve done due to the fact you couldn’t put a book down?

That’s amazing to hear! Thank you for saying so. And an easy question to answer! I was working in a restaurant while reading THE VIRTUES OF WAR by Steven Pressfield, and was starting my shift just as Alexander the Great was pulling off his brilliant ruse at Guagemela. Instead of putting the book away, however, I STOOD THERE READING IT in the middle of the restaurant—which was, in my defense, mostly empty! Boy, did I ever get in in trouble. Totally worth it.

So it seems Clay has a lot of difficulty keeping his weapons for more than a chapter or two. Was this a commentary on an aspect of his character (a rough man who deep down doesn’t really want to fight, and just wants to protect) or was this more of a running gag a la Jain and her band of oddly dressed thieves?

The former. Clay’s whole deal is protecting people, although he does hurt a lot of people with that shield, come to think of it. It was definitely a risk writing a huge final battle in which the protagonist can’t actually use a weapon, but I think it works wonderfully, since you get to see each member of the band—Clay included—do that they do best.

If Saga came out with an album, what do you think the album art would be?

Probably the cover of the book. The artist (Richard Anderson, who is amazing) was given the mandate of making it look like one of those old album photographs where the band is standing around looking as if they didn’t stage the shot at all, and I think he nailed it.

That, or just Blackheart’s scarred and weathered face. That might be cool, too.

Sticking with the band analogy that was ever-so-subtly peppered throughout the book, if Gabe is the frontman/lead singer, what instruments would the rest of the bandmates play?

Subtly? Were we reading the same book!? I kid, I kid! Again: awesome question! It goes like this: Gabriel on vocals/guitar, Ganelon on lead guitar, Clay (the forgettable one) on bass, Matrick on drums, and Moog on keyboards/triangle/cow bell.

Scenes involving certain characters were often influenced by the instrument they represent. While writing Matrick’s fight against Larkspur’s thralls, I listened to Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick (essentially a 20+ minute drum solo) on repeat. The same goes for Ganelon. There is a very specific live version of the Stairway to Heaven guitar solo that I’ve probably listened to a thousand times and had in mind whenever Ganelon was destroying people.

Kings of the Wyld has an interesting structure as a series. I noticed that the sequel no longer follows the cast from the first book, but their children instead. Was it hard writing a book knowing you would have to say goodbye to the original cast at the end? Do you wish you had more time with them?

Not really. In fact, some people interested in publishing it asked that all three books feature Clay and his bandmates, so I was glad when Orbit didn’t insist on it. The truth is, KINGS OF THE WYLD is about that ‘one last, great adventure’, and to drag it out would seem disingenuous to both the characters and the story I was trying to tell.

A few characters from the first book will show up in the second (and also the third) but in a setting where mercenaries are representative of rock bands…Well, sticking to one band would kind of be like listening to, say, Black Sabbath all the time. In book two, it’s time to meet Guns’n’Roses…

Are there any other music genres you would want to make a fantasy novel around? Country? Smooth Jazz? EDM? Would you consider adding in bands from other music tropes into the current world?

As insinuated above, the second book explores a world where new bands wander into the house after old band kicked the door in. Whereas my writing soundtrack to book one consisted largely of 60’s folk and 70’s rock, book two draws influence from 80’s punk, rock, and pop. So goodbye Floyd, Zeppelin, and Dylan (I’ll miss you, truly) and hello Queen, Van Halen, and Pat Benatar!

Any notable pet peeves? Overstuffed napkin holders? Dogs that act like cats? Smart cars?

Commercials that market cleaning supplies to women and BBQ’s to men. Fuck that noise!

Do you read fantasy yourself? Do you have favorite books or authors you recommend? Was there any other book that inspired you to write Kings of the Wyld?

I read all the time, almost every day. My favourite author—hands down—is Guy Gavriel Kay, and I would start with TIGANA or THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN if you haven’t read him before. His books are slow burns, but impossibly beautiful, and I’ve never, ever read anyone near as good. Also Scott Lynch, Pat Rothfuss, and Joe Abercrombie—in case you’ve been trapped under a rock and haven’t read everything by each of them yet. Also Lila Bowen’s WAKE OF VULTURES and Seth Dickenson’s THE TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT are recent favourites.

As for what book inspired me to write mine? READY PLAYER ONE, by Ernest Cline. It was a face-paced, shameless love letter to everything the author loves. So, too, is KINGS OF THE WYLD.

Thanks for the questions!

 

Well I know I am pumped as all hell for book two, Bloody Rose. Thank you Nick for taking the time to talk with us, and for making such a fantastic debut novel.

Tyrant’s Throne – Goodbye For Now

30317594As I have gotten older I have noticed a change in my reaction to the conclusion of series I love. When I was younger, I would buy final books the moment I could and then power through them immediately, dying to know what happened next. Now, I look at them nervously with a little sadness as I think about how I won’t be getting any more. I usually sit on the book for awhile, savoring the coming end and thinking about all the good times with the series I have had. This was particularly true with Tyrant’s Throne, by Sebastien de Castell, the last of The Greatcoats series. If you have read any of my past posts you will know I absolutely adore this series, and I was terrified to start the finale. On the other hand, once I opened the first page of the book the worries washed away from me as I leaped into the wonderful mind of Falcio val Mond once more.

When we last left our heroes, they had just survived death by the narrowest of margins in a conflict that left their country in shambles. Once again they find themselves the janitors to the world biggest mess, but their country has been broken so many times at this point that the pieces are starting to look unrecognizable. After three internal conflicts, Tristia is now facing its first external conflict: Avares. Their barbarian neighbors to the northwest have raided Tristia for centuries, but an unknown force has united the country under one banner to invade Tristia once and for all in its moment of weakness. While Falcio tries to put Aline on the throne, they must bring together a group of individuals who hate one another to keep Tristia from being wiped off the map.

One of my favorite books of all time is Legend, by David Gemmell, and de Castell seems to have taken a page right out of his magnificent book. An age old threat, coming together to become an unstoppable force that must meet the immovable object of our protagonists. Once again de Castell has raised the stakes of his series with a fantastic new villain, and he has pulled together the threads of his past four books to create a very memorable conclusion. Tyrant’s Throne has everything you love about the previous books; heartbreaking moments, laugh out loud humor, a lovable/hateable cast of characters, a fascinating world, and a fantastic author’s voice. However, Tyrant’s Throne also brings its own voice to the chorus that is the series and presents us with a new and terrible theme: the corruption of Falcio. It was a direction that I did not expect Sebastian to take – and it left a horrible oily slick feeling on my brain while I was reading it (In a good way?). Falcio is so very close to achieving the goal that he has spent his life reaching towards, putting the daughter of his king on the throne. As he gets closer, he finds that he might be willing to break the ideals that he espouses in order to end the conflict once and for all. The exploration of Falcio and his adherance to his own rules was masterfully done, despite the sickening feeling it gave me. De Castell did an incredible job of devising scenarios where there just was no way to win and left you (and Falcio) to wonder what was the best way forward.

As I mentioned before, the final villain is fantastic. It was a perfect antagonist to conclude the series, and it felt like an excellent final foe for our trio. The book has a number of heartfelt moments that hit me hard, and while the book favored less humor than its predecessors due to a more somber tone; the book still had me in stitches repeatedly. De Castell still impresses me with his ability to work profound ideas into such funny characters, and I always love how deep these books can be while also remaining a fun swashbuckling romp. There was very little not to love with Tyrant’s Throne, but I do feel that the final battle was a little less climactic that his previous novels. The series finale sees a shift in focus from our trio of leads to the greater cast as a whole, and while I thought it was masterfully done I liked the tight focus on Falcio more.

That being said, my complaints with Tyrant’s Throne are a small footnote on an essay of why I loved it. The thing that impressed me most was the ending of the full series. De Castell manages to close out his story in a beautiful and magical way that also leaves the door wide open for him to pick the story up at a later date. He manages to do the rare thing of giving our cast full closure on this part of their lives, while also looking to the horizon and paving the way for a return of our greatcoats in the future. Sebastien continues to build his world and reveal new secrets about how it works, right up until the last page. While our trio might be done, the future looks exciting and interesting for our cast – and I would love to come back and see them soon.

So Greatcoats, it has been an incredible journey – and I thank you for allowing me to accompany Falcio on it. While this is certainly an end for the story of our greatcoats, I hope it is not THE end. So I will say goodbye for now and I hope to see your shining hearts again soon. As the door closes on one of my all time favorite series, I will be turning to de Castell’s new book Spellslinger to keep me company. For all of you who have not picked up The Traitor’s Blade yet, well have I got a recommendation for you…

Rating:

Tyrant’s Throne – 9.0/10
The Greatcoats – 9.5/10