Q. Walk me through the process with Asunder – which came first, the cover or the story? How did it evolve from there into the glorious double-whammy of art and writing that it is today?
A. The story began March of 2014. I had been living temporarily in an artist loft in Lowertown, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for two months to participate in the bi-annual art crawl which had been a goal of mine since I was six years old. While I was there, I networked with a photographer in the building named Patrick Clancy and asked my cousin Dominic Pitera to model for me. Together we constructed a photoshoot to capture this underling mood I wanted to express with a cloaked figure. I still remember the moment of moving Dom’s arm in, telling him to tense his veins, and then smirk to get the reference photo that birthed my main character Alden. The next day I began painting it, desperate to express the passion. A week and a half later, with thirty hours invested, I had painted ‘Burden’. After that I was inspired to continue exploring this character and discover what his burden was. For two years I played with the idea, let stories play in my mind, designed kingdoms, families, and enemies, all for fun. January 2016 I realized that I had the makings of a novel and so I bought a laptop, Microsoft Word, and began laying out everything I had brewing in my head. I wrote for a year and edited for another. During this time Asunder had been a working title of Burden, using my original painting as its cover. However, after completing my story I realized that book one was about my other main character Mayli and her experience. So, I accepted that I needed to paint ‘Asunder’ and let Burden be book two.
Q. You seem to have so many creative skills – writing, painting, cosplaying… how have your other creative skills influenced your writing and story development?
I live and breathe my fantasy world. My personal style is dark yet beautiful, setting off the mood and vibe of my book overall. My paintings decorate my home, especially ‘Burden’, which hangs proudly in the living room. The rest of the décor is a chic yet rustic homey castle vibe with a flare of Morocco. Mixing the two styles is my main character Alden’s favorite things, especially when it comes to food and tea. Almost every day I brew what I call Brim Tea, Alden’s special blend of Earl Gray tea with notes of lavender, vanilla, and orange peel. I practice bo staff and archery, though I can’t claim that I am anywhere near as skilled at the bow as my character, Princess Mayli Drake. I dress in a style I call Modern Medieval, using dresses like tunics with pants underneath, waist belts, unique boots, and a hooded vest I use as my purse. I cut my hair short up top and long at the bottom like my character, Kira. When I can get away with wearing a cloak, I do. Being able to express my passion in so many ways helps me feel close to Vatan and the characters who live within it. I call myself a method author in that sense.
Q. Tell us more about Vatan, the fantasy world Asunder is set in. What’s the first thing that new readers should know about Vatan?
A. Vatan means Homeland in Turkish. It is a place I feel at home and at peace as it is a unique mix of lands from places I call home: Minnesota and California. I grew up in Minnesota, where there was an abundance of lakes and trees, places to explore and let my mind wonder. This is where I pull inspiration for Brimley and Northern Vatan. When I moved to California at age nineteen I was introduced to a land far different from where I grew up. A hilly place, with a dry climate and beautiful weather. Ammos. I’ve also pulled inspiration from my travels, specifically from my short trip to Morocco. I fell in love with the beautiful Moorish architecture and mesmerizing sand dunes where I drew inspiration for not only Ammos, but also the lost city of Gezmek.
Q. What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
A. Stories are an escape. They are a place to feel comforted in your ideals without judgement. I hope my stories will help give others the same sense of comfort as writing them did for me. Books are also a brilliant way to teach others values in life. I have a fan who has bonded to my character Alden. He sees my paintings of him and reads the excerpts I share and is always inspired. Once he messaged me after being teased at school, asking “What would Alden do in this situation?” Alden. Not me, but my character. There is nothing more I could ask for in life knowing that I have created a role model. In a way Alden, Mayli, Kira, and Briar are all role models to me as well. Oftentimes I will be in a situation, feeling weak, scared or frustrated. Then I shake it off, thinking of them and the trauma I put them through and how they always work to fight past it. It is an endearing feeling.
Q. What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
A. That not only am I an author, but an artist. I want to attract a reader to my book because of my cover, have them pick it up and then buy it, realizing that the artist is also the author. I believe this will happen again and again because of the level of dedication it takes to go learn how to paint traditionally, stick to an idea and then express it so profoundly it won’t be shrugged off. Many have already said “If you can paint like that, I can’t imagine how wonderful and creative the story is!” I can’t imagine a better way to introduce readers to my world than through my own eyes.
Book One of the King’s Renegade
Alden knew life in the Shadowen Thieves Guild would cost him greatly, but when their next mission means abducting Princess Mayli Drake of Ammos, the price was too high. Defying the guild, Alden sets out to return Mayli safely home in hopes of restoring peace with the kingdom of Brimley.
Mayli feels as though her life has torn asunder after being taken capttive. However, if she is to survive, she must come to trust the renegade thief loyal to her mother’s killer. As Alden pleads for Brimley’s innocence, Mayli begins to question what she thought she knew about her kingdom’s enemies.
Asunder, Book One of the King’s Renegade will be available for purchase on the 11th of May 2018.
About the Author
As an artist, I’ve always wanted to express more than what a series of brush strokes could offer. One can view a piece of art and arrive at their own conclusions about what the mood and meaning of it is, but they can’t ever truly know. This feeling gripped me hard ever since I began my painting ‘Burden’ in 2014. As I painted, I was compelled tell the story hiding behind the character’s hood. And so, I wrote.
About the Interviewer
E. S. Furlán
Find more interviews, artwork, short stories, reviews and more at www.esfurlan.com