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Interview With Stephen Aryan

Family and war collide in this thrilling and bloody reimagining of the Mongol Empire’s invasion of Persia

1260, Persia:

Due to the efforts of the great Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire covers a vast portion of the known world. In the shadow of his grandfather, Hulagu Khan, ruler of the Ilkhanate, is determined to create a single empire that covers the entire world. His method? Violence.

His youngest son, Temujin Khan, struggles to find his place in his father’s bloody rule. After another failure, Temujin is given one last chance to prove himself to Hulagu, who is sure there is a great warrior buried deep inside. But there’s something else rippling under the surface… something far more powerful and dangerous than they could ever imagine…

Reduced to the position of one of Hulagu’s many wives, the famed Blue Princess Kokochin is the last of her tribe. Alone and forgotten in a foreign land, Kokochin is unwilling to spend her days seeking out trivial pursuits. Seeking purpose, she finds herself wandering down a path that grants her more power than a wife of the Khan may be allowed.

Kaivon, the Persian rebel who despises the Mongols for the massacre of his people, thirsts for revenge. However, he knows alone he cannot destroy the empire. When given the opportunity to train under the tutelage of Hulagu, Kaivon must put aside his feelings and risk his life for a chance to destroy the empire that aims to conquer the world.

Family and war collide in this thrilling and bloody reimagining of the Mongol Empire’s invasion of Persia.

Can you give us a bit of an elevator pitch about “The Judas Blossom” for those who are interested in reading your work but have not taken the plunge yet?

The elevator pitch is – In the 13th century, Persian rebels are fighting back against the Mongol invaders who have conquered their country. The Persians lost the war, but the fight continues and they intend to tear the Mongol Empire apart from within.
The Judas Blossom is a historical fantasy trilogy set in 13th century Persia. It’s quite different from my previous series, which have been epic fantasy. In this era, the Mongolian Empire was an important superpower on the world stage, and the grandsons of Genghis Khan were trying to build on the work of their grandfather. His dream was to conquer the whole world and create one vast empire. The story starts in 1260, and it mostly focuses on one of the four territories within the Mongol Empire, which covers parts of today’s Middle East and north Africa.
What made you want to write a re-imagining of the Mongol Empire’s invasion of Persia?
I wanted to write a Persian inspired fantasy series as I had not seen any before. There have been historical fiction series, set in Mongolia, but I’ve not seen any in Persia. I wanted some creative freedom, and the ability to add some fantastic elements, so making it historical fantasy seemed the best fit, given my other novels. I also wanted to write about my Persian heritage and give people a glimpse into a part of the world, and a period in history, that most readers won’t know much about. I’m also telling the story from the perspective of the Mongol invaders, but also the people who have been conquered. The story is about how they fight back against a huge empire, and what they are willing to do in the name of freedom.
How much research was involved with writing such a sweeping historical fiction book?
It involved quite a lot of research. I always start work on the next series before I’ve finished writing the current one. So I’ve been dipping in and out of material for a few years. I’ve also been doing research online on specific areas, in particular historic events in the 13th century, characters, weapons, sieges and so on. I have a few books on the period as well, but eventually I reached saturation point and had to stop. That’s when I have to start forgetting certain things, or omitting them from the story on purpose, as this is fiction and not a historic retelling. I want readers to be able to enjoy the story without creating too many barriers for them. So, some aspects are not historically accurate, but most of the main events in the book are real.
What is your personal favourite character perspective for your novel & why: Hulagu, Kokochin, Temujin, or Kaivon?
I can’t really pick one. My favourite character is whoever I’m writing at the time. I am invested in all of the characters and their story arcs. They’re all such different people that I like writing all of them. It’s like slipping on a different pair of shoes for each and going out for a walk.
You seemed to seamlessly weave storylines of some of the above characters together? Did you find that difficult, and if so why? 
This was the most difficult series I’ve ever written because it was a huge challenge to find a balance between being somewhat loyal to history, but also changing some parts to make it a satisfying narrative for readers. History is extremely complicated, and this part of the world, in this century, was extremely tumultuous with many factions, battles and numerous countries with names you will recognise and some you’ll never have heard of before because they don’t exist anymore. Sometimes, a war went for on for years, so I’ve had to accelerate some battles, which then has a knock-on effect in terms of, what happened according to history, and what impact does that have on my story? I’m definitely going to write something simpler after this trilogy!
This is a tale of war, family, and bloodshed. Are there any lessons that you are trying to convey to the reader about the nature of the bloody familial politics in this book?
I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide what lessons they get from the book.

How do you compare the “Nightingale and the Falcon” series to some of your other series such as “Age of Dread”, “Age of Darkness”, and Quest for Heroes”?

My first two trilogies were very magic heavy with battlemages, non-human races and even a magic sword or two. The Quest for Heroes duology was two very specific stories about the nature of heroism and heroes, the cost of war and the impact it has on individuals when they return home. The Nightingale and the Falcon has mild fantasy elements as it is based in our world. In some ways, I would say the series is closer to something like A Song of Ice and Fire, because it has battles, politics, espionage, warring factions, and a struggling empire, with larger than life characters. However, because it is set on Earth, I would not expect any dragons or undead to appear in the story!
Can you please, if possible, give us any spoiler-free tidbits about what to expect from the next installment in the series?
Well, while the first book cleaves fairly close to history in terms of its main events, by the time we get to the end of The Judas Blossom, a few elements have been introduced that are completely fictional and pure fantasy. These will change the course of the story, which means the rest of the series will deviate more and more from history. So the further we go, the more difficult it will be to predict, even for historians, or those who are familiar with the 13th century.
How many books in the series, and is there an expected completion date for the series?
The Nightingale and the Falcon is a trilogy. Book 2 will be published in July 2024, and book 3 in July 2025. I’m 80% through writing a first draft of book 3 at the moment.
How do you feel now, publishing more than a dozen novels? Are you feeling the craft, and the process is getting easier or harder?
The end of this trilogy will mark my 11th traditionally published novel and I wish I could say it is getting any easier. I never want to write the same kind of story and am constantly  trying to challenge myself. So that means I am always testing the limits of my ability. I’m still learning all the time and if I ever feel that it’s easy I would begin to worry about the quality of my work.
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Stephen Aryan

Stephen Aryan

Stephen Aryan

Stephen Aryan

Stephen Aryan

Stephen Aryan

Stephen Aryan

Stephen Aryan

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