Six Elementals Author Interviews will introduce prospective readers to some of the best writers in their genre you may, or may not, have heard of, via a series of six questions. I encourage you to check out the work of these phenomenal creatives! Links to their websites and purchase links will always appear, accompanying the interview. Check them out!
This is a distinct honour and pleasure, in that I have the fabulous blogger, and epic fantasy author of REALLY chonky and fabulous books joining me: the amazing Thomas Howard Riley!
Thomas’ published works include: “We Break Immortals”, and “The Monsters We Feed”.
P.L.: Thomas, thanks again for joining Six Elementals Interviews! “We Break Immortals” is one of those Indie books that so many people in the self-published fantasy circles buzz about. Besides being known as a great read, it’s beloved for being a “chonker” – a really BIG book by word-count, the type that many fantasy fans love to really lose themselves in. (I too love big books, and I cannot lie.)
After reading it, I have to agree – it was amazing and highly immersive. And, it is a long book! Never boring for a minute, but definitely it will take quite a bit of time to finish! For the readers who have not read this book, can you tell us please (extensively) what it’s all about please? And what kind of effort on your part did it take to write and publish such a huge novel of over a thousand pages!!!???
THOMAS: “We Break Immortals” is a story where a drug addict who hunts sorcerers, the most renowned swordsman no one has ever heard of, and a magick-wielding thief hellbent on revenge collide in a last ditch effort to stop an insane superhuman serial killer from making himself a god.
It’s a rated-R epic fantasy adventure that is ultimately a story about friendship, pride, grief, obsession, letting go of the past & struggling to go on when life derails your plans. It just has plenty of swords, swear words, battles, sex, murder, quests, humor, romance, ancient artifacts, epic magic duels, brutal violence, and emotional torment too.
It kicks off my “Advent Lumina” series, which will expand the world and the story into a continent-spanning conflict between warring empires, magick religious orders, ambitious conquerors, freedom fighters, and those caught in the middle.
It was truly a labor of love to write. I started writing the first inklings of it twenty years ago, though it was a very different story back then (I believe only a single word remains from the original draft, the name of a side character). I would work on it, then shelve it for years to pursue other things, but would always come back to it. But I was never quite satisfied with it. It wasn’t until my first child was born that I felt the drive to make one last go of it. So I re-outlined the story and rewrote it from scratch with all the insight I had gained over the years to make it what it is today. I discovered the writing community during this process and all the amazing authors and readers I found here gave me the boost I needed to finally make it a reality.
(Definitely a different track than my other published novel, “The Monsters We Feed”, which went from concept to outline to finished draft to final edit in the span of 4 months.)
P.L.: Wow! That’s FAST for getting a book ready in 4 months! Kudos! Can you speak a little bit about your writing journey please? How long have you been writing, what inspired you to write, and what made you elect to publish via self-publishing rather than seeking an agent and a book deal with a “Big Five” traditional house?
THOMAS: I’ve always been one to create narratives as a kid, My inspiration came from reading. As a scrappy little 9 year old I was reading Asimov, Frank Herbert, Tolkien, and whatever else my parents had on the shelf. I also walked to the thrift store after school to find comics like the X-men. I easily became obsessed with fantasy and sci fi, to the exclusion of much else. I wanted to make my own stories that felt like those.
As I was writing “We Break Immortals”, I was creating an expansive world around it far larger than could ever be explored in a one-book (or ten for that matter). I am a huge fan of reading history books, and so obsessed over the depth of Tolkien’s lore, how it really was written like a real world with detailed history to it. I was also an early fan of the “Dragonlance” saga and the” Forgotten Realms” adventures (both the TTRPGs and the novels), and also being a huge geography nerd, I loved how massive those worlds were. It had always been my dream to create a huge setting like Krynn or Toril, with a world of geography spanning it, and millennia-worth of history behind it, and then tell different stories within it, some related to one another and some not. So I created my own expanded universe that I am exploring further, both in this series and in other works.
I just wanted to get the books out there and see how people reacted to them. And because I wanted to write many stories all in this same setting, retaining the IP was important to me as well. That, coupled with the declining support and investment many traditionally published authors receive from their publishing houses, I opted to move ahead and publish as an indie author.
P.L.: I totally understand not wanting to wait to get your work out there! I said in my Goodreads review of “We Break Immortals”, that while my personal preference is definitely soft magic, I must bow to the imagination, intricacy and skill on display by you with the hard magic system in the book. Furthermore I said “We Break Immortals” simply has the most detailed, thorough, and most complete hard magic system I have EVER read thus far in a fantasy novel. The achievement you have made is gargantuan! How did you manage to accomplish such an incredibly intricate, logical, amazing magic system?
THOMAS: I generally Frankensteined together many different concepts and scientific theories that have always fascinated me into one massive system. I definitely wanted to have a rules-based magick system, where there would be societal consequences for using magick, logical limitations to its use, and also problems that would need to be solved by ingenuity of use. I obsess over physics equations for no apparent reason so that may inform my decisions in that regard.
It really is a 3-tiered magick system, with the hard magick of people using it to manipulate reality, the softish magick of how to manipulate the little-known behind-the-scenes place where magick comes from, and the “CSI”-style system of tracking, identifying, and blocking magick, used by the normals to hunt magi.
I was obviously inspired by “CSI” type shows and forensic investigation to have a magick-undoing system built into my world. I was also fond of the “X-Men” comics of the 90s, where different people were born with the capacity for different varieties of powers they could then try to become proficient with or not, and how this can lead to a general mistrust of anyone born with such powers. But if you look closely I incorporate elements of chemistry, computer generated image processing, computer coding, and quantum physics in the mechanics of how different parts of the magick works.
The key concept of my magick hunting system was the “afterglow”, made up of glittering colored clouds left over after using magick, often coating the hands and transferable like invisible paint. It can only be seen by looking through specific crystal lenses. That idea came out of a fascination of black lights and invisible ink, as well as infrared scopes and such. The idea of there being evidence of an invisible world hiding within our own that we can only see with certain tools has always been my fascination.
The legendary magick artifacts, the Sephors, are directly inspired by the eleven magick instruments of Aleister Crowley’s branch of the “Golden Dawn”, the “Order of Argentum Astrum”. (His writings are also why I spell the word magic with a “k” at the end, it being the 11th letter of the alphabet, and, I suppose, why my chapter breaks are always a sequence of eleven stars.)
P.L.: Awesome! Have to add Crowley’s work to my TBR! Can you tell us a bit please, if possible, about what projects you are currently working on?
THOMAS: I’m currently working on the final draft of the sequel to “We Break Immortals” which will hopefully be finished this summer for an early 2024 release. But I may release part of it early in the form of a novella in fall of 2023.
I am also nearly done editing the first book in a whole new series, titled “The Heroes We Never Were”. Here is the short synopsis: An aging drunk former knight with a penchant for murder who cannot escape the wreckage of his warlike past, together with a feisty, mischievous, and brutally honest young daughter of the lord he serves discover that there may be an assassin among the guests visiting their castle.
P.L.: Can’t wait to read “The Heroes We Never Were”! What is your favourite thing about the writing community on social media, and are there any downsides to this aspect of your writing journey? How has it been to be a blogger, for Before We Go Blog?
THOMAS: First off, I am grateful it exists at all. Discovering a welcoming, supportive, and enthusiastic writing community through social media is what gave me the extra push to move ahead with a writing career. Without the incredibly supportive individuals in this community, none of my books (past and future) would even exist. I have met so many new friends, colleagues, editors, and artists this way, and everyone is keen to talk shop honestly and openly to help each other through the long slog of writing and publishing.
The only downside for me is that I can’t spend as much time engaging with the community as I would like.
Self-promotion does not come naturally to me, so it is an ongoing struggle to remind people I write books without feeling terribly awkward, so I am very grateful to be a part of a community where everyone supports everyone else.
Before We Go Blog is a fantastic group to be a part of. It is a strong family of bloggers dedicated to getting the word out about amazing books, and in my opinion a pillar of the writing community. I only wish I could better contribute to its success.
P.L.: Of course, I concur that Before We Go Blog is amazing, and I’m honoured to be part of it! What, for you, has been the most challenging part about being a self-published author that you have experienced so far?
THOMAS: The most challenging part of it for me would be the technical aspects of publishing, such as formatting for me. The learning curve was quite high for me when it came to creating ebooks and print books. It is something I have a decent handle on now (sort of) but it took an absurd amount of time and frustrating trial and error to get here. This is, of course, something traditionally published authors do not need to deal with and I have often daydreamed about how marvelous it would be to let someone else worry about that bit for a change.
P.L.: Thomas, I have truly enjoyed our chat and I really appreciate you joining me on Six Elementals Interviews! Thank you so much!
THOMAS: Thank you for inviting me on! It was a blast chatting with you as always!
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