Author Interview with Stephen Zimmer
After getting a chance to crack into his first book in the Fires in Eden series, I couldn’t pass up a chance to get a little more information out of an author that for the first time in a while just sucked me into a book and the worth within. Hopefully from this interview you’ll go seek out Crown of Vengeance because I promise you, it’s worth it, you don’t win a Pluto Award for half assing it.
WPR: I was the kid growing up that would read a fantasy book and dream about being sucked into other worlds for adventures that seemed more grand than normal life. Did you ever do that too? Is that the inspiration for the
mysterious fog that transported the group of characters from the modern world to Ave?
SZ: Did we grow up on the same street together? I have to ask, because that’s the kid that I was, and still am, too!
I’ve dreamed about things like this more times than I can count, whether it was walking into a forest, finding myself in a fog, or a number of other transitions from a modern world into a fantastical one. In many ways, the Fires in Eden series is my own fantasy. Of course I am comforted by the fact that there are many others who share this desire, and at the very least we can all explore it in a literary context … at least until we find ourselves in that mist!
So yes, the spark of the Fires in Eden series does come from that childhood sense of imagination and wonder that underlies those days when you pretend that you have ventured into an entirely new, fantastical world.
WPR: Tolkien wrote whole languages and deep histories for the
races/characters in his stories, George RR Martin admitted he doesn’t have
anything like that for his kingdoms and families in Song of Fire and Ice.
How much back stories and histories do you have for the native people that
live on Ave?
SZ: I do not have the linguistic background of Tolkien, so I don’t have any languages created from the base up, but what I do have is a great interest in medieval history and world cultures. I have worked very hard to build a history and depth to the world of Ave, and the very wide array of lands and cultures within it. I have amassed quite a reference library in the process, and made Amazon.com and its secondary market very pleased with my contributions! Seriously, though, I have spent many years studying medieval societies and cultures in order to gird the foundation of this series.
My studies in medieval history are very international in nature, and this is strongly reflected in the series, with cultures based on the medieval middle east, Asia, Africa, North and South America, and much more. The western European cultures are there, as well as cultures that straddled different boundary areas, such as the Rus, who were the foundation of today’s Russia. This gives you a little hint about where the series is going!
There are also many fully invented cultures in the Fires in Eden series, such as the Trogen culture, the Atagar, the underground-dwelling Unguhur, and still others that readers have yet to meet. I have endeavored to put the same kind of depth and history to the more invented cultures as I have done for the ones that are reflective of medieval cultures in our own world.
To me it is extremely important to work hard on the development of a culture and history for each society, as I believe strongly that such an approach lends an organic reality to the feel of the book and series in the long run. This is very crucial when you have a fantastical land that has the presence of things such as magic, and even the supernatural, as it would be very easy to drift away from a rooted, realistic feel.
WPR: Whats it like to win the Pluto Award (2010), having your work recognized like that must have been exciting.
SZ: The Pluto Award was not the result of a contest, or anything that I submitted to, or applied for, so in a sense it came out of the blue. It was very wonderful, and to be honest I was thrilled just to be one of the six nominees. When I was told that I was a finalist I was elated. Being a nominee or a finalist was fine enough for me. To win it was amazing, and as my first literary award it will always have a very special place with me. The engraved commemorative trophy they sent was beautiful, and I have it displayed in my living room.
WPR: How did you decide on epic fantasy?
SZ: Epic fantasy, to me, allows for virtually unlimited possibilities in writing. You can step back to look at the big picture in life, in a way that other styles cannot easily do, and you can come back in to an intimate level with a particular character. The range you have at hand in an epic-scale work is unparalleled among the various types of fiction.
If you really sit down and think about it, life is epic in nature as well. It features an ensemble cast, and the lives that we all lead are part of larger and larger stories, all the way up to a world-wide, and even universal, level. The threads of our lives, our families, friends, those that come into our lives, weave together to form a grand tapestry that entails the threads of those that we never meet. Every thread plays an important part in this larger tapestry, as if you remove the threads, the whole thing begins to unravel. This dynamic of life is something that I find very appealing in epic fantasy, as you can examine individual threads, a group of threads, or the tapestry itself.
In a nutshell, it allows the maximum amount of range for the things of your imagination.
WPR: For a world like Ave and the races within it, do you have to keep a lot of notes so that you don’t forget/get mixed up with who is from where, and
what they are like?
SZ: I do maintain note files, though it is more for the purpose of archiving and checking up on the more minor details, as the story, characters, and places are very clear in my head. I’ve lived with this series since the mid-1990’s, so this isn’t something that has just manifested overnight. I do like to add notes as I come up with more things to deepen a particular culture, in terms of their lore, things that populate their lands, the weapons or implements they use, or other such aspects.
I am going to be putting a lexicon into the third book like I did for the second book of the Rising Dawn Saga, The Storm Guardians. The series has grown to the point where readers have indicated that they would like to see something like this, and I will also be building a lexicon for readers at the series site at www.firesineden.com
WPR: Where did the idea of The Wanderer character come from? He seems like someone who could have a couple of books just on his story, though he only comes and goes in Crown of Vengeance.
SZ: The Wanderer is one of my favorites to write. I leave some clues to his ultimate identity, but he is an enigmatic figure in the early books. He could definitely have a novel or two written about himself in terms of his back story. His roots are mythological, and he will be revealed more clearly in time. Suffice it to say that he is an important part of this series, and there are others of his kind that I believe readers will come to love as well.
WPR: If you were transported via the fog like your characters did, how do you think you’d hold up in the world of Ave, with it’s crazy creatures,
races and The Unifier war. Would you be just as unprepared like the characters were?
SZ: I don’t think anyone would be truly prepared for something like what happens to the modern day characters in Crown of Vengeance. The transition is sudden, and there is absolutely nothing to warn the characters about what is impending. I think that my response would be a little like the way Janus reacts, if I had to liken myself to the responses of the various characters in Crown of Vengeance. My reaction would be least like Erin’s!
WPR: Since you also do films, do you think this story would make a better movie or TV series?
SZ: I am curious to see how HBO does with Game of Thrones, since George R.R. Martin also employs the use of many character threads in his work. It will be interesting to see how his style is approached in a television series context, with the complexity of the books.
I won’t be able to fully answer this question until I have an answer regarding Game of Thrones. I know Peter Jackson did amazingly well with Lord of the Rings, and am confident that Fires in Eden would make a very visual, exciting movie, but if HBO delivers a satisfying experience with Game of Thrones, I would have to weigh the two possibilities carefully as far as which medium would result in a better fit.
Personally, though, seeing a movie version on the big screen would be tremendously exciting!
WPR: What’s next for the world of Ave, Dream of Legends recently released, how has progress gone on the 3rd title in the series?
SZ: I have a lot of the threads developed and in place for the third book, and just need to do some polishing and tweaking before I hand things over to Karen, my editor, later in the spring. The progress on this series is going very well, and the process of doing two series has been beneficial, as I have a fresh perspective when I return to work on the next titles in each of the series. I have been able to see my gaffes more clearly, which has resulted in handing in cleaner copy. Editors tend to appreciate that a lot!
As with Dream of Legends, the third book will be a winter release, somewhere around January of 2012. I know how frustrating it is to be a reader and have to wait overly long for new titles in a series. I won’t mention names, but there have been a few that have taken several years to get out a new book. Having a title out on a reasonable interval is something I am very focused on for the sake of my readers. I would not hand anything over that I felt was unfinished on my end, but managing my time and schedule as I do has proven to be very adequate for maintaining the pace I’m on.
The third book is going to explore even more of Ave, while deepening the threads that readers have come to know in the first two books. Battles and action galore, with dashes of the mystical and magical. They will get to see how the big revelation at the end of Dream of Legends plays out in the context of the story!
I hope these responses have helped to understand where I am coming from, and what I am focused on in regards to Fires in Eden. I really appreciate the chance to visit with WPR, and thank you very much for the opportunity.