Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Nicolas Samuel Lietzau

Welcome back to GrimDarkTober month on the Sunday Brunch Series! Episode 11 is a super special feature featuring German author Nicolas Samuel Lietzau! 

Most people recognize him as the writer of Enderal: The Forgotten stories – a Skyrim mod that has a huge following.  I fell off the gaming planet years ago and therefore am so glad and grateful that he reached out about his debut novel: Dreams of the Dying.  Obviously I am equally, if not more grateful that he agreed to join for an SBS interview!

While DotD is a book set in the Enderal world, I can promise that you don’t need the game to love the book, and certainly not to enjoy reading this amazing interview!  Read on to learn a bit about the book and the author, as well as a great discussion on world building, mental health, comically short relationships,  and much much more!

Enough from me – here he is!


🖤Welcome to the SBaiS! Tell us a random interesting fact about yourself!
 
🎤I’m a bit of a health nut. Also, I recently started a band, Neochrome. If I hadn’t become a writer, I would have tried my luck as a musician.
 
🖤 Can you tell me something off the beaten path that has intrigued you recently? That’s my favorite line from the author bio
 
🎤 There were several rather tragic things, but I’ll stick to something positive: I recently moved to a mountain village near Barcelona and went for a run in the nearby national park, where I got lost and suddenly found a broken-down car in the middle of the woods. No idea how it got there, but it certainly intrigued me.
 
{{In the spirit of GrimDarkTober, I wonder if something tragic happened to the vehicle’s owner! How curious}}
 
🖤 So your Enderal books are a prequel to the video game – is it challenging to write within a world with predefined boundaries?  Would it be easier or harder to create your own brand new world (and is that a plan in the future)?
 
🎤It’s definitely challenging, but I already took an important step by separating the novel canon from the game canon (while remaining faithful to the game best as I can). There are a lot of undefined areas in the Vyn universe – such as the dystopian dark age between the end of the Pyrayans and the advent of the Lightborn – which I plan to flesh out in the next two books. Even so, I’m looking forward to creating a brand-new story world in the future – in fact, I already have some ideas floating around in my mind.
 
🖤The world building in DotD was pretty intense, and equally so was the character build. Did you try to lean more towards a world or character driven story, or was the mix always there?
 
🎤I’d say characters – or rather, tragedies – always come first. A recent review criticized that the “world is the protagonist in Dreams of the Dying,” which frankly surprised me. I do enjoy world building, but to me, a well-realized and coherent world is simply due diligence. Just like I do my research when writing about experiences that weren’t my own by reading autobiographies and collaborating with people, I do my research on mythology, geography, linguistics, et cetera.
 
🖤Because you travel quite a bit – do you see a relationship between people who like to travel and are passionate about culture, and their level of world-building interest?  I would love to poll people who travel vs people who don’t, about their reading interests
 
🎤That’s an interesting question. Honestly, I haven’t noticed a trend here, but most of my author friends are German, so I’m not sure how representative they are. I do, however, feel that there tends to be a type of writer who is thirsty for experience and would certainly count myself as one of them. There are many approaches to writing great fiction, but for me, exploring life in all its facets is essential. I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious
 
{{I don’t think it does! As a travel nurse, it would sound even more pretentious if I disagreed 😂 and I love using work as an excuse to immerse myself somewhere new for a few weeks or months!}}
 
🖤Speaking of culture – you mentioned the gratuitous swearing, is that a German thing? Were there any other cultural easter eggs that you put into your story?
 
🎤I love this question. Yes, I’d say that Bavarians (Southern Germans), in particular, love to swear. It has even become an art form of sorts called Granteln. In essence, zu granteln means to humorously rant about something using imaginative insults. It’s important to note that this has nothing to do with popular rant videos on the internet, which are often mean-spirited. The hallmark of good a good grantler is that he or she is not really insulting a person offensive per se and rather lets off steam at “god and the world.” Besides grantling, Bavarian service providers have a reputation for being rude. That’s not the case, in my opinion – they’re simply allowed to talk back when a customer goes off at them. Which, in my opinion, is a wonderful thing.
 
I don’t think I put any more easter eggs into the story, at least not consciously, but you can certainly tell my cultural signature, so to speak. The focus on philosophy and politics, which some readers and others loathed or perceived as contrived, is simply a part of German fiction. As are the deeply personal conversations characters have. It’s something many Germans just do
 
{{Darn – I’ve been trying to decide where to travel to this spring if the world is open, maybe I should go to Germany and see if anyone wants to tour the area and debate life for a while! A friend said there are some lovely castles and stuff too}
 
🖤There are some correlations in your Enderal storyline and in DotD with harder and rough sounding events that have happened in your life, can we talk about using storytelling as a coping mechanism?
 
🎤Yes, my creative work definitely helped and continues to help me cope with and process some of the things that happened to me. Even these days, my first response to when something bad happens is to somehow translate it into my books or music. I think this is something any artist can relate to. For me, there’s also a phoenix element to this mechanism: yes, I lived through some traumatic events, but that also gave me access to a pool of experiences that I can now weave into my stories. Before this gets taken out of context, I’m not saying that trauma is a good thing, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody. But for me, using it this way is empowering. I hate to see myself as a victim.
 
🖤DotD had a significant running theme of mental health and digging oneself out of their own personal hell. For anyone that hasn’t read the last few chapters and afterword, are you willing to share any advice for people who might be struggling?
 
🎤Oh boy, that’s a big question. The first step should naturally always be to get help. It’s common to avoid therapy out of pride or dread of a diagnosis (god knows I’ve done it), but it won’t get you anywhere. Besides that, I found a lot of solace in Agaam’s words: You won’t find out if you give up. This is actually from what a close friend of mine told me during a difficult time. If you’re currently in a bad place, for all you know, tomorrow might be the day things finally turn around. It’s important to make yourself aware of this, as the mind often tends to catastrophize and imagine the dreariest outcome possible. Again, I’m speaking from experience.
 
{{I love big questions! Seriously though this is great advice. Mental healthcare in America is a disaster and getting help can be extremely intimidating. I tell people that there’s no shame in seeking help and no one is here to judge.  I wish the stigma wasn’t there.  There are many things to try before medication as well and I 100% wholeheartedly endorse getting help from a trained professional before things get to the catastrophe point. Recognizing and diverting that worst case scenario cycle of thinking alone can go a long way}}
 
🖤Alright, enough heavy questions! Is brunch a thing in Germany? If so, do you have a favorite brunch food?
 
🎤Oh, yes, we love brunch. I do intermittent fasting, so I actually get to brunch every day. Personally, I love German dark bread and obatzda, a Bavarian cheese made from three different sorts of soft cheese, herbs, and spices. That said, I was recently diagnosed with lactose intolerance, so no obatzda for me in the near future.
 
🖤Do you have any terribly unpopular opinions?
 
🎤In light of the upcoming new movie: I actually loved Matrix: Reloaded and MatrixRevolutions. It wasn’t as accessible as the amazing first part, but once you wrap your head around it, it’s fascinating.
 
🖤Jespar and Lysia literally had the shortest exclusive relationship ever, has that ever actually happened to you?
 
🎤Oh, for sure – my teenage relationships were very much of the straw fire variety. Especially in the LGBT community, relationships can be absurdly short-lived. At least that’s my experience.
 
{{I promise the hetero community is doing this too, dating in your 30s is a disaster by itself }}
 
🖤I don’t see a ton of German authors in fantasy; can you recommend any that have been translated?  
 
I’d say that the English-speaking publishing houses hardly translate anything, which strikes me as odd considering the industry’s current focus on spotlighting diverse voices. It’s a shame because I think people are missing out. There are countless fantastic international writers – not only German – who never find the success they deserve. As far as German fantasy authors go, I loved Ralf Isau’s books as a kid, but it’s been so long. There is a Quebecois horror author whom I adore, Patrick Senecal. No one ever translated his works (only a couple) for some strange reason, even though he is absurdly popular in Quebec.
 
🖤Who’s your favorite book character of all time?
 
🎤Tyrion Lannister. The run-of-the-mill answer, I  know, but his moral ambiguity is incredibly intriguing

I made this a separate section, which I am naming “Nicolas’ Amusing and Insightful Rant About Modern Language in Fantasy”.  I think he should expand and turn it into an essay of his own!

My only real criticism of DotD was how jarring the modern day slang came across in an otherwise immersive story … … so, what led you down that path vs creating slang in the language native to the characters?
 
This has come up a few times, so I’m glad you asked. I’ll do my best to explain my choice, but forgive me for going on a bit of a tangent first. I’ve often read fantasy readers describe colloquialism, slang, and vulgarity as unrealistic. While I get the sentiment, I believe that this is a misconception.
 
First, unless you’re writing historical fiction set in an English-speaking country, the narrator’s English is always only a translation of what people really speak in those fictional worlds; in the Enderal novels, for example, this lingua franca is Inâl, which is also what Jespar or The Man in the novel speak. However, since nobody in the real world speaks Inâl, the narration translates it into English. The bottom line: barring the usage of modern words that simply couldn’t exist given the technology level of a culture (such as “rocket science” or internet jargon), there is no such thing as “realistic” English in high fantasy. It’s always a stylistic decision of the author.
 
Second, most people know this, but the English we read in fantasy, and even historical fiction isn’t at all faithful to the English people actually spoke in the Middle Ages, Middle English. You could probably understand what’s being said, but it would be a chore. What’s more, all we know about language during these times is based on documents that were exclusively written by the small, educated minority that wasn’t dyslexic. Imagine aliens using formal business emails to deduce what 21st-century humans spoke like; even books or plays these days used a stylized English that didn’t necessarily reflect how people spoke on a day-to-day basis. In conclusion, it is very likely, if not certain, that the English spoken by the real people was full of colloquialisms and vulgarity. Why wouldn’t it? If anything, etymology suggests that they swore like sailors, including the dreaded c-word. “Fuck” arrived a little later, but it’s safe to assume something with a similar meaning was around to describe the same thing.
 
 
All this is a long way of me saying that the English we are used to in fantasy fiction is ultimately a convention established to create a certain feeling. It’s an entirely subjective and stylistic choice and doesn’t indicate bad worldbuilding or poor command of the English language.
 
Now, why did I decide to use modern language in dialogue? It’s not because I dislike the convention – I grew up reading German fantasy books, which use very formal and “olden-days” language much like what you see in English fantasy staples, and I still love them. For me, it’s mostly about relatability. I want my characters to feel as real and relatable as possible. I also have a background in video game writing, where I work with voice actors on a regular basis and came to realize that a lot of dialogue that reads well in a book translates poorly into a voiced script; consequently, I made a habit of rewriting any “bookish” dialogue I wrote for a script to make it as “organic” as possible.
 
All that said, looking back, I believe that I sometimes overshot and accidentally crossed the line between relatability and anachronism. It’s something I will improve in the next novel.


Once again, thank you endlessly to Nicolas Samuel Lietzau for taking the time out of his busy schedule to give such an amazing interview! Here are the links to find him online and social media: 

I’m not good at link lists but you can find Nicolas online at:

WEBSITE: WWW.NICOLASLIETZAU.COM

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/niseam_stories/

https://mobile.twitter.com/Niseamtao

And many others, go find the links through his site!

Categories
Fantasy

Song of Echoes (book review) by R.E. Palmer

I am reading a ton of self published fantasy this fall, thanks to some amazing indie authors that have reached out about their books. One such author was R.E. Palmer!

Song of Echoes reads like a classic fantasy. I’ve been in a huge slump recently toward all the character driven drivel and romance in new fantasy books. This book presented it’s world and told a story, one with inherent magic and two very different character points of view that don’t interact. It’s kind of what I love about self published work

Overall it was not perfect, but interesting and refreshing

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Song of Echoes
  • Series: Song of Echoes, #1
  • Author: R.E. Palmer
  • Publisher & Release: FrontRunner Publications, 07/05/21
  • Length: 434 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for classic, adult fantasy fans

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

All that has gone before is woven into the Song; joy, sorrow; kind acts and cruel acts; creation and destruction. Past, present, and what has yet to come, make themselves known — if you know how to listen.

For three hundred years, the people of the Five Realms have lived in relative peace, protected by their great leader, the Archon. Yet, far to the north, in the frozen lands beyond the Draegalen Trench, the Ruuk stir, driven by a rising evil, long believed banished from the world. But rumors questioning the Archon’s ability to defend the realms once more, persist.

Elodi, the Lady Harlyn, uneasy in her new role following the death of her father, and Toryn, a farmworker and outsider in his village, must discover a way to fight an enemy that all but defeated their ancestors.

The story starts with a legend, and then throws a lot of places and names and lore at the reader.  It didn’t take long to figure out what areas were important to remember though, and once the story got started with Toryn and Elodi it was hard to put down.  Who would know that maybe those old legends are true?

The world has inherent magic, but it isn’t really elaborated on or discussed at all until towards the end.  There is also workable magic, presented as a handful of feared sorcerers with inherent abilities.  The source is hinted at but will be further explored in later books.

The world seems like a geographically diverse continent, with forests and mountains and everything in between.  I did like how the setting of each area shaped the characters and their personalities, as they should. 

Elodi is the newish leader of her realm, gathered at the Archon’s keep with the other Lords to inspect the realms defenses.  Toryn is a farmer, dying to see beyond the gates of his home region but unable to due to restrictions placed by the Archon on travel.

As we learn more about the politics, dangers, and impending war of the realm, everything starts to make sense and fall into place.  There are multiple dangers to each border but the Archon is obsessed with only one enemy, totally ready to leave the rest of the realm to fend for itself on extremely limited men and resources.

I really ended up liking Elodi, she was brave as hell at the end and a credit to her title, leading her knights.  Toryn had less of an impressive story arc but set himself up to be a bigger player in the next book.  I actually liked that the storylines didn’t intersect, it’s a nice change from every author just shoving romance down my throat for the sake of it.

There are a lot of really good side characters too and Palmer doesn’t hold back from inserting some tragedy into the pages. There are some tough siege and battle scenes.

I think the physical descriptions and setting were my favorite aspect.  The mountains and bridges form some amazing natural defenses, and everything sounds so majestic.  Without being repetitive, Palmer brings each area and vista to life.

Theme wise … Honor, veteran pride, loyalty, found family, and the value in stories, are some of my favorites.

I think the down side was that the book got off to a slow start.  It does take a bit to figure out who is who, who is important, and what regions we need to remember, but I think it’s worth it.  I would have liked more from the inherent magic.  I will definitely be keeping an eye out for book 2!


Shout out to the cover artist as well –  Kentaro Kanamoto does some amazing fantasy artwork! http://www.kentarokanamoto.com/

Find the book online!

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58145883-song-of-echoes

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095XQ9VQ
Website: www.frontrunnerbooks.com

 

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: featuring T.A. Bruno!!

Thank you so much everyone for supporting the Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series!!  In this third installment I am lucky enough to feature DreamWorks artist + Sci-fi author T.A. Bruno!

I read his first novel In the Orbit of Sirens and was impressed by both the scope of the plot and the intricate, detailed world building.  The sequel comes out next month and I can’t wait for that one either.

Alright without further ado, here he is!

1) Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your writing!

Thanks for having me! I’m happy to be featured. For those who don’t know me, I grew up in Chicago and moved to LA to work in the film industry. I’ve worked on a lot of fun projects, including some Marvel films. I currently work for DreamWorks Animation as a Layout Artist. My career has been all about telling stories through film, and it gave me the confidence to put a story down on paper. In the Orbit of Sirens was my debut novel, and I have written two sequels during quarantine. It’s been a blast, and it allowed me to meet some great people!  

SequelStandby_Insta

2) I think based on that, you’re going to have to tell us what a layout artist does! It’s super cool that you work for DreamWorks!!

Thanks! I love telling people about my day job. Layout—or Previz as it’s also known—is one of the best-kept secrets in Hollywood if you ask me. We wear many hats. In live-action (So Marvel movies and other big-budget VFX films), we create a computer-animated sequence for the film that will be visual effects heavy. By making these sequences, we get accurate camera data. We can explore the best ways to film the upcoming sequence before the entire production gets to it. It saves production a lot of time to plan ahead like this, and often we have the Director over our shoulder directing us. After we finish our job, production takes our Previz and films it, mimicking the cameras we made and sticking close to the action we planned out with the Director. The actors even get to look at it for reference. For Dreamworks, it’s the same idea, but we do the entire film. We are cinematographers, and our cameras get finalized. The animators use our work as a foundation to build upon and draw out more personality. It’s a super fun job, and not many people know about it. I’m happy I stumbled into it after College.

3) Feeding off of that, does that experience help you envision the scenery and world building for The Song of Kamaria so far? I definitely thought the visual imagery was one of the first book’s strong points

I’m glad you liked the imagery! Yes, by nature, I tried to escort the reader through the world of Kamaria with a cinematic eye. I treated each sentence as a shot and drew out the details as I would in a camera composition. My career has taught me how to express lots of detail without taking up too much time. I do my best to show and not tell. 

4) I was impressed because I had some obscure world building questions about In The Orbit of Sirens, and you were READY with a response! You had said that it was originally in the book but got edited out and I felt like I could see the holes where the information was before – how do you (or the editor) decide what makes the final cut in the book?  How much did the finished product change would you say from the original?

I have all the answers! I had planned to begin In the Orbit of Sirens very differently. Originally, Eliana and John Veston were on the Telemachus at the same time as Denton. I cut it and started it with Eliana on Kamaria with the forward scout team because it was honestly very dull the other way. Lots of explaining how they made it there and what they needed to accomplish. One of my beta readers actually suggested Eliana should just be on Kamaria in the beginning because Kamaria is where the meat of the story takes place. So before the change, I had written out the first scouting mission and how it all worked {{the techie info}}.  There is a whole chapter I wrote about that. It might make it into a prequel novella, but I will revisit that idea after publishing book 3. 

5) How do you feel about brunch? I think I have to start asking authors their favorite brunch item!

Second breakfast?! I’ll admit, mainly thanks to work from home, my eating schedule is all over the place. I don’t formally recognize any meal anymore, haha. But if I had to sit and consider brunch, I’d probably enjoy a sandwich wrap or some sort. Loves my wraps.

{{Here I will tell readers that in the Northeast, brunch is considered a combo of breakfast and lunch, usually with alcohol, or in some cases refers to breakfast for lunch.  Now I know what L.A. does 😂}}

6) What was your publishing journey like? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book?

I think publishing in 2021 is an interesting field. Initially, I attempted to get traditionally published, but after many rejections, I reevaluated my priorities. What did I want? What did I want my future to look like? And most importantly, how much longer did I want to sit on In the Orbit of Sirens? For the record, the final version of In the Orbit of Sirens is very different from the one I queried. I don’t blame those agents for rejecting me.  When I realized that I enjoy my day job, and that the only story I really wanted to tell was the Song of Kamaria, and that the validation of a committee of publishers didn’t mean anything to me, I realized I’d be better suited to self-publish. I’m very glad I did too! I have total control over the story I’m putting out. I got to pool together all my resources and friendships and pump my entire body and soul into these books. I got to meet so many great people, including you! I also got to bring in my friend Jason Hall to do the illustrations in my book. I always loved his art style!

NellaCadeHeader_Showoff

At the end of the day, I can say The Song of Kamaria is ME. The cover, the illustrations, and the words all spawned from my resources, connections, and skillset. I’m so happy with how it’s being received as well. It just makes me more proud of being self-published and taking the risk of being my own boss.

7) Kamaria runs the entire spectrum of scifi, from interstellar war to space ships, futuristic technology, first contact… which idea came first? Do you remember what idea or theme you built the book around?

I knew I wanted to do something I hadn’t seen before, and most of my decisions sprang from “what haven’t I seen yet?” I wanted to write a story about starting over and making new choices. So a desperate escape to a new planet with limited resources felt like the best way to do that. I wanted to make Kamaria something unique. The native Kamarians are nothing like anything from Earth, so they are not based on Earth life. They are technologically advanced, but in a way that nurtures a peaceful life that utilizes the land around them. I also wanted to explore the parts of human nature that involve lying and truths. Readers might have noticed that you can’t lie to the auk’nai (mainly because it’s said between characters often) but that the Undriel are huge liars. Humans are in the middle, sometimes deceiving each other and sometimes being painfully truthful. I had not seen that before, and I felt it was worth writing about. I know this answer is a little scatterbrained, but I’ll conclude it by saying I had MANY brainstorms about what this trilogy should be before starting. 

8)  Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habit?

I am loving Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep trilogy (I’ll admit I haven’t finished it yet, but the first two books are some of my favorite Sci-fi). But I always recommend Dan Simmon’s Hyperion Cantos to everyone. Vinge’s series can be a little bit of a slow burn that I specifically loved, but Hyperion is just excellent sci-fi that anyone could love. Favorite literary character Piranesi from the book of the same name. He was just fantastic, and I did the audiobook, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who made him even more charming. And my weird bookish quirk is often buying multiple versions of the same book. It’s not unusual for me to have an e-book, physical copy, and an audiobook of the same book sometimes. Typically if I do audiobook and enjoy it enough, I will buy a physical copy for my shelf. And if I’m leaving a review on Amazon, I’ll buy an e-book with my author account instead of my personal one so that my review shows up as a “verified purchase.” Plus, it helps support my self-published friends.

9) Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say about anything, please do so here!

Thank you for the interview! I really enjoyed these questions. For those looking to jump into the world of Kamaria, now is a great time! The second book, On the Winds of Quasars, releases September 20th, 2021. Currently, the e-book is available to preorder, but softcovers and hardcovers will also be available on the 20th. I hope you enjoy your time on Kamaria!


Meet the author!

T. A. BRUNO grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is a proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife. IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS is his debut science fiction novel.

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Links:

Twitter:

https://mobile.twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/tabrunoauthor/

The Song of Kamaria series Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09B4YVKGT?binding=kindle_edition&ref=dbs_dp_rwt_sb_tukn

Author website: TABruno.com

In the Orbit of Sirens audiobook link: https://www.audible.com/pd/In-the-Orbit-of-Sirens-Audiobook/B08X5XVW8Q?qid=1614184804&sr=1-1&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=83218cca-c308-412f-bfcf-90198b687a2f&pf_rd_r=BFGSJEZSWAPDEDGY62HQ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20726865.T_A_Bruno