Today I am interviewing Brian Lee Durfee, author of the new fantasy novel, The Forgetting Moon, first book of the Five Warriors Angels series.◊ ◊ ◊
DJ: Hey Brian! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Brain Lee Durfee: I am an artist and writer who was raised in Fairbanks Alaska and Monroe Utah. I’ve done illustrations for Wizards of the Coast, Tolkien Enterprises, Dungeons & Dragons, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust (Denali National Park) and many more. My art has been featured in SPECTRUM: Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art #3 and Writers of the Future Vol 9. I won the Arts for the Parks Grand Canyon Award and the painting is in the permanent collection of the Grand Canyon Visitors Center-Kolb Gallery. I am also the author of the fantasy series Five Warrior Angels. I currently live in Salt Lake City. I work in Law Enforcement as a day job. Reading is my first passion. Writing my second. Watching the Oakland Raiders third. Painting fourth. In fact, I might put watching football first because everything stops on NFL Sunday for me.
DJ: Now, I love epic fantasy – it is my favorite genre – and The Forgetting Moon is a massive book and solely from the book’s intro, I’m getting the feeling the Five Warriors Angels series is going to be quite vast! While that is so awesome(!), that means there is so much to cover! So, I will do my best to ask you questions that will cover as much as possible. Let’s start with the basic one: What is The Forgetting Moon about?
Brian: I am assuming you have a link to Simon & Schuster’s description so we needn’t re-hash that here. So I am going to paraphrase what one Goodreads reviewer (a good friend of mine who gave me permission) wrote, because she did a good job of describing the novel in a different way than what you will find on the back-jacket. “It has been nearly a thousand years since the death and supposed ascendency to heaven of Laijon, King of Slaves, one of five legendary Warrior Angels; history is mute on the fates of the other four: the Princess, the Thief, the Assassin, and the Gladiator. Since Laijon’s death, nations have divided into warring factions worshipping either Laijon, his son, Raijael, or his wife, The Blessed Mother Mia. Now, prophesies near fruition as the followers of Raijael plow a bloody track across the Five Isles, and the infamous weapons of the Five Angels have been rediscovered. (The doctrines and religious fervor that fuel the war remind one of the endless schisms and wars fostered by the Abrahamic religions of our world.)
The story follows those who may or may not be the prophesied descendants of the Five Warrior Angels: Aeros Raijael, the White Prince, sociopathic leader of the invading army; Nail, an orphan from a remote fishing village; Jondralyn Bronachell, sister to a cruel and paranoid king; their sister, Tala Bronachell, who is following an anonymous assassin’s clues to save her cousin from poison; Gault Aulbrek, a disenchanted knight; Ava Shay, prisoner of war and Nail’s one-time girlfriend; Hawkwood, a deadly Bloodwood assassin; Squireck Van Hester, a political prisoner forced to fight in the gladiatorial arena; siblings Zane and Liz Hen Neville, Nail’s hometown friends; and their dog, Beer Mug. The reader should heed the motto of the Brethren of Mia: “Trust no one.”
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Forgetting Moon and the Five Warriors Angels series?
Brian: At 13 years old I read the SWORD OF SHANNARA by Terry Brooks. Ten pages in I knew I wanted to write a fantasy novel of my own. That Shannara novel hooked me on reading. I’ve read 3-4 books a week ever since from every genre: fantasy, horror, mystery, thriller, sci-fi, non-fiction, etc. As a kid I loved Lloyd Alexander, David Eddings, DRAGONLANCE, and Tolkien. But as I was writing THE FORGETTING MOON, for inspiration I purposefully studied the structure, pacing, and style of seven specific books: Ken Follett’s PILLARS OF THE EARTH, Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE, James Clavell’s SHOGUN, Stephen King’s THE STAND, Goerge R. R. Martin’s GAME OF THRONES, Robert Jordan’s EYE OF THE WORLD, & Tad Williams’ DRAGONBONE CHAIR. These are all mega-selling books and I really wanted to plumb their secrets. Luke Skywalker’s journey in Star Wars is also a huge inspiration.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Brian: 1) Nail (a seventeen-year-old boy) is our main male lead character, always brave and a bit headstrong, but prone to make mistakes because of his arrogance. He works as a gold-miner, but would rather work on the whaling ship with his pals, and he loves to draw. He dreams of designing stained glass windows for cathedrals someday. 2) Tala (a sixteen-year-old girl) is our main female lead character. She is a pampered princess and full of mischief. She won’t do what anyone tells her. If she is told to stop sneaking about the castle, you bet she will do it, even when threatened by assassins. She is just too curious, like a cat. And that leads to a whole mess of trouble. 3) Gault (a veteran knight) is our main adult character. He is weary of ten years of crusading. He misses his daughter terribly. But killing is his life, and the only way he can truly feel at peace is when he is engaged in slaughter. He is a very conflicted man. 4) Jondralyn (also a princess & older sister of Tala) is our main adult female character. She hates the ruling class of men and wants to usurp the throne form her brother. Like Nail, she is brave and a bit headstrong. She is training to be a gladiator. She always over-estimates her own skills, which gets her in trouble a lot. The story is told through the alternate POV’s of those four.
Other characters of note are, Jovan (an inept king) Squireck (a gladiator) Roguemoore (a gruff old dwarf) Val-Draekin (an elven thief and warrior) Seita (an elven princess) Hawkwood (a former assassin) Lindholf & Lawri (friends of Tala) Shawcroft (an enigmatic ex-knight) Stefan (Nail’s best friend and archer) Jenko, Ava Shay, Liz Hen, Dokie, Zane, Gisela (other friends of Nail) Aeros (a ruthless crusader) Enna Spades & Hammerfiss (Aeros’ brutal henchmen). And lastly Beer Mug (a shepherd dog). Readers who have been given ARCs and pre-release copies have all commented that they absolutely grew adore Beer Mug and grew to hate, and I mean HATE, Enna Spades. Spades is one vicious, cruel, and unpredictable warrior woman. When she walks on scene….watch out.
DJ: I love epic fantasy with multiple POV and complex plots, but I have always wondered how writers approach writing these types of stories? How did you decide which POV to jump to next when telling the story and how did you actually write the story? (Do you outline the order the POV chapters will go in first, then write it like that; write all of one character’s chapters then move on)
Brian: So a couple of things here. I wrote the first half of the novel with zero outline. Then once I saw where the story was headed, I sort of plotted out the rest vaguely. But now that I am under contract for several more books, I have a pretty good set of notes and outlines for the entire rest of the series. As for POV characters, in the beginning, those 4 main perspectives (Nail, Tala, Gault, Jondralyn) just sorta grew naturally as the story went along. I write chronologically. So I do not write all Nail chapters then all Tala chapters etc. The story flows from one character to the next. Also, I have made a promise to myself that there would be exactly 55 chapters in each book no matter what. Let’s see if I can stick to that. That’s about 750 pgs hardcover. 250,000 words. For perspective that is about 30,000 words shorter than GAME OF THRONES.
DJ: Do you ever go back and rearrange the planned order or have to write a scene over again from another character’s perspective?
Brian: No. But my editor, Joe Monti, at Simon & Schuster’s SAGA PRESS, did ask me to re-arrange the order of the first ten chapters in Forgetting Moon, and add a prologue. The prologue was a brilliant idea and I do believe one of the best pieces of writing I have ever done. It is different than any prologue you will read. And really ties the story together in a way I didn’t think possible. I am jazzed about it, and about the fact that it will be the first thing people read when they open up the book. It really sets the tone for things to come.
DJ: What is the universe/world for the Five Warriors Angels series like?
Brian: Good question. The universe is called the Five Isles, consisting of, well, five islands, each about the size of England/Scotland. The environment is very European. Think Scotland Highlands but with the mountains the size of the Swiss Alps or the Alaskan Range. The Isles are high in latitude, so it gets cold!!! On the Five Isles we have humans, elves, dwarves, and oghuls (basically orcs) all living together. Religion is split into three warring factions: worshipers of Laijon, Raijael, or Mia. And these wars have plagued the isles for thousands of years. So the Isles are very violent. And very patriarchal (which gives the female leads something to fight for—which is part of the overall theme) No technology beyond swords and crossbows and chainmail armor, straight medieval. And here is the kicker. Magic is believed in, but never seen. There are many religious holy books full of stories and prophecies of Laijon, Raijael and Mia doing magic and having magic weapons and such. But these stories are no more founded than say Moses parting the Red Sea in todays Bible. Still, these stories propel much religious strife in the Five Isles. Especially ancient stories of The Five Warrior Angels and their magical weapons…
DJ: It seems like there is going to be A LOT going on there… could you tell the readers a few specific details about Sør Sevier and Gul Kana, that may grab there attention and shed more light on them?
Brian: Sør Sevier (one of the five isles) is led by the religious fervor of the White Prince, Aeros Raijael, a direct descendant of the ancient religious icon, Raijael. Sør Sevier is the western most isles, more destitute and rocky and less-prosperous than the others. Aeros bloody crusade is to reclaim the other 4 isles under one place them all under religious rule, his rule. Aeros allows women to fight in his armies, doubling his troops, and this is a huge advantage over Gul Kana (another one of the isles about to be attacked by Aeros), because Gul Kana is led by Jovan, and Jovan is merely a puppet for the highly misogynist and patriarchal religious regime of the Church of Laijon. Jondralyn, Jovan’s sister, desperately wants her brother to allow women to fight. But his church advisors won’t allow it even to their own doom. So this looming war and all of its religious implications combined with a belief in magic sets up the main conflict. Because all sides believe that the magic weapons of the Five Warrior Angels are out there somewhere, and if they can just find them, the wars will turn dramatically in their favor.
DJ: I am also curious about Shawcroft and Gallows Haven; what’s it like over there?
Brian: Nail is an orphan boy living in the whaling village of Gallows Haven. Shawcroft is Nail’s caretaker. Gallows Haven sits on the western coast of Gul Kana, right in the sights of Aeros invading army. Above Gallows Haven is a mountain range full of old gold mines…which may or may not hold ancient treasure…
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Forgetting Moon?
Brian: My favorite part of writing is when it’s done. Writing can be a slog. But once you have stuck it out, persevered, and the book is in print and folks are reading it. That’s my favorite part. As mystery writer Elizabeth George said, ‘Nobody really likes writing, but everyone likes having written something.’ Seeing the end result and being proud of it is really cool. Especially because this is the culmination of an idea that began forming in my mind when I was 13 years old reading THE SWORD OF SHANNARA that first time. But in the end, I truly do love world-building and character development. I love being surprised by what some of my characters say. I love being surprised when certain secondary characters start demanding more screen time because they have made themselves so interesting.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Brian: So far readers are talking about how much they loved the dog, Beer Mug, and how much they hated Enna Spades (things I was not expecting). But other feedback I have received. The pace never lets up! The world-building is detailed and VAST! The characters are diverse and distinct and interesting. The book is non-stop adventure, drama and action from the first page. Which is good, because I promised myself I wouldn’t let this series get bogged down in the endless boring political details that can sometimes drag in fantasy novels. That stuff is there, but minimal. I want the readers heart to be pounding. If anyone reviews my book and says they were bored…that would suck. And probably not be true.
DJ: What is your goal in writing the Five Warriors Angels series? The Forgetting Moon is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when it is finally told?
Brian: The overall theme is ‘believe in yourself’. In the end, each character is defined by how they handle themselves when everything goes wrong, when all the things and people that they believed in fail them. How do they rise up and conquer with just the strength of their own will.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Forgetting Moon that you can share with us?
Brian: The opening line “trust is fleeting, betrayal is timeless”. And I advise the reader, as you read this series, trust no one. Everything is a puzzle to be figured out. Everything is a red-herring. Everything is in there to mislead you. Or maybe it isn’t…
DJ: Now that The Forgetting Moon is released, what is next for you?
Brian: Book two, The Blackest Heart is due Jan 2017. I am nearly done with that. And then it is on to book three, The Lonesome Crown and so on…
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Forgetting Moon that we haven’t talked about yet?
Brian: If you love GAME OF THRONES & WHEEL OF TIME, I think you will love THE FORGETTING MOON. I really think my novel is a good blend of new grimdark fantasy combined with old epic quest fantasy.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!◊ ◊ ◊
*** The Forgetting Moon is published by Saga Press and is available TODAY!!! ***Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo◊ ◊ ◊
About the Book:A massive army on the brink of conquest looms large in a world where prophecies are lies, magic is believed in but never seen, and hope is where you least expect to find it.
Welcome to the Five Isles, where war has come in the name of the invading army of Sør Sevier, a merciless host driven by the prophetic fervor of the Angel Prince, Aeros, toward the last unconquered kingdom of Gul Kana. Yet Gault, one of the elite Knights Archaic of Sør Sevier, is growing disillusioned by the crusade he is at the vanguard of just as it embarks on his Lord Aeros’ greatest triumph.
While the eldest son of the fallen king of Gul Kana now reigns in ever increasing paranoid isolationism, his two sisters seek their own paths. Jondralyn, the older sister, renowned for her beauty, only desires to prove her worth as a warrior, while Tala, the younger sister, has uncovered a secret that may not only destroy her family but the entire kingdom. Then there’s Hawkwood, the assassin sent to kill Jondralyn who has instead fallen in love with her and trains her in his deadly art. All are led further into dangerous conspiracies within the court.
And hidden at the edge of Gul Kana is Nail, the orphan taken by the enigmatic Shawcroft to the remote whaling village of Gallows Haven, a young man who may hold the link to the salvation of the entire Five Isles.
You may think you know this story, but everyone is not who they seem, nor do they fit the roles you expect. Durfee has created an epic fantasy full of hope in a world based on lies.
About the Author:Brian Lee Durfee is an artist and writer raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Monroe, Utah. He has done illustrations for Wizards of the Coast, Tolkien Enterprises, Dungeons & Dragons, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust (Denali National Park), and many more. His art has been featured in SPECTRUM: Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art #3 and Writers of the Future Vol 9. He won the Arts for the Parks Grand Canyon Award and has a painting in the permanent collection of the Grand Canyon Visitors Center-Kolb Gallery. Brian is the author of the fantasy series, Five Warrior Angels. He lives in Salt Lake City. – See more at: http://brianleedurfee.weebly.com/inde… and/or http://authors.simonandschuster.com/B…