Interview: Chris Evans

Today Literary Escapism would like to welcome Chris Evans, author of the new Iron Elves trilogy – A Darkness Forged in Fire and The Light of Burning Shadows.  I’m currently reading A Darkness Forged in Fire and I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen so far.

A Darkness Forged in Fire: First in a stunning debut series, A Darkness Forged in Fire introduces an unforgiving world of musket and cannon…bow and arrow…magic, diplomacy, and oaths — each wielding terrible power in an Empire teetering on the brink of war.

In this world, Konowa Swift Dragon, former commander of the Empire’s elite Iron Elves, is looked upon as anything but ordinary. He’s murdered a Viceroy, been court-martialed, seen his beloved regiment disbanded, and finally been banished in disgrace to the one place he despises the most — the forest.

Now, all he wants is to be left alone with his misery…but for Konowa, nothing is ever that simple. The mysterious and alluring Visyna Tekoy, the highborn daughter of an elfkynan governor, seeks him out in the dangerous wild with a royal decree that he resume his commission as an officer in Her Majesty’s Imperial Army, effective immediately.

For in the east, a falling Red Star heralds the return of a magic long vanished from the earth. Rebellion grows within the Empire as a frantic race to reach the Star unfolds. It is a chance for Konowa to redeem himself — even if the entire affair appears doomed to be a suicide mission…and that the soldiers recruited for the task are not at all what he expects. And worse, his key adversary in the perilous race for the Star is the dreaded Shadow Monarch — a legendary elf-witch whose machinations for absolute domination spreaddeeper than Konowa could ever imagine….

Make sure you stick around to the end, we’re giving away a copy of A Darkness Forged in Fire!
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Thank you Chris for visiting Literary Escapism.

For my readers who are unfamiliar with your novels, A Darkness Forged in Fire and The Light of Burning Shadows, can you describe the world you want to introduce them to? What was it about this world that you wanted to share?

First I’d like to say thanks for the opportunity to have talk with you and your readers for a few minutes. Writing is one of those professions where you spend a lot of time alone and there’s a tendency to get a bit squirrely. Getting out among people, even if it’s via the Internet, helps keep those nutty proclivities in check.

The series is a fantasy complete with elves and dwarves, but set in a time period based in part on the Napoleonic Wars of the late 1700s and early 1800s with a good measure of inspiration from later British imperialism as well. That said, it’s not historical fantasy, but I suppose the elves pretty much give that away. It’s been called epic, and I suppose that fits considering the world does hang in the balance, but I think of it more in terms of a big adventure as seen through the eyes of a very unique regiment and its extremely conflicted commander. What fascinates me is the reactions of the characters to ever worsening events, and how they make the choices they do.

I wanted to try my hand at evolving the traditional European medieval setting to something more like the time of Napoleon. I’d always wanted to see what would happen to the core of Tolkien’s world if you moved it forward in time, and this gave me a chance to explore that. The other big driving force is my interest in history and military history in particular. I wanted to create an epic that was told, in part, from the perspective of the ordinary soldier. Armies abound in many fantasies, but they’re often relegated to the background. My interest was to bring that to the fore while not losing sight of the bigger adventure.

The idea behind the Iron Elves – the fact that they are tainted – is intriguing and new to me. How did they evolve and what was your inspiration for them? Why did you want to tell a story about elves that were born with “a dark mark”?

When you think about elves – and let’s face it, who doesn’t think about elves – you realize that the major physical attribute that defines them, other than being tall and lithe with high cheekbones and 0% body fat, is the pointed ears. So I wanted to mark my elves as different by altering their most recognizable attribute. I’d had it in my mind for years that when I finally wrote my fantasy my elves would be different. The idea of a black mark on an ear tip seemed like a great way to give physical manifestation to something deeply internal. What I really liked about it though was less about the physical mark and more about the psychological effects of that. In the series, all the elves marked this way have had tough lives whether they gave into the idea that they were cursed or not. Like real life, most of what happens is less about events and everything about how characters choose to react to those events.

Can you introduce us to your characters? Who was the most fun to write? Who gave you the most problems?

All my characters are favorites in one way or another, but Sergeant Yimt Arkhorn is typical the most fun to write. He’s a dwarf and veteran soldier with a very unique view on the world. His nick-name is “The Little Mad One” and he lives up to it on a regular basis. I’m particularly fond of his way of expressing philosophical ideas in rather down to earth terms.

The main character is one of the tainted elves, Major Konowa Swift Dragon, and he’s driven by an anger and need for revenge that often clouds his judgment. I’m fascinated by his drive, yet at times he’s challenging to write because he’s so unwilling to bend.

Someone who does try to get Konowa to see other points of view is Visyna Tekoy, an elfkynan witch. She weaves magic from the natural order of the world and sees the vast empire that Konowa serves as every bit as evil as the encroaching dark forest of the Shadow Monarch.

Her Majesty’s Scribe, Rallie Synjyn, is what we would today call a war reporter. As the series has unfolded hidden talents of hers suggest she’s much more than that, and the third book will definitely reveal more.

A Darkness Forged in Fire and The Light of Burning Shadows are the first in your new series – the Iron Elves – where do you anticipate the series going? Do you have a set number of books planned or is this a world you plan to come back to time and time again?

At the moment the plan is for the Iron Elves to be a trilogy, which means Ashes Of A Black Frost will be the third and final book in the series. However, there may be more to more follow…don’t look so surprised, you knew that was coming. There’s something inherently seductive about writing a fantasy series that makes a trilogy spawn additional books like rabbits. I really enjoy writing the Iron Elves so if fans keep enjoying it as much as they are now I can certainly see more books in the future. I do have a few ideas in mind…

What would the Lorax think of your tainted trees? I may be off, but were you aiming for an environmental message with your trees fighting back?

Gad zeuks, he might say….er, well, something like that. Are you familiar with the Rush song, The Trees? In it the maples are unhappy with the oaks for taking all the sunlight and fix the problem “with hatchet, ax, and saw.” In reality, I’ve tried hard not to introduce a political message, at least in the sense of not hitting readers over the head with a point of view. Of course some of my characters are very opinionated, but my goal from the start was to tell an entertaining adventure. To me, the call to responsible stewardship of the environment is just good common sense, so naturally people won’t agree about it, and conflict makes for good reading.

Why fantasy? What is it about the genre that drew you to it or did it chose you?

I love the creative freedom that fantasy gives a writer, and with it the significant responsibility to treat it with respect. I grew up reading the classics and like so many, Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit opened up an entirely new world to me. That sense of adventure and wonder has never left me so when I finally sat down to write my first novel I knew from the start that it would be a fantasy, I just wasn’t sure what kind. I knew medieval fantasies had been done incredibly well so I decided to go in a bit of a different direction relying on my history background to create a world inspired by Kipling’s British Empire, the Napoleonic Wars, and with a focus on the life of the ordinary soldier in an epic fantasy adventure.

Which authors do you read and/or think “Damn! I wish I had thought of that”? Who would you love to sit down with and discuss fantasy literature with?

Rudyard Kipling. The man was a genius. His poems on British imperialism and colonialism are brilliant. I don’t necessarily ascribe to all his beliefs (and it’s not entirely clear that he did either,) but he can turn a phrase like no one else. He did, in fact, write some fantasy, though most of his work wasn’t in that field. George MacDonald Fraser is another writer I truly admire. Alas, like Kipling, he’s also deceased. Of those living I would definitely be all ears for fantasy masters Terry Pratchett and J.K.Rowling.

For someone new to the fantasy genre, what would you say to them to gain their interest?

Welcome! Don’t get hung up on labels. A story is a story is a story. I’m not a proponent of the genre labeling system and whenever someone asks me what I write or read I talk about it in terms of the story, not the genre. I’m a huge fan of fantasy, but it’s not all I read and I suspect most readers are the same. I gravitate toward great stories no matter what the genre. For someone new to fantasy I would simply encourage them to keep an open mind and sense of wonder. If they do that, they’re bound to enjoy themselves.

Name five books that are sitting next to you. Why are they sitting next to you?

There are several dictionaries and Oxford history companions, a rather frail copy of the History of the British Expedition to Egypt by Robert Thomas Wilson (1803), T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, and the first two books in the Iron Elves which I have to reread in order to make sure I keep the continuity accurate for book III, Ashes Of A Black Frost. I constantly research as I write so having books like these close at hand really helps. As for Brown’s The Lost Symbol, well, any author that can sell millions of copies of anything is always worth a look.

How big of a role did the Internet play in your research? How much of an impact has the Internet had on your books and your career?

I find the Internet very useful for general surveys. I often check Wikipedia and then hit the library for more information and especially for primary documents. I’ve always haunted libraries so I don’t know that the Internet has significantly changed the way I work or write, but it has certainly made initial searches easier and faster. And of course it’s allowed me to be in contact with a lot more people all over the world, and that’s been very beneficial, and that includes opportunities to talk to fellow fantasy readers like this.

Cheers,
Chris
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Thank you Chris for visiting Literary Escapism.

Contest Time!  We’re giving away a copy of the first novel in Chris’s Iron Elves series, A Darkness Forged in Fire, to a lucky commentator and it’s very easy to enter. All you have to do is answer this one simple question: For someone new to the fantasy genre, what would you say to them to gain their interest? What is your favorite fantasy novel? Remember, you do have to answer the question in order for your comment to count. The contest is open to everyone, so everyone overseas can join in the fun as well.

As always, if you want more chances to win, you can post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it (#litesc), share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer (all in the same post please). The more places you share it, the more entries you get.

For more entries, purchase any novel through LE’s Amazon store sometime during this contest and send a copy of the receipt VIA email for your purchase to: myjaxon AT gmail DOT com. Each purchase is one entry and it has to be through the LE Link.

Join the Literary Escapism Facebook page and you’ll get an additional entry. Make sure you leave a comment here so I know that’s why you’re joining. Only new readers to the group will be considered.

For an additional entry, subscribe to Literary Escapism’s newsletter in the sidebar. All current subscribers will also have an additional entry.

I’ll determine the winner with help from the Research Randomizer. All entries must be in by midnight on September 29th.

About Jackie 3273 Articles
I am a 30-something SAHM with two adorable boys and a supportive husband who is very tolerant of my reading addiction. I love to read and easily go through about a dozen books a month – well I did before I had kids. Now, not so much. After my first son was born, I began to take my hobby of reviewing a little more serious and started Literary Escapism to help with my sanity. I love to discuss the fabulous novels I’ve read and meeting all the wonderful people in the book blogging community has been amazing.

15 Comments

  1. Have you ever seen a floating castle? Do you ever wish that when you open the door to walk out that you would end up somewhere else each time?

    I’d recommend Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones

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  2. Hi, Chris!

    Your book sounds intriguing.

    Okay, as to the questions: Since I was a kid, every so often I would take a look at the world around me and wonder, what would a person coming from a different time think about what I’m seeing now?

    So, in order to interest somebody in fantasy, I’d say, look at something that you take for granted and turn it sideways. That’s fantasy.

    And I wouldn’t suggest a particular book, I don’t think. There is such a rich collection of the genre, and each person has such varied likes and dislikes. It just depends on the person.

  3. You know Michele, I should call that a “cop-out” answer, but I actually totally agree with you. It’s hard recommending just one book to a person without knowing what they like. I may have to change that question to “what’s your favorite fantasy novel” instead of recommending one.

  4. Hi Chris – I have both your books waiting to be read in my ominous TBR stack. After reading your interview I really hope I can move the, up the list. Thanks Jackie for a chance to learn more about Chris’ writing.

  5. What would I say to get people interested in the fantasy genre.. maybe “You know all those things you wished existed? Well they can, if you just check out this book here…” This would probably only work if they wished unicorns, elves, orcs, etc existed. Otherwise… well, ahem. My favorite fantasy novel? Would have to be Lord of the Rings. It’s one of the first fantasy books I ever read, and I love it so much, I re-read the entire series every few years.

    Thanks!
    Morning Glow

  6. How would I get people interested in the fantasy genre? I’d tell them to let their imaginations go & open up to the wonders of new worlds created by great authors. My favorite fantasy novel is actually a series – The Lord of the Rings. After I read the series I was hooked!

  7. What would I do to get people interested in fantasy books? mh… that’s difficult, because I’m new to fantasy too… but the great reviews made me curious and so I will try them!
    Wish you all the best,
    Ina

  8. Well, I’m new to the fantasy genre and I’ve been looking for some help!

    I would tell someone to never assume anything while reading. Keep an open mind and let the author/book tell you everything. Just sit back and enjoy.

    I look forward in reading A Darkness Forged in Fire.

    Thanks,
    Tracey D

  9. Hi :)
    Thanks for the great interview.
    Chris Evans’ series sounds intriguing.
    I would tell someone that fantasy involves the best that literature offers. It’s like a Summer Blockbuster in your hands.
    My favorite Fantasy series has to be The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (tied with Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin)
    All the best,
    RKCharron
    xoxo

  10. I’d tell someone that fantasy gives you magic & opens up whole universes of possibilities, and who couldn’t use that if only for a few hours?
    As far as favorites go, there are just too many good ones out there to choose from. I love the Lord of The rings trilogy, and The Wheel of Time series, and I’m a huge fan of all things Piers Anthony.
    Thanks for the great interview!

  11. Oh, I’d have to tell them that’s it’s not all elves and dwarves. Fantasy is very broad, with all kinds of stories included. And the very best? The ones that invent a whole new world that is real and able to be explored.

    I don’t know that I could pick out my very number 1 favorite, but right now, I think I’ve been thinking the most about Fool’s Fate, by Robin Hobb.

    Oh, and I am a fan of your Facebook page.

  12. For someone new to the fantasy genre, what would you say to them to gain their interest? What is your favorite fantasy novel?
    I often say fantasy isn’t what they think. And then I’ll either get them hooked into very easy to read urban fantasy or GRRM. Because, who doesn’t get addicted? My personal favorite fantasy novel, though, is Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

    I tweeted here: http://twitter.com/bookloveaffair/status/4473080562

  13. I just realized that my comment could have been misread as criticism or even an insult aimed at Mr. Evans, while it certainly wasn’t. I don’t mind reading about elves and dwarves, but I do think that any stories that involve them need to be extra original in other aspects, to avoid becoming repetitive.

    I think many non-fantasy readers think fantasy books read like a dungeons and dragons game. And I’m not putting down D&D, I’ve never played but I’ve heard it’s fun, but I think new readers expect to see something like: “Whitestar, the elven wood-priestess, cast an inner strength spell over her regiment, increasing their endurance and vitality by 20%…..”

    Anyways, my point was that Fantasy is a huge genre. Just making sure I cleared that up.

    And I noticed that a few new readers to the Fantasy genre have replied here. In case you’re looking for some books to start with, I’d recommend looking at Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobb, Steven Erickson, and of course, Robert Jordan. Just saying.

  14. I would tell people that good fantasy creates new and exciting worlds and stimulates you to think of what things could be like in the future. Also that very often fantasy novels have morals and ethics woven through them.

    My favourite would have to bve the first I ever read, namely Lord of the rings.

    Second and third would be Glen Cooks Black Company and then the Malazan books.

  15. Personally, the best way to get someone hooked to fantasy novels is to just offer them an escape. Its the perfect way to relax and enjoy being submersed in a reality entirely unfamiliar. Just keep an open mind and you will experience things never thought possible. Fantasy can be whatever you want it to.

    Honestly, if your up for the read, you wouldn’t expect it from this author. But Stephen King wrote the best fantasy series I’ve read to date. I know he’s known for his horror and suspense novels, but his Dark Tower series was the best 7 books I’ve ever read.

    Keep up the great writing C.E, The Light of Burning Shadows was amazing, i just finished it, maybe half an hour ago. Keep ’em coming.

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