Saturday, February 4, 2012

Interview with Epic Fantasy author Sean Van Damme

When did you start writing? What did you first write?
I started writing from a very young age, but knew that was what I wanted to do in 7thgrade when I started working on a grand Sci-fi novel.  That was what I wrote for a long time before I moved to scripts and fantasy and such. Looking back now at those hundreds of pages of loose leaf paper the pure joy and “I’m not paying attention in class” still brings a smile to my face. 
Tell us about the fantasy world(s) you make up. What are they like?
The world that I created for The Long Night, is a fractured land of city-states and small independent townships. The people are far to fractured and petty to ever fall under a single king, and the warfare among the cities is so common that the world is to weak for a single group to come out on top.  When I was outlining the book the story was going to be a Mod for Dragon Age: Origins, so the world fit into a feel that would have worked right with the engine, and was also colored by my having just finished reading A Song of Ice and Fire, I came late to that game what can I say.
As a world builder I wanted to avoid some of the tropes that I saw to often like powerful kings, mage and thief guilds etc running the show. I also only put in a second race aside from Humans and those were Dwarfs. I decided to do something different with them as well turning them into refugees whose city had fallen into a massive underground air pocket.
The only thing that in any way unites the whole world is religion an the worship of their lord of light Hyack, whose followers have built a very strong institution and army that gallivanting around crusading, as they see heretics everywhere, if they had power armor they would be Warhammer 40K marines.
How do you work out a magic system for your world? Do you prefer a lot of magic? Light magic? And why?
I went with a middle ground for magic, it wasn’t something that hid in legend, and wasn’t so omi-present that people had lost any awe for it. As such I also didn’t want my caster to be to over powered so I put down limits to how it worked. I gave it an almost scientific explanation; the mages can see down to the components of our world and manipulate them, such as causing water molecules to slow down forming ice, or pushing the air into a pocket crushing a goblin’s head. At the same time this puts a strain on the caster meaning that most mages can only cast a few spells before they start to get light headed.
Being that it was scientific magic is something that can sort of be learned, a mildly powerful mage with much practice and reading can become more powerful, whereas most people who are born so strong that they can move walls as children tend to go insane, do to parts of their brain pushing out other parts, and are put down by the magic establishment because they are to dangerous.
What is the hardest thing about making up a fantasy world? Why?
Trying to not make it cookie cutter, but at the same time not making changes and decisions just to be different. Everything had to make sense, and had to support the story. I didn’t want to get bogged down creating thousands of years of history only to use a fraction of it on the page. I outlined a lot of history but only developed what I needed, and even then about half of that didn’t make it to the page.  After I finished when I was outlining the prequel trilogy (which has been pushed back in my ever expanding queue) I went into more depth about the world history and subcultures etc.
Tell us about your most recent main character. Would we want to share a meal with them? Why?
Well if we stick to fantasy my most resent main is Alen Tar, he would be pleasant enough to share a meal with as long as you didn’t bring up the past, he has a sore spot for his past failings and can never let those go. Otherwise he would be polite if a little cold.
What about the villain of your most recent novel. How did you make them up? Would we be scared to meet them in a dark alley?
In The Long Night the villain is far more the darkness and their own demons and pasts, and less the Prophet of darkness or Val’Mal both of which are more generic evil then I would have liked but such is life. 
What is your next project?
Right now I am banging out a few thrillers that were in my head keeping me from writing other things, then I am going to go and knock out that Sci-Fi story that I started in 7thgrade.  Fantasy was something I fell into quite by accident and really surprisingly enjoyed writing.  I have some ideas for more books in my world, but they haven’t completely crystallized yet so I am letting them ferment in my brain before I tackle them full on.

The Long Night is available for Kindle and Nook for only $2.99.

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