Interview by Dan Stubbings
Evan Winter, author of the new epic fantasy “Rage of Dragons” talks about finding inspiration in your past, viscerality of a fight, and outlining the future.
I know a lot of authors HATE this question, so I apologise! But: How would you describe The Rage Of Dragons to a fantasy fan and potential reader?
No worries! I like trying to come up with a brand new answer for this each time. So, here goes, and it might suck:
The Rage of Dragons is an Epic Fantasy about an endless war in a world where women are the only magic users and high-born men are bigger, stronger and faster than their low-born counterparts. It’s the story of a low-born swordsman whose life gets torn apart and, instead of trying to put it back together, he chooses to walk through hell so that he can do a little destroying of his own.
It’s bronze-age John Wick learning how to be John Wick, so he can hunt and bring down three super soldiers.
You’ve talked about the importance of finding yourself in a story, was this always a driving factor in coming up with this book?
It definitely was. I’ve always wanted to write books but could never convince myself that the stories I wanted to tell were important enough to merit the effort of telling them. This changed when I realized — and I mean it — I actually had to realize that I could tell a story that didn’t just have people in it who looked like me, it could have people who looked like me be the protagonists, the heroes and heroines, the baddies and villains, the Gods and Goddesses.
That changed everything. It made the story I wanted to tell matter so much that there became no way for me not to tell it.
What was your starting point in creating this fantasy world? Are you someone who needs to have everything planned out, from rules to social structures, before you start or do things become clearer as you go? And were there any specific inspirations, real or fictional, that were important?
I have to plan everything. It makes me more comfortable and takes away the worry that I’ll get stuck in the middle and have to scrap the 70,000 words leading up to that point just to keep the story going. My outline is my safe place and, for me, it makes the drafting more fun.
In terms of inspiration, Zambia, the country in central Africa where I grew up, was a huge influence. I mentioned how important it was for me to write a story that I could see myself in, well, it was equally important for me to place the story in a world that felt like home.
How did the character of Tau come about?
I’m fascinated by obsession. I think it’s virtually necessary to achieve greatness in highly competitive environments, and I also think it inevitably hurts the person it’s helping. Obsession is like a twisted genie, it grants your deepest desire and pairs it with the tools for your own self-destruction. Well, I wanted to watch a whole world change because a good but damaged person made a wish and it was granted in a way no one would ever want.
Action sequences are obviously a huge part of the novel! Are they something you particularly enjoy writing and do you have any specific tips for writing a great fight sequence?
I both enjoy them and find them draining to write. The funny thing about fight sequences is that they’re the kind of thing that could benefit from being outlined and I don’t do it, even though I outline everything else. When I start one, I know who’ll win, but that’s all I know. I jump in and let the action take place in front of me.
For me, the best fights are the ones where I feel the fight viscerally and, in the hopes of getting that out of my scenes, I go back over each one many times, searching for the punctuation marks, words, sentences, and sections that throw me out of the moment. I try to cut those parts out until the only thing left is a sense of propulsion driving me headlong from opening to ending. I don’t want time to think when I’m reading a fight scene. I don’t want to be able to. I want every fiber of my being focused on moving to the next word.
I’m fascinated by obsession.
Tau is a character driven by revenge and the Omehi people are involved in this long, long war. Was the idea of perpetuated cycles of violence something you were particularly eager to explore?
Very much so. I think that, though we have an intellectual sense that eye-for-an-eye is a bad thing, we connect with it emotionally. I wanted to explore that, examine it, and place the intellectual and emotional responses in direct conflict with one another. I wanted to better understand the psychological phenomenon where we judge our own actions on our intent, but default to judging the actions of others on their results. I wanted to ask questions about hate and how we justify or even make it righteous by dehumanizing one another.
Did you always conceive of this as being a series?
I did! Being a heavy outliner, the series was always intended to be an overarching epic told in four parts.
The novel was self-published before this lovely Orbit release. How have you found the journey of this story finding a wider and wider audience?
As we have this conversation, the hardcover has just been released and I think it’ll be in the upcoming days and months that I start to really feel the difference as the story reaches more and more people. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a difference though.
In the months leading up to the hardcover’s release, Orbit sent out advance reader copies to other authors, reviewers, bloggers, and avid SFF readers, and it has been an incredible experience to connect with all those people and see so many of them embrace the story warmly. I feel so, so fortunate to have had that be my experience and it’s made me feel connected to books and publishing in a very human and humbling way.
The people who do this stuff, they do it because they love it. That love shows and it’s uplifting to be part of something suffused with so much passion.
Have you always been drawn to the fantasy genre?
Fantasy is my first and true literary love. Like, I’m bad because I feel bad for people who don’t read and love fantasy. I’m almost a fantasy evangelist, where I wanna go door-to-door and ask if you’ve let the light of fantasy into your life, cause, if not, I want to save you.
Which authors are you most excited about right now?
Well, I’m getting an early copy of THE WOLF OF OREN-YARO by K.S. Villoso. I’ve heard incredible things and I’m super excited to dive into that one. I also know that Anthony Ryan’s latest comes out at the end of July and it continues the story of Vaelin Al Sorna from BLOOD SONG. So, I have a very good idea what my early August is going to look like!