Monday, March 28, 2011

An Interview with Ian Thomas Curtis: Dragonsong (Part 1) – and a Giveaway

I’ve mentioned several times that one genre of fiction that I’ve really read is fantasy, Sure, I’ve read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia. And years ago, I read the Dune novels by Frank Herbert, and science fiction works by Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clarke, Robert Silverberg and many others. But fantasy didn’t hold much appeal, that is, until I read C.S. Lakin’s The Wolf of Tebron and The Map Across Time, and then The Canticles of Andurun: Dragonsong by Ian Thomas Curtis.

And I was blown away. You can read my reviews of the two Lakin novels here and here, and my review of Dragonsong here. And I ask myself, where does such imagination and creativity come from, to create such complex worlds and stories?

I caught up with Ian Thomas Curtis, and posed a few questions about that.

When did you become interested in fantasy - reading and writing?

I was a little boy when I became interested in fantasy. I was a child when "Star Wars" and similar movies were popular, and my older brothers enjoyed movies and books of that sort. I began writing fantasy by the time I was 10 years old and reading it even earlier. It’s in the blood, I guess.

How did the idea of Dragonsong originate? You write in the introduction that there was some influence from you playing Dungeons and Dragons years ago.

I began playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was about eight. My older brothers were involved and they brought me in, and then when I was older I brought my friends into it, and I played until I was about twenty seven or so. First I was a player, and later a Dungeon Master, which meant I was the one who told the stories and created worlds for people to explore on the fly, so to speak. Dragonsong began in a very primeval form way back then. I would invent something (a character, monster, locale, and so forth) that I liked, and I retained it through future games or stories. Bit by bit, portions of Andurun began to take shape. I was still involved with Dungeons and Dragons when I began writing Dragonsong, but I set the story down about two chapters in for quite some while, and didn’t return to it until I had ceased playing and was writing from an altogether different motivation.

The world of Kallendaros is incredibly detailed, full of specific geographies, different kinds of beings, and then the personalities of the dragons themselves. The variety and richness of the detail is amazing. Can you talk a bit about how you constructed all of this?

I love creating things. I immensely enjoy bringing the reader “into” the story so that they can easily get a grasp of the setting. I like nature, and have a great time stopping to smell the roses when characters in the story are traveling, or whatever they happen to be doing. Creating personalities for the characters is every bit as rewarding, and some of the characters in Dragonsong, which were meant to be minor characters, took on a life of their own after a time. I really wanted to give the reader a sense of reality in the story; landscapes that felt organic and people that could be genuine, no matter how fanciful their appearance or race. Some of the characters you meet in Dragonsong I created while playing Dungeons and Dragons, and I enjoyed their personality so much that I imported it.

The names of the characters speak to much about who they are: Justias Eventine, Julias Darkmane, Gildaryss the Tyrant Wyrm. How did you name them?

Justias came about after a little brainstorming about what sort of name embodied a boy who would grow into his namesake. Justias is similar to “justice” and Eventine has a regal bearing; I felt it fit the role the main character was going to be growing into. When I created the villains for Dragonsong I wanted to actually grant them more spotlight than I had given to the “bad guys” in previous stories. I needed names that really embodied something of their character. Julias needed a daunting enough name to invoke dread, but a dignified enough name to portray his civilized façade. Gildaryss—and all the Dragons—were given alien names that didn’t necessarily sound right. I wanted something that rolled on the tongue; it was coincidental that her name sounds sort of serpentine when you pronounce it. Her title I gave her because she is the leader of the Dragons; she is the mastermind behind everything. I wanted the reader to understand that Gildaryss was worse than even the other Dragons. In essence she lords over both races.

Dragonsong is full of non-human characters -- the shapeshifters, the ogres, the goblins and a lot more. You use these characters to both depict them in their own right but also to advance the story. Where, for example, does a character like a zul (sea monster) come from? I had to ask about the zul, because it plays a critical role in Justias' development as a dragon slayer, and it's a rather terrifying scene in the story.

The Zul, along with his encounter with the Racksha, both serve to teach Justias lessons about Dragon slaying. They are indeed also present to flesh out aspects of the characters involved in the struggle, and the Zul especially gave Justias the opportunity to prove he was capable of doing what he longed to do. The Zul, and the rest of the monsters in Dragonsong, are also there to remind the reader that Andurun is very much entrenched in the realm of fantasy. I rather like a world where the water’s depths or a forest’s shadows harbor hidden threats of an utterly inhuman type. Mind you, I don’t like it so much I would want to live in such a place, but it’s just this element of the fantastic that made me want to write to begin with.

One of the many interesting things about Dragonsong is how it has both a sense of past and future. There seems to be a sense of what we would know as the Middle Ages, and yet there is also a sense of something we might think of as a post-apocalyptic time, when a world that was known has been almost destroyed. Do I have that right?

Actually, yes. I really wanted to enter Andurun with a deep sense of the history it possessed; I wanted an organic world that felt as if it had existed for a long time before the characters (and the reader) joined in the story line. The former kingdom of Kallendaros was the height of Human power and prestige, so when it collapsed there was a lot of regression as the race was scattered across the land. The people are fractured and demoralized, waiting for some reason to hope but not genuinely believing hope is ever going to manifest. I wanted to make the history of the land a part of the story so you would subtly know at every turn that people had been there before the characters embarked on their quest.

Tomorrow: Part 2 of the interview


It won’t be a surprise that I like this book – and I like it a lot. So much, in fact, that I’m giving away a copy, shipped directly from Amazon. Just leave a comment in the comment box, and your name will be entered in a random drawing. The giveaway will close on Sunday, April 3 at midnight, and I’ll announce the winning name on Monday, April 4.


Bill (cycleguy) said...

Whenever I read fiction, in particular fantasy, I have often wondered where in the world the names come from. How do they think up names like zul and others? Enjoyed reading Ian's thoughts and look forward to the next part.

Bob Spencer said...

Cool that you got to do this interview, and it's a good one. I'm definitely hoping to win the the freebie!

Robert Treskillard said...

Count me in, Glynn!

Louise Gallagher said...

Great interview Glynn. I'm impressed -- and intriqued.

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

I really love reading Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia. This sounds like another winner! I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the interview. Very inspiring.

Maureen said...

Excellent interview, Glynn.

mrose said...

Excellent stuff Ian best of luck with this very exciting project :)

Lloyd said...

Great interview. I am one of Ian's faithful followers on his blog. I can only say at this time...if his book is as well written and exciting as his blog's going to be a million seller. God bless, Lloyd

Duane Scott said...

You know, to be honest, I don't like fantasy that much. But that's because I gave up after reading Lord of the Rings.

No I didn't.

I liked Harry Potter series...

I trust you Glynn and the fact that you are giving away a copy of this book must mean you really like it!

Great interview!