Shannon here: Brett Armstrong shares the inspiration for his latest Epic Fantasy/Young Adult title: Shadows at Nightfall. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for winner’s choice of 1 print or e-book copy. Deadline: Sept 25th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Brett:
I think it would be fair to say I’m not a romance writer, much to my wife’s frustration. Much like how I’m not a horror or comedy writer, I’ve never felt skilled enough to focus so acutely on the romance of a story. But I am a firm believer in romance, much like horror and comedy, being facets of any well-rounded story. And that is really what my Quest of Fire series is about, storytelling and how it shapes, encourages, and makes us able to face things we wouldn’t have otherwise.
When I started the first draft of what became book one, I was in high school and it played out a lot like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings were thrown into a pot and melted together. Thankfully no one but my high school creative writing teacher read that one. Over the years after, through several rewrites, I began to layer in other dimensions and facets to the plot, the story world, and to the characters. Among them being a romance between one of the protagonists, Anargen, and the girl of his dreams, Seren. Their love story came to literary life, because in between that draft and my first, I met the girl of my dreams. Much like Anargen, she had lived nearby for some time and we met by accident (I was tossed into the girl who became my wife while at a football game).
Writing their budding romance and even imagining the difficulty of them being separated was easy because I feel like I relate pretty well to Anargen. Over time some divergences in his love story and mine developed so there’s not a perfect overlap. In the latest book, Shadows at Nightfall, Anargen and Seren face some serious tests in their relationship. Beyond the external dangers they face, they have to face the question of whether their being a couple is actually hurting one another. Anargen is bound by oaths to the High King to fulfill his quest, but leaving Seren behind is such a painful notion for him that he’s tempted to break them. Knowing if he did it would break him as well.
How Seren and Anargen navigate this troubled chapter in their romance is important, because over time Quest of Fire developed into more than a single-stranded fantasy story. A second thread, set hundreds of years later found its way into the overall story. Some people have called it a frame story, but I see it more as a saga with two parts being told at the same time. Jason and Aria are the protagonists in that thread of the interwoven saga and the story of Anargen and Seren unfolds for them at the same time as for the reader. As they encounter the tale of Anargen’s quest and thereby his romance with Seren, Jason and Aria face their own tribulations and trials. Aria, like Anargen, is a Knight of Light on the Quest of Fire, and must face many of the same choices Anargen did. Jason, being new to all of it, struggles with whether he’s a part of these events because he wants to be with Aria or because he wants to be a part of the quest. Anargen and Seren’s experiences then help guide him—whether he would admit to that or not.
It’s the same with us. Studies have shown that the brain actually interprets stories in much the same way it does lived experiences. That means stories in a very fundamental way become a part of us. GK Chesterton said, “…fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of boogeyman. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
So, when it comes to storytelling, it’s all about giving the reader something to better face reality with and Quest of Fire is kind of a meta-story. A story about stories and the way they help us to face boogeys (and there are admittedly lots of boogeys to overcome in the series). Part of facing the boogeys is who the protagonists choose to face the boogeys with. For Jason and Aria, the story of Anargen and Seren’s trials becomes something they can use to face their own. Whether the challenge is derived from something fitted to fantasy or horror or comedy, from my own personal experience, life is much better when you have found someone with whom to face them together. Romance rounds out the characters and the story and though I would never presume to call myself a romance writer, it has been an incredible pleasure to see that facet of Anargen, Seren, Jason, and Aria grow and develop with each entry in the series.
About Brett: Brett Armstrong has been exploring other worlds as a writer since age nine. Years later, he still writes, but now invites others along on his excursions. He’s shown readers haunting, deep historical fiction (Destitutio Quod Remissio), scary-real dystopian sci-fi (Day Moon and Veiled Sun), and dark, sweeping epic fantasy (Quest of Fire). Every story is a journey of discovery and an attempt to be a brush in the Master Artist’s hand. Through dark, despair, light, joy, and everything in between, the end is always meant to leave his fellow literary explorers with wonder and hope. Always busy with a new story, he also enjoys drawing, gardening, and spending time with his wife and son. Learn more & connect:
About the book – Shadows at Nightfall:
The hour has arrived…with all its terrors.
The shadows of Jason’s past have caught him. Having stepped into the Quest of Fire, Jason is pursued by a league of assassins formed of pure darkness. To his horror he discovers these creatures also were contracted to eliminate Anargen and his friends as they sought to understand the Tower of Light’s oracle. To unravel the mystery of who wants him dead and how he fits into the ages old quest, Jason must travel the lengths of the Lowlands. In the Ziljafu deserts a secret awaits him that will shake him to his core. He’ll have to move fast and cling fiercely to hope, as Anargen’s story twists down a bleak path to almost certain failure.
The creatures of darkness in the Lowlands have long waited for men to spurn the High King’s laws. With few concerned for the light and everything falling apart around them, Jason and Anargen will face the shadows of night’s falling as their world hangs in the balance.
Can’t wait for the drawing? Worried you won’t win? Get your copy now!
Question for Readers: Can you think of a time when a story helped you to face something difficult in your own life?
Come back Sept 17th for Caryl McAdoo!