Monday 1 October 2012

Interview with E. A. Setser, Author of Elder Blood

Another interview today, as author E. A. Setser drops by to chat about his fantasy book, Elder Blood, and other writing related things.

Interview with E. A. Setser

Why don’t you begin by telling everyone a bit about yourself?

Ah, let’s see… I grew up in and around Knoxville, TN. Like a lot of folks that get into writing fantasy, I was an outcast as an adolescent, and that carried over into adulthood. That was part of my motivation to move – the other being employment – out of there and head for Cincinnati, OH. Right now, I work at a sign design and manufacturing company. I do material purchasing – shopping around, tracking down the best and quickest deals, negotiating with vendors – database administration, costing, pricing, production work, technical support and repairs. I’m kind of the company spackle.
Been married for three years. We have one kid, a little boy, three years old. For anyone who cares, we were not married when he was born, but we had been engaged for six months when he was conceived. We’re looking at pre-schools for him and looking to get into Cincinnati proper (living in Covington, KY, couple miles short) before he’s in 2nd grade.

Could you please tell us about your book, Elder Blood?

This is the jump-off point for my ongoing series, The Epimetheus Trial. I call it that because, while it’s the first book, it’s not the beginning of the timeline. Anyway…
It spans two generations, starting 17 years before the meat of the story. The first few chapters time lapse across that period, setting up establishing events along the way and giving insight into what made the characters and their world the way it is.
It takes place in a fictional world, on an archipelago continent called Ouristihra. People of ArcNos, the world’s military superpower, start turning up traces of a clandestine high-powered organization. These Avatars of Fate, as they’re called, eventually surface and seize control of ArcNos by pushing their newest protégé up the hierarchy. This splinters the nation, and those not among the elite and their chosen, are cast into the gutters. Also, a couple of the Avatars use the term “god” on a couple of occasions, but the very concept of religion is non-existent in Ouristihra.
Connected to some of these groups and people of interest are four members of a previously extinct (that’s established further in the next book) alternate hominin species. They’re called Hybrids, and they’re born to human parents but all have a unique inhuman trait plus power over certain aspects of nature. Oddly, the Avatars of Fate start coming around about when the first of them are born.
So, we’ve got this power struggle over ArcNos with the rest of Ouristihra at risk depending on the outcome. On one side, there’s the new autonomous empire, driven by members of the Avatars of Fate. And on the other side, there’s the parliamentary republic with the help of the Hybrids. But there are spies, moles, double-crossers, informants, that sort of thing.

What drew you to write in the fantasy genre?

I’ve always had a strange imagination, so this gives me a lot of freedom. It also helps not having to do as much fact checking if I start talking about historical events, but it’s mostly the freedom to build my own cultures, characters, history, etc.

What is the hardest part of writing fantasy fiction for you?

The freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. So far, what I’ve written spans over 4 decades – some years being significantly less detailed than others, but it still impacts the canon – and covers an entire continent. That’s a lot to keep track of, ranging from personal nuances to cultural events affecting international relationships.

You’ve used the term “industrial fantasy” to describe your book. Could you expand on its meaning and elaborate on why you favour that term as opposed to say, “urban fantasy”?

I wouldn’t really call it urban fantasy, as very little of it is, well, metropolitan. The meat of it takes place in the divided capital of ArcNos, primarily among the parliamentary republic and the Hybrids. They’ve turned the Subtransit (their subway system) into their own city, thus later earning them the name the Subtransit Resistance.
But this war is fought with a combination of near-future technology and archaic weaponry like lance launchers and trebuchets. That’s due to a lack of time and funding, of course. There’s also this sort of industrial coming of age under the surface throughout it all.

You also added a few science fiction elements to the book. Did you deliberately set out to blend genres or was it simply a natural progression of the story?

Mostly a natural progression. We’re talking about different nations with different levels of development. For some outside group to be perceived as a threat in such a way as the Avatars of Fate, it would make sense for their technology to be greater than that of the most developed nations.
Plus, you have to figure the average person from a third-world country would look at our cell phones the same way we look at teleportation pods and light sabers. So, it’s also a matter of sci-fi-by-perspective.

Some of your influences range from ancient mythology to modern politics to theoretical physics and that’s quite a variety of interests. Is there a similar thread that you find in all three, something that shows in your writing?

I never thought about it – once again this was a matter of working multiple cultures and time periods into one story – but I suppose there is. Think about ancient mythology. You’ve got power struggles and hierarchal networks and conflicts comparable to those of modern politics. You just have to substitute “mortals” for “the working class.” Oh, and get rid of the arranged incest and pedocidal cannibalism. But thematically, there’s a similarity there.
Also look at the powers ascribed to many of the gods of ancient mythology. A lot of this same stuff is done in science fiction, which is rooted in theoretical physics. Sometimes vice versa. Not long ago, I read something – I think by Michio Kaku – positing that a highly advanced civilization could potentially gather a large quantity of highly condensed matter and energy, wrap it in the fabric of space, and push it outside of their universe, perhaps via a black hole.
So yeah, there are definitely similarities if you know where to look. But this was mostly a matter of blending cultures and eras in a single set of stories. Really though, politics or religion, it’s all a matter of who you pay homage to and what they promise to do for you. Also a matter of who’s real, of course.

Who are your writing inspirations?

My influences are more informational and experience-based. I might get ideas from current events or stuff I read in scientific articles. Reading Michio Kaku has given me quite a few ideas for new technology as well as origin stories behind the eventual mythology.

Are you working on another book or project?

Yes I am, in fact. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the initial draft of Into Antiquity, the second book in The Epimetheus Trial. It takes place five years after Elder Blood, but it also explores events in between the two as well as during and before Elder Blood. Hence the name, of course. I can’t divulge too much without spoiling the first book, but I will say that an old threat is resurfacing, and our characters are about to discover there’s a lot more behind it all than they anticipated. Also, where the tagline for Elder Blood is “Everyone has their secrets.” Into Antiquity is going to be “Everyone has a story.

You can check out more on Elder Blood at its Facebook page:



E. A. Setser said...

Thanks for having me this week.

A. F. Stewart said...

You're quite welcome.

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