[This issue, we sit down for an interview with fantasy author, Erik Buchanan. Here, he discusses his work as a fight director and martial artist; The Stalker Chronicles and the Thomas Flarety series; and his forthcoming projects.]
ev0ke: Which mythologies and folklore do you draw upon for your writing? Do you find yourself drawing upon one in particular, or alternating according to the needs of the story?
Erik Buchanan: I don’t deliberately pick a folklore or mythology when I write, but they certainly influence my work. I love reading myths and folklore. My early exposures were European: Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Norse mythology, and Grimm’s fairy tales. Later, I had the chance to read Asian and African folklore, and it is fascinating to see both the similarities and differences in the human experience from around the world as told through their stories.
ev0ke: How has your work as a fight director and back belt influenced your writing? What are some of your favorite literary action sequences?
EB: Training in the martial arts and stage combat (as well as various European sword-fighting traditions) gave me an insight into the way the human body moves and responds to physical stress and violence. It also helps me visualize any fights that I write, though one has to be careful to avoid just writing out choreography. Violence takes a physical, mental, and emotional toll on the fighters, and the aftermath of a fight is as important as the event itself.
Barbara Hambly writes excellent fight scenes, as does Christian Cameron. But my favourite moment is from Tolkien’s The Two Towers. Tolkien served in the trenches during World War One, and had an intimate knowledge of violence, but rarely gives the details of it in his writing. Instead, he invokes the sense of it; the desperation, the brutality, and the exhaustion. At one moment during the Battle of Helm’s Deep, the elf, Legolas, in describing the fighting on the wall, says, “It has been knife-work up here.” That very short sentence tells you how close and hard the fighting was without going into long description.
ev0ke: The Stalker Chronicles centers around Abyowith, a young woman determined to join the Knights of the Exculpatory Order. How did you go about creating Abyowith’s world? Were there some things you absolutely wanted to include? Other things that you wanted to leave out?
EB: I created Abyowith’s world because I was tired of the “grimdark” that pervades a lot of popular fantasy right now. I wanted something light and hopeful and funny and fun, while still portraying realistic reactions to violence and danger.
In these stories, I absolutely wanted a world of equality and diversity. Fantasy (especially fantasy written by white men like me) tends to read very white, very male, and very heteronormative. So, I challenged myself to create a world that reflects the diversity of humanity and human experience. I wanted men and women equally represented in all fields, where people of all colours are seen, and where being queer, in whatever form it takes, is normal and accepted.
With that, of course, comes what I wanted to leave out: prejudice, inequality, sexual violence, and child abuse. This is not to say that our characters will not encounter these things as the books go on, but in this world they are exceptions, rather than the rule.
ev0ke: So far, two volumes have been released in The Stalker Chronicles. How many are you planning, and can you give us any hints as to what lies ahead for Abyowith?
EB: I am planning a lot of Abyowith books. They are quick to write and a great deal of fun. I’m enjoying watching this character grow as a person and develop her career and relationships. Abyowith will also have a major revelation about her job in the next book, titled The Dead Trees, coming this fall.
ev0ke: On a personal note, I think the tkodipin are absolutely adorable. Please tell me that we’ll be seeing more of them.
EB: Yes, we will see them again, and I’m not telling you in which book, so you will have to read all of them.
ev0ke: You published Small Magics, the first volume in the Thomas Flarety series, in 2011. How much of the series did you have planned out when you started? And how did you come up with the idea of a world in which magic was disappearing?
EB: I had no intention to write a series when I started Small Magics. About a year after the first book was published, my editor reached out and asked me for a second. So, after some thinking, I came up with Cold Magics. But though the story of Cold Magics was complete in itself, I felt like Thomas’s story wasn’t finished, and so True Magics came about.
(Also, if you do two books, and don’t write a trilogy, the other fantasy authors make fun of you.)
The idea for Small Magics came about at a time when I was reading a lot of epic fantasy. I wanted a story that was smaller and more personal, and one where magic was not all powerful and common. I also liked the idea of coming home to a place you should recognize and can’t, and having to find out why.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
EB: The Thomas Flarety stories are published by Canada’s Dragon Moon Press and can be purchased in either trade paperback or ebook form through DMP, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers such as Smashwords, Apple Books, Gardners Extended Retail, Kobo, Odilo, and Scribd.
The Stalker Chronicles are currently available through eBook only. You can get The Trials of Abyowith free by signing up for my newsletter at www.erikbuchanan.ca. And all of the books can be found at Amazon, Smashswords, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Gardners Extended Retail, Kobo, Odilo and Scribed.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
EB: Right now I have three more books in The Stalker Chronicles on the go: The Dead Trees, A Festival of Magic, and the very exciting Working Title (I promise it will have a better title before it’s published). I have another novel I have just begun working on, which I will intend to aim at publishers, rather than self-publishing.