Hi everyone, Petrik from Novel Notions here. Today I’m bringing you an interview with M. L. Wang, the author behind Theonite series and the recently released standalone, The Sword of Kaigen. If you somehow missed it, I have read and reviewed The Sword of Kaigen with extremely high praises. To simplify my praises, The Sword of Kaigen hits a lot of new milestones for me:
- Number one favorite self-published book.
- Number one favorite standalone fantasy book.
- One of my favorite books of all time
- It’s literally the only standalone fantasy novel I would rate 6 out of 5 stars if possible.
Yes, that’s how much I loved it! You can check out my review of The Sword of Kaigen on the blog or Goodreads and I hope it will convince you to order and read it as soon as possible. Now, without further ado, here is my interview with M. L. Wang!
- Hi, M. L. Wang! Thank you for doing this interview with me. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your newest book, and the main inspirations behind your work.
Thank you for having me!
I got started in self-publishing with my Theonite Series (now two books long), which combines some of my favorite genres, including magic school, alternate history, and superheroes. Growing up biracial in the weird tangle of racial tensions that make up the USA, I was always morbidly fascinated by racism, prejudice, and the mechanisms behind oppression. This gave rise to what is probably the most distinct feature of the Theonite universe: the planet’s inverted racial hierarchy, with a West African empire having dominated the globe and Europe being the most devastated of its many former colonies. Readers of Theonite, whatever their background, are intended to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
My newest book, The Sword of Kaigen, is a military fantasy that takes place in the Japanese-inspired corner of the Theonite universe, thirteen years before the events of the main series. The Sword of Kaigen spawned from the few-sentence-long backstory I provided to explain the Matsuda family’s anti-Ranganese tendencies and to inject some WW2-esque tragedy into Duna’s history. The middle two Matsuda brothers’ names, Hiroshi and Nagasa, are extensions of that idea, implying national trauma (heavy-handed, I know, but I was in high school when I came up with it, okay? My metaphor game was in its adolescence).
In its original form, The Sword of Kaigen was a serialized story that I released to my newsletter subscribers in monthly installments beginning in 2017. When I realized that my little ‘novella’ had exceeded 100,000 words, I decided to complete the story and publish it as a proper novel. Part of the reason I got so carried away with The Sword of Kaigen was that it presented a convenient excuse to play with a lot of things that had a place in my heart but not in the already very busy Theonite series—Japanese martial arts, Chinese martial arts, complex adult characters, Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Japanese religious symbolism, big battles, and a more personal inverted history.
I’m alive to write this story because, in 1937, in a Jiangsu Province village outside Nanjing, a Japanese bullet missed my great grandmother when she bent down to get a cooking pot. Certain events in The Sword of Kaigen harken back to the Nanjing Massacre, holding true to the guiding principle behind the Theonite universe: the mile walked in another’s shoes. What if you had been on the other side? What if it had been your family? …