Interview with Devin Madson
Hi everyone, Petrik from Novel Notions here. Today I’m bringing you an interview with Devin Madson, the author behind The Vengeance Trilogy, the Aurealis award-winning In Shadows We Fall, and the recently released We Ride the Storm. All her books completely captivated me, with We Ride the Storm being included into one of the two best indie works I’ve ever read. Right after I finished reading and reviewing her books, I decided immediately that I simply have to interview her so here we are.
You can check out my review of her books on the blog and I hope it will convince you to order it if you haven’t already done so. Now, without further ado, here is my interview with Devin Madson.
- Hi, Devin! Thank you for doing this interview with me. Tell us a bit about yourself, your newest book, and the main inspirations behind its creation.
Starting with the hard questions! Well, I am Devin Madson, fantasy author, gamer and obsessive re-watcher of movies. My newest book is We Ride the Storm, the first in The Reborn Empire series, and I have no idea what inspired it! I wanted to continue telling a story I started in The Vengeance Trilogy, but beyond that… I started writing and this is the book that came out. People talk about all the shocks and twists in it, and trust me, many of those surprised me too!
- As someone of Asian heritage, I really appreciate all the Asian influences you implemented in your books. A lot of adult fantasy utilized Medieval Europe as their inspiration and setting, what made you decide to implement Asian influences instead?
I would like to be able to say I chose to do so because Medieval Europe was overdone, but I have to admit I didn’t think about it like that at all. I’ve always loved the Asian aesthetic and culture, so when I wanted to create a beautiful setting against which to juxtapose the complexity and brutality of the stories I wanted to tell, a large amount of the influences naturally came from there, mashed up with everything else I love.
- In your opinion, what are the biggest advantages and struggles in being a self-published author? Any tips for self-published authors?
The greatest thing for me about being self-published is having control over when I publish books and how often, and being able to choose the team of professionals I work with. I love my editor and being able to choose my cover artist also gives me control over my own branding. Not having the stamp of a traditional publisher’s approval to legitimise you, or their marketing and distribution machine, makes visibility the biggest struggle. But as the stigma of being self-published fades, the avenues by which you can get your work out into the world grow. It is a pretty fine time to be a self-published author, all in all.
For anyone thinking of self-publishing, the best advice I can give is to make sure the book is ready. You only get to make one first impression.
- As a reader, I can definitely vouch for that advice! Was there any specific research you did for We Ride the Storm or did it all came from imagination? Being a Final Fantasy fan (yeay! Like me!), was there any part of the franchise that became the inspiration for your books?
Because I don’t plan, I research things as they come up when find I don’t know the answers. So a lot of research about how to decapitate bodies, how long it takes blood to congeal, how much a head weighs, LOTS of stuff about horses, branding irons, decomposition… and plenty of other things I probably shouldn’t mention for fear of spoilers.
As for Final Fantasy, I think I’ve always been really careful not to borrow too heavily from any franchise I love a lot, especially things I’m very vocal about my love for. People notice these things. But I have made use of lessons in storytelling I’ve learned from playing Final Fantasy, like not to be afraid of great, sweeping cinematic scenes and even more importantly, that even when people know what is coming you can still hit them in the feels (think Crisis Core for those other fans out there). All my books are linked because they take place in the same world at different points in time, so depending on where you enter the story you may know about something that is about to happen. It’s my job to make sure that knowledge doesn’t make the ending any easier.
Ok ok, there’s also the horses I named after Raijin and Fujin, but I can get away with that because they are Japanese gods not just Final Fantasy characters. I was never going to get away with calling one Seifer.
- I love all your books; with each installment, your prose simply gets better and better to read. Did you take any writing lessons? Was it all just practice makes perfect?
No lessons, in fact I studied chemistry and geology in university rather than creative writing. Practice is definitely important, but I don’t think that can entirely happen in a vacuum. I have been writing stories (and not very happy ones) since I was a small child and in my early twenties I ramped up my output from writing the occasional story to producing an 800k trilogy in 6 months. It was terrible, but I was so fortunate that amid all the friends and family who told me it was amazing, damn them all, there was one who told the truth. The brutal (yet respectful) criticism burst my ego bubble. And thank the gods it did, because once I pulled myself back together I forced myself to look critically at everything I did, to write and rewrite and rewrite again. My books don’t take as many rewrites now as they used to, but again that’s practice. Practice and obsession and a lot of snarky comments from my editor.
- We Ride the Storm is entered into the SPFBO competition this year, what are your hope and expectation for it? (Seeing that I’m not a judge this year, I will immediately say that I personally want this book to win the entire competition!)
I think I’ve said before that I’m an optimistic dreamer, so I certainly dream big about everything I put my hand to, but fortunately I have a practical streak, too. Better not to have any actual expectations and be pleasantly surprised than disappointed. So I have my dreams, like I’m sure everyone does. I’d love to be a finalist, of course I would, but the competition seems even steeper this year than in previous years so it seems quite the far-fetched dream. Regardless of what happens I am very interested in seeing how it goes, especially as I know many more people in the community this year and have friends to cheer for.
- I wish you good luck in the competition, Devin! Next question. I’ve read all your books and I think everyone who has read them will agree that your books can be considered dark, bloody, and more suited for an adult audience. Was this the type of story you’ve always wanted to write?
I’ve never written a happy story. My parents kept the first book I wrote on my own when I was seven years old. It was about a Christmas tree whose mother gets chopped down. All the other trees laugh at him. Then they all get chopped down. Then he gets chopped down and taken to a store, and no matter how much they decorate him no one wants to buy him and he’s left all alone in the dark. The first proper short story I wrote as a teenager was about a puppy that curled up beneath a tree only for snow to fall off a branch and bury it alive. You wouldn’t believe I had a wonderful childhood and am a very cheerful person, but there you go. The best line I’ve ever heard to describe the way I think is from the Doctor Who episode Blink where Sally says that sadness is “like happiness for deep people”. Weirdly I don’t like reading grim and bloody books nearly as much as I like writing them. I’ve actually DNFed a book for killing off a dog. Oops!
- Well.. that’s one dark story to write as a kid! On to the next question. In epic fantasy, authors tend to use the multi third-person POV more than multi-first person POV; all your books so far are written in first person perspectives whether the story is focused on several or a single character. I personally found them brilliant because although it can be harder to feel the voice distinction in multi-first person compared to multi-third person, you nailed it wonderfully. What made you choose multi-first person narrative rather than multi-third person narrative?
Habit? Ha! I’ve certainly written WAY more words in first person than I ever have in third, it just seems to be what comes naturally to me. But in the case of choosing multi-first person, I choose to write that way because I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of unreliable narrators. Everyone sees the same events a different way depending on their personality, background and belief systems, and I find using first person allows me to communicate that best.
- All your books have amazing cover arts, it’s definitely up to the standard of traditionally published books or maybe even better. Do you play any part in any of the creations? Or was it all up to the artist’s imagination? Does Rah look exactly as you imagined?
Ok I’m about to weird you out. I have no idea what Rah looks like. I’m not a visual thinker at all. When people talk about seeing books in their heads when they read like internal movies… that has never happened to me and I’ve never imagined what any character looks like, whether my own characters or someone else’s. I CAN visualise things but it doesn’t come naturally to me and requires a lot of effort.
So that’s a long way to say it is entirely the vision of my artist, John Anthony Di Giovanni. For this cover he read Rah’s first chapter, which was enough to give him an understanding of Rah’s culture and what the Levanti look like and he did all the rest. Once the art was done it went to Shawn T King for the typography and design and he got even less input from me. The only thing we discussed was whether to try using the same font he’d created for In Shadows We Fall or use something new. Everything else was entirely him. I didn’t even know it was going to have borders top and bottom or the amazing character inset on the spine until he’d finished. Let’s just say I’m not artsy. My attempts at drawing would embarrass a toddler.
- I definitely will have to agree with your opinion on the dream team’s creation! Last question. Now that I’ve finished reading and reviewing your book, how many books are planned for your newest series, The Reborn Empire? When can we expect the second book? (You know I’m dying for it already)
The Reborn Empire is planned (hahahah, like I plan!) to be a four book series, and you can expect We Lie with Death in March 2019. The release schedule for the next two will depend on a bunch of other projects. I’d like to continue with a 9-month gap between each release, but it might end up being March each year so I’m not making that a definite yet. I will be sure to post about it in all the places I do such things (blog, twitter, Goodreads etc) and I also keep a fairly updated progress report for current projects on the homepage of my website for anyone who wants to follow along with what I’m writing.
Thank you so much once again for doing this interview! Best of luck and remember that you’ll always have my support! 🙂