Hi everyone! Petrik from Novel Notions here. We, the team at Novel Notions, are very thrilled and honored that we were asked by Orbit to kick-off the massive blog tour for The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter. I loved this novel. It’s been four months since I finished this African-inspired epic fantasy debut and I must admit that once in a while, this work of magnificent still sneaks up on my mind. If you haven’t read it, I strongly urge you to give it a go. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Evan Winter.
- Hi Evan, please tell us a bit about yourself and your debut, The Rage of Dragons, the first book in The Burning series!
Thanks for taking the time to do this with me. My name is Evan Winter, my parents are Guyanese (a South American country considered part of the Caribbean), I was born in England, but grew up in Central Africa and now live in North America.
Right after university, I started working in the film industry. I spent four years in Los Angeles making music videos and also started up a boutique production company. After that, I went to work for an international infrastructure company as their Creative Director and when that opportunity ended I needed to choose between more corporate work or burning a year trying something I’d always wanted to try — writing a book.
The hard part is that I have a family, a mortgage, and many of the other responsibilities we all recognize. So, like most reasonable people in that position, I decided to sit down and write a book.
Specifically, I wrote an Epic Fantasy about a young swordsman hellbent on vengeance, a military school with a cruel twist, and two cultures trapped in an endless war that’s about to get much worse.
- The Rage of Dragons was originally self-published, seeing that self-published fantasy is doing well right now, what made you decide to transition to traditional publication? What are all the changes—if there’s any—done towards the book now that it’s published by Orbit?
You’re so right, self-published fantasy can do very well and, though I recognize how fortunate I was to be approached by Orbit, I did have a few concerns about making the leap and was quite worried about what story changes might be needed or asked for.
However, after speaking with Brit, who is now my editor, I felt very comfortable. And, every single one of her notes served to strengthen the characters, flesh out the world, and ease readers into the story.
I also considered the publishing deal to be an opportunity to focus on the art and craft of writing without needing to spend more than half my time managing the publishing/technical side of things. It meant I’d have the chance to work with brilliant professionals who could help me be the best writerly version of me that’s possible. That was a huge draw.
- I’m really pleased to hear that! Your book has been advertised as Game of Thrones meets Gladiator, would you say that George R. R. Martin or the TV show are the biggest influences on your book? If not, which books/authors would you consider as the biggest influences behind your writing?
I’m really bad at naming all my influences and I think everything I read sneaks in. So, Game of Thrones is indeed a big influence, but so is pretty much everything else. In fact, one of the interesting things about working on book 2 while book 1 is launching is that I’ve had much less time to read and I miss that time because I like what reading does to my writing.
When I’m devouring books, I end up with all these varied influences slipping into my own work and then, when the draft is done, I have so much from here, there, and everywhere that I can massage into a new and coherent whole that, to me, feels full and vibrant. I really like that and, going forward, I’m going to try to build a lot more reading time into every day. After all, so many writers say this, or some version of it: ‘reading is part of writing,’ and, I’ve found that advice to be true.
- The Rage of Dragons is an African-inspired epic fantasy, what are the African-inspired elements in the book that you feel readers not acquainted to African history or culture will/won’t be able to appreciate?
I want to believe that readers will recognize almost everything, because the differences aren’t as significant as the similarities. The story, I hope, feels honest and real to the reader and the African inspirations and influences, much of it being in the names of people, places, and things, are there to ground the world and give you the fullness of it. And, my goal with all that is unfamiliar is to have it become familiar before the last page is turned.
I wanted, specifically, for the reader to come to understand foreign words, customs, and behaviors through context and not explanation. I’d like to think that, by the back half of the book, the reader stops seeing anything in the story as belonging to another culture at all. The reader, through empathy and exposure is, by then, so close to the story’s culture that they can no longer see it as ‘other.’
- I’m simply amazed by the cover treatment towards your book. I loved Stefan Stankovic’s works, and I think he did a terrific job on your indie cover art, but having Karla Ortiz as your new cover artist must be a dream come true. I honestly think that Ortiz’s cover is even better. What are your thoughts on both cover arts?
I loved working with Stefan Stankovic and couldn’t have asked for more from his cover. He’s a consummate professional, a very talented artist, and he took my rambling notes describing the cover scene and turned them into art.
Cover art by: Stefan Stankovic
Then, once I’d signed with Orbit, they had a vision for the whole series and mentioned that they’d like to have Karla Ortiz do the covers. Of course, her work blew me away and, in my opinion, one of the reasons her work is so incredibly compelling is that Karla bases much of it in the research she does for each piece.
Cover art by: Karla Ortiz
The integrity in her approach and intent comes through and, whether you experience the effects of that approach consciously or unconsciously, you do feel it. Karla Ortiz’ cover is a gateway into the world I see in my head, and I’m forever appreciative to her and Orbit’s Creative Director, Lauren Panepinto, for the effort they put into making it as good as it is.
- What are some of your—past or ongoing—biggest challenges in progressing your career as an author?
I’m very new at this and, other than a decent appreciation for the fact that selling more copies is better than selling fewer copies, it’s hard to know what challenges I’ll face. I can tell you this, I want to make myself happy with the work first. I feel that if I can step back and fall in love with the story I’m telling, as a reader, then I should be okay.
So, that’s my goal. I want to tell stories that, if I came to them as a reader, I wouldn’t be able to put them down and I wouldn’t be able to get them out of my head for days and, even better, weeks.
- Last question, when can we expect the next installment to come out, and how many books will be in the series?
Book 2 is scheduled for a Summer 2020 release and the series, since first conceived, was planned as four books.
Congratulations on your debut, Evan! I look forward to the next installment, and thank you for your time!
Thanks very much for having me. This was a lot of fun and I hope we get to do it again!
If that’s still not enough to convince you to get The Rage of Dragons, allow me to re-share my spoiler-free review of the book HERE!
That’s the end of this blog tour! Thank you very much once again to Evan Winter, Nazia, and the entire team at Orbit for this blog tour opportunity. On behalf of Novel Notions, we thank you and we wish The Rage of Dragons and Orbit an everlasting success!
Official release date for the physical copies: July 18, 2019 (UK) and July 16, 2019 (US)