Today I am interviewing Stephen Aryan, author of the new fantasy novel Chaosmage, final book in The Age of Darkness trilogy.
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DJ: Hey Stephen! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Stephen Aryan: Hello, thanks for having me. I’m a British fantasy writer of secondary world epic fantasy. I’ve been reading fantasy books all my life and I started writing my own stories at an early age. I live in the West Midlands of England with my partner and two cats, and when I’m not reading comics, watching genre TV or drinking real ale, you’ll find me walking in the countryside somewhere. I say I’m a lapsed gamer as nowadays I don’t have much time to spend playing MMORPGs and other PC games.
DJ: What is Choasmage and also Age of Darkness trilogy about?
Stephen: Chaosmage is a horror thriller story about a rotting and forgotten city on the edge of the world where something is lurking in the shadows. There are lots of stories coming out of the area about the dead coming back to life, weird creatures crawling through the rubble at night, ghosts wandering the streets and there are a lot of people going missing. Two characters are sent in to unravel the mystery and find out what is going on before the madness spreads.
The trilogy itself is about all kinds of things, so it’s difficult to summarise. This is because each book in the trilogy is a relatively standalone story, but they’re all tied together, and they build on each other. So each book is exploring a theme of its own. There are lots of hidden gems for readers who’ve been there since the first book, with payoffs in the second book and third book.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the The Age of Darkness trilogy?
Stephen: The biggest influence on all of my work is David Gemmell, who remains my favourite fantasy author. More specifically on this trilogy, Battlemage is influenced by all of the war films and epic fantasy books with big battles scenes I’ve read over the years such as Lord of the Rings, The First Law books by Joe Abercrombie, and Legend by David Gemmell. Bloodmage is more of a crime thriller, so every cop TV show going back three decades from old NYPD Blue up to the modern Blue Bloods, but also urban fantasy novels such as The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the Felix Castor novels by Mike Carey and Mike Shevdon’s Courts of the Feyre. Chaosmage is influenced by horror mostly, so Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Alden Bell, and Richard Matheson’s I am Legend.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters in the trilogy? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them?
Stephen: The main characters in the trilogy change from book to book. Characters in the foreground move into the background, becoming secondary characters, and sometimes a familiar face comes back who has been absent. The main spine character of the series is Balfruss, who is in the first book and third book as a main POV. He’s a Battlemage of renown who has been travelling the world for years, loaning his services out to people in need. Balfruss is middle-aged and at a bit of a crossroads when we first see him in Battlemage. He returns home to protect his country and finds that all around him friends have got married, had children and settled down, while he’s still on his own and without a permanent home. He still hasn’t found his place in the world or his purpose. I think that’s something most people will ask themselves at a certain point in their lives.
In Battlemage Vargus is a veteran warrior with secrets who fights on the front lines. He risks everything for the men around him, while trying to make them into something better.
Talandra is an atypical Princess as she’s the head of her father, the King’s, spy network. While others try to end the war on the battlefield, she is working behind the scenes to try and unravel shaky alliances and save lives using her intelligence, guile and her agents.
DJ: What is the universe/world for The Age of Darkness trilogy like?
Stephen: I spent a long time worldbuilding for the series before I started writing the first book, so there are many layers and during the trilogy we only explore a small portion of the world. There are several different races of human, across about a dozen countries, but there are also three non-human races, only two of which we meet in this trilogy. I wanted to create some original and distinct races with very different origins to humans. Magic comes from a place called the Source, but it affects all of the races differently, but only humans are capable of becoming mages. There are a handful of very old religions that the majority of people follow, but a few new ones have arisen which some respect and others think are merely weird cults or fads that will fade in time. It’s very much not our world, there is no technology or gunpowder, and yet there are several parallels in terms of politics, religion and other areas.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing the Chaosmage, and complementing the final book in The Age of Darkness trilogy?
Stephen: The book allowed me to explore some themes I’d not been able to tackle in the first two. Each book has a very unique flavour as I don’t like to repeat myself. I enjoyed being able to tap into some horror influences and make Chaosmage more of a creepy thriller. It was also nice to be able to tie up a number of threads from the first two books and see a real evolution of some characters. The world is also constantly changing, so by the end of the Chaosmage it’s quite a different place from how we found it at the beginning of Battlemage and I like that evolution. It stops the reader, and me, from getting complacent and always knowing what is going to happen next because everything is familiar.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for Battlemage and Bloodmage (the first two booking the series)? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Stephen: I don’t read reviews, but from what I’ve been told they’ve been positive for the first two books. I’ve been sent a couple by my publisher and I really like it when reviewers see beneath the surface and pick up on some of the themes and ideas I’m exploring, or they pose very searching questions that make me smile as they’re getting close to the mark.
Some readers have asked me questions about the magic system, others want to know more about some of the non-human races and some have asked me about whether we’ve seen the last of certain characters. So it really varies from person to person.
DJ: It would extremely foolish of me not to ask about your magic a little bit too (see as how the word “mage” is in the title) 😄 Please, tell us a little about your magic system?
Stephen: The mages in the first book, Battlemage, are the heavy artillery in the war. They’re who you bring in to call down lightning and break armies apart, but that only works only as long as they remain unopposed. Magic can be very overt and the kind you’d see on the front lines of a war, but it can also be used in very subtle ways which we see a little of in Battlemage, but a lot more of in Bloodmage. Mages are either born with the gift or not and it usually develops around the time of puberty. It needs to be controlled and tamed, otherwise if left to run wild it can damage or even kill the individual and those nearby if they’re caught in the explosive blast! There are also things called Talents, these are innate gifts that someone is able to do with magic without even thinking about it. For them it’s just like flexing a muscle, but for other people it can be almost impossible to copy. All magic takes its toll on the mage and it requires effort, discipline and control to channel the power when tapping into the Source. So you can’t just keep throwing fireballs forever as it will drain your stamina and energy and then your life.
DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a series, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? The evolution of your characters?
Stephen: I’m a planner so the books all shook out roughly how I expected them to in terms of the start, middle and endings of each. The creative leaps between planned points are where I can’t always predict what is going to happen or where the story is going to go. In Battlemage I ended up developing a fourth main point of view, a spy called Gunder, that was only supposed to be a one off aside for one chapter. But as I carried on working on the story I realised I needed to revisit that point of view so there was another perspective on the war and its impact. I enjoyed writing the espionage side more than I had anticipated so it was a pleasure to grow what would have been a very minor character into something else.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Chaosmage that you can share with us?
Stephen: I don’t have any quotes that are particular favourites, but there’s one repeating thing that occurs throughout the book that I really like. One of the characters, Zannah, is trying to work out what her friend, Alyssa, did before they met. They play this guessing game where once a day she’s allowed to ask Alyssa a question based on her observations. So she might ask ‘Were you a poet?’ or ‘Were you a dancer?’ and it says a lot about their growing friendship and how they view one another.
DJ: Now that Choasmage is released, what is next for you?
Stephen: I’m working on something new at the moment, but I can’t say what that is, but stay tuned, there should be some news about it in the next two weeks.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Author Newsletter: On my website
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Chaosmage and The Age of Darkness trilogy that we haven’t talked about yet?
Stephen: The trilogy has an overall arc, but I can’t really say what that is without spoiling it. However, the name of the series gives you a general idea. Also this is only one story, one Age, and I think there is room to tell more in the future as I feel as if I’ve only just scratched the surface of this world.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
A: Thanks for the interest in my first trilogy.
DJ: You are welcome! It definitely sounds like a series that I would love 🙂
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*** Chaosmage is published by Orbit Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Voechenka is a city under siege. Decimated by the Battlemage War, its dead now walk the city at night, attacking survivors, calling their names and begging the living to join them beyond the grave.
Tammy is a watchman sent to the city to investigate, so the ruling powers can decide whether to help Voechenka or leave it to its grisly fate.
Zannah is a pariah in Voechenka – making up for her people’s war crimes by protecting refugees who fear her far more than they fear their unearthly attackers.
Balfruss is a scholar, a traveler . . . and the infamous mage who single-handedly ended the war.
No one else may enter or leave the city – so if this ragtag group of survivors can’t figure out what is going on, they’ll live out their last few, short days within its walls.
And night is coming on fast . . .
Stephen Aryan was born in 1977 and was raised and educated in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear. After graduating from Loughborough University he started working in marketing, and for some reason he hasn’t stopped. A keen podcaster, lapsed gamer and budding archer, when not extolling the virtues of Babylon 5, he can be found drinking real ale and reading comics. He lives in the West Midlands with his partner and two cats.