Today I am interviewing Nik Korpon, author of the new science-fiction novel, The Rebellion’s Last Traitor.
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DJ: Hey Nik! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Nik Korpon: Thanks for having me! I’m from Baltimore. During the day I’m a copywriter and adjunct professor, then I write books after my kids go to sleep. Most of what I wrote in the past was straight-up crime and mystery, so talking about my sci-fi novel has been different. It’s been an interesting experience, but a lot of fun.
DJ: What is The Rebellion’s Last Traitor about?
Nik: It follows Henraek and Walleus, the leaders of a rebellion against the brutal authoritarian party, the Tathadann, who banned memory in an attempt to rewrite history. When it became clear that the rebellion was doomed, Walleus flipped and tried to get Henraek to go with him, but Henraek refused. He was eventually captured and Walleus, in an effort to save his best friend’s life, convinced him to work as a memory thief, stealing memories from the people he’d tried to save. Along the way, Henraek incited a riot that eventually killed his wife and son—or so he was told. So when Henraek finds a memory out on a job that suggests his family wasn’t actually killed in a riot, he sets out to find the truth.
Everything kind of goes to hell from there.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Rebellion’s Last Traitor?
Nik: There were a couple. Stylistically, Altered Carbon and Blade Runner were big touch points. The Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland was a big thematic inspiration, along with groups like the Zapatistas and the Bolsheviks. I also have a longstanding fascination with family and identity and how those two intersect, largely how what we remember about ourselves informs our conception of who we are (which comes from reading a bunch of Buddhist books). I’ve been joking that I’ve always been disappointed I never got to write for Justified, so to rectify that I wrote my own Boyd and Raylan in Walleus and Henraek. They weren’t based off them or anything but it helped inform the writing when I was trying to differentiate the two voices.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Nik: I think Henraek is interesting because he’s such an asshole (in the kindest way). He was a very idealistic person who was eventually beaten down after he lost his family and country (in a manner of speaking), but you can still see those flames of discontent smoldering in his eyes. When he finds the memories of his wife, they start burning again and he has a new purpose in life. Walleus is kind of the opposite side of the same coin: he’s very pragmatic and has a flexible moral code, but he’s still very loyal to those he loves. I really enjoyed writing these two because they come from the same place and their lives took different directions, but Walleus has accepted his new situation whereas Henraek fights against it. Despite their opposing viewpoints, you can see they share a long and often strained history, and beneath it all you can see that they are brothers.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Rebellion’s Last Traitor like?
Nik: Eitan City is the capital of Westhell County, which is in the country of Ardu Oéann (though the name isn’t mentioned in this book). It’s ruled by Lady Morrigan, the wife of the late founder of the Tathadann, which by this point is a shadow of its former self but still very cruel and brutal. My original idea was “post-Katrina New Orleans, but worse.” Think heavy, humid air that’s almost tactile, wrought iron streetlamps and gates, run-down buildings that has been brightly colored years ago. But it never rains, which means there’s no relief from it.
I think of the technology as being very cutting-edge twenty years from the time of the story, but hasn’t advanced because of the constant warring. So there are hologram bands and self-driving cars (which were actually high-tech when I was writing the book), a lot of AI, stuff like that. All of it is sort of set dressing because I didn’t want the story to be about the technology, but about the relationships between the characters.
There’s not much religion to speak of, but there is a sect that worships the old gods, which also features in the second book. I drew on a lot of Nordic and Celtic mythology for that stuff, as well as the names of characters.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Rebellion’s Last Traitor?
Nik: Listening to Walleus and Henraek talk. Someone—Mamet, maybe?—said the best arguments are when both sides are right, and most of the time both Henraek and Walleus are right. But at the same time, there’s no way either is going to change their mind. It’s like Batman and the Joker in Dark Knight. I also loved writing about the old gods from the various countries. They only make passing appearances but that kind of religion fascinates me. It was a lot of fun to invent the various languages that went with each culture. There are three separate fictional languages, each from a specific country, and two from specific regions within one country. Really big pain in the ass to codify, but it was fun to do.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Nik: Man, I’ve never thought about that. Hopefully they like the worldbuilding of Eitan, as well as the relationship between Henraek and Walleus. Really, if they just tell their friends, “You have to read this book. It rules,” I’ll be totally happy.
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing The Rebellion’s Last Traitor? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Nik: The earlier drafts were much more didactic. There was a lot of Marxist ranting in there, using Henraek as a mouthpiece for my own socio-political beliefs. And while I thought they were interesting and relevant, they definitely distracted from the story. So they had to go.
It’s been interesting to see how things have changed in the country/world since I started writing it. Any attempt at making a statement in the book—which is about a small group of rebels agitating to get the populace to overthrow a cruel, authoritarian government—will seem either really obvious or woefully inadequate given our current situation. So I’d rather just put it out there and let people find their own conclusions.
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 The Rebellion’s Last Traitor that you can share with us?
Nik: I think this one sums up the book pretty well: “After removing every trace of my being here, I pull the slivers of coal from my pocket and stand between the two men, debating which one to anoint. The old man did nothing to deserve this but I understand the weight the father carries, how the soul of a son can be marred by his father’s sins.”
DJ: Now that The Rebellion’s Last Traitor is released, what is next for you?
Nik: The second book in the memory thief trilogy, Queen of the Struggle, comes out in January. It picks up about six months after Traitor and follows the fallout of the finale. Hopefully enough people dig these two so my publisher will buy the third book.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Website: nikkorpon.com (but I don’t use it very often)
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Rebellion’s Last Traitor that we haven’t talked about yet?
Nik: My home life is actually very happy.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Nik: Thanks for having me! I really appreciate it.
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*** The Rebellion’s Last Traitor is published by Angry Robot and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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In a dystopian world ravaged by war and environmental collapse, one man fights history to discover the truth about his wife and child.
After decades of war, the brutal Tathadann Party restored order toshattered Eitan City by outlawing the past and rewriting history. Memory is a commodity bought and sold, and experienced like a drug. Henraek works as a Tathadann memory thief, draining citizens memories.
Everything changes when Henraek harvests a memory of his own wife s death, in the hidden rebellion that once tore apart their city. Now he will do whatever it takes to learn the truth even ifit means burning Eitan City to the ground.
Nik Korpon is the author of THE REBELLION’S LAST TRAITOR (Angry Robot 2017), QUEEN OF THE STRUGGLE (2018), and THE SOUL STANDARD, among others. His stories have bloodied the pages and screens of Thuglit, Needle, Out of the Gutter, Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey, the Booked. anthology, and a bunch more. He lives in Baltimore.