Today I am interviewing David Mealing, debut author of the new epic fantasy novel, Soul of the World, first book in The Ascension Cycle.
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DJ: Hey David! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
David Mealing: My pleasure! Great to be here. A little about me… I’m a father of three, recently relocated from the Pacific Northwest to Utah. My hobbies include anything that doesn’t require going outside: boardgaming (especially pen & paper RPGs), videogaming (especially MMORPGs), and of course, reading as many books as I can get my hands on.
DJ: What is Soul of the World about?
David: The book started with an image in my head: a street-artist sketching the court of Louis XVI in the run-up to the French Revolution, using invisibility magic to stay hidden from the palace guards. Everything flowed from there. It’s a giant epic fantasy with world-changing stakes, set in a second-world mix of colonial France and the Americas, with a heavy dose of military, tribal politics, and magic.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Soul of the World and the series?
David: I’m a total sponge when it comes to influences. I read something and I have to do my take on it! That said, Michael Shaara’s THE KILLER ANGELS was a big influence for my military scenes and battle planning. Brandon Sanderson is a huge personal favorite; I can only hope I osmosed some of his awesomeness given how much I love his work. Jacqueline Carey’s KUSHIEL books definitely influenced the way I wrote about the French-inspired setting. And I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with France and French culture. I lived in Paris for a summer before I went to college, though my French is pretty rusty these days.
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?
David: Sure! There are three main POVs. Sarine is a street-artist who has struggled to survive growing up in the darker parts of her city. She’s dazzled by the beauty of the nobles’ world even though she’s seen firsthand the cruelty their decadence has inflicted on the common people. Her story is all about walking in two worlds, trying to find a way to do what’s right.
Erris is a cavalry officer driven to be the best at everything she does. Her excellence intimidates her superiors, but she quickly finds herself promoted and facing her biggest fear: an enemy commander more skilled than she is, with a strange, unknown magic to boot.
Lastly, Arak’Jur is a guardian, responsible for protecting his people from the magical beasts of the wild. He’s haunted by his failure to protect his own wife and child, a failure that’s made him hesitant to embrace responsibility for determining his people’s course, even in a time where other tribes are preparing for war.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Ascension Cycle like?
David: Oh wow. It’s a whole world! There’s every sort of climate, political structure, etc. In book one, though, we mostly focus on the colony and city of New Sarresant (both bear the same name), which is largely temperate farmland and cleared forest, heavily inspired by 18th-century France and the Americas. Think New York City if the French had settled it and modeled it after Paris. Immediately surrounding it are lands held by powerful native tribes who live in heavily forested areas populated by dangerous magical critters. The colonists have to shelter behind a magical barrier to keep the beasts out, though the natives have magic capable of dealing with the beasts before they become a threat.
DJ: I’ve heard that you created quite a unique magic system! Could you tell us about it?
David: At the start of SOUL, I introduce three different systems. Binders can tap into leylines to use stored energies to create different effects, for example speeding them up or healing their wounds. Kaas-mages have a bond with a familiar who can siphon emotions and use them to create a similar but different slate of effects, things like influencing the thoughts and emotions of others or protecting themselves from harm. And finally spirit-blessed, who can interact with powerful spirits in several different ways to receive their gifts – killing a beast for example imparts the use of the beast’s magical abilities, but there are also spirits of the land and spirits of things-to-come which interact with humans in different ways.
That said, there are *many* more systems of magic in the world. These, and some of the underlying connections between them, will be revealed as the series continues!
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Soul of the World?
David: I loved every minute of it. SOUL is the first book I’ve ever written. It was an absolute labor of love. By the end of the first draft my wife and I joked that the characters had become our best friends.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
David: Probably the reveal on pg. 611… 🙂
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing The Ascension Cycle? Soul of the World is only the first book, but 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?
David: I don’t write trying to consciously imbue a theme, but I’ve noticed plenty of my views and experiences creeping into the story. SOUL is all about heroes trying to find their way in a dangerous, frightening world, armed with none of the information they need to face terrifying challenges they barely understand. Sort of like trying to make a career writing books for a living!
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 Soul of the World that you can share with us?
David: My favorite line in the book is the last line in Chapter 68, the final Sarine chapter and the final chapter from the main POVs before the epilogues. It’s not a particularly powerful turn of phrase, but it carries so much meaning for Sarine; it perfectly encapsulates her tendency to miss the forest for the trees. I won’t repeat it here for the sake of avoiding spoilers!
A couple more, maybe a bit more quotable:
From Paendurion’s interlude: “He’d long ago made his peace with choosing the lesser evil, to serve the greater good.”
And from Axerian’s interlude: “One should never presume the past is a predictor of the possible.”
The ‘Gods’ interludes were definitely a playground for me to write a bit more cryptic, flowery stuff than I might have otherwise.
DJ: Now that Soul of the World is released, what is next for you?
David: I turn in book two of the Ascension Cycle to my editor in four days! After that, maybe a week off. Then I dive back in to begin the first draft of book three.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Author Newsletter: sign up at www.davidmealing.com
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Soul of the World and The Ascension Cycle that we haven’t talked about yet?
David: My editor and I are constantly fighting over how subtle I can be. It’s a bad habit, and she is wonderful and she is right! But there are still plenty of subtle references, foreshadowing, and small connections that go unspoken aloud. Those inclined to re-read it will find lots of small things they might have missed on the first read-through. The fact that Alouen is Marie’s son, for example, or that Corenna knew and traveled with Vas’Khan’Uro before he led his people to war. I love to add these kinds of connections – look for even more between book 1 and 2!
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
David: Only a sincere thank-you to anyone inclined to read my books. Sharing these stories is an absolute privilege. I hope I never disappoint.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
DJ: My pleasure! Thanks so much for having me.
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*** Soul of the World is published by Orbit and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Three lines of magic must be conquered and three heroes must rise in the first book of this epic fantasy trilogy for fans of Mistborn and The Name of the Wind!
A brilliant debut epic fantasy with a unique magic system and unforgettable characters.
It is a time of revolution. in the cities, food shortages stir citizens to riots against the crown. In the wilds, new magic threatens the dominance of the tribes. and on the battlefields, even the most brilliant commanders struggle in the shadow of total war. Three lines of magic must be mastered in order to usher in a new age, and three heroes must emerge.
Sarine is an artist on the streets of New Sarresant whose secret familiar helps her uncover bloodlust and madness where she expected only revolutionary fervor.
Arak’Jur wields the power of beasts to keep his people safe, but his strength cannot protect them from war amongst themselves.
Erris is a brilliant cavalry officer trying to defend New Sarresant from an enemy general armed with magic she barely understands.
Each must learn the secrets of their power in time to guide their people through ruin. But a greater evil may be trying to stop them.
David Mealing grew up adoring all things fantasy. He studied philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford, where he taught himself to write by building worlds and stories for pen & paper RPGs. He enjoys board games and card games of all sorts, once spent a summer in Paris learning and subsequently forgetting how to speak French, and gave serious thought to becoming a professional bass player before deciding epic fantasy novelist was the wiser choice. He lives in Washington state with his wife and three daughters, and aspires to one day own a ranch in the middle of nowhere.