Today I am interviewing Stephen Zimmer, author of the new sword and sorcery, fantasy novel, Thunder Horizon, second book in the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy.
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DJ: Hey Stephen! Welcome back to MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape!
For readers who might have missed previous interviews and aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Stephen Zimmer: Great to be back at MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape! I am a pretty laid back fellow, residing in Lexington, Kentucky, who has a passion for storytelling. I am an author and filmmaker, with 12 books in print, and several short films, one feature, and now a TV Pilot in development. As far as interests, I love music, martial arts, guitar, traveling, movies, the outdoors, and good bourbon!
DJ: What is Thunder Horizon and also the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy about?
Stephen: Thunder Horizon and the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy is a Rayden Valkyrie adventure that follows her as she returns to her adopted homelands to help the Gessa confront a rising threat stalking the forests around them. Along the way she has aided a slave uprising in the growing Teveren Empire, whose shadow is spreading toward the lands of the Gessa and other tribes. Rayden has many harrowing encounters while uncovering more about the Teveren Empire and the deadly threats in the forest. Along the way, she has to confront some of her greatest fears and most formidable adversaries. It is a story of self-determination and courage above all.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy?
Stephen: My interests in ancient empires and civilizations, the stories of uprisings such as those conducted by historical figures like Spartacus, Vercingetorix, and Boudicca , and icons of sword and sorcery such as Robert E. Howard are all inspirations and influences for a storyline such as this. It is a very action-driven plot line that focuses upon a single character, though it is set within a fairly large scale with a clash of Empires and armies.
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?
Stephen: My principle character is Rayden Valkyrie, and she has become a traveling warrior who has shouldered a lifelong inner burden from having lost both of her parents violently when she was just a child. Rayden has dealt with a lot of tragedy and darkness, yet she has not become cold or hardened. Nevertheless, she is adrift in that she has no genuine sense of having a home. Her inner strengths have grown as strong as her outer ones to walk the road she has taken, enabling her to have empathy and compassion for those oppressed or under tyranny, to the point where she is willing to stand alone if need be to confront the wicked things of the world. She has no superpowers. Determination and the skills that she has trained hard to develop day in and day out, year in and year out, are what enable her to prevail battles. Her humanity, inner and outer strengths, and her burdens all combine to make her a compelling character in my eyes.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy like?
Stephen: It is an ancient world setting. Think of the times of ancient Rome, Egypt and Carthage for instance. There are kingdoms and empires and tribal lands of many various kinds, so there is a wide diversity in culture, ethnic groups, architecture, and government in the world of Rayden Valkyrie.
There is a presence of magic, so plenty of sorcery and witchcraft to be found across this world, as well as supernatural occurrences. There are things both of darkness and light in all of these areas.
Humans are not the only sentient beings in this world either. In Thunder Horizon, you get to meet the Varganir, for instance. I won’t say what they are as that would be a spoiler!
The creatures of this world include a lot of things that are not in our world. Readers of Heart of a Lion encounter some rather nasty things that come up from the ocean and then some pretty formidable spider-like creatures in a ravine later on, for example.
Rayden is a traveler, so the world she inhabits is definitely explored over the course of her tales. Many lands are traveled over the pages of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy alone.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first book, Heart of a Lion, in the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Stephen: The reviews have been really strong for Heart of a Lion, and the thing that makes me happiest is the way that many of the readers and reviewers have connected to Rayden. I have had many share in private the reasons why they connected with the Rayden character, pertaining to their own personal lives, and it is both humbling and an honor to know that Rayden has been both an inspiration and comfort to others in the way that she has been to me.
DJ: Now, what do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish Thunder Horizon?
Stephen: They will probably wonder how I can make the final book even more exciting than Thunder Horizon, as a lot happens in this book and it is conducted at a fast, action-driven pace. I can assure them, there will be a spectacular conclusion in book three, so don’t worry!
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Thunder Horizon?
Stephen: Immersing in the world of Rayden and joining her for the next stage of her adventure. The stage is set and things are already opened to full throttle by the end of Heart of a Lion, so this one takes off like a rocket from the first page. Loads of action and lots of challenges loom before Rayden and it was quite a ride to write this part of the story.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy? Thunder Horizon is on the second books in the series, 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?
Stephen: The theme is one that is very character-centered. Rayden embodies this theme, but reades will also find it present in other characters in the trilogy. That theme is the importance of self-determination and self-empowerment. Rayden is not afraid to take a stand and confront wickedness in the world, even if that means standing alone at times, or going against odds that others might find insurmountable. In order to do that effectively, she has to be very strong of character and have conviction the values she embraces. Anyone can walk that path in life. You don’t have to be a fighter or live in an ancient world to be strong of character and have conviction to do what is right. Rayden’s story is a call to each of us to be heroes in our own lives.
DJ: I understand that the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy actually has a forthcoming TV pilot?! That must be super-exciting!!
Can you tell readers a little about how you feel about that and how that whole process came to be and how it got to where it is now?
Stephen: The TV Pilot is actually an original story line, telling another of Rayden’s adventures. I’ve always been of the view that Rayden would be a compelling character for the screen, and the telling of her story is well-structured for a TV/Film project as it centers around her and does not require lots of different viewpoints.
I developed a pilot script that served as the start of an odyssey-like adventure for Rayden, which could be shot on a small budget in wilderness locations. We were able to get some support from a successful Kickstarter project that helped round out our needs, and we spent many months getting the right cast, crew and production elements in place. With Brock O’Hurn and Sol Geirsdottir as our leads, we completed production in June in Kentucky and are now in post-production with a goal of having the pilot episode ready this Fall.
It has been a ton of work, but it is very exciting to see Rayden come to life on the screen. This will be a chance to take her story to a wider audience, and we aim to find the best network home possible for a potential first season.
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 Thunder Horizon that you can share with us?
Stephen: “It is a world with friendships and family … and family is not always of blood, Rayden. Family is something much more. In a world where we do not choose the family we share blood with, do not underestimate what it means to be chosen as family.” – Erethea, a woman of the Gessa who is a dear friend to Rayden.
DJ: Now that Thunder Horizon is released, what is next for you?
Stephen: I’m already working on the 4th book in my epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, and my first YA novel, Dream of the Navigator, is heading into the editing phase, so I’m definitely staying busy! Won’t be long before the final book of the Dark Sun Dawn Saga is underway too!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Author Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bBprDP
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Thunder Horizon and the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy that we haven’t talked about yet?
Stephen: I think we have covered the main things I hope readers get out of Thunder Horizon, but I do want them to enjoy the wild ride that is in store for them on this particular adventure! I want to talk about one thing creature-related that is central to the plot in Thunder Horizon, concerning the menace stalking the Gessa in the shadows of the forest, but that would involve a big spoiler!
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Stephen: I just want to say thank you to all the readers who have given Rayden Valkyrie a chance to become part of their own worlds.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Stephen: You are most welcome and thank you for letting me visit with your readers at MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape!
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*** Thunder Horizon is published by Seventh Star Press and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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A deadly menace stalks the shadows of the lands to the north, stirring the winds of war. Farther south, the power of the Teveren Empire spreads with every passing day, empowered by dark sorcery. Formidable legions bent on conquest are on the march, slavery and subjugation following in their wake.
Within the rising maelstrom, Rayden Valkyrie has returned to the Gessa, to stand with the tribe that once took her into their care as a child. No amount of jewels or coin can sway her, nor can the great power of her adversaries intimidate her.
With a sword blade in her right hand and axe in her left, Rayden confronts foes both supernatural and of flesh and blood. Horrific revelations and tremendous risks loom; some that will see Rayden’s survival in the gravest of peril.
Even if Rayden and the Gessa survive the trials plaguing their lands, the thunder of an even darker storm booms across the far horizon.
Thunder Horizon is the second book in the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.
Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), and the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk).
Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.
Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.
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