Today I am interviewing E.C. Ambrose, author of the new historical fantasy novel, Elisha Daemon, final book in The Dark Apostle series.
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DJ: Hi E.C! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
E.C. Ambrose: I dropped out of art school, where I was majoring in sculpture, to found my own wholesale gift sculpture business and focus more on writing. Alas for me, the business broke up a few years ago, but the writing took off around the same time. I live in New Hampshire with my family, and work part-time as an adventure guide.
DJ: What is Elisha Daemon and then The Dark Apostle series about?
E.C.: The Dark Apostle follows the harrowing journey of Elisha, a barber-surgeon in 14th century England who discovers he has an unnatural affinity with Death. As his power grows, he confronts a gritty world full of injustice and tragedy—and discovers the shadowy necromancers who profit by the fear of others. Magic, intrigue and medieval surgery!
Elisha Daemon takes place in 1348: Europe has become a bottomless well of terror and death, from which the necromancers drink deep as the citizens sink into despair. If there is to be any chance of survival, Elisha must root out the truth of the pestilence at its unexpected source: the great medical school at Salerno.
But as he does, his former mentor, the beautiful witch Brigit, lays her own plans. For there may be one thing upon the face of the planet more deadly than the plague: the unfiltered power of Death within Elisha himself.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Dark Apostle series?
E.C.: It all began with research into the history of surgery during the Middle Ages, which I was looking into for a different book entirely. I had also recently read The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. Many people are pushed into writing by reading something awful and thinking, “I can do better than that!” but The Sparrow helped me see what a great book is capable of. It gives me something to aspire to.
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?
E.C.: When we meet him, Elisha is a mid-career professional, a barber-surgeon in the streets of London, with the arrogance of a man who knows he’s good at his job. Then he has a terrible day, in which he loses his brother and his brother’s child, and he has to confront his own arrogance in a new way.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Dark Apostle series like?
E.C.: The Dark Apostle is set in a heavily researched version of 14th century Europe, primarily England, but later books move to the continent. Violent–yep. Hierarchical–yep. It is intended to be a fairly stark representation of that society. As Elisha’s power and influence grow (becoming both more dangerous and more useful) he’s exposed to higher levels of society, discovering luxuries like white bread. He also begins to question many of the premises on which that society is based. He moves through cramped city streets, and the dense forest and barrowland of the New Forest. I tried to use a wide variety of settings within the milieu that would reveal different aspects of medieval life and culture.
Also, there are guns. The 1340’s saw the advent of guns in European warfare, as shock-and-awe type weapons (they weren’t very effective). It’s important to me, especially in fantasy where technology is often ignored or glossed over in favor of magic, to retain a sense of the advance of human innovation. My interest in medieval technology has led me to a completely different book, but that’s another tale for another day.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first four books of The Dark Apostle series? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
E.C.: They seem to be affected by the relationships that build between characters, especially over several volumes, with secondary characters like Martin, Mordecai and Thomas. I take that as a huge compliment. It’s one of the aspects of this work that is very important to me, and I’m so glad that my readers are responding.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Elisha Daemon?
E.C.: I came up with the idea for the ending when I was brainstorming the series arc to put together an outline for my editors, and it gave me chills. It feels, to me, like the perfect culmination of many of the themes and ideas I’ve introduced through the work. Finally getting to write that scene, and trying to get it right, was one of the great joys of writing the series as a whole. I hope I nailed it!
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
E.C.: Probably the development of new baddie Count Vertuollo. He was fun to write!
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing The Dark Apostle series? Was 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?
E.C.: I had a number of themes on my mind as I wrote: the ideas clustered around levels of injustice–so many different ways to despise and mistreat your fellow human beings–but also around the courage it takes to try to take action and make the hard choices. I’ll be curious to hear from my readers what themes they’ve discovered.
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?
E.C.: This is an interesting one. I was locked into a previous publishing contract, so I had time to write all five books before I could try to sell the first one, Elisha Barber. But when my agent called with the offer on the series, (the editors had read book one, and an outline for the rest), they felt that the series arc didn’t live up to the promise of the first volume. The editors had some ideas, so I developed a new outline based on that–but it wasn’t very satisfying. I sat down with my own brainstorming tools and came up with a new one, developing a stronger over-all impact for the work, and seeing more clearly how each volume would contribute to the escalation. When I actually sat down to write the new version, I stuck to the larger movements of that outline, but I also had to shift things around, revise and refine ideas as I went–especially as I encountered the new characters who had only been hinted at in the outline.
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 Elisha Daemon that you can share with us?
E.C.: Here are a few:
“I will unravel you like a bit of bad embroidery.”
“No! You see nothing.” Pope Clement turned on him, pressing his palm to Elisha’s breast, a brand of heat and faith that seared into his old scars. “Here is my domain, and no one sees it all except the Lord.”
“Are you through trying to save the world?”
“It cannot be saved,” Elisha answered, and the truth of those words filled him with a sorrow deeper than rivers, deeper than death.
DJ: Now that Elisha Daemon is released, what is next for you?
E.C.: Right now, we are shopping an epic historical fantasy novel set in Song Dynasty China during the Mongol invasions–another great adventure in research! And I was looking to try something completely different, so I’m drafting a YA novel about giant robots.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2rKzgdW
Author Newsletter: http://thedarkapostle.com/contact-us/contact/
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Elisha Daemon and The Dark Apostle series that we haven’t talked about yet?
E.C.: Within that gritty historical setting, these are fast-paced adventure novels–I’m also a member of the International Thriller Writers, and I hope that comes through.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
E.C.: Thanks so much for having me!
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*** Elisha Daemon is published by DAW and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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In this fifth and final installment of The Dark Apostle, barber-surgeon-turned-sorcerer Elisha must save plague-stricken England from its path of destruction–or risk succumbing to the very dark magic he is trying to eradicate.
Elisha was once a lowly barber-surgeon from the poorest streets of 14th-century London; now, he may be the most powerful magus alive. He faces the necromancers, a shadowy cult of magi who draw their power from fear and murder–and who have just unleashed the greatest plague the world has ever known upon a continent already destabilized by wars, assassinations, and religious conflict.
Empires and armies are helpless with no clear enemy to fight. The Church loses its hold upon the faithful as prayers go unanswered. Europe has become a bottomless well of terror and death, from which the necromancers drink deep as the citizens sink into despair. Elisha knows that if there is to be any chance of survival, he must root out the truth of the pestilence at its unexpected source: the great medical school at Salerno. There, Elisha might uncover the knowledge to heal his world.
But as he does, his former mentor, the beautiful witch Brigit, lays her own plans. For there may be one thing upon the face of the planet deadlier than the plague: the unfiltered power of Death within Elisha himself.
I passed a peripatetic childhood reading way too many books, and eventually writing my own little stories, either inspired by my life (such as it was) or by whatever I was reading at the time. I thought I would grow up to be an archaeologist which explains why I read The Last Days of Pompeii at the age of nine. I was fortunate to have a few teachers early on who encouraged my literary tendencies—including one who let me stay inside to read during recess.
When I discovered the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval recreation group, I delved more deeply into medieval history, becoming enthralled with the dark castles, bloodsports and social expectations of the period. I nearly went to Fordham University for Medieval Studies, but chose Stanford instead—then withdrew as soon as humanly possible.
By this time, my stories accumulated rejection slips faster than the DOW was rising, yet I continued to hope my writing would be the answer. I started work on a first novel during a summer writing workshop, and finally finished it some years later, while depending on the refuge of aspiring writers everywhere: working customer service and living with family.
A second novel, begun with a notebook full of world-building concepts and great ambitions, lies dormant in a file my computer can no longer read. But when I met Elisha Barber, I knew I was on to something. I have to thank a local workshop with Dan Brown (slightly before he became THE Dan Brown) for my approach to the new project.
Now I find that once I start reading history, science, sociology, I discover a dozen different stories hiding in the details. . .
I live quietly in New England with my family, where I have just found the right dog to defend the new apple trees from the local whitetail deer population.