Today I am interviewing Steve Rogers, author of the new epic fantasy novel, City of Shards, first book in the Spellgiver series.
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DJ: Hi Steve! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Steve: Thanks for the opportunity!
I have been writing most of my adult life in various capacities, but “City of Shards” and “In the Claws of the Indigen” (books 1 and 2 of Spellgiver) are my debut novels. They have been seen by an army of beta readers, as I always wanted to make them shine before I released them into the wild. I stopped work on the novels for some time in order to write short stories, and many of those have been published in on-line magazines and anthologies (my last submitted short story “Canvas Tears” will be published in May in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly).
Last year, after permanently leaving the short story world, hiring another round of beta readers and a professional cover artist/editor, I finished both books—“City of Shards” and “In the Claws of the Indigen”. The first is on pre-order at Amazon, and the second will be available for pre-order in early April.
DJ: What is City of Shards about?
Steve: At the center of the story is Larin, a boy from a violent neighborhood who suffers horrible outbursts that cause him to shout meaningless words at random. These uncontrollable spasms have turned him into a pariah in the gang-ridden Wormpile district, where his only protection comes from his drug-addicted uncle, a man with a mysterious past who’s better with a sword than most people are with a fork.
Larin eventually learns that his outbursts have marked him as servant to an ancient evil, one that is in permanent war with the Six-Legged Gods. So, when clergy of the Six-Legged Gods erect their temple in a neighboring district, things go from bad to worse. Those priests busy themselves with good deeds and cry for social justice, gaining the people’s trust while rousing them against the throne. But Larin suspects that those fiery speeches mask a hidden agenda, and he soon finds one dismaying fact: As bad as Larin’s Master is, Larin will either follow that monstrosity or watch the city slide into an even darker abyss.
City of Shards is a much wider book than this. It starts narrowly focused, and expands to describe an entire continent seething with conflict. If I had to put these books into a nutshell, I would say that Spellgiver is a story of redemption. Redemption for an outcast boy coming into burgeoning power, who has to choose a third path between two evils. Redemption for an alcoholic priestess, who finds love amid endless war. And redemption for a scaly, six-limbed general who fights his gods and his people to live alongside the two-armed creatures who have invaded his world.
DJ: What were some of your influences City of Shards and the series?
Steve: When I began writing this series, I wanted a world where the creatures were unique (not pulled from Tolkien or mythology), and who had evolved based on the unique characteristics of the land. I wanted a magic system that had a historical basis, and internal consistency that influenced the culture. I wanted a clash between native and new, alien and human. And I wanted not just good vs evil, but the hard choices that come from picking a path between two evils.
For all that, I guess you could say life was my influence. In this story, there are elements of the conqueror vs conquered, social ideology twisted beyond all recognition, good intentions gone awry, and people whose problems get in the way of success. All of those I see in the world around me, and they’ve found their way (in greater or lesser amount) into the Spellgiver series.
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?
Steve: My main characters are Larin, Akul (Larin’s drug-addicted warrior uncle), Trana (an alcoholic priestess), Laniette (a sharp-mouthed noble wizardress who regards the neighborhood and its denizens as rubbish), and Candro (Larin’s only friend his own age). Larin’s demeanor alternates between the smart-ass behavior of most teenagers and morbid resignation at his situation. Larin’s relationship with Trana is complex, because Trana’s has felt like a mother to him since he was a tyke. But as becomes clear who Larin serves, she has to make a decision between her affection for Larin and her own faith—which calls for her to immediately arrest him.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Spellgiver series like?
Steve: It is a world of contrasts. First, the name Spellgiver comes from the local name for the moon, which has a high and a low season. At Apex day, the moon is close, and very large in the sky. At Nadir, it is little more than a pinprick. All magic is influenced by the moon, and at Apex, magical power is at its peak, while at Nadir, it is tiny, unusable except by the most powerful of wizards. The gods are split into a triangle of enmity: The Human gods at one corner, the Six-Legged Gods (sometimes called Eldegod) at another corner, and Demons at the third corner. All three hate each other, and their followers have formed the religions of the land.
In the world of Spellgiver, there are two classes of creatures: the four-legged familiar kind (dogs, goats, people, etc), and the six-legged “indigen”. Indigen creatures have very odd characteristics, and evolved in a land where the moon’s phases affect everything. The six-legged gods are considered the “indigen” gods, though many people worship them too. It is the battle between the indigen and humanity which forms the core conflict of Spellgiver—even if that battle is told at many different layers.
DJ: Could you tell us about your magic system?
Steve: The magic system derives entirely from an ancient indigen race called “Carvers”, for the strange carvings that have been found in places like the Shernock swamps. The Carvers are an extinct group of beings that once ruled the world, and who wrote their language onto isolated obelisks. But very little else is known about them—the only thing that remains from those strange creatures is their Lyrashi language, which is the foundation of magic.
In Spellgiver, almost everyone can wield magic to some degree. This impacts the culture, because most people know the common spells, and use them for a variety of mundane tasks. But most people can’t accomplish anything with magic outside of the four weeks around Apex.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing City of Shards?
Steve: I loved putting myself in the role of Larin. He’s a messed up young man, yet he muddles through and refuses to be bullied. I also loved putting myself in the role of Kemharak, a tragic character who must fight against the biases of his people and the power of his own priestly caste in order to win freedom for his tribe. In general, I most enjoyed writing the emotionally powerful scenes, because it’s at those times that the story feels the most real.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Steve: I hope everything! I’ve tried to create a world rich in detail, rich in emotion, and rich in conflict. If readers are thinking about it two days after finishing it, then I will be happy.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Spellgiver series? City of Shards 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?
Steve: There is definitely a theme, and it is redemption. It is about yanking apart the old chains and walking into the sunlight.
There are probably many secondary themes, but one is to beware of slick words and smooth arguments uttered by those with secondary motives. Be wary when someone preaches social justice but advocates questionable means to get there.
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 City of Shards that you can share with us?
Steve: I have these epigraphs above each chapter, which provide historical quotes from the Spellgiver world, information from reference books in Spellgiver, and others. This one is above the very first chapter. I think this small snippet encapsulates a sense of what is coming:
“Before the Darkness came to be
The land was quiet, its people free.
Our counsel kept, we helped our own
Rule of law upon every stone,
Then whisked away, that faery dream,
Gushed away like a dwindling stream.
For when it rose, it told our fate,
Our horror seen, but far too late.”
—Bard’s Song “Advent of the Darkness.” Origin unknown
DJ: Now that City of Shards is released, what is next for you?
Steve: The second book in the series “In the Claws of the Indigen” is completely done, has just finished final edit, and has cover art. It will be put on pre-order on Amazon April 1, with a final release in the May timeframe.
I am now working on the third book “Secrets of the Land”, which is about 40% done. I also have a (finished) novella set in the Spellgiver world called “Mountain Witch” which I will put on Amazon probably in the May timeline. I’ll have short story anthologies up in the next six months also, to highlight my published shorts.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/steverodgers
Author Newsletter: You can sign up for my author newsletter here: https://www.steverodgersauthor.com/
Facebook: Steve Rodgers
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about City of Shards and the Spellgiver series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Steve: That is is a story written with as much heart as I could provide. There is strong evil in this book—some of it pure, and some of it rising from a burning need for freedom. But there are also various shades of good, and tragic situations that pit two well-meaning forces against each other. I hope that no one character has all the answers in this tale.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Steve: There are some fundamental mysteries that are explored further in Book 3. The essential push-pull between the four-legged creatures and the six-legged indigen will come to a head there, and much will be revealed.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Steve: Thanks for the opportunity!
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*** City of Shards is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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In the Wormpile district, gangs rule the streets, unwashed urchins assail each other with minor magic, and the people boil under the sway of a monstrous god. Deep within those decaying alleyways, the boy Larin shouts his tourette-like outbursts at random, explosions that have turned him into a pariah throughout the neighborhood. And while he’s protected from the gangs by his drug-addicted uncle Akul—a warrior with a mysterious past and the emotional range of granite—none of that will restore his social life.
But soon, Larin finds he has bigger problems. For the source of his outbursts is the malevolent being Haraf, Lord of Demons, enemy to the Six-Legged Gods. Now that priests of the Six-Legged Gods have begun creeping through the Wormpile, masking their terrifying agenda with calls for social justice, it’s only a matter of time before things spiral out of control. As Larin and his uncle find themselves surrounded by enemies, their only hope is to join forces with a perpetually drunk warrior-priestess and a high-born wizardress, who must hold her nose to work with the street-rabble she despises. And Larin will either follow his master Haraf, or watch his city plunge into a far more insidious darkness—one so great, it will turn mankind’s soul to ash.
Steve Rodgers has been reading science fiction since he was old enough to carry a stack of hard-bound books out of the central library. He’s been writing all his life, including a novel started when he was 18.
In his adult life, Steve is a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction whose short stories have appeared in Deepwood Publishing’s “Ruined Cities” anthology, Cosmic Vegetable’s “Anthology of Humorous SF”, Longcount Press’s “Songs of the Great Cycle (Mesoamerican Fantasy)”, and “Dysfunctional Family: An Anthology”, all for sale on Amazon. His short fiction has also appeared in several on-line magazines, such as Perihelion (www.perihelionsf.com), Stupefying Stories (www.stupefyingstories.blogspot.com), Black Denim Lit (www.bdlit.com), Electric Spec (www.electricspec.com), Newmyths (www.newmyths.com), and many others. Steve has won several honorable mentions and silver honorable mentions from the prestigious Writers of the Future contest, and has attended the Viable Paradise science fiction writing workshop. He is currently working on a Fantasy novel duology “Spellgiver”, which will be out in 2016.
Steve Rodgers lives in Southern California with his wife and dog. You can find out more about him at his author website: http://www.steverodgersauthor.com