Today I am interviewing Eyal Kless, author of the new science-fiction novel, The Lost Puzzler, first book in The Tarakan Chronicles.
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DJ: Hi Eyal! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Eyal Kless: I am a performing classical violinist and a teacher (currently teaching violin in Tel Aviv University). The fact that I can now add the title ‘Author’ to my name is still mind boggling and I always hesitate when I tell it to people who ask me “what do you do for a living”
“Eh, I am a violinist… and an author”
The usually response is” wow, how interesting and exciting, but what do you do for a living?”
I am a devoted father to my four years old, I love martial arts and train MMA in a very sporadic way. I used to play D&D way too much and I still dream up new adventures in old rules.
DJ: What is The Lost Puzzler about?
Eyal: Okay, it is a reasonable enough question, but to summarize 550 pages of exciting adventures, fights, chases, mysteries and fun dialogues to several sentences is quite a challenge for me, especially since I do not want to throw in spoilers (deep breath), right:
Four generations after a Catastrophe killed most of civilization, the survivors are spread thinly around the globe. Some are reduced to “sticks and stones” other still know how to use technology but not how to produce it (like most of us today). The only way to get your hands on high-tech is to raids the ruined cities of the mysterious Tarakan empire and brave its dangers. The mercenary groups sent to those cities are called Salvationists.
In the relative safety of the City of Towers, a secondary scribe is sent on a close to impossible mission: he must locate an elusive and dangerous Salvationist mercenary, Vincha, and convince her to tell the story of Rafik, a boy-mutant who disappeared long ago. This boy, now long dead, might be the key to yet another dramatic change in human history, either bringing civilization back to the age of light or giving it one final, deadly blow.
DJ: What were some of your influences The Lost Puzzler and the series?
Eyal: I think the old Terminator movies made their mark on my young soul, back in the day. The whole idea of people merging with machines and machines merging with humans and the perks and dangers of independent AI (I call them Sentient Programs – or SP) is fascinating to me, because we are getting very close to that stage in our development, and when I began writing the Lost Puzzler, 20+ years ago (don’t worry, the sequel, Puzzler’s war, took me less time …) I did not imagine how close we are going to be in my lifetime to these issues.
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?
Eyal: Now that is my favorite question:
There are four main characters in The Lost Puzzler and several more individuals in minor, but memorable rolls but I will concentrate on the ones that I feel closest to.
The novel’s narrator is only named Twinkle Eyes. He is a secondary scribe in the Guild of Historians with a very good eyesight and a knack of getting in and out of trouble by using brain, not brawn. I love Twinkle Eyes because he is, essentially, just the normal guy in the wrong time and place, given a dangerous assignment way beyond his abilities. Somehow, he rises up to the challenge and as we meet him in the novel, he is making his way to solving a great mystery.
Vincha is by far the strongest female character in the novel and the main driving force behind the entire storyline. We meet her working in a gambling den, when she is already in her 40’s. A tough ex mercenary, called Salvationist, who used to raid a mysterious Alien city in search for technology and loot. She is not a dainty woman, rather she could floor a man with a well-aimed punch, and she can take damage too. Vincha is also an ex addict, and she lies, cheat, steal and fights with no hesitation. I love Vincha because she is an intimidating female figure. She does not take shit from anyone, period, but she is also incredibly vulnerable, hides several dark secrets and experienced the harsh side of life. Vincha and Twinkle Eyes have a very interesting relationship… I mean, she tries to kill him several times but somehow, they manage to get along…
Galinak. Like Vincha, is a retired Salvationist who works as a tour-guide/bodyguard in the city’s most notorious ward, The Pit. Galinak’s age has not diminished his sense of adventure or juvenile attitude. When Vincha fights as a survivalist, Galinak sees it as an art form. He is hired by the novel’s narrator, Twinkle eyes, to act as a bodyguard but soon they become friends.
I gave Galinak some of the best one liner, and the audio book artist (whom I never talked to) gave him a perfect Scottish accent.
Rafik is a Puzzler, or a Key, and he is the key to many mysteries: what happened to the world? Why did the Catastrophe happen? Why is Rafik so important to civilization? Why are there mutants and Puzzlers? Who are these mysterious Tarkanians? These questions and others are answered through Rafik, but he is also just a 13 years old boy whose life shutters completely when his mutations appear. Think what would happen to a defenseless boy who has something many people and organizations either fear or desperately want…
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in story? Why?
Eyal: Oooh, that’s a hard one, because I peppered The Lost Puzzler with several side characters I would have loved to have a drink with, so I am torn between Dominique, a bar owner who knows how to handle tough clientele, commander Doro of the Keenan Salvationist crew and Jakov, a ruthless weapon merchant who is part man – part metal, (okay, I might not want to have a drink with him…).
One of the most memorable scenes in the novel, the one I get the most comments on, is the SuperTruck chase chapters. Captain Sam is the SuperTruck driver and so I guess the title of favorite side character should go to him.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Tarakan Chronicles like?
Eyal: It is our world, but it is very different. Only 5% of the population survived the Catastrophe and by the time the novel’s story is playing out it is the 4th generation. Society, if you could indeed call what is left by that name, is very different even from one geographical region to the other. Some cling to religion, others blame those who are not themselves. Some people attach Tarakan augmentations to their bodies while others see them as abominations who must be destroyed. People banded together in order to survive. There are tribes, and hamlets, even town and a few cities, but they also fight for meagre resources and technology. In the world that is left there are Kings, oil Barons, gangs, pirates, merchant guilds, truckers, mercenaries and tattooed mutants. Who could ask for anything more?
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Lost Puzzler?
Eyal: My absolute favorite moments are writing and playing out the dialogues. I know where I begin with a dialogue but I never know where it would take me. This is the moment the characters controll me, and not the other way around. Many times I wanted a scene to go somewhere but I heard Vincha’s voice warning me, “there’s no way I am saying that line, mister” or Twinkle Eyes whispering in my ear “I should really ask that question before we move on.”
(I am going to stop now, before the men in the white coats arrive….)
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Eyal: Probably the SuperTruck scene, at least according to my experience, but I hope they would see the deeper meaning of the novel. I asked myself many times ‘what would you do under these circumstances’ and I still have no idea.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began The Tarakan Chronicles? The Lost Puzzler 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?
Eyal: I partly answered this in the last question but there is more to add:
First of all, I want the readers to have fun reading The Lost Puzzler and Puzzler’s War because I had an absolute blast writing it. It was the most fun I had in my life. I want them to be satisfied with what is revealed in the end of the first novel and intrigued about the very few points I leave ambiguous. I am now editing the sequel, Puzzler’s War, and although a third novel is a possibility (it was a two-book deal with Harper Voyager), I am tying loose ends and making sure all questions are answered (okay, most questions…).
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 Lost Puzzler that you can share with us?
Eyal: Most of my quotes are only funny or memorable when connected to a full dialogue and storyline but here are some I managed to fish out as a ‘standalone’:
Galinak, (facing a foe): “we could dance for a bit but I’ll only stop if you ask nicely”
Vincha (holding a knife to Twinkle Eye’s throat) “I can cut your throat, or I can take out an eye”
And my personal favorite, Twinkle Eyes: “Perhaps the Catastrophe was meant to clean the slate and start humanity over, but we managed to screw up even our own destruction.”
DJ: Now that The Lost Puzzler is released, what is next for you?
Eyal: I am working hard on the sequel. To be honest, I wrote The Lost Puzzler as a stand alone novel and when Harper Collins asked for two books I was as terrified as I was delighted. But working on the second novel as I was editing the first was a real blessing. I was in a position to change things in The Lost Puzzler, add hooks and expand the story even further. I do not know if there are going to be ‘fans’ of The Lost Puzzler (I sure hope so…), but I definitely think now that they are not going to be disappointed with Puzzler’s War. I am really hoping readers would throw ideas at me for further stories in the Tarakan Chronicles. Maybe there would be ideas I could develop further.
Other than that, there are a few other possibilities: Hiding somewhere in my files is a novel even older than The Lost Puzzler. It is a story in a fantasy setting which deals with music and magic. In a world where magic is forbidden, only sound spells is still accepted, but it holds more secrets and dangers than just entertainment…
The novel had been long forgotten but now I can hear it calling me back…
I am also toying with a fantasy adventure novel about a goblin private eye called Grooch, who ends up adventuring with a ninja Weresheep, a substance abuser imp, a feminist succubus and a pacifist fallen Paladin… hey, who said the Bad Guys have all the fun?
And wouldn’t a Jewish Rabi Vampire Slayer roaming the streets of Brooklyn be a fun thing to write about?
Let me know which one you would like me to work on…
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Eyal: I actually only found out about this when I was writing the sequel, Puzzler’s War, so even I was not aware that this was a “thing” in the Tarakan Chronicles: There is an undercurrent theme in The Lost Puzzler which is about love. Not romantic love between characters but love of a parent to his/her child. Usually we think about parental love as a good and pure thing, but it also might have a darker side. Ask any parent (or yourselves) what would they do for the safety of their child and the answer would most likely be “everything and anything”. This is a natural reaction of a loving parent, but it can also have immoral consequences, as in the case of The Lost Puzzler. This ‘Easter egg’ idea/thread is not apparent but I think any parent would easily find it.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Eyal: A real pleasure!
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*** The Lost Puzzler is published by Harper Voyager and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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A brilliantly written, page-turning, post-dystopian debut from Eyal Kless, about a society hoping to salvage the technology of a lost generation, a mysterious missing boy who can open doors no one else can, and a scribe who must piece together the past to determine humanity’s future.
More than a hundred years have passed since the Catastrophe brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Those who survived are changed. The Wildeners have reverted to the old ways—but with new Gods—while others place their faith in the technology that once powered their lost civilization.
In the mysterious City of Towers, the center of the destroyed Tarakan empire, a lowly scribe of the Guild of Historians is charged with a dangerous assignment. He must venture into the wilds beyond the glass and steel towers to discover the fate of a child who mysteriously disappeared more than a decade before. Born of a rare breed of marked people, the child, Rafik—known as “The Key”—was one of a special few with the power to restore this lost civilization to glory once again.
In a world riven by fear and violence, where tattooed mutants, manic truckers, warring guilds and greedy mercenaries battle for survival, this one boy may have singlehandedly destroyed humanity’s only chance for salvation—unless the scribe can figure out what happened to him.
About the Author:
Eyal Kless is a classical violinist who enjoys an international career both as a performer and a teacher. Born in Israel, Eyal has travelled the world extensively, living several years in Dublin, London, Manchester, and Vienna, before returning to Tel Aviv. His first novel, Rocca’s Violin, was published in Hebrew in 2008 by Korim Publishers. Eyal currently teaches violin in the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, and performs with the Israel Haydn String Quartet, which he founded.