Today I am interviewing Jenn Lyons, author of the new fantasy novel, The Ruin of Kings, first book in the A Chorus of Dragons series.
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DJ: Hi Jenn! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Jenn Lyons: You’re quite welcome. It’s a pleasure to talk to you! I suppose I could start by pointing out that I am coming to this whole writing business quite late: I was a graphic artist and illustrator for twenty years, worked in video games for another ten, and now here I am. (Add that all up and you’ll start to see I may not be a millenial.) Also–and this is important–I can’t make jello.
DJ: What is The Ruin of Kings about?
Jenn: It’s about a young man—adopted, poor—who daydreams he’ll find out that he’s a long-lost prince, which will naturally solve all his problems. Except when it happens, it’s horrible. It turns out that ‘rich’ and ‘nice’ aren’t synonyms, his new family is cruel, and he’s replaced his old problems with a whole new list of much more dangerous problems. He finds himself caught up in schemes and machinations of some astonishingly evil and powerful beings, who all want to use him to their own ends.
DJ: What were some of your influences The Ruin of Kings and the series?
Jenn: I was influenced a somewhat unusual juxtaposition of cultures. My step-father was Assyrian and so I grew up in a household with a lot of very middle-eastern food, clothing, stories, but then I also have a strong love of mythology of all sorts, particularly celtic. If you look close, I think both those influences come through very clearly in different ways. And I was a complete D&D nerd as a child–I still am–so that can’t help but have had an impact.
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?
Jenn: I think Kihrin’s quite relatable. He starts out the story as a teenage boy who resents his father’s lectures, doesn’t want to practice his lessons, and is doing what he has to in order to get by. Plus, I’m so terrible to Kihrin. Really, I’ve given him a just awful set of circumstances, and keep politely helping him leap into ever hotter water. What I love about Kihrin though, and what I hope readers will love about him as well, is that even if he’s cynically aware of the hypocrisy of his elders, he’s never lost his determination to make things better. He often fails, but he has a very heroic soul, which is sort of a problem since so many people, including destiny itself, seem determined to make him the villain.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role for in story? Why
Jenn: Oh I have a lot of those, but I’m going to say Tyentso, even though she’s not a small side character. Why? Because she started out life as a small side character. She just refused to stay there, and I think the book is much richer for that fact.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the A Chorus of Dragons series like?
Jenn: The world itself is large and contains multitudes, but the main setting of The Ruin of Kings is the the imperial capital of the empire of Quur, which is a tropical climate. The empire is ‘technically’ ruled by an emperor but the real power lies with a council elected by a group of oligarchs who call themselves the royal families. And the royal families are mostly interested in consolidating more wealth and power by whatever means necessary. They’ve corporatized and monopolized magic, treating it as a commodity the same way we might treat intellectual property rights. Except if you infringe on their areas of control, the Royal Houses don’t sue you, they arrest you for being a witch.
And they kill witches.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Ruin of Kings?
Jenn: The worldbuilding. I just adore getting into the nuts and bolts of how a society functions, how the magic system works, who has power and who doesn’t, and why.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Jenn: Without giving away any spoilers, I’m often asked about the fate of certain characters. So I expect a lot of discussion about that regard. Whenever someone compares The Ruin of Kings to A Game of Thrones, I know they’re referring to the body count.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the A Chorus of Dragons series? The Ruin of Kings 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?
Jenn: I did, in that I really wanted to take a hard look at the idea of fate, prophecy, and the Chosen One trope in high fantasy. What came later was an ongoing discussion about agency and consent, which, now that I think about it, was a pretty obvious evolution. I suspect those will continue to be important themes as I move forward.
Also, I wanted an excuse to write about really big dragons.
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 Ruin of Kings that you can share with us?
Jenn: I’ve always loved the quote that starts out the first chapter:
When they brought me up to the auction block, I looked out over the crowd and thought: I would kill you all if I had a knife.
And if I wasn’t naked, I amended.
Or this one:
“I don’t want to be your hero. Those stories never end well. The peasant boy done good slays the monster, wins the princess, and only then finds out he’s married to a stuck-up spoiled brat who thinks she’s better than him. Or he gets so wrapped up in his own majesty that he raises taxes to put up gold statues of himself while his people starve. The chosen ones—like Emperor Kandor—end up rotting and dead on the Manol Jungle floor, stuck full of vané arrows. No thanks.”
DJ: Now that The Ruin of Kings is released, what is next for you?
Jenn: The third book! (The second book is in production right now.) And once I finish the third book, it’s on to book four. I’m running a pretty tight schedule, so my plan is to be finished with the series (which will be five books in total) by next year.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Website & Order information: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250175489
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Ruin of Kings and the A Chorus of Dragons series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Jenn: That it’s not set in medieval Europe. That really seems to throw people, because medieval Europe is the assumed default for so much epic fantasy, but I intentionally shied away from that.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Jenn: Just what an amazing privilege this has been, the whole process. I’ve been absolutely floored by all the support and excitement of readers about my book. I wasn’t at all prepared. I am honored though, and I am really looking forward to sharing this story with them.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** The Ruin of Kings is published by Tor Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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There are the old stories. And then there’s what actually happens.
Kihrin is a bastard orphan who grew up on storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests. When he is claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn’t what the storybooks promised.
Far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He also discovers that the storybooks have lied about a lot of other things things, too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love, and how the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe he’s not the hero, for Kihrin isn’t destined to save the empire.
He’s destined to destroy it . . .
About the Author:
Jenn Lyons’ childhood was spent in the safe havens of local libraries and bookstores, where even as her artistic talents began to develop she continued to nurture her love of science-fiction, fantasy, and noir detective stories. Being pale, not a friend of sunlight, and not much of a morning person, she set her sights on a career that would allow her to stay indoors or work at night (her favorite career pick was ‘cat burglar’) but she was devastated when she discovered that she would not, in fact, ever be able to marry Batman. Older but wiser, she turned from the life of a jewel thief to tackle a career as a graphic artist and illustrator, spending the next 20 years working in print media and advertising. The girl with too many hobbies (a list that included video games, table-top RPGs, LARPing, comic books, and costume design.) Jenn was irresistibly drawn to
making things up storytelling.
After making a dramatic shift in careers from graphic artist to video game producer, Jenn Lyons began to seriously dedicate herself to writing.
Her debut epic fantasy novel, The Ruin of Kings, is scheduled for release from Tor Books on February 5, 2019. The second book, The Name of All Things, drops October 29, 2019.
Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, Michael Lyons (who is also a writer — and may or may not be Batman,) a bunch of cats, and a whole lot of coffee.