Today I am interviewing Brian Lee Durfee, author of the new epic fantasy novel, The Blackest Heart, second book in the Five Warrior Angels series.
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DJ: Hi Brian! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Brian: Thanks for inviting me back! I am an artist and writer who was raised in Fairbanks Alaska and Monroe Utah. I currently live in Salt Lake City. As for the art; I’ve done illustrations for Wizards of the Coast, Tolkien Enterprises, Dungeons & Dragons, and many more. My art has been featured in SPECTRUM: Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art #3 and Writers of the Future Vol 9. I won the Arts for the Parks Grand Canyon Award and the painting is in the permanent collection of the Grand Canyon Visitors Center-Kolb Gallery. I am also the author of the fantasy series The Five Warrior Angels published by Simon & Schuster’s SAGA Press. I think after writing, reading, painting, and watching the Oakland Raiders (I am a huge football fan), travel would be my next favorite passion. Hong Kong was a favorite of mine. Alaska. Switzerland. Austria. Scotland. England. Northern Italy blew me away—its like stepping onto another planet. On a side note, I still work in Law Enforcement for my day job. I actually put together the first-ever-in the-history-of-the-world Comic Con inside a prison. Me and James Dashner (author of the maze Runner) put together a program for the inmates at the Utah State Prison which included, writing classes, watching the Maze Runner movies, panels on writing and publishing and other creative endeavors, plus I gathered many book donations for the prison’s 6 libraries (we got thousands of books & comics donated btw).
DJ: What is The Blackest Heart and then the Five Warrior Angels series about?
Brian: The Blackest Heart (bk#2 of The Five Warrior Angels) blends the best of all the quest/adventure fantasy series you’ve read, Lord of the Rings, Sword of Shannara, The Belgariad, Dragonlance, etc with all the great political-court-intrigue/assassination-plot type fantasies of George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Steven Erikson etc. I really strove to make The Blackest Heart the best book it could be. The Forgetting moon set up the story, The Blackest Heart is where we start to get huge payoff scenes. In a nutshell, Blackest Hear is chuck-full of scenes I envisioned as a kid when I was dreaming of being a writer. The Forgetting Moon was really just a set-up novel so I could have an excuse to place all those cool scenes into the story. Another thing, as an adopted child, I was always drawn to the quest tales of orphans and bastards. I loved Luke Skywalker as a kid, and I love the old worn out trope of the orphan farm boy with a destiny. But In both Forgetting Moon and more so in Blackest Heart I really start to subvert that trop big time in a lot of wild and strange ways. I subvert the trope right up until the very last page of the very last book and I hope readers enjoy all the twists and turns. Another thing, as a kid I dreamed up a scene where armored knights battled great white sharks. I researched oceans tides, horses, and sharks and came up with a seriously legit way to pull that scene off near the end of Blackest Heart and I think its AWESOME! Thing is, is I write vivid, detailed action scenes, and I promise the reader not one word is wasted. It all means something in the end, even that boring description of a forest orr cathedral holds clues to the mystery.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the Five Warrior Angels series?
Brian: When was young I read the Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. It was the first novel I ever purchased with my own money and read for enjoyment. About 85 pages in I knew I wanted to write a fantasy series of my own someday. In fact, there was a line of dialogue somewhere between pg 80-90 of The Sword of Shannara that inspired the overall theme of The Five Warrior Angels. My second inspiration was Tad Williams. When I started reading The Dragonbone Chair I really began to learn the use of language and how words could fit together to create real art on the page. Lonesome Dove is the perfect novel. I try and emulate that 4 book western series as much as I can. In fact I think of the Five Warrior Angels as an epic western adventure, just with swords rather than pistols. I also love the grand epic movies of the 1990s like Braveheart, Dances With Wolves, Gladiator, The Unforgiven, Last Of The Mohicans, Saving Private Ryan—I really try and write on an epic-cinematic scale like I see in those films. I think The Revenant came close to that more recently. Stuff like that inspires me.
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?
Brian: Nail, Gault, Liz Hen, Spades, and the dog Beer Mug are my favorites. And I am speaking here of things that happen in both The Forgetting Moon and The Blackest Heart. Nail reminds me a lot of myself at seventeen. Gault is a war-weary knight (due to my eleven years in law enforcement my older self relates to him). Liz Hen, as a character, is annoying as hell (which is fun to write) but she really starts to redeem herself near the end of book two. Spades is just a purely evil killer and fun to write. And I like to give all the real heroic scenes to the dog Beer Mug
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?
Brian: Shawcroft is a side character that readers were really drawn to in The Forgetting Moon. He is Nail’s master and only in about a few chapters but everyone really dug him…which was surprising to me. The dog Beer Mug gets a huge response from fans too. In book two The Blackest Heart there is a blood-sucking oghul named Cromm (who is in only three chapters) who readers really like. Readers are also really stoked about a new assassin I introduce in Blackest heart. It’s Gault Aulbrek’s daughter Krista…and she is badass.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Five Warrior Angels series like?
Brian: It’s a straight European Medieval world consisting of Five Isles, each about the size of England/Scotland combined with the landscape of say the Scottish Highlands mixed with the Alaskan Range or the Alps. Its very northern latitude so snowy and cold a lot, its got glaciers, rivers, whaling ships, mermaids, orcs, elves, dwarves, humans and some very bad badies names Skulls. Each of the Five Isles has its own unique spin on religion and government. But mostly it’s a feudal system dominated by the patriarchy (which leads to some really great scenes later on in Blackest Heart where the female characters really get to shine and show what they are truly made of and dish out some serious whoop ass.). The technologies don’t go beyond horses and swords, though the elves do talk of the ‘science from the stars’. The religions are loosely based on Born Again Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Fundamental Mormonism, etc etc. And the Five Isles are a very war-torn place.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first book of the Five Warrior Angels series? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Brian: Readers enjoy the depth of the plot-line. One reviewer said that about halfway through The Blackest Heart he began to realize just how intricate the plotting and pacing was throughout bks 1 and 2 (much like Martin’s Game of Thrones). Other reviewers are just taken with the various characters. There is a rather large cast, but I have yet to find a reader who could not keep everyone straight.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Blackest Heart?
Brian: Just knowing that I am writing the exact type of fantasy novel that I myself would love to read. To all readers, I promise non-stop heart-pounding adventure. The whole series is gonna thrill readers, then break their hearts, then make them go WTF JUST HAPPENED! But all in a good way. Like I said I love the long epic films like Braveheart, Gladiator, Dances With Wolves, and long epic novels like Lonesome Dove, Shogun, The Stand, Pillars of the Earth, Game of Thrones, Eye of the World, etc. As for The Five Warrior Angels; my goal was to write large, bold, epic, in-your-face fantasy novels in the mold of George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson but with the literary dash of Pat Rothfuss and Tad Williams and a mix of quest adventure similar to Robert Jordan or The Fellowship of the Ring. With the Five Warrior Angels, I just want to do my utmost to create something that could compete in the same league as those classics. I want to write a fantasy full of great characters and non-stop adventure that also says something about the dangers of war, religion, prophecy, faith, and fanaticism
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Brian: I think they are gonna say, “Those books were INTENSE!”
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing Five Warrior Angels 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?
Brian: See above, I just want to do my utmost to create something that could compete in the same league as those classics. I want to write a fantasy full of great characters and non-stop adventure that also says something about the dangers of war, religion, prophecy, faith, and fanaticism
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 Blackest Heart that you can share with us?
Brian: Beware of faith.
DJ: Now that The Blackest Heart is released, what is next for you?
Brian: I am about done writing bk#3 The Lonesome Crown
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Blackest Heart and the Five Warrior Angels series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Brian: I really think readers will enjoy the books. That’s about it.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Brian: Thanks you!!
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*** The Blackest Heart is published by Saga Press and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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Gladiator. Assassin. Thief. Princess. And the Slave. The Five Warrior Angels have been revealed, one by one the mystical weapons they once wielded are being found, and an ancient prophecy is finally being fulfilled.
Or is it? For when it comes to recorded history, much is intended to manipulate and deceive.
Returning to the kingdom of Gul Kana, Princess Jondralyn has suffered a devastating loss, discovering that not all prophecy is to be assumed, not all scripture to be trusted. At the same time, her younger sister, Tala, has found faith within herself while facing off against villains, who are using her for their devices.
Hawkwood, the former Bloodwood Assassin, is captured. And the knight, Gault, betrayed by the Angel Prince, can only wonder of the fate of his daughter who has fallen into terrible hands.
All while Nail embarks upon the deadliest quest the Five Isles has ever known.
About the Author:
Brian Lee Durfee is an artist and writer raised in Fairbanks Alaska and Monroe Utah. He has done illustrations for Wizards of the Coast, Tolkien Enterprises, Dungeons & Dragons, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust (Denali National Park) and many more.
His art has been featured in SPECTRUM: Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art #3 and Writers of the Future Vol 9. He won the Arts for the Parks Grand Canyon Award and has a painting in the permanent collection of the Grand Canyon Visitors Center-Kolb Gallery.
Brian is the author of the fantasy series Five Warrior Angels. He lives in Salt Lake City.