Today I am interviewing B.K. Bass, author of the new fantasy novella, Warriors of Understone.
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DJ: Hi B.K.! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
B.K. Bass: Sure thing, and thank you for having me! I’m an author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. So far I’ve published five novellas and an anthology including four books in a dark fantasy series called The Ravencrest Chronicles; Night Shift, the first book in a cyberpunk trilogy called The Night Trilogy, and most recently Warriors of Understone, the first book in The Tales of Durgan Stoutheart. I’m also one of the owners and the Acquisitions Director for Kyanite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Kyanite Press journal of speculative fiction.
DJ: What is Warriors of Understone about?
B.K.: Warriors of Understone is the story of a dwarven craftsman named Durgan who is trapped in his role by the confines of a strict caste-based society. When he is given an opportunity to change his station in life, he must fight not only to become a warrior but to overcome social prejudices. He finds himself in the middle of a political battle between two rival factions, tormented by his new peers, and dismissed by the daughter of his thane – who he finds himself attracted to. He struggles to prove himself, and in the process works to prove that every dwarf should be judged by the merit of his worth rather than the circumstance of his birth.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Warriors of Understone?
B.K.: Definitely every fantasy story with a dwarf, from Tolkien to modern tales like the Dragon Age games – which were a huge inspiration on their own. Dwarves in fantasy almost invariably are relegated to the role of side characters, or at best mixed evenly into the bigger picture. It’s very rare to see a story that features them, so I wanted to write a book where there were only dwarves, and this is it! There’s mention of humans and elves and goblins, so the wider world has more to offer, but in this book we get to take a deep dive into dwarven culture and politics.
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?
B.K.: Readers have definitely sympathized with the main protagonist, Durgan. Like I mentioned, he’s stuck in his role as a stonecutter because that was his father’s role, and his father’s before him, and so on. Durgan wants nothing more than the opportunity to better his own station in life and to be judged for what he can contribute to society rather than just as a duster (a derogatory term for craftsmen used by the noble and warrior castes).
Dhalia, the aforementioned thane’s daughter, is another fan favorite so far. I can’t give away too much without revealing spoilers, but she has a very dramatic character arc for a side character. She is introduced as the typical model of a nobleman’s daughter: dutiful, prideful, intelligent, tactful; but she has her own internal struggle sparked by meeting Durgan.
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?
B.K.: I’ll actually turn this on its head and say that my book actually has a most hated character, and talk about him! Taslit is another warrior in the Stoutheart household, and like most of them does not accept Durgan when he is taken in by the Thane. Taslit stands out above the rest, and even though he’s a side character he takes on a proxy role for the main antagonists for the second act of the book. I wouldn’t say there’s a King Joffrey level of hate for him, but readers so far have expressed similar feelings!
DJ: What is the world and setting of Warriors of Understone like?
B.K.: That’s a potential can-of-worms question! I’m very involved in the worldbuilding behind my books – some may say I have worldbuilder’s syndrome – so there’s a lot I could discuss.
In short, the wider world of Warriors of Understone (Barados) has a relatively typical medieval fantasy set-up. There will be some twists to the tropes, but I still have some work to do before I reveal much beyond the kingdom under the mountains.
Within the city of Understone, however, I’ve been praised for the level of detail and thought behind the worldbuilding. The city is thousands of years old with a history so long that many have forgotten much of it. The society is a caste-based hereditary patriarchy where one’s role is determined by the family they are born into. Warriors are considered the pinnacle of society, and all political leaders belong to this caste. There are threats outside of the city, such as wars with neighboring goblin tribes. Within the city life among the nobility is a constantly shifting landscape of political intrigue, plots, assassinations, and civil wars. The society has a codified legal system that is very strict, but allows for these intrigues to be carried out. I really could go on, but it would fill another book to describe all of it!
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Warriors of Understone?
B.K.: I really enjoyed carving out a dwarven culture in more detail than one normally sees. The real inciting factor behind writing this series was wanting to see books that centered on dwarves rather than having them as side characters. While there’s – in my opinion – a great narrative with some important social commentary, developing the society, history, and traditions of the dwarves of Understone was the most enjoyable creative experience I’ve had so far in my career!
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
B.K.: Going back to what I enjoyed the most, I think readers will be talking about the dwarven culture the most. So far, I’ve received very enthusiastic praise around this, and my readers have complimented how the city itself really comes to life. There’s a lot of small details that make it feel real, from unique architectural elements all the way down to bread being made from dried and ground fungus instead of wheat. Readers have said the city of Understone feels alive to them.
DJ: This may have skipped some reader’s attention, but Warriors of Understone is actually a novella. It seems to me that novella is gaining a rise in popularity again: what is it about the novella format that you like? Do you feel there is a particular advantage to telling your story that way over the novel?
B.K.: I love novellas, and it’s actually become my primary format – although I do have some novels in the works. I think that for the author it provides an opportunity to craft a simple narrative that can take a focused look at specific characters and concepts, while still being long enough to weave in full plot and character arcs that are often found in novels.
For the reader, I feel that in today’s busy world having a short, fast-paced read is a great opportunity. Finding the time to commit to reading novels can be difficult, and you can get a similar sense of satisfaction from a novella that isn’t quite such a commitment of time. I think people enjoy simple escapism fiction as well, especially in the current climate of constant economic and political drama, and a simpler story in a novella can provide a great platform for purely entertainment reading.
For me, personally; I have a lot of ideas, settings, and genres that I want to explore. Accomplishing all these goals in novels would take years, but with writing novellas I’ve managed so far to explore a number of them in just one year!
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Warriors of Understone? 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?
B.K.: Like I mentioned before, the original goal was to showcase a dwarven society and culture. In the process of doing this, I developed a narrative that I saw had an opportunity to become a platform for social commentary. American culture was built on the ideals of being able to accomplish anything you set your mind to; but economic, ethnic, and gender divides have always been a roadblock for many people. Warriors of Understone takes a hard look at contrasting the values of the individual being judged by the merit of their actions in a society that automatically categorizes every member based on the caste they were born into and their gender.
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 Warriors of Understone that you can share with us?
B.K.: Absolutely! There’s a lot of interesting snippets in there, but here’s a few that really stand out for me:
The clanging of the hammers was punctuated by soft humming. The workers carried a tune as old as the stone in the walls, and the hammers rang out the beat of the mournful dirge. To those of the surface world it might sound like a cacophony, but to the dwarven folk it was the song of their lives. This was the music of the stone.
“We all know – from the highest thane to the lowest craftsman – that our history is long and full of tales of bravery. These weapons, the statues downstairs, even the hall of heroes itself; they all tell tales of the honor of the clans. What many forget, however, is that they tell more than that. Each hero of the past has a story to tell, and that story is told in the stone and the steel. If you look closely enough, you can read that history. If you listen closely to our ancestors, they will tell you their stories.”
Dhalia continued, “My father has his plans, and it is my duty to fulfill my role as he sees fit. If tolerating your company is part of that plan, then I will consider it my responsibility to do so.”
“But, you don’t want to tolerate my company?”
She turned and looked down the hall, her back to him. Without turning, she said, “I don’t have to want. I simply have to obey.”
DJ: Now that Warriors of Understone is released, what is next for you?
B.K.: Right now I’m working on finishing up Parting the Veil, the first novella in a new series called Beyond the Veil. This is an archaeological adventure / cosmic horror series that starts in the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of WW2. In this book an American treasure hunter named Richard Jericho and a British archaeologist named Wilkins Chapman discover a strange idol in the jungles of Peru. After finding it strange and terrifying things begin to occur around them as the veil that separates our reality from a dimension of nightmares and all the creatures of myth and legend begins to unravel. They must travel across the globe seeking answers to this new mystery, running afoul of a secret society along the way that seeks to part the veil and unleash the horrors of legend upon the world.
Beyond that, I have a sequel to Warriors of Understone in the planning phases called Companions of the Stone Road. The prologue of this book actually appears at the end of Warriors of Understone, and you get a peek at life outside the city and some action involving goblins! I also have brewing: the next book in the Night Trilogy, three more novellas in The Ravencrest Chronicles, and two novelettes for a new sword and sorcery series called The Burning Sands, which is essentially going to be in the style of Conan but on a desert world.
Finally, I’ve been working on a science fiction novel called What Once Was Home, and I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo next month in the hopes of finishing it. This book will tell the story of a young man who’s world is shattered when aliens invade the earth. It progresses rapidly to the years after the invasion, and is a bit of a post-apocalyptic western that deals with themes of retaining one’s moral compass in the face of impossibly difficult decisions.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Publisher’s Website: https://kyanitepublishing.com
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07BBYMDFT
World Anvil: https://www.worldanvil.com/author/BKBass
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Warriors of Understone that we haven’t talked about yet?
B.K.: A lot of novellas are being published in eBook format only these days, but Warriors of Understone is also available as a paperback! It’s in mass market paperback size (4” x 7”), and I’ve gotten some great feedback about the quality of the printing and the presentation. Any fan of the old 1980’s fantasy books with artwork over the chapters headings will love this, and at about 150 pages it’s easy to slip into a purse or pocket to take on the go!
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
B.K.: I’d just like to let everybody know that the sequel to Warriors of Understone is shaping up and should be available later this year! Companions of the Stone Road will see Durgan leading a band of misfits and outcasts on a mission to discover the fate of a lost outpost.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
B.K.: Thank you! It was my pleasure!
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*** Warrios of Understone is published Kyanite available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
Durgan must struggle to overcome not only his common birth but also the prejudices of a stagnant and isolated society to become one of the warriors of Understone. The sprawling dwarven city lies deep beneath the mountains, at the heart of a kingdom that has not changed its ways in centuries. Plagued by threats both within and without, life is a constant struggle to survive and a furious battle is around every corner. Durgan may overcome opponents with axe and shield, but can he change the very values of his society with the same tools?
About the Author:
B.K. Bass is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror inspired by the pulp fiction magazines of the early 20th century and classic speculative fiction. He is a student of history with a particular focus on the ancient, classical, and medieval eras. He has a lifetime of experience with a specialization in business management and human relations and also served in the U.S. Army.