Today I am interviewing Stephen Zimmer, author of the new epic fantasy novel, When Shadows Fall, final book in the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy.
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DJ: Hi Stephen! Thanks for coming back to do another interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Stephen: Thank you for interviewing me! It is wonderful to be back at MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape!
For those who I haven’t met yet, I am a writer from Lexington, Kentucky who loves to explore all kinds of worlds and characters. My published writing included genres such as epic fantasy, YA dystopian, sword and sorcery, horror, steampunk, and cross-genre fiction. I currently have 16 titles in print, and 24 in eBook format.
I have a great passion for storytelling, and my path has also seen me become an editor, filmmaker, and broadcaster, and I love doing what I can to be supportive of both my readers and fellow members of the writing community.
DJ: What is When Shadows Fall and then the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy about?
Stephen: This is ultimately a Rayden Valkyrie adventure with a large story arc that comprises three books. When Shadows Fall is the final installment and it is truly a grand finale to this tale.
The story covers Rayden’s journey from a land far, far to the south of her world to the tribal lands across an ocean and to the north where she grew up after losing both of her parents in a violent manner as a child (I have not yet given full detail about this traumatic incident in Rayden’s life.)
The journey home takes a different course when she intervenes to save a young boy from being used as a sacrifice to a dark god. From there she is brought into conflict with a rising empire that is trying to suppress a slave rebellion. The story deepens and takes many twists and turns as Rayden discovers the things that are driving the Teveren Empire relentlessly toward power and conquest.
It is a harrowing adventure set in an ancient and dangerous world that pits Rayden against monstrous wilderness threats, dark supernatural entities, armies on the march, and a whole lot more. She has to put her life on the line several times to do what needs to be done to have a chance of thwarting the Teveren Imperator’s ambitions
When Shadows Fall brings everything together for a final showdown with the Imperator ruling the Teveren Empire. The third book has a grand scale to it, but Rayden has to fill many roles in this conclusion to survive and try to overcome a wide range of adversaries.
Readers will get to see it all through Rayden’’s eyes and experience her courage, compassion, kindness, strength, ferocity, and much more!
DJ: What were some of your influences for the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy?
Stephen: I can cite a wide range of influences for a story like the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy. I draw off a lot of genuine history, especially the conflicts between Rome and Carthage, the uprising of Spartacus, figures such as Boudicca, Alaric (Goth chieftain that sacked Rome), Vercingetorix, Hannibal, and many others that bravely fought against the Roman Empire, and the lore and cultures of the Germanic tribes of the ancient world.
In fiction, my influences would include the heroism reflected in Robert E. Howard tales, the depth of storytelling found in works such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels, and the gritty realism of warrior relationships found in Glen Cook’s Black company novels. Add to that some blending of horror elements influenced by writers like Clive Barker and some other things, and you have quite a mix of influences reflected in this trilogy! It really grew with the writing of it and I explored a number of new ideas that were not determined at the outset of it. At the finish, I found that I had set up the elements for a spectacular Rayden Valkyrie story that is yet to come, but we will discuss that in a future visit here! 😉
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?
Stephen: Rayden Valkyrie is the principle figure in this story, and her ability to retain a sense of compassion and kindness while confronting a very brutal and harsh world is what makes her a very compelling and inspiring character. She walks a fine line being a ferocious warrior in battle while maintaining an unwritten honor code that guides her actions in all things.
She has incurred great tragedy and suffering, and has managed to come through it without losing the ability to empathize. Rayden has also grown an open mind while travelling many diverse lands, resulting in a non-judgemental outlook that allows her to function very well in different cultures. She is a living and breathing human being who has flaws, disappointments, unfulfilled dreams and hopes, and many other elements that I know readers can find relatable when dealing with the struggles in their own lives.
The cast around Rayden in this trilogy has a lot of interesting characters, from the fatherly Annocrates, to the very fun and humorous adventurer Ammanus, the enigmatic and sagely sorcerer Dreaghen, the spirited young boy Hamilcar, the surly, glowering warrior and former slave Crassor, and the calm and resolute (and fellow female warrior) Doros whose friendship with Rayden continues to grow. I think readers will find a lot to like about many of them as they read these books.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?
Stephen: In When Shadows Fall, readers will meet a strong Teveren woman named Ingassa. I don’t want to give any big spoilers away, except to say that Ingassa was one of the characters that emerged during the writing of the novel who really drew my interest. The encounter when Rayden meets Ingassa is a powerful one in many ways, as it addresses themes of self-esteem, self-empowerment, graciousness, and many other things. I think Rayden fans are going to embrace Ingassa and become curious about what comes next for this young Teveren woman. 😉
Another favorite of mine is Ammanus, a bawdy and funny fellow who is first encountered traveling with Rayden at the beginning of Heart of a Lion. He is separated from her in that book and many readers wanted to see more of him. As I always told them, I wasn’t finished with Ammanus, and When Shadows Fall should make them quite happy, but that’s all I can say!
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy like?
Stephen: In the Rayden Valkyrie Tales and the three novels of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy, Rayden has adventures in a wide array of lands and cultures. Her world is a very diverse one that reflects our own in its range of ethnicities and cultures and I think readers will enjoy exploring them as Rayden’s story continues to grow and expand.
The overall setting is an ancient world that involves technology, architecture and forms of government that one might find in the world when Alexander the Great squared off with the Persian Empire, to give a reference. But it is not meant to be rigidly historical and there are a lot of inventive, imaginative aspects I have worked into the various lands, things encountered there, non-human populations and cultures (hint, hint!) and wilderness elements. I am confident that readers will find it to be a living, breathing, very organic world with the kind of realism that they can immerse into.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first two books of the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Stephen: Overall, the books have been very well-received, and from the feedback and notes that I have gotten from readers, I have found that they connect with Rayden for a number of different reasons, which makes me very happy as Rayden has numerous positive attributes that can each be inspirational or influential to someone. Some readers do want to know absolutely everything about Rayden’s life, but I am telling Rayden’s story gradually, so I don’t want to give everything away right now! 🙂
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing When Shadows Fall?
Stephen: My favorite part about writing this novel and the others in the trilogy is the experience of seeing the world through Rayden’s eyes. Her intensity, heart, and courage are very inspirational to me, and seeing these things reflected in her actions as the scenes unfold is a very wonderful experience for me as the storyteller.
In many ways, it is like seeing a movie through Rayden’s eyes and transcribing it for readers. I visualize everything in a vivid manner when writing and it is a real pleasure to immerse into Rayden’s world during my writing sessions.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Stephen: I think they will be wondering what lies ahead for Rayden and the group of individuals with her at the conclusion of When Shadows Fall. They will probably also be looking back at everything that happened over the course of this trilogy and find that they have been on a truly incredible adventure with Rayden.
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy? 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?
Stephen: I had the basic core idea of the story when I began, in terms of where Rayden would start her journey from, the main adversary she would be pitted against, and where the final showdown would take place (and what lay behind it all). I left plenty of room for the story to breathe and grow while writing it and that paid off in droves as all kinds of ideas rose and blossomed during the writing of each installment. I envisioned this as a story about having conviction in the things you stand for, and having the courage to take a stand, even if that means standing alone or having to face daunting odds. It is about the precious nature of freedom and the tyranny that power over authors can facilitate, whether exercised directly or in less obvious manners.
DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a series, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? The evolution of your characters?
Stephen: The core plot was in place at the beginning, in terms of a start, general path, and destination, but I always leave lots of room to develop new ideas and characters along the way. As always, many wonderful elements and characters emerged during the writing of this one, and this trilogy sets up a lot of things for the future too. The ending took on a very grand scale with the kinds of threats that emerge, which resulted in the book being larger than the first two in the trilogy, but that was necessary to bring everything together.
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 When Shadows Fall that you can share with us?
Stephen: I most certainly do and it is the one from which the title of the book itself comes!
“When shadows fall, the dominion of light reigns.” – Rayden Valkyrie
DJ: Now that When Shadows Fall is released, what is next for you?
Stephen: I am currently working on the 4th novel in the Fires in Eden series, and having a great time revisiting the world depicted in that series (a world called Ave). I do plan on finishing up a couple of Rayden Valkyrie and Ragnar Stormbringer novellas after that, before diving right into the followup to Dream of the Navigator, my YA dystopian novel released last year, and then the 5th installment in the modern day cross-genre series the Rising Dawn Saga. It is going to be a very busy year, writing-wise.
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 When Shadows Fall and the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy that we haven’t talked about yet?
Stephen: Whether you are a reader of fantasy or sword and sorcery or not, I do believe strongly that Rayden Valkyrie is a character who can resonate with a lot of individuals. I have heard this from many readers who don’t typically read fantasy novels that have enjoyed these books a lot. I encourage all kinds of readers to give Rayden Valkyrie a chance. I think they will find quite a lot to like about her.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Stephen: Thank you, DJ! I am very grateful to be here again and appreciate your time and interest!
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*** GIVEAWAY ***
– The entire Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy print editions signed by Stephen. Includes Heart of a Lion, Thunder Horizon, and When Shadows Fall.
– (3 winners selected) Signed print copy of When Shadows Fall by Stephen Zimmer.
– (2 winners selected) Full Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy in eBook format.
– (3 winners) eBook copy of When Shadows Fall (can substitute either Heart of a Lion or Thunder Horizon) plus one eBook copy of a Rayden Valkyrie Tales novella of your choice.
– (5 winners selected) A Rayden Valkyrie Tales novella of your choice in eBook format.
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***When Shadows Fall is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
When shadows fall, the dominion of light reigns.
Rayden Valkyrie and her companions enter the Imperial City, the heart of the rising Teveren Empire. Never before has her gaze taken in a city so vast, wealthy, and populous.
Sensual delights, grandiose spectacles, and the spilling of blood enthrall wealthy and poor alike. Beneath the surface, Rayden senses an undercurrent of a darker nature.
Learning everything she can of the venomous secrets lurking within the shadows, little time remains before a host of northern tribes arrives outside its walls.
Power lies within blood, and dark rituals have unlocked mysteries from the depths of the abyss.
Legions are on the march, a storm is about to unleash, and a dark sun will soon rise.
When Shadows Fall, the conclusion of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.
About the Author:
Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk), and the Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian/Cross-Genre).
Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.
Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.
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