Today I am interviewing Devin Madson, author of the new fantasy novel, We Ride the Storm, first book in The Reborn Empire series.
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DJ: Hi Devin! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Devin Madson: : I’m an Australian epic fantasy author… as in I’m from Australia not that I write epic fantasy about Australia. Honestly, I don’t think I could out-fantasy the animals we already have here. I self-published my first book in 2013 and was picked up by Orbit in 2019, I work a stupidly obsessive amount, love video games but never have time to play, love plants but never have time to garden, love doing jigsaws but… well, you get the idea.
DJ: What is We Ride the Storm about?
Devin: We Ride the Storm is the story of an empire built by war being brought down by war, crushed beneath its history of division and inherited hurts. We follow three different point-of-view characters, one from each of the three cultures clashing here. A snarky assassin with a voice in her head she can’t escape, an honourable warrior trying to hold on to his tenets while being forced to fight in a foreign war, and an ambitious princess who wants to rule the empire in her own right whatever the cost. There’s a lot of intrigue, tense battles, trippy necromancy, respectful head severing, tea, and my favourite of all – disaster humans.
DJ: What were some of your influences We Ride the Storm and the series?
Devin: We Ride the Storm is the continuation of a generational story I started in my novella, In Shadows We Fall, and then continued on through The Vengeance Trilogy (also being re-released by Orbit and will be available early August). So while I deliberately wrote them to be read in any order, it means there wasn’t as much unique inspiration for this story. When I first started writing in this world, the story I wanted to tell informed much of the world building, but now the world and its history informs the stories I want to tell.
The world itself has lots of inspirational sources as it’s been growing slowly in my mind and in my books, trunked and finished, for more than ten years. The magic system came from listening to my aunt talk about the past lives she’d been regressed through, a lot of the world history is inspired by little bits of our own history, and the whole Levanti culture was born from the original first line of the book because I’m that much of a pantser.
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?
Devin: We Ride the Storm has three first-person point-of-view characters. We’re first introduced to Miko, she’s an imperial princess but isn’t the blood daughter of the emperor, rather the illegitimate child of the empress and everyone knows it. She’s had to deal with assassination attempts all her life and despite the constant danger of her position, she wants to rule the empire in her own right. Her biological father was a famed archer and though she never knew him, she has followed in his footsteps to become exceptionally skilled with a bow.
Rah is an exiled warrior from across the Eye Sea. He is always trying to do the best for the people exiled with him, but when they are forced to fight in a war not of their making it becomes increasingly difficult. Some of my friends have nicknamed him Rahbrador because he’s like a Labrador, sweet and loyal and desperately trying to do the right thing.
Last POV you meet is Cassandra. She’s an assassin with a voice in her head that she really hates. They have snarky conversations. She cares about no one. She just wants to get rid of the voice and get on with hating people. Sadly, it’s not going to be that easy.
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?
Devin: GIDEON! The leader of the exiled Levanti warriors. He wasn’t my favourite when I first wrote the original self-published version, but after the changes I made during the Orbit editorial, he is absolutely one of my favourites I’ve ever written now. He is all sorts of flawed and driven and optimistic and opportunistic and not ashamed of anything he is and does and I love him. He’s also the first demisexual character I’ve written, which is nice.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Reborn Empire trilogy like?
Devin: The world is really huge. I have maps of the whole thing at different points in history as borders and cultures shift and change. So it’s all over the place really. The main setting for The Reborn Empire is the Imperial Expanse of Kisia. It’s a patriarchal society built on the idea of a god emperor. They’ve been on and off at war with neighbouring Chiltae as long as anyone can remember, as well as with the mountain tribes that border their lands, so they are a very militarized society as well, with a system where lords provide soldiers to the imperial army but it often ends with soldiers being loyal to specific lords more than their emperor.
They have humid summers and are far enough south to get snow (I’m from the southern hemisphere so by gods I was going to do it my way in my fantasy world!) after their heavy autumn storms. The technology is pre-industrial and pre-gunpowder, and the population is mostly rural despite the slowly increasing urbanization of the world generally in this period.
On the other hand, the Levanti who arrive on their shores come from an entirely equal, nomadic culture. The herd is their family, they have no hereditary leadership roles, rather a challenge system that ensures the best people for the job are the ones doing it. They’re also used to a flat, dry terrain, have no idea what snow is, and speak a different language, so they’re in for quite the culture shock.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing We Ride the Storm?
Devin: Having no idea what would happen next. I don’t tend to plan first books in series, so when I sat down to write this book I had no idea what it was going to be about or who, and some of the twists and turns it took were quite wow as I realized they were about to happen. I plan a lot more for later books in a series, so the discovery is always quite a joy early on.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Devin: If the feedback it’s had since the self-published version first came out in 2018 is anything to go by, most people talk about the beheadings. I seem to have accidentally found myself with a stabby head chopping brand, even though the beheadings are part of a respectful death rite and are done to release the soul, not to be edgy.
The other thing most people talk about is THAT SCENE. What good book doesn’t have a THAT SCENE in it. I’m kinda hoping Rah and Gideon will also get a mention as their Totally Not A Relationship is one of my absolute favourite things in the whole book.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the The Reborn Empire trilogy? We Ride the Storm 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?
Devin: Because it’s a generational story I started two generations before this one starts, there’s a lot around the idea of the pain we pass down to our children, the way one mistake or bad decision can have ramifications through the years and how you have to learn to live with that guilt. With the story being told by three characters from different cultural backgrounds, I’ve also tried to foster the idea of tolerance and acceptance and understanding. The characters might not always see this, but as a reader you see the same events and choices from different perspectives and you can’t help but question the biases and assumptions of the world. A simple example being that the Kisians think the Levanti are barbarians, but you ride with the Levanti as well and know it is very far from true.
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 We Ride the Storm that you can share with us?
Devin: My two favourite quotes are the original first line and the new first line (I love first lines). The original was: “It is harder to sever a head than people think.” And the new one is: “They tried to kill me four times before I could walk. Seven before I held any memory of the world. Every time thereafter I knew fear, but it was anger that chipped sharp edges into my soul.”
The original is important to Rah’s culture, but the new one IS Miko’s entire being in one neat little parcel.
DJ: Now that We Ride the Storm is released, what is next for you?
Devin: Orbit have been keeping me plenty busy. The rest of the series will be released on a six-month schedule, so we’re all done with book 2, We Lie With Death, and I have finished book 3, though its yet to go through edits. For the rest of the year I’ll be busy writing book 4 and editing book 3 and after this series is done? I’ll keep writing in this world because I love it and have a tonne of stories all planned for it and ready to go!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Devin-Madson/e/B01NAVCJTN/
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about We Ride the Storm and The Reborn Empire trilogy that we haven’t talked about yet?
Devin: This book is epic fantasy, it’s full of action and intrigue and twisty turns and turny twists, stabbing and snark and battle scenes, but at its heart it’s a story about how messy it is to be human. How sometimes there is no such thing as the right decision, how we can make the very mistakes we swore we wouldn’t, how the things we want sometimes trump what we need or know to be right, and how we will fight for those we love no matter who else might suffer for it, because when everything else feels lost, love is all that’s left.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Devin: Pineapple is amazing on pizza. Also on sandwiches.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Devin: Thanks for having me!
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***We Ride the Storm is published by Orbit and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s visceral, emotionally charged debut.
War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.
Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.
In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.
In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.
And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.
As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.
Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.
That’s the spiel! I write books. I read books. I shout about books. I rewatch Lord of the Rings way more than is healthy and play a lot of video games. The easiest place to find me doing all those things is on twitter at @DevinMadson, where I also tell tales of my Doom Child, talk about my writing and spout total nonsense.