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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sequel Series Cover Reveal & Mini-Interview with Rob J. Hayes (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Long time readers of the blog know how much I love indie authors. One such indie author is Rob J. Hayes whom I discovered back in 2013. Rob released his books in quick succession and won me over with his brand of dark fantasy. He was then picked up by upcoming small press Ragnarok Publications who re-released his debut trilogy in 2014-15 with snazzy covers and re-edited books.

Recently Rob signed on with Ragnraok to release a sequel duology and a collection of short stories. Joe Martin owner of Ragnarok Publications was super kind to allow us to do a cover reveal for both books and Rob also answered a few questions about the upcoming books and the fantastic covers that they share.

Read ahead to feast your eyes on these fabulous covers and find out what lies ahead for the denizens of First Earth.

Q] Congratulations on these fantastic covers Rob and for the new series contracts. Please tell us as to how all of this came to pass?

RJB: Thanks and thank you for having me back again.

Well The Ties that Bind (TTtB) was never intended as a stand alone trilogy in the world of First Earth. It's actually a part of a much larger story that I want to tell. I mentioned this to Joe Martin and he bit my hand off at the elbow. So no sooner had I finished the first in my It Takes a Thief... series, I started work on Best Laid Plans, the follow up to The Ties that Bind and the next part in the story of First Earth.

Q] If I remember correctly, The Bound Folio was first announced, followed by Best Laid Plans. Please tell us a bit more about both these projects.

RJB: It was indeed. Actually The Bound Folio was first announced early in 2015, but it's taken a while for us to pull it all together.

The Bound Folio is a collection of eight short stories set in First Earth and expanding both on the world and giving a bit of back story to some of the characters. Two of them were actually written before The Ties that Bind and have been sitting gathering dust since then. It feels good to finally give them a home.

Best Laid Plans is the follow up to The Ties that Bind. It's a duology (which I'm still not entirely certain is a real word), and is set roughly 1 year after the events of TTtB and works as a stand alone story, but it's also intended to fit into the much larger story I'm telling in First Earth.

Q] The Bound Folio is a collection of stories that run the gamut of heroes, villains, psychopaths and everything else in between. Who are some of the characters that are featured in it and what made you write about them?

RJB: Wow. That's actually a big question. Each story focuses on a single point of view, but also has a supporting cast, some of whom folk might recognise from TTtB. I'll try to keep it succinct and just mention a few.

We'll start with Derran Fowl, the Sword of the North. He's a living legend in the current era of First Earth and is thought of as pretty much unbeatable. He's a Blademaster, the same order of warriors as Jezzet Vel'urn, and she referred to him as the shade of death... so he's pretty damned good in a fight. I wanted to give a bit of a back story to the Sword of the North because he's actually where the whole world started for me. He was the first character I created and fitted into the world. He also makes a brief appearance (for the first time) in Best Laid Plans, so I decided to give him his own little story.

The Kid is about a certain character who appears in The Heresy Within (THW). After I released the book a lot (and I mean A LOT) of people stated this character as the most unlikeable bastard I had created, which is no small feat considering the cast of THW. So I decided to write a short story featuring this character, giving them a bit of a back story and also humanising them a bit more. I like to try to make people hate my likeable characters and like my hateable characters.

Beck is a story about Arbiter Beck who was mentioned in The Price of Faith, but only briefly during one of Thanquil's memories. She has a starring role in Best Laid Plans and I wanted to give her a swashbuckling pirate adventure before that role begins so the short story brings her right up to where Where Loyalties Lie starts.

Q] The Best Laid Plans duology features a storyline and characters who weren’t quite major players in previous trilogy except one pirate who seems to be everywhere. What was your reasoning for this change in characters and world location?

RJB: Well I love pirates almost as much as I love witch hunters so I figured I should write a book about them.

The wheel keeps turning and there's more to the world than the wilds. I wanted to give a view of a different, but equally as dangerous and gritty, part of the world and the events that transpire in Best Laid Plans will fit into the larger story I'm telling. Some of the major players from TTtB will return, although in bit parts, but for the most part it's a fresh new cast.

Q] I loved the old-school map approach to the Bound Folio cover. Can you talk us through as how the cover came to be?

RJB: Well I had little to do with it to begin with. Shawn King (a true wizard of design) and Joe Martin came up with the concept. It just so happened that around the same time (with a little help from yourself, Mihir) I had a map of First Earth commissioned. Joe asked me about it and asked if we could use it on the cover.

I'm a big fan of the overall result and especially some of the little details folk might miss on a casual peruse, such as the inclusion of the holy symbol of the Inquisition on the back cover.

Q] Joe Martin and Shawn King have been responsible for some truly gorgeous covers which have been better than many traditional publishers. How does it feel to have them in your corner and give your books that extra edge?

RJB: It's great. I like to think of Shawn as the Gandalf of cover design, he's a true wizard. I've used him for my own self-published series It Takes a Thief... as well and I'll happily use him for any more I produce. I honestly can't recommend him enough.

Joe's a bit of a visionary, I think. I spout some insane ramblings at him and he disappears for a while, coming back a while later with exactly what I imagined. I don't know how he does it, but I'm glad he does it.

Q] What should readers expect from both these books?

RJB: Sex, violence, blood, a hint of magic, plenty of rogues, betrayal, huge battles, and rum.

Q] With Where Loyalies Lie, the cover artist is Alex Raspad and features a very visually evocative scene. What were your inputs with regards to this cover?

RJB: Joe asked me what I would like to see on the cover. I'm more of a fan of scenes and vistas on covers, rather than character art. I said I'd like to see the scene from the very first chapter of Where Loyalties Lie on the cover. Drake Morrass on his ship, staring out towards a pirate town in flames. Joe exploded with excitement and a few months later we have that first scene. Alex did a fantastic job and I couldn't be happier.

Q] What can you tell us about the sequel to Where Loyalties Lie? Is there a name or blurb that you can exclusively reveal to us?

RJB: I can tell you it's called The Fifth Empire of Man and it's a rip-roaring, swashbuckling, piratical adventure of a fantasy tale.

Q] Thank you very much for your time Rob, what are you currently writing and any parting words for our readers?

RJB: Thanks very much for having me again.

I'm currently writing the second in my It Takes a Thief... series and it's called It Takes a Thief to Start a Fire. I'm hoping to have it finished, polished, and released sometime this year.


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