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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Never Die Release Interview with Rob J. Hayes (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Order Never Die over HERE (USA) and HERE (UK)
Read Chapter One of Never Die over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Never Die
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of City Of Kings 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Where Loyalties Lie
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Fifth Empire Of Man
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Heresy Within
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Colour Of Vengeance
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Price Of Faith
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of It Takes A Thief To Catch A Sunrise
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of It Takes A Thief To Start A Fire
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic trilogy completion interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Best Laid Plans Series Interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic's SPFBO Aftermath Q&A with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Post COK interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read A Game of ̶T̶h̶r̶o̶n̶e̶s̶ Death by Rob J. Hayes (guest post)

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic Rob, it’s a brand new year and I believe you have some brand new stories for us? What should readers be expecting from you in 2019?

RJH: Thanks for having me back. Yes, a new year and some new tales to share. First off is my Asian-inspired sword and sorcery novel, Never Die. It’s a story about Ein, a murdered 8-year-old boy who is brought back to mostly life by a shinigami in order to carry out a quest to kill the Emperor of Ten Kings. To accomplish this task he is given the ability to bring heroes back to life and bind them to his cause, but first those heroes have to die. Never Die is coming out today (Jan 29th 2019).

And later on in the year I will be publishing the first book in a new high-fantasy trilogy. The first book is called Along the Razor’s Edge, and it is set almost entirely in the confines of an underground prison. It follows a character called Eskara Helsene, a young mage who fought in the greatest war mankind has ever seen. Fought, and lost. Stripped of her magic, Eskara is thrown into a prison that is run by the very criminals it keeps locked up. There she must make new allies, learn new skills, and stay alive long enough to find a way to escape. I don’t have a definite release date on that one yet, but you can expect it in the back end of the year.

I also have a few other projects that might see the light of day (some short stories and the like), but I can’t say much else about those just yet.

Q] Never Die is your fourth new world and story that you have created in your published career. Can you talk to us about its inception? What lead you down this path and how did you develop this story?

RJH: Oddly enough, the book started out as something else entirely. Its initial inception came from watching a trailer for a video game (I can’t even remember the name of it) where larger than life heroes were defending a city from attack. I had this idea about the heroes dying in the siege and being brought back to life. At that point I had in mind to write the story in the litRPG genre, but have the game as a MOBA (mobile online battle arena) instead of a MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game). The MOBA genre is a style of game where heroes face off against other heroes and respawn (come back to life) when they die. In the planning stages of that novel, I decided to scrap the litRPG concept and write it as a sword and sorcery novel heavily inspired by both anime and eastern martial arts films.

I’m very much a pantser/gardener. I set out with a rough plan that involves the basic beginning middle and end, and hope the rest comes to me as I write. Well it really did in this case. The big twists at the end (I won’t spoil them 😉 ), popped into my mind one day when I was about 1/3rd of the way through writing the book. I had to go back and do a fair amount of rewriting in order to make them fit, but I think most early readers are very happy I did.


Q] You have been a huge anime fan and often like to talk about it. What can you tell us about your anime love and how it manifested in Never Die?

RJH: Yeah I’m a fairly big anime geek. Started out as a kid watching things like Legend of the Four Kings and Ninja Scroll on late night TV. Then I accidentally stumbled across Dragonball Z one day… these days my house is full of anime figures and paraphernalia.

I think the inspiration I took from anime in writing Never Die is completely pervasive. Some early readers have said it’s the most like watching an anime they’ve ever felt from a book, and that was pretty intentional. From the over-the-top characters each with their own unique abilities, to the heavy quest-drive storyline. I wrote the book wanting to capture the energy, excitement, and straight up cool factor I used to feel when I watched the old anime TV shows, or those crazy martial art films from Hong Kong.

There’s also quite a few little homages in there. I won’t spoil many, but those of you who are familiar with Cowboy Bebop will instantly recognize the murdered 8-year-old’s name.

Q] The world within the book is definitely inspired by East Asian terminology and certain distinct mythologies (Japanese). How did you go about picking what you wanted to utilize versus what you didn’t?

RJH: Yeah, it’s no secret that the majority of fantasy is set in worlds that are very Eurocentric in feel. I wanted this one to feel East Asian down to its very bones. However, I have a few different areas of interest that I really wanted to represent. I’m a big fan of the setting of the Chinese epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It has feuding warlords, major battles, heroes and villains that really stand out. But then I’m also a big fan of samurai, and also of a lot of Japanese myths and legends. I knew from the get go I was going to therefor be mashing together different cultural influences, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about how the result would be received.

I can only hope at the end of the day people see that the book isn’t meant as any sort of cultural statement, but entirely as a love-letter to the things that have inspired me throughout my life, and helped shape me as an author.

Q] The world nestled within the pages seems such a vibrant and complex one. Will you be writing any further stories set in this world (besides The Two Faces Of War from the ART OF WAR charity anthology)?

RJH: No guarantees. I have a lot on at the moment with different projects… BUT… I do have an idea for another story set in this world.

(The Two Faces Of War art by Jason Deem)

Q] Is The Two Faces Of War (short story) set chronologically before or after the events of Never Die? That story was such a somber one but it had a lot of gravitas to it. How did its genesis occur? What was your aim with it vis-à-vis the theme of the anthology?

RJH: From a chronological standpoint it is set before the events in Never Die, but the two stories have no relevance to each other, other than being set in the same world. The Two Faces of War really came about because of the cause the anthology was created for. Petros (the lord high marshal of BookNest) created The Art of War anthology to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. So I decided I wanted to write a story that was both about war, and about the doctors who patch up the victims of that war. And I really wanted to point out with that story that people really aren’t that different. Whether you’re a soldier on one side of the conflict, or a doctor on the other side of it, we’re all human. We’re all people with hopes, dreams, pasts, family. So that story is really about a lull in the conflict, where two people, each from a different side of the battle, come together to share a drink and unload their stress about the events of the day and the battle.

Q] Based on your most recent blog post, you seem to have more than one new project in the works? Can you tell us about them?

RJH: I can say a bit. My next project is an epic fantasy. The books will be a bit longer than I usually write and will focus heavily on the characters’ journeys throughout the evolving story arc. I can’t say much at the moment other than… There will be angels!

Q] So epic fantasy is your next destination, how would you stamp your unique signature on this genre?

RJH: I’ve come to realize that my unique signature is very much in the characters. I like to write characters who feel real. They don’t talk like heroes or walking exposition dumps, but like real people who often times have no idea what they’re doing… and sometimes no idea what they’re saying. I also like to think I utilize a very subtle form of world building. The worlds I write are revealed more in character interactions and observations rather than narrative exposition.

Q] After the release of Never Die, which will be your next book release? In your previous interview you had mentioned Along The Razor’s Edge? When are you planning to release it? Any plans for the cover art?

RJH: Along The Razor’s Edge will be coming later in this year. Probably the fourth quarter, but that release date is far from certain at this point. I must admit I haven’t even started looking at the cover art for it yet. I will say this though, it’s my first fantasy novel written in first person perspective. So that’s something a bit new for me.


Q] Recently you tweeted this image (see above) and mentioned it as research. Can you tell us anything about it?

RJH: Nope. 😁

Q] What titles (irrespective of genre) are you eagerly awaiting in 2019? Concurrently which authors (that you enjoyed previously) would you like to highlight for our readers?

RJH: Oh there’s quite a few. Though the chances are I won’t read any of the books this year. I have such a backlog of a tbr. But in 2019 I’m definitely looking forward to Mark Lawrence’s new books (Holy Sister, One Word Kill). The finale installment of Dyrk Ashton’s Paternus trilogy. Book 3 of Josiah Bancroft’s Books of Bable series (The Hod King). The final book in Ed McDonald’s Raven’s Mark series.

As for highlighting an author I’ve read recently. I’d lose my fanboy status if I didn’t mention Chris Wooding’s The Ember Blade. I recently read and loved We Ride The Storm by Devin Madson. I’ve recently started reading Ben Galley’s Chasing Graves, which oddly enough stars a main character who dies in the first chapter (looks like we both had the same idea there).

I could mention so many more, but I’ll leave it there.

Q] Thank you for your time. I personally can’t wait to read all your new works. I’m sure our fans share the sentiment. What parting thoughts would you offer for your fans?

RJH: Thanks for having me. I would like to part by promising people that there are more First Earth books coming. I haven’t given up on my grimdark world, just taken a little break as I’m halfway through the saga. There is a new trilogy in the works though, and it will explore more about the Drurr race, and also about the deteriorating boundary between life and death.

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