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Monday, May 25, 2020

Cover Reveal Q&A: Cradle Of Sea And Soil by Bernie Anés Paz (by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Pre-order Cradle Of Sea And Soil over HERE

Today we are glad to exclusively reveal the cover of Cradle Of Sea And Soil (book 1 of the Islandborn trilogy) by debutante author Bernie Anés Paz. Bernie also talks with us about the roots of his trilogy (Puerto Rican, West Africa, Caribbean,etc.) his background and about his #ownvoice fantasy story. So read ahead and enjoy the spectacular cover art

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Bernie. To start with, could you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, and why you choose to go the self-published route? Anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your past?

BAP: Thanks for having me! So, my path to becoming a writer was a little weird. I was a military brat, so I never stayed in one place for long. I was also born in Puerto Rico and struggled with learning English as a kid. It was bad enough that I couldn’t understand the teachers or my classmates, so I didn’t really have many friends or playmates outside of my younger brothers. I quickly found novels to be an escape from all that, though I needed help reading them at first. Once I started reading on my own, though, I became a voracious little monster and devoured stuff like Animorphs, Dragon Riders of Pern, and Goosebumps before leaping deeper into the fantasy and science fiction spiral. These novels also helped reinforce my understanding of English over time, and seeing me read made my teachers happy, so I kept at it.

Eventually, I stumbled onto a fantasy roleplaying website named Dae Luin. It was pretty awesome. Everyone had a character they developed over time, and we wrote our own plots within a shared world. Our members played shopkeepers, gods, angels, kings, monsters, pretty much everything and anything. I stayed there for almost six years. It not only helped improve my English even further, but it also gave me my first taste of writing, and I found it so enjoyable that I knew it was what I wanted to do.

I ultimately decided to go the self-published route for a lot of reasons. While I believe both traditional and indie publishing are valid paths, with self-publishing it’s more likely that any stumbles or roadblocks are of my own making. I also enjoy the creative freedom and ability to release on my own timeline, and I’m comfortable with shouldering a lot of the effort of publishing myself.

(Art by Daniel Kamarudin, Design/typography by Shawn T. King)

Q] The artwork for Cradle Of Sea And Soil is just spectacular. What were your main pointers for your cover artist as you both went through the process of finalizing it? What were the main things that you wished to focus on in it?

BAP: Daniel Kamarudin, my cover artist, pretty much turned lead into gold. To be honest, I didn’t know how to translate what I wanted into imagery, so I decided to trust his experience and knowledge. In the end, I just handed him some basic lore and background information, told him the two main characters—Colibrí and Narune—were mother and son, and mentioned that I wanted to portray that relationship as much as possible because family is one of the core themes of my novel. I gave him a description of the setting as well, which is this massive tropical forest where oversized roots and the lowest branches form pathways.

Daniel took that and ran with it and did a ridiculous job. I don’t know how he does his magic, but it worked. Shawn T. King then took Daniel's magic and added his own to compete the cover with his typography.

Q] Cradle Of Sea And Soil is the start of the Islandborn trilogy. What can you tell us about the main story and characters within it?

BAP: The entire trilogy will almost exclusively follow two POVs—Colibrí and Narune. As I mentioned, they’re mother and son, and they’re living together in exile just outside their tribe’s village because of a spiritual affliction they both have.

Colibrí is a veteran warrior trying to figure out why corrupted land is appearing well beyond where it should be, while Narune is trying to earn the right to become a warrior-mystic in order to better fight beside his mother—whose exile forces her to prowl the incredibly dangerous rainforest alone—when he earns his adulthood. The story alternates between them and follows them through their unique journeys, but they never really separate. Both Colibrí and Narune have to deal with each other and those who eventually became part of their family every step of the way. A lot of the story touches on the messy closeness families experience daily.

Along the way a lot of things happen. Colibrí and Narune are both warriors, so they’re sworn to take part in the eternal war against the strange, hollow monsters the tribes have fought forever. Those monsters also serve as the primary antagonists of the trilogy and are kind of tribal-themed eldritch horrors. You’ll also get to see Colibrí and Narune slowly deal with their shared spiritual affliction, and you get to watch Narune learn to use his people’s martial-based magic. Hopefully the end result is a trilogy that is both familiar yet a bit different than a lot of the Eurocentric fantasy out there.

Q] Let’s talk about how Cradle Of Sea And Soil came to fruition? What was your inspiration for this story?

BAP: I wrote a bunch of desk-drawer novels and they were all styled the same way as the fantasy I read. Many of my characters were even white and from European-inspired cultures. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. Many of my most beloved authors write “standard” fantasy, and all I really care about is a gripping story with characters I can become invested in. But I watched this amazing Ted Talk named “The danger of a single story” and it absolutely broke my heart. I looked long and hard at the stories I was already trying to tell, then decided to challenge myself.


The result was this novel. It’s primarily inspired by Puerto Rico, but includes a lot of inspiration from West Africa and the Taino natives, from which Puerto Ricans draw a ton of their heritage. I also pulled from the Carib natives and other Latin American cultures and, separately, from Spain which will pan out later in the trilogy.

Again, I personally believe there’s nothing wrong with writing what most people consider “standard” fantasy, but I figured that if I could add something born from my own experiences and heritage to the pool, then I owed it to myself to at least try and tell that story. There are already others out there doing the same thing, like Evan Winters, N. K. Jemisin, and M. L. Wang. Now, I want to be clear that I’m not trying to compare myself to any of them. They’re just very inspirational to me, and I wanted to write a story that followed after their footsteps.

Q] Can you tell us more about the world that The Islandborn trilogy is set in? What are the curiosities (geographical, mystical, etc.) of this world?

BAP: The story’s setting is a tropical archipelago. Within it is the world’s most ancient rainforest, and at that heart of that is a giant fissure known as the Primordial Wound. It gushes magical energy known as Flow, which has basically hyper-evolved everything in the region, including the native people. The Wound is also festering with a kind of infection known as the Stillness, and from it grow these hollow monsters that imitate pieces of nature or ideas like victory and fury. The tribes have been fighting against them forever, and their entire culture is based around containing the infection at any cost.

The forest itself is where most of the story takes place. It’s a tangle of layers, bridges, and roads created by roots and low branches. It’s full of all kinds of crazy, dangerous life, too. Some of the frogs have a synaptic connection to each other, so killing more than a few by mistake will send a venom-dripping swarm after you. There are hunting plants that either set traps or seek out prey in order to make up for the lack of sunlight that comes through the canopy. Only warriors usually enter the forest, whether in search of food or their ancestral foe. Everyone else lives in the coastal villages of the tribes.

As far as the magic goes, I think people will find it fascinating. It’s very combat-based sorcery loosely inspired by Magic the Gathering’s themed colors. Spells are “painted” into existence and every color has its quirks. The depths of the magic system will be explored well over the series, but readers can enjoy a hefty chunk of it in this novel.

Q] Can you share something about the book that’s not mentioned in the blurb and why should fans should be excited for your debut?

BAP: The worldbuilding, I think. The blurb just doesn’t do it justice. I love my characters, but it’s the setting that gives them so much of their flavor and cultural ticks. If you’re looking for something that’s different and not simply weird, and if you enjoy exploring worlds inspired by unfamiliar cultures like in Rage of Dragons, then I think you’ll really enjoy my novel too.

Q] So for someone who hasn't read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write, what would be your pitch for this trilogy?

BAP: Tough one! I’d describe my stories as a trip abroad, just as with any other fantasy novel, but maybe one that’s a step further than you’re used to going. Rather than kings, emperors, and barons, you get a cacica. Instead of beer, you get chicha. My not-dragon is effectively a couatl. People eat cassava and guayaba. Again, different rather than simply weird and otherworldly, but there’s still monsters, magic, and battles to be had. I think that’s the pitch for my entire trilogy, in fact.

Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

BAP: I just want to say thank you to anyone who picks up a copy of my book. Seriously, this is the start of a new journey for me and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. I appreciate you being a part of that adventure.

*---------------*---------------*---------------*

(Art by Daniel Kamarudin, Design/typography by Shawn T. King)

Pre-order Cradle Of Sea And Soil over HERE

Official Blurb: The Primordial Wound has festered with corruption since the birth of the world. The island tribes have warred against its spawn for just as long—and they are losing.

Burdened by the same spiritual affliction that drove the first Halfborn insane, Colibrí lives in exile with little more than her warrior oaths and her son. But when Colibrí discovers corrupted land hidden away by sorcery, those same oaths drive her to find answers in an effort to protect the very people who fear her.

Narune dreams of earning enough glory to show that he and his mother Colibrí are nothing like the Halfborn that came before them. Becoming a mystic will give him the strength he needs, but first, Narune will need to prove himself worthy in a trial of skill and honor.

Together, Colibrí and Narune must learn to become the champions their people need—and face the curse threatening to scour away their spirits with fury.

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