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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Pawn's Gambit Release Interview with Rob J. Hayes (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Order Pawn’s Gambit over HERE (USA) and HERE (UK) 

Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Pawn’s Gambit
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Never Die
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Along The Razor's Edge
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Lessons Never Learned
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of From Cold Ashes Risen
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's Mini Q&A 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 Fantasy Book Critic's Never Die Release Interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic's The War Eternal Trilogy Release Interview
Read A Game of ̶T̶h̶r̶o̶n̶e̶s̶ Death by Rob J. Hayes (guest post)

Q] Welcome Rob, how are things with you in this New Year and decade?

RJH: 
Hi! All things considered this decade hasn’t been too hard on me yet. I was already a hermit, now I’m just more so. Luckily, whiskey can be delivered direct to our doors. :D

Q] Today marks the release of Pawn’s Gambit, the standalone (not-a-sequel to Never Die) book II in your Mortal Techniques series. Can you tell us about its inception? When did you truly decide to write a second long form story in this fascinating world?

RJH:
Pawn’s Gambit exists for a few reasons, but first and foremost of them is simply this: fans of Never Die asked for it. I saw it in reviews and I even received a bunch of emails from people saying they wanted more. More of the world and everything in it. So I did something my finance tells me to do all the time, I listened. :D To be honest, it was always a really fun world to write in so readers wanting more wasn’t a problem as I was happy to jump back into the world and craft a new story. 


The other reason it exists and the inception for the story itself comes from before Never Die even released. My sister is one of my alpha readers and after reading Never Die she said she wanted to more about Daiyu Lingsen, the strategist known as the Art of War. My crazy brain immediately went to work listening to my older sister because as the younger sibling that’s what we’re programmed to do. An idea formed, a basic story of a game played by the gods and mortals as the pieces (very Clash of the Titans, I know) and a master strategist being both piece and player. It kind of blossomed out from there, but I never decided to roll with it until the success of Never Die.

Q] When you first wrote Never Die, it was meant to be a fast paced standalone story. Based on your aforementioned reply, you clarified what lead you to write the next book. Why did you then choose to focus it on Yuu and her story?

RJH:
SPOILER ALERT FOR NEVER DIE!!! She was the only character left alive?

Q] Let’s talk about Pawn’s Gambit and while Yuu is supposedly the main protagonist of the story. I believe the goddess Natsuko shares an equal spotlight. What was the impetus in creating this story from both their perspectives?

RJH:
It was a lot of fun writing from the perspective of a cranky goddess. I really wanted to humanize the gods a bit in this one, while also hammering home the fact that they are entirely inhuman in nature. I realized early on that the best way to do this would be to write the story from a dual perspective. Pawn’s Gambit is without a doubt mostly Yuu’s story, but Natsuko and her dreams share the spotlight.

Q] In this volume, we saw what it truly takes to become the Art Of War. How did you conceptualize the character and where there any historical inspirations for the character?

RJH:
There’s a couple of big inspirations for the character. First is obviously Sun Tzu’s teachings in the Art of War. That one seems a bit obvious, I know. The other is the fictional character of Zhuge Liang from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms has been a major inspiration for me for a long time and especially so in creating the world of the Mortal Techniques. Zhuge Liang, the Sleeping Dragon, was always my favourite character in it, with his measured responses and genius tactics, along with the sage council he offers. I find the idea of a main character in a fantasy story as a strategist instead of a warrior to be a fascinating one.


Q] One of my favourite characters from Never Die, the Emperor of ten kings is shown to involved in the background of this story. What can you reveal about him and what he’s been up to since the events of Never Die?

RJH:
He’s been ruling Hosa. Trying to bring about a true peace rather than the peace of the sword. But it’s only been 5 years since the events of Never Die, so it’s still a work in progress.

Q] Coincidentally he’s been the POV in the epilogues for both of the Mortal Technique volumes. Does that mean there’s a chance for a hattrick in Spirits Of Vengeance?

RJH:
Never say never. But no. Honestly, it didn’t even dawn on me he was the PoV in the epilogue of both books. Ooops, I mean… I totally did that on purpose. All part of the plan.

Q] Pawn’s Gambit featured many terrific and memorable action sequences. None more so than the fight between a certain hero and a certain assassin. But you tragically didn’t reveal what happened at the end. Any chance we will ever find out who was the victor?

RJH:
Nope. That would be a big ol’ spoiler.

Q] I believe you are hard at work on the third Mortal Techniques book. Can you tell us a bit about it? Besides the title, what can you reveal about the plot?

RJH:
Sure. Spirits Of Vengeance will be the 3rd standalone Mortal Techniques novel and its planned release date is September 28th 2021. It moves away from Hosa and is instead set in the Ipian Empire during the heart of a vicious winter. The main character is an immortal onmyoji which is a type of occultist spirit hunter, and as you might be able to guess from that, it features A LOT of yokai (vengeful spirits) and goes into more detail about the lore surrounding them. There’s also a couple of returning characters from Never Die and Pawn’s Gambit.

Q] In the first Mortal Techniques story, you focused on the monsters (Yokai, Shinigami, human etc.), in the second title, you brought the spotlight on the gods and their abode. What will be the focus in Spirits Of Vengeance?

RJH:
Spirits Of Vengeance definitely has yokai as the focus. But I will also say this… Dragons!

Q] For me, the Mortal Techniques series is special because of the fact that you plan to write each book as a standalone one? I love this standalone aspect of every tale which you are trying to emulate but what made you want to try this difficult task?

RJH:
Never Die was always intended to be a standalone book. I never meant to write anything else in the world, so it really just made sense to continue that moving forward after I decided to create the Mortal Techniques as a series. But beyond that, it allows me to focus more on individual tales rather than an overarching plot. So in many ways a series of standalones offers a lot more freedom in the creative choices than a straight series would do. I have a bunch of little idea that I might be able to turn into full stories one day and having the Mortal Techniques world there and waiting gives me a chance to do that without committing to a larger narrative. It's a sandbox I can play around in.

Q] The Mortal Techniques books are very much your version of Sword & Sorcery or (Shintei & Shinigami if you will). You have never repeated yourself as you try out a different fantasy subgenre with each new series. What do you think is the cause of this wanderlust?

RJH:
I have no desire to write the same thing again and again. Each new book has to be something different and do something new or what’s the point? Writing fiction for me is about discovery and adventure and I’d be doing neither of those things if I just wrote the same thing again. So I always want to create something new with each and every book, be they entirely new worlds and series or just new books within an existing world.

Q] As a cartophile, I’m always hoping for maps in my fantasy books. With your world having four different lands. I think it might be great for us readers to be able to see them topographically. Any chance of such a map in the future?

RJH:
There’s a chance. I really hate creating maps but I do have a very basic one of Hosa that I work off. One day I’ll probably expand it to include the other nations and then get it made up properly… One day.


Q] Last year you finished your War Eternal trilogy and in the last book put in a tantalizing note that proclaimed that while the trilogy was over, the series would continue. How many more books do you plan to write to complete and definitively tell Eska’ story. When can readers expect to see it published?

RJH:
Yes indeed! There are 2 more Eska books on the cards. I lovingly call it a follow-up duology, but really it’s more like books 4 & 5 of The War Eternal. As to when readers can expect it… I don’t know. I’m hoping to get book 4 (The Sins Of The Mother) written this year if possible so maybe 2022… don’t pin me to that.

Q] What are you working on or will be working on in this year? Besides Spirits Of Vengeance what stories and worlds can fans expect to read in 2021-22 from you?

RJH:
Other than Spirits Of Vengeance, as I say I’m hoping to start work on The Sins Of The Mother (The War Eternal #4) this year. Other than that, I’m also working on a flintlock fantasy I’m calling Guns of the Twelfth. So in 2021 my readers can expect a couple of Mortal Techniques books, and in 2022… who knows? I’ll let you know when I figure it out. :D

Q] Thank you for your time Rob and for answering all these questions. I wish you all the very best for the release of Pawn’s Gambit. Any parting thoughts for the readers on why they should be buying a copy of Pawn’s Gambit immediately?

RJH:
Thanks for having me. And folk should be buying Pawn’s Gambit because the artwork is absolutely stunning and I want to pay Felix Ortiz to make more of it. :D 

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