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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Blogtour: Interview with J.D.L. Rosell, the author of The Throne of Ice & Ash


ABOUT J.D.L.J.D.L. Rosell is the author of the bestselling Legend of Tal series, The Runewar Saga, The Famine Cycle series, and the Godslayer Rising trilogy. He has earned an MA in creative writing and has previously written as a ghostwriter.

Always drawn to the outdoors, he ventures out into nature whenever he can to indulge in his hobbies of hiking and photography. Most of the time, he can be found curled up with a good book at home with his fiancée and two cats, Zelda and Abenthy.
Find out more (and claim a free book) at www.jdlrosell.com.

Book Information: Published: April 14, 2021, Genre: Epic Fantasy, Pages: 325 (Print Length), CW: extensive violence.

INTERVIEW

Thank you for joining us, J.D.L., and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks for having me on again! I'll try to keep this short…

Like many a writer, I've had the niggling thought that it'd be pretty awesome to be an author — though dreams of music occupied much of my high school years. After a bit of flailing at university pursuing psychology and political science, I inevitably settled on a degree in literature and went on for a Master's focused on creative writing. During these collegial years, I began writing novels — the very first of which became the book we're discussing today!

Since then, I've worked as a corporate training developer and briefly as a ghostwriter, all the while writing ten books in four different series.

Though most of my time is spent staring at pixels and paper, I also try to get out for hikes and landscape photography. At home, I indulge in occasional bouts of baking (the sweet tooth is strong), drink copious amounts of coffee (Ethiopian light roasts almost exclusively, for those in the know!), and watch my two cats' antics with fond bemusement.

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

No day job other than this gig! I went full-time author in February and hope to stay so (readers willing).

Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influencers?

Presently, I'm obsessed with Robin Hobb and the beautiful and subtle way she makes readers care about her characters and their web of relationships.

I'm also a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire, which is a huge influence for The Runewar Saga. You have to admire its deep world-building and intricate politics!

Other writers I refer to often and will devour almost any of their books are N.K. Jemisin, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, and Mark Lawrence.

I also have classic fantasy influences (as most epic fantasy writers do) from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, which I've read about a dozen times each, as well as the Dragonlance books and Forgotten Realms novels.

And I'm sure some of my favorite literary writers are also whispering in the back of my head — Vonnegut and Dostoevsky come to mind.

Lastly, as I almost pursued an MFA in poetry, a bit of the lyrical has been known to squeeze its way into my sentences.

Serious writing takes not only a story to tell, but the craft of writing to tell it well—can you comment on your journey as a writer?

I've referred to several pieces of it above, but it's been lifelong, circuitous, and endless.

I've always been a voracious reader, but a less committed writer. Poetry and song lyrics were my more frequent compositions earlier on (ah, the angst of youth), though I always drew characters I imagined for books (terrible sketches all).

In college, I wrote many short stories for classes, but they were overwhelmingly stale, or experimental, or both, in my attempt to achieve something of "literary significance."

It wasn't until my senior year when, wracked by the turmoil of a rudderless future, I retreated to the panacea of my youth: epic fantasy. George R. R. Martin's books reeled me back in, and The Name of the Wind hooked me.

From then on, with the occasional foray into sci-fi, I've written almost exclusively epic fantasy and began my author career.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

I've been wondering this for years. I know what I try to achieve — but the fulfillment of those aims remains mercurial.

So instead, I'll lean on what readers have told me — that they enjoy and relate to my flawed characters and their relationships, that my stories are immersive, and they're often eager to know more about the magic and mysteries of the worlds.



How would you describe the plot of The Throne of Ice & Ash if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

*Shuffles through marketing documents* Ahem, let's see…

"A Norse epic fantasy saga about a nation torn asunder, and the two heirs who must find justice for their murdered kin while defending their throne…"

A bit wordy, but that about covers it!

What was your initial inspiration for The Throne of Ice & Ash? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

As alluded to above, Throne was, in conception, my first novel. It's been about seven years since I began writing it (in fits and starts), and yes, indeed, it has changed! The advantage to such a long gestation period has been a steady deepening of the plot, the world, and the characters, all of which have remained largely the same. The actual writing of the story has undergone at least three complete rewrites and plenty of revisions on top of that.

Honestly, I would have abandoned it entirely if not for my wife’s badgering. It's one of her favorite stories of mine (I suspect because she's a huge fan of ASOIAF), and she wouldn't relent until I finalized it. I'm glad she did!

As for the inspiration, it started as a Game of Thrones knock-off, and certainly retains Martin’s influence. But more fundamental than that are a few ideas. First, that this is a series as Ragnarok reimagined, with war happening across fronts both visible and invisible. Explicitly, we see a conflict of "Vikings vs. Ancient Egyptians" — but mythical creatures, the most important of which are giants, are also central.

Seven years ago, I had the thought of how terrifying giants would be if they retained all their strength, resilience, and size, but were also intelligent — and how, inevitably, this might lead them to more or less conquer the world. So the overall plot is the struggle between these various elements and the reemergence of magic within the world-wide war.

If you had to describe it in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Harrowing, wondrous, immersive

How did you come up with the title?

Through blood, sweat, and tears. I always agonize over titles, and for this one in particular. It was called The Frozen Throne when I serialized it on Wattpad, but not only is that apparently a World of Warcraft expansion pack, it also didn't quite fit the final fiery cover.

Plus, the present title does mirror Martin's series title quite satisfactorily from a marketing standpoint!

How does it tie with the plot of the book?

I wanted it to convey the political conflicts that occur and the struggle for power, which "throne" accomplishes. I also wanted the wintry flavor of the book to come across — hence "ice." But, as the plot of this book centers around a particular tragic event, "ash" proved a nice counterbalance.

How many books have you planned for the series?

At least five. I know roughly how it ends, but we have a lot of steps and obstacles before we can arrive there, so it's going to be a long series — certainly my longest planned to date.



Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to The Throne of Ice & Ash’s protagonists and antagonists?

We have two PoV characters: Bjorn and Aelthena. They're siblings and the progeny of the jarl, the highest position of authority in their nation, and have different expectations placed upon them based on their gender and birth order. They also have contrasting dispositions.

Bjorn is bookish and timid, which results in him and others thinking he's a coward. He has occasional premonitions — whispers on the wind, mostly — that he's unsure whether or not to believe as omens, and he fears they signal a future of madness such as his father has suffered. His journey involves accepting of who he is and the role he must play in the events to come.

Aelthena has the opposite problem. She's always been brash and outspoken, and feels she is born to rule. Yet, as a woman in her society, she is mostly expected to mind the home and its management. When she gets the opportunity to act as more than this role, she leaps at it. But her arc entails both growing into a leadership position and discovering her own limits.

As for the antagonists, they're primarily a mystery at the start. All I'll say is that cunning giants play a "big" role, and there's no black and white in morality. Evil, in many respects, depends on your side in the conflicts.

How did you select the names of your characters?

Arbitrarily for Bjorn. For Aelthena, I'm referencing "Athena" from Greek mythology, though that's admittedly a strange reference for an overwhelmingly Nordic story.

The other names are largely drawn from Norse cultures and Ancient Egypt.

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

It sure does! It's based on the Norse concept of "seiðr," which relates to the foretelling and shaping of the future. Various forms of scrying become the initial ways we see magic in the world of The Runewar Saga, and prophecy and divination play a pivotal role in the plot.

However, as the series title implies, "runes" also play a big part. Essentially, in the right circumstances, they act as the keys that unlock the doors to human potential. Hence, anything that allows for the expansion of the human mind and body becomes theoretically possible through the magic — if the sorcerer has access to the rune and can survive the door opening.

One of our protagonists has a journey that deals explicitly with magic, so you eventually get a sort of coming of age, magician in training arc in the books.

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of The Throne of Ice & Ash?



I love René Aigner's work — he's always done a fantastic job! In this cover, I wanted to convey a pivotal moment in the book involving a fire, which packs a lot of drama and emotion for the protagonists. René also does a great job showing the Nordic flair of the world through the characters and buildings.

Have you written it with a particular audience in mind? Who’ll enjoy it?

Fans of Game of Thrones (both the books and TV show) should enjoy it — and in fact, an early reader has already made such an allusion! Also, fans of the Shattered Sea trilogy and The Lord of the Rings should find things they enjoy in it, as should general fans of Viking/Norse books.

What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?

The heartbreak of the characters' journeys and the wonder/horror of the world. Runewar also contains what's probably my favorite magic system that I've invented, so I hope readers enjoy it as well!

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

If you’ll excuse a few lines…

“The day Bjorn lost all he held dear, a late winter wind howled past his ears.
Death, it whispered. Icy fingers reached beneath his wolf-fur cloak and clawed into his flesh, then burrowed deeper still. Death with the wind…”

What’s your publishing schedule for 2021/2022?

I'm hoping to continue and finish some of the series I have going. My most popular series, Legend of Tal, will get its third as well as fourth and final book within the next couple of years. The Famine Cycle will see the trilogy completed. The Runewar Saga will have at least the second book out this year, and I expect the third and possibly fourth in 2022.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Thanks for having me on, Fantasy Book Critic! And thanks to everyone who read through the Q&A. I hope the book and series sound interesting and readers will give The Throne of Ice & Ash a shot!

NOTE: Many thanks to Justine, Timy & the Storytellers On Tours for giving us an opportunity to take part in this tour. Here's the tour's full schedule.

Find J.D.L. online:

Website: https://jdlrosell.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jdlrosell_author/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjdlrosell/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J-D-L-Rosell/e/B072316FK4

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jdl-rosell

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16850368.J_D_L_Rosell



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