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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Exclusive Cover Reveal Q&A: Beast Mage by Derek Alan Siddoway (by Mihir Wanchoo)


Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Derek. How have you been doing amidst this global pandemic?

DAS: Thanks for having me! I’ve been better than most, though at times I’ve definitely felt the burnout and stress we’ve all experienced to varying degrees. Aside from a minor incident at the start of 2021 when I bought way too many Pokémon cards as a mid-Pandemic crisis, I think I’ve done pretty well. The last two years have been this weird vortex that seem to have flown by and also gone on for about a decade.

Lots of good things have happened, too. I became a dad last summer which is an adventure all in its own and the most amazing thing. (I never appreciated naps as much as I should have). Looking back as I type this, I realize I released both books in my co-written MythRune Online series, and wrote two more books, including Beast Mage, all since March 2020 when things went nuts. Between reading and writing, I’ve managed to escape reality enough to keep on chugging.
Q] Please tell us about the inception of BEAST MAGE and the Mana Beasts series? What was your inspiration for this fantasy story?

DAS: The elevator pitch is Digimon meets Avatar: The Last Airbender.

This is my second foray into bringing the monster taming genre to novel form. My Djinn Tamer series written with A.J. Cerna was inspired by Pokémon whereas Beast Mage draws from Digimon. The series was originally called Totem Beasts (I briefly played with the idea of Totemon before quickly tossing it). Djinn Tamer has a modern setting and features tamers with multiple monsters that they battle and train as a sport. Mana Beasts is set in a mashup Pre-Columbian/Medieval setting. Beastcallers (the human magic users aka the Beast Mages) have a connection to just one monster.

The initial premise for the story was this symbiotic magic system between human and beast. I knew all along that I wanted this story to be in the progression fantasy sub-genre (think Will Wight’s Cradle series or Andrew Rowe’s Arcane Ascension). Beastcallers and their Mana Beasts are vital to their clans. In addition to providing protection, they utilize various powers such as healing, weather control, and more. 

If you’re a monster taming nerd/Pokémaniac like me and really want to know all the stuff that goes into the hotdog, I wrote an epic-length email about my inspirations for people who sign up to be notified when the Kickstarter launches. If you’re interested, drop your email here:


Q] The artwork for BEAST MAGE is mesmerizing. 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?

DAS: Thank you! Billy Christian is incredibly talented and really captured the vision of the book. I provided a few image references for the human (Kellen) and the Mana Beast (Vex) then let him run with it. The mountainous terrain and the temple in the background were loosely inspired by the Incan Empire, as was Kellen’s attire. It was important to me that we balance the familiar with the new on the cover because there’s that same mix in the story.
I had some specific direction for Vex’s appearance and the kind of magic appearing in Kellen’s hand. Otherwise, we aged Kellen up a bit but that was about it. Billy almost nailed it on the first attempt and had a great sense for what I was looking for.
Q] After Brandon Sanderson & Will Wight’s extremely successful Kickstarters, I feel a little bit silly even asking this. However I am still curious as to what was your reasoning for going with Kickstarter for this book?

DAS: After the first hour of Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter, I knew I had to lead off with the disclaimer that I was planning my Kickstarter before his surprise launch. Then Will Wight threw his hat into the ring and suddenly we have two of the three highest grossing Kickstarters of all time, both within a week of one another. It’s wonderful that these two projects are bringing so many more fiction lovers and fantasy readers to the platform.
My motivation isn’t the astronomical amounts of money they’re raising (which Brandon and Will have absolutely earned through their hard work and storytelling talent). 

When I considered my release options back in 2021, I knew I wanted to fund the simultaneous release of Beast Mage in ebook, paperback, and audiobook, and provide a direct outlet for readers to interact with me and support my author career. I already sell ebooks direct to readers via a Shopify store, so Kickstarter was a logical extension of that.

Kickstarter is the best option for me to hopefully fund that approach. My literal Kickstarter goal only covers production costs to make the book a reality. I did everything I could to get the best cover, editing, and narration for Beast Mage.

I will still have a retail release later this year, but the people who believe in Beast Mage the most and help make it happen will get the first chance to check it out.
Q] With BEAST MAGE being the first book of a series? What can you reveal about your plans for the series (number of books)?

DAS: Mana Beasts is my largest planned series to date. I’m still working on the finer details for the rest of the story, which is shaping up to be 7 or 8 books. My stories are better when I have things mapped out from beginning to end of the series. Aside from working on the Kickstarter launch I’m finalizing a road map so I can start book two soon.

I had to rein myself in quite a few times with characters, scenes, and magic in Beast Mage, knowing that it would be better later on in the series. I’ve worked to write Beast Mage in a way that, later on in the series, readers will discover alongside Kellen that much of what he learned and knows is incorrect, both relating to the plot and how the magic system works. There are hints of this in the first book. A good example of this is the way history is remembered and myths are born and change through generations.
Q] Can you share something about the book that is not mentioned in the blurb and why should fans should be excited for this new story?

DAS: For audiobook fans, the most exciting news is that Travis Baldree is the narrator! I had a deal worked out with Travis before I started writing the rough draft and literally heard his voice in my head whenever I read parts of the book during revisions. I love so many of his performances and am thrilled to be teaming up with such a talented individual.

For fans of progression fantasy, portal fantasy or isekia stories, please know that I spent SO much time examining some of the tropes and trying to present them in a fresh way. If the premise of the Mana Beasts series is Digimon meets Avatar: The Last Airbender, the premise of Beast Mage is “what happens when a character is transported into another world but you still have a reason and need to go home?”

I wanted to write a character that DIDN’T have a terrible life on earth and thus never thinks about home or automatically accepts his new life. What if he had the choice between worlds? Many people may fantasize about this but if the choice actually came to them, it wouldn’t be an automatic decision for most of us if we really thought about what it meant. As an author, I’m not very good at theme, but I would say the theme of Beast Mage is “how do we learn to accept the curveballs life throws into our plans?”

Another thing is the chemistry between Kellen and Vex pops in a way I didn’t entirely expect from the outline. My very rough model for these two was Tom Holland as Ian Lightfoot in Onward (Kellen) and Tom Holland as Peter Parker (Vex). Basically, cautious worrywart vs. hyperactive teenager who wants to please. I got into the rough draft and that relationship really took on a life of its own. Oras is a harsh world and Kellen has a lot on his plate in this book. Vex offers comedic relief and lighter moments by providing a duality to Kellen and the seriousness of their quest.

 Allison (Kellen’s sister) was an unexpected favorite among early readers. Originally, I wasn’t going to provide a POV from her at all, so it was a fortunate accident that plans changed. She has a mind of her own. As I mentioned before, I spent a HUGE amount of time on the worldbuilding for this series then dialed it back in the actual book. I think there’s a good balance that leaves plenty of room to explore the world of Oras over the next several books.
Q] For someone who has not read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write?

DAS: My style is “fast-paced fantasy with heart.” No matter which ones of my books you’re reading, my goal is to keep you turning the pages and rooting for a protagonist who starts as a regular person. There’s a hero in all of us and most of us probably spend more time than we want to admit imagining what a leveled-up version of us could be like.

This shines through in theme of Beast Mage. Looking back, I realize it was influenced by the last two years and the resiliency and endurance we all adopted. Being a hero doesn’t usually mean becoming a Chosen One. It’s having the courage to not quit and keep stepping up to the plate when you get curveball after curveball
Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

DAS: Publishing the book as a Kickstarter project is going to be exciting, but I’m even more anxious to get Beast Mage out to as many people as possible and hear their reactions to the story. When I announced to my readers that the book was done, I shared the following Neil Gaiman quote.

“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself...That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.”

I can’t remember feeling that way about a book I’ve written before. I hope that means I’ve done something right and have grown as an author. Thanks for reading!


Read Beast Mage chapter one here

Official Blurb: A young man is transported to a strange land of magical beast companions.

Kellen Lars may be the most unremarkable person on Earth. In the mana-enchanted land of Oras, he could become a champion.

After his little sister vanishes before his eyes, Kellen awakens in another realm inhabited by mythical creatures and people who shape the very forces of nature. These are the Beastcallers, wielders of elemental magics who ascend alongside their beast companions.

In search of his sister, Kellen explores a savage new world full of magical storms, animal demi-gods and warring tribes. Just surviving isn't an option. If he ever wants to see home again, Kellen must wield his budding powers and train his newly-bonded Mana Beast. Even if he succeeds, nothing will ever be the same again.

A young man from Earth. A Mana Beast. Together, they'll progress into legend.

Beast Mage will launch in ebook, paperback, and audiobook via Kickstarter in April 2022. Retail release is scheduled for Fall 2022. Learn more over here.


Unknown said...

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