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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Demon's Reign Cover Reveal Q&A with David Estes & Ben Galley (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Ben & David. How have both of you been?

BG: Hey Mihir! Thanks for having us. Aside from being thankful I’m no longer melting in the summer heat, I’ve been keeping busy writing the Bloodwood Saga books and a working on a new serial novel. It’s been quite the year of writing and hard work, but that’s how I like it.

DE: Thanks Mihir! Not bad! Busy, as always, but not just with writing. I have two kids under seven years old so my wife and I are always chauffeuring them around to some activity here in Hawaii. Not complaining though, it’s tons of fun and they keep me on my toes!
Q] You both are accomplished self-published authors in your own rights! What lead you both to join Wraithmarked Creative? How did your writing collaboration come to be?

DE: Before this project came about, I was already working with Wraithmarked and my co-writer G.D. Penman on another series, Shadebound, which I recently released. So when Wraithmarked came to me saying they had another co-write project in mind, my initial reaction was that it would be too many projects to work on at the same time in addition to my ongoing Kingfall series. But then I heard who the co-writer would be, none other than Ben Galley. I already knew Ben quite well at that point, but more than that, I knew the quality of his writing from his Chasing Graves series. CG is still one of my favorite series and I’m even in the process of reading it a second time (something I never do unless the author’s last name is Tolkien). In any case, I was sold!

BG: David’s far too kind and complimentary as always (I’ll pay you the $20 later, buddy), but that’s essentially how I felt. Wraithmarked approached me about any new story ideas I had and whether I wanted to work on them with none other than, you guessed it, David Freakin’ Estes. I’d had the pleasure of knowing David for a while and watched his incredible success build and build for years. It was an honour to be paired up with David and it’s been real fun working with him on Demon’s Reign.

Q] Demon’s Reign is described as a cross between Avatar: Last Airbender & Venom. Where did the idea come from and whose was it originally? What compelled you to see it through to the end?

DE: This is a fantastic question, because after some brainstorming, Ben and I initially went in a completely different direction. We even wrote several chapters of a totally different series before Ben called me up one day to discuss the project. What we had written was solid, with compelling worldbuilding and a fast-developing plot. BUT it wasn’t fully speaking to either of us. So then out of the blue Ben starts talking about another idea he had, this Avatar-like progression fantasy involving a demon invasion and these giant hummingbirds called lancewings and on and on. I could feel his passion for the project through the phone, and I was immediately hooked. We made the tough call to abandon what we’d already written and start all over again. I’m so glad that we did!
BG: The idea for a world of giant, mile-high trees and huge hummingbirds came together after being introduced to the British Columbia’s wilderness when I first moved to Canada five years ago. I’ve been obsessed with the idea ever since, but other book ideas were already in the queue. One of those was the idea I originally introduced to Wraithmarked and David. It was a prison setting with botanical magic and multiple POVs, but as we started working on it, like David said, it was a bit more of a grind than I was expecting. It seemed to start out too complicated and promised to get even more so. All the while, I couldn’t shake the idea of this arboreal world. I blame the hummingbirds I started feeding outside my apartment. It was as if they were judging me every day. I was far too excited about Demon’s Reign, particularly the strange 1st person POV relationship between the MCs Tarkosi and the demon warrior he’s unfortunately twinned with. With a lot of encouragement, we decided to switch and I’m very glad we did.
Q] How does this writing collaboration work? Do you write separately and then edit each other’s chapters (ala D. Preston & L. Child) or do you write cohesively like Ilona Andrews?

DE: From the beginning, Ben was the primary writer of the book, melding our ideas together in a seamless way. I edit his chapters as well as provide plot- and character-related feedback to ensure we’re both comfortable with the direction of the story and development of the characters. If we disagree on something, we do rock, paper, scissors. Just kidding, it never came to that. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner on this project. In almost all cases, we agreed when making difficult decisions.
BG: David’s nailed the description, so I’ll say it’s been a fantastic partnership from the beginning, as we both seemed to be leaning towards certain themes and arcs without discussing them first. There are basically no wrong answers, and any idea, however bizarre or unhinged, is discussed fully. What’s in the book very much derives from a dual input, and that’s really helped the collaboration go smoothly and swiftly.

Q] Let’s talk about the stunning cover for Demons Reign. Please tell us how you both and your cover artist + designer worked together to create it?

BG: This was a great process given that Wraithmarked are known for cover art that slaps, so I was excited from the start. As always with my cover design, I put together a big brief of ideas, certain scenarios and examples, and passed it back and forth with Bryce O’Connor of Wraithmarked, who had hired artist YAM to work on it. After a few drafts, little bits of feedback here and there – and I mean little, YAM is incredible – we had a cover. We also worked with a concept artist to really explore the form of the demon Serisi. I’m really pleased with how she and Tarkosi turned out. The typography was done by the inimitable Shawn T. King, which brought a real bold flavour to it.
DE: Ben had a very clear vision for the cover, so I give him all the credit (visual art is not one of my strong suits).
Q] What was your first reaction when you saw it? How does it hold up (in your opinion) to what the main story is about?

DE: Ha! I was like, “PERFECTION” when I first saw it. It couldn’t be more perfect as a visual representation of one of the main conflicts of the story: a man who suddenly finds his mind melded with that of a demon.

BG: Same. It was something along the lines of, “Daaaamn”. It’s a little hint at the progression within the fantasy world and the magic system, so it’s epic turned up to 11. It captures the danger of the forest and lines up really well with how I envisaged the two main MCs. What’s funny is that the creatures around Tarko and Serisi – navik – looked so much better than my initial idea for them that I changed their descriptions. Cheers to YAM on that one!
Q] Let’s talk about DEMONS REIGN and this collaboration, Ben this is the first time for you in such a collaborative process. How was the experience for you?

BG: In a word, fantastic. To elaborate on the above, I’d also add that having a collaboration like this can really smooth out the whole writing process. Normally what slows me down is questioning a particular story or scene. Having somebody who knows the story inside out like you do and can offer a second opinion can be incredibly useful at eradicating that doubt and helping the words to flow. Not that it wasn’t without the usual tough work of creation and wrangling the ideas into something entertaining, but having two brains was a support I really valued.
Q] David, you on the other hand are a bit experienced as you have another series being co-written with Dyrk Ashton. How is the collaborative process from your eyes especially with working such different writers as Dyrk & Ben?

DE: That’s correct, and as I mentioned earlier I’ve also been working with G.D. Penman. Wraithmarked has come to me with a number of projects to collaborate with them on, but these are the three authors I chose to work with because of how much respect I have for their writing ability and craft. That said, each of them are different in their approach to writing, their daily productivity, and how much support they need from me. Penman is the most similar to me in that he just wakes up and starts writing, day in and day out until a book is done. Ben is more of an inspiration-driven writing. When he’s feeling a project, he hammers at it relentlessly and I find my inbox flooded with chapter after chapter after chapter (that’s been the case lately with Demon’s Rage). Dyrk, on the other hand, is extremely methodical in his writing approach and meticulous in his research (for those who have read Paternus, you’ll know what I mean). The key to managing each of these partnerships has been to agree on the collaborative process and timetable upfront and then work together toward our goals. In all three cases, it has worked out really well so far!
Q] Can you tell us more about the world that The Bloodwood Saga is set in and some of the story’s major characters? What are the curiosities of this world?

BG: This world is the Swathe, a landscape of almost endless forest populated by a range of mile-high trees called bloodwoods, home to cities run by the Matriarchs and the Bloodlaws. These laws dictate hierarchy and a person’s calling by order of birth. Because of this devotion to order, subtle corruption threatens the bloodwoods. First and second-born prosper while workers and lower born are given drudgery. There is also the forgotten threat from another world: demons, who once came like wildfire every nine years until they were defeated.

Demon’s Reign follows Tarkosi Terelta, who is a third-born prone to uselessness and grand ideas of mattering. He has spent his life slipping down the bloodwood of Shal Gara, failing job after job until a dire omen appears in the sky: an eclipse covering the sun. Tarkosi’s a defiant soul and a master slinger in his scraps of free time, and when the sun turns black and smoke rises at the edge of the Swathe, Tarkosi finds himself unfortunately entangled in a terrifying invasion. In the madness of a battle, he is magically tied to the demon warrior Serisianathiel (or Serisi for short). She’s bloodthirsty, foul-mouthed, as ancient as a bloodwood, and set on driving Tarkosi to death or madness. Problem is, their lives are now entwined, and they must depend on each other to survive the war.

Aside from the dual POV of Tarkosi and Serisi, there’s also a broad cast of powerful friends and enemies that they make, such as the Scions of the Sixth-Born, blind sorcer and war-hero Pelikai, beast-wrangler Atalawe, and a demon king set on replacing order with chaos.

As for some curiosities, this world is inspired by North, South, and Central American mythologies, and completely arboreal. Metal hardly exists. Below the tree cities, there is a constant night in the loam filled where dark creatures roam. There is elemental magic powered by the “nectra” of bloodwoods, and lots of epic action fought on vertical landscapes. There is also plenty of double-crossing and betrayal, dark humour, and did I mention giant hummingbirds?

Q] So for someone who hasn't read either of your novels, what would be your pitch for DEMONS REIGN?

DE: A demon invasion wrapped up in a unique world where the MC must progress in tandem with the demon that has melded into him in order to save the world.
BG: A blurb-off! Aside from “Avatar: Last Airbender meets Venom”, I would say “an arboreal world facing the wildfire of a demon invasion puts its hope in a doomed and unlikely pair: an untrained sorcer and an ancient demon warrior.”
Q] So what can readers expect from DEMONS REIGN and what should they be looking forward to according to you both?

BG: I would say an adventure into a world that is designed to be escapist and rich, filled with a band of grey characters, emotional drama and mystery, and an epic invasion storyline punctuated with hefty action and stress.

As for the future, book 2 – Demon’s Rage – is underway and is more of a quest and tournament storyline with a new system of progression. We’re also seeing more of the world, demonkind, and most importantly, the giant hummingbirds.
DE: We’re working hard on book 2 of the trilogy already, so the plan is to release the sequels as quickly as possible so readers don’t have to wait too long to devour the whole series. As for me, my bestselling Kingfall series (the follow up to Fatemarked) is nearly finished as I plan to release book 5, Endfall, early next year. From there I’ll continue working with my three co-writers to finish our three trilogies over the next couple years, while simultaneously starting a new series set in the same world as Fatemarked/Kingfall. We still have lots of stories to tell!

Q] DEMONS REIGN is book 1 of The Bloodwood Saga. How many books are you planning to write in this series?

DE: It will be a standard trilogy.
BG: That’s right: a standard trilogy of three mildly chonky books.
Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

DE: Just THANK YOU for your support. Writers like Ben and I wouldn’t be able to immerse ourselves in our worlds and create characters and stories without you. So your enthusiasm and love of books truly means the world to us!
BG: A massive thank you for sharing the cover and allowing us to waffle, Mihir! Like David’s said, your support and that of readers means so much to us as it does to scores of authors. We really hope you enjoy this new story and delving into this world we’ve worked hard to create for our readers.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Tarkosi Terelta is a nobody. A nobody who will save his world from demons and the hellfire they bring.
The third-born of a shamed family, Tarkosi's lot in life is to spend his days as a worker, feeding temperamental lancewings under a harsh master. His days in the bloodwood city of Shal Gara are full of drudgery, tedium, and pain, his own ambitions cast aside in the name of order. 
That is until demons from a broken world invade the forest realm of The Swathe, and an accident born of violence and dark magic intertwines Tarkosi’s fate with the greatest among them.
Forced onto the front lines of a war forgotten by history, Tarkosi must balance battling the royal demon bound to him with the rapid progression of the magical abilities its presence has bestowed. Risking everything, he will need to tread a thin line between hero and heretic to keep Shal Gara from falling into ruin and chaos. 
Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Venom in this epic progression fantasy perfect for fans of Iron Prince, Cradle, and Kingfall. 



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