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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Cover Reveal with Author Q&A: TROLLGRAVE by Alex S. Bradshaw (by Mihir Wanchoo)



Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic Alex, how have you been since the release of your debut?

 ASB: Thank you for having me! It’s a pleasure to be back.

 I’ve been good, thank you, but busy! I’ve been chipping away at writing projects, got a puppy (you might have seen the many, many pictures of Pippin on social media…), and I got married (it may come as no surprise to anyone that knows anything about me that dinosaurs were involved) as well. When I put it all together like that it feels like a lot!
Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration?

ASB: I don’t think I have a muse that directs my writing. Sometimes it can be tough to sit down and write or plan something but after a little time my writing muscles are warmed up and I can really get going. I wonder if that’s my muse slowly coming to join me at the writing table!

For my motivation, I just love storytelling and creating worlds that people can inhabit and characters people can come to love (or hate!) – whether that’s doing through my writing or playing roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons. It’s so amazing to me that just by using words you can create whole worlds and characters that they might come to know as well as anyone in real life and that, as writers and readers and players, we have real emotional reactions to these completely made-up people and places. These places and characters didn’t exist until the author made them and we can cheer and weep for them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s literally magic.

I think that is also where a lot of my inspiration comes from. When I read and experience the stories that other people have made it makes me want to go back and create more of my own. There are so many great stories out there and so many more coming all the time that it can just be inspiring to read and discover new themes and characters and creatures that you might want to explore in your own writing.

I also find that non-fiction can be a great source of inspiration, especially ancient history and myths. I recently wrote a short story about Medusa but based on earlier depictions of her and a sculpture from a temple of Artemis in Corfu (she has hair as well as snakes in her hair and has wings).  I found it fascinating how much the depictions of the Gorgons had changed and wanted to explore the idea that Medusa’s children were alive before she was killed (that story is currently out on submission, so keep your fingers crossed for me!).

Myth and ancient history can be a fantastic source of inspiration, especially as myth so often changes and develops over time depending on who is telling the story so I find it fascinating to discover how myths were originally told and how they still have relevance for us today.

Q] Let’s talk about the stunning cover for TROLLGRAVE. Can you reveal how you and your cover artist worked together to create it?

ASB: Isn’t it amazing?!

For the artist, the brilliant Raph Lomotan (who’s actually done artwork for Magic: The Gathering, which blows my mind!), I pulled a lot of images together into a Pinterest board to try and show the feeling and theme of the book and I also sent him some details about the book like a synopsis and character details. I made some suggestions of what I thought would be good to have on the cover (of course, Alvir front and centre!) and what would be good to see on the back. He then sent me a few rough sketches and we picked our favourites and after a little time and a little more back and forth he sent over an amazing piece of art for the full cover.

Then we passed it over to Shawn T. King of STK Kreations and designer of many amazing covers (he works with Wraithmarked and loads of amazing authors).  He didn’t need very much direction from me beyond the blurb and any thoughts I had as we obviously wanted to make it match up to Windborn so I sent him the rune for the spine, the back cover text, and let him get on with it!

Honestly, with Raph and Shawn I just try and provide as much context for the book as I can but then get out of their way. They’re amazing at what they do so I just let them work their magic. I am so happy with the finished cover and it’s honestly a bit surreal to think it came from words I wrote down!
Q] TROLLGRAVE is the second standalone in the Windborn saga. Previously you had mentioned that this series is going to focus on possibly four characters. Was it always the plan to focus on Alvir Einarson after WINDBORN?

ASB: I didn’t quite realise it would be Alvir Einarson who was the focus of the second book. I knew that I wanted to write about a god-speaker as the protagonist for one of the Windborn Sagas so that I could explore a different perspective on the Windborn – as the Windborn are given their powers by the gods’ defeated enemies.

As I was brainstorming ideas for potential Windborn Sagas and different characters to follow, Alvir took shape and as he did, I realized he would be the perfect protagonist for the second book.

Q] So what can readers expect from TROLLGRAVE and what should they be looking forward to according to you?

ASB: A lot of this book takes place in the depths of the Trolbjolvid, The Forest of Broken Trolls. We saw a little of it in WINDBORN as Edda journeyed through it, but Alvir will be exploring its deep, dark heart.

There are mysterious powers growing in the Forest of Broken Trolls so readers can expect a mystery as Alvir tries to discover what is really happening and who, or what, is leading the fanatical outlaws who have been kidnapping people and taking them deep into the forest.
Alvir also reconnects with his estranged sister so I hope that readers will find strong themes of family and community in the book as well.
Q] Can you tell us more about the world that The Windborn Saga is set in and some of the story’s major characters? What are the curiosities of this world?

ASB: For this story, we have Alvir Einarson who is a god-speaker who has spent his life so far travelling between remote farms and homesteads to help the people living there. Alvir is an accomplished rune-weaver so we get to see him weave some powerful magics.
The other major characters in the story are, for the most part, the people that he ventures into the Forest of Broken Trolls with. This includes a couple of Windborn: Fafnir and Yrsa.

Yrsa has the power to read minds which makes some of her companions a bit uncomfortable and also means she rarely bothers to make speeches. Fafnir is a colossal warrior, standing as tall as a house, with immense strength and is a master with a spear. He is a fighter to be fighter to be feared although he always has his hood up to hide his face.

The setting itself is Norse-inspired so the towns we see are analogous to Scandinavia in the Middle Ages, although with the Windborn we also add in superpowered warriors into the mix!
As TROLLGRAVE takes us deep into the heart of the Forest of Broken Trolls we will also get to see some more of the legends of the trolls and the spirits and mysterious creatures that dwell in the forest’s depths.

In this book we also peek at some of the other powers in the world. For example, there are a few mentions of the Empire of Bones which is essentially a necromancy-powered Roman Empire that is currently in ruins. Perhaps there may be a future Windborn Saga that delves into the ruins of the Empire of Bones!
Q] Previously you had mentioned that you were also working on an epic fantasy series that will have ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and ancient Crete as its setting and is chock full of dinosaurs. That sounds seriously awesome. Is that still on the books for a future release?

ASB: Yes, absolutely! My hope with it is to write an epic fantasy series set in a late bronze age fantasy world and have loads of dinosaurs. I’ve been planning the overarching plot and worldbuilding in between writing and editing TROLLGRAVE and I’ve got a good skeleton for the series plot and most of the first book.

I’m not sure how many details I can share at the moment, but I’ve been taking inspiration from across the ancient world as well as looking to Dinotopia (as well as the amazing books, does anyone else remember that show from 2002?) for even more inspiration.

If you want to know what you can look forward to, here’s a little hint: a magically bonded allosaurus companion, pterosaur riders, a growing cult to a drowned god, lingering ghosts, and of course loads more dinosaurs.

I hope that people will like it when it’s done – not least because I’ve got plenty of stories for this setting!
Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

ASB: I would like to thank you again for having me! And thank you to your readers for joining us for the cover reveal and the Q&A. It’s been a blast for me so I hope you’ve enjoyed it too!

If anyone wants to get in touch then you can find me on most social media as Alex S. Bradshaw and I hope that if TROLLGRAVE sounds like something you’d like that you’ll give it a go and that you enjoy it! 


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Something stirs in the Forest of Broken Trolls...

Despite all his skill in healing and runecraft, God-Speaker Alvir Einarson could not save everyone.
In the wake of failure, he seeks aid from an old mentor and witnesses a wave of darkness sweep over the land that, for a single moment, extinguishes all magic.

In the capital, he discovers a fellow god-speaker is missing and the streets swarming with Windborn - resurrected warriors gifted with supernatural powers by the gods’ enemies.
Answers await in the Forest of Broken Trolls, but within its sinister depths even the gods’ protection may not be enough, and no more so than now, when the gods’ strength may be fading and dark powers are on the rise.

One thing is certain: Alvir Einarson would rather die than let the gods fall.
Trollgrave is a standalone Norse fantasy filled with fanatical outlaws, strange magic, and vicious monsters.



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