Q&A: L.B. Graham (The Lesser Sun)
Can you tell us about the setting of your series The Wandering?
One unusual thing about the setting is that it shifts a great deal throughout the series. I wanted to create a story that felt truly global, so that meant having the events move great distances and consequently, it also meant coming up with very different landscapes and topographies in the different books.
The first book, The Darker Road, has the most unified setting, as most of the book takes place in and around the great city of Barra-Dohn, which is the seat of power for a great empire run by the cruel but capable King, Eirmon Omiir. I am told by Dune fans that the desert world of the book with its various cool technologies feels like Dune, but as I haven’t read it myself, I can’t say. The rest of the series, though, moves a great deal, and the setting will change more rapidly to fit that.
The second book in this series titled The Lesser Sun is releasing in October. Can you tell us where this novel picks up the plot?
The first book, as I mentioned above, take place in the mighty city of Barra-Dohn, and to a large extent, it revolves around the strange and sudden fall of that great city. The Lesser Sun picks up the action about three years later, with a small band of exiles who survived the fall of Barra-Dohn and are now bent on finding the mysterious Jin Dara, the man who was responsible for the destruction of the city and who has taken two of the six fragments of the Golden Cord for himself. Just what exactly these fragments are and can do is detailed at some length in The Darker Road, but suffice it to say here, they are very powerful and the fact that he has two fragments and seems intent on taking more becomes the central conflict of the series at this point.
For this book you had to create an alternate world, which requires an amazing imagination. Have you always had such a creative imagination?
I would say that of the various component parts of writing a novel like this, the part that invigorates me the most, and that I think I excel at the most, is world-building. I am not the guy who labors over every sentence and gets it all just so, but I think I am a very good story architect, who can create a world with real depth and a story arc that has some heft to it, that can become very complex and yet wind its way to a conclusion that pulls the various threads together.
In the world of The Wandering there is a pretty cool ‘alternative technology’ system that I created for the series, to a certain extent, simply from trying to imagine a system very different from the fossil fuels of our own world. This opened the door for some fun devices and weapons and so forth, and it also creates a pretty unique feel for the stories, as they don’t quite fit into the traditional, medieval/semi-medieval feel of many fantasy worlds. At the same time, I definitely think the series fits the broad ‘fantasy’ mold, even if it stretches some of the conventions.
For example, I think one of the fascinating things about fantasy is this contrast in fantasy stories between a way of life that is somewhat archaic, or behind us, and magic and magical abilities which give the characters abilities that are beyond us. In The Wandering I think the reader will get a similar experience, where sometimes the world feels dated, and in other ways, very advanced.
What does your writing process look like?
That has changed with time. I used to plan and outline extensively before writing. I’d outline the book, then I’d sit down and outline each chapter into its component scenes, and then I’d make an even more detailed outline of what happened in the scene – almost like a movie director, moving frame by frame.
I have written ten novels now, and I am less bound to that process. It was already changing by the end of my first series, The Binding of the Blade. I work out the general arc of my story, figure out some key moments and images, and then I’ll start writing without needing to know everything that happens along the way. I still like to outline a chapter before I write it, but when I sit down to do it, I don’t necessarily know what is coming. I work it out as I go.
That’s a big change for me, but I like the interplay between having the big idea or general flow in my head and working out the details as I go. I can get some great ideas along the way and I think it keeps my imagination engaged.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this series?
It’s a good question. My first series, The Binding of the Blade, revolved around the theme of ‘longing for restoration.’ It imagines a world where the making of weapons represents ‘the Fall’ and where the ‘unmaking’ of weapons is a prelude to Restoration. As such, it wrestles a good bit with what it means to navigate a broken world while yearning for a perfect one.
The Wandering revolves around a very different theme, or premise. Namely, it is based on the idea that a world that rejects its Maker and puts its trust and hope in lesser things might find that for this rebellion, a price must be paid. So, it is kind of a judgement theme and in that way, it is very different than the restoration theme of The Binding of the Blade.
How many more books do you anticipate for the Wandering series?
The third book, The Colder Moon, is already written, though I don’t know when it is scheduled for release. It wraps up several of the loose ends of the series, since I originally thought of The Wandering as two trilogies, and obviously, in that scenario it was the end of the first trilogy.
I suspect, though, that I won’t write an entire second trilogy, for a variety of reasons. In that case, I think the series will end up being four books, since the loose ends that aren’t tied together in The Colder Moon can probably be handled in one more volume.