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Brian Lee Durfee Interview – The Blackest Heart

Brian Lee DurfeeI’d like to start-off this interview by not asking a question but, stating how incredibly excited I am to interview an author whose work (The Forgetting Moon, book one of the Five Warrior Angels series) I really loved. It’s a privilege and I’m really looking forward to The Blackest Heart that is due to come out February 5, 2019.

For those who don’t know you and haven’t read your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and about your series?

I am an artist and writer who was raised in Fairbanks, Alaska and Monroe, Utah. I currently live in Salt Lake City. As for the art, I’ve done illustrations for Wizards of the Coast, Tolkien Enterprises, Dungeons & Dragons, and many more. My art has been featured in Spectrum 3: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art and Writers of the Future Vol 9. I won the Arts for the Parks Grand Canyon Award and the painting is in the permanent collection of the Grand Canyon Visitors Center-Kolb Gallery. I am also the author of the fantasy series the Five Warrior Angels published by Simon & Schuster’s SAGA Press.

As for the fantasy series, my goal was to write large, bold, epic, in-your-face fantasy novels in the mold of George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson but with the literary dash of Pat Rothfuss and Tad Williams and a mix of quest adventure similar to Robert Jordan or The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Forgetting Moon (cover)One of my favorite Goodreads reviewers summed the plot of The Forgetting Moon best, “It has been nearly a thousand years since the death and supposed ascendency to heaven of Laijon, King of Slaves, one of five legendary Warrior Angels; history is mute on the fates of the other four: the Princess, the Thief, the Assassin, and the Gladiator. Since Laijon’s death, nations have divided into warring factions worshipping either Laijon, his son, Raijael, or his wife, The Blessed Mother Mia. Now, prophecies near fruition as the followers of Raijael plow a bloody track across the Five Isles, and the infamous weapons of the Five Angels have been rediscovered. (The doctrines and religious fervor that fuel the war remind one of the endless schisms and wars fostered by the Abrahamic religions of our world.)

The story follows those who may or may not be the prophesied descendants of the Five Warrior Angels: Aeros Raijael, the White Prince, sociopathic leader of the invading army; Nail, an orphan from a remote fishing village; Jondralyn Bronachell, sister to a cruel and paranoid king; their sister, Tala Bronachell, who is following an anonymous assassin’s clues to save her cousin from death; Gault Aulbrek, a disenchanted knight; Ava Shay, prisoner of war; Hawkwood, a deadly Bloodwood assassin; Squireck Van Hester, a political prisoner forced to fight in the gladiatorial arena; and one very cool shepherd dog named Beer Mug. The reader should heed the motto of the Brethren of Mia: “Trust no one.””

What inspired you to write the Five Warrior Angels series?

Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and pretty much every other book or movie I ever really enjoyed. I love the long epic films like Braveheart, Gladiator, Dances with Wolves, and long epic novels like Lonesome Dove, Shogun, The Stand, Pillars of the Earth, Game of Thrones, Eye of the World, etc. I just wanted to do my utmost to create something that could compete in the same league as those classics. I wanted to write a fantasy full of great characters and non-stop adventure that also said something about the dangers of war, religion, prophecy, faith, and fanaticism.

Your series has a heavy emphasis on medieval elements. Were you, in a way, influenced by historical events similar to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series with the War of the Roses? Or do you simply adore the medieval setting?

Some of the battle scenes when the village of Gallows Haven (small spoiler alert here) gets sacked by the bad guys were strongly influenced by real stories of the Vikings invading north eastern England. I did a lot of research on whaling to get some of the scenes that take place on the sea accurate. Other than that, I love the time period. I love swords and battle axes and archers. Horses. Sorcery. Knights. Armor. Castles. I ADORE medieval settings. If I could tour every castle and cathedral in Europe I would.

The Forgetting Moon (banner)

It seems you like to travel (particularly to Germany). For any “would-be” traveler, where would you tell them to go and why?

I think after writing, reading, painting, and watching the Oakland Raiders, travel would be my next favorite passion. Hong Kong was a favorite of mine. Alaska. Switzerland. Austria. Scotland. England. Northern Italy blew me away—it’s like stepping onto another planet. I reckon I will be going to France this spring. Maybe Spain next year.

What’s the first book that made you fall in love with the fantasy genre?

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks was the first book I ever read that got me jazzed about reading. I was about twelve-years-old and knew by 100 pages into that book that I wanted to write a fantasy series of my own someday. Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series were the first books that made me fall in love with words and how they sounded and how they could be put together to create great art. My editor at SAGA Press bought my book specifically because I was the first writer he had ever read that reminded him of Tad Williams. In fact, Tad gave us a blurb that will be on the cover of book two The Blackest Heart. The fact that my literary hero gave me a cover blurb is still pretty staggering.

Who’s your top-five favorite authors (outside of the fantasy genre)?

Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Larry McMurtry. And number six would be Stephen King but he really kinda is in my genre.

What’s your workspace like? I know some authors have a cozy place they conduct their writing (like Patrick Rothfuss has a separate, upstairs room solely dedicated to writing).

I have a spot in my library and I listen to a lot of classic rock turned up LOUD whilst writing; Queen, Prince, Journey, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Metallica, Billy Joel, Elton John, REO Speedwagon, Genesis, Springsteen, Kid Rock, Mellencamp, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, The Eagles, Santana, Motley Crue, Phil Collins, Green Day, Stevie Nicks, Bryan Adams, Def Leppard, Annie Lennox, Tesla, Duran Duran, U2, Styx, Tom Petty, Van Halen…well you get the picture. I fall asleep every night to Sade. So smooth.

The Blackest Heart (banner)

Any advice for an aspiring fantasy writer/artist?

Read a lot. If you ain’t burning through at least one book a week then try harder. I’ve been on about a 3-4 book per week pace since I was twelve. You will learn more about writing from simply reading a lot than from any 100 classes you could take.

Now that your attending conventions/panels, have you been starstruck by any authors you’ve shared a panel with?

Not really. And probably because I had already met and conversed with quite a few of my favorite authors previously due to the amount of conventions I had done promoting my illustrations for D&D and Magic and stuff. Now, I have been in the same room with Stephen King, but I have not yet met him. That would be cool!

Do you have other series/novels in the works, besides the next installment of the Five Warrior Angels?

I wrote one long epic horror novel many years ago. It will never be published. Let’s call it my practice novel. I have ideas for both a sequel and prequel series to the Five Warrior Angels. I also have ideas for a space opera series. I also want to do a series of police procedurals similar to Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. But we shall see what comes next. I don’t know.

Speaking of novels, could you give us a small insight into your next book, The Blackest Heart?

The Blackest Heart (cover)I promise non-stop heart-pounding adventure. Its gonna thrill readers, then break their hearts, then make them go WTF JUST HAPPENED! But all in a good way.

I know this will be a tough question but, I have to ask. What do you like more drawing/illustrating or writing?

Reading, to be honest. There is no effort involved. I retired my paint brushes some time ago (due to going 50% blind in my left eye). Painting was just getting too painful and discouraging. But you can still go to my website www.brianleedurfee.com and buy all sorts of prints and stuff!

How was/is the editing process for The Blackest Heart or The Forgetting Moon? Did you feel it was a smooth process or was it a painful struggle?

Editing is my favorite part of the process. It’s never painful. I can do it sixteen hours a day and not get burnt out. And I am being serious here. I feel the editing process is where all the cool little tiny details get layered into the manuscript. I love it.

Religion plays a key role in The Forgetting Moon. How did you develop the doctrine of Ways and Truths of Laijon and The Moon Scrolls of Mia?

Well of course the religions in my story are completely made up out of my mind. However. I culled a lot of small details from paganism, witchcraft, masonry, Masonic lodges, Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah Witness, and Born-Again Christianity…all in an effort to ground the belief systems into something relatable to the reader. The careful reader who knows anything about any of those religions will spot what I am doing. I’ve yet to offend anyone…or at least nobody has confronted me angrily yet.

Besides books, do you have a favorite TV show? And if not, any movies you’ve seen recently that you really enjoyed?

My favorite TV show of all time is The Sopranos. I also like: The Wire, Game of Thrones, Deadwood, Downton Abbey, Battlestar Galactica, The Tudors, Vikings, Breaking Bad, Lost, Mad Men, Big Love, The Deuce, Three’s Company

Okay, where did you get the idea behind the awesome steroid-injected horses? Were you at all influenced by Tolkien’s steeds that the Nazgûl ride?

Honestly, I nicked it from C. S. Friedman’s novel In Conquest Born. There was a gladiator in her novel who had red-hazed eyes due to some drug he was taking. I liked the idea drug-induced red eyes, but (in my case) on bad-ass battle horses.

If you had to describe, in one word, your Five Warrior Angels series what would it be?

EPIC!

The Forgetting Moon (cover 2)Who’s your favorite character in your Five Warrior Angels series? Who’s your least favorite character?

Favorites—Gault, Liz Hen, Spades, and the dog Beer Mug. Least favorites—they’re all my favorites.

If you could pick a director to develop the Five Warrior Angels into a TV series, who would you pick and why?

Probably Alejandro G. Inarritu, the guy who made The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio. Inarritu filmed in real harsh locations, which I loved. Most of the dangers the characters face in The Forgetting Moon and especially The Blackest Heart are the dangerous landscapes they find themselves in: bloody seas, glaciers, rivers, mountain tops, etc. I hate green screen stuff.

Our final question and answer has spoilers for The Forgetting Moon. Please click this link with caution if you have yet to finish the book: Here There Be Spoilers!

We would like to thank Brain again for stopping by to speak with us. Book two in the Five Warrior Angels series, The Blackest Heart, is due out in February 2019! To learn more about the series and Brian’s other works you can visit his website and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

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