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Brian Lee Durfee Interview – Prison Comic-Con

Brian Lee DurfeeToday we are talking with epic fantasy author, Brian Lee Durfee, about his recent convention in the Utah State Prison.

For anyone who doesn’t know you and isn’t familiar with your novels, can you provide a brief overview?

I am the author of The Forgetting Moon, The Blackest Heart, and The Lonesome Crown, the first three books in the Five Warrior Angels epic fantasy series published by Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press.

For the Five Warrior Angel series, my goal from the start has been 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. This sums the plot of The Forgetting Moon best:

The Forgetting Moon (cover)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, prophesies 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, a 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.”

Besides writing, you are also a prison guard?

Yes. I am reluctant to give up a day job that I love and pays me well and provides me with health benefits and retirement. I only have about eight years left at the prison before I retire and write full time. But for now, writing falls on the weekends.

What made you decide to become a prison guard?

Well I wanted to be a police officer, took a job at the prison as a steppingstone into law enforcement, and then just loved working at the prison. I’ve worked the mental health unit, gang unit, intake unit. It’s been a blast.

How do you balance work and writing?

The Blackest Heart (cover)When I step into the prison, I am in prison guard mode. When I step out of the prison, I am in writer mode. The two don’t mix. It’s like I have two separate lives completely divergent of each other. Whenever young writers ask me what career they should start while they perfect their writing craft on the side, I always tell them do something that takes zero brain power: prison guard, ditch digger, carpet cleaner, anything that keeps you far, far away from computers all day. That way when you get home from you regular job you just can’t wait to get on your laptop and write.

From another interview, you mentioned you run a convention. What kind of convention is it?

Me and my author friend James Dashner (author of the Maze Runner series) put on the first ever in the history of the world, Prison Comic-Con inside the Utah State Prison.

Where did the idea of a convention come about?

James Dashner - The Maze RunnerWell I got the idea by attending the Salt Lake Comic Con and thinking to myself, why can’t we do something like this for the inmates (of course on a much smaller scale)? I mean the warden certainly balked at the idea of bringing in dudes in Darth Vader suits and girls in Harley Quinn outfits and letting them run around inside the prison. But he did let us do some other things.

How, do you think, has it helped people within the system? Do you see a higher moral among inmates or any other positive changes?

The inmates are still talking about how much they enjoy our little Comic Con to this day.

Can you give us a breakdown on how the convention is run?

Well I pretty much have to get clearances and a security plan in place before I do anything. And then get clearances for whatever guests we have.

What kind of novels do you stock for the convention?

So, Baen editor, Toni Weisskopf, donated huge boxes full of hundreds of Baen sci-fi novels by David Weber, Larry Correia, and many others. Joe Monti at Saga Press also donated several boxes of Saga books. Brandon Sanderson donated two boxes filled with copies of all of his novels. I live near him and drove to his house and picked them up (Sanderson is one of the nicest guys ever). One of my friends in Salt Lake who owns a comic book store donated thousands of comics. Barnes & Noble also pitched in. So, we had a ton of stuff ready to go into the six libraries we have at the Utah State Prison.

What’s your favorite aspect about the convention?

It was just cool to have the inmates watch all the Maze Runner movies and then get to meet the author. I also taught several creative writing courses to the inmates leading up the convention. So, it was an extra treat for the inmates who participated in those classes to ask writing advice of both me and James Dashner.

The Blackest Heart (detail)

Do you have people “geek-out” over your novels?

Well at regular Comic Cons I do all the time. I get fan mail to via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But I also have inmate’s geek out over my novels. It’s a bit alarming to know that every felon in Utah has read my fantasy novels (yes, I keep our six prison libraries stocked with copies of all my novels). But the inmates have been hugely supportive as have my fellow Correctional Officers.

Lastly, for anyone interested can you provide a website or other social platforms where fans can learn more about your novels?

My website or just look me up on Facebook, I am the only Brian Lee Durfee there.

Brian Lee Durfee’s next installment in his The Five Warrior Angel series, The Lonesome Crown, is slated for release in about a year’s time.

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