Book Tour Q&A: Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth by Christopher Russell
Today we're taking part in the book tour organized by Escapist Book Tours for Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth by Christopher Russell! Continue reading for the book blurb and a Q&A with the author.
About the book
A world consumed by war . . .
An ancient evil resurrected . . .
A millennia old bargain comes due . . .
When two blades clash, the third will fall, and the fate of all will be jeopardized. To save Lozaria, the failures of the past must be atoned for by a new generation of heroes. The time has come for mortals to cast off sight and, in doing so, truly come to see . . .
Victory is never absolute.
Seven centuries ago, the forces of order won the Illyriite War on the plains of Har'muth. Darmatus and Rabban Aurelian slew their elder brother, Sarcon, the despotic architect of the conflict, then sacrificed themselves to banish the cataclysmic vortex opened with his dying breath. The first advent of the Oblivion Well was thwarted. Even without their vanished gods, the seven races of Lozaria proved themselves capable of safeguarding their world.
Or so the story goes.
The year is now 697 A.B.H (After the Battle of Har'muth). Though war itself remains much the same, the weapons with which it is waged have evolved. Airships bearing powerful cannons ply the skies, reducing the influence of mages and their spells. Long range communication has brought far flung regions of Lozaria closer than ever before. At the center of this technological revolution are the three Terran states of Darmatia, Rabban, and Sarconia, who have fought a near ceaseless campaign of 700 years in an attempt to best each other. The roots of their enmity lie buried beneath the wasteland of Har'muth, a place all three nations consider best forgotten.
However, an ancient power sealed within Har'muth has not forgotten them, and the descendants of those who fought on that field must now take a stand to rectify the mistakes of the past.
On to the interview...!
This is one of our standard podcast opening questions, so we’ll include it for written interviews as well! Tell us something great that’s happened recently! :)
I received some incredible mid-edit feedback from my editor about Divinity's Twilight: Remnant (Divinity's Twilight Book #2)! She said, and I quote, "Jesus Christ, your book is good." I may have smiled so hard my family needed a chisel to unfix my cheeks. Not to mention I probably shaved at least two minutes off my run time from the adrenaline high.
I can't wait to get this book out to all my readers and fans!
What are you currently reading or what’s up next on your TBR? What made you pick up this book?
I'm currently listening to A Bond of Thread by Allegra Pescatore and Justin Burnison, an indie Fae romance with an intriguing magic system and a plot that wouldn't be out of place in Sanderson-style epic fantasy. The characters have already endeared themselves to me in the first few chapters, and I can't wait to see where their life-and-death struggle against "void-touched," mutated Fae will take them.
Fantasy romance is a little outside my normal wheelhouse, but I'm excited about A Bond of Thread because Allegra Pescatore hasn't written a word I haven't enjoyed. Her flagship Last Gift series is a brilliant subversion of epic fantasy tropes, and the two of us—as co-authors—have a few unique and comical books coming down the pipeline for fans of hard magic systems.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start writing?
I'm originally a mechanical engineer—about the last type of person you'd expect to find writing epic fantasy novels. However, I grew up with a voracious love of reading, devouring the Redwall series by Brian Jacques and the Lord of the Rings in early to mid-elementary school.
At first, I thought those books were all that existed in the world, rereading them until the ink-smeared, the pages tore, and the bindings grew tattered and worn. They were my everything, and I took them wherever I went.
And then . . . reality beckoned. High school, college applications, securing employment and income. I still read during those days—a lot of Star Wars and books about Roman history, but not much else. I even started writing an alternate-history novel where Julius Caesar avoided assassination. Yet after hours of engineering lectures, homework, and clubs, writing felt like extra work. Fun, yes, but still an engagement of a brain that would rather turn itself off during the fleeting moments of free time I had.
I forget how I discovered the Shadows of the Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovksy. It may have been a Christmas present, a chance Barnes and Noble purchase, or a library checkout recommended by a friend. The how doesn't matter, only that the series changed my life.
Here was an author combining engineering with magic! I flew through the series' ten books, only pausing for a few months when I caught up to the tenth entry several months before its release. I remember nothing about Tchaikovsky's prose, but his true magic was in his world and characters. Cities that belched steam from a hundred-thousand snaking pipes. Armies resplendent in gleaming plate dashing themselves to pieces against academics who put their faith in new innovations, in progress over power. Lush jungles, underwater settlements, and storied cultures whose powers came from insect ancestors who ruled over them long ago.
Tchaikovsky had combined my two great loves: my career and education on one side, and my passion on the other. And therefore . . . so could I. Divinity's Twilight, and all my other projects, began as a love letter to Shadows of the Apt.
But now it's so much more. A haven for characters as much a part of my life as my friends and family. A place to explore social ills, tragedies, and the flickering light deep inside that lifts us up every time we fall. I am so thankful for the platform my writing has given me, and I hope that, somehow, some way, the words I have written will have the same effect on someone else.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of reading/writing that you can talk to us about?
Quite a few, and a lot of them have influenced my writing in different ways.
First, I'm a third degree black belt in Taekwondo. I used to teach classes at my dojo, but have since moved away and only practice on my own. Any martial arts used in my books have their foundations in this training.
I love video games, especially RPGs. Final Fantasy is my favorite series of all time, followed by the Soulsborne (Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Elden Ring, etc.) masterpieces and hidden gems like the "Tales of . . ." entries. Give me an epic soundtrack and a thrilling adventure, and I'll be a happy little gamer.
I'm also a big athlete/sport's fan. I enjoy running on the paths in my neighborhood while plotting chapters and scenes in my head. If I can get away on a vacation, the first place I'll go is the Rocky Mountains for some downhill skiing. I adore tournament time, whether it be the NFL playoffs or the NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball tournaments. I pick my brackets, put a game on my second monitor, and watch out of the corner of my eye while working on something else. I'm a Cavalier (University of Virginia) for life, but I also bleed blue (University of Kentucky) because of my family.
GO HOOS, GO CATS!
Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influences?
Brandon Sanderson for content, Jay Kristoff for prose. The former has managed to craft a universe where every character and detail across hundreds of years and dozens of worlds is interconnected to grand, mind-boggling effect. The latter can craft luscious sentences ripe with powerful figurative language that make me cry tears of envy. I aspire to take the best of both and make it my own.
What is one thing that you love about the current state of SFF and what is one thing that you wish you saw more of?
It's getting diverse and weird. I love medieval European fantasy as much as the next guy, but SFF can only progress by pushing boundaries. Bring on southeast Asian inspired stories mixed with meso-American mythology and a dash of "the old gods" for some extra spice. Develop a flintlock fantasy that sees Ottoman Janissaries pitted against alien invaders that force them and their Byzantine neighbors to call a truce.
Even if plot and characters are the most important part of a story, SFF is defined by its setting. Where can we transport our readers? What experiences can we give them that they can't have in any other medium? That is why I write about floating WWI era dreadnaughts in a world where crystals undergo nuclear decay, seven atypical fantasy races manifest powers from their blood, and chimeric amalgamations of krakens, dragons, and a dozen other mythical creatures stalk the land. It pushes the boundaries of reader believability, but that is exactly the ground SFF authors need to be treading if we want to advance our craft.
Can you give us an elevator pitch for your book?
I do A LOT of conventions and book signings, so I probably mumble this in my sleep:
Divinity's Twilight is a cross between Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.
Seven different races received different magic powers and abilities from their gods and goddesses who vanished a thousand years before the start of the series—hence, Divinity's Twilight.
But before they vanished, they gave mortals one final gift: a magic crystal called illyrium. They use the energy it gives off to power devices like airships—the Star Wars component—which is how they get around a world that's been devastated by centuries of magical warfare.
The main cast is a group of eight military cadets—think snarky, Guardians of the Galaxy style crew. A lot of bickering, a lot of rivalry, but they have to learn how to work together and survive while on the run from a big empire, an empire that's after them because an officer from that country had the BRILLIANT idea to resurrect a dark sorcerer and use their power to win the war with another big empire.
To customer: How do you think that went?
TERRIBLY, as one would expect! Officer gets possessed, dark sorcerer gets free, and he begins manipulating the rulers and leaders of the world, guiding them on the path to war, a war the cadets get swept up in.
Cue big breath after getting all that out in 30-45 seconds
Customer: "And book 2?"
Me: "Complications ensue."
Describe your book in 3 adjectives.
Action-packed, Fast-paced, Snarky
In your opinion, what kind of reader would like this book?
On the Trad. side, readers of Brandon Sanderson and Brian McClellan will find a lot to love in my dual hard magic systems and sweeping plot involving the politics and armies of seven scheming races.
On the Indie side, this has a similar sword-and-sorcery feel to Ryan Cahill's The Bound and the Broken or Zack Argyle's Threadlight series. Anyone who enjoys an epic tale full of magic, action, and intrigue with elements of steampunk and military fantasy should find Divinity's Twilight right up their alley.
What would you like readers to take away from this book?
That book two, Divinity's Twilight: Remnant, is going to be even better?
But in all seriousness, Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth is a book about TRUST. In a similar vein, it's sequel, Divinity's Twilight: Remnant, is a book about LOVE. But let's focus on that first one.
This book sees a group of young men and women thrust into a life-or-death situation alongside people they hate, doubt, or simply don't care for. Some are rivals. Others view those around them as pawns or tools, to be used or discarded as necessary. Personalities clash and chaff as the group tries to decide who should lead and what their goals should be. And when strong, charismatic individuals butt heads, weaker, more introspective people tend to withdraw into themselves.
Trust requires them to break down those barriers. To come to understand themselves first, and then those around them. It is a difficult, messy process, full of miscues, frustration, and backsliding. And though they by no means achieve perfect harmony in a single book, their progress enables a frosty royal to crack open her heart, a coward to find his purpose, and a narcissist to confront the past that has long held him shackled. It is not an end to the journey of trust, but it is a beginning.
How much do you plan when you write? What’s your writing process like?
Is this your first book? If so, what lessons have you learned from writing it? If not, what lessons did you learn from writing earlier books that you brought into this one?
Rebirth was my debut novel. I went into it thinking I was a pantser—an author who starts writing and discovers their plot, characters, and world-building along the way. Turns out, I'm the opposite: an outliner.
Once I began planning out my story in an Excel spreadsheet, my plot and character arcs become so much tighter and my foreshadowing started leading to more engaging payoff at the end of my books. There are still things I think I can improve in Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth. Most authors will tell you the same about their early work. But the experience writing it allowed me to better understand my craft, and that's the primary goal of each and every book an author works on.
Do you usually write to background noise, music, etc. or do you prefer silence?
Silence, but I try to "prime" my writing sessions with music appropriate to whatever scene I'm working on. Somber ballads for tearjerkers. Sweeping orchestral pieces for epic battles. Game OSTs for important character moments, triumphant reveals, or a host of other moments. Every character has a soundtrack, and I listen to these as I run to try to meld with / "put on" their skin.
I can't concentrate on my writing while music is on, but it 110% enhances my craft.
What do you think characterizes your writing style?
My writing style has evolved from book to book, but right now I'd say it's defined by a sense of immediacy. Quick thoughts and bursts of action punctuated by the scents, sights, and sounds around the character. I try to avoid slipping into over-detailed narration, focusing on what matters to the POV character and putting them in situations that allow me to world-build as needed.
World-building (Floating dreadnaughts, flesh-eating crystals, horned giants who graft armor onto their bodies, etc.) is definitely one of my strengths, but I do my best to ensure it is relayed through experience rather than info-dumping. This allows my thick books to maintain a deceptively fast pace and ensures vivid, almost cinematic action sequences that some readers have said have the flair of a big-picture production.
How much of yourself do you write into your stories?
No one character is a direct copy of me. Rather, I pull core traits out of myself and use them as the bones around which to build the unique body of a character. Using Divinity's Twilight as an example:
Matteo is my inner bookworm, the me that wants to curl up in the corner with a novel and ignore the storms of life raging outside my window.
Vallen is my confidence, the me who doesn't doubt himself, oftentimes to his own folly.
Sylette is my frustration and irritation, the me without a filter who says and does exactly what she wants, consequences be damned.
Velle is my compassion, the me who tries to empathize with people regardless of who they are and what they've done.
I could go on and on. Yet while these extreme character traits are balanced inside me, they aren't in my characters, resulting in a cast that is constantly jabbing each other with their thorns. Half their journey is about saving the world; the other half is about trying not to kill each other.
They say to never judge a book by its cover and maybe that’s true in the philosophical sense, but it certainly happens with books. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of your book?
Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth's amazing cover was illustrated by Chris McGrath, whose done brilliant work on Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn novels and Jim Butcher's Dresden Files.
Our goal was to invoke some 80s and 90s fantasy nostalgia while using the same template he'd constructed for The Hero of Ages. Vallen and Sylette, two of the main characters, take front and center against a fortress backdrop that is a key location in the novel. Airships flit through the sky above the ramparts, the world's twin moons hang behind a dusty haze, and the wasteland beneath their feet is cracked and barren.
This conveys a lot to the readers. The world is harsh and broken. From the fortress dominating the pass, to the characters' military dress and weapons, it is clear that war plays a prominent role in the story. The airships speak to the setting's steampunk aesthetic, and the ethereal moons hint at a deeper mystery beyond the book's mundane surface conflict. Chris McGrath did a fabulous job conveying all this subtext in a single illustration, and I couldn't be happier with the end result.
Plus the ruddy tones will contrast beautifully with book two's, Divinity's Twilight: Remnant's, water motif. Look forward seeing it on the next tour!
One of our favorite things is sharing quotes from what we’re reading that really resonate with us. Do you have a favorite quote from your book that you can share with us? What about this quote in particular makes it your favorite?
"It is not falling that defines us, Jisarivel. It is whether we choose to rise again once we do. How we rise is far more meaningful than how we fall."
Technically a quote from book two, but it's far and away my favorite quote from any work I've written. We all have struggles. We all fail, and fall, and flounder in the depths of our anxiety and doubts. Some are worse than others, but we've all been there.
Yet it's not who we are or how we act at our lowest that is our truest self. It's the person we become afterward. The one who stumbles to their feet, staggers on, and takes another swing at life. It is in rising that we discover who we are. And, in doing so, we create a shining of example of what we should aspire to each and every time we fall.
This is the attitude I strive to live by, one I hope others will adopt.
Is there anything you can tell us about any current projects you’re working on?
Book 3 (Divinity's Twilight: Revelations) - Projected release in 2023. This is the end of the first of two arcs in Divinity's Twilight, and boy, is it going to be a doozy.
Untitled Asian Fantasy - Another project in the same expanded universe as Divinity's Twilight, the Constella, featuring a thermodynamics based hard magic system, a frozen post-apocalyptic landscape, and yokai (demons) aplenty.
Untitled Co-Authored Epic Fantasy - A grimdark project with Allegra Pescatore of Last Gift fame. This four POV novel will follow characters with dueling interests trapped in a deteriorating city on the verge of revolution. Utilizes an incredibly cool and unique magic system with some terrifying economic and cultural ramifications.
Untitled Co-Authored Satirical Fantasy - A comedic project with Allegra Pescatore centered on a chosen one who can't control his powers and may end up dooming the very world he's prophesized to save. Hysterical and irreverent, we poke fun at tropes and fantasy conventions with every sentence, paragraph, and chapter.
Gravitas Novella Sequel - At some point in the next two years I plan to return to the world of Gravitas, Lestadt, and continue the tale of the ruthless Lord Fixer Scraw. My grimdark steampunk novella left him in the middle of a crisis, and it's high time I give him some novel-form resolution.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us! We always enjoy this little peek behind the curtain. Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to leave for our readers?
Divinity's Twilight: Remnant (Divinity's Twilight #2) will be available online and in-stores on Sept. 14, 2022. This is the best book I've ever written, and I'm thrilled to finally be able to get it into your hands. Hope you enjoy it!
And finally, where can you be found on the internet if our readers want to hear more from you?
Facebook: Divinity's Twilight Fantasy Novels
Where to buy the book:
Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/4EPLpO/
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Divinitys-Twilight-Rebirth-Christopher-Russell-ebook/dp/B088PB6M5D