Book Tour Q&A: Sordaneon by L.L. Stephens
Today we're taking part in the book tour organized by Escapist Book Tours for Sordaneon by L.L. Stephens! Continue reading for the book blurb and a Q&A with the author.
About the book
A fallen world is littered with the corpses of broken god-machines, and a sheltered angry youth is destined to reawaken their power. But to embody a god, Dorilian Sordaneon must first learn to be human.
Dorilian is blood-bound to the Rill, a quasi-living artifact that spans continents and empowers a privileged few to reap the riches of an entire civilization. Unfortunately, decades after seizing control of the remaining god-machines, those privileged few aren’t willing to give up their power—even if it means destroying the human bloodline to which the Rill is tethered.
On to the interview...!
Thank you so much for joining us for this Q&A! We’ll start off with one of our standard podcast opening questions–tell us something great that’s happened recently.
My husband retired. People may go “Why is that great?” Well, it’s great because he’s a top-flight editor and now he has time to read and edit my books and stories! I love my publisher and editors. They’re wonderful at what they do—and now I can add to my team the best darn dialogue and story logic editor I know. Best of all, he’s free!
What are you currently reading or what’s up next on your TBR? What made you pick up this book?
When I’m actively writing, as now, I’m likely to be found reading reference books and short story collections. I recently finished Lost Horses, by Mark Saha—stories dealing with human nature and, tangentially, with horses. Having horses in the title caught my eye, as did the horse on the cover. I’ve just started on Tales Untold: Mythos Around the World, which is published by Ravens & Roses Publishing and features stories by 15 indie authors. I saw it mentioned by an author friend on social media and a book with tales drawn from different mythos around the world sounded like something I could enjoy after an intense day of writing.
What I read is very of-the-moment. I latch onto whatever catches my fancy. Epic fantasy will always do that. So will quirky titles or a striking cover. Or horses. I adore finding a new author or series that can sweep me away.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been writing for longer than most of my readers have been alive. My inspiration is the usual: as a child I loved to read, mostly about horses and fantasy, and when I became a teen, I wanted to tell my own stories. So I did. I would tell them to my younger sister on our walks to school; I would tell them to her at night in the bedroom we shared. Eventually I started writing them.
One day when I was a young mother of three, my sister dared me to send one of my stories to a publisher. I did. No one was more shocked than I when DAW bought my first novel. That was a long time ago!
How do you spend your free time when you’re not reading or writing? Do you have any hobbies or interests that you can talk to us about?
I don’t write on weekends. That is time I give to my husband and family. I play board games and paint miniatures! I married into a game-playing family that every weekend plays cooperative board and card games. Aeon’s End. Spirit Island. Defenders of the Realm. Favorite games tend to involve role-playing with mages or spirits or other characters against fearsome nemeses, so I feel right at home. Magic? Let me at it! Nameless beasts? Die, monsters!
My husband and I paint the miniatures that come with the games because it looks so cool to have painted figures to move around. Just as my writing is visual and rich in imagery, so are my games.
How much do you plan when you write? What’s your writing process like?
My writing process is simple: I follow characters around. I try to make them full, realized, and the story becomes driven by their agendas, passions, hang-ups, and discoveries. I describe this process in a blog post on my website. Character is in a situation and I need this situation to lead to another situation—which is also part of the process, creating that chain of situations—so what happens with this character? What goes on inside this person emotionally? Intellectually? What about physically? And how does that affect the situation? Characters generate plot, and plots affect the characters. The World may be at stake, yet that might not be what’s at stake for every character... or for any character at any given point in the story.
In other words, I plan the big picture, but let the characters tell the story through how they move into and through that picture.
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?
Sordaneon is not my first book. It’s not even the first book I wrote in this series. I wrote the third book of the six-book Triempery series first—and the second book, the direct sequel to Sordaneon, last. And I wrote several other books in between. As for lessons... this book taught me the most of any book I ever wrote.
Listen to your editor! Peter Stampfel from DAW read the third (original first) book of the series and told me to write Dorilian’s origin story and his relationship with Marc Frederick. “That’s where your story begins, with him.” He was right.
Having written the earlier books in the series, I realized the world I’d built needed more. More history. More wonder. More beauty. Sordaneon brings to full life the Highborn race and their Triempery, shows the world into which Dorilian was born and what he—and the world—lost.
The earlier books showed me I needed a stronger villain. The villain needs to show up before the last act. So I made sure he showed up at the beginning, in Sordaneon. Now readers can watch both the heroes and the villain grow and change throughout the story.
How much of yourself do you write into your stories?
Probably too much—though I don’t think many people would ever notice. My childhood is in there. Some of my travels and the many people/societies with whom I’ve spent time. That I am a daughter, a sibling, a parent is in there. My sons are present in various ways. An author’s life is a rich geography from which to mine things ordinary and sometimes amazing.
Add to this that I have lived a long and rich life, filled with wonderful and sometimes terrible experiences, so I have lots to say about lots of things, and have chosen to say these things through my characters and worlds.
What comes first to you when you’re writing, the world, the characters, or the storyline?
The character. Always the character. I just told my husband the other day that the Triempery series, if one traces it back to its origin in my teen years, started with a single character from a long-forgotten TV show. This character got a quite fantastic back story totally unrelated to the show: a secondary world, a family, different antagonists. He later split into TWO characters—one of whom kept the inspirational character’s name.
Every story starts with a character.
They say to never judge a book by its cover, but a cover is still a marketing tool that helps sell books. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of your book?
I love Sordaneon’s cover. I truly do. The majesty, the beauty, the sense of wealth and power in the city and how very small the human character is when poised against it. I told the artist Larry Rostant that I wanted to capture the scale of that power; the city of Sordan is dominated by two things: its immortal towers and the Rill. The Rill is an immense god-machine that has created and holds together a great empire. So I wanted the cover to suggest that this was a story about power. And I think it does.
Can you tell us a little bit about your characters? What are your favorite kinds of characters to write?
Sordaneon is a character-driven book, so readers will be introduced to people they will gradually get to know and understand and, I hope, love or hate. Dorilian is a seven-year-old boy in the first chapter and nearly fifteen years old in the second chapter; by book end he is about to turn twenty-one. His is a coming-of-age story: he grows up. He learns to understand of his world and the people in it; he grows into his not-completely human body and abilities; he grows in power. Other characters have similar journeys of discovery.
My favorite kinds of characters to write are the ones with the most interesting inner lives. The villains. The ones with secrets. The ones who are deeper on the inside. Nammuor, especially, is too much fun. He’s off-kilter from the start. Discovering an arcane weapon inhabited by the vengeful remnant of a murdered god threatens Nammuor’s sanity—in fun ways. As for Dorilian, he’s complex enough due to the trauma of his childhood and the pressures of his family—as the series progresses, he becomes deeply damaged by events to the point of being captive to what others need him to be. How people become who they become, and how they escape from their chains... or don’t... is what I find fascinating to write about.
In your opinion, what kind of reader would like this book?
A reader who doesn’t mind a slow burn that delivers deep world-building, complex characters, and tangled politics between royal dynasties, merchant cartels, and an elite society under pressure from an emerging, less developed, but more vital people they have—until now—kept far away from the empire’s power. Readers who would be interested in watching humans vie to control vastly powerful immortal Entities—and succeed or fail. Sordaneon explores male bonds more than female ones: fathers and sons, brothers, rivals and friendships that will have the power to destroy or transform their world. There isn’t any romance—quite the opposite—but the major female characters become more influential in later books.
Also, readers looking for a world where bad things happen and people die, sometimes unfairly, but the survivors forge on will like this book.
What would you like readers to take away from this book?
That humans are immensely interesting. They can be strong, loving, and fierce, loyal, and protective and noble—though there are some who are deeply corrupt, good at lying to themselves and others, and dangerous. I would like readers to appreciate human potential for good, and not just how bad we can be.
Is there anything you can tell us about any current projects you’re working on?
All six books of the Triempery Revelations series are written. I’m editing them and releasing on a schedule. Book 3, The Second Stone, will be released in April, just a month from now. Right now I’m doing revision of the fourth book, The God Spear, for early 2024.
I’m also working on two Triempery short stories and the first chapters of a novel, a prequel to the Triempery Revelations, about how Marc Frederick came to the Triempery and became Essera’s king. It involves a massive conspiracy between a wizard, an Entity, and a Wall Lord and is a great tale.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us! Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to leave for our readers?
I hope readers will give less well-known authors and their books a chance. Some of the best new fantasy writing is being produced by smaller presses and indie authors, but it’s incredibly difficult for these authors to get noticed. Being traditionally published is such a huge advantage. Getting reviews in major publications, or being shelved in most book stores, gives a book more chance of building interest. Small press and self-published authors can’t get that kind of exposure. But they try, you know.
I’ve seen fantasy readers state (usually in forums) that they will not read books that aren’t traditionally published. They want a guarantee of quality. Well, aside from the question of whether traditional publication has any claim on quality, some of the hottest books being published by traditional publishers today started out as indie books. The authors were later picked up by big publishers and the books reissued.
So every once in a while, if a book cover or description catches your eye and piques a bit of interest, why not give it another look. Give an indie book a read.
And finally, where can you be found on the internet if our readers want to hear more from you?
I have a Twitter account (@triempery) and am always happy to hear from readers or anyone who finds me or my books interesting. Readers who want to know more about my Triempery books and other work can check out my website at triempery.com where I compile lore posts, maps, character notes, excerpts, and short stories. My favorite hangout is my Facebook page, where I share updates, sneak peeks, advance excerpts, and just talk more intimately about my work. I’ve been posting the first chapters of THE SECOND STONE, Book 3 (April release), for fans to read. Truth be told, I want to be found! I have accounts on most social media.
Where to buy the book:
Publisher Direct: https://forestpathbooks.com/catalogue/sordaneon/