Friday, December 3, 2010

Author Interview: Stephen Zimmer (Fires in Eden series) & a Giveaway

Book Two in the Fires in Eden series.
Dream of legends, and soar across the world of Ave…

For Janus and the other exiles from a modern world, finding themselves in the fantastical lands of Ave was just the beginning. The assault upon the Kingdom of Saxany and the tribes of the Five Realms ignites, as the eyes of The Unifier turn southward, across the seas towards faraway Midragard.  A desperate, dangerous time looms, when all will be swept up in the tides of war rippling out from Avanor.

Yet in the heart of the maelstrom, several lights begin to shine through the darkness.  Some are on a path of discovery, to uncover the power that lies within, while others will brave perilous journeys, to seek out the things said to exist only in the faded mists of myth and legend.  In the face of monstrous adversaries, massive armies,  and even horrific entities summoned from infernal depths, courage and honor become the sword and shield in the hands of those who choose to resist.

Book Two of the Fires in Eden Series, Dream of Legends is immersive, epic  fantasy, for those who love to explore richly developed fantasy worlds alongside an ensemble of intriguing, diverse characters.  Readers of the great epic fantasy authors such as Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and J.R.R. Tolkien will find a wondrous trove of adventure, characters, and depth in this next step of the Fires in Eden series.

From the author's website.

Dream of Legends is available in a special limited hardcover edition package for pre-order until December 8th!

How did you go about building the world of Ave?

I have always wanted to immerse myself within a fantasy world that had a balance between some cultures that had an underlying historical base/reference, and others that were more inventive in nature.  As the ideas for the Fires In Eden series began to come together in the 1990’s, Ave evolved along these lines.

As a medieval history buff, with an interest in medieval periods worldwide, I began to infuse Ave with some lands rooted with historical aspects and characteristics as the main story arc solidified.  Some appear early in the series, such as the Five Realms, which is largely based upon the Five Nations period of the Iroquois Confederation, Avanor, which is based upon the Normans, Andamoor, which is based upon the Moors of Spain, Saxany, which is probably the most obvious, based upon the Saxons (with a slight twist…as this land fuses both continental Saxons with the Anglo-Saxons of England), and Midragard, which is based upon the Vikings.  Others, such as lands based on medieval China, Japan, the Middle East, Medieval West Africa, South America, and many, many others will be introduced as great journeys are undertaken by several of the characters involved. Ave is a very thoroughly fleshed out world, and the series brings much of it into play.

On the other hand, I wanted to have some more invented cultures, as Ave is a fantastical world.  In the early books you meet the Trogens, a tall, brawny warrior race that are human-like in form, but have dog-like countenances. You also find out about the Elder, which are a race of titanic dragons that chose to exile themselves from the surface of Ave during its earliest age.  Living under the ground are the Unguhur, who are somewhat derived from the Stone Hide legends of the Iroquois, but are much more fully developed with their own society in this series.  The rat-like Atagar and hulking Gigans are also introduced.  There are many other such cultures intertwined with the other lands of Ave, which will become important parts of the main story arc.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing Dream of Legends?

The most challenging aspect of writing Dream of Legends was finding a good balance between providing enough detail to bring about an element of realism, while making sure the story pacing, and flow of the prose, did not get bogged down.  I worked hard with my editors on Crown of Vengeance and Dream of Legends to focus on this aspect, and hopefully have struck a nice balance that gives believability while not being too heavy.

What do you think are the key components of a compelling fantasy novel?

One of the key components of a good fantasy novel, from my perspective as a reader, involve creating a level of realism that makes even the most fantastical things come alive in your mind.  Another is developing depth in the characters, such that they are not predictable, or “cookie-cutter” in nature.  This does not mean that they cannot be largely good or evil in nature, or fit an archetype, but the author must be able to give them some dimension and believability as to why they are the way that they are.  Authors that I personally love include J.R.R. Tolkien, David Gemmell, Guy Gavriel Kay, C.S. Lewis, and George R.R. Martin, who all exhibit a wide range of characters that have good depth and dimension.

The illustrations by Matthew Perry are a unique addition to your novel. What was the process like for that collaboration? What do you think the illustrations add to the novel?

I have always loved artwork in novels, as you will find in older Tolkien editions, and even Charles Dickens.  I really agitated to have Matt to do a series of illustrations when my first release of my epic urban fantasy Rising Dawn Saga, titled The Exodus Gate, was approaching.  Since then, Matt has generated over 50 full page illustrations for the four novels that I have out, in what has turned out to be a very wonderful collaboration.

The illustrations reflect Matt’s interpretation of the story and the text elements, as I try not to put too many rules in place when a new set of art is being developed.  It is best to let the artist do what they do, and try not to interfere.  I provide Matt with suggested text passages, where I think there are good possibilities for art development, along with any relevant notes on historical aspects, if it involves an element, character, or scene based upon a myth, legend, or something with an underlying historical foundation.

The only corrections I ask for are when something clearly conflicts with the text, in a larger fashion. For example, this occurred on Matt’s first draft of the dragon Gorynych in The Storm Guardians (book two of the epic urban fantasy Rising Dawn Saga), when he had first depicted a one-headed dragon, when the text and mythical basis for Gorynych clearly describe a three-headed one.  Matt just shook his head and grinned when I pointed that out to him, so it wasn’t taken badly!  We’ve had some good laughs about that since, but it does serve as my main example of the only kind of thing that I will address regarding an illustration.  Other than things like that, the artwork really does reflect Matt’s interpretation of the novel passage that the artwork is based on.

The artwork adds something extra special to the novel releases, and it strongly reflects my absolute commitment to my reader-friends to bring them the best releases possible (I call readers of my work my reader-friends, as friends enable and help you to follow your dreams, and that is exactly what readers of my work are doing for me).  It is a way for me to show my gratitude and respect for them, in making every effort to honor their commitment to reading my work.  It is ultimately all about my reader-friends, and from the feedback that I have gotten, it is abundantly clear that they really enjoy the artwork a great deal.

Which character is your favorite to write? Why?

There are many characters that I really enjoy writing, but if I must name one for this answer, I will focus on Dragol.  Dragol is a very renowned Trogen warrior, who comes from a tough, clan-based culture that lives in a mountainous region to the north of Kiruva (a land based in large part upon medieval Russia).  Some might describe the Trogens as being barbarian in nature, as they have a powerful warrior ethos that resonates throughout their culture.  They have faces that resemble pit-bulls, and are tall of height, making them stand out markedly from the humans that they are allied with.

The Trogen Clans have come into a large war in Fires In Eden, on the side of the Unifer, to gain eventual aid in an ages-old struggle against a terrible oppression sustained by a malevolent Elven race that has resulted in slavery for a great many unfortunate Trogens.   The Trogens are not refined, and are rather abrasive, and when you first meet them in Crown of Vengeance, it is easy to cast them in a villainous, more two-dimensional role.  But as the story unfolds, you quickly learn a whole lot more about them, and about Dragol.  I have had a great amount of fun in developing the Trogens, who are going to have quite a part to play in the events of this series.  I assure you that they are anything but two-dimensional.  There is a great deal of conflict and growth that take place with Dragol, and I think reader-friends will really enjoy seeing what happens with him.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

I hope that my reader-friends are able to immerse into the world of Ave, and that they find it to be an invigorating epic filled with twists and turns.  I really hope they are able to connect with many of the ensemble of characters, and find the story to have a good balance between familiar, iconic fantasy elements, and more unusual, inventive ones.  I also hope that they are uplifted in regard to their own lives, and given a little encouragement to fight the good fight on their own path.  If my reader-friends are happy and looking forward to the next installment, then I feel that I have done my part.

Why do you think epic fantasy has captured readers’ imaginations for so long?

Epic fantasy, in truth, reflects all of our lives. Each of us live our lives set against the backdrop of a much larger picture, in the same way that fantasy characters in an epic tale have their own path to take that is interwoven with the paths of many others, all of which is set against a larger, broader world.  Our lives are part of an epic, if you really think about it, so I believe that somehow connects with us when we read an epic fantasy tale.

Epic fantasy also calls us to a sense of wonder, and a vision of things on a grand scale, which resonates with something deep inside of many people.  I like to have moments that are awe-inspiring, and others that are intimate, and epic fantasy brings both into the equation.

What is your opinion on book to film adaptations? Would you like to see the Fires in Eden series made into a movie? Who would you cast?

As a filmmaker myself, I have a great respect for the adaptation process, and do understand the choices that have to be made as you are working with two entirely different story-telling mediums.  In film, you must show, whereas in novels, you can delve into the heads of the characters and tell what they are thinking.  Film is also a more linear style of storytelling, which involves some general proportions in the way that an effective screenplay is constructed, while novels reflect much more variance in structure and style.  They are different mediums, and I hope that people understand that and give filmmakers some leeway when making an adaptation of a novel that they love.

I would love to see Fires in Eden made into a movie series, but it would cost a small fortune to do so. If I ever get the chance, then definitely, let’s make a movie!  As far as casting, how about a few suggestions: Karl Urban as Gunther, Ian McKellan as King Hakon, Dwayne Johnson as Dragol, Sean Bean as Aelfric, Amanda Seyfried as Lynn, and Taylor Lautner (assuming we’ll be shooting this in a a few years) as Ayenwatha.  Those ideas jump pretty quickly to mind, so I’ll use those as examples.

What authors have inspired you? What about them do you find inspirational?

The two authors that inspired me as a kid were J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  Since then, I have had many others inspire me, from David Gemmell, to George R.R. Martin, Robert E. Howard, Glen Cook, C.S. Friedman, Clive Barker, and Guy Gavriel Kay.

I gravitate toward authors that have an undercurrent of the positive in their work, a hint or path beckoning to something greater, transcendent, and even eternal, as opposed to the doom and gloom, grim, “oblivion is inevitable” aspects that seem to be so much in vogue these days.  I like to think that grander adventures and experiences lie ahead for all of us, and find it inspirational when I discover undercurrents of that in an author’s work. Tolkien, Lewis, Kay, and Gemmell are wizards in this regard.

What is a random fact that readers probably don’t know about you?

I had a few stints working in my dad’s cancer research laboratory, when he was still alive, which a lot of people probably don’t know.  He was a cutting-edge cancer researcher who was one of the pioneers of an area of cancer research that is now expanding rapidly.  I take great pride in my father’s work and legacy, and the adversity that he had to endure in staying true to his convictions involving the unexplored areas where his research was leading him.

What can you tell us about upcoming installments in the Fires in Eden series?

Expect many grand journeys, all across the world of Ave.  There will be many exciting cultures to explore, and a host of new characters to meet.  Epic battles, monsters, and all the good, rich stuff of epic fantasy lie ahead in abundance, but be sure to look for a few sign posts that might help you look at the world in a more hopeful way, no matter how dark and daunting things might be at the moment.  By the end, I hope my reader-friends have been lifted up, and are not afraid to soar through the skies of places that some might deem impossible.

For more about this author, please visit: 

Website | Blog | Myspace | Facebook | Book Trailer

Don't forget to pre-order the special limited hardcover edition package for before December 8th! (Includes: Bonus illustration from Matt. Collectibles such as a set of art cards, a cover art
poster, a poster of the Elder (dragon), bookmarks, and a glossy
8x10 of the cover art.)

Originally born in Denver, Colorado, Stephen Zimmer is a fantasy author and filmmaker based out of Lexington, Kentucky.

Stephen has two series being published through Seventh Star Press.  One is the epic fantasy Fires in Eden Series, which was launched with Crown of Vengeance in the fall of 2009 (nominated for a 2010 Pluto Award).  Book 2, Dream of Legends, is poised for a December 2010 release. The other is the epic urban fantasy series The Rising Dawn Saga. The Rising Dawn Saga was begun in spring of 2009 with The Exodus Gate (nominated for a 2009 Pluto Award). The next step was taken in June of 2010 with The Storm Guardians. Highly prolific, Stephen is adhering to a release schedule that sees a new book approximately every seven months!

Another recent addition to his published work was the steampunk short story "In the Mountain Skies", in the Dreams of Steam anthology (edited by Kimberly Richardson), from Kerlak Publishing.

Many thanks to Stephen Zimmer for this fantastic interview, and to C.C. James at Seventh Star Press for setting it up!


Stephen and C.C. have generously provided a softcover special collector package to one lucky reader! The package includes:

1 signed/personalized copy of Dream of Legends
1 full-size poster of the cover art
1 full-size poster of the dragon illustration from Dream of Legends
Set of 9 glossy art cards featuring illustrations from Dream of Legends
1 Glossy 8X10 of the cover art
Pair of Dream of Legends bookmarks

To Enter:

Leave a comment answering the following question...

Which land in the world of Ave would you want to live in (Avanor, which is based upon the Normans; Andamoor, which is based upon the Moors of Spain; Saxany, which is based upon the Saxons; or Midragard, which is based upon the Vikings)?

Don't forget to include your email address so that I can contact you if you win! The winner will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address before a new winner is chosen.

Contest ends 11:59 PM EST on December 12, 2010. Open internationally.

Good luck!


buddyt said...

I have always been fascinated by Norse legends and have read a number of books on the subject although the last must have been more than 5 years ago.

If the giveaway is open worldwide, I would love to be entered.

My choice is Midragard of course.


Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Twinkle said...

I'd personally like to live on Andamoor, because Spain is a beautiful place and... yeah.

Thanks so much for the giveaway!


debbie said...

Thats a tough one. I would probably choose the midragard, because I am most familiar with the vikings.

Robin Blankenship said...

I think I would choose Saxony I love all things that have to do with England.

I can not wait for this one. I love the first one.


vampgirlx90 said...

totally digging the new layout Casey. Hope all is well!


Lisa (starmetal_oak) said...

I'd say Andamoor because Spain has awesome weather! ;)


Anonymous said...

Great interview! A few (okay most) of those pictures are scary! It sounds interesting though...

I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Vivien said...

Spain for the win!

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

EVA SB said...

They all sound interesting but I would choose Saxany, which is based upon the Saxons because I have always been interested in that era of
English history.[@]gmail[.]com

Aik said...

I think I'd choose Avanor, which is based upon the Normans.

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Rad Hall said...

Midragard. Love Norse mythology and history. From here to Ragnarok, baby!

emi3mle at yahoo dot com dot au

Wendy said...

Midragard with the Vikings - Love those blonde brawny men! But really - what a fantastic interview!! I love Fantasy!!!

wendyhines at hotmail dot com

sgzimmer said...

Hi everyone,

just wanted to check in to say that I really appreciate everyone participating and reading the interview.

Please be sure to add me on facebook ( or follow my personal blog at Also, Let me know if you have questions on the series, and I'd be glad to answer! :)

LunaMoth said...

i love epic fantasys and this sounds simply awesome!

i think i would like to live in.. Midragard. Vikings are always interesting!

KimvA said...

Great interview!
I think I would like to live in Midragard....just gotta love those vikings...

The Itzel Library said...

What a beautiful interview!

I would like to live in Avanor, the Normans are great for me.

Arwen said...

Great interview! It looks like it's an amazing book.
I'd choose Midragard, I love vikings since I got a memory xD[at]gmail[dot]com

Anonymous said...

Greetings! I would like to live in the realm of Midragard. Vikinga are cool and fierce. I'm ony 5'2 and a small woman so I would need much protection from Viking buddies =)

I wish everyone a very Blessed and Merry Christmas and happy new year, too!

my email is: jfuller3!

PinkStuff28 said...

I would like to live in Andamoor. Because i like the Moors of Spain .

raluk.93 at gmail (dot) com

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