Drew Karpyshyn on ‘The Scorched Earth’

the-scorched-earth-by-drew-karpyshynOur interview with author Drew Karpyshyn covering his novel The Scorched Earth, book two of The Chaos Born.

When setting out to write the middle book in your trilogy, did you have any themes in mind? Any emotions or moods you channeled into the story as it went along?

I can’t speak for other writers, but much of my process is actually driven by plot – I like to know what is going to happen in my story and I detail it out very carefully. Using that as framework, I then let various themes and moods come through that seem appropriate to the direction of the story. In The Scorched Earth, the plot primarily focuses on an escalation in the stakes of the story – instead of just following the Children of Fire, the tale now shows how the weakening of the Legacy and the Chaos unleashed in the first book are having consequences that are reaching even the most remote corners of the mortal world. This in turn drives the various emotional and thematic elements, like revenge and war, for example.

One of the strong points of the story is the memorable personalities of its characters. Yet those personalities aren’t always likeable ones. For instance Vaaler’s mother, Rianna the Danaan Queen, gets portrayed as an incompetent leader and despicable parent. Why did you decide to paint her such a light?

The depiction of Rianna in The Scorched Earth is very different from how she was portrayed in the first book, though I feel it’s a natural devolution of her character. She goes from a caring mother trying to be a wise Queen to someone bent on revenge at all costs, but I hope readers will understand her journey. Rianna is a broken character: the emotional cost of ruling her people, the betrayal of her son and her inability to protect her kingdom from Chaos despite her prophetic powers have damaged her in deep and fundamental ways. She is vulnerable, and the forces of Chaos seize on that to take her down a very dark path. Her fall also clearly shows the danger Chaos poses to other characters in the novel, particularly the four Children of Fire.

In the story, you bring up the possibility that Rianna’s need for revenge might be fueled by backlash from Keagan’s spell in the first novel, Children of Fire. Can you reveal if this indeed true?

I’m glad you noticed that, because backlash is a very important element in how magic and Chaos work in this universe. Sometimes it seems like the consequences are obvious, but there are always layers and the effects of Chaos are very difficult to predict. As a writer, I’m always struggling with the line of being too subtle and too obvious about what impact Chaos has on the characters and story. The backlash alone wouldn’t be enough to drive Rianna over the edge into what almost seems like insanity, but it has been combined with the emotional trauma she has endured. And of course Orath, the leader of Daemron the Slayer’s Minions, uses this to manipulate her even further.

As the characters journey into the Frozen East, one of the strange things they encounter is the Yeti. How did they wind up as part of the story?

For me the yeti were a way to bring a lot of different elements into the story. They have a cool history and back story that ties into the ancient legends around Daemron’s Talismans. They represent a primal, savage threat that feels almost human, but lacks any of the reason, compassion and other restraints society imposes on us – a nice symbol of the beast inside all of us. Ultimately, they also serve a critical role in the plot, but I don’t want to say too much more about that for fear of spoiling folks who haven’t read the novel yet.

Adding to the mix of monsters that show up, what inspired you to bring forth the ogre as the embodiment of horror and chaotic destruction?

The ogre is a nice foil for the Guardian; they’re almost perfect polar opposites. The Guardian is a noble and incorruptible agent of good; the ogre is a force of pure malevolence. I like the symmetry they represent. Plus, writing all the ogre’s battle scenes was really fun!

There are a lot of great moments in this book, but there was one thing that had me worried. Keagan’s infatuation with Scythe really comes on strong in The Scorched Earth. As a fan of Scythe and Norr as a couple, I was wondering why you decided to toss Keagan’s infatuation into the mix?

This is something that I did allude to in the first book – Keegan is struck by Scythe when they first meet, and even dreams of her. On the one hand, it’s sort of a natural reaction for a young man to an attractive and charismatic (in her own way) young woman. It shows that, despite his incredible power, Keegan is still an ordinary person with the petty emotional failings we all have. But I also wanted to emphasize the connection between the Children of Fire. Vaaler and Keegan are best friends, and not just because they shared time as apprentices under Rexol. They have a bond that transcends who and what they are, to the point that Vaaler chooses Keegan over his own people and family. There is a similar connection with Scythe, and Keegan’s infatuation with her represents that. (Though her own feelings for him are complicated by her love for Norr.) Basically, they are both Children of Fire, and the Chaos in their blood calls to its own, despite the potential consequences.

Shalana is a new character who is introduced in this book. She also became one of my favorites. What was your goal with bringing her into the story?

Shalana allows readers to see inside the culture of the Eastern Clans; she gives us a look into her people in a way Norr couldn’t. She also ties into Norr’s back-story, and of course she plays a very prominent role in the events that unfold in the novel. (As I mentioned earlier, for me plot is often a major influence on my writing process.)

With one more book to go in the trilogy, what can readers expect in the series finale?

I don’t want to say too much about the next book, especially when many readers haven’t had a chance to finish the second novel yet. There aren’t a lot of new characters in Chaos Unleashed, though some of the characters readers already know will go through some interesting transformations. Really, the third book is more about bringing all the elements together for a final climactic confrontation. There are a lot of pieces I’ve put in play, but by the end everything will fit; that’s one of the advantages of being a writer who starts with a plot outline and works from there.

If you haven’t ordered your copy of The Scorched Earth yet, you can head on over to Random House’s official product page for purchase links, excerpts and more. For those looking to keep up with all of Drew Karpyshyn’s latest books and news, be sure to check out his official website or follow him on Twitter. The Scorched Earth will be out in both paperback and digital formats on August 19, 2014.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.


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  1. […] lined up, and I’ve already done several on-line interviews. There’s a good one over at Roqoo Depot right now that’s pretty much spoiler free.  I also did a recent interview with the Russian […]

  2. […] Karpyshyn plunges readers through a sweeping range of emotions“. (I also did a cool interview with Roqoo Depot a few weeks ago, in case you missed it!) And if you haven’t checked out my new trilogy yet, […]

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