This week I am interviewing fantasy author Brandon Draga. Brandon is the author of the recently concluded fantasy series, ‘The Four Kingdoms Saga’.
First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Certainly! My name’s Brandon Draga which, despite what’s now become a bit of a joke over on /r/Fantasy, is my real name and not a lazy nom de plume. I’m the author of The Four Kingdoms Saga, a high fantasy quartet that’s been compared to Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf novels, and other sorts of popcorn-fantasy. I live just outside Toronto, Canada. I’m a nerd in all that I do, so I’ll be just as quick to bloviate for hours about books as I would about tabletop gaming, punk rock, skateboarding, and video games.
What book are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?
I most recently started the audiobook version of Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft. Ninety-five percent of my reading since I started writing seriously is via audiobooks, and so I was really excited when I saw Orbit was releasing Josiah’s books as such. Senlin has, so far, lived up to every bit of praise it’s received.
You published the conclusion to your Fantasy series ‘The Four Kingdoms Saga’ in May last year, how did it feel to end the series?
I’ve tried on a few occasions now to really accurately put into words how I felt throughout the process of writing and releasing Collapse of Kingdoms. Writing the final book in a series is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever experienced, and the amount of empathy I gained for Pat Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin, who have infinitely greater outside pressure to finish their series’, multiplied exponentially.
After all was said and done, finishing the series was ultimately bittersweet. Yes, in some ways it was a weight lifted, but it was a weight that I charged myself with carrying. It’s easy when you surround yourself with other authors to start feeling like writing and publishing a book isn’t such a great achievement, but it absolutely is, and to say I’ve finished an entire series is something I can really take pride in.
What can readers expect from you next?
I have a few different projects on the go at the moment. I’m working on a short for a new digital magazine being launched by Ellen Michelle, the editor of the Dwarves of the World anthology, I have a dark fantasy novelette I wrote a few years back that I’m hoping to do something with by year’s end, and I’m working on a new full-length novel set six years after the end of Collapse of Kingdoms tentatively titled Shadows and Sand.
Which of your characters do you most enjoy writing and Why?
Most recently, I think I had a lot of fun with O’Den Overhill. I had the opportunity to write him at two very different points in his life: first as a side character in Collapse, and then as the main protagonist of my story in the Art of War anthology, which is nearly twenty years prior. It was fun getting to write this glimpse of who he is, and then to write a pivotal point in shaping that. I actually might try and do more with him in the future.
What was the hardest thing about writing The Four Kingdoms Saga?
If I’m being totally honest, I think the hardest thing was when Realmwalker Publishing Group folded. I wrote and self-published the first two books, as well as the picture book I did with my fiancee, when RPG approached me. In the brief time I was with them, I was emboldened to really try and make the third book worthy to be next to the other authors RPG published. Despite the whole operation being small, I was seeing greater success in terms of sales than I had seen when I self-published, and it really felt like a step in the right direction.
By now I’m sure most of the industry knows that RPG ended with a lot of drama. Beyond all of that for me, though, was the sense that, despite working harder than ever to write a good book, do boots-on-the-ground promotion, and really up my own level of professionalism, it felt like I had made no headway in the end. It was something I struggled a lot with when writing Collapse, and is probably a large part of why it took me as long as it did to finish.
What book/series has had the greatest influence on your writing?
I think in the beginning I tried really hard to emulate R.A. Salvatore’s pacing, whether I knew it or not. As I’ve grown and evolved as a writer, I simply take mental notes on what other authors do that excite me, and figure out a way to make those things work in my books, and on my terms.
In your opinion, which fantasy series has had the greatest influence on the fantasy genre?
I think, whether people like it or not, Lord of the Rings is the stepping stone upon which nearly all modern fantasy stems. Those books are to fantasy what The Ramones’ first album is to punk rock.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the fantasy genre since you first started writing?
The change had already began as I entered the world of published writing, but the destigmatization of self-publishing. In a lot of ways it’s starting to feel like self-publishing your work has gone from the fringe vanity act of someone unable or unwilling to find an agent, to becoming an integral step in getting oneself published by a larger house. Five years ago most publishers wouldn’t touch work that had been self-published with a ten foot pole, and now Mark Lawrence is organizing his annual SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off), and agents are using it to scout under-the-radar talent. It’s a fascinating paradigm shift to be privy to.
If you could write in any fantasy world, which would you choose and why?
The whole team behind the Art of War anthology recently did an AMA on /r/Fantasy the day the book came out, and I sort-of half joked that I’d love to write a short story set in Nicholas Eames’ Heartwyld. For those who haven’t read Nicholas’ debut, Kings of the Wyld (first off: do), it’s a setting that leans heavily on rock and roll analogues, and I’m enough of a geek that I think I could do a fair job injecting some punk rock into the world.
If you could write a book using another writers character, which character would you choose and why?
I feel like I’d be incredibly self-conscious writing any one writer’s characters, but I would willingly have several non-vital organs removed for the opportunity to write Batman.
An evil wizard casts a spell on you and transports you to a world from a fantasy novel. Which fantasy world would you want it to be?
Most likely Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. It seems like as long as I kept my head down, I’d have the least chance of dying a gruesome death there.
You cannot return from the fantasy world you have been sent to and are doomed to spend the rest of your days there, what profession do you choose to take up?
Writing. I figure I’ll stick with what I know.
What is the weirdest place you have found yourself working on a book?
Most of my writing happens in the places that aren’t that weird to us writers: at home, in a coffee shop, on a bus, at work when no one is looking. I’m sure at some point I’ve furiously scribbled lines or plot points while on a forklift. Don’t worry, it wouldn’t have been moving at the time.
What weird writing rituals or habits do you have?
Nothing too crazy, really. I just make sure I have coffee handy, cue up my writing playlist on Spotify, sacrifice exactly twelve grams of cotton candy and two ounces of triple sec to the elder god Shoggoth, and just let the words flow out.
Why should readers check out your books?
Because they’re fun! I referenced popcorn fantasy earlier, and I didn’t mean it in a derogatory sense. I think there is plenty of room in the genre for books that are light, fun jaunts, and I think I’m pretty good at writing them. Fantasy is an infinitely long buffet of all the foods in the world, but if you’re in the mood for some comfort food, I make a mean shepherd’s pie.
Sounds delicious, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions today!
About Brandon’s Books
Enna Summerlark has spent her entire life as a farmer’s daughter in the kingdom of Hallowspire, paying little mind to anything past what to sell at the next market day. When the next market day comes, however, strange events take place that will reunite her with an old friend, bring her into the world of a pair of sell-swords, and reveal a secret that will change Hallowspire forever, and cause ripples across the whole of the Four Kingdoms.
The first book in “The Four Kingdoms Saga”, The Summerlark Elf introduces readers to compelling characters in an engaging world of swords and sorcery, personal turmoil and political intrigue!
About Brandon Draga
Brandon Draga was born in 1986, just outside Toronto, Ontario. His love of all things fantasy began at an early age with games like The Legend of Zelda, Heroquest, and Dungeons and Dragons. This affinity for the arcane and archaic led to his studying history in university from 2005 to 2011. In late 2012, he began writing a D&D campaign setting that would lay the groundwork for the world of the Four Kingdoms. Brandon still lives just outside Toronto, and when he is not writing enjoys skateboarding, playing guitar, and playing tabletop games.