Interview With Ian E.S. Adler

Could You Tell Us About Yourself ?

Ian E.S. Adler at your humble service, the son of librarians and born and bred in Cambridge Massachusetts (despite many people thinking I have an accent). Now imagine being able to read your DNA as a piece of literature. Imagine being able to read the root out of which grew many of your basic interests as well as patterns of speech and thought and writing style. Imagine somebody who, until the 4th grade, disliked and once upon a time hated reading, until his Dad practically compelled him to read The Hobbit and then, a few years later, The Lord of the Rings. It was the first big, adult, and truly intelligent book I had read and the impact it had upon me could not have been greater. Simply put, I jumped into the genre with both feet – became perpetually hooked after reading Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle – reading Fantasy series after Fantasy series – constantly and without ever switching genres or getting bored. My morality, manner of speech, style of writing, and building blocks of thought may all be traced to Middle-earth (and other subsequent worlds I have visited, but Tolkien had and has the greater influence over me). So yes, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are my favorite books.

Beyond reading, I have an M.Ed and bachelor’s degree in History, am a Black Belt in Kung Fu and, like my parents, am a librarian. Hence my writing reflects an optimism regarding the human potential for peace and goodness despite of and acknowledging history’s grimmest, bloodiest moments. The pen is mightier than the sword, but swords guided by pens have the power to win the world from the clenched fists of war. Notice the plural for swords and pens, as I avoid the by now over-used Chosen One archetype. Being Chosen is fine, but the One leaves little authorial room to maneuver.

What made you write your book(s)?

For me, this question and “How do you develop your plot and characters?” are essentially the same. It began when my father read Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea to me back in elementary school. You see, while Tolkien is the nexus of my reading, I owe my Fantasy writing to another Le Quin, for it was her Archipelago which inspired me to create my own. This statement probably surprises many of my friends, and for good reason as I have always been (and shall ever remain) a vocal disciple of J.R.R. Tolkien, but the impact that Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle had on me was no less great even if it was so subtle that I hardly thought of it. She was one of the best. I remember that first reading of A Wizard of Earthsea, hearing the mage Ogion of Re Albi say “To hear, one must be silent.” And I remembered those words when I took the series up for a second and third time, years later. While the rest of my generation went to Hogwarts with Harry, I traveled by ship to the School of Roke with Ged. Isn’t that interesting? I openly and sincerely adored Middle-earth and idolized the wizard Gandalf, but it was Ogion the Silent who I related to: “He spoke seldom, ate little, slept less. His eyes and ears were very keen, and often there was a listening look on his face.” I also remember being struck with the fact that Earthsea was an Archipelago, the first I had ever encountered in a Fantasy, with no true main continent to journey across; rather the journeying was done by ship, in the soul, and on different Isles each of which had a special distinction. I was so struck that right then I decided that if I were ever to write a Fantasy book then it would take place upon an Archipelago. Interesting is it not? I idolize The Lord of the Rings, yet never felt the need to create my own Middle-earth.

Fast forward almost a decade. I was a high school sophmore and it was the first meeting of the Creative Writing Club (CWC), and the writing exercise I wrote for that day’s writing prompt was what became the opening paragraph of chapter one of The Last War. I had one character, the Archmage, whose task it was to defend the Archipelago of Cynnahu from the Naga armies. I knew nothing else, for there was no pre-planning involved; I was simply responding to the writing prompt. But I liked Archmage Hoth and, at the next CWC meeting I wrote about him again. Thus, gradually and over the course of two years, what would become the Cynnahu Saga grew in the form of writing prompts, characters emerging and a plot and the Archipelago’s rich history taking shape. Until finally my fellow club members asked me if I intended to write a book, since that had naturally noticed the shared setting and characters by this point. So I did.

How many hours a day do you write?

Depends on how many I have to spare. I love writing, but it is one of many passions which must be balanced out. Kung Fu, reading, gaming, museum volunteer work, my personal research into World Mythology, and of course my job. Slow and steady wins the race, as is said, so while I may not be the fastest of writers, I do get the books done.

Where do you get your idea(s) for your book(s)?

A variety of places, other books none the least, but two of my favorite mithril mines for good ideas are World Mythology as well as Fantasy video games on the order of Golden Sun and Fire Emblem (deeply tactical, yet with rich, immersive, and unique plotlines).

Do you try more to be original or rather give readers what they want?

When you read as much Fantasy as me one gains a special appreciation for originality to the point where one seeks unique Fantasy no less than quality ones. So, for my writing, because I know the common (and uncommon but still recognizable) tropes and tricks of Fantasy literature I do my best in my own work to either move past them or give them a new coat of paint so as to make them fresh, enjoyable, and unpredictable. Again, Cynnahu is an Archipelago because I noted while reading Earthsea that few other Fantasies feature them, and none in the way Ursula K. Le Guin did. I write Epic Fantasy, yes, but not with the pure Tolkienesque approach for the simple reason that Middle-earth is perfect. Another example is how the Cynnahu Saga features not a Chosen One, but a Chosen Five. Hence, simply put, I aim to be as original as possible without trying to reinvent the wheel.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

Most simply came to me, cliche as that sounds. However, I tried to have them represent something I felt needed a voice. Archmage Hoth is my idea of an ideal leader. Myrriden is a single father who is not afraid to show how much he loves his son and surrogate daughter. He represents rank, power and skill coupled with humility. Emrys is not unlike myself at his age, nervous and following the rules fervently, yet possessing an inner flame and smarts. He is not the stereotypically brash “boys will be boys” hothead and is instead deeply thoughtful. Sakura is a girl who had everything she loved taken from her in an instant, and now seethes with a need for vengeance. She represents trauma that takes time to heal but is smart and would fight to the death to defend her still living friends. Volcan is the mysterious and unwillingly funny figure you can utterly trust and who keeps surprising you, because every good Fantasy needs such a character.Stormlady Mica leads the blue warriors because I have noticed that, in Fantasy, women tend to use their wits and magic while the men lead the actual glorious cavalry charge; women have the special powers while the men use swords. This is hardly an ironclad rule and, even if it were, there is nothing wrong with it – indeed I love countless books that employ this storyline tactic. But I wanted to flip the coin. I wanted a woman wearing armor and leading the land’s most elite warriors into white-hot battle while the men wrestled with matters of magery. Loremaster Aneirin is the scholar in me, for I love historical research and adore archeology. Yet just as much he – and the grey nobles in general – portray my firm belief that the best societies are deeply aware of their own history and learn from their past. Instead of trying to gloss over or justify the genocide of the Dragonkin, most modern Cynnahu folk – thanks to the Loremasters – are appalled by their ancestors’ deeds. Furthermore, I prefer wars won in ways beyond mere military tactics and/or magic as otherwise it is boring. Which is why Aneirin uses his scholar’s training to unravel ancient mysteries, his work being crucial to the war effort and the quest for the Elder Song despite never fighting.

How long did it take for you to write a book?

A couple years. Editing it took longer than writing, in fact.

Where can people who are interested in your book, buy your book?

Amazon (as a paperback, Kindle, or hardcover) and Barnes & Noble (as a paperback).

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

Book two of the Cynnahu Saga, Dragon Guardians, will hopefully be out by this time next year. Hopefully. I am making no promises as life has a horrid habit of getting in the way, but the book is fully written – meaning all that remains to be done is editing. Indeed, even the rough draft of book three, Mages’ Legacy is complete. If the going is slower than I would like, it is because I am also actively writing book four which is another story, so to speak.

After writing your book(s) what is your advice to people who want to become writers?

Read the best the genre you want to write in has to offer, never stop writing, and finish what you start if you feel a connection with and to the story. What literary skill I possess is owed to reading so much Fantasy that I earned a reputation in school as the guy who always had a book in his hand.

 Ian E.S. Adler Media Links




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