As part of the exciting online tour to celebrate the release of Stephen Aryan’s newest novel: The Coward. I had the pleasure of being able to review The Coward before its release date. It follows a hero known as Kell, the story following his life after his great quest to the frozen north, exploring how the quest has left lingering effects on him. The novel has a different spin on the idea of your typical questing trope, one I very much enjoyed! Check out my review for The Coward through the link below:
I have been extremely fortunate through Angry Robot Publishing to be able to ask Stephen some questions both about his upcoming novel, as well as his writing process. It was a pleasure to read through Stephen’s replies, gaining a fantastic insight into The Coward and how Stephen handles his writing. As a hopeful writer myself, reading his words was both inspiring and humbling.
1. The story of Kell and how he became an accidental hero was an interesting spin on the traditional quest trope, where did the idea for him originate?
Over the years I have read a lot of fantasy books about heroes going on adventures, but not many about what happens to them when they get back. How did the quest affect them? Did everyone survive the journey? Were they traumatised by all of the awful things they overcome? I was also thinking and reading a lot about soldiers coming back from war with PTSD. I also read a biography of a journalist who spent years in war-torn countries on the front lines who ended up with PTSD. All of that and more swirled around in my head to create Kell. A young man who went on an epic adventure when he was 17 and was dramatically changed by what he saw and experienced.
2. Kell managed to surround himself with a varied collection of other heroes to join him on his quest – which character did you think of first to join Kell in his adventures?
Willow. I wanted to create a totally new race of people. Something I’d never seen before. Something alien and weird and different that wasn’t human. There’s little known about her species, so in any situation her starting point is not the same as a human. It creates some interesting conversations and helps the readers to see the world as it is described to her in simple terms but even then she doesn’t always understand as there isn’t an equivalent from her home.
3. There were a number of scary monsters within The Coward, what is your favourite monster of all time?
That’s a tough question to answer. My response is likely to change if you ask me the same question next week. At the moment, I’ll say dark elves. I like the idea of taking a race of beings that are traditionally seen as noble, elegant, beautiful and powerful and then seeing the other side of the coin. Something brooding, equally dangerous and with immense power but their intentions are not nearly as pleasant.
4. Willow the Alfar is a character whose species are very much surrounded by mystery – will this species be explored future within your writing?
The Quest for Heroes is a 2 book series. So without spoilers, all I can say is we find out a lot more about Willow and her people in the sequel.
5. You have written a number of novels – has your writing speed increased over time and how long did it take to write The Coward?
It has increased a little but also my speed can vary depending on the project. I think it took me 7 or 8 months to write The Coward but the next book could be a lot slower. It also depends on
How much research I have to do for a project. It depends on the length of series and it depends on what else is going on in my life at the time. The fastest I’ve ever written a book was 6 months, which is fast for me, but a lot slower than other authors. On average it takes 9 months to a year and I think it will always be around that length.
6. How does your writing process work? Do you make notes in a cool notebook, do you like to draw timelines charting the key events within your novels or do you prefer to freestyle and see what happens creatively?
I plan all of my novels. I have the beginning, the middle and the end. I also have a series of milestones along the way which guide the story. I plan quit a lot before I start writing but the creative part for me comes in not knowing how I get from point A to point B, so there’s a creative leap of faith. My subconscious is a lot smarter than me. It plants seeds which bear fruit later in the book, or even later in the series. I tried freestyle writing and the end result was a mess. So I know it’s not for me but I have several friends who can’t plan their novels, so it is all about finding what works for you.
7. Is there more in store for Kell in the future? Will he continue his fame through other novels?
There’s one more adventure with Kell in the Quest for Heroes duology and then it’s done. The book is already written, there’s a preview of chapter 1 in the back of The Coward and it will be published in June 2022. After that I’m on to something completely new and different. New series. New world
If you want check out another of Stephen’s series, here is my review for Blood Mage: