Today graphic novel author and RT BOOK REVIEWS columnist Anne Elizabeth sits down with fantasy author Richard A. Knaak. In this author or author interview, Anne Elizabeth gets all the details about Knaak's new series, Knight in Shadow. Dragon Mound will be in stores this October but today you can get a special look at the adventure ahead!

"You never know what you can do unless you try," said bestselling science fiction/fantasy author Richard A. Knaak as he shared news of his upcoming series releasing in October through Sea Lion Books LLC. This is a trilogy and following October's novel, there will be two additional books, Wake of the Wyrm and The Twilight Throne, to complete the series. Though straight fiction is a little off my usual comic-book venue, the opportunity to chat with this innovative author who wrote such acclaimed series as The Age of Conan, The Dragonrealm, and several WarCraft books had to be explored. For RT BOOK REVIEWS readers, he opened up about his newest novel ...

Dragon Mound is the first in the Knight in Shadow Trilogy and deals with the story of a knight, Evan Wytherling, long after the climactic battle that generally ends most tales. The defeat of the army of the sorcerer-king Novaris is some two centuries past and most now think the days of wizards and dragons mere fanciful stories. Evan knows better, though, for under the command of the wizard Paulo Centuros, he has taken on a quest to seek the truth as to whether Novaris perished that day. Evan has journeyed from land to land, never aging thanks to the wizard's spell, seeking clues to Novaris's fate. He has come near to death often, his hunt leading him to other evils along the way. Now, he has returned to the area where the battle took place, a forest near where he knows the one person who might know the truth lies imprisoned in secret. What he does not expect is to find that a town, Pretor's Hill, has risen up and that the people there are ignorant of what took place and the dangers still lurking there.

At the same time, Mardi Sinclair has returned from her education in the capital of the kingdom of Rundin to try to cope with making those around her see that they have lost their love for life, for the mysteries and nobility of it. Now a teacher, she yearns for the romantic aspects of the past to again be a part of Rundin. Into her life comes one who seems to embody just that, yet Mardi soon learns that Evan is a conflicted character who is not simply some 'hero of yore'. However, what she does not realize and what Evan only slowly comes to understand himself is that the legacy of Novaris not only still threatens Pretor's Hill, but possibly the entire kingdom and beyond. Worse, the ghosts of the past are rising and even dragons long dead are stirring ... But even if Evan and Mardi can unite to stem the darkness in Rundin, the truth concerning Evan's quest is to be found elsewhere and will either, with Mardi's love, see his redemption ... or his final fall into darkness.”

Knaak's interest in romance is not a passing element he says. “Romance is certainly important to me in all its aspects. I have tried to include it in nearly every story I've written. I'm a bit old-fashioned when it comes to talking about it, but in my own life, I've always tried to focus on what passions drive the one I'm with and see how I can make her know I appreciate those passions as part of her. The relationship that develops between Evan and Mardi is a complex one that begins with her yearning for some return to the 'noble' elements of life she knows from old stories and her own imagination. To her, life in Rundin has become one where pursuit of status and success has taken over all aspects. In Evan, she initially sees someone who appears to represent what she believes lost. Only when Mardi begins to know Evan better and sees the pain and weariness in him does she better understand the man inside. Despite the secrets she can see that he holds close, Mardi can also see his dedication to what must be done, even when Evan himself cannot see it. In turn, Mardi goes from someone who is pressing into matters where she should not, to a person very close to the ideals he thought he no longer believed in. Her compassion for him and others, and her refusal to turn from him even when it would be to her benefit, finally enables him to open up as he has not in years. They become bound to one another in a manner neither can express, but that not only is needed to face the darkness, yet also complete their own lives.”

In terms of Knaak's literary influences, he said, “There were no direct influences to this particular story, although the tales of Camelot certainly influence some of the traits of Evan. Even perhaps Beauty and the Beast (the inner conflict, not the appearance in this case!) in that Mardi learns to see beyond Evan's surface to discover the man who needs her even if he refuses to understand that himself. There is a story of redemption that goes on beyond what Dragon Mound reveals and that, in Wake of the Wyrm and the final novel, will reveal the depths from which Evan must fight to escape his own darkness. That is a victory that only Mardi may be able to help him achieve, assuming they both survive.”

Knaak has a Bachelor’s Degree in Rhetoric from the University of Illinois (Urbana) and shared how his educational background affected this tale. “In taking Rhetoric, I studied not only Writing in various forms, but also Literature. In the writing classes, I had to tell stories of varying types, forcing me to go out of my comfort zone. My Literature courses led me to classic and contemporary authors I would have never read otherwise and I learned from them not only styles and emotional thinking I could identify with, but also those I came to know were not suitable. I was thus able to avoid certain wrong directions in the growth of my own writing.”

Tips for aspiring writers include the following advice from Knaak: “You must continue to write on a regular basis. It has to become a habit, albeit not an all-consuming one. Also, continue to read. Reading stimulates the writing and often turns your stories in a direction you might have never thought. Naturally, even though you are reading and writing, you need to observe and live life in order to keep your characters real. Lastly, be stubborn. If something gets rejected, see if they mention specifics and if those specifics will aid your story. Either way, you need to keep submitting. You can't get published otherwise.” 

He reads mostly fantasy and science fiction books, and shared, “I recently finished Ruled Britannia, an excellent alternate history written by Harry Turtledove with Shakespeare as the main character in an England conquered by Spain. Very well crafted.”

Knaak also shared this excerpt from the upcoming Dragon Mound

The bloody ghosts of battle warred in his head, their cries forever locked in his memory. Warrior split warrior. A rain of hissing arrows presaged full-scale slaughter. Knights on horseback bore down on hapless foes on foot and pikemen did their best to unseat knights, skewering them like pigs for the spit.

A fire-black dragon with wings that blotted out the sky, a leviathan even by his own kind’s standards, soared overhead, breathing scorching flame on any not marked as his master’s servants. A handsome, bearded knight in gleaming crimson sat atop him, his lance stained with blood, his expression more monstrous than that of the beast.

Death had ruled the land, then...

With those words teasing our synapses, the parting comment from fantasy author Richard A. Knaak is summed up by a quote of Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." For more information, visit Knaak's website and be sure to look for Dragon Mound in stores soon!

- Anne Elizabeth

Mark your calendars, Knaak's Knight in Shadow series starter will hit shelves on October 25, 2011. And to learn more about Anne Elizabeth you can visit her website and be sure to keep an eye out for the *Web Exclusive Review* of her newest Pulse of Power graphic novel, The Pendulum.

Tags: RT Daily Blog, Science Fiction
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