While August started sort of quietly (and thankfully so, since I had weddings and birthdays to attend to), as the month went on, we ended up working with a lot of talented storytellers and worldbuilders. The first one that we promoted was Joe Lyon, the author of the wonderful Astar’s Blade series. As luck would have it, he’s also my first interview of many for the month as well. Read on to learn more about the author of an incredibly robust series, and see why his work might just be your next favorite.
Tellest: Hi there Joe. Thanks for carving out some time to talk with me. You’ve got a lot of skills and talents, and I’m sure that keeps your days busy. We’re going to use this opportunity to find out more about your work on Astar’s Blade, but we’re also looking to see what goes on in the mind of Joe Lyon!
Joe Lyon: Thanks for having me Mike, oh boy! What goes on inside the mind of Joe Lyon? Now, there’s a twisted topic to talk about.
T: One of the first things that I always like to ask the authors I interview is how they ended up on the path that led them writing their stories. You’ve led a rich and complex life, but along the way, what inspired you to create monsters and extraordinary characters?
JL: The short answer is my morbid fascination with death. It’s a coping mechanism, based on my fear of death, the thought of death. Probably because I was the youngest in an older family, so at a very young age I had to deal with loved one’s passing on. I used to think death was something accidental that happened only to the unlucky, it wasn’t until I learned that everybody dies eventually, I guess my mind got a little twisted there. So, I started an obsession of creating freaky monsters and people with superpowers, characters that were either already dead, or had the power to never be. In the Afterward of my first book, I write briefly about it, fearing death makes me live a better life to the fullest. So, it’s not all bad.
T: I think everyone briefly ends up with that concept of mortality and how fleeting life can be, but since you associated it so much with the creation of characters and monsters, I’m sure it stuck with you. How much do projects like Astar’s Blade tap into those themes and issues?
JL: Well, without giving too much away, I have a world system based on recycling and renewal of the spirit, so that even when we die, life goes on. I mean, it’s called Dark Fantasy for a reason, right?
T: There’s a lighter side to that as well though, since it kind of implies that part of us go on as well. How did you try and conceptualize that process? Was it something you thought you had to lead readers through, or did you think it made more sense as an abstract idea?
JL: Taking a page from Lovecraft, I wanted to make the Cosmic Creation something that had no morality, no sentiment, just a plain neutral – thing – that comes and goes, and gives and takes, without regard to that human part of us. But it is all done for a reason, that was important. It might be a reason that on the surface looks evil, like the fact we die. But from another view, when humans die, they are born into the Cosmic Creation, arriving for a recycling, a cleansing of all sins and blemishes, then a fresh return to newness. But as humans we cannot, or do not want to, let go of this life we have now, no matter what kind of promise tomorrow may bring.
T: Prior to the release of Astar’s Blade, you had a pretty extensive account of songs and poetry that you put out into the world. How do you think that helped with things like pacing and prose?
JL: That’s a great question. Songs and poetry lent some texture the characters, as they sing and celebrate in music and poems, sort of reminds me of J.R.R Tolkien’s elves and other characters. But it is not meant to be a rip-off of Tolkien. I actually was a musician first, then writer second. And I just found I had so much material in the forms of music and song lyrics, turned into poetry, that I thought it would give my characters more life to use what I had on hand. So I did that. And as far as timing and pacing, I really did not feel like it did help much. As Stephen King once said, writing is “organized thoughts”, and song lyrics and poetry I think is “organized emotions.” So, although the Sunday School answer would be, “Yes absolutely it made my prose better,” I just don’t think I would be genuine if I said it did. Or maybe I just haven’t learned how to span that bridge yet.
T: Astar’s Blade doesn’t seem like it comes from the work of a “pantser”, though I could be wrong. It feels like a world that you’ve been working on for decades, and that there’s so much of the world that we’ve barely scratched the surface. How did you come up with the world, and how do you make it feel so lived-in and multi-faceted?
JL: Yes and No. Astar’s Blade was a story that kept me awake for 10 years. And I had plenty of false starts and half written outlines. The tipping point came when I finally had a Eureka moment in the middle of the night where the story outline kind of fell into place in my mind, it only took 10 years to do so. Then from that rather rigid idea I had down cold in my mind, I started writing, but allowed my characters to drive plot, as long as they drove it in the direction I needed them to. Once again, I would love to say I’m a strict outline writer, but I still allow quite a bit of myself to be a “punster” to give my characters some agility.
T: I think that makes for a better experience for the author, and perhaps ultimately the reader anyway. While you want to keep things on the rail to some extent, it can still allow for some surprises that you weren’t expecting. With that in mind, have your characters ever thrown you for a loop since you started writing?
JL: Oh, they all do. They all take on a life of their own, even the bad ones. They develop their own voice, have their likes and dislikes. They can be temperamental. And after a while they turn into your babies. That’s why it’s hard sometimes to kill your babies. But yeah, they take on a life of their own, and it’s interesting to see where they will go.
T: So, we know that you and your characters sometimes work at odds to one another. You’re trying to tell a story and they’re trying to live another. Did you ever have one of those characters that you just had to wrangle down and keep to the script?
JL: Only in dialogue, in their actions they behave, but these characters say some of the darnedest things. Some of their dialogue just cracks me up. I think they tap into my humor, where I have an imbecilic way of cracking a joke in the most intense situations. Some of these guys say the funniest things when they misunderstand the topic of conversation that makes an episode of Three’s Company look like higher learning.
T: The Kingdom of Odessa is the stage of Astar’s Blade, and you’ve put together a beautiful map of the place. Did you always have it in mind like that, or has it changed over time? Will we be seeing other kingdoms as the series goes on?
JL: Yes everything revolved around the Mid-Run Valley in my sandbox. With the giant Gray Mountains in the East, and the sprawling range in the West of the Blue Mountains, reminiscent of my take on New York and Los Angeles. To the north sets a vast forest called the Great Mapes, that is home of the witch, and if you look closely, the Great Mapes have no northern border. So in future editions of Astar’s Blade we could push further and explore beyond that forest and see what’s on the other side. It’s exciting to think about. Just like thinking about what might be found on the far shores of the Endless Sea. Is it really Endless? Probably not.
T: With as much time as you’ve spent in your sandbox, do you think three books is enough, or are there little threads that pull at your mind that kind of influence you to write additional material in your world?
JL: Three was the goal, kind of a traditional three-part novel series. But, just in case, I left some easter eggs in there that can be opened and explored on their own merit later, depending on how these do over the next couple of years. I mean, I think Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is what? About 10 books, or so? They even carried on after he died, I heard, just based on his outlines and notes. So, yeah, I would totally like to explore more into the future of Astar’s Blade.
T: We’re less than three months away from the release of your sequel, Kilmer’s Ghost. Am I right in guessing that your book is already done, and you’re just giving The Provenance time to breathe and make the rounds among all your new fans?
JL: Kilmer’s Ghost builds upon the world established in the first book. As the name implies, the second book has a more ghostly element, paranormal and more. The story focuses on several cases of demonic possession and the birth of a group of demons called the Demonic, a race of unique ghoulish demons that take offense to be called vampiric. They want to emphasize, they are not blood drinkers, they are flesh eaters. In the meantime, it is also a love story, actually there are a couple of love stories, because nothing says love like a good demonic possession. I am glad the release of Kilmer’s Ghost will be on Halloween. This was not planned but it was a wonderful accident of scheduling. It will be released just a short few months from release of the first book. Yes. both books are finished, each over 100K words, and let me say this: never again will I do this to myself. I never want to have two book releases so close together. Incidentally the audiobook of The Provenance will also be coming out in October as well. It has been just a real crazy time for me.
I’m not expecting the third and final third book, The Temple of Valor, until May 2022. So, I’m looking forward to just working on one project at a time.
T: May 2022 feels like it’s pretty far away, but it’s also right around the corner—especially in days like these.
JL: It really is. That’s why I said, I’ll be glad to just work on one book at a time. I’ve been driving myself pretty hard getting these two novels out at nearly the same time, but that’s just how the muse hit me. Looking forward to the potential writer’s block I am about to curse myself with.
T: Well, that’s the nice thing about making these really robust worlds, concepts and characters. You might put up a wall briefly, but you’ve left yourself enough interesting avenues to explore that even if you had to put the main part of the story on pause, you could easily do a novella prequel, or midquel or something. It wouldn’t surprise me to see you inspire yourself with a lesser traveled thread of the plot.
JL: I really want to see what happens next.
T: With this newfound passion for writing, there’s bound to be a bit of excitement. Are you ready for a break after book three, or are you itching to see what other stories there are to tell?
JL: I don’t want to take a break. I have other ideas that I would love to get to. I would like to write some more stuff in the horror / paranormal genre. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make a children’s book.
T: Whatever you end up writing, be sure to let us know about at Tellest, and we’ll spread the word. Joe, it has been great finding out what drives you, and learning more about Astar’s Blade. If an interested reader wanted to find out more about you, where could they go?
JL: Thanks Mike, appreciate your time. You can find The Provenance: Astar’s Blade by Joe Lyon on Amazon, Kindle, in epub, paperback and hard cover. There are other fun things at my website: www.astarsblade.com, and if you purchase the book there it will come to your door autographed by yours truly. And coming soon on Audible, I have the incomparable talents of Lisa Negron as the voice behind Astar’s Blade, that should be coming out around October of 2021. And you can watch for the exciting second book of Astar’s Blade, a demonic and paranormal adventure called Kilmer’s Ghost, right in time for Halloween, look for it October 31, 2021 on Amazon and Kindle, and you can go to my website: www.astarsblade.com and save 10% on Pre-Orders right now. So, obviously you’ll want to go do that. I love my early adopters.
I want to thank Joe Lyon once more. It is always a joy to talk to storytellers who are as excited to spin a tale as we are to read it. You can find out more about Joe and his work in the links above, and you can pick up Astar’s Blade: The Provenance on Amazon today. Book 2, Kilmer’s Ghost, is just around the corner, so get ready to jump into this captivating world! If you’re looking for the paperback, make sure to go the website Joe mentioned above, as you’ll get it autographed!
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