Over the course of the last few months, Tellest has become very familiar with the debut work of French author Nathan D. Latrev. His book, Juvenile Tribulations, the first in his planned Isthariun’s Dreams series, has lit up in his native country, thanks to its wonderful, almost rhythmic storytelling and the development of his characters, who don’t suffer from the same stereotypes of their races drawn from other fantasy adventures. We’ve talked about his book at great length, but we haven’t had a chance to talk to the author himself until now. The long wait is over, and now you’ll be able to learn more about Latrev. We hope you enjoy it!
Tellest: Greetings Nathan! It’s nice to work with you again. You’ve been hard at work on your fantasy work, and you’ve certainly been putting in the time to get the world of Isthariun in front of more and more people. With all that hustle going on, I’d like to thank you for carving out some time so that we could get to know each other a little better, and to help to introduce you to your newest fans.
Nathan D. Latrev: Thank you for the warm welcome and it is a pleasure to talk with you!
T: I typically begin my interviews by asking a sort of foundational question. We know that you’re a storyteller, but we want to know why. Who was your inspiration or deciding factor in making you decide to pick up a pen or pencil, and start working on sweeping fantasy worlds? Did you have a favorite author that you read when growing up, or was there something else that pulled you toward all that?
NDL: Good question, and not easy to answer in a few words. I think I’ve always wanted to write, but never dared to take the step. I’ve always read a lot of books, mainly in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, adventure… Reading books for me is like watching a good movie or a series, it must help me to get out of reality. Many famous authors inspire me and I’m an unconditional fan of Stephen King for example.
But let’s get back to what drove me to write. In fact, it is not very original. In France we had—as in many countries—several successive confinements related to the covid. And during one of them I said to myself, “if you want to write a story, do it now”. And I found a story that I had started 25 years ago, when I was playing the online game “World of Warcraft”. I expanded and reworked it several times until I ended up with my first novel, Juvenile Tribulations.
T: Games can be such a rich inspiration for storytelling, and World of Warcraft is one that can especially serve a growing tapestry. Since World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer game, everyone can experience it in slightly different ways. Was your experience playing the game with other people helpful in crafting some of the characters or events in your story?
NDL: Absolutely! In my gaming days, I was part of several different guilds and these gatherings of virtual humans are a wealth of information about the psychology of individuals. Now you have to remember that this type of game can bring together people of all ages, like young teenagers who couldn’t stand to see their virtual character die or adults who are too full of themselves. I have certainly reflected some of these traits in my characters.
T: How long have you been at work on the world of Isthariun? Is it something you discovered recently, or has it been something that you’ve been exploring for some time?
NDL: As I said, I had started a little story a few years ago, but it was only a few pages back then. To create the universe of Isthariun, it took me about 6 months. It was really exciting, I kept coming up with ideas. When you create a world (it’s a bit pretentious to say that, isn’t it?), you have to think about many, many things: geography, climate, fauna, flora, interactions between species, language, history, politics, monetary systems… and so on. Some authors are put off by this, but I think I enjoyed it the most. Maybe it’s linked to my past as a roleplaying master 🙂
T: Your map of Isthariun is pretty extensive, and it’s clear that we have a lot still yet to see. Do you know a majority of what you’re going to show readers when it comes to the rest of the world? Are you excited to show off any big and impressive landmarks?
NDL: I love the work done on this card by the studio Paintik https://paintik.com/ They are young graphic designers living in Madagascar. I found them through social networks (Facebook), and I fell in love with their creations and their talent. My 2nd novel will be based on the existing map because it will take place around the same period. However, for the 3rd novel I have in mind, there will indeed be some new things. The advantage is that I voluntarily created a world with many islands, which leaves me infinite possibilities of creation.
T: When you write your stories, do you find that you are the one who is leading it forward, or are you almost exploring it yourself, and learning things as you move along? Do your characters or story elements ever surprise you in ways you didn’t expect?
NDL: Well, this is my first novel, I went by feel, without any particular method. It was improvisation all the way. Sometimes I had to create characters for a single scene when I hadn’t thought of them at all. So yes, I would say that it was the story and the characters that drew me into this fantastic adventure, even though it’s strange to think about it.
T: With some of those one-off characters that you had to introduce, did they ever sort of have a bigger personality and presence than you were expecting? Is there any chance that these smaller roles end up growing in later books? Or did you keep a pretty tight grip on the way you wanted to tell your tale?
NDL: Good question!
I created 33 characters with unique personalities for my first novel. For the second one I added about 20 more. My writing method is “no method”, so I often write a scene introducing a new character and love him so much that I invent his own story.
If I can free up more time for writing, I think I’ll do spin-offs on some of these characters. I’ve already written a few summaries about them 🙂
T: One of the things that readers will notice early on in your books are that your races are not the rehash of the old stereotypes that you come to expect in other fantasy books. Dwarves aren’t all gruff and moody, elves aren’t as refined as they appear in other stories, and you’ve got friendly, civilized orcs. What made you want to turn those tropes on their heads?
NDL: From the beginning, I tried to differentiate myself. Everybody (or almost) knows the Lord of the Rings thanks to Peter Jackson’s fantasy films. And everyone can have an idea in mind of what a dwarf, an elf, or an orc must be. So, I wanted to do a counter to these tropes, and bring the readers to other things. From the feedback I got, I think I succeeded!
T: You certainly did!
When it comes to other events and twists and turns, do you believe that you’ll continue to try to subvert what readers will come to expect?
NDL: Yes, I will! That’s my main pleasure, taking readers where they don’t expect it!
T: I talk a lot about your characters and your races, but if someone wanted to know more about your world, and the history of it, what would be the first thing you brought up for them? What sort of things would you want to tell them to have them visit Isthariun?
NDL: Welcome to a new universe, different from everything you think you know about fantasy until now.
T: What’s one of the most impressive things you can think of when it comes to your book and the universe that it takes place in? What are you especially proud of?
NDL: I can’t talk about it without revealing the ending of the book, but it’s just that ending that I’m particularly proud of. Until today, no reader was expecting it.
Otherwise I am also very satisfied with the interactions I managed to introduce between the different species (more than ten). It was a big challenge for me to have so many of them and to keep it all coherent.
T: Did you find any difficulty moving things from the French edition of your book to the English edition? Were there any challenges moving away from the French language that you weren’t expecting?
NDL: The main difficulty remains the same for any self-published author: either you have to do everything yourself, or you have to be well accompanied. An author who has succeeded in convincing a publishing house will not have to face the same worries.
Concerning the translation, my first challenge was to find trustworthy interlocutors, both for the translation and for the proofreading. Unfortunately, the first draft was not great, so I had to look for other providers and I found a great person who completely revised the translation. English and French are very different languages, so the other difficulty was the use of French terms that were not translatable into English, or expressions. I had to accept a few changes in order not to distort the story. Finally, to make it worse, some of my characters have pronunciation peculiarities, that was also a challenge!
T: I will come out and say two things. First, you’ve got a much better grip on English than I think you would give yourself credit for. Second, your translation for Juvenile Tribulations was especially strong. Not only are the terms and expressions somewhat of a challenge sometimes, but the formatting is incredibly different, and you could tell very easily that your book didn’t fall into that trap.
That said, have you found that one of your marketplaces has done better than another? Does the English storefront have to catch up to the French one? Or have you been pleasantly surprised and seen some very healthy numbers across the board?
NDL: Thank you for your feedback. I was especially lucky to find someone very talented on Fiverr to help me with the English version.
In terms of sales, I don’t think I’ve found my audience yet, neither in France nor outside France. I’m currently trying to develop my readership on these markets with TikTok, but it’s not easy: the average age is between 13 and 24, I’m almost 45 lol, I have to get up to speed!
T: Since I’ve been working with you on this book, every time I put together a promo for you, I get excited thinking about when a second book might come out. Do you have an anticipated release date for the sequel? And, to sate my own curiosity, do you think it will be an easier task of creating the English version to follow it this time around?
NDL: I sincerely hope to publish my 2nd novel, “Dark Tribulations”, before the end of 2022 for the French edition, and at the beginning of 2023 for the English one. But it’s longer because I changed jobs, and I have less time to write unfortunately. Writing is just a hobby for now.
For the English version, I think I’ve found the right people now, so yes, it should go faster.
T: What do you think your best advice would be to scrounge together the time to write a story. It’s not always easy, and I’ve been through those word crunch moments myself. What would you say to someone else, or to yourself in order to get things back on track and timely?
NDL: I try to tell myself every time: don’t wait to write your ideas! Sometimes they come and go so quickly that it’s a shame to miss them. Grab a pencil and jot down a few sentences to work on later. Life is short, writing a book is long, there is no point in waiting!
T: If someone wanted to find out more about you or the Isthariun’s Dreams series, where could they go?
NDL: On my website: https://isthariun.com/en/isthariun/
You will find a lot of information about my books, about me, about the world of Isthariun of course (including the beautiful map!)
Travelers, I wanted to thank Nathan D. Latrev once again for the time that he shared in telling us all about his world, his process, and what comes next for him and Isthariun’s Dreams. Latrev is indeed a busy man, so to be able to bend his ear even for a short while, it was truly an opportunity I am glad for. We’ve promoted Latrev’s book time and time again, but I hope you will give it a try if you haven’t added it to your bookshelf yet. Check out Juvenile Tribulations: An Epic Fantasy Adventure! (Isthariun’s Dreams) on Amazon today!
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