I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Noel Coughlan today to talk with me about, A Bright Power Rising. Noel lives in Ireland with his wife and daughter. From a young age, he was always writing a book. Generally, the first page over and over. Sometimes, he even reached the second page before he had shredded the entire copy book. As a teenager, he wrote some poetry which would make a Vogon blush. When he was fourteen, he dreamed of a world where the inhabitants believed each hue of light was a separate god and matter was simply another form of light. He writes stories in this so-called Photocosm and also other fantasy and science fiction.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
I was checking out a novel I had read on Amazon and noticed it was a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree. I checked out from the website and was intrigued by IndieBrag’s philosophy. I’ve sometimes heard some people express a longing for some type of quality award to help them sift through self-published books by unfamiliar authors. Their hypothetical solution was almost identical to IndieBrag’s process. This intrigued me enough to submit my book.
Please tell me about your book, A Bright Power Rising.
A Bright Power Rising is set in a world where the majority of people believe that divine Lights created the cosmos. Long ago, five Lights fought for supremacy. Each Light created a race of myrmidons to serve them. The Dark Light won and the other Lights became his vassals. The survivors of the war were transported to a paradise world. However, their new home didn’t stay a paradise for long.
The book is set many years later. It concentrates on two groups. The Ors served the Golden Light in the war and most of them are still devoted to him. The Stretchers have rejected the Lights entirely and worship the Forelight. Most of the action in the novel takes place around one Stretcher village, Pigsknuckle.
The main characters are Grael, a goatherd who wants to leave to seek his fortune, Garscap, a retired mercenary who has ambitions to be the headman in Pigsknuckle and ultimately king of the Stretchers, and AscendantSun, an Or trying to straddle the Stretchers’ world and his own.
The book has a beginning, middle and end, but it is also the first part of a duology. The second part, The Unconquered Sun, will be released in the next couple of months.
Pigsknuckle is an unusual name for a village. How did you come up with it and tell me a little about the village.
Pigsknuckle is named after the mountain which overshadows it, the Pig. According to legend, the mountain was a giant pig miraculously petrified by a saint. The same saint founded the monastery on the mountain, unofficially called Pigsback.
The saints are the highest authority in the mountains, but they don’t ‘dabble in politics’ so each village has a headman called a politician to carry out that grubby business. At the start of the book, one family has held this position in Pigsknuckle for generations. Garscap is their chief rival but he isn’t making much progress against them.
The villagers are typical Stretchers. They are the type of people generally used as sword-fodder in other fantasies. Most of them are hard-working, honorable and decent. Their lives are ruled for good and bad by religious customs. They’re also prone to superstition.
What is a challenge that Garscap faces? And how did you come up with that name?
Garscap is a sociopath with a big ego. However, having been a mercenary, he has a better understanding than anyone else in Pigsknuckle of the threat the Ors’ invasion poses. Fighting the war dovetails nicely with his ambitions. For example, the people of the mountains, the Stretchers, need a king to provide strong leadership and Garscap wants to be king. Pigsknuckle is simply his first step in his pursuit of the crown.
I think his greatest enemy is himself. His lack of empathy for others and his certainty that he is destined for greatness sometimes work to his advantage, but they are his biggest weaknesses.
Garscap is an anagram of capgras, a syndrome where a person holds a delusion that a loved one has been replaced by an identical-looking imposter. Make of that what you will. *smile*
Tell me a little about the Ors.
The Pigsknucklers call them Elves and associate a lot of fairy lore with them. For example, they believe in the concept of changelings and the Gilt Spider is a kind of Elfin Boogeyman. However, as the story unfurls, we learn that the Ors are very different from the Pigsknucklers’ preconceptions.
The Ors’ god is Aurelian, the Golden Light. The image on the cover, the symmetrical two-thumbed hand, is his emblem.
The Ors’ hands are constructed in the same fashion. They have orange eyes and straw-yellow skin. Their golden hair is naturally curly. They have an unusual means of propagation, one that plays a vital role in the book.
Aurelian created the Ors to fight for him in a war with other divine Lights. They lost and they have been grieving his loss ever since. Some Ors , led by AscendantSun, converted the Stretchers’ religion, while others, led by the Harbinger of the Dawn, formed a cult bent on the extermination of all non-Ors. At the beginning of the book, events take place that put the latter group in a position of power.
What do you like most about writing epic fantasies?
I suppose it provides such a big blank canvas for my imagination. I like world-building and I love when the structures it creates shape the characters and plot. I like to be surprised by my own writing. I love when the characters start to come alive and dictate the story.
Will you please share an excerpt?
Like the Jinglemen, Grael stared into the nocturnal abyss, striving to discern a creeping shadow against the blackness. First light brought some relief, despite Hackit’s dire warnings that the day belonged to the Gilt Spider.
“What makes you say that?” Kaven demanded.
“Stands to reason,” Hackit said. “The Gilt Spider is an Elf. Elves serve the Golden Light, the torch of day.”
“All Hackit or the rest of us know about the Gilt Spider comes from the ravings of drunken Stretchers,” Gristle muttered.
Hackit pointed to Grael. “The boy may know more. He’s from these parts.”
Grael’s relief at the loosening of the constriction around his neck was brief. The Jinglemen hauled him to his feet.
Gristle seized Grael’s hair and pressed the point of a knife to his throat. “You had better spill everything you know about the Gilt Spider, because if we have to ask your girlfriend, you’ll never talk again.”
Grael wracked his memory. “I’ve never seen one of the Fair Folk before. Few in my village have, and then only as a fleck of yellow in the distance. Golden they are, and ageless. Their beauty surpasses all other races.”
“We all saw one last night,” Tarum said. “Can’t say much about its beauty.”
Grael talked through Tarum’s comment. “The splendor of their womenfolk is such that they have to be cosseted away and guarded by monstrous, misshapen beasts, for the briefest glimpse of their beauty drives the beholder mad with desire. A hero of my people, Alackalas, took one as his wife, but he could only behold her as a reflection in a mirror lest her unmitigated beauty drive him insane. In the end, the precaution was not enough to save him. Most Elves live in great cities where the sun rises. They have a few settlements in the mountains, like the one in the valley of Martyrsgrave, but rarely stray beyond them. The Fair Folk have taken little interest in Stretchers for generations.
“The Gilt Spider is the exception. He is a hunter of men. The unwary and the foolhardy that wander the forests are his usual quarry, but he has even been known to snatch an untended babe from its crib. Those whom he steals are never seen again. They say that nobody sees him and lives.”
“Enough!” Tarum Sire bellowed. “The boy knows no more than what he overheard from his mother when he was bouncing on her knee. Last night, our attacker had nothing more magic than surprise. If our guard had been sober and alert, he wouldn’t have had that.”
Kaven’s lips parted to speak, then pursed in silent frustration.
As the Jinglemen walked back to their campfire, apparently forgetting Grael, he sighed softly and bowed his head in gratitude for this little mercy.
Tarum Sire continued. “I hope the Gilt Spider, or whoever he is, visits us again. Discounting Asurach, we number nine. The Gilt Spider numbers one. I like those odds. And I know someone in Formicary who would pay a fortune for the head of an Elf. A fortune.”
“Who?” Hackit asked, scratching his ear.
“Never you mind,” Tarum Sire said. “I know him, and that is what is important. Scaral and Kaven, you bury our fallen friends deep. If the Gilt Spider wants their remains, he can dig for them. The rest of you, strike camp.”
Who designed your book cover?
Marek Purzychi. You can find more of his work here
What a great title for your story. How did you come up with the title for your book?
Joe Abercrombie made a joke on twitter about the cliché of a Dark Power Rising and the term stuck with me. In A Bright Power Rising, the villains are the equivalent of elves rather than orcs. Their god, The Golden Light, is a Bright Lord rather than a Dark Lord, so the imagery of the cliché is inverted.
What are you working on next?
I am currently editing the sequel to A Bright Power Rising, The Unconquered Sun. I am also readying for publication a short story set in the same world, The Parting Gift.
Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?
I have an office. I recently moved house so now my collection of books and knickknacks adorn the wall to my right. Normally, I write whenever I get a chance though I avoid working after 10.00pm. I can be a slow writer because I like my first draft to be fairly polished, but I am getting faster. I then go through a few more drafts. After a couple of beta readers, I send it to my editors. A Bright Power Rising, being my first book, took over a decade. The last draft before it was published was 15.0!
Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?
I am a human fish that swims in an ocean of decaffeinated tea. If someone filled a bathtub with tea, I would drink it cup by cup till it was drained. I decided to cut back on caffeine last year and haven’t really notice the difference in taste. I drink coffee sometimes but mainly for recreation. Tea is my fuel.
Do you stick with just genre?
At the moment, all future projects envisaged are genre.
Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?
I enjoy reading. I go on walking holiday once a year. This summer I walked the Hadrian’s Wall Path where I learned just how fit roman legionaries really were!
When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?
The first step is hit the delete button or more accurately move what I’ve done on that part of the scene to some archive file. (I use Scrivener. I think if I had to stick to a simple word processor, I would probably crack up because I am always shunting scenes around.) I find it best to cut the scene back more than the immediate problem. Then, I add a little time. If I’m tired, I get some rest. My brain works on it behind my back and the next time I sit down at the keyboard some solution presents itself. After I have a solution, I check through the original scene and see if anything is salvageable (details, lines of dialogue, etc.). Generally, not much will be saved, because everything is so dependent on the flow of the narrative. Fortunately, I can work on more than one project at a time.
A Message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Noel Coughlan who is the author of, A Bright Power Rising, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, A Bright Power Rising, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.