It’s that time again – here’s another great indie author you ought to know about. Today we’ve got fantasy author Kyra Halland (you can visit her website here). She’s written a fantastic novel (review forthcoming) called “Urdaisunia”, which you can buy at Amazon.
Here’s the blurb for the book…
For two thousand years, Urdaisunia, the Land of the Two Rivers, was the greatest civilization in the world. But now it lies in ruins – conquered by the barbarian Sazars, wracked by famine and drought, threatened by foreign invaders, abandoned by the gods who once favored Urdaisunia above all other lands.Rashali, a young Urdai widow, struggles to eke out a living in her plague-decimated village while mourning her husband and daughter. With the local rebel group, she dreams of overthrowing the hated Sazars and restoring Urdaisunia to freedom and its former glory, but victory for the starving, destitute Urdai people seems impossible.The Sazar High Prince Eruzasharbat believes that the Sazars’ oppression of the Urdai will one day lead to an uprising that would be disastrous for Sazars and Urdai alike. However, to his father the king and his two brothers, who are both eager to take Eruz’s place as heir, his fears are an unacceptable weakness, bordering on treason. Eruz walks a dangerous line between loyalty to the Sazars and doing what he believes is best for all the people of Urdaisunia.Then a chance encounter between prince and rebel and a wager between two of the gods set Eruz and Rashali on intertwining paths of danger, intrigue, love, and war – paths which will change their destinies, the destiny of their beloved land of Urdaisunia, and even the fate of the gods, forever.
Kyra was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, and her writing in general…
How does Urdaisunia differ from other epic fantasy novels that readers might be familiar with?
The biggest thing that comes to mind is the setting – non-European, non-medieval. The setting is very loosely inspired by ancient Sumeria, and has kind of a late bronze age/early iron age feel. Also, magic plays only an incidental role in the story. It isn’t about magic or wizards; it’s about the relationship between the land of Urdaisunia, the people who love it, and the gods who used to favor it. There’s also the business with the gods maneuvering and manipulating and trying to influence events in the mortal world. Finally, there isn’t one Lurking Big Evil Guy; the antagonists are those who want the power to exploit the land and its people for their own purposes.
Urdaisunia is a love story, both between the main characters Rashali and Eruz, and of Rashali and Eruz for their country.
What inspired you to write this book?
Three things – first was an interest I had at the time (this was in about 1991) in very ancient civilizations. Not Rome or Greece, those young whippersnappers, but really really ancient. As in birth of civilization ancient. I had never seen any fantasy stories set in a civilization like that (except for the Earthsea novels, which you could argue also have a late bronze age/early iron age setting, but the civilization in them is much less established) and I thought it would be so cool to write one.
Another thing was an image that came into my mind of a peasant woman facing down three warriors on horseback who have their swords raised over her head, and then one of them, their leader, orders them not to kill her. I dropped the peasant woman and the warriors into the ancient civilization I’d already started developing, and that was how the novel started.
Finally, I’d started coming up with this pantheon of gods for my world, and I loved the idea of having this soap opera thing going on with all these gods, where they try to affect and are affected by the things happening in the mortal world.
What was the most difficult thing about writing Urdaisunia?
The hardest thing was having the courage to write the novel according to my own vision. I had written one novel already (this was back in the early 90s) and was learning about what it would take to get a novel published, and that was when I realized that in order to get published, a book not only had to be good, it also had to be marketable – that is, the decision makers at a publishing company had to be convinced it would sell a certain number. I hadn’t seen any other fantasy novels quite like Urdaisunia on the bookstore shelves, which made me feel like a book like that wasn’t considered marketable (because, after all, I couldn’t be the only one writing a novel like this!). So I started trying to change my original vision to make the book less different from the fantasy novels I saw for sale in the stores. That ended in disaster, and I dropped the novel for a long time
Fast forward about 20 years, and the characters still wouldn’t leave me alone, and by that time I’d given up on the idea of getting published (this was just before self-publishing as it now exists started taking off) so I decided, What the heck, I’ll rewrite it, and write it my way. So I did, patching together old material with newly-written parts, and finally had a complete manuscript that even though it was awful, at least told the story I really wanted to tell.
The other most difficult thing was revising that patched-together monstrosity into a novel I’m proud to show the world. But I did it!
What is your biggest “guilty pleasure” reading?
I only read things I enjoy, because life is too short to read stuff just because you feel like you should. I do have a fondness for Amanda Quick’s and Laura Kinsale’s delightful historical romances, and I refuse to feel the least bit guilty about it.
Can you picture your book on the big screen? Who would star in it?
That would be cool to see it as a movie, but I had a hard time finding stars for it. Maybe Tadanobu Asano (http://www.imdb.com/media/rm771332352/nm0038355) as Eruz, but I couldn’t find an actress not of African descent with dark enough skin to play Rashali. I was thinking an Indian actress, but even in Bollywood there’s a very strong bias towards lighter-skinned actresses. Konkona Sen Sharma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konkona_Sen_Sharma) comes close, but she’s still lighter-skinned than Rashali, and her features are too soft. I would hate to see a movie made with Rashali “whited-out” or played as more conventionally attractive than she is.
Any advice you wish you’d known before you began writing?
I wish I had known to be true to my own vision of my stories no matter what (I wish I had known that self-publishing as it now exists would come into being, making it unnecessary to worry about if an agent or publishing company would find my novels “marketable”). And also, I wish I had known how important it is to just keep writing even when the novel gets hard or boring, just keep going through to the end.
Finally, Kyra’s provided us with an excerpt from the book. Just click “Continue Reading” below…
As Rashali started back across the dusty trade road that lay between the river and Moon Bend, she bit back the anguish that still, after all these months, threatened to overcome her at the thought of her husband and daughter. They were gone, Araskagan had sung them into the House of the Dead. Her grief would not bring them back. Even if she knew the Name of the Mother of the Gods, she couldn’t bring them back. All she could do was go on living, and somehow, someday, see them avenged.
Without warning, there was a rush of pounding hooves from her right, and a voice shouted, “You, Urdaina! Watch out!” A wall of black struck hard against her right side. She tumbled to the ground, the yoke sliding from her shoulders, the buckets spilling their water onto the thirsty ground.
Rashali got to her feet, stumbling on a twisted ankle. Three Sazar warhorses stood in front of her, a huge black beast flanked by two slightly smaller dark brown horses. From their mounts, three Sazar warriors clad in silver-trimmed black stared down at her.
Hate and rage clouded her senses. These sallow-skinned, narrow-eyed barbarians had degraded and destroyed her people. They were responsible for the deaths of her husband and daughter and countless others. And they had spilled her water. She drew up precious moisture into her mouth and spat at the man in the middle, the man whose black horse had knocked her down.
The three horses danced and snorted like demons. Two long, curved, gleaming-sharp swords suddenly loomed above her head. The man on the right jumped down from his horse and grabbed Rashali in a choke hold. The point of a knife pricked the skin beneath her chin.
Tears of terror filled Rashali’s eyes and her heart raced painfully, but she refused to look away from the warrior in the middle, whose richer silver trimmings marked him as superior to the other two. She would not bow down, she would not give way, she would not grovel before a Sazar, even if it cost her her life.
The moment seemed to hang suspended as the warrior gave her a long, hard, searching look, as though he were trying to peer into her mind and discover how she dared to defy him. Then he sheathed his sword.
Rashali stared at him in disbelief, as did the other two men. Surely, she thought, he couldn’t have decided to show mercy. The Sazars had no mercy in them. He spoke a few sharp words in the Sazar language, his tone that of a man accustomed to unquestioning obedience. The other man on horseback returned his sword to its sheath, but the man holding Rashali tightened his grip around her neck. He pressed the knife harder against her throat, and said a few words that sounded like a protest. The leader repeated his orders in an even harsher voice. After hesitating for several heartbeats, the third man let go of Rashali, sheathed his knife, and climbed back up on his horse. The commander gave Rashali another long, searching look, then flicked his horse’s reins to go on his way, leaving Rashali standing in the dirt where her spilled water was rapidly drying.
“Lord Sazar!” Rashali’s heart pounded at her daring, but desperation drove her to speak. He looked at her again. “My water spilled when your horse ran into me, and the guards at the river won’t let me have any more.”
“It was you who ran into my horse, Urdaina,” he said in accented Urdai.
“The water isn’t just for me. It’s also for my widowed sister and her children. She’s too weak to come to the river herself.” She waited for his response, hardly daring to breathe.
He looked at the damp patch where her buckets had fallen on the ground, then reached into one of his saddlebags and flipped something small and round into the dust at her feet. “Give that to the guard, and he’ll let you have more water.”
So she was forced to abase herself before him, after all. Her face burning, Rashali stooped over and picked up the object he had tossed to her. It was a copper medallion half the size of her palm, stamped with two mountains, a wolf overlaid with silver, and some Urdai writing. She could read the writing but couldn’t understand the words; they must be in the Sazar language. Was this the man’s personal seal, or simply a coin to bribe the guard with? Rashali had seen few coins in her life, and none this big. Clutching the medallion and keeping a wary eye on the warrior, she limped over to her yoke and eased it onto her shoulders, then started back to the river.
“Wait,” the Sazar lord called to her. Rashali looked back, certain that he had changed his mind. “What is your name?” he asked.
Surely she had already used up all her luck today; she couldn’t afford to test the gods’ patience, or the warrior’s, by refusing to answer him. “Rashali, Lord Sazar.”
He seemed to consider her name for a moment, then nodded once. “Go on.” He and his companions rode off, heading south along the road.
Gripping the medallion in her shaking hand, trembling from the aftermath of fear and humiliation, Rashali watched them ride away. If it took all of her life and everything she had, she vowed as she had so many times before, she would see the Sazars crushed down into the dust.by