Interview with Dean Griffiths

What was the inspiration behind The Guardian Of Orth?
I always enjoyed the idea of being transported to other worlds. My favourite book as a kid was The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. I was obsessed with going to Narnia as a kid. When I would visit my grandparents, they had these huge wardrobes, I would always sneak upstairs and try to get into Narnia. Despite never actually being able to get there through those wardrobes, I was convinced that it was just a matter of timing so I kept at it for years. I think the last time I tried, I was an early teenager, definitely too old to be believing in that kind of thing.

Then there was Star Wars, which was my other obsession. I was born in 1977 so I have never known a time when there wasn’t Star Wars. Like other kids my age, it consumed me. But the thing that blew my mind, which I couldn’t get other kids my age excited about, was the fact that Star Wars took place in the past. You know, A Long Time Ago and all that. Like I said, that really blew my mind.

You know what really captured my imagination though? It was the mystery behind Darth Vader. I know George Lucas went on to create the Vader backstory with the prequels but as a kid, all I had was the original trilogy so it was left to me and my friends to try and work out what turned Darth Vader to the dark side. It made me think about the motivations for the bad guy, I mean, at the end of Return of the Jedi we see that Vader was a good guy who had done some very bad things and I wanted to know why.

I never saw Vader as evil, yeah, he scared me, terrified me but an out and out bad guy? No, I sympathised with him because I knew that he didn’t start off that way.

Plus, I just loved the way they drip fed us the Emperor. I mean, here’s the driving force behind everything we are seeing and he’s merely alluded to in the first film, we see a glimpse of him in the second setting us up for the full reveal in the third. Amazing constraint.

So, I’ve tried to apply the same levels of restrained and mystery in The Guardian of Orth. We get to do a little bit of world building, we allude to the real threat without fully revealing it. There are enough clues in The Guardian of Orth for the reader to kind of see what’s coming but we still manage to tell a complete story while setting up the other books in the series.
The book is aimed at children yet there are some adult themes there?
My daughter and I joined the local library and we would blast through a book a night. You know kids books, aimed at 4to 6-year-olds. I love reading to my daughter, it’s one of my favourite things to do but those books were a chore. There was nothing in them for me, I know that’s selfish, but with movies, Pixar, Dreamworks, they are aware that they have to entertain the parents as well as the kids but with books, the ones my daughter and I read at least, they didn’t attempt to give me, the parent, the narrator, any hooks.

And, they also didn’t take into consideration that kids these days, can handle deeper content. They can entertain slightly darker themes.

So I went and wrote three books, The Guardian of Orth, The Last Guardian and The Rise Of The Guardian. I purposefully added elements of loss and morality and intermixed them with swashbuckling adventure segments and tested it out on my daughter who was four at the time.

She loved them. I never told her that I wrote them and even though I use her name in the book, I never used her name when I read them to her.

She was crazy for them. She loved the cliffhangers at the end of the chapters and would talk about what had happened on the walk to school.

It was when I found her pretending to be a Guardian that I thought maybe I was on to something.
The Guardian Of Orth is just the first book in a series, how many books about Guardians and Orth do you have planned?
I guess it’s limitless really. The world I’ve built is endless in scope. The introductory series is comprised of three books, The Guardian of Orth, The Last Guardian and The Rise of the Guardian. And even though there is a definitive end to the story, there are enough open threads to create more stories.

I’d like to keep to around 6 books a year with one main trilogy series per year mixed with 3 spin-off stories that explore other areas of the world.
The Guardian Of Orth is available now. When can we expect the second book, The Last Guardian?
Yeah, the Guardian of Orth is available now, you can download it from the Kindle Store and Smashwords. The second book, The Last Guardian will be released at the end of May 2017 with the final book in the trilogy The Rise Of The Guardian being released late June.
In Guardian Of Orth, you do a lot of world building in the sense that you refer back to a war that you do not go into depth on. Is that a setup for a future book or is it just world building?
I always enjoyed the idea of being transported to other worlds. My favourite book as a kid was The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. I was obsessed with going to Narnia as a kid. When I would visit my grandparents, they had these huge wardrobes, I would always sneak upstairs and try to get into Narnia. Despite never actually being able to get there through those wardrobes, I was convinced that it was just a matter of timing so I kept at it for years. I think the last time I tried, I was an early teenager, definitely too old to be believing in that kind of thing.

Then there was Star Wars, which was my other obsession. I was born in 1977 so I have never known a time when there wasn’t Star Wars. Like other kids my age, it consumed me. But the thing that blew my mind, which I couldn’t get other kids my age excited about, was the fact that Star Wars took place in the past. You know, A Long Time Ago and all that. Like I said, that really blew my mind.

You know what really captured my imagination though? It was the mystery behind Darth Vader. I know George Lucas went on to create the Vader backstory with the prequels but as a kid, all I had was the original trilogy so it was left to me and my friends to try and work out what turned Darth Vader to the dark side. It made me think about the motivations for the bad guy, I mean, at the end of Return of the Jedi we see that Vader was a good guy who had done some very bad things and I wanted to know why.

I never saw Vader as evil, yeah, he scared me, terrified me but an out and out bad guy? No, I sympathised with him because I knew that he didn’t start off that way.

Plus, I just loved the way they drip fed us the Emperor. I mean, here’s the driving force behind everything we are seeing and he’s merely alluded to in the first film, we see a glimpse of him in the second setting us up for the full reveal in the third. Amazing constraint.

So, I’ve tried to apply the same levels of restrained and mystery in The Guardian of Orth. We get to do a little bit of world building, we allude to the real threat without fully revealing it. There are enough clues in The Guardian of Orth for the reader to kind of see what’s coming but we still manage to tell a complete story while setting up the other books in the series.
So, is it the planet itself that you see being the big draw for readers?
I suppose I do. With the Lion, the Witch and the wardrobe, it wasn’t the characters I was drawn to but Narnia. So I guess that’s what I am trying to do here. I want kids to really believe that Orth is a place that one day, maybe they will be summoned to.

In Star Wars, again, the characters were great but they weren’t what got me obsessed. It was the galaxy they lived in. The sheer vastness of it. The technology, the diversity of the alien races. I know that Star Trek offered up similar themes on technology and alien races but with Star Wars, it was all heaped on top of each other. In Star Trek, yeah, you had alien civilisations but they all seemed to be segregated, the Romulans stayed on Romulus, the Klingons pretty much kept to themselves on Kronos, it was a pretty segregated universe which carried themes from the civil rights movement. In Star Wars, and in a lesser extent, my books, all the different inhabitants co-exist peacefully. There are no racial stereotypes, everybody just gets along with each other.
How much of an influence was Star Wars to you when writing the books?
It’s hard to say. Pretty much everything I do is influenced in some way with Star Wars. From simple things like, for instance, when my daughter and I are walking to school and it’s been raining the night before, we spend a lot of our time picking up worms and putting them back in the grass so that they don’t dry up during the day. You’re probably wondering what that has to do with Star Wars, well, it’s because of that line I think Obi-Wan says about the Force surrounding all living objects. At first, my daughter was like, ew! “I am not picking up a worm” but then I explained to her that we are connected to the worm and if it suffers then we suffer too. I probably laid it on a bit thicker than that but I was channelling Obi-Wan.
In the books, the main threat, without going into spoilers, is a baddie called Terror the Evil. When it came to creating a bad guy for your books what historical figures or characters influenced you the most?
Visually, when I was writing him, I thought back to Venger from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon I used to watch in the 80s. As for character traits, I just wanted to be unique. I wanted a bad guy that was morally conflicted. He wasn’t seeking power for power’s sake but was working from a deluded belief structure. In his head, he’s doing the right thing and that’s what I think makes a truly terrifying baddie. I don’t like it when baddies are black and white in their motives, doing evil for evil’s sake. The real world isn’t like that and I fear that children are not being prepared properly.
What do you mean by the children are not being prepared properly?
Well, there are a lot of bad people out there but the thing is, they are very hard to spot. If we educate our children to only look out for bad people being overtly evil then I believe we are making them vulnerable.
What can we expect from the next books?
I purposely made The Guardian of Orth, the first book, lighter in tone than the other two. I wanted to simply introduce the planet and the idea of being a guardian. The second book starts to veer toward slightly darker subject matter, it deals with loss and responsibility while in the third book, we get to go even further down the rabbit hole. They are not heavy by adult standards but they do present children with some difficult questions on what actually makes good people do bad things.
Published 2017-07-25.
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