Interview with Nathaniel Firmath

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
A full bladder, an empty stomach, and a hangover.
What do you read for pleasure?
For entertainment, I like historical fiction and classic adventure novels. Subjects of interest in non-fiction include philosophy, history, and mythology.
What are you working on next?
The working title is 'Iron Skins and Stone Hearts', and it will be volume two of the 'Seven Banners Saga' (also a working title). The first draft has been finished for a while, so I hope to post it by the beginning of November.
Who are your favorite authors?
For modern authors, Burroughs tops the list. I loved the 'Barsoom Series'.

Heinlein would be a close second, and the man himself was such a Burroughs fanatic he'd probably accept the ruling with the same grace possessed by many of his characters.

Jack Whyte wins the bronze, and if you've ever read his work, you'll know that it's probably his favorite alloy (me too!). His 'Camulod Chronicles' are an example to which all modern authors should aspire. He wove Arthurian legend so seamlessly into the life and times of 4th-5th century Britain and Gaul, that I felt I was really there.

And, of course, for classics, there's Homer, Virgil, Plautus, Juvenal, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dumas, Verne, Twain--and, since we've already opened the poetic floodgates--Byron, Whitman, Tennyson, and Poe.
What is your writing process?
I prefer to build the setting before everything else--aside from an abstract plot, of course. With Foundation (admittedly a weak name), I wrote up profiles for the Seven--as well as the Kenalka--on Scrivener, long before I named the first character.

As we all know, personalities are not solely the product of surroundings and personal experiences, but in fiction, and particularly with a first person, less-than-omniscient perspective, we may build our impressions only through the observations of the narrator.

If we can agree, in fiction of the needful perspective, at least, that surroundings frame all cultural experiences, we can agree that Foundation needed to have a history--an established landscape from which the characters might achieve some measure of depth. Each Banner has its own religion, provincial prejudices, cultural quirks and traditions, regional clothing and vernacular, favored mode of transportation, fighting style, etc., and hopefully my characters reflect that.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading. I'm also obsessed with DIY projects and useless, out-dated disciplines. Metalwork, carpentry, architecture, pottery, western fencing disciplines (mostly for research, but they're starting to grow on me), are only a few of the hobbies that keep me from publishing my work in a timely manner.
How do you approach cover design?
For Walls of Earth and Stone (and likely for Book Two), I had no budget. Basic graphic design is a simple enough matter, though, and remembering a bit of description from chapter twelve, I based the cover art on the Banner of Venibrek: sun and moon divided, but encompassed within the same band of black and white. Looks a little like a Ukrainian flag, but given my budget (just time and effort), I think it works.
Describe your desk
I've been using the same desk for quite a while now, and, thanks in part to my own growing list of compulsive superstitions, I may write all future works on the same surface.

Remember those particle board VCR/TV stands, with the open area in the middle for VCR, cable box, ect., storage area with little magnetized double doors at the bottom, and furniture wheels to move it around? I removed the cabinet doors and drilled them to the top, increasing surface space while leaving ample room in between, and this serves as a depression to improve laptop ventilation. The roof of the little shelf was replaced to support the back, and I moved the cheap pressboard backing higher up, enclosing the body of the desk on three sides, while leaving the interior completely empty, and open at front.

Now, I simply pull my desk to me, rest my feet inside the open front, and no matter where I am, I'm ready to get to work! Strange? Well yes, I suppose it is, but it is also very convenient. Beneath the right wing, I have a container for notepads, my clipboard on a hanger, and all my writing utensils, well within reach. Looking for a cool drink of water, or need to rid yourself of yesterday's useless notes? No problem! Homemade mini-fridge and waste can are to be found beneath the left wing, and I even have a USB lamp screwed into the backing! And regardless of future needs, I can always hazard new modifications, heedless of the damage caused by my own careless nature.
What's the story behind your latest book?
It follows a boy of sixteen as he begins a journey across the length and breadth of a vast and treacherous landscape. The boy, named Ralph, was disgraced by the alleged cowardice of his father, and from the age of four, he and his mother were outlawed--unprotected by the law, so that even killing them would not be treated as a crime.

Following a particularly unfortunate series of events, he stumbles onto the answer to an ancient riddle and claims a legendary title, not then realizing that there is more to power and fame than elevation and respect--he'll have to earn them; an effort that is likely to end in his death.

The setting, the continent of Foundation, was formerly the site of a trade alliance between the seven most successful societies and a race of highly-advanced builders, known as the Kenalka (sort of a blend of Meso-American builders, Greek mathematicians and philosophers, and late-Victorian engineers; they also possessed a knowledge of physics and genetics that far outstrips our own). The Kenalka were neither farmers nor laborers, and so they traded for the things they needed, offering their insights and simpler technologies in exchange for food and raw materials.

When war fell upon Foundation, the Seven banded together under the wise counsel of the Kenalka, and a champion was chosen from among the strongest of their warrior cultures to lead them all in battle. The Kenalka gave to their champion the title of 'Onidai', 'The Anticipated'.

Unwilling to leave their fate entirely in the hands of a primitive, the Kenalka favored him with a legendary sword, later known as Sequiduris (the Kenalka probably would have preferred the term 'molecular wedge'), and year by year they presented him with yet another cunning device to strengthen him--as fighter and figurehead--that the Seven would never fail to follow him, even unto certain death.

Even without Sequiduris, Rorik would have been known as a champion on sight, rising head and shoulders over all around him--with the notable exception of the Ya'abkach of Tulakal. With Sword and Devices, Rorik imprinted his name in the hearts and minds of all living men, that even three thousand years after the extinction of the Wise Kenalka--nearly four thousand since Rorik's own death--he is remembered by most as Foundation's greatest hero--to others, he lives on as a god.

Ralph is a tavern boy--the son of a coward, accustomed to disgrace, and now, with an innumerable enemy from beyond the Central Sea, armed with terrible weapons, and bent on the destruction of all life on Foundation, he will have to walk in Rorik's footsteps, hoping to pass unseen until time and growth permit him to clear a path of his own.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I'm still using my laptop. Just as in writing, though, I find it easier to read with a black background and white text (less artificial light), and to that end, I prefer the Kindle software.
What do your fans mean to you?
I doubt I have many of those, if any, but if I ever do, I think they would be proof of my relevance--a combination of self-esteem infusion and peer motivation. And, of course, they would be the only real proof that I had written anything, at all. No readers, no writers--subjective idealism. So, I suppose the first moment my work goes unread, I will cease to exist. PLEASE KEEP READING!
Published 2013-12-20.
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Books by This Author

Old Ground and Ancient Shame
Series: The Onidai Saga, Volume 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 144,890. Language: English. Published: July 18, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Feeling for the first time the true weight of his title, Ralph must decide: will he play the hero, or lead the forces of Foundation in a hopeless contest for survival?
Iron Skins and Stone Hearts
Series: The Onidai Saga, Volume 2. Price: Free! Words: 178,430. Language: English. Published: October 26, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » General
(5.00 from 3 reviews)
Book Two of the Onidai Saga finds Ralph of Meadrow in Sangholm, land of the savage Hjarrleth. There, he must find Hroaht Hall alone, his path a long abandoned road. For generations, that path has been the haunt of fierce creatures and vile madmen. Should he survive, his trials have only begun.
Walls of Earth and Stone
Series: The Onidai Saga, Volume 1. Price: Free! Words: 135,560. Language: English. Published: July 20, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Science fiction » Steampunk & retropunk
(5.00 from 9 reviews)
Book One of the Onidai Saga follows Ralph of Meadrow, the disgraced son of a long-dead coward, as he seeks to change his fortune through the claiming of an ancient title. Though his hands have not been trained to war, and the land of his birth is known only for farming and brewing, he will step forward to test himself against dangers beyond all but his wildest dreams.