AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Bradley Beaulieu

Tell us about your latest novel. 

My latest novel, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, was released early this summer. It’s the concluding volume in The Lays of Anuskaya, a Russian-inspired epic fantasy trilogy filled with windships, elemental magic, and a grand, sweeping scope. The opening book, The Winds of Khalakovo, tells the tale of Nikandr Khalakovo, a prince who discovers a curious boy who may have the ability to heal a blight that’s sweeping through the cold and inhospitable islands of the Grand Duchy. The boy is an autistic savant, Nikandr discovers, and has wondrous powers the likes of which haven’t been seen in many generations. Nikandr also discovers that a violent splinter sect of a normally peaceful people want to use this same boy to cause widespread devastation, and what plays out is a tug-of-war, each side trying to unlock this boy’s secrets before the other does.

The second book, The Straits of Galahesh, shows Nikandr, Princess Atiana Vostroma, and the young savant, Nasim, pitting themselves against the ancient elemental sorcerers who centuries ago caused rifts to form, rifts that are affecting the world to this very day and are slowly but surely spreading beyond the islands. But there are more forces at work in the world. The great Empire of Yrstanla, which sits to the west of the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya, has set its sights on the islands once more, which bodes ill for the heroes’ hopes of containing the rifts.

In the concluding volume, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, Nikandr, Atiana, and Nasim work together to close the rifts once and for all. But their task is no simple one. As old enemies resurface, they must delve into the very origins of the special stone known as the Atalayina, and learn the secrets of the fabled Valley of Shadam Khoreh, all while the Empire comes closer and closer to finding them and dooming not only the Grand Duchy but the world itself to the ever widening rifts.

The Flames of Shadam Khoreh is the continuation of a series you originally published with Night Shade Books. What happened with that series, and why have you now moved on to funding it via Kickstarter?

Well, early this year there was trouble with Night Shade Books. They had laid people off and were stretching out their contracted books over a longer period of time in a cost-saving effort. I then found out that The Flames of Shadam Khoreh was to be delayed by at least a year. I never did find out what the projected schedule was supposed to be, but this was obviously terrible news. It’s hard enough to build an audience these days without major delays like these, and it was especially frustrating as the book was ready for release. My agent and I spoke with them, and the news got worse. They were also proposing that we lower the advance for the third book. With no real confidence that the third book would get treated well in terms of marketing and publicity, and with the Kickstarter for my story collection already under my belt, I felt confident that I could take the books back and release them on my own. Which is what I ended up doing.

So while I hadn’t expected to go down that path, it ended up being a great experience, even if it did take me away from writing for a while. Kickstarter is a great venue for bringing out the right kind of project. Story collections, anthologies, and novel works that don’t easily fit into predefined markets are all great projects that fit well into the Kickstarter mold, and I think we’re going to be seeing more and more of them after all the success stories we’ve been seeing over the past few years.

You also did a Kickstarter to fund a short story collection. Tell us how that came about, and how that project went. 

I had wanted to collect my short stories and publish them in some form or another for several years. With all the work that went into the three (rather sizable) books of The Lays of Anuskaya, I didn’t really have the time, but when that work was completed late last year, I decided it was time, and Kickstarter seemed like the perfect venue. I’m glad I did it. Not only did I end up getting over 500% of what I was looking for initially, I got a lot of fans to see my work who might not otherwise have done so. Funnily enough, I nearly backed out of that first Kickstarter, fearing the project wouldn’t fund and that, well, I would look stupid. Even a few days before I had planned on launching the ‘Starter, I nearly pulled the plug and published it on my own. I’m really glad I moved forward with the project, though, because Kickstarter is not merely a great way to raise funds for exciting new projects, it’s a way to get the word out about them as well, a marketing engine. So from that perspective, I think the Kickstarter was wonderful.

It was great how the Kickstarter itself affected the final product, too. In order to drum up additional interest for Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, I promised up to three new stories as stretch goals, two brand new Lays of Anuskaya stories and one set in the world of Bryndlholt, a new Norse-inspired middle grade series I’m working on. Writing those stories ended up being great fun. I got to play in a world I wasn’t quite ready to let go of yet in Lays, and to toy with a new series to try to find its voice. I also learned a ton from the publishing and fulfillment end of things.

Will your first step for future books always be to try the traditional route, or might you go right to Kickstarter on certain projects?

All in all, the two Kickstarters forced me to work hard and to learn a lot in a very compressed timeframe. It was a very rewarding time, but I also now know just how much effort it takes to run one. Becoming your own publisher is a lot of work. It’s rewarding work, so if you’re up for it, absolutely consider it. But if you’re not, it’s perfectly fine to keep going the traditional route, to share the work and the profits to hopefully reach a wider audience than you could on your own. I’m a big believer in the hybrid approach. As I mentioned above, certain projects lend themselves more to the self-publishing route. Others you’d be better off letting one of the big publishers or quality mid-sized presses handle. I’m absolutely open to doing another Kickstarter project, and in fact, am eyeing a return with a science-fiction collection, perhaps with a few other authors joining me. More news when and if that ever coalesces, but the point is that Kickstarter and self-publishing are more viable than ever. You just need to be realistic about the demands of going that route.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the first of a new series, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, an Arabian Nights-inspired epic fantasy about a young female pit fighter who rises up to challenge the Kings of the desert. Things are still early (I’ve only just turned in the first draft for Twelve Kings), but I’ve worked up a blurb for it:

In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai, but she’s never been able to do anything about it. This all changes when she goes out on the night of Beht Zha’ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It’s the night that the asirim, the powerful yet wretched creatures that protect the Kings from all who would stand against them, wander the city and take tribute. It is then that one of the asirim, a pitiful creature who wears a golden crown, stops Çeda and whispers long forgotten words in her ear. Çeda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to find hidden riddles left by her mother.

As Çeda begins to unlock the mysteries of that fateful night, she realizes that the origin of the asirim and the dark bargain the Kings made with the gods of the desert to secure them may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai. And yet the Kings are no fools—they’ve ruled the Shangazi for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Çeda digs into their past, and the Kings come ever closer to unmasking her, Çeda must decide if she’s ready to face them once and for all.

The series has sold to DAW in the US and Gollancz in the UK, and I expect the first book, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, to be released sometime late in 2014.