After I had the pleasure to read “The Last of the Atalanteans”, the sequel to the epic fantasy “A Drowned Kingdom” penned by P.L. Stuart, I couldn’t stop myself from asking the author to have a chat with me.
Eve: I noticed it already when I was reading the first book in the series “A Drowned Kingdom” that female characters aren’t portrayed in what can be called a conventional way for modern literature. For example, Aliaz, Othrun’s wife is exactly what a woman in her position is expected to be. She is noble, pretty, and quiet. But it’s not what readers nowadays seem to expect from female book characters. They all are supposed to be warriors, always ready to speak their mind and contradict men. In your experience, what’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
P.L.: The most difficult thing about writing female characters for me, is writing some of my female characters in a way that is not representative of how I feel about women. I think my wife, and my two beautiful daughters would classify me as a somewhat of a feminist. I strongly believe in the social, economic, political, and optical equality of women. But I am writing a series about a bigotted, sexist, and homphobic prince who was raised to think that women have their place. And that place, according to his views, is subservience. I’ve tried to write a book that would depict female characters realistically, based on values that would be consistent with a world that has a mediaeval-inspired setting. So, for the purposes of the story, some of the characters are stereotypes of women. Not women as they truly are.
This is specifically in order to show the challenges women are up against in terms of misogyny and sexism when it comes to dealing with someone like an Othrun. Therefore, some women, including Aliaz’s (Othrun’s wife) character, are crafted a certain way, on purpose. Nonetheless, I believe in the second book, The Last of the Atalanteans, and the third book in the series (which will be entitled Lord and King), the reader will see Aliaz be more slightly assertive and have a bit more agency. Aliaz is quietly strong, kind, and intelligent. Othrun mentions that she is stronger than he gives her credit for, in terms of her overall fortitude, compared to her slight stature.
The issue is, for Othrun, while Aliaz is exactly what his society demands out of a wife and a queen, she may not be enough wife or queen for him. He is finding himself increasingly attracted to Lysi, another noblewoman, who is also a mage. Lysi is portrayed as being very assertive, cunning, and also a formidable warrior. But the failing is in Othrun, not Aliaz, in Othrun being tempted by Lysi, just because Aliaz is more docile than Lysi. Lysi is someone Othrun feels he should not be attracted to (due to his limited views), because she is the antithesis (as an outwardly strong, fierce, incredible warrior and ruler) of what he has grown up to believe a woman should be. Yet, he can’t help himself. But this attraction is not a commentary by me that Othrun SHOULD be attracted to a daunting female warrior, or that Aliaz IS lesser because she can’t wield a sword like Lysi.
Personally, I love seeing badass female fighters who stand up to anyone, in literature. In my mind, women are strong, formidable, but that strength comes in diverse ways, sometimes in physical strength, sometimes in mental and emotional strength, or strong in all those aspects, and more. It’s about time we see more well-rounded representations of women in writing, because it is realistic. This includes female warriors. Throughout history, female battle-heroes such as Nakano Takeko, Joan of Arc, Boudica, Cleopatra, Grace O’Malley, Artemisia, Triệu Thị Trinh, and more, have lived, fought, and led armies.
Yet, I have done my best to have a diverse range of female characters in my books, and more and more of them are coming to the Drowned Kingdom Saga. I crave the readers’ indulgence and patience, as I think people will come to realize that, in the end, the Drowned Kingdom Saga is really about women, and that women like Aliaz and Lysi hold the fate of the world I have created in their palm, not men like Othrun. More realistic portrayals of women will abound in future books in my series.
Eve: Epic fantasy readers often seek hidden meanings between the lines. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
P.L.: Lots and lots of secrets, Eve, are hidden between the lines of my books. Like Othrun’s quest in The Last of the Atalanteans, I am a big believer in “hiding in plain sight.” I find it’s the best way to disguise meaning in literature. Yet, a few readers have indeed found those secrets, or at least some of them, or parts of a secret. As the Drowned Kingdom Saga progresses, I believe people will be shocked, in hindsight, to realize the things that I have hidden in plain sight all along.
Eve: This is certainly extremely exciting! As I’ve already told you during our discussions of your books, my husband – who also read and enjoyed “A Drowned Kingdom” and soon will read “The Last of the Atalanteans” – likes to make suggestions as to what you meant by portraying a place or a character in a certain way. He draws different parallels with actual history, and some are more outrageous than others.
I know that you are an avid reader yourself. Do you prefer audiobooks, physical books, or e-books? Why?
P.L.: I definitely prefer physical books. My lovely wife Debbie really enjoys audiobooks, and they are a fantastic new method of delivering books to readers who can’t or prefer not to read using one’s eyes. I think in the future I might enjoy audiobooks too, and having just launched the audio book for A Drowned Kingdom, I can say the process of helping in that book’s production has swayed me a bit towards giving audiobooks more of a chance in terms of my own reading preferences. I read ebooks when I have to, and sometimes I do have to, as a blogger, who receives electronic Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) for books I am to review. But there is NOTHING for me like the feel of a physical book, especially a hard cover, in my hand. The glorious feel of it, the texture, especially when you can touch a matte/velvet cover. Seeing books on one’s bookshelves…all the fabulous covers, especially for fantasy books, which have some of the most dramatic covers of any other genre…Can you tell I’m a complete book hoarder? I’m not ashamed of it at all; I think there are worse hobbies and obsessions.
Eve: I feel totally the same about physical books. They are my passion and number one choice when it comes to reading. But I also choose ebooks more often these days. My husband likes listening to audiobooks, just like Debbie. He says that when he was doing some repairs in our home, it was a great option to save himself from the boredom of a monotonous task.
I know how important it is to have people who believe in you and your writing, especially in the beginning. Who is the most supportive person in your life when it comes to your writing?
P.L.: Without question my lovely wife Debbie is the most supportive person in my life in all aspects, including my writing. She is my partner in all things, and my equal business partner in our authorpreneur endeavour (well actually maybe not equal, because, in reality, she’s the boss). Without her, I would not have the freedom to focus on mostly writing, while she handles, behind the scenes, the bulk of the other critical writing-related activities. She is the business manager, marketing manager, chief accountant, chief legal consultant, and so many other things, I can’t capture in just a few sentences. I’d be lost without her. Yet, though you ask who is most supportive, Debbie would want me to mention all the others who have supported me. My entire family, especially my mother, children, in-laws, aunts and uncles, cousins, have all been extremely supportive, and I am so blessed to have them in my corner. My dear friends and work colleagues have been fabulous, and so many have spent their hard earned money to purchase my book, for which I am so grateful. The social media Writing Community has been wonderful, and they are also directly responsible for what success I have achieved so far.
Eve: For an indie author, it is crucial to be visible, and today, the best way to interact with people is to be active on social media platforms. What is your favourite social media and where your readers can interact with you?
P.L.: I completely concur, Eve. Without a doubt, social media is a necessary tool to network, build important relationships that will positively impact your writing career, and let people know who you are, all about your brand, and what you are writing. Without a doubt, Twitter is my preferred social media platform. That is where you can easily find me, and interact with me. My direct messages are always open to genuine interactions and for legitimate business purposes. I love Twitter because it is so interactive. Other than the character limitations in terms of how many words one can use in a post, I also believe it’s the most user-friendly social media platform. So please, come engage with me on Twitter! I love to chat about writing, books, the writing industry, and a host of other topics! I also love to promote the works of authors and other creatives, and truly value all the support and camaraderie that I have found in the Writing Community on Twitter. I met wonderful people, and made lasting friendships thanks to Twitter, including, of course, you Eve!
Eve: I absolutely loved “The Last of the Atalanteans”, book two in your epic fantasy “The Drowned Kingdom Saga”. As I wrote in my review on Goodreads, I loved the feeling of incredulity that kept jangling my nerves throughout the first part of the book. “They aren’t going to make it” ran through my mind, and I kept turning the pages unwilling to stop reading before I find out if it was true. Could you share something about the third book in the series?
P.L.: Thank you for the kind words, Eve. I definitely wanted to convey that sense of tension, and that indeed, the conspirators trying to take back King Wely of Lynchun’s throne, led by Othrun, might NOT make it. As I noted earlier, Lord and King is the title of the third book in the Drowned Kingdom Saga. In my opinion, it is the one book, of all the books in the saga, that will completely turn the series upside down for many readers. The ending alone is going to leave many people, I think, completely shocked, in terms of the ramifications for the future books in the series, of which four will remain after Lord and King, to complete the saga.
I believe it will be, by far, my best book of the series to that point. As a writer you strive for continuous improvement. So my aim was to make The Last of the Atalanteans a much better book than A Drowned Kingdom. Initial feedback from readers, including yourself, seems to be that it is, and that makes me extremely gratified. I’ve worked hard to make Lord and King substantially better than The Last of the Atalanteans.
That said, while we saw an entire civilization wiped out, a seemingly hopeless scheme to snatch back a kingdom, duels with giant kings, harrowing battle scenes, and more in the first two books, I don’t think there is any comparison that the occurrences in Lord and King will in many ways be far more earth-shattering.
This is the first interview where I have revealed this to readers, so remember, you heard it here first on my interview with Eve Koguce. So many incredible (and traumatic) events occur in this third book, and the perils that Othrun confronts are so deadly, the reader will seriously doubt Othrun’s survival. And he may not survive. I never promised that he would. I promised he would grow and evolve (possibly). But there are no guarantees.
Regardless of Othrun’s fate, Lord and King should be released in early 2023, and unlike most readers, you won’t have to wait as long, Eve, to read it. For I am honoured that you will be one of the first trusted readers to read my book, prior to publication, for your feedback.
Eve: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience, P.L.! I hope we will chat again soon.
You can follow P.L. Stuart on Twitter.
You can buy “A Drowned Kingdom” here.
The audiobook for “A Drowned Kingdom” is available here.
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