Hi P.L. and welcome back to my blog. Book three “Lord and King” of the Drowned Kingdom Saga is about to hit the shelves in spring, and I’d love to talk more about your main character. In my opinion, Othrun is one of the most extraordinary main characters a reader will encounter in modern literature. It takes great courage to create a character like him since it’s obvious that not everyone will like him and will be able to relate to him.
Eve: Please share what the readers’ reaction to Othrun has been so far, and what would you like people to see in him?
P.L.: Thank you so much for having me back, Eve! I have been so looking forward to chatting with you about Lord and King! I’m honoured you’d wish to speak to me more about it, after having read the book.
The praise and kind words about Othurn, and what I’ve tried to accomplish in creating such a character, coming from a writer such as yourself, who creates amazing characters that I find so compelling, means a lot. I truly appreciate it.
I hope in Othrun, I have indeed created a memorable character. So far, with two books published, and both being released for over a year now, in my opinion, readers’ reactions, of course, have been as diverse, varied, and intelligent as the readers themselves.
Yet, if I had to qualify the general consensus, I’d say I believe, the more books about Othrun people read, the more those people actually either feel empathy for him, or even like certain aspects of his character. Of course, I’ve heard from people who truly LOVE Othrun overall, despite his many flaws, and are rooting for him. Though my guess is, they are in the minority. Most want to see him fall, and are waiting and cheering for his ultimate comeuppance.
Most people detest Othrun, but find him compelling, it would seem. What I care about, and what I feel humbled about, is that most of the reader feedback is that I’ve created a fascinating character, and that they want to find out what happens to him, and those around him.
I’ve never been one to have to like a main character to enjoy reading about them. I realize, many people do not feel this way, and naturally, that’s great. We all have our tastes, and that’s important to recognize, and celebrate.
For those that like their main characters ‘good’, I fully comprehend how difficult it must be, at times. Being buried in the intimate thoughts and feelings of a character you find detestable, for the first person perspective does not allow you to look away for a moment. There’s no opportunity to believe that Othrun is not exactly who he’s telling you he is, with his own words, damning himself. But that’s the point.
Othrun is made to be realistic, and representative of more people – and people closer to our orbit – than we often care to admit. He’s also made to be analogous to the ‘real’ make-up of an ancient ruler, how they thought, how they felt, why they took the actions they did, and why we tend to overlook their worst aspects, and often glamorize them.
Othrun’s journey is all about potential change, progression, redemption. But the question is: to what degree for all those things? And, is it realistic for it to happen at all, considering who and what Othrun (and those like him) is?
My hope is, by the end of The Drowned Kingdom Saga, readers will understand Othrun better, and feel I have drawn a character that feels real, true to his nature, who is complicated, has undergone some measure of change, and that the journey watching that change has been worth the read. And of course, that the message about what Othrun is all about, and what he says about all of us, comes through. I write about some uncomfortable truths regarding human nature, but I think we all need to keep them in our minds and hearts.
I think most writers hope they can write characters whose fame (or notoriety) far outlives them, and are enduring. So part of me hopes that Othrun will become, one day, part of the pantheon of all-time great fantasy characters.
Of course that’s very ambitious of me to strive for that. Nevertheless…I am a relatively new writer, and have a long way to go in terms of improvement. There are innumerable great fantasy authors out there, and I’m nowhere near in their class. Yet I’m aiming for the stars, like most writers are. And if, someday, I do become a well-known writer whose works stand the test of time, that success will be directly attributable to Othrun.
Eve: I have no doubts that you and your books will receive wide recognition and success. There is more to them than simply entertainment for the evening to take one’s thoughts from their daily routine. Your books are the kind that people reread and return to in their thoughts for a long time after turning the last page.
I confess I’ve read book two “The Last of the Atalanteans” in record time. I kept turning the pages and couldn’t wait to find out if Othrun has succeeded in his risky at the first sight doomed-to-failure venture. I also like the transformation that happened in him as a person in that book.
What was the main driving force behind Othrun’s readiness to go through all the humiliating hardships he went through in “The Last of the Atalanteans”? Was it only his insatiable desire for power?
P.L.: Eve, I am so happy you enjoyed The Last of the Atalanteans, and Othrun’s grand theatre! You are correct in that, Othrun’s venture seemed like a completely doomed mission, that defied incredulity. But, with the help from a lot of others, timing, luck, circumstance, divine intervention, however you chose to look at it, things come together in Othrun’s favour.
Yes, Othrun does go through a lot in The Last of the Atalanteans. Playing the part of common soldier, eating warriors’ rations, being told what to do and when and where to do it, being subservient to men who he nominally outranks, to not have his feelings heard, as someone who as a prince people are obliged to always listen to. Othrun finds all that much more difficult than facing a perilous battle that can get him killed. Yet through this experience, “slumming” so to speak, Othrun gets to know more lowborn people who come to mean a lot to him.
He gets to learn their perspectives, and appreciate these people for who they are, and their value as not only pawns on his personal chess board, but as good people, even friends. He also learns that good people can get caught on the ‘wrong side’ of a conflict, when one isn’t one of the decision makers.
I noted earlier that Othrun idolizes Yedwol the Old, former Prince of Berefet. Yedwol is also representative, in so many ways, of the best and absolute worst of the colonial superpower that was Atalantyx, Othrun’s drowned homeland. While one can feel empathy sometimes for Yedwol, we also learn of the atrocities he took part in, even led, to maintain Atalantyx’s superiority, and despise him for it.
Othrun, as part of his rejection of Yedwol’s actions (and of Yedwol himself) believes somehow he can maintain what was good about Atalantyx, yet cast aside the bad, as embodied by his uncle. Othrun vows to be better, but he hasn’t come to terms with how difficult being better will be, because he’s not quite in the position yet where he can see that for himself. And ultimately, because he’s blinded by hubris, and other negative traits, and he doesn’t have the wisdom and experience yet, he thinks he can reshape the world, and it’ll be all positive.
Irrespective of what he fails to see, of what Othrun undergoes, does help Othrun transform slightly. The question always is, will it be enough to make a real difference, a real positive impact, for Othrun, those who follow him, and those whose lives he can affect?
You are right Eve, in that blind ambition is part of what motivates Othrun. Yet, using Othrun’s own words in A Drowned Kingdom, he tells his lords and allies that he risks himself, when it’s inconsequential whether he lives or dies, in the specific circumstance of him being unable to further his cause, unless he puts himself in such jeopardy.
He notes his tutelage at the feet of his idol, his uncle Yedwol, from whom he learned this concept. He says to Yedwol, who balks at Othrun’s scheme:
“‘All commanders take risks, calculated ones…You ever taught me this. When the odds against one are so great, it’s the fool that tries only to be safe. That would mean doing nothing. Risking oneself is the wisest choice if one knows that, should one not risk themselves, one will lose in any case. My life, though I love it, isn’t more important than the survival of my people.'”
These words would indicate that Othrun, indeed, has some altruistic motives here. He does take his responsibility as the leader of the last remnants of a civilization seriously. He does care about those under his command and protection. Under his watch, he can’t allow them to die. Not only would that be wrong, tragic for him personally, but a loss for the greater world, in Othrun’s mind, as the Atalanteans are supposed to be the world’s peerless civilization. So Othrun must risk it all.
Of course Othrun is not only risking his own life, in his deadly gamble. He’s directly risking the life of his overlord Wely, who has promised him a kingdom, and that of two of Othrun’s closest family members and followers. He’s also risking to trust one of Wely’s lords who has proven to be a betrayer. But those are the risks someone like Othrun takes with regularity, because, primarily, he feels he can win. And of course, if he does win, besides achieving his objectives, all the more glory and reputation does he gain too.
Again, as you point out, Othrun DOES want power, craves validation, and wants to rule not only the kingdom he was promised, but essentially the world. In his mind, he believes he has a God-given duty to do this (especially because of his spiritual guide) and that his ruling – as the Atalanteans have always been wont to think – is for ‘the betterment’ of all concerned. And the only way to rule the world, is to first get his kingdom.
So off he goes, on a crazy quest, with little chance of success. But that’s who Othrun is. The man with the plan, who believes he can always outsmart everyone.
For, it’s also part of his hubris, that he thinks he’s too cunning for the dumber enemies.
And, as would be natural, the more risks he takes, the more he succeeds, the bigger risks he’ll be more inclined to take in the future, always believing, somehow, he’ll win over his opponents, no matter how insane the risk, or how big the stakes.
His favourite maxim:
“Fools fall for tricks. Then fools fall.”
Eve: In book three – no major spoilers! – Othrun is Lord and King. Finally, he got what he wanted – what he considers to be rightfully his. A kingdom to rule over, people whose fates are in his hands, a beautiful wife Aliaz who impersonates everything he wants to see in a woman, and a future full of glorious victories. But instead of basking in glory, new obstacles befall him. Besides, he starts contemplating philosophical issues. He realises that it’s important to be a good person, not only a powerful ruler.
I believe it isn’t the end of Othrun’s moral transformation. Am I right?
P.L.: Glathan, one of the series truly noble, and wisest characters, and Othrun’s right hand, prophetically warns Othrun near the end of The Last of the Atalanteans, that a coronation day – the party celebrating being crowned – is often the best day of a king’s reign, and that the reign itself can be fraught with trouble, even despair.
Because Glathan is smart enough to know that Othrun, for all his skill and talent, even if he becomes the best king who ever lived, will be hard pressed to navigate the almost impossible moral and political situations every ruler must face. Because being a good person and being a good ruler can be diametrically opposed concepts, by necessity, at times.
Can one be a good CEO and a good person, always, consistently, conjointly? What’s your moral, ethical, responsibility, and how is that compatible with your primary duty as being accountable to shareholders, whose main goal is profit maximization for return on their investment?
Do you have a duty to protect the environment – and more importantly – WILL YOU protect the environment, for example, even if your most lucrative products can harm it? Will you fire a struggling employee who performed so well and done so much for the company in the past but whose performance is now impacting your bottom line negatively? Is loyalty to them more important?
How does one make such decisions, while maintaining your grip on power, and heeding your conscience at the same time? Can it be done?
Similar, but far more complex than a CEO position in many ways, Othrun as a king with almost absolute power, finds out how powerless one can find oneself, when faced with the pervasive dilemmas that challenge effective rule. In order to properly face such challenges, he must simultaneously confront his own prejudices, insecurities, values, that affect his decisions.
This is an ongoing process. So you are correct Eve, in that Othrun’s moral transformation will continue as long as he lives, and such a transformation will be directly impacted by his new role as King of Eastrealm.
Glathan knows Othrun better than anyone else (other than perhaps Lysi, who can read Othrun’s past) and he knows Othrun’s strengths and flaws. The Second Prince of Eastrealm also knows that his king MUST evolve, grow, change.
Or else Eastrealm will perish, along with its ruler, weighed down under the burden of clinging to old values, prejudice, lack of foresight and objectivity, and cause the entire continent to rise up against the kingdom, and surely destroy it. If the kingdom does not destroy itself from within, first.
Eve: I like the analogy with the modern corporate environment and CEO’s role. This is one of my favourite topics. Despite all the profound changes we as mankind have experienced over the last couple of hundred years, the essence of the world order still remains the same. But maybe we’ll leave this discussion to some other time.
In book three of the saga, you introduce an amazing female character to the readers. Undala, Queen of the Southronland. We’ve learnt a little about her in previous books, but in “Lord and King” we finally meet her. And I must say, I was absolutely mesmerised by her. There is such depth in her. She is strong and vulnerable at the same time. Tell us more about where have you drawn inspiration for your Anib queen.
The Drowned Kingdom Saga when completed will consist of seven books. Without major spoilers, give us a few hints about what we can expect in book four.
P.L.: Undala, and her sister Briduku, are directly inspired by my two lovely daughters. Those two characters in Lord and King are an amalgam of some of the best traits of my female children, who are strong, fierce, intelligent, compassionate, human beings, with wisdom beyond their years.
Undala, and her people, the Anib, from the little that is seen of them in Lord and King, appear to be all that Othrun has heard about, and so much more. She is an incredibly capable ruler, who rules over the world’s largest empire, yet she’s relatively young. She’s an indomitable warrior, yet a fabulous statesperson.
She is concerned with the macro, and at the same time, the little things that truly matter to individuals. She’s a mother, healer, shepherd of her people, and so much more. She rules with a velvet glove, but can bring an iron fist in an instant, when required. She holds others, and herself, accountable. She seldom loses sight of the big picture, and will consistently put her people’s needs, and the greater good, ahead of her own. She has a deep sense of fairness and justice, and an innate goodness, I hope that shines through her character.
She also has a high degree of emotional intelligence, that allows her deep capacity for self-reflection, and ultimately forgiveness. What I love the most about Undala, is her ability to do what I mentioned earlier any ruler would potentially struggle with. That is, balancing the required pragmatism and sometimes ruthlessness required of any ruler, with her morals and values. It’s one of the most difficult balances, and finest lines to walk, and Undala walks that tightrope expertly.
I see those characteristics in my daughters, and knowing them as well as I do, made writing someone like Undala easy, patterning much of her after them. I just had to think, “How do I think my daughters would rule, if they were in Undala’s position?” Of course, I’m very biased, but I believe they’d make fantastic rulers. Regardless, they will always be queens of their father’s heart.
Book four, entitled A Lion’s Pride, is, in some ways, the “turning point’ book in the series. A book where so many things that have been foreshadowed come to pass, and where so many mysteries that seemed dim and speculative, have some greater light shed on them.
One aspect of A Lion’s Pride I believe readers will find of particular interest, is that we will learn a lot more about the mysterious Mages of Eltnia. We’ll see more about the extent of their abilities, their true purpose and schemes. We’ll also witness their power on fuller display, and in the midst of bloody battle, like we have not seen before in previous installments in my saga.
Of course not everything will be revealed – it’s a seven book series, Eve, as you astutely note. But, I believe readers will finally have some idea about where the series could be leading, for a variety of reasons.
We did see some major events that were foreshadowed in A Drowned Kingdom and The Last of the Atalanteans paid off in Lord and King. Expect this trend to continue, in A Lion’s Pride, as the series reaches its mid-way point. The one thing I wish to emphasize is that there will be a subsequent seven-book series, at some point after The Drowned Kingdom Saga concludes, that will wrap up the overall story.
And, before that following seven-book series is written, two separate prequel trilogies will be released. While those prequel trilogies are set approximately three-hundred and five-hundred years respectively prior to the events of The Drowned Kingdom Saga, those trilogies will also reveal very important aspects of the magic and the overall world that are extremely relevant to the bigger sagas.
A Lion’s Pride will be very much fraught with danger, specifically for Othrun. As much peril as he’s faced in the past, that which he faces in Book four will be unlike any other he’s previously confronted. And he might not make it. I don’t say that lightly. The one thing I say candidly is that no character in The Drowned Kingdom Saga is safe, including its flawed protagonist.
Additionally, in A Lion’s Pride, besides Othrun’s fate, as I hinted earlier, some events and reveals happen, which will be quite shocking and devastating, and in some ways, flip the series completely on its head. I feel readers will begin to realize the scope of the bigger stakes, intertwined with – yet looming FAR larger than – the politics of the various kingdoms, the struggle for dominance, the larger-scale military conflicts pending.
What’s at stake is far bigger than all that, and the story of Othrun is at the centre of it all.
Eve: Sounds fascinating, P.L. Othrun’s journey promises more surprises, and I’m intrigued about what will happen next. You can count on me being one of the first readers of “A Lion’s Pride”.
I wish you good luck in finding ways to place your saga in front of eager readers. The Drowned Kingdom certainly deserves to be read by millions. And I hope to live until I see its adaptation on screen. Without a doubt, it will be a highly ambitious project, but I’m sure it’ll also be hugely gratifying for movie or tv people who will have the courage to give it a go.
You can reach P.L. Stuart on different platforms:
Please read my reviews for
“A Drowned Kingdom”, book one of the Drowned Kingdom saga
“The Last of the Atalanteans”, book two of the Drowned Kingdom saga
Also you can read the interview with P.L. Stuart where we discuss his epic fantasy saga, the importance of social media presence for authors and other exciting topics for book lovers.
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