Thursday, November 5, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stephen Zimmer talks new Epic Fantasy HEART OF A LION


Rayden Valkyrie. She walks alone, serving no king, emperor, or master. Forged in the fires of tragedy, she has no place she truly calls home.

A deadly warrior wielding both blade and axe, Rayden is the bane of the wicked and corrupt. To many others, she is the most loyal and dedicated of friends, an ally who is unyielding in the most dangerous of circumstances.

The people of the far southern lands she has just aided claim that she has the heart of a lion. For Rayden, a long journey to the lands of the far northern tribes who adopted her as a child beckons, with an ocean lying in between.

Her path will lead her once more into the center of a maelstrom, one involving a rising empire that is said to be making use of the darkest kinds of sorcery to grow its power. Making new friends and discoveries amid tremendous peril, Rayden makes her way to the north.

Monstrous beasts, supernatural powers, and the bloody specter of war have been a part of her world for a long time and this journey will be no different. Rayden chooses the battles that she will fight, whether she takes up the cause of one individual or an entire people.

Both friends and enemies alike will swiftly learn that the people of the far southern lands spoke truly. Rayden Valkyrie has the heart of a lion.


CREATIVE HELP BOARD: Where did you come up with the character Rayden Valkyrie? Does her name mean anything significant fictionally or non-fictionally?

STEPHEN ZIMMER: The name Rayden truly popped up in my head when I first envisioned her.  To me, she was (and is) a ray of light and maybe that's part of it. 

The Valkyrie part of it is kind of title that she has come to be called over time as her reputation grew in her world.  The Valkyrie name is certainly a salute to her abilities, character and heart, as the supernatural female warriors do exist in her world too. 

Rayden may or may not encounter them at some point.  I'm not telling!  Haha!

CHB: Why a strong, sword-toting, take-no-shit lead female character versus a strong, sword-toting, take-no-shit lead male character?

SZ: It's just the way things went, in terms of the character coming to me.  At the time I had my first vision of Rayden I was enduring a very difficult period personally, and I had an image of a golden-haired female warrior, with piercing blue eyes, standing tall, with a very defiant air. 

From the outset I understood that she had been through great tragedy and heartache, and still persevered in a way that had not hardened her to a point where she became indifferent to others.  She inspired me at a time when I needed it, and surged to inspire me again during other personal storms, and has become a very, very special character to me. 

So there wasn't a “conscious decision” on gender.   She truly manifested. :)

CHB: Do we need more strong, bad ass female character storylines in the realms of Epic Fantasy? Why?

SZ: I think we need more well-rounded, fully-developed female character storylines in epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, horror, and many other genres, especially when it comes to heroines.  Being a heroine involves so much more than beating people up and uttering a few snarky one-liners.  I see that kind of heroine out there all too often, a heroine that might be entertaining but if the reader were actually living around that character they would quickly find them obnoxious, at the least.

The requirements all too often seem to center on just a sexy look and ability to fight (and going around with a snarky chip on the shoulder attitude).  Good looks only last a short time before the rest of a person's attributes comes to the forefront.  I have a hunch that if a reader actually came to know a lot of the highly self-absorbed sexy heroines that are very common to the book and movie world,  they'd find them far less attractive after a short time. 

Additionally, there is nothing weak about feminine qualities, and I think we need to see feminine qualities presented as true strengths more often in genre fiction, movies, and other spheres.  There really is much more to being strong and being heroic than being able to kill or beat up someone.

In my opinion, a truly badass female character can fight well, be assertive, AND show compassion, be nurturing, and display generosity toward others  True strength of character is shown in areas that often do not involve physical combat.

CHB: All characters have flaws, what would you say is Rayden’s? Will it cause her problems in forthcoming storylines?

SZ: Rayden has no sense of having a place to call home and this really eats at her.  Yes, it does cause her problems, as it underlies her great restlessness and lack of inner peace.  She is, in a sense, a drifter, and the lack of a true anchor is a tough thing to overcome and leads her toward more and more dangerous situations.  At her core is a real yearning and that can be problematic.

Yet I am very sympathetic to her, as I can relate to that kind of dynamic very intimately.  It is a very difficult burden to carry.

CHB: What do you like most about writing Epic Fantasy tales?

SZ: As far as Epic Fantasy tales, such as my Fires in Eden Series, I enjoy the room to really develop an ensemble of characters and execute a story containing a number of compelling subplots surrounding a core story.  Planting seeds in the first or second book of a series that won't grow and bloom until much later in the series is great fun!

Having the room to extensively develop an ensemble cast, and the relationships between them, is another thing I love about epic fantasy.  It simply gives you a bigger canvas to work with, which can be a challenge in itself as you don't want things to bog down pace-wise, or lose cohesion on the main storyline with things going off on various tangents.  It is a challenge as a writer to keep the plots and subplots tight, consistent and flowing over such a large territory.  But when that is achieved, such as in the great epic fantasy series like those of J.R.R. Tolkien, the results are magical.

CHB: It has been said nothing truly new has been written. I find writers who write in their favorite genre usually have READ and/or quite learned in the specific genre. What are your thoughts on that beginning statement, and writing within a genre that you also enjoy reading?

SZ: There really is nothing new under the sun, to paraphrase the old saying.  There are many variations and shades of archetype characters, and there are many shades and variations on a theme or plot.  But each writer is a unique individual, informed by their own path and experience, and the potential is always there to put your own stamp, twist, or flavor to a kind of character, theme, or plot. 
To write well in a genre requires a passion for that genre, which means that there has been some sort of foundation that has kindled that passion inside of you.  My own road started early at age 7 with Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.  The more my love for the genre grew the more my desire to create within it deepened.  Reading inspires, and this is certainly true of a writer in a given genre.

CHB: What is your writing routine? When is the best time for you to unleash your muse?

SZ: When I'm not too fatigued, I can write at any time of the day.   I used to write often at night, but now tend to be more of an early morning writer.  I write on a computer that is in a separate room from my home office, I listen to music when I write, and that computer is not connected to the internet (so I have no distractions or urge to check messages and things like that). 

This dedicated space and the use of music to create an atmosphere that keeps out sounds from the neightborhood has, in time, gotten me to a point where my thoughts focus on writing when I sit down on that computer.  It's kinda Pavlovian!

CHB: For anyone interested in getting into the writing business as a writer, what would you say to them?

SZ: If we are talking about getting into the business of being a writer, I would say to at least gain an understanding of the publishing process, media, social, media, and publicity.  Even if you are with a major press you'll need to understand these things.  It is a business, not a charity, and an is an extremely difficult one.  You have to approach it professionally, like a business.

Once you gain an understanding of these kinds of things you'll be better informed for choosing the path you want to take, whether that might be self-publishing, small press, or going for a major press.  There are many more options for writers today, but there is also a tidal wave of content and a constant need for making sure you don't fall off the radar and are able to raise awareness.  It's not easy, but then again, the best things don't come easy.

CHB: Rayden Valkyrie’s story appears in the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy, which HEART OF A LION is the first novel. What can we expect next in Rayden’s ventures?

SZ: My plans are to reveal the full Rayden Valkyrie story through novels in story arcs like the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy, though it could be a two or even four book story arc at some point.  There may also be stand-alone novels.  There definitely will be more short stories too.

At the moment I'm working on the follow-up to Heart of a Lion and that will be the next novel she is featured in, but there could be another short story or two popping up in the same time frame as well.
Expect to see her full story being revealed, including more about her back story and her journeys.  The journeys will reveal more about the world she inhabits. 

CHB: And final words on the HEART OF A LION and Rayden Valkyrie? 

SZ: Rayden Valkyrie has become a very special character to me and Heart of a Lion shows the core of what she is about.  It shows a lot about her honor code and the strengths she possesses beyond her fighting skills.  I am confident that readers of fantasy, dark fantasy and sword and sorcery will love meeting her and exploring the world she inhabits.


About the Author
Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky.  His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections.

Author Links
Twitter: @sgzimmer
Instagram: @stephenzimmer7


Book Links
Print Version
Kindle Version



Heart of a Lion Virtual Tour Info and Schedule

11/2  Beauty In Ruins Guest Post
MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Interview
Kentucky Geek Girl Guest Post
SwillBlog Review
Kylie Jude Blog Top Ten List
Kylie Jude Blog Interview
Book in the Bag Interview
Azure Dwarf Review
Novel-Ties Guest Post
Sheila's Blog Guest Post
The Star Chamber Show Podcast (Show is live at 9pm EST)
Creatives Help Board. How may I direct your call? Interview
WebbWeaver Reviews Guest Post
Sapphyria's Book Reviews Top Ten's List
Armand Rosamilia, Horror Author Guest Post
Anasazi Dreams Review

Tour Page URL: