Thursday, July 30, 2009
D.A. Adams, The Writer Who Wields Three Axes
I met D.A. Adams at Hypericon 5 in Nashville, TN, back in June of this year. I had previously known about The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, having come across it online in the past, and was very glad to have the opportunity to meet him in person. I was very intrigued by the series, especially one that focused on dwarves, orcs, and other popular races in high fantasy.
D.A. Adams hails from the Knoxville, Tennessee area, where he is an Assistant Professor of English in addition to his writing pursuits. The Brotherhood of Dwarves was his first novel, released in 2005, followed in 2008 by Red Sky at Dawn, both through the small press publisher Third Axe Media. He is currently working on the third book in the series, with a projected release date in the first half of 2010.
In my opinion, D.A. is building a very strong fantasy series, which I feel has a lot of potential for success as awareness of it grows. I am very proud to have him as the first author spotlighted in the Seventh Star Press Blog Series, and I hope you enjoy the interview, the review, and that you pick up one of his books and give him a try. I am glad that I did!
-Stephen Zimmer, for Seventh Star Press Blog, July 30, 2009
SZ: When did you first conceive of this series and how long did it take for you to develop the first book, The Brotherhood of Dwarves?
DAA: This is really a two part answer because the series has its genesis in my teenage years and its rebirth when I was 30. As a teenager, I was an avid D & D’er, and Roskin was a character from those experiences. Also, when I first started writing, I developed the character Crushaw and started out writing a series based solely on him. Then, I went to college for writing, and many of my professors ridiculed genre work, especially fantasy, as inferior writing, so I abandoned that series in pursuit of “real” writing. I wrote some decent mainstream short stories and learned a lot about how to write, but I could never find my voice. Then, I went to graduate school and had a terrible experience. For me, graduate school set my writing back at least five years, and I became so frustrated that I quit writing for three or four years because I lost my confidence.
The rebirth came around 2002, when I was watching The Two Towers. I had an epiphany where I realized that fantasy was what I really wanted to write, but I was still unsure of myself, so instead of sitting down and writing, I spent about a year just thinking about what I would write if I ever were to pursue a fantasy series. I thought about writing about Roskin, and I thought about Crushaw, and then, I had the idea of putting them together to see what would happen. That’s when the story began to burgeon. I didn’t write a word, however, until I saw my first son’s heartbeat on an ultrasound. When I saw that, something inside me came alive, and I knew I had to write this series. From there, it took about a year to complete the manuscript and then a few more months for the editing.
SZ: One of the things I really like about The Brotherhood of Dwarves is the usage of established fantasy races like elves, dwarves, and orcs with unconventional twists (orcs running slave plantations, the multiple varieties of dwarves, etc) Tell us a little about your approach to making your elves, orcs, and dwarves a little distinctive in a genre that often makes use of such races.
DAA: Ever since I read The Chronicles of Narnia, I’ve been fascinated with dwarves as a fantasy race. I grew up in a rural area, surrounded by blue and red collar workers, and I have a lot of respect for people who work hard every day, either slaving in a factory or breaking their backs in a field, to provide for their families. In fantasy, dwarves tend to be the working class, and I wanted to go into more detail about their societies and give them a rich, varied culture, and then to take it a step further, detailed subcultures, as well.
I got the idea for the slave plantations from reading a lot of the writings of Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington. Orcs are usually portrayed as mindless killers, almost like an outlaw biker gang on steroids, and to me that rarely rings true. I wanted to give them a culture, too, and personally, not many cultures are more evil or more sinister than the Old South and its aristocratic heirarchy and notions of noblese oblige. That seemed to be a perfect fit for the orcs, so I reread Up from Slavery and described the orc culture much like Douglas described the plantation he grew up on.
SZ: The realms/cultures/world in The Brotherhood of Dwarves are well-crafted. Did the cultures and world in your series evolve as you were writing, or did you develop the world before beginning the first draft?
DAA: I definitely had a pretty good idea of the cultures before I started writing, but the bulk of the details grew out of the creative process. I just listen to my characters and let them fill in the details of where they come from and what their culture is like. So I guess the answer is yes and yes.
SZ: At the core of The Brotherhood of Dwarves is a quest story that intertwines with a coming of age story, regarding the dwarf Roskin. Was this something that evolved, or did you intend to combine these elements from the start?
DAA: I didn’t consciously set out to write either. The nucleus of the story is Roskin’s journey to find fortune and glory because he believes that will make him happy. He learns along the way that materialism doesn’t lead to happiness, that what matters in life are the relationships we cultivate with each other. In that way, it is a coming of age story, but that wasn’t a conscious decision. That was just the story. On the other hand, it’s an adventure, so there had to be an element of the quest in there to move the action along. I try not to weigh myself down with worrying about conventions or modes or any of that. I just tell the story as it feels natural, and whatever grows out of that process is what is there.
SZ: The legendary actor John Rhys-Davies is familiar with your book, fitting as he was the dwarf Gimli in the Lord of the Rings movies. Tell us a little about your encounter with him and his introduction to your book.
DAA: I met him at AdventureCon in Knoxville, TN back in 2005. It was my first major convention, and my table was directly across from his. He was only scheduled for Saturday, and all day long his line for autographs was twenty to thirty people deep. In the evening, as the show was moving into the last hour of the day, I saw that there were only two people in line for him, so I grabbed a book and ran over there. He was very gracious and kind as I gave him the book, and I honestly didn’t want anything in return. I just wanted John Rhys-Davies to possibly read my book.
A few minutes later, his partner came over to my table to thank me, and she saw my Brotherhood of Dwarves t-shirts and really got a kick out of them. I offered to give him the t-shirt along with the book, and she told me to come back to his booth with it. This time his line was a little longer and I took my neice with me, and when he saw the t-shirt, he laughed as only he can and insisted that I take an autographed picture. I tried to decline, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Then, he told me to grab my camera, and he took a few minutes to pose for the pictures, and he was very good to my neice, who was ten or eleven at the time.
A little while later, as the show was winding down, he personally came over to my booth to talk with me for a few minutes. He said that he had read the first few pages and was very impressed by the writing style and looked forward to reading the rest. Then, he leaned in close and said that independents like me give him books all the time, and usually the work is pure rubbish, but that he thought I was “a hell of a writer” and wished me good luck for my career. I glowed for weeks off of that compliment and to this day, it’s one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. I can’t stress enough just how kind, considerate, and humble he was. I hope one day to meet him again and have the opportunity to thank him in person for what he did for me.
SZ: Do you have a projection as to how big the series is going to be?
DAA: The series is five books total.
SZ: When will the next title be released?
DAA: My goal is next summer. I’m about halfway through the rough draft and hope to have it finished late December/early January. Then, I plan to spend a good amount of time polishing the manuscript with an editor. I’m a little obsessive about the editing and like to take my time until it’s right. I’d much rather push back the release and have a good book than rush something to market that’s not up to my standards.
SZ: Why did you choose to go small press?
DAA: Honestly, pure frustration with the state of the industry. It’s just a mess right now, and I’m way too much of a Type A personality to sit around for months waiting on people to make decisions. I dove in head first and created my own publishing company and haven’t looked back since. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and have stumbled quite a bit, but overall, the experience has been wonderful.
SZ: There are obviously challenges in being a small press author, but what are some of the advantages that you see?
DAA: The artistic freedom is a big plus. Setting my own deadlines is also nice. The opportunity to build something from scratch and grow it into a succesful business is also pretty cool. I’m still a little ways away from being able to call it successful, but things have come a very long way in five years. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish as a complete unknown with very little operating capital. And I hope that I can inspire others to take the risk and go out on their own, if that’s something they want to attempt.
SZ: How do people connect with D.A. Adams on the web and on social networking sites?
DAA: My website is http://www.brotherhoodofdwarves.com/ and I’m on Facebook as D. A. Adams
The Brotherhood of Dwarves Kicks Off a Very Promising Fantasy Series
The Brotherhood of Dwarves (Third Axe Media, ISBN: 978-0976554721 ) is the first book of The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, which now includes the second installment, Red Sky at Dawn.
It tells the story of a dwarf named Roskin, who is the son of a dwarven king named Kraganere. He is filled with a desire for adventure, and while going about an obligatory walking of the kingdom comes across the tale of a legendary statue called The Brotherhood of Dwarves. Once a sacred dwarven possession, the revered object is said to be held in a far-off fortress, in the keeping of a fearsome human general nicknamed Evil Blade, whose reputation for brutality and mercilessness is well-known.
Hungering to journey in the outside world, Roskin sets off under the pretense of visiting a dwarven friend, all the while harboring the secret mission that he has given himself.
The tapestry of The Brotherhood of Dwarves is woven with a few primary societies and races. There are three principle groups of dwarves, each with distinctive physical and cultural characteristics. They include the Tredjards, the Ghaldeons, and the Kiredurks. To the east is a human empire, to the south is a realm ruled by orcs, and there are also ogre and elven societies that factor in significantly to the plot.
D.A. Adams is a bold writer, who took a great risk in this series, in that all of the races included in this book are ones that have a heavy presence in the genre, bringing with each of them a lot of preconceived notions as they pertain to fantasy readers. D.A. Adams succeeds well where it would be easy to slip into formulas, in that he manages to craft the various societies with unique aspects, while retaining some of the conventional elements.
The orcs, for example, have developed a plantation-based slavery system that echoes strongly of the plantation systems in the Old South. The ogres are not dumb brutes, but rather have a very well developed matriarchal clan society that interacts very well with other races. There are many other such twists and hues for the well-read fantasy reader to discover with the various dwarven races and the elves.
Adams is adept at character development, which I feel is one of his strengths as a writer. The mysterious, alcoholic human warrior Red, who Roskin encounters during his travels and becomes a major element in this story, is a standout character in particular. So is Roskin, who is actually half-elven, his mother being a Loorish elf. A number of very intriguing characters abound, including the female dwarf Molgheon (who is an proficient archer, not a commonly seen skill in dwarves of other fantasy titles and series), Vishghu, a female ogre, and Kwarck, a half-elf wizard.
Many of the characters have to struggle with an assortment of inner demons and raw wounds, compounded when some of them are forced together for an unanticipated quest that evolves later in the book. Transcendent themes of both redemption and forgiveness surface in the telling of the tale, and Adams does a very good job at building the characters in such a way that their struggles involved in reaching those points are believable, as well as adding a lot of tension and drama to the plot itself.
Adams' writing style is well-paced, and he does a very effective job at laying the groundwork for the world featured in The Brotherhood of Dwarves. He meets the challenge faced by any first book in a series well, giving the reader a good overview of its components without getting too overly bogged down.
Fantasy readers will embrace Roskin and all of the well-crafted characters in The Brotherhood of Dwarves. Good action, a cohesive plot, and fresh approaches to well-known fantasy races make The Brotherhood of Dwarves a truly successful kickoff to a very promising series.
-by Stephen Zimmer, for Seventh Star Press Blog, July 30, 2009