Rogues Portal had the pleasure of talking to Chad Corrie, the author of the upcoming Wizard King Trilogy, about the first book in the series: Return of the Wizard King.
A wizard returns to Tralodren after centuries asleep to find a world much changed. A gladiator, dwarf, knight, and a wizardess are recruited by a blind priest and his assistant to go on a quest to recover a forgotten treasure from long ago lost deep in the jungle. The wizard will need to carefully manipulate these adventurers if he wants to accomplish his goals.
Included with this interview is an excerpt from Return of the Wizard King.
Rogues Portal: What do readers need to know before picking up Return of the Wizard King? It does have “Return” in the title after all.
Chad Corrie: There’s no backstory or secret history you have to know before reading the book. Everything that needs revealing will be done as the story unfolds. So all readers have do is pick up a copy and turn that first page. And when they do, they’ll discover why a certain wizard, who long ago left the world of Tralodren, is now seeking to make a visit—and why that might not be such a good idea for everyone else calling the world home.
RP: A lot of books and movies these days are taking advantage of the idea of a shared universe. Marvel made it popular with the MCU franchise. Does the Wizard King build off of, or intersect with any of your other books?
CC: The Wizard King Trilogy isn’t envisioned as an entirely stand-alone story. Part of the tagline at the back of the book says “this story is but one of many.” So the idea has always been to build a large sandbox and put as many stories as possible into it. And that’s what I’ve been doing since the beginning: writing graphic novels, short stories, stand-alone novels, and series. All these take place at different places and times across Tralodren, adding and further revealing the world to readers.
So this trilogy is more or less an introduction to Tralodren and future stories, though not all of them will be connected to this story in general. There’s a master plot I’ve been using for the entire world that all things will touch in various ways. But nothing is going to be so tightly connected you won’t be able to pick up one series of books and be totally lost without having read another.
The goal is to make every story accessible to new readers but have enough connection and even some subtle “Easter eggs” that readers who have read other titles or are rereading something can enjoy the story on another level.
RP: Every author seems to have someone who inspires them. Sometimes they are other authors. Who inspires you to write stories? Who are some of your literary inspirations?
CC: I first got interested in writing at age 12. And shortly after that, I started reading Stephen King. One of those first stories was Cycle of the Werewolf (which I picked up because it was short and had pictures in it—and werewolves, which I was rather big on at the time).
Later, I would explore other authors, including some classic ones from centuries back, but when I found Robert E. Howard, I was inspired more fully to explore the fantasy genre. Mixed into all this was a whole host of comicbook authors, who I also learned from and would further inspire and educate me about writing comics and graphic novels.
As to particular literary inspirations, I was rather impressed with how Howard wrote The Screaming Skull of Silence. Though short, it was a rather fascinating story for me at the time, and between it and some of his Solomon Kane tales, I was inspired to try my own hand at short stories. There were others, too, along the way, but these were some of the first and original stories that helped influence my literary path, as it were.
RP: As I was getting to know your main characters, it occurred to me that this was a story about redemption and that redemption is what the characters were seeking more than any treasure. What do you think it is about redemption stories that attract people to them, yourself included?
CC: Well, I don’t know if I can speak entirely for others’ reading preferences, but in general, redemption is as common a theme as the Earth is old. Everyone has messed up in life in some way, shape, or form at some point. And everyone wants to know there’s a way to get out of it—to set things to right—and move on to a better future for them and any others affected by their actions. So in that sense, I guess you could say they are very human stories. They also provide a great source of conflict or struggle. And since story is really about conflict (you can’t really have a story without some form of it), it’s easy to see why they’re popular with writers too.
The big question, I suppose, is if that redemption is attainable for the character(s). That’s what often will separate one book from another. Some stories have that redemption being denied or impossible to attain, others having it as something more arduous but reachable in the end. And that, in a nutshell, is what will define what sort of tone and nature of story is being told—how things progress and resolve. And while there are some “darker ending” tales out there, there are still plenty of ones with “lighter endings” to choose from, too. Which one of these endings befalls the folks in Return of the Wizard King, however, readers will just have to find out for themselves.
RP: What do you suppose attracts people to the fantasy genre?
CC: Again, I can’t speak for everyone, but in general, most would probably say it’s a way to temporarily get away from the real world and roam a place free from such modern concerns and voices that tend to clutter so much of our present lives. Though with some fantasy now actively seeking to include such modern concerns and voices, I don’t know how much of a rest readers get from it. But in general, the need for a temporary escape is the main drive for many readers’ desire for and interest in the genre. At least, from how I see it.
Of course, you also have the allure of going someplace else and seeing and experiencing something new. They get to explore a different type of life through a different set of eyes, considering various locales, creatures, and beings … and the list goes on. And given how much of the media landscape is geared to it in so many ways, it makes it easier for readers to locate and relate to than say even 10 or 15 years ago.
RP: Fantasy worlds are so different from ours, being filled with magic and mythical creatures. It’s like they have their own set of universal laws. How do you approach world-building in your stories?
CC: Short answer, a lot of backstory and planning. For me, I like to have the core elements figured out and the “reality” of the world set up before I get into any stories. And that often means figuring out how and why things work the way they do and why that is—finding the first causes for things, and so forth. And by doing so, you often find how all these interconnected things developed, which in turn naturally starts leading to some story ideas and further world refinement. It also helps to keep things uniform and more believable.
As to what I build in the world, that depends on what the story universe will be used for. If it’s going to be used for limited things, then I tend to have more of a limited world-building process. But for larger projects, such as Tralodren, I go all in—working on histories, religions, magic systems, races, nations, cosmologies, alternative belief systems, creatures, political systems, reference lists, monetary and calendar systems, and the like. It can be pretty involved, and new stories often will add a few things to the list along the way.
RP: Do some of your world-building take inspiration from things or people in this world?
CC: Sure. We really don’t have much to use for inspiration other than what we know in “the real world” or what others have already created in their own works and projects. So inevitably, some of that will carry over into what is created. How it’s used, however, makes for the differences available across the genre and all the various media that continue to be produced.
RP: I thought that the Knights of Valkoria were analogous to the Templar Knights of Medieval Europe. Was this intentional? What are some of the real-world inspirations you’ve used?
CC: The knights and their Order weren’t drawn from anything in particular when it comes to our own history. Though being primarily run and made up of Norse-like humans has allowed for a slight flavor in some of their histories. And readers will get to learn more about that history as the rest of the trilogy unfolds, so I don’t want to spoil too much of that backstory too early.
RP: What does your writing process look like? Do you have a planned idea of what is going to happen, or does the story reveal itself as you write?
CC: Some writers prefer a strict regimented plot and outline, others like to make things up as they go along. Over the years, the process that has emerged as best for me is more of a hybrid. In general, there’s a basic outline and plot I use to start, but I’m not wedded to it. If something comes up where things need to go a different direction or if I think things needed to be flipped in their order or something totally different added in or augmented, I’m free to do so without getting too far outside the basic story parameters. But I don’t end up wandering too far away either as the general plot and guidelines for the story keep me contained in an open enough space for creating.
As to the actual writing process itself, I tend to work the first draft with the goal of just getting the story told. The second time through, I then use the benefit of having the story finished to further flesh out and refine the tale. Subsequent drafts and editing will further refine the story, until finally, it’s off to the publisher for the last bit of spit and polish before being readied for publication.
RP: What is your hope for people who read Return of the Wizard King?
CC: That they enjoy a fun, entertaining story. That’s the main gist of all that I write and create: telling fun, entertaining stories.
RP: What is your favorite novel that isn’t fantasy?
CC: I don’t really have an answer for that one as I don’t really have a favorite title I’ve come across, nor do I have any favorite fantasy titles I could share. Not that what I’ve read was never well-received, mind you. Nothing has just really stood out as something I’d be honestly able to label as my “favorite.”
RP: Of all the races in your novel, which one would you most closely identify with?
CC: Well, for me, that would probably be humans since I am one. And in particular, perhaps the Telborians since they tend to be more like North Americans in some ways than the other groups of humans populating Tralodren.
Return of the Wizard King is available to Pre-Order and will be released on June 9, 2020.
Below is an excerpt from the book.
Yornicus ran without thinking under the darkening sky. The terrain eventually rose into more solid ground, but he scarcely paid these changes any mind. He was focused on just one thing: running. The dense undergrowth sought to hinder his movement at almost every turn; roots entangled his feet, branches slapped his face and limbs. The humid air added to his plight, making it harder to breathe the longer he pressed on. But it didn’t matter. He had to press on.
His legs felt like jelly, his lungs and throat burned in agony, yet he continued slaughtering his body with the effort. There were no other options left. He had to get as far from the marshes as possible. The thought to stop and send off his message would poke through his fear now and then, but he quickly shoved it aside. As much as Yornicus had a duty to perform, he had a tremendously strong drive to live.
Eventually he came to a stop against a tree. Sweat gushed from his pores, flooding his forehead and face, stinging his eyes, and dripping onto his lips. Catching his breath, the mage strained his ears for the sound of his pursuers. All he could hear was the pounding of his heart and his haggard breathing. Maybe he’d run far enough. Maybe the others were able to send the lizardmen to Mortis instead. He knew that was just wishful thinking. No, by now they were all dead. The first cohort of the Tenth Legion was no more. Their bodies would never be recovered, and their memory lost if he didn’t complete his final duty.
Standing upright, the mage hurriedly started digging in his backpack as he let his gladius fall to his side. Pulling out a sheet of parchment, he awkwardly put it in his left hand, still holding his shield as he fished out a small vial of ink and a quill. Laying his shield down on the ground so that its concave surface faced him, he flattened the parchment sheet upon it. He unstopped the vial of ink, dipped in the tip of his quill, and started writing.
“Yornicus Alcaran Ithiani to General Gallo:
“It is with heavy heart I record that the first cohort has failed to complete their mission. I bear witness to them having made their way into the Marshes of Gondad, but the marshes have shown they wished to keep us back for as long as possible.
“Lizardmen, Celetors, and the very terrain itself have taken their toll; I am all that remains. It has been advised if you do send more men that a greater number will be needed. For if we have only made it part of the way and failed already, then surely more will be required to complete the emperor’s command.”
He stopped. He thought he heard something behind him. Straining his ears, he waited a moment before resuming his work, only to stop again when the sound of a cracking twig brought him to his feet. Hurriedly, he brought to mind the spell needed to send the writing on its way to Claudina. As he spoke its words, Yornicus watched the text he’d just written turn a glistening bronze before fading back into the still-drying black ink. Breathing a small sigh of relief at having gotten the message off, he froze when another snapping twig—one much nearer than the last—filled the now silent area around him.
He threw the parchment, ink vial, and quill into the backpack, then slung it over his shoulder and picked up his sword and shield just as he saw the first lizardman make his way through the underbrush. Panicked, he cast the best spell he had for defense, sending a burst of lightning from his hand and down his sword, pointed at his reptilian aggressor. The creature flew back from the shock, but Yornicus knew nothing else.
Finding what reserves he had left, the mage pressed forward as fast as his sore legs could take him. While dodging short trees and low branches, he failed to notice a thick tree root that quickly ensnared him by the ankle. He tumbled to the damp soil with a huff.
Taking a deep draft of what reserves he had left, Yornicus madly leapt up from the moist earth. Steadying his weakened body, he continued his frantic run.
He ran on and on; his feet lost all feeling. His legs were powered by a heart he thought might burst with the next beat. Sweat flooded his eyes, continually blurring his vision. If he could survive long enough, he might be afforded some better options. He might be able to fully discover the others’ fate, make his way back to Claudina, or maybe even continue on toward the ruins to try to complete the mission on his own. This was all predicated, however, on him making it through the night and staying out of the lizardmen’s hands.
But though his will was strong, his body couldn’t keep pace, and his weary frame fell. As he collapsed, Yornicus could hear his pursuers crashing through the jungle. At least he had gotten the message to Claudina. One hundred men would get the honor they deserved for such brave and total service to the emperor and the republic.
“Aero, have mercy,” Yornicus prayed before rolling to his side just in time for his face to collide with a wooden club.