When your long-time friends finish writing and publish a book, it’s a big deal. I haven’t read the book yet, but it is sitting on my Kindle, in queue. I had a few questions that I wanted to ask them before I read the book, as well as some questions I’m saving for after. After reading this, I encourage you to head on over to Amazon.com to pick up a copy of the book. If you have any questions for the authors, leave a comment!
Casey Eanes and Seth Ervin are the authors of Keys of Candor: The Red Deaths, a fantasy novel and the first book in a proposed set. Let’s get started:
Michael Cochran: How many books will be in this set?
Seth Ervin: At least three. There might be more, but we don’t know yet. So I will definitely confirm a total of three Candor books, the first one being the one that’s out now; The Red Deaths. We’ve got other projects that we are interested in exploring as well that are outside the Candor Universe. We are hoping to get the next book in the Candor series, Sea of Souls, out within the 2015 window, but that might be an aggressive outlook.
Casey Eanes: Entering into the project the goal was a trilogy within the Candor universe. However, after writing The Red Deaths, there is a history to Candor and one specific people group that I am curious to learn more about. I really want to know more about how Candor came to be the way it is in today’s universe. We have a lot we want to write and with limited time to do it all we will certainly close out the trilogy with the hopes to come back and visit Candor again, especially if our readers are interested in it too!
MC: What’s with the title? Is the word “Candor” important? As there some keys that allow the person to talk frankly?
SE: Oh, you’re a little literal aren’t you, Michael? Well to be honest, I like the way it sounds. Candor is the universe and setting in which our story unfolds. In our book, it truly describes the geography of the land: Candor is a super continent, a huge island of land. It alone exists in the middle of the Endless Ocean, there is no other continent. Imagine if Australia were the only landmass on earth, and you’ve got the idea. That is Candor. There are kingdoms or ‘Realms’ as we call them that exist on Candor, each trying desperately to set their own agendas. Conflict, as you can imagine, is frequent and brutal.
Back to the name, though. If you have to name a fictional setting something, it should at least sound nice. The word “candor” is also associated with truthfulness and honesty. So “Keys of Truth” is more along the lines of what the title means in spirit, but the word “Candor” sounds so much nicer. It also serves as a great name of a fantastic universe.
CE: I love this question, very clever. But I will echo Seth’s sentiment that really if you boil it down, we just liked how it sounded. Believe it or not we had written a large part of the novel not knowing what to call the world in which its characters lived. One day while sharing ideas by phone the name just came out and it stuck. I personally did not want the name of the continent to be one that was overly intricate or strange. I wanted readers to be able to feel like they could identify with the name and therefore in some small way connect with and identify with the new world we created. I feel like the name is one that is quick and easy to read and nice sounding. But alas, we feared if the title was only Keys of Candor, people might believe it was a self-help novel in speaking honestly, so the subtitle was born: The Red Deaths.
MC: What books influenced Keys of Candor?
SE: For myself, the books that have influenced Candor… I’d say it’s a long list. The Bible, The Lord of the Rings, and Ender’s Game are just a few that I think influenced our work. I think another inspiration for me are the Grimm Fairy Tales. I know Casey was inspired to write together after reading The Hunger Games. There’s a little bit of all of these works sprinkled into The Red Deaths.
CE: Shortly after my son was born, my wife bought me a Nook. I loved it but had no books and wanted to read something. Several people at work had physical copies of the Hunger Games and seemed to enjoy it so I bought the Hunger Games. The story was a nice easy read and a great quick escape. It was just what I needed for late nights when I was up because of a crying newborn. After reading, and enjoying, the series in a few days I decided I wanted to try and create a similar experience for others. I wanted to create a book that provided an escape and a sense of adventure for readers, and I especially wanted to write for my kids. My ultimate desire was to be able to let them read a book I had written to encourage them to take chances and be willing to create too.
Now, as for books that inspired Keys of Candor, there are actually not many; a lot of my inspiration came from movies. The Star Wars Trilogy and Braveheart are movies that influenced me. I also pulled a lot from memoirs, stories and documentaries on World War II. As for actual books, as Seth said the Bible also influenced my writings and some of the creations within Candor, but while writing I tried not to mimic or recreate anything that anyone else had written, I really wanted the story to be as unique as possible.
MC: What are you proud of in this book (besides the fact that you finished it and published it)? In other words, what is something interesting about the world, a character, or a situation (spoiler free) that you really liked and can’t wait to share with people?
SE: I’m really proud of our novel’s scope. Epic fantasy is not for the light of heart. You have to build a convincing and interesting world, and then populate it with a good story. Our story is actually three stories in one! We follow three main characters whose fates intertwine. It was a lot to take on in a debut novel, but I think we did a pretty good job. I’m also very proud of our characters because I think they are all memorable and unique. One of the characters is the main villain/antagonist, and I think it’s always interesting to have their experience showcased for the reader to encounter. Their decisions to be “evil” are never made in a vacuum.
CE: I am going to have to echo what Seth said. The scope of the story and the amount of characters makes me very proud. When we first started on the series we focused on one character, Kull Shepherd. After seven chapters of nothing we scrapped that story and started fresh. Kull survived but we added two more “main” characters and of course their acquaintances. In the end we had this twisting and turning story that somehow fit together. There were times that I honestly felt like we were in over our heads, but sticking to the story paid off and in the end I was amazed at how some characters wrote themselves into the pages.
MC: Both are you are Christians; how has that worldview influenced the fictional world of Candor? Personally as an aspiring writer, allowing my worldview influence my work is hard to accomplish without the result coming off sounding cheesy and contrived.
SE: Well I will be the first to say that Casey and I never set out to build an allegorical tale about the Gospel. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating a story like that, because I love allegorical Christian stories (Narnia / Pilgrim’s Progress). It was important to me that our story to be accessible to everyone, not just Christians. There are definitely ideas within Candor that are Biblical ideas, but they might be changed, subverted in ways that you might not expect. In Candor there is a religion that exists and it has a very important role in not only the society of Candor but also its history. The idea of religion and history is one that is explored a lot through the different interactions with specific characters. The idea that religion might not be just a mythical ideological tenant, but also a historical fact. I think this relates back to Christianity as we believe Jesus was a real person, and his actions in our world has very real ramifications for our lives.
CE: This question really resonates with me. I can recount several times that Seth and I were speaking and one of us would quote Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” As Seth said the book is not a Christian story, it never invokes the name of Jesus and there are even polytheistic beliefs within. So some may say, how can this be glorifying to God? I think the effort is allegorical to a degree. There are also themes that run throughout the series and will become even more prevalent as the story unfolds that relate directly to my views as a Christian. I wanted to create a story that not only had a hero, or what some may call a Jesus figure, but I wanted to display evil and I wanted the evil to be very real and very relate able. As Seth said, we wanted all people to feel welcome to approach the story. The world of Candor is one also that can be related to our world where religion too many of the characters is old and outdated, an antiquated system for the weak minded, they believe it does not relate to them, but the story may just reveal otherwise. The last point I will make is that I aspire to be an author that is accessible to readers so if someone reads my story and enjoys it I hope they reach out to me and connect even if in some small way. That way I can hopefully also carry on conversations outside of Candor that expound upon the truths and themes that I hold onto as a Christian.
MC: Why should we read the book? And give us a summary of it.
SE: Well, I guess you should read it if you enjoy any epic fantasy with compelling characters. This is a fast moving book, with lots of twists and turns, but plenty of mystery as well. I think readers can enjoy getting a taste of what Candor has to offer, because though you may not see at the onset, the world has a lot of depth. I think anyone who enjoys being immersed in unique worlds both unlike and like their own will enjoy our title. I’m going to let Casey do a summary! Sorry Casey.
CE: I will humor Seth with a summary. The Keys of Candor revolves around three characters living in the war torn continent of Candor. The world was once a very theocratic society during its darkest days; many believed gods lived among men. However, times have changed. Humanity has survived and fairy tales or religion have become rumors or shadows of the past. But not all have abandoned the ancient faiths. What the world of Candor knows now is survival. The five Realms of Candor have erupted into a new war that threatens to push humanity to extinction. Kull Shepherd, Willyn Kara and Seam Panderean do not know of one another but they are all tied together and are headed for an inevitable collision. The choices the three make will either save or destroy Candor, and one individual, the Keeper of the Keys, can either free or bind an ancient evil that is lurking in the shadows, waiting to benefit from the distraction of war.
Many thanks to Casey and Seth for letting me interview them. Go pick up their book either in physical or digital form at Amazon.com and leave an honest review; it is amazing how important this is to lesser known artists.
If you want to keep up with the world of Candor you can:
Peter Jackson is in talks with the two to direct a four-part epic movie with loads of additional scenes never before read in the book. Stay tuned for a review and maybe some additional questions.