Like every writer, Victor Milan — the author of the The Ballad Of Karyl’s Last Ride trilogy — has been influenced by other writers. But in doing the following email interview with Milan about the recently published third book in the series, The Dinosaur Princess (hardcover, Kindle), he revealed that — unlike some writers — he’s been influenced by other writers personally.
Photo Credit: Raya Golden
To start, what is The Dinosaur Princess about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the other books in The Ballad of Karyl’s Last Ride trilogy, The Dinosaur Lords and The Dinosaur Knights?
It’s the story of the Grey Angels’ war on humanity continuing, Princess Melodía finding her worst enemies worming their way into her family, and joining Karyl in struggling to prevent a disastrous war. Except Karyl may be forced to make even more potentially disastrous allies….
Narratively and chronologically, it picks up pretty much exactly at the point at which Book II, The Dinosaur Knights, ends.
George R.R. Martin has said these books are, “like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game Of Thrones.” I’m guessing you don’t have a problem with this assessment, since it’s on the covers of all three books, but do you think Jurassic Park and Game Of Thrones were an influence on The Dinosaur Princess?
Mostly, I think Gorge R.R. Martin’s assessment is the ideal “high-concept” summation of the trilogy, thematically speaking. It was actually delivered during an after-dinner conversation at a party, when George was attempting to describe the books to David Nutter, who’d directed the infamous “Rains Of Castamere” episode of Game Of Thrones, which had aired the week before. Since I was sitting more or less between them, and was no fool — at that particular moment — I immediately asked George if I could quote that for the cover. Luckily, he said yes.
As for those works influencing The Dinosaur Lords, the answer is, not much, directly. I did keep in mind the sense of wonder inspired by the movie Jurassic Park, but I held off reading the novel until I’d finished the first draft of Book I, which became Books I and II, and didn’t much care for it.
As for George, most of his inspiration came in the form of his offering advice derived from his experience doing A Song Of Ice And Fire, prominently at a party at a friends’ house. In particular, he advised me to make the world a living entity. In effect, a character. Which I found not only great advice, but which amused me, since I was already doing just that. Except perhaps a bit more literally than he intended.
So were there any films or TV shows, or even video games, that were also an influence on The Dinosaur Princess?
I don’t watch much TV, and while I do play a lot of video games, I can’t recall a lot of specific influence there. Other than the fact I was trying to avoid as much as possible the usual Dungeons & Dragons tropes. As for films — and allowing for my terrible memory — while I recall nothing specific right now, I watch a great many action/adventure movies. In my writing, I generally frame scenes as if they’re movies in my head, especially action sequences, so I think there was a great deal of general influence from movies, there.
What about more literary influences; were there are any other writers, or specific novels, that were a big influence on The Dinosaur Princess, either in the way you wrote it or what you wrote about? But I mean just on this book, not the entire series or your writing style as a whole.
The biggest single influence by a book came from Jack Vance’s The Dragon Masters. Vance is my favorite author, and since I’d always loved dinosaurs — go figure — I loved the fact that his “dragons” were basically dinosaurs themselves. I loved the battle scenes, both among “dragon” riding armies and against the alien graph riding similar monsters bred from captive humans, as the humans had bred graph into dragons. I wanted to recapture some of the flavor of that in The Dinosaur Lords books. And while both the books and the monsters are very different, I did make homage to Vance’s novel by giving Deinonychus antirrhopus the common name of “Horror,” after a class of Vance’s “dragons.”
My writing of these novels was also influenced by the work of my late friend Roger Zelazny, especially the scope, sweep, and world building of my favorite novel of his, Lord Of Light. Tolkien influenced me, of course, as did numerous other fantasy and sci-fi writers from Robert E. Howard through Michael Moorcock and on to Ray Feist and David Drake. I did steer clear of trying to emulate any of their styles; most particularly Vance and Zelazny, preeminent stylists as they were. Also I tried to purge fantasy-ese in general, and have people speak as normal people do. Which is something I tried to follow George’s example in.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the greatest single literary resource: my writers group, Critical Mass, of which George R.R. Martin was a founder. Though by then time I started participating he’d mostly dropped out as anything but an observer of our list. Its members were, and are, remarkable, and I can’t list even all that I remember of them. Among those who helped during the writing of The Dinosaur Lords were Melinda Snodgrass, another group founder; Walter Jon Williams; John Joseph Miller; Steve “S.M.” Stirling; Emily Mah Tippetts; Ian Tregillis, Daniel Abraham; and Ty Franck. Apologies to those left out; I love you all.
The Dinosaur Princess is the third and final book in a trilogy called The Ballad of Karyl’s Last Ride. But as I understand it, it’s also the third book of six in The Dinosaur Lords series, and there will also be other novels, novellas, and short stories in this series as well. Is this right?
Yes. I sold The Dinosaur Lords as a trilogy of books each about 250,000 words. Because publishing quarter-million word books didn’t prove practical, my most excellent editor Claire Eddy proposed splitting my original draft of The Dinosaur Lords in two. Which I did, and the original manuscript became The Dinosaur Lords and The Dinosaur Knights. However, the story arc The Ballad of Karyl’s Last Ride remains only half told with the publication of The Dinosaur Princess, which was originally plotted as the first half of Book II.
As of now, Tor has not bought the second trilogy, preferring to hold off for reasons best known to them, though I understand The Dinosaur Princess, and the trilogy in general, are doing quite well.
Paradise, the planet on which the saga is set — which is most emphatically not Earth — is a complete world, with a world’s worth of environments and cultures. I have many stories I’d like to tell of it beyond the projected hexalogy, including a couple of prequel trilogies and a direct spin-off, as well as others not directly connected to the individuals and events in The Dinosaur Lords books at all.
I continue to write side stories to main arc. First to appear was “Red Sails, Red Seas” in Grimdark Magazine issue #7, in April 2016. Then “A Spear For Allosaur” was published in Samuel Peralta’s Jurassic Chronicles anthology early this year, and “Patrimony” will appear in Kingdoms Fall, edited by Jonathan Maberry, later in 2017. I hope the stories will continue to find demand. As well as the novels.
So how much of this series do you have figured out? Like do you know what the plots to the other books will be, how it will all end, etc.?
I started writing The Dinosaur Lords on my birthday, August 3rd, 2003. I evolved the basics of the arc over the next few months. After I sold the trilogy, a contingent of Critical Mass Writers — Melinda, Ian, and Ty — kindly helped me bash my ideas for what were then the next two books into a pretty coherent synopsis. So yes, I’ve known for quite a long time how the whole thing will end.
The Dinosaur Lords, The Dinosaur Knights, and The Dinosaur Princess have all been released fairly close together [May 2016, May 2017, and August 2017, respectfully]. Is the plan to release the other three novels just as quickly, and then do the short stories, novellas, and other novels after that, or are you going to take a break and write something else and then go back to those books?
Until and unless Tor buys the second trilogy — as I obviously hope they will — the series in on hiatus. Certainly I’m eager to continue them, and tell the rest of the story I’ve had simmering inside me for so long.
At the same time, much as I love The Dinosaur Lords books, and dinosaurs, I’ve been working on them for fourteen years. Granted, I’ve written a great many other works in that time, but The Dinosaur Lords has largely dominated my life. And I also have other tales I want to tell. I’m writing a short story involving the settings and characters of my current novel project, The Diesel Magi, which is Dieselpunk, and which I’m quite excited about.
Lately, I’ve been holding off on reading books in a series until they’re all out. Given that, should I wait until all of The Dinosaur Lords books are out, or can I read these three, then read the other three when they’re out, and read the novellas and stories when they’re all published?
Honestly, I’m not sure how to answer that. If the books interest you, I’d advise you to go ahead and read the first three, as well as the attendant stories. The Dinosaur Princess does come to a pretty marked and dramatic conclusion, but nonetheless also offers a major cliffhanger. I suggest that simply because the future of the rest of the arc remains in Limbo for now. It is pretty certain no more of The Dinosaur Lords books will appear in a year. Though I hope the delay won’t be so great as to kill all the considerable momentum the books have built up.
So has there been any interest in making a movie, TV show, or video game out of these books? Because if I ran a studio, and someone pitched me on a film, show, or game that George R.R. Martin called, “like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game Of Thrones,” I’d hand them a blank check.
There has been and is, though I can’t really divulge more at this time. Like everything else, seemingly, it’s up in the air right now.
Needless to say, I hope someone has been found who agrees with you.
Which of those do you think would work best?
Like pretty much every other sci-fi/fantasy writer, I think the ideal format for these and any of my novels — including The Cybernetic Samurai and CLD: Collective Landing Detachment — would be the limited-series adaptation that’s been brought to the forefront by the mad success of Game Of Thrones. I’d certainly love to see my book on the big screen as well, but the extended form better conveys the scope, characters, and story of novels.
If there was going to be a movie, TV show, or game, who would you like them to cast in the main roles, and why them?
Ah, that I’ll have to pass on. My memory is too poor to remember too many actors, and I don’t, as mentioned, watch TV. There are numerous actors I’m fond of, such as Ron Perlman [Hellboy], about whom I don’t have much clue as to where they’d fit in.
Finally, if someone’s enjoyed The Dinosaur Lords, The Dinosaur Knights, and The Dinosaur Princess, and they’re looking for something to read until The Dinosaur Duke, The Dinosaur Baron, and The Dinosaur Sovereign come out, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one?
Intriguing guesses on the future titles.
I find that frequently, if a reader likes one of my works, they’ll like the others, or at least most of them. Though many of my other original material, such as the two titles mentioned, are out print and only available on the used market.
Along with most of the then-active Critical Mass crew, plus distinguished others such as Harry Turtledove, I do have a story, “The Seeker: A Poison In The Blood” in Steve Stirling’s anthology The Change: Tales Of Downfall And Rebirth, which contains stories set in his best-selling Emberverse. The whole volume’s a hoot, and well worth checking out.
Also I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Brontosaur in the bedchamber: Wild Cards, George R.R. Martin’s long-running shared-world anthology. Its twenty-plus volumes include numerous stories by me, including the upcoming Texas Hold ‘Em. Tor is publishing them, as well as reprinting the original volumes, some with new material. There’re reasons Wild Cards — a series I helped create, along with a bundle of other NM authors I’ve named already — is still alive and healthier than ever after Book I appeared thirty years ago yesterday. Again, if you like my stuff, you’ll quite likely enjoy my Wild Cards contributions. And if you like the idea of superhero stories given a sci-fi twist and real-world grounding — or just good sci-fi stories in general — you might want to give Wild Cards a look.