With Firesky (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), writer Mark de Jager is concluding the epic fantasy duology The Chronicles Of Stratus that he kicked off in 2020 with Infernal. In the following email interview, de Jager discusses this second half of the story, and why it’s not the end of the saga.
We went in-depth on Infernal and The Chronicles Of Stratus in an earlier interview, but for people who hate to click things, what was that book about, and what kind of world is it — and thus Firesky — set in?
Infernal saw the main character, Stratus, thrown into a world riven by vicious and long running war between two rival empires. With his mind damaged by his own wayward magic, and his thoughts haunted by a seemingly demonic presence, he faced a difficult and often times painful journey to discover the truth about who and what he is.
And then what is Firesky about?
Firesky picks up directly where Infernal ended in every respect, so you’re plunged right back into the thick of things.
When in the process of writing Infernal did you come up with the idea for Firesky, and how, if at all, did that idea change as you wrote this story?
I’d plotted most of Firesky‘s story when I set out to finish Infernal, and I knew how I wanted to end it right from the start.
That said, there have been changes along the way, although these have mostly been to trim the story. I went a bit overboard and ended up with several chapters that were lots of fun to write but didn’t really move things forward, and so they had to go.
And just so everyone is clear, it’s Firesky as in “fire sky,” not like husky or pesky or Leelee Sobiesky, er Sobieski, right?
Yes, very much so.
Infernal was a fantasy tale. Is Firesky one as well?
Yes; if anything, it has more fantasy packed between the covers than Infernal did. Lots more, actually.
So are there any writers or specific stories, that had a big influence on Firesky but not on Infernal?
Not really. I wrote both in fairly quick succession, so those influences are all thoroughly mixed in, like chocolate chips in a decent cookie. I really got into reading in the late-’80s and early-’90s, so there are probably elements of Raymond E. Feist, David Gemmell, and David Eddings in there somewhere.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games?
While I’d finished the second draft of Firesky before Netflix released the second series of The Punisher, I think there are some parallels there. I’ve always had a soft spot for Frank Castle, so I couldn’t swear to there being no influence at work there on some level.
And for my last question about your influences, what influence did your “lazy dog” Sparrow have on Firesky that he did not have on Infernal?
He was a Jack Russell terrier named Sparrow, and he personified the ability of a creature being able to go from full speed ahead to asleep (and vice versa), and he took an almost cartoon-like joy in eating himself into a food coma.
Now, as we’ve been discussing, Infernal and Firesky form a duology called The Chronicles Of Stratus. With both books out, do you think people should read them back-to-back, or should they read something in between?
Personally, I would read them back-to-back. Firesky follows on directly from Infernal and keeps the momentum that Infernal built. I appreciate this a bit partisan, but I read them both like that before starting the edits and it really worked.
In the aforementioned interview we did about Infernal, you said that while, “Firesky will conclude Stratus’ story,” you were also, “keen to return to the world and explore the aftermath of what happens in Firesky, particularly from the point of view of some of the other characters he interacts with.” Have you started planning this return trip yet, or are you going somewhere else first?
I’m doing both, as it happens. I’m about 75% through a first draft of a story set in the aftermath of the events in Firesky. It’s about 30 years later, and a civil war is underway, with the church, state, and a colony of separatists all at each other’s throats, unaware that a larger threat is creeping up on them. I’m quite excited to see where it goes.
I’ve also recently submitted a manuscript for a project that I’m working on with Rebellion (who are publishing Infernal and Firesky) and I hope to have more news on that front shortly.
Cool. Earlier I asked if Firesky had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. Has there been any interest in adapting The Chronicles Of Stratus into another medium?
Not as yet, but I do hope that will change in the wake of Firesky being released. If and when it does, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.
And if it was up to you, would you still want it to be a movie or short TV series with Michael B. Jordan as Stratus or a first-person role-playing game made by Bethesda?
Tough choice, but I’d have to say the TV series. With the growing acceptance of fantasy and the tech we have available now it could be epic.
Finally, if someone enjoys Firesky, what fantasy series of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
That’s actually a tough one. As bizarre as it seems, despite having worked from home for the last 18 months, with my routines turned on their head, I’ve ended up reading less. I’m looking forward to picking up a copy of The Bone Ship’s Wake, which is the third book in R.J. Barker’s The Tide Child trilogy. It’s a great setting and a completely different take on things.
In the meantime, I picked up a copy of Andrzej Sapkowski’s Blood Of Elves last week, the first book of The Witcher series, which I’ve been meaning to read for absolute ages and am very excited to get stuck into. I’ll let you know how it goes.