Don’t you hate it when you get hired to be the enforcer for the ruler of a corrupt city-state, but the new job requires you to have magic that’s flesh binding, and will thus kill you if you do anything wrong? Yeah, me too. But while this makes me glad I’m not Ig, the main character in Clay Harmon’s new dark fantasy novel Flames Of Mira (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), it does, as they say, make for good readin’. And not just of the following email interview Clay and I did about Mira.
To start, what is Flames Of Mira about, and what kind of world is it set in?
Ig, our main character, works as a secret enforcer for the ruler of a corrupt city-state, but is cursed with flesh binding magic — magic that will kill him at the first sign of disobedience. His days are spent hunting down dissenters of the throne, and is a shell of his old self who clings to memories of his past life and his budding friendships with the ruler’s son and daughter. When the ruler is overthrown in a coup and the country is thrown into chaos, Ig will have to rediscover the person he once was and escape his flesh binding, otherwise he will have to kill a lot of people as the former ruler tries to reclaim the throne.
Flames Of Mira is set on a world with no visible star, so its surface is frozen over and uninhabitable. The capital cities of Mira’s territories are built out of massive sinkholes where the nobility classes live on the warmer bottom levels, and to travel from one capital city to another you’ll have to traverse a vast subterranean network, which contains a lush, vibrant ecosystem, contains countless ancient ruins and all manner of secrets and danger. It also features a magic system based around the periodic table of elements, which is why Ig is called an elemental.
Where did you get the idea for Flames Of Mira?
It started while reading about The Assassin In White in Brandon Sanderson’s The Way Of Kings. I was also playing the video game Terraria at the time, and that’s when I got it into my head to create the most diverse, dynamic setting and ecosystem I could imagine for my world. I wanted to create a magic system that had as little hand waving as possible and settled on manipulation of the periodic elements and the electromagnetic force. Oh, and at the time I was hearing a lot about the enemies-to-lovers tropes on Twitter, so decided on doing the opposite, lovers-to-enemies.
It sounds like Flames Of Mira is an epic fantasy novel, maybe even a grimdark one. How do you describe it?
I’ve settled on calling it dark fantasy. The stakes aren’t on the epic scale quite yet (they’ll certainly get there as the series progresses), but the plot doesn’t have quite the same unhappy ending you might find in a grimdark novel. That said, it’s got plenty of grimdark elements.
Flames Of Mira is your first published novel, but I’m guessing it’s not the first thing you’ve written. Are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a particularly big influence on Flames Of Mira but not on anything else you’ve written?
As I mentioned, The Assassin In White from Brandon Sanderson’s The Way Of Kings was the primary influence for Flames Of Mira‘s main character, Ig. I was fascinated by this incredibly powerful individual who was also powerless and forced to do terrible things, and I kept wondering what it would be like to see him freed and able to make his own choices. Then I started thinking about the trauma caused by that kind of situation, and the main character of Ig was born.
How about non-literary influences; was Flames Of Mira influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
I’m a big gamer, so as I mentioned earlier Terraria was a big factor in the setting, but so were some of the delves in Elder Scrolls Online as well as the land of Vvardenfell in Morrowind.
And how about your cats? Y’know, the ones you terrorize, according to your author bio; what influence did they have on Flames Of Mira, and do they need me to call someone? Feline Services, perhaps?
They haven’t had an influence on my writing (yet), but my hunter pet in World Of Warcraft is named after one of them. I imagine they’ll find their way into my stories one of these days.
Also, how many cats are we talking about?
There’s Clarence, Bojangles, and Huey. All boys. Every cat I ever own will be named old man / woman names because I find that hilarious.
Bojangles, Clarence, Huey
And clearly Huey thinks it’s hilarious, too. Moving on, you’ve said that Flames Of Mira is the first novel in a series. What was it about this story that made you realize it couldn’t be told in just one volume?
Ig, the main character, was stolen from a group of cultists before the start of the novel, cultists who worship eldritch gods deep within the bowels of the planet and have made it their life’s mission to find those gods. Lovecraftian horror and world-ending stakes go hand-in-hand, but that wasn’t the conflict I wanted to tell in Flames Of Mira, so naturally a series needed to be written for it.
So, what can you tell us about this series?
It’s called The Rift Walker series, and I do have a fairly good idea of how long I want it to be, though currently I’m under contract for 2 books. We’ll be entering negotiations to continue the series in the near future.
I envision it as a 5-book series. Flames Of Mira focuses on interterritorial conflict within the country of Mira, Books 2 and 3 will deal with the fall of Mira and its all-powerful ruler, The Sovereign, and Books 4 and 5 will involve the existential threat these eldritch gods pose on humanity.
Upon hearing that Flames Of Mira is the first book of five, some people will decide to wait until all of the books are out before reading any of them. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t wait?
Flames Of Mira is a very personal journey for the main character as he struggles with the trauma and abuse he’s been forced to endure, and you get to see what he’s like once an elemental as strong as he is set free. He undergoes massive character growth, more than I envision in later books as the cast of characters expands, but he’s also the bedrock for the series so if you’re reading it for him, Flames Of Mira is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck with Ig.
Earlier I asked if Flames Of Mira had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But I’d like to flip things around, if I may, and ask if you think Flames Of Mira could work as a movie, show, or game?
I think Flames Of Mira would work great as either a movie or television show, maybe in the animation style of League Of Legend‘s Arcane or Love, Death + Robots. It contains a world unlike anything you’ve seen before, and I’d love to see what an animation studio could do with the magic system and setting.
As for a game, I think an episodic graphic adventure video game like Life Is Strange would be really cool considering the character focus and the deep emotional issues my book addresses. Though the game would need to have a kickass combat system given how “dazzling” the magic can get (as one reviewer phrased it), like being able to deflect blades with the palms of your hands or dipping your arm in lava.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Flames Of Mira?
Flames Of Mira heavily explores the theme of toxic relationships, and it contains its fair share of gore and violence for those in need of content warnings.
Finally, if someone enjoys Flames Of Mira, what similar kind of fantasy novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for the second book to come out?
If you enjoyed Flames Of Mira then I have to suggest any of Joe Abercrombie’s works given their broken, morally grey characters, and if you liked Flames Of Mira‘s worldbuilding, then the hostile, volcanic world in N.K. Jemison’s The Broken Earth Trilogy has some of that same flavor.