Exclusive Interview: Gates Of The Dead Author James A. Moore
With his grimdark fantasy novel Gates Of The Dead (paperback, Kindle), writer James A. Moore is concluding The Tides Of War trilogy he began in 2017 with The Last Sacrifice, and continued in 2018 with Fallen Gods. In the following email interview, he explains what this series is about, how the final volume connects to the other two, and whether this truly is the end of this saga.
For those unfamiliar with this series, what is the setting of The Tides Of War books and what, in a general sense, is the series about?
The setting is a place called the Five Kingdoms, which is, I hope, slightly different than a lot of others. There are several different locales of importance. First among those is Kinnett, a small town that borrows heavily from medieval Scotland. But there are also several locations that are more along the lines of Europe in the same era and Africa. Technology is about right for the Iron Age, and the political set ups are very heavily varied.
In a nutshell, the series is about Brogan McTyre, a man who has his entire family taken by the gods for sacrifice and does everything he can to stop that from happening he fails but in the process manages to anger the gods, who decide that either he and his associates are sacrificed to make up for the offense, or that the world will suffer the consequences. His trying to save his family triggers Armageddon, and the rest of the story is his efforts to save the world and stop the gods.
And then what is Gates Of The Dead about and how does it connect, chronologically and narratively, to the previous books, The Last Sacrifice and Fallen Gods?
This is a series where I sort of changed the rules a bit. The novels are all directly connected and takes placeminutes or hours after the end of the previous novel. So Fallen Gods starts right after the end of The Last Sacrifice and Gates Of The Dead might be a few hours after the end of Fallen Gods. They are really one large story, broken into three parts. Last Sacrifice is the set up for the other two, and Fallen Gods is the story of Brogan trying to find a way to confront the gods. Gates Of The Dead is decidedly the tale of what happens when he finds a way to try to stop them.
When in the process of writing these books did you come up with the idea for Gates Of The Dead, and how, if at all, did the idea change as you wrote this series?
So I almost never outline very far ahead. I mean, there’s the novel pitch, the idea I try to sell to the publishers — in this case Angry Robot — and then there’s the actual story itself, which will probably hold some of the same elements, but is almost guaranteed to evolve along the way. All I really knew going into this was that 1) The world was going to be in a very bad way; 2) The gods were winning the battle because, seriously, they’re gods; and 3) Brogan was going to fight them. I had no guarantees as to who was going to win the conflict. I just knew I wanted to tell the story and see how it came about at the end.
And as you were writing Gates Of The Dead did you think of anything and then realize you either couldn’t do it or had to adapt it because of something you’d done in The Last Sacrifice or Fallen Gods?
Constantly, but that’s just my regular writing process. I have the best time with my writing when I surprise myself. I initially had very different plans for one of the main characters, but halfway through the first chapters of Fallen Gods, I decided that character had to die. Next thing I know, my brain is reminding me that I’m not done with him yet, he still has a purpose. I had no idea what that final purpose was, but I knew it was important. Of course, he was dead, so he needed a little help getting where he was going….
The Last Sacrifice and Fallen Gods were both grimdark fantasy stories. Is that true for Gates Of The Dead as well?
I have always believed in mixing my genres. Nothing is sacred. So there’s a lot of horror in this story, because that’s the place where I’ve written for the longest. I also think that the line between grimdark and horror is very slim. Hopefully I’ve got some serious adventure going in here and a bit of good old-fashioned fantasy / sword and sorcery as well.
Are there any writers or specific stories that were a big influence on Gates Of The Dead but not on The Last Sacrifice and Fallen Gods?
I think there’s probably a bit more of Robert E. Howard in the final book of the series than there is in the first two. There are a lot of players in the series but at the end of the day the final novel in particular is about Brogan McTyre and he’s got a bit of the one man against the impossible here in the same way that Conan does.
How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or video games; did any of those have a big impact on Gates Of The Dead?
I am a huge fan of movies. I always have been. TV shows are a constant for me. I mean, they are quick entertainment and if they’re done right they’re gorgeous. I love Game Of Thrones. No denying that.
As for video games, no, not really. I don’t play them. It’s not that I don’t want to play them, because I’d love to. But every single time I try, I lose an entire day of writing and I tend to write four or so novels a year, so I simply don’t have the time to spare for them.
Now, in the interview we did for The Last Sacrifice [which you can read here], you said The Tides Of War was a trilogy. Is that still the case?
The Tides Of War is finished, Could I write more stories in the same world? Probably, but it would take a lot of thinking and planning. Currently Angry Robot has a science fiction proposal from me and a pitch for another three books in the Seven Forges series because, as I have stated previously, I have many, many things I want to do in Fellein.
With all of the books now available, some people will undoubtedly read all three in a row. Do you think this is a good idea, or should people take a break between them?
Oh, I think the best way to read them is one after another. I had a lot of series like that as a kid, and I wanted a bit of that for this series. Not trying to compare them at all, but what would be the fun of The Lord Of The Ring series if you had to wait between volumes? No, I wanted to make this a fast, hard read. That’s why there is so little time between the books.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Last Sacrifice, Fallen Gods, and Gates Of The Dead, which of your other books would you suggest they read next?
I’d very seriously recommend the Seven Forges series because I had so much fun writing them and I think the Sa’ba Taalor are some of the best bad guys I ever came up with. Certainly their motivations are among the most complex. Also, that’s where my mind and heart are headed right now. I want to continue that story because there is so very much left to say and the world has changed drastically by the time the last book was finished. I want to explore it again and see all the new things that have happened.
I also have a novel coming out in April called Boomtown and it is, for lack of a better way to put it, a grimdark Western. If you like the dark stuff, it’s a good way to head.