Exclusive Interview: “Lord Of A Shattered Land” Author Howard Andrew Jones


When you write a story about a hero named Hanuvar, and set it in the ancient past, you might as well just give him an elephant and a map to the Alps as well. But I didn’t say stop. Especially not after doing the following email interview with writer Howard Andrew Jones about his sword & sorcery fantasy novel Lord Of A Shattered Land (hardcover, Kindle), the first installment of a five book series called The Chronicles Of Hanuvar. In it, he not only discusses what inspired and influenced this epic tale, but also why you won’t have to wait long for the next installment.

Howard Andrew Jones Lord Of A Shattered Land The Chronicles Of Hanuvar The City Of Marble And Blood

To start, what is Lord Of A Shattered Land about, and when and where does it take place?

The book’s a little like the adventures Aragorn might have had if Sauron had won, or the exploits of Captain America alone against the Roman Empire. A recent review said that Hanuvar was a little like The Prince Of Egypt if Moses was played by Denzel Washington’s steely-eyed version of The Equalizer and the burning bush didn’t give a damn.

The entire series has a strong ancient Mediterranean vibe. Hanuvar’s not out to prove anything and he doesn’t need to find himself or quest to stop a dark lord’s power. For him, the only thing that matters are his people. When the Dervan Empire came for them, they fought block by block, house by house, until most fell with their swords in hand. Only a thousand or so survived to be led away in chains.

His city’s treasuries were looted, its temples were defiled, and then, to sate their emperor’s thirst for vengeance, the empire’s mages cursed the city of Volanus and sowed its fields with salt. They overlooked only one detail: Hanuvar, the greatest Volani general, had escaped alive. Against the might of a vast empire, Hanuvar has only an aging sword arm, a lifetime of wisdom…and the greatest military mind in the world, set upon a single goal. No matter where they’ve been sent, from the festering capital to the furthest outpost of the Dervan Empire, Hanuvar will find his people. Every last one of them. And he will set them free.

Where did you get the idea for Lord Of A Shattered Land? What inspired it?

I love ancient history, and this book was inspired by my lifelong fascination with Hannibal of Carthage, the military genius who labored to stop Rome when it was still a republic. He rightly foresaw that if it wasn’t defeated his own people were doomed, because some fifty years after his death the Romans leveled his city and sold its few survivors into slavery.

I got to wondering what Hannibal might have done if he’d been alive but away from his city when the Romans came for Carthage. It was such an obvious “What if?” I couldn’t believe no one had ever tackled it before, but I couldn’t find that anyone had.

I filed the serial numbers off of Rome and Carthage and the ancient Mediterranean so that I could play fast and loose with the history and give readers the gladiators and emperors they’d probably want to see, along with some dark sorcery and monsters and spirits, but the character of Hanuvar is closely modeled upon my understanding of the brilliant Carthaginian. A few of my other favorite personalities from the time appear as analogs as well, among them a man much like Scipio Africanus.

It seems like Lord Of A Shattered Land is an epic fantasy story. Or maybe it’s a sword & sorcery kind of fantasy story. How would you describe it?

I’d say it’s much more of a sword & sorcery tale than an epic fantasy one, though terms are so impossibly muddled these days that I sometimes wonder if anyone knows what anyone else is talking about when they’re discussing sub-genres. Epic fantasy usually is one long story divided over multiple books, and in this series each book stands alone. Epic fantasy usually takes a while to get rolling, and this book’s already in motion from the first page.

While the feel can be a little grim, I don’t think it’s fully grimdark either, especially since Hanuvar himself is a heroic figure. He’s definitely not the usual epic fantasy protagonist: he’s not a young person thrust reluctantly into adventure and struggling to understand his powers. He’s seasoned and experienced, and while you get to know his backstory, there’s no slow origin to wait through before things get underway. You start with him at the height of his abilities. All of that feels like a sword & sorcery approach, and so does the pacing, which has a lot of forward momentum.

On the other hand, sword & sorcery protagonists are usually described as being in it for themselves to win riches or love or achieve revenge, and Hanuvar’s not motivated by any of those things. All he cares about is the fate of his people. He’s essentially selfless. He’s just about certain he’ll die in the process of saving them, but he’s going to free as many people as he can before he falls.

Lord Of A Shattered Land is your eleventh book. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Lord but not on anything else you’ve written?

The influence of historical fiction writer Harold Lamb looms over all of my work, but never so much as here. When I was 16, I read Lamb’s captivating biography Hannibal: One Man Against Rome. I loved it so much I kept returning to it, and decided that maybe I ought to try Lamb’s fiction.

I discovered he had written a whole series of interlinked novellas about a wily Cossack wandering remote parts of Asia in the late 16th century. I fell in love with their crackerjack pacing and swashbuckling feel of these tales, not to mention the way one follows closely upon another and yet stands alone. At the time I found them I was reminded of the Lankhmar stories of Fritz Leiber and the adventures of Elric, which I had only recently discovered. Later, of course, I came to the adventures of Conan and C.L. Moore’s Jirel Of Joiry and Leigh Brackett’s Stark stories and fell in love with those as well, but it was Lamb’s closely interlinked serial fiction and his clever lead character who left the most indelible imprint upon me. He introduced me both to the character I’d be using for this work, and for the structure and feel I’d use to tell the tales.

I also strove for a simple and direct style that I’ve found in hardboiled detective novels and westerns. I don’t mean to imply that this book’s prose sounds as short and punchy as Hammett, but it was crafted with some hardboiled stylistic approaches in mind. For instance, I loved how this school of writers shows more about internal state through actions rather than statements, and lets backstory get revealed as a reader’s interest in a character grows. I also liked how hardboiled protagonists — along with most of the central characters from these older adventure writers — don’t whine. They just get on with what needs to be done, even if you can tell that they’re hurting. There’s no wallowing.

What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Was Lord Of A Shattered Land influenced by any of those things?

I grew up on original Star Trek re-runs, and aspects of that show’s approach to storytelling always cast a huge shadow across my fiction, even though I’m almost always writing fantasy. I love the original Captain Kirk. Not the distorted skirt-chasing Kirk who’s overwhelmed so many popular memories of him, but the one I used to watch who was devoted to his crew and was driven by responsibility and duty and was smart and empathetic and decisive and did not suffer fools gladly. He hadn’t risen to command because he was destined for it, but because he was a seasoned professional who’d earned his stripes the hard way and forged himself into an excellent commander.

I was also a big fan of Batman: The Animated Series, not just because of the fine animation and excellent voice acting, but because of the wonderful stories. Many of them share that same bittersweet quality of the best original Trek episodes. They explore the humanity of their protagonist by contrasting his different strengths and weaknesses against similar, or opposite, qualities in his antagonists. As a result, the best episodes are exceedingly well-crafted, exciting, and sometimes heart-wrenching television.

As long as we’re on the subject of animation, I should mention how impressed I was with the quality of individual episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and how all of them were so very good, and that almost all stood alone and yet built toward a bigger whole that was likewise excellent. In the entire run there are only a few weaker shows and none of them are actually bad (unlike original Trek, alas). There just aren’t many shows that contain individual episodes that function so well and yet build to a satisfying whole. Avatar: The Last Airbender is rightly celebrated. I certainly strove to structure individual sections of my work with the same care, even if the setting and its magic system have little in common with what I’ve written.

Lastly, man did I love Justified and the wonderful dialogue those talented writers gave those characters. I’ve watched that show again and again. I don’t think Hanuvar sounds like Raylan Givens, but I do try to make him be succinct and say more than his words directly impart, just as I heard again and again on Justified. I try to emulate the way that show’s dialogue brings even minor characters to life.

Now, Lord Of A Shattered Land is the first book is a five-book saga called The Chronicles Of Hanuvar, with the second book, The City Of Marble And Blood, due out this October. Is the plan to have all five come out in a similar timeframe?

I’m reasonably sure that you will see the next two books next year. I’m half way through the revision of book 3, and expect to have that turned over by the end of August. It won’t hit two months after The City Of Marble And Blood, however. It took me about six months to write Lord and about six months to write City while my agent and I were shopping book 1 around. Believe me, I wish I could write books in two months, but I’m not that fast.

Howard Andrew Jones Lord Of A Shattered Land The Chronicles Of Hanuvar The City Of Marble And Blood

And do you know what the other books are going to be called and when they’ll be out?

Book 3 is titled Shadow Of The Smoking Mountain. Book 4 is titled Daughter Of The Silver Towers. I haven’t yet chosen a title for book 5.

So, what was it about this story that didn’t just make you realize it couldn’t be told in one book? And that it needed five?

As I was finishing up the Ring-Sworn trilogy and got to thinking what I really wanted to create next, I realized I most wanted to write more about Hanuvar, who had appeared in several short stories I’d written in a tight sequence. So in the evenings, after working all day on the final book of Ring-Sworn, When the Goddess Wakes, I started jotting more and more ideas about things that this character could experience. A first I thought I might have two books. Then three. But the ideas just kept coming, and I saw an overall arc and realized what I wanted to do and how to do it. The ideas are plentiful. They are an awful lot of fun to draft, and it’s hard to stop working on them.

Upon hearing that Lord Of A Shattered Land is the first of five in The Chronicles Of Hanuvar series, some people will decide to wait until all five are out so they can read them back-to-back. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t wait?

The Ring-Sworn trilogy was pretty much one long story, but each of the Hanuvar books stands alone, and could be enjoyed on its own, though I admit they’re more fun to read in sequence, much like the Dresden Files books. Additionally, the end of each one makes a good pause point.

Moreover, each book is structured like a modern TV series in that it consists of individual episodes that are complete in themselves, but that build upon one another so that major arcs take several episodes to resolve, and some characters return.

Lastly, each novel concludes with a kind of season finale, where major arcs are wrapped up. Threats may loom for the next book, but there’s a sense of accomplishment and resolution. Reading one is like binging a TV season. You could enjoy each episode, but the season finale all on its own, but I think the adventures are more rewarding if they’re read in sequence.

Now, along with all the novels, you also edit a fantasy magazine called Tales From The Magician’s Skull. By which I mean the magazine is about fantasy, not that the mag is just in your head. Anyway, what kind of magazine is it?

It is straight up-sword & sorcery. Believe it or not, there are many different flavors of that. Sometimes the horror element is more prominent, sometimes the story is more of a historical thing, sometimes the sorcery is fairly minor, sometimes it’s the dominant feature. Sometimes the writing is droll and amusing but most of the time it’s taut and sober and it’s always entertaining.

We’ve published James Enge’s Morlock in nearly every issue. We’re publishing wonderful, authorized Fafhrd And The Gray Mouser fiction by Nathan Long. We print pieces from well-known writers like William King and Chris Willrich and Adrian Cole and so much wonderful sword & sorcery and heroic fiction from so many other writers. Look at the San Julian covers, and the wonderful internal artwork! Even the table of contents is a thing of beauty.

By the time this interview goes live 11 issues of this glorious periodical will be available for purchase, and it can be found at Amazon or the Goodman Games website as both a physical magazine and an electronic one.

Earlier I asked if Lord Of A Shattered Land had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think Lord Of A Shattered Land would work as a movie, a TV show, or a game?

Made up of distinct, interconnected episodes as it is, I think it would be perfect as a Netflix show or animated TV series. I could even tell you which of the sections would have to be translated into two-part mini events. Ha! My son’s both an artist and composer and he drew a great Bruce Timm style Hanuvar for my website. I would love to see the series brought to life looking like that.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Lord Of A Shattered Land?

My son, Darian Jones, was hired to create the wonderful internal maps of the series. They are things of beauty. I heard gasps from the audience when the map from Lord Of A Shattered Land was shown on a large screen at LibertyCon.

Dave Seeley’s the dedicated cover artist, and I’ve heard some oohs and ahs over his first two covers as well. I can hardly wait to see what he’ll come up with for the third volume.

Darian also created a Hanuvar theme song that I play nearly every day before I sit down to write, to get me in the right frame of mind. I love it not just because he’s my son, but because it’s a great piece of music that really describes the character and his challenges — the ticking clock as time runs out for his people and pursuit closes in, Hanuvar’s relentless determination, the somber backstory — it’s all there in Darian’s arrangement. Some day this kid’s going to be scoring blockbusters.

Howard Andrew Jones Lord Of A Shattered Land The Chronicles Of Hanuvar The City Of Marble And Blood

Finally, if someone enjoys Lord Of A Shattered Land, what similar kind of fantasy novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for The City Of Marble And Blood to come out?

There’s the aforementioned James Enge and Chris Willrich and William King, and I certainly hope you’ve been reading them. Baen is really rolling out the carpet for sword & sorcery, something most traditional fantasy publishers have been neglecting to do for long years. From their stable you have three Indrajit And Fix books by D.J. Butler, and Wraithbound, sort of an epic fantasy with sword & sorcery elements from Tim Akers, and Larry Correria’s Saga Of The Forgotten Warrior sequence, the fifth book of which is being written as we speak.



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