Exclusive Interview: “Nightborn: Coldfire Rising” Author C.S. Friedman


Nearly thirty years after she concluded the Coldfire trilogy with 1995’s Crown Of Shadows, author C.S. Friedman is returning to this series with the prequel novel Nightborn: Coldfire Rising (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook).

In the following email interview, Friedman explains how Nightfire connects to the trilogy, why it alters the formula from epic fantasy with some horror and sci-fi to sci-fi with some horror and fantasy, as well as her plans for other novels in the Coldfire universe.

C.S. Friedman Nightborn Coldfire Rising

For people who didn’t read it, what was the Coldfire trilogy about?

The Coldfire trilogy takes place on a distant world that was originally settled by Terran colonists. Soon after arriving, they discovered the planet harbored a terrifying force that could bring their darkest dreams and most desperate hopes to life.

The Coldfire trilogy takes place 1200 years later. Humankind has learned to coexist with the fae by then, but it has cost them dearly, and the complex technology the settlers brought with them is a thing of the past. Ancient symbols and rituals have been revived, with sorcerers binding the fae to their will like magic. But it remains at its core an uncontrollable force, always unpredictable — as natural to the environment as elements like air, water, and fire, and equally dangerous.

The Coldfire trilogy centers around an unlikely alliance between an idealistic warrior-priest and a sorcerer from out of legend, a former religious prophet who traded his soul for eternal life and now embodies the darkest aspects of the human spirit. Circumstances force them to cooperate in order to combat a greater evil, but theirs is an edged and volatile relationship that threatens to corrupt them both. Meanwhile, the creature they must confront is derived from humanity’s own inner darkness, and feeds on their weakness.

And then, what is Nightborn: Coldfire Rising about, and when and where does it take place in relation to the Coldfire trilogy?

Nightborn tells the story of the original founding of the colony, and their struggle to understand and control the fae. In it, we see the desperate struggle of scientific-minded men and women to comprehend and control a force that appears magical in aspect, which manifests their own inner darkness. Ultimately, they will have to draw upon ancient knowledge to survive, and resurrect forgotten rituals. Terrible sacrifices will be required.

This is the civilizational trauma that sets the stage for the Coldfire trilogy.

What inspired you to write a prequel, as well as its specific plot?

The founding of Erna has always been a key part of the story. Ernans are very aware of their roots and how the colonists’ great sacrifice shaped their world. The prologue of the second book, When True Night Falls, offers a glimpse of that event. A teaser, if you will.

The Coldfire trilogy mixed together elements of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Is it safe to assume Nightborn: Coldfire Rising does the same?

I draw upon the genres I need to tell an exciting story, with no respect for traditional constraints. The Coldfire trilogy is epic fantasy with an undercurrent of horror, and a distant echo of sci-fi. Nightborn is a mixture of sci-fi and horror with a current of fantasy that gains in strength throughout the piece. Both works reflect the same universe: a world precariously balanced between science and magic, but at different stages in human development. Dominion, a novella packaged with Nightborn, is dark fantasy with a soupcon of horror.

Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Nightborn: Coldfire Rising but not on anything else you’ve written, and especially not the Coldfire trilogy?

If you are exempting the Coldfire trilogy, then no, there are not. The seeds of Nightborn are in the Coldfire trilogy, so I don’t know how you could discuss one without the other.

How about non-literary influences; was Nightborn: Coldfire Rising influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?

There is a movie that influenced my creation of the fae: the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet. (Warning: movie spoiler) In it, an ancient alien artifact manifests humanity’s primitive instincts — the id — creating monsters that appear to be supernatural until their source is discovered. The difference is that my fae is a natural force, not one created by technology, and it is as likely to manifest what a person desires as what he fears. But all fae-creatures were created by humans, so they feed on humans; even the benign ones are deadly.

And what about your cats, Juno, Xena, and Belladonna? What influence did they have on Nightborn: Coldfire Rising?

Sadly, I lost Juno and Xena while working on Nightborn, so having them curled up on my desk waiting for a petting break is no longer possible. Bella prefers to curl up under the desk, pinning down my feet so I can’t fidget, with occasional desktop visits to repeatedly bash her head into my right hand, so that use of the mouse becomes impossible.

Juno, Xena The Warrior Princess, Belladonna Couchkiller


Now, as we’ve been discussing, Nightborn: Coldfire Rising is a prequel to your Coldfire trilogy. But is it also the start of a new series, like a prequel trilogy?

Nightborn is an independent volume. While the sci-fi background of Erna is interesting, and the story of its primal sacrifice is compelling, I don’t feel that it merits more than one book. The primary appeal of Coldfire is dark fantasy, and I mean to stay focused on that.

 What I have planned is what I call The Coldfire Project, a series of novels and novellas set in various periods in Ernan history. Some will deal with characters later seen in the Coldfire trilogy, while others will be completely new stories. All will explore the mysteries of a world that has been shaped by human dreams and fears, and a form of wild magic that can be channeled by sorcerers, but never fully tamed.

While there are people who’ve read the Coldfire trilogy, for some, Nightborn: Coldfire Rising is the first they’re hearing of it. Do you think people should read Nightborn before jumping into the trilogy, or should they read the Coldfire trilogy and then Nightborn?

Nightborn was written to be wholly independent of the Coldfire trilogy, and you could read either first.

That said, part of the appeal of the Coldfire trilogy is the mysterious nature of the fae, and I think one might enjoy that more without some of the information that Nightborn provides.

There is also, as I mentioned, a novella included with Nightborn, Dominion, which deals with an antihero whose identity and secrets are slowly unveiled in Black Sun Rising [the first book of the Coldfire trilogy]. If you want to experience of that slow reveal, read the novels first.

Hollywood likes turning books into movies, TV shows, and games. Especially when there’s franchise potential. Do you think the Coldfire series could work as a bunch of movies, a TV show, or a series of games?

Coldfire would be amazing in a visual medium. I can think of nothing more exciting than to see the fae in any of these formats, and I think it would be a hit in any medium. We have come very close to a Coldfire game deal in the past, and there are several ongoing efforts to make a TV series happen. But the decision to produce such a work does not lie with the author, and only time will tell if they bear fruit.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Nightborn: Coldfire Rising?

It’s intense, suspenseful, heart-rending, and one of the best things I’ve ever written. If you’re curious about my writing, give it a shot!

C.S. Friedman Nightborn Coldfire Rising

Finally, if someone enjoys Nightborn: Coldfire Rising, and they’ve already read the rest of the Coldfire series, which of your other novels would you suggest they check out next?

The Magister TrilogyFeast Of Souls, Wings Of Wrath, and Legacy Of Kings — is my other dark fantasy epic, and was inspired by a question raised at the end of the Coldfire trilogy: What would happen if the cost of magic was the user’s life? If you liked Coldfire, I think you’ll enjoy that one, too.

Though if you are interested in reading more of my sci-fi, try This Alien Shore.



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