Exclusive Interview: “Road To Ruin” Author Hana Lee


Writer Hana Lee is not the first person to be inspired by the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, and she won’t be the last.

Though she might be the first who was inspired to write a Fury Road-inspired fantasy story…with motorcycles…that run on magic.

In the following email interview, Lee talks about the novel in question, Road To Run (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), including how it’s (hopefully) the first book in a trilogy.

Hana Lee Road To Ruin

To begin, what is Road To Ruin about, and what kind of a world is it set in?

Road To Ruin is a science fantasy novel set in a Mad Max-inspired wasteland, with monsters, motorcycles, and magic.

It’s about a courier named Jin-Lu who ferries wares across the wasteland, and falls in love with two of her employers, who are also in love with each other. One of them, a princess stuck in an abusive family situation with an arranged marriage she doesn’t want, asks Jin to help her escape. Jin says yes, and everything kicks off from there.

Where did you get the idea for this story? What inspired it?

Mad Max: Fury Road came out in 2015 and rewired my brain. I watched it three times in theaters, and roughly 6 years later I decided to write a novel with the same vibes. But since I’m a fantasy writer, there had to be magic. So: engines that run on magic.

But given that motorcycles aren’t typical fantasy fare, and Fury Road is more about cars and trucks, why did you give Jin-Lu a motorcycle?

Motorcycles are cool! They’re like the horse of the post-apocalyptic genre: a symbol of freedom, independence, and grit. Riding a motorcycle means you’re in touch with the elements in a way you just aren’t in a car (one with a roof, anyway).

It was also important for the story that Jin’s mode of transportation isn’t too fantastical, so griffins or flying carpets were out.

Road To Ruin sounds like a post-apocalyptic / romantic sci-fi story, but also has elements of fantasy magic. How do you describe it, genre-wise?

I describe it as science fantasy, and occasionally as romantic science fantasy.

Post-apocalyptic describes the aesthetic, but not the actual plot: it isn’t about dealing with the fallout of an apocalypse. Magic and technology live side by side and are even combined to create inventions like the magebike (magic motorcycle), so it’s definitely a science fantasy.

And then, in regards to the romance aspects, how romantic are we talking about? Like, will someone who’s dead inside enjoy this, or is it super mushy?

It’s too romantic for someone who hates romance, but possibly not romantic enough for someone who loves it. I’m right in the middle: I love reading and writing about characters who are struggling to deal with their feelings during high-stakes, life-or-death situations. Like, this really isn’t the time to be kissing or pining for each other, and they don’t have space to develop a healthy relationship. There’s too much plot happening. But feelings are going to get in the way whether they like it or not. And they’ll just have to deal with it — poorly, most likely.

Road To Ruin is your first novel, but you’ve had a story published in Fantasy Magazine. Are there any writers, or stories, that had a big influence on Ruin but not anything else you’ve written?

Road To Ruin was influenced a lot by The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French and This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. These are two very different books with almost nothing in common. Grey Bastards is about half-orcs riding pigs in a wasteland, and Time War is a very elegantly written novella about the love story between two time traveling agents. You’ll find elements of both in Road To Ruin.

You also, according to your website, write poetry, which suggests you read it as well. How do you think poetry may have influenced how you wrote Road To Ruin?

I think reading poetry is a must for any writer who wants to improve their prose, though writing it is optional. Poetry is the ultimate form of playing with language and imagery to make people feel things, often in a very compressed amount of space. You’ll hear novels described as “lyrical” or “poetic,” and I don’t think Road To Ruin has been described as either of those things, but it is fast-paced and gets across a lot in a short amount of time — and despite that, I don’t think the prose is particularly bare-bones. That’s probably the influence of poetry.

And then what about non-literary influences? Are there any movies, TV shows, or games that had a big influence on Road To Ruin? Besides Mad Max: Fury Road, of course.

Legend Of Korra and Final Fantasy VII were big influences on the book. I think anybody who’s watched or played them will be able to tell when they read Road To Ruin. I am hugely inspired by non-literary influences, and a big believer that the essential elements of storytelling are the same across all types of media.

And what about your (and I’m quoting you here) “…ridiculously fluffy cats,” Saskia and Calcifer. How did they influence Road To Ruin?

Well, if you’ve read the first chapter of Road To Ruin, you’d know there’s a baby dinosaur, and the first thing it does after crashing into Jin’s bike is bite her hand when she tries to pick it up. My experience with cats is that they like to cause problems, and they’re not above hand-biting if they don’t like what you’re doing.

My cats are named Saskia (after the Witcher 2 character) and Calcifer (after the cute fire demon from Howl’s Moving Castle).

Calcifer, Saskia


Now, you’ve already said Road To Ruin is the first book in a series called Magebike Courier. What was it about this story that made you realize it needed more than one book to tell?

I initially planned for the book to be a stand-alone. But I realized two things. A) Jin’s character journey wasn’t finished by the end of the book. B) There were larger things going on in the world of Road To Ruin that would be interesting to explore across a series.

The first book initiates a ton of change for both Jin and the world she lives in, and while I could perhaps have tied up the loose ends in a satisfying way via some sort of epilogue, it would be more fun and immersive to explore them in a sequel or two.

So, what can you tell us about this series?

I’m planning on a trilogy.

The second book is complete and has a title, but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to share it yet. It’s currently undergoing edits and is planned to release in Spring 2025. I’m hearing rumblings about an April release date.

Presumably the third book, if it happens (it’s still not a sure thing) would come out about a year after that, in 2026.

Upon hearing that Road To Ruin is the first book of a trilogy, some people will hold off reading Ruin until all of the books are out, and some will further decide that, when that happens, they’ll read all of them back-to-back. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t wait?

Personally, I don’t understand the mindset of waiting for the whole series to come out at all, because the vast majority of a time, as a reader I’m the one who’s not likely to finish the series, not the author.

If I don’t like a book enough to read the sequels, better to know that sooner so I can take those books off my TBR. If I do like a book enough to read the sequels, then it’s great fun to anticipate the next one, and in the meantime I can talk to all my friends and convince them to read so we can discuss together.

For Magebike Courier, I think there’s plenty of speculation and discussion that can happen between books. It’s fun to have unanswered questions. I think I’m influenced by being pretty into the fandom side of things, where fans get tons of satisfaction out of discussing ongoing media and creating their own stories to fill the gaps.

You talked earlier about how Road To Ruin was influenced by Mad Max: Fury Road, Legend Of Korra, and Final Fantasy VII. But to flip things around, do you think Ruin could be adapted into a movie or a game? Or a TV show for that matter?

Oh, absolutely. I was imagining Road To Ruin as a Hollywood blockbuster the whole time I was writing it; in my opinion, it’s definitely fit for the screen. It might be very expensive to make, though. We’d need CGI dinosaurs for one thing.

And if someone wanted to adapt Road To Ruin into a movie, who would you want them to cast as Jin-Lu, Yi-Nereen, and the other main characters?

I’m not good with these sorts of questions because I don’t follow many actors. The important thing to me is that none of these characters are white, and they should not be played by white actors. I’ve always seen Jin-Lu as best portrayed by a multiracial or East Asian actress, and Yi-Nereen and Kadrin by South or Southeast Asian actors.

Actually, I do have a fan cast for Yi-Nereen (is it a fan cast if it’s mine?): Anya Chalotra, who played Yennefer in Netflix’s The Witcher. I think she would be perfect.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Road To Ruin?

Have I mentioned that there’s LGBTQ+, polyamory, and BIPOC rep? I know I’m always looking for sci-fi / fantasy novels that check two or more of those boxes. If I can help somebody fill out a bingo card for a reading challenge, that’s a plus.

Hana Lee Road To Ruin

Finally, if someone enjoys Road To Ruin, what novel of someone else’s that you read recently, and liked, and is in the same vein, would you suggest they read while waiting for the next Magebike Courier novel to come out?

I would recommend Genoveva Dimova’s Foul Days. It’s out in June from Tor and it’s also a fast-paced fantasy novel with a fun romantic subplot. Lots of monsters, too. I read it across two sittings and the pages flew by. The narrator has such an enjoyable voice.



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