With Siege Of Rage And Ruin (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), writer Django Wexler is bringing his Wells Of Sorcery trilogy to a close. And in the following email interview, he discusses what inspired and influenced this concluding chapter. But when one door closes, a bunch of other doors apparently open. Which is why this Q&A also has Wexler talking about Hard Reboot (paperback, Kindle), the sci-fi novella he has coming out this May; Ashes Of The Sun, which kicked off a new (and unrelated) fantasy trilogy last summer; and his brief trip to a galaxy far, far away.
Photo Credit: Edmund Smith
I’d like to begin with a bit of background: What is The Wells Of Sorcery trilogy about, and what kind of world is it set in?
The Wells Of Sorcery is set in a world where some people are born able to access one or more of the nine Wells, each of which grants the power for a different type of magic: healing, fire, speed, etc. Control of magic is naturally very important for every society, and in the Blessed Empire only nobles are permitted to have it — commoners with magic are drafted into the military or killed.
Isoka is a criminal enforcer with combat magic, working dirty jobs to support her sister Tori. When the government tracks her down, they threaten Tori to blackmail Isoka into attempting the impossible — boarding and capturing the ghost ship Soliton.
And then, without spoiling anything, what is Siege Of Rage And Ruin about, and aside from being the final book of the trilogy, how does it connect to the second installment, City Of Stone And Silence?
It’s hard to do without spoilers, honestly. Broadly speaking, Isoka is headed back to Kahnzoka, her home, to reunite with Tori. But Tori hasn’t been sitting idle, and things back at home aren’t what Isoka is expecting.
Narratively, Siege is a direct follow-up to City. The same isn’t quite true chronologically, but only in a very technical sense. (Feel free to ignore this note if it’s confusing, readers.) Because on Isoka’s timeline there’s a long sea voyage between Ship and City, and another one between City and Siege, Tori’s timeline in City actually starts well before Isoka’s and ends well afterward. So when Siege starts, Tori is where we left her, and Isoka is where we left her plus weeks of travel, so both timelines in Siege can start in the same time and place. Whew!
(Seriously, you’d only notice if you were carefully counting the days like I do.)
When in the process of writing this series did you come up with main plot for Siege Of Rage And Ruin, and how, if at all, did it change as you wrote this series?
Things definitely changed a little bit over the course of writing the series. Ship has only Isoka’s POV. I knew roughly the events that would happen in Siege, but my original plan was for them to happen in the background and for Isoka to find out about them only when she returned.
While writing, though, I realized it was important to me that we have Tori’s point of view. Part of Isoka’s journey is realizing that her relationship with Tori, holding her up as this perfect innocent on a pedestal of perfection, is actually super unhealthy. And to make that clearer, Tori needed some agency of her own. So having a dual POV was something I added when it came time to write City.
Also, when you were coming up with the titles, did you think of them ahead of time, or did you get to the third book and realize oh crap, I have to come up with something that’s Something Of Something And Something?
Definitely the latter. It was…challenging. My titles tend to be very simple and literal (the original title was Deepwalker, and before that Soliton), but my editor wanted something different and came up with Ship Of Smoke And Steel. Then later I told her, I hope you have some more alliterative titles in mind…
The first two novels in The Wells Of Sorcery trilogy, Ship Of Smoke And Steel and City Of Stone And Silence, were epic fantasy stories. Is Siege Of Rage And Ruin one as well?
It’s definitely the same basic kind of story, but with a slightly different focus. The characters are in their home city now, not a mysterious ghost ship full of monsters. So when they fight, it’s against people and not giant crabs, and that’s something that affects them. There’s also a little more attention to the conflicting interests of many groups — not everything can be solved with magical duels.
So are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Siege Of Rage And Ruin but not on Ship Of Smoke And Steel and City Of Stone And Silence? Or, for that matter, anything else you’ve written?
A ton, obviously, but nothing specifically for Siege I think? The most direct influence on the series was probably Leigh Bardugo’s Six Of Crows. Before taking on a YA project, I went on a YA reading binge, and that was my favorite. It (and a bunch of other great writers) really opened my eyes to the cool stuff you could do in modern YA. It’s changed a lot since I was a kid.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games?
We have a few big battles in here, and that definitely draws a bit on my historical reading. There’s also a ton of anime influence. I’ve been a big anime fan for years, and it comes through in various ways, but this is probably the most “anime” series I’ve written. Especially visually — people being surrounded by glowing auras of energy or mutating into giant tumors have a very anime feel.
As I’m sure you know, some people have been waiting for Siege Of Rage And Ruin to come out so they can read the entire trilogy back-to-back. Do you think this is the best way to experience this saga, or do you think people should take breaks in between?
Honestly, I think either way is fine, it probably depends on the reader. Some people really like to binge, and this is a story that works for that — it’s a direction continuation with a complete arc from beginning to end. Other readers prefer to intersperse with other works (I’m probably in this category) and that’s fine, too.
Some people who write fantasy trilogies expand upon them with side stories or sequels. Are you thinking you might do this as well?
Probably not, though I’d never say never. In general, my series are planned around a character’s journey, and when it’s done it’s usually done. When I start something else with a new character, it usually demands a different world to highlight it — the worldbuilding is fun for me anyway, so I never mind doing more.
Along with Siege Of Rage And Ruin, you also have a sci-fi novella coming out May 25th called Hard Reboot. What is that story about, plot-wise, and when and where is it set?
Hard Reboot is set in the deep future, on the poisoned ruins of Old Earth. Kas, a specialist in archeocode from a wealthy colony, comes for a research trip, but while her tour group is watching a warbot fight, a local con artist named Zhi tricks her into making a bet she can’t cover. With the gambling house after both of them, Kas and Zhi have to figure out a way to make the next fight a winner…
It kind of sounds like that Hugh Jackman movie, Real Steel. Was that movie an influence on Hard Reboot?
I don’t think I’ve seen Real Steel, so I can’t really claim it as an influence. This is definitely more of an anime thing — there’s a lot in there from the Gundam franchise and Code Geass. The setting, this far-future with an ornate junk-heap Earth, owes a lot to Max Gladstone’s Empress Of Forever and Peter Hamilton’s Commonwealth series, plus the anime Legend Of Galactic Heroes.
Hard Reboot is sci-fi and much shorter than Siege Of Rage And Ruin. How did writing the former influence what you did in the latter, and vice versa?
Hard Reboot was originally supposed to be a short story — I seem to work more in SF at a shorter length — for an “swordswoman x princess” anthology I co-created called Silk & Steel. Unfortunately I got a little over-excited, and what was supposed to be a 7,500 word piece came it at like 33,000. So I wrote a different story for Silk & Steel, and sent Hard Reboot out as a novella. It was a shockingly quick project for me — something like eight days of writing from beginning to end. I’d plotted it all out over Christmas 2019, and when I got home it just exploded onto the page.
You also recently had a short story in the Star Wars anthology The Empire Strikes Back: From A Certain Point Of View. Does this mean you’re going to be writing a Star Wars novel or three? Maybe one about Isoka, I mean Ahsoka…
That was a lot of fun! I love Star Wars, obviously, and I’d love to do a novel in that universe. No current plans, though. (There’s already an excellent Ahsoka novel by E. K. Johnston though. Star Wars: Ahsoka. I love Ahsoka.)
As if a new novel and novella weren’t enough, you also, last summer, published Ashes Of The Sun, which is the first book in a trilogy called Burningblade & Silvereye. We went into more depth about that novel in the interview we did when it came out [which you can read by clicking here], but real quick, what is that series about, and how is it different from The Wells Of Sorcery trilogy?
Ashes Of The Sun I’ve been describing as a “post-fantasy apocalypse” — a high fantasy civilization comes crashing down and the survivors live amongst the ruins. It has some common elements with The Wells Of Sorcery, actually. Both are interested in how a society might deal with inborn magic, this idea that some people intrinsically have power that others don’t. Ashes is much more ambivalent on the subject, though.
In that interview, you said the second book would be out this July, “if all goes well.” Has all gone well?
All has not exactly gone well, not with me specifically but with…you know, the world. So the book — the title is Blood Of The Chosen — is now scheduled for October. Other than that, though, it’s coming along fine, I’m just finished up the edits now. Book 3, still titleless, is on my agenda for this year.
Earlier I asked if Siege Of Rage And Ruin had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. Has there been any interest in turning The Wells Of Sorcery trilogy into a movie, show, or game?
Nothing I can talk about, unfortunately. It’d be hard to do in live-action with all the fancy powers and magic — nobody wants another Dragonball or The Last Airbender movie — but I would love to see it as an animated series. It’d be very appropriate given its anime roots.
Finally, if someone enjoys Siege Of Rage And Ruin and the rest of The Wells Of Sorcery trilogy, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one?
I’d go with Ashes Of The Sun. The two series have a lot in common, and a similar style of magic — very flash-and-bang fighting magic, while something like The Shadow Campaigns has a more subtle, personal kind.
Though for a younger reader (or just someone who enjoys middle-grade) my Forbidden Library series has some of the same themes, plus capturing magical creatures and using their powers.