Four years after releasing the first half, fantasy writer Michael Johnston is concluding the story he began in 2017’s Soleri with his new companion novel Silence Of The Soleri (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook). Though as he reveals in the following email interview about it, this may only be the end of the first story.
Photo Credit: Cathryn Farnsworth
I’d like to start with some background. What was your novel Soleri about, and what kind of world was it set in?
Soleri was born out of my fascination with ancient Egypt. There are so many aspects of that culture that fascinate me, but I think its most compelling aspect is it longevity. No civilization has ever come close to it. They had their own dark ages. There is something truly epic about that, and I wanted to invent something captured that that sense of history.
In Soleri, we find a world that fell apart centuries ago, but it’s still coasting on the inertia it built up over millennia. The Soleri have always been be there…until, of course, the inevitable end, which is where the book gets started. It’s the story of an empire’s fall and the family at the heart of it, the Hark-Wadi’s, and how their own family has splintered when their fathers leave home to serve as the empire’s de facto leader and children are left to quarrel over their kingdom’s throne.
And then what is Silence Of The Soleri about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to Soleri?
In terms of story, there’s no gap between the two volumes. The action in Silence Of The Soleri begins directly hour after the concluding events of the first novel. There is no second or middle novel in this series. Soleri introduced the reader to an immense world, and Silence Of The Soleri brings that whole world to an ending. It’s a war novel, that centers around the siege of the Soleri capital. It opens with the first skirmish and the action never lets up. Chapter after chapter, more armies join the fray until the city is itself, Solus, is consumed in a war whose armies are both god and human.
When in the process of writing Soleri did you come up with the idea for Silence Of The Soleri, and how, if at all, did that idea change as you wrote this second story?
Honestly, it’s just one big story, and there’s hardly any break between the two novels. The second book was fully outlined before I completed the first book, so the events of Soleri trigger the main action in Silence. The two work really well together, and I recommend reading them back-to-back.
Soleri was an epic fantasy tale. Is Silence Of The Soleri one as well, or are there other genres that either describe it better or are at work in this story as well?
Epic fantasy fits just fine. In fact, I couldn’t think of a better way to say it. I’m in it for the epic, for the vast conflicts that rage across empires. In this one, I pushed it as far as I could, building toward a big, world-changing end for the series.
Now, in the previous interview we did about Soleri [which you can read here], you said that it was the half of the story. I assume then that Silence Of The Soleri is the second half, yes?
The plan held! Thanks for bringing up that detail. This duology is a novel in two parts and Silence is the second part of that story. I’m really pleased with that aspect of the process and I glad I was able to (hopefully) pull it off.
And, as you said, you think people should read them back-to-back…
Without a doubt, they were meant to read as one volume. If you waited to read them back-to-back, you’ve done yourself a favor. Though for those who read Soleri back in 2017 and have forgotten everything about it, I provided a good amount of recap. It’s sprinkled throughout the first hundred pages, so you should be able to jump right back into the story. For those who do read the novels back-to-back, you’ll probably enjoy seeing some of the seeds that I planted in the first book grow into full-fledged plotlines in the second novel. As someone who rereads novels, I love finding those bits of foreshadowing that an author sprinkles throughout a book. They make for a rich experience on the second or even third time I go through a book, so I try to do a bit of that. Here’s an example: The villain of the second book, Mered Saad, appears once or twice in book one, but he’s a minor figure and I doubt most readers took note of his character. But if you read them back-to-back, you’ll see him appear as a very minor character in the first book, then blossom into a major player in Silence.
You also said in our earlier interview that you had ideas for a third novel, which would be a stand-alone story that, “starts thousands of years before Soleri and ends after it,” a novella set between Soleri and Silence Of The Soleri, as well as “a second story that will wrap up some of threads that are not addressed in the first two books.” Are you still planning to write those other two novels and the novella?
I’m glad you brought that up. I do have an idea for a second duology. Silence is the end, and it works well, but there are some greater philosophical and history elements that aren’t fully explained. I have a plan to explain those elements in a second set of books. The novels would explore the history and nature of the Soleri, and they would, as promised, begin thousands of years before Soleri and end thousands of years after Silence. I love the concept, and I hope to have the opportunity to write those novels. As of now I haven’t sold any additional books in the series. If I get the chance, I’d love to dive back into the world.
Something else we talked about in that previous interview was that you had an agent looking to see if anyone might be interested in turning this series into a movie or TV show. Is there any news on that front?
Zoic Studios optioned the book in 2018, but the rights reverted back to me this year, and we’re looking for someone new to take over the film rights. Though I think TV would be the right medium. Two hours just isn’t enough time to get into the details of a novel.
Finally, if someone enjoys Soleri and Silence Of The Soleri, what fantasy duology of someone else’s would you recommend they read next and why that?
Dan Simmons’ Hyperion duology [Hyperion and Fall Of Hyperion] inspired me to write my own two-book series, but I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t read Hyperion. The last great book I read was Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. I trained to be an architect and I’ve had a decades-long fascination with Piranesi’s work. Also, it’s a short but entertaining read, and the best thing I’ve come across in a while.