With The Memory Of Souls (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), writer Jenn Lyons has reached the halfway point of her epic fantasy pentalogy, A Chorus Of Dragons. In the following email interview, she discusses what inspired and influenced this third part of five, and what she’s thinking of calling the last two parts.
Photo Credit: Matthew & Nicole Nicholson / Dim Horizon Studio
The series is about a man named Kihrin who finds out he’s at the center of this series of prophecies about the destruction of the world. Except rather than being the one who’s going to save everyone, he might be the one destroying everything. Which is a bit of a problem for him, since he doesn’t want to do that. So this was my chance to explore the chosen one trope and this idea of why we always seem to expect someone to come along and save us. And, as always, I really wanted to be able to write about dragons.
As for the world itself, it’s really two worlds. There’s the Living World, but its twin, the Afterlife, is just as much a real, tangible place. Both worlds are damaged, however, and it’s the quest to repair that damage and stop an otherwise slow but inevitable slide into annihilation which drives the entire series.
And then for people who have read those books, what is The Memory Of Souls about, and how does it connect, narratively and chronologically, to the previous novel, The Name Of All Things?
The Memory Of Souls picks up immediately after the end of The Name Of All Things, and narratively deals with the heroes from those two books having to deal with the consequences of what’s happened. Things have gone from bad to worse, but not to worry: every time this evil god has previously come close to escaping in ages past, people have always performed this ritual to imprison him again. All it requires is for an immortal race to give up their immortality…
Yeah. So maybe the only immortal race left, the vané, aren’t jumping up and down in their eagerness to volunteer. Which begs the question: What’s an acceptable price to pay when the fate of the world is at stake? And what happens when the so-called “volunteer” says no?
When in relation to writing The Ruin Of Kings and The Name Of All Things did you come up with the plot for The Memory Of Souls and how, if at all, did the story evolve as you wrote it?
Oh, I knew very early on what the plot for this book would be, although it did shift a little (the story always evolves a little.) In particular, what happened to one of the villains in this story was a direct result of my editor complaining that I was killing them off too quickly. When I sent back the revised manuscript, I told her “please keep in mind things are much harder for the heroes now, and it’s all your fault.” But this book wraps up or continues a number of threads that I know readers were upset weren’t covered in the second book. What happened to Therin, Khaeriel, Galen, Talon, etc.
The Ruin Of Kings and The Name Of All Things were epic fantasy tales. Is The Memory Of Souls one as well?
I would say it’s even more epic fantasy than the first two books in that Memory really follows the heroic quest trope. This is very classic stuff: the heroes are traveling to a far-off land to do a thing so they can defeat a dark god. And then nothing goes as planned, as is tradition.
Are there any writers or specific stories that had a big influence on The Memory Of Souls but not on The Ruin Of Kings or The Name Of All Things?
Weirdly no. I’m sure there were because no act of creation happens in a void, but nothing obvious is coming to mind. But I will say it’s difficult to have a magical, immortal race that lives on the top of trees without thinking of Tolkien, for example, or a beautiful, elegant race that lives up high while an entirely different, “ugly” race lives down below in the shadows without thinking of H.G. Wells.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or video games; did any of those have a big influence on The Memory Of Souls?
I have once again slipped my mandatory Hamilton Easter egg into the book, but that’s been true of every book. My proofreaders tried so hard to remove that comma after “Dearest,” too.
As we’ve been discussing, the Chorus Of Dragons saga will ultimately be a five-book story. That is still the plan, right?
Yes, that is still the plan. I’m starting to write book 5 right now.
So do you know yet what the other two books will be called and when they’ll be out?
Don’t hold me to it, because I don’t know if the name is final, but I believe book 4 is The House Of Always and it will be out next year. My working title for Book 5 (an almost certain guarantee it will not be called that) is The Map Of God.
I was thinking it was going to be The End Of It All?
Sorry. Now, along with The Memory Of Souls, your publisher, Tor, recently issued the paperback version of The Ruin Of Kings. Besides being lighter, and maybe correcting a typo or two, is there anything different about the paperback version of that book from the original hardcover?
Other than a few typo corrections, there’s nothing different.
In the previous interviews we did about The Ruin Of Kings or The Name Of All Things [which you can read by clicking here and here, respectfully], we talked about how Annapurna Studios were developing this story into a TV series. Is it safe to assume, given the corona virus pandemic, that there’s nothing new to say about it at this time?
Yeah, nothing new. Believe me, I wish there were.
So they still haven’t reached out to Vin Diesel about playing Thurvishar?
Not that I know of. (Are you listening, Vin? Call me!)
Are there any new characters in The Memory Of Souls who you think should be played by one of The Fast & The Furious people? I mean, Gal Gadot knows how to swing a sword.
Oh, I would be delighted by any of them.
Finally, have you read any really good fantasy novels during the current lockdown that you’d like to recommend to fans of your books?
Omg, there are so many good books out there right now. K.A. Doore just wrapped up her Chronicles Of Ghadid trilogy, which is amazing, and I recommend highly. Pretty much anything written by any of my fellow Astounding Award nominees is also a delight and I would recommend without reservation. I’m really looking forward to Deborah Falaye’s Blood Scion and P. Djeli Clark’s Ring Shout, but those are not yet out.