For years, readers have debated which is better: science fiction or fantasy. It was even recently argued in the new (and good) short story collection, Robots Vs. Fairies. But in the following email interview with writer Tina LeCount Myers about her epic fantasy novel The Song Of All (hardcover, Kindle) — the first book in The Legacy Of The Heavens trilogy — she explains how her new tale actually grew out of a debate over what’s different about sci-fi and fantasy.
Photo Credit: Alec Johnson Bates
I always like to begin with a summary of the plot. So, what is The Song Of All about?
In the Northlands, war has raged endlessly between two ancient tribes. Irjan, a human warrior, must make a decision to either hunt down the immortals and tip the balance in the war against them or save his son and return to a life free of killing.
Where did you get the original idea for The Song Of All, and how different is the finished version of the novel from what you original envisioned?
The impetus for the story came from a debate with my husband about what distinguishes science fiction from fantasy. The upshot of the heated argument was that I challenged myself to write a fantasy novel with scientific underpinnings. The finished version of the novel is very close to the original story arc.
The Song Of All has been called epic fantasy. Do you agree with this, or do you think there’s another subgenre of fantasy, or combination of them, that describes it better?
When I started writing the story, I did not have a specific label in mind. So it’s been interesting to see how the book has been categorized. It varies quite a bit. From gritty, epic fantasy to upmarket, commercial fantasy. I’ve heard a couple of readers refer to it as mythopoeic. I can see aspects of each of these subgenres in The Song Of All, but I feel that epic fantasy is an apt descriptive of the book and its themes.
Are there any writers or novels that you feel were a big influence on The Song Of All, but are not something you’d cite as a big influence on your style as a whole?
I grew up in a family that emphasized classical literature. I read Austen, Dickens, Elliot, Hugo, and Tolstoy. I think Hugo and Tolstoy had the most significant impact on me in terms of impressing me with the sweeping scope of their storytelling and a large cast of characters. There is also the sense of nobility and pathos in both of their work which resonated with me, and I think made me curious about the nature of love and sacrifice. I wouldn’t say that my main character, Irjan, is Jean Valjean [from Hugo’s Les Miserables], but they have traits in common.
What about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that had a big impact on The Song Of All?
The biggest non-literary influences on the book come from my personal background. As a child living in Finland, my grandparents told me fairytales about spirits in the north. They were stories about bears who turned into men and sorceresses who lured lost hunters. On long walks in the woods, my grandfather also told me stories about his experiences in the Winter War with Russia, where he was hiding for weeks in the snow, behind enemy lines. His war stories and the fairytales have stayed with me all these years! That is the power of storytelling. Our brain is wired for it.
The Song Of All is set in an arctic wasteland. It also came out at the end of February. Did you ever worry this might work against you, that maybe they should put the book out in the summer?
The Song Of All is set in the Arctic tundra. But I would not describe the geography as a wasteland. The area I describe, like the real Arctic, has a rich, biodiverse ecosystem.
As for the timing of publication, that was determined by publisher. But I’m very happy to be a February debut. If anything, the recent snow storms have highlighted the fortitude it takes to thrive in harsh environments. It might be a little harder to conjure up sympathy for a character trudging through the snow when the reader is enjoying a warm sunny day on a beach.
Now, you’ve already said that The Song Of All is the first book in a series you’re calling The Legacy Of The Heavens. What is it about The Song Of All that made you think it was part of a larger saga?
Actually, when I finished the rough draft of The Song Of All, I was convinced that it was a standalone novel. I went so far as to make that statement to my husband. But that night, I had a dream in which the rest of the story came to me. Luckily, I was aware enough to realize what was happening and I got up at 3AM and wrote by hand by candlelight for the next two hours in a state of what felt like lucid dreaming. By the time I was done, I had the general outline for the next two books, Dreams Of The Dark Sky and The Northern Ones.
So what can you tell us about this series?
At present, The Legacy Of The Heavens is slated as a trilogy. Book two, Dreams Of The Dark Sky, is due out Winter of 2019, while book three, The Northern Ones, is scheduled for Winter 2020. There is, however, a possibility of a prequel sometime in 2020 or 2021. But these dates are all approximate based on the publisher’s schedule.
Obviously, people should buy The Song Of All now, and then again just to be cool, but is there any reason they shouldn’t read it now as well? Or should they wait until all three books are out before reading the series all together?
It’s a matter of personal preference. I know there are readers who will not begin a series until all the books are out. I’ve enjoyed reading book series that are spread out, and I have enjoyed binging a series one book right after another. Ideally, from a writer’s perspective, I’d prefer readers to start reading The Song OF All now because current book sales impact future opportunities both for the series and myself as its writer.
We spoke earlier about the movies, TV shows, or video games that may have influenced The Song Of All. But has there been any interest in adapting The Song Of All into a movie, TV show, or video game?
My agent is currently pursuing a variety of options, but nothing concrete has materialized so far.
Which do you think would work best?
I think The Song Of All has the potential to be a compelling movie or TV project. The vistas and landscape would be visually arresting. I’m sure a skilled game designer could also make use of the conflict between the two tribes to create a tense, character driven game. I look forward to the possibilities as they are presented.
If The Song Of All was to be adapted into a movie or TV show, who would you want them to cast in it?
I’ve had a set character storyboard for years now, but I am reluctant to share it. Everyone’s imagination will come up with different ideas of what certain characters look like, and I think they are all as valid as what I envisioned. The casting of The Song Of All as a movie or TV project I leave to the skilled casting agents out there. It’ll be a treat to see who they cast.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Song Of All, what would you suggest they read while waiting for the second book in The Legacy Of The Heavens and why?
There are so many great books out right now. I highly recommend K. Arsenault Rivera’s book The Tiger’s Daughter, Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin, Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man, Brent Weeks’ The Way Of Shadows, and Ausma Zehanat Khan’s The Bloodprint.