Today marks the official kickoff of the Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth Book Tour presented by Storytellers On Tour, and throughout the week we’ve got a great lineup helping us spotlight this incredible Fantasy tale! Rebirth is Christopher Russell’s debut fantasy novel, the first novel in his Divinity’s Twilight series, and a perfect read for you Sanderson fans out there. I hope to be getting to this one myself very soon! I’m very much looking forward to seeing what our hosts have to say in the coming days, so be sure to keep an eye out for some incredible content.
Christopher was kind enough to stop by to chat about what led to the creation of this book, his writing process, and what lies ahead for him, so keep scrolling for the tour schedule, more info about the book, the interview, and a giveaway!
We’ve enlisted a group of wonderful and talented bloggers and Bookstagrammers to help us feature Rebirth. This is what we have going on, so make sure to check out each and every one throughout the week for some brilliant content, including reviews and more.
SEPTEMBER 20TH–THE WELCOMING
Whispers & Wonder
Beneath A Thousand Skies
I Can Has Books?
The Writer’s Alley
The Bookwyrm’s Guide to the Galaxy
SEPTEMBER 26TH–THE ENCORE
For more about this tour visit Storytellers On Tour.
A world consumed by war . . .
An ancient evil resurrected . . .
A millennia old bargain comes due . . .
When two blades clash, the third will fall, and the fate of all will be jeopardized. To save Lozaria, the failures of the past must be atoned for by a new generation of heroes. The time has come for mortals to cast off sight and, in doing so, truly come to see . . .
Victory is never absolute.
Seven centuries ago, the forces of order won the Illyriite War on the plains of Har’muth. Darmatus and Rabban Aurelian slew their elder brother, Sarcon, the despotic architect of the conflict, then sacrificed themselves to banish the cataclysmic vortex opened with his dying breath. The first advent of the Oblivion Well was thwarted. Even without their vanished gods, the seven races of Lozaria proved themselves capable of safeguarding their world.
Or so the story goes.
The year is now 697 A.B.H (After the Battle of Har’muth). Though war itself remains much the same, the weapons with which it is waged have evolved. Airships bearing powerful cannons ply the skies, reducing the influence of mages and their spells. Long range communication has brought far flung regions of Lozaria closer than ever before. At the center of this technological revolution are the three Terran states of Darmatia, Rabban, and Sarconia, who have fought a near ceaseless campaign of 700 years in an attempt to best each other. The roots of their enmity lie buried beneath the wasteland of Har’muth, a place all three nations consider best forgotten.
However, an ancient power sealed within Har’muth has not forgotten them, and the descendants of those who fought on that field must now take a stand to rectify the mistakes of the past.
Meet The Author
Christopher Russell (native of Williamsburg, VA) is a 27-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineer (graduate of the University of Virginia) who has loved reading since the day he picked up a book and writing since he could scrawl his first letters. After voraciously consuming titles from every genre—ranging from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings—he decided to combine the expertise from his professional education, passions, and Christian faith into a fantasy epic bridging the gap between magic and science. He currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his loyal dog, Vallen, named after the protagonist of his first work. For behind-the-scenes information on all of Christopher Russell’s works, visit christopherrussellauthor.com.
Thanks so much for stopping by for a chat, Christopher. Since we already have your official bio, care to tell us about yourself in ten words or less?
A weaver of words and wondrous worlds. Fan of alliteration.
What’s a day of writing like in the shoes of Christopher? Do you have any quirks, routines, or rituals?
My daily rituals would put the most eccentric cult to shame. After waking up at the crack of 9 AM, I make my bed, greet my energetic Sheltie pups, and head downstairs to mix a bowl of gruel consisting of precisely one cup of cream of wheat, two cups of low-fat milk, and a thin sprinkling of sugar. Considering how exacting my breakfast preparations are, we could call this question quits right now. Peculiarity proven! But let’s skip the intervening steps and dive straight into writing habits.
As a pantser, I don’t do a lot of prep-work. My goal is to plow forward from my previous stopping point, attempting to hit a decent word-count before my brain fries. That isn’t to say I don’t have notes. Most of my ideas come to me at random times during the day: in the bathroom, while I’m desperately trying to fall asleep, or during a workout. I record all of these on my phone, synthesize them under broad headings for each WIP (work in progress), then spread the printed versions around my work space. Therefore my desk looks like it’s been struck by a tornado, and I appear as a crazed conductor, typing frantically between short bursts of frenzied searching for the perfect quote, world-building element, or cultural tenet.
Despite my disorganized workspace, I keep track of my daily word count in an excel spreadsheet. Some structure is necessary in the midst of chaos, and this method allows me to see a visual representation of progress—incredibly important when your epic fantasy novels average around 200k words—while holding me to a loose schedule or pacing. I write approximately one complete scene a day, and a 5-6k word chapter every two days. This rough estimate helps me avoid bloated portions in books that are known for author indulgence and excess. |
Every writing session ends with paranoia. There isn’t an author alive who hasn’t lost a sizeable chunk of their labors to a saving shenanigan, be it a quirk of circuitry, a pet laying atop their power cord, or a freak electrical storm erasing several hours of brilliant prose. So I circumvent this by not only saving regularly, but also saving in three places: my desktop, laptop, and flash drive. Paranoid? Yes, but also safe.
Give us an idea of how Rebirth came to fruition.
I am now obligated to regale you with one of my favorite stories about the book. Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth was born as all great works of art or literature are—from the pit of procrastination. During a somewhat tedious college Thermodynamics lecture, I flipped over my handout and began doodling coastlines, forests, and mountains. Rivers, landmarks, and cities came next, followed by national boundaries and country names. That crude sketch—which I still have . . . somewhere—was the origin of Lozaria, the world of Divinity’s Twilight.
The rest of the story spiraled off from there over the next eight years. However, it should be noted that I set the book aside for a three year period in the middle. Engineering classes were work enough, so why should I burden myself with writing when I emerged from piles of coursework? It seemed too much like an extra term paper.
But the project was resurrected in 2017. After reading Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt, I became determined to recreate the kind of military fantasy he had developed with a greater emphasis on the interplay between magic and technology. I also wanted an excuse to include airships in my universe, because who doesn’t like airships?
The first novel of Divinity’s Twilight, Rebirth, was completed at a sprint. Passion surged through my veins, and my fingers practically danced across the keyboard. Everything in the now released version—or at least the first draft of it—was finished in 2018. I have since been working on the sequels, the first of which is with beta-readers.
Can you share with us something about Rebirth that isn’t in the blurb?
Though the opening portion of Rebirth is plot heavy, focusing on the backstory of current affairs and the origins of 700 years of protracted conflict, the main cast is a group of diverse military cadets. Hailing from different countries, races, and social strata, they initially rub each other the wrong way, some coming to blows while the more sound-minded attempt to hold them together through each subsequent trial they face. But the things that connect people go deeper than their past or what they look like. So, at the risk of revealing spoilers, I’ll just say that this group’s journey is that of a “Found Family.” I hope you enjoy their antics as much as I do.
Was there any specific research you’ve done or inspiration you’ve pulled from for Rebirth?
I could talk about this subject for days. In order to avoid that, delightful as it might be, I’ll pick three examples that might be noticeable by students of history.
The Three Terran States: Rebirth’s plot revolves around three nations that have been in a state of near-perpetual war for the past seven centuries. Each was founded by one of three brothers who became divided over their ideological differences, philosophies that still broadly guide their descendents in the modern age. These countries are loosely based on Wei, Wu, and Shu, the feuding dominions of the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history. Granted, my states are not a perfect retelling of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, especially where government policies are concerned, but the idea originated with that book and the real events it’s based on.
The Sarconian Empire: Sarconia, one of the three principal Terran states, has heavy Germanic influences. These factors arise from the three years I spent living in Germany, the five years I spent studying the language, and my fascination with European history in general. Again, the Empire is not a direct import of any one government. While it has similarities to the pre-WWI German Empire, it also has callbacks to the early Roman Empire, the British Empire, and other empires throughout human history.
Lozarian Martial Arts: The combat techniques and weapons wielded by characters are influenced by my twelve years of training in Songahm Taekwondo, in which I hold a 3rd Degree Black Belt. I don’t claim perfect proficiency with all of them, especially the glaive, but I can perform the strikes and blocks mentioned in the novel. Vallen’s transforming weapon developed from my love of weapons and the question, “What if one person could use any weapon they wanted?”
What comes first, the plot or the characters?
A character can run away with the plot, shaping it to fit their wants, desires, and needs. Yet the instances where this occurred in Rebirth never broke the core story I set out to tell. As a result, Rebirth is a primarily plot driven story. My spine-tingling antagonist throws wrench after wrench into the carefully planned lives of my protagonists, and they respond as their personalities dictate—which in many cases means they respond poorly. They are a loveable bunch, but some intense soul-searching and bonding is necessary before they begin to command the trajectory of their lives.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? If so, who? What about them sets them apart from all the others?
Sylette Farkos. Poised, determined, brash, and forthright, she’s everything I’m not—which makes her a delight to pen. All the biting remarks I want to say but don’t are placed in her mouth, and every dressing down I want to indulge in is delivered with her scathing wit. Yet while we’re different on the outside, our calculating, logical natures are very similar. It’s likely we’d get along terribly at first . . . at least until we had a detailed conversation and discovered our worldviews aren’t so different.
What do you think makes a good story?
Emotion. If a story can make me cheer for a hero, despise a villain, and bawl for an untimely loss, it’s done its job well. I try to manage my writing in the same way. If I feel a swell of adrenaline during an action sequence, I expect the reader to as well. If tears are staining my keyboard, I hope to see smeared, tearstained pages at my next book signing.
Is there one particular book you hold dearest to your heart?
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. In my opinion, it is as close to perfect as a novel can be. The pacing is superb, the twists are mind-blowing, and the story wraps up in a tidy bow that allows it to serve as either a standalone or springboard for future adventures. Vin, Sazed, and Elend also have my heart. I dearly want to hug them and tell them everything will be alright . . . eventually.
Writing can be a stressful pursuit. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Embrace marketing as a friend rather than a necessary evil. Many authors are introverts, myself included. Yet it is only by making ourselves available to our audiences that we gain loyal, life-long fans. Set aside time for social media. Comment on posts by other authors and readers, upload fun games and humorous stories, answer questions and give regular progress updates. It doesn’t have to be every day, especially if you’re tired and need to recharge. However, people love to feel needed, and a simple gesture of kindness—a “Happy Birthday!” or “Congratulations!”—can affect them as much as the most moving scene in your novels.
Ok, let’s see what kind of person you truly are.
Coffee or Tea?
NEITHER! I’m notoriously simple when it comes to beverages, preferring either water or orange juice.
Winter or Summer?
WINTER. I’ve been skiing since I was three years old. Put me on a snowy mountain and I’ll be happier than Vallen when he’s the center of attention (this will make sense about 1/4 of the way through Rebirth).
Physical books or Ebooks?
PHYSICAL. The crinkle when you turn a page and the grainy feel of a binding are part of the reading experience.
Mountains or Oceans?
MOUNTAINS. You can technically ski on an ocean, but I’m far less proficient at it than snow-skiing.
Beer or Wine?
NEITHER. I never developed a taste for alcohol and therefore choose not to drink.
Books or Movies?
BOOKS. Books can convey so much more subtext than their visual counterparts.
Cowboys or Aliens?
ALIENS. I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. Imperial Star Destroyers were at least half the inspiration for Rebirth’s airships.
Pie or Cake?
CAKE. Despite my penchant for exercise, I can’t cut cake out of my life. I’ve probably eaten more cake than pizza.
Rural or Urban?
RURAL. Flowing fields, distant forests, and mysterious mountains are the perfect background for writing. And when you finish, you can go exploring!
Work hard or Play hard?
BOTH? I love to goof off—video games, books, TV, etc.—but indulging too much leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Play always feels better when it follows a sense of work-related accomplishment.
Thank you again for taking the time have a chat, Christopher. Tell us what lies ahead for you!
December 2020 – Gravitas short story releases in the IFA (Indie Fantasy Addicts) Authors Villain Anthology. A preview is available on my website (christopherrussellauthor.com) blog.
Early 2021 – Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth audiobook??????????
3rd or 4th quarter 2021 – Asian Fantasy standalone novel set in the same universe as Divinity’s Twilight. The prologue is available on my website (christopherrussellauthor.com) blog.
4th quarter 2021, 1st quarter 2022 – 2nd Divinity’s Twilight novel releases. Currently in beta-reading, after which I will make necessary revisions and send it to my editor.
Down the road – Divinity’s Twilight is intended to be a TEN book series split into two arcs: one concluding after book six, and another beginning in book seven. There are countless mysteries, twists, and enigmas left to be uncovered . . .
Enter to win one of five signed paperback copies of Rebirth, courtesy of Christopher Russell!
US Only. Ends 9/27 at 11:59pm EDT.
One last thing! If you’re in the Williamsburg, VA area and want to say hi to Christopher, he’ll be doing a launch/signing event at Book Warehouse (address below). Head on over there September 22 to meet the author in person and pick up your signed copy of Rebirth!
5625 Richmond Rd
Williamsburg, VA 23188
That’s all I got for ya! Be sure to keep an eye on the official Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth tour page over at Storytellers On Tour (https://www.storytellersontour.online/2020/08/22/tour-schedule-divinitys-twilight-rebirth-by-christopher-russell/) to see what the other bloggers and Bookstagrammers have to say!