Today I’m thrilled to welcome Zamil Akhtar to Whispers & Wonder as we kick off the Gunmetal Gods Book Tour presented by Storytellers On Tour! This upcoming week we’ll be showcasing Zamil’s Dark Epic Fantasy tale of legends and eldritch gods, Gunmetal Gods, book one of the Gunmetal Gods series. This one has been on my radar for a while now, and I’m super excited to hear what people think of it! Stay tuned for some fantastic features from our Roadies across blogs and social media – it’s going to be a great week.
Zamil stopped by for a chat about how this story of his has come to fruition, the research involved, what she believes makes for an amazing story, what lies ahead, and more! So, keep scrolling to learn more about the book and author, check out the awesome interview, and enter to win a copy of Gunmetal Gods!
We’ve enlisted a group of wonderful and talented bloggers and Bookstagrammers to help us feature Gunmetal Gods. 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.
JULY 25TH – THE KICKOFF
Whispers & Wonder (@whispersandwonder)
Sadie’s Spotlight (IG: @sadiesspotlight)
Beneath A Thousand Skies
I Smell Sheep
JULY 31TH – THE ENCORE
Queen’s Book Asylum
For more info, visit the official tour page at Storytellers On Tour.
They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.
Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.
To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.
When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.
When Zamil was fourteen, he moved from the dry, dune-spotted Arabian peninsula to the hilly, arctic wasteland that is Western Massachusetts. He despises the cold, isn’t very fond of the sun, and prefers spending all day indoors mashing the keyboard in the hopes something great will come of it. When not dreaming up dark and fantastical journeys, he enjoys binging horror movies, wasting precious time arguing about international relations on Reddit, and occasionally traveling somewhere exotic. He currently lives in Dubai with his loving wife and his badly-behaved pet rabbit.
Meet the Author
Thanks so much for stopping by for a chat, Zamil. Since we already have your official bio, care to tell us about yourself in ten words or less?
I am Captain Jean Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise.
Give us an idea of how Gunmetal Gods came to fruition.
For a long time, I wanted to read Game of Thrones but set in a Middle East-inspired world. Middle Eastern history is fertile ground for a story about war, politics, treachery, adventure, and mythological creatures. However, I was only writing short horror stories at the time so didn’t want to embark on such an insanely arduous effort. But one day I began writing the first scene of the book, where a janissary is summoned out of retirement by the Shah of his country to face a new threat, and from there the whole book just flowed. I wrote the first draft of 140K words in under a month.
Can you share with us something about Gunmetal Gods that isn’t in the blurb?
I like to describe the Middle Eastern food that the characters eat in great detail. You might get hungry.
Was there any specific research you’ve done or inspiration you’ve pulled from for this story of yours?
I focused most of my research on the Ottoman Empire in the 15th and 16th centuries, an era during which they dominated the Middle East and Europe with early gunpowder technology and were perhaps the most powerful and advanced state in the world. I can’t think of another fantasy story that is inspired by that specific time and place. I wanted to bring it to life; I researched everything from the food, clothes, customs, mannerisms, social orders, government structures, and ways of thinking. Though Gunmetal Gods takes place in a secondary world full of magic and fantastical creatures, I wanted readers to feel transported to something authentic and historical.
What do you hope your readers take away from Gunmetal Gods?
I hope they come out thinking maybe there are no heroes and villains. Maybe it’s all a matter of perspective. In both books in the series, there are no good guys and no bad guys, just morally gray opposing forces. That’s how I see the real world, too, and most of history, which as we know was written by the winners to cast themselves as the heroes. That said, if readers want to take a side in the civilizational struggle between the janissary Kevah and the paladin Micah, I’m all for it!
What comes first, the plot or the characters?
Unpopular opinion: plot comes first. By plot, I mean the concept that sets up what the entire book is about. You might have a bunch of amazing, fleshed-out characters, but so what? Plot is what creates the conflict between the characters, be it opposing goals or whatever. I personally can’t read a book without plot – I just get bored – but I’ve read books with paper-thin characters, Foundation and Childhood’s End being great examples, that I have thoroughly enjoyed because they had interesting conflicts and ideas.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? If so, who? What about them sets them apart from all the others?
The best character I’ve ever written is Cyra, the protagonist of Conqueror’s Blood (Gunmetal Gods Book 2). I think she’s just so human. There’s nothing special about her, but she achieves so much by learning the shrewd and often cruel methods of those around her, and then putting her own spin on them. She struggles with the immoral things she has to do to survive and thrive, and like most of us, justifies them however she can while being unable to completely silence her conscience. I think she’s layered, sympathetic, and morally gray all at the same time.
What do you think makes a good story?
If I’m feeling emotions, that’s all that really matters. The only emotion I don’t want to feel when reading is boredom. I tend to read a lot of horror shorts because they are straight to the point and if they are good, they’ll at least creep me out and if they’re great, I’ll have to sleep with the lights on. Most of us just want to feel something when reading, and it really doesn’t matter how you achieve that as a writer.
If you could go back and change how you approached writing your debut novel, what’s the one thing you’d do differently?
I would not get so emotionally invested in its commercial success because my debut novel, Song of a Dead Star, didn’t do so well. I was so disappointed I didn’t write another story for a few years. I still got emotionally invested with Gunmetal Gods, but thankfully it did well and much of that is because I learned lessons from my debut novel.
Writing can be a stressful pursuit. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Writing is a muscle. Use it or lose it. It’s also a car battery; if you stop writing, it’s hard to jumpstart the habit again. If you write every day, it’s more likely you’ll finish those novels you start.
Ok, let’s see what kind of person you truly are.
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee. Tea barely tickles my caffeine needs.
Winter or Summer?
A summer that never ends.
Physical books or Ebooks?
Ebooks because I have no shelf space.
Mountains or Oceans?
I kinda dislike both, but there are more scary things in the ocean so I’ll go with mountains.
Beer or Wine?
Wine. White and sparkling.
Books or Movies?
Books of course.
Cowboys or Aliens?
Aliens. Can they please stop teasing us with UFO sightings and show themselves?
Pie or Cake?
Cake. Vanilla frosted with sprinkles.
Rural or Urban?
Urban. Cow tipping must get boring.
Work hard or Play hard?
Just in case my parents ever read this, I’m gonna choose work hard.
Thank you again for taking the time to have a chat, Zamil. Tell us what lies ahead for you!
I’m working on a free novella for my mailing list set in the Gunmetal Gods world. I’m also planning Gunmetal Gods Book 3 and a new series, as well. So there’s much to do!
Enter to win yourself a hardcover copy of Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar! One copy is looking to find its forever home.
Ends 8/1 • US Only
That’s all I got for ya! Be sure to keep an eye on the official Gunmetal Gods tour page over at Storytellers On Tour to see what the other bloggers and Bookstagrammers have to share!