C.J. BRIGHTLEY: THE KING’S SWORD REVOLVES AROUND THE IDEAL OF HEROISM
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
C.J. Brightley debuted in the writing world with The King’s Sword, the first part of Erdemen Honor series. The American fantasy author followed with few more books from the same realms and started a new project A Long-Forgotten Song series. Let me introduce our next guest, C.J. Brightley.
– The King’s Sword is the first part of Erdemen Honor series. Would you introduce the book to the readers?
– A disillusioned soldier. A spoiled, untried prince. A coup that threatens the country they love.
When retired soldier Kemen finds the young prince Hakan fleeing an attempted assassination, he reluctantly takes the role of mentor and guardian. Keeping the prince alive is challenging enough. Making him a man is harder.
As usurper Vidar tightens his grip on power, Kemen wrestles with questions of duty and honor. What if the prince isn’t the best ruler after all?
Invasion looms, and Kemen’s decisions will shape the fate of a nation. What will he sacrifice for friendship and honor?
The King’s Sword and the rest of the Erdemen Honor series revolve around the ideal of heroism. Heroes aren’t perfect people, but they choose to do the right thing, even when it’s hard. One of my reviewers said that I write the opposite of grimdark. I think that’s true. Grimdark is very “in” right now, but I don’t love it. To me, it’s characterized by not only dark characters but a dark world, in which good cannot triumph and justice cannot prevail. There’s a place for darkness in literature, for understanding that the good guys don’t always win.
But sometimes they do! Sometimes courage and kindness really do change the world, or at least one corner of the world. C. S. Lewis said, about fairytales, “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave nights and heroic courage.” Those are the stories I write.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– The prince-must-regain-his-throne story isn’t new, but I’d never read the story told from the mentor’s perspective. When I chose to tell the story through Kemen’s voice, everything changed. Rather than simply a mentor, Kemen became the main character. His choices shape the story and the kingdom he loves. At first I intended only to use Kemen’s voice to tell Hakan’s story, but as I wrote, I realized the story was as much about Kemen as about Hakan. Kemen is deeply disappointed and a little bitter at how he was retired from the army, and he has retreated from the world in a self-imposed exile. Yet in order to serve his country again, he must set aside his frustration and disappointment and become the mentor the prince needs.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The biggest challenge for me was learning how to edit. The King’s Sword was my first novel, and I didn’t realize at first how much of the story existed in my head but not on paper. Unlike many other authors, particularly in fantasy, I tend to write very lean first drafts. Editing for me is primarily filling in the blanks to add depth and detail, rather than cutting out a lot of extraneous words and long digressions. I tend to leave a lot to the imagination, particularly when it comes to character growth. My first draft was so bare bones that my wonderful beta readers didn’t really “get it”; it wasn’t clear that the story was a character-story rather than a plot-action-story. My spare style works very well with Kemen’s understated voice, but I had to realize that readers needed just a bit more detail to see what I wanted to show them. Later drafts worked that out, of course, but it’s something I had to learn about my own writing style and how it works with what I’m trying to accomplish in a given story.
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is it close to someone from your real life?
– Kemen is defined by honor; he does what he believes is right, no matter how much it costs him. He’s emotionally reserved, presenting a hard, sometimes unsympathetic face to the world. Yet he’s actually rather kind and occasionally poetic, although he wouldn’t admit it even to himself. He tries not to let his loneliness and disappointment turn to bitterness.
Kemen isn’t me, but I used parts of my own personality in writing through his voice. I also drew on my experiences in martial arts and with military personnel. One reviewer wrote that he is “an Arthurian Mr. Miyagi, and getting an entire story from his inner monologue is riveting and vivid.”
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– The first draft was very quick, in about a month. I finished editing about a year later. I was only able to work on it occasionally, and in that year I also drafted and edited the sequel, A Cold Wind. Both books were in their final form by the end of 2008, but I didn’t decide to publish them until the end of 2012. Self-publishing changed so much in that time. I hadn’t initially considered self-publishing at all, but now my only regret is that I waited so long.
– Share some insight about your other books Things Unseen, Heroes and Street Fox?
– Things Unseen is the first book in my Christian urban fantasy series A Long-Forgotten Song. The Dragon’s Tongue, the second book, is coming out in about a month. It’s a bit like Ted Dekker’s Circle Cycle or Frank Peretti’s Piercing the Darkness. It has a bit of everything – Fae, magic, love, terror, trust, loyalty, sacrifice… Here’s the blurb:
History student Aria Forsyth’s studies lead her to dangerous questions about the Empire’s origins. A mysterious man named Owen, impervious to the winter cold, further unravels the safety of the world she thought she knew. At first, Aria believes Owen is human. He says he’s not. What if they’re both wrong?
A moment’s compassion draws her into a conflict between human and inhuman, natural and supernatural, and she begins to discover the secrets of the Empire, the Fae, and what it means to be human.
Heroes is a novella and Street Fox is a short story. Both are set in the world of Erdemen Honor, but much later than The King’s Sword with new characters. Street Fox sets the scene for an upcoming novel, as yet untitled. If you’re looking for strong female characters, you might especially like Heroes, which takes place a few years after Street Fox.
– Who are you?
– I have a background in international affairs and national security. I’ve been in martial arts of some sort for over twenty years and enjoy teaching karate. I’m a stay at home mom with a three and a half year old daughter and a nine month old son. In my free time (ha!), I make jewelry and enjoy baking.
– What are your writing habits?
– Right now my writing time is stolen moments during my children’s nap time or after they get in bed at night. I’m trying to transition to writing before everyone else gets up, but for a number of reasons that’s not always possible (I can get up but I may not be coherent enough to be creative). I’m not much of an outliner; I tend to discover the story as I write. But I do need to have an idea where the story is going. I may not know the plot points ahead of time, but I generally do have an idea of the emotional journey of the characters. My first draft tends to be extremely lean, and my editing process tends to be mostly filling in the gaps and adding depth and detail that were always in my mind but didn’t make it onto the page for the first draft.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– Of course not! I doubt most writers are, unless they’re the biggest of the big names. The King’s Sword was recently included in an indie fantasy StoryBundle. It was by far the most new readers I’ve reached in a short period of time, and I’m excited to have gained new fans.
Writing is not a quick and easy way to fame and fortune. I write because I love to write, and because I want to share the stories that are important to me. The good reviews I’ve received and the emails from fans are wonderfully encouraging. I’m grateful for every reader, and I hope my books find more people who will enjoy them.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Social media has been helpful, but it’s important not to be a pest about it. I’m most active on Google+, where I talk writing with other authors. Having The King’s Sword included in the StoryBundle was a wonderful experience. I’ve also gone to a few conventions, where I meet fans face to face. Although it’s not the fastest way to sell a lot of books, I believe that in-person contact is important. I can’t do too many now, with my children so young, but I plan to do more in the future.
– When we will see your next novel?
– In about a month! If you or your readers would like to be notified when The Dragon’s Tongue is released, you can sign up for my mailing list on my website.
– You worked in the national security, it sounds like a thrilling adventure. What exactly was your job and how it helps to your writing creativity?
– It wasn’t quite as exciting as it sounds! I worked in the Pentagon for a while as contract support to a civilian office. I also did some intelligence analysis, which mostly consisted of reading emails and deciding which ones were important enough to forward to someone else. The subject matter was interesting, but the day-to-day functioning of the government is a lot like the day-to-day functioning of many other office jobs. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.
As for how these experiences affected my writing, it’s hard to say. I’ve stayed away from heavily political books or spy thrillers or the like—I’ve enjoyed reading those books, but I don’t feel inspired to write them at all. In writing Kemen’s voice, I did draw on my experiences with military personnel—how men show friendship, how men bond during hardship and war, etc. But much of his personality is also drawn from my own personality, my martial arts background, and instructors I have known and admired.
– Why you select the fantasy genre?
– I’ve always loved fantasy. Through fantasy you can explore any aspect of culture or society, any part of the human psyche. Fantasy includes everything from sword-wielding heroes and fairies to politics and intrigue (sometimes all in the same book!). As a genre, it’s incredibly flexible and can be whatever you want it to be. The King’s Sword and the rest of the Erdemen Honor series are low fantasy in that there is actually no magic and nothing overtly fantastical in the world. The cultures and countries are my own creation, and while racial lines are slightly different than in reality, the characters are human. It’s almost like historical fiction of a place that isn’t here. My other series, A Long-Forgotten Song, is darkish urban Christian fantasy.
Take a look at her books
Erdemen Honor series
The King’s Sword (Erdemen Honor Book 1)
A Cold Wind (Erdemen Honor Book 2)
Honor’s Heir (Erdemen Honor Book 3)
Heroes (Erdemen Tales)
Street Fox (Erdemen Tales)
Things Unseen (A Long-Forgotten Song Book 1)