If you’re looking for themes in Rory Surtain’s debut fantasy Firefanged, readers can explore finding one’s connections, path and place in life, and the commitments we all make to succeed. But on a lighter level, the author says, “I just wanted to share an original story and offer a twisting escape to those interested in something a bit different.”

Firefanged, book one in Surtain’s Demon in Exile series, offers a fast-paced mix of paranormal and military fantasy. It’s a witty blend of pain-filled action and twisted drama in a series where the characters are as strong as they are flawed and striving to keep their own fragile humanity intact. (Read our review here.)

We had a chance to learn more about the author and his work in this recent Q&A.

Q: What books of fantasy did you read as a child? Are there any especially that inspired you to write Firefanged

A: To pick just a couple: the Xanth Series (A Spell for Chameleon, et al) by Piers Anthony and the Sprawl Trilogy (Neuromancer, et al) by William Gibson. These certainly inspired me to write a series more than a standalone novel, but they each had their own special contributions. 

Xanth offered a key theme of individuality and the idea that everyone has something to contribute to a story or to life. While the Demon in Exile series is centered on one main character, his success depends not only on his own innate abilities but also relies greatly on the talents and empathy of those around him.

Neuromancer is wonderful for its imagination and the way it weaves its threads and arcs into a larger one that isn’t always apparent to the reader from the beginning. More than anything, that might have had the most influence on my series, in that Firefanged kicks off the arcs and threads that roll forward to completion throughout the series. While each book contains a complete story arc, there are aspects and major arcs that run across multiple books with plot twists and items that will suddenly make sense a book or two later or build to a climax by the end. 

Q: The characters, especially the demons and monsters, are amazingly inventive, really keeping the reader’s imagination working. Would you ever consider working with an illustrator? If so, who?

A: I’ve only worked with cover illustrators so far, but I love the idea of working with an illustrator to add some visual color to the mix. The demons come in all shapes and sizes, a menagerie of sorts, with varying levels of power, form and influence, and what you see in Firefanged is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Q: Where did you get your sense of the landscape? Not that there are many places with portals to hellfire, but have you visited some country or remote place that you fashioned the realm of Colivar after?

A: Having traveled extensively in Europe, Asia and the Americas, I’ve had plenty of settings, cultures and scenery to experience firsthand.  From mountains to jungles to cities and caves, somehow that all blended in my imagination and allowed me to condense many places into a singular fantasy landscape that fits the story. 

Q: You describe clothing in detail, and characters often travel to town to have their bespoke uniforms and formal wear created. How do you come to have such an interest in fashion?

A: In my mind, there’s always a balance to maintain of how much detail to provide. While some physical traits are central to the story (for example, book two of the series is called The Scarred Man for a reason), I try to keep the physical descriptions of the characters to a bare minimum, allowing the reader to fill in many of the faces and features themselves based on their experiences and imaginations. Instead, I chose to focus on the costumes which speak to the characters’ personalities and positions and, without spoiling anything, this also lends itself to the plot in certain key scenes.

Q: What plans do you have for Cat? Readers may have hoped for a romance between her and Ara. Was that intentional?

A: Ara’s eighteen and just coming of age. There are plenty of confusing romantic aspects to the books which add color and connection to Ara, and not everything is rosy. Cat is younger and an icon of his life. Her role definitely grows in importance as things move forward, but she’s not the only one who will capture the reader’s imagination or Ara’s attention.

Q: What would you hope readers take away from reading Firefanged?

A: I have a long list of themes touching on finding one’s connections, path and place in life, and the commitments we all make to succeed, but mainly I just wanted to share an original story and offer a twisting escape to those interested in something a bit different. With Firefanged, the Demon in Exile series is just getting started. The ride will be bumpy at times, but it also has an endpoint in the distance and a closure that I hope many will enjoy. My better half has labeled it artfully elitist. I think she meant it as a compliment.

Learn more about Surtain on his BookTrib author profile page.

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Rory Surtain is a 2020 debut author and novelist. Surtain resides on the Gulf Coast of the USA, dodging hurricanes, airports, and alpha-personality domestic cats. After a few decades being creative in the technical corporate world, freedom has taken the form of fitness, Irish whiskey, and full-time writing and self-publishing.

An avid cloud photographer, art collector, and long-time reader of Historical, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy Fiction, Surtain is in it for the art, the escape, and the chance to entertain.