These Q+A things might be pretty infrequent, but as I've said in the review (you should go read the review first!) this book inspired me. Now to find out more about it, I've sat down (well, Discord DMed) with the author to answer my burning questions. I had to have them answered like a venereal disease patient needs their boils lanced. Painfully, but with ultimate relief. Here's hoping I don't get an infection.
Kian, thank you for joining me. Tell me a little about yourself.
Hey there, Nik. Thanks for these questions and for your incredible review.
I'm just an author. Born to Iranian parents, I am currently living in Vienna, Austria where I get to write full time.
How long have you been writing for?
That's a harder question to answer. I’ve been writing ever since I was small and tried my hand at writing a novel even back then. I think it was somewhere in 2017-2018 when I really started taking it seriously because people kept enjoying my writing. I've only been able to turn it into a fulltime job this year, however.
Eleventh Cycle contains some pretty brutal scenes, yet they are handled with elegance and grace. I believe the reason for this is because the character and the emotions portrayed never play second fiddle to the events. What, if anything, inspired you to take those measures?
I think there are several layers to this question. Growing up, I had such bad anxiety that I never wanted to upset anyone. This led me to quite closely reading people's emotions and understanding motivations. At least, that's my theory. I feel like this habit of mine has now transferred over to my characters. Emotions are important.
But the other part of it is that I wanted to make sure that no grim scenes are dark or edgy for the sake of it. There is a layer of rawness that I absolutely wanted to grasp and show that there is a haunting beauty in suffering, especially the way in which the human mind processes it.
There is quite a bit of exploration on the topic of disability in this book. How did you tackle that? Did you have advice on how to portray this in your novel?
This was something that was really important for me. I knew I wanted to cover disability in a fantasy novel, but also knew how bad the representation was for the disabled community in media. I sought out several sensitivity readers and people with disabilities who shared their thoughts and journeys with me. I think what I took away from that is that each disabled person's journey is different. Striking that balance between hope without trivializing the disability was the biggest challenge I felt.
Erefiel’s relationship with his father is an interesting one, and one that I identified with. What inspired this relationship?
I do think one of the most prevalent themes is just the idea of identity. For Erefiel, it is about being half human and half "higher-being." To live up to the expectations of an absent father who still loves you very much is perhaps something which a lot of readers identify with. But it's also about Erefiel's journey and the expectations that fall on him simply for being the son of White-Hawk; a being of legend.
The world of Minethria is a very unique place. What inspired it?
I've marketed it as a Dark Souls inspired novel. It was after watching a lot of Vaati Vidya videos where I was inspired by a narrative like with the ringed city DLC. It is about a world thriving through cycles, it is about a world fighting tooth and nail against the bitter end. I wanted something just as abstract and beautiful as its inspiration.
There’s a few different types of magic in the world - color magic, the Inspired, and the formless Haar. What’s their inspiration?
A lot of themes I explored originally are about creation. The idea 'to create' something or other. The Haar is about creating land from mist, or perhaps even life. The inspired conjure magic through their art. And The inspired in particular was an exploration about the zone artists sink into when we let the art course through us. Colour magic is another interpretation. Purple is seen as the colour of corruption in a lot of media and its history is interesting. I wanted to explore the concept of colour in psychology and theory but for a magic system. The same way a painting elicits certain emotions because of its brushstrokes, I wanted this world to be like a painting where the colours have actual influence over the world.
I’m of the personal belief that this novel could easily have been accepted by an agent and a publisher, yet you chose to self publish this novel. What compelled that decision?
That is VERY kind of you to say. I do think there are certain challenges that prevented me from going the traditional route. One big barrier being the sheer scale of the book. But the main reason is probably that I already sold the audiobook rights for Eleventh Cycle. It is very unlikely that a publisher would take Eleventh Cycle without those rights.
Being that Eleventh Cycle is your second novel, which challenges have you found in the process that you didn’t find with the first?
I think the scale was a big issue. While I didn't plot the story, I needed to keep my eyes on being consistent with history and lore. Looking back, I took a lot of big risks with the narrative but it seems like it paid off.
What can we expect from Kian N. Ardalan in the future?
A lot. I am currently working as a residency writer at Actors Everywhere. There are some really cool works being put together. Like a future with android devils and angels.
But as for the Mistland series, I look forward to bringing out the second book titled Forgotten Seed. This is a huge passion project and it means the world to me that it resonates with people. Thanks again for everything.
I can't wait for the sequel, and I'm excited to read what you have for us next! Thank you so much for joining me!