A few days ago I asked 2016 Campbell Award nominee Brian Niemeier if he’d be willing to submit to an e-mail interview for the readers of this blog. He’s graciously agreed, and he’s taken the time to answer a rather lengthy series of questions. To avoid the dreaded “TL;DR” kiss of death, I’ve divided the interview into three parts. This first part focuses on Mr. Niemeier’s most well known work, the Soul Cycle series. The second part focuses on writing and Mr. Niemeier’s experiences therein. The third and final part focuses on Brian himself. Without further ado, here’s the first part. Text in bold is mine. The rest is Mr. Niemeier’s, presented exactly as he gave it to me.
Congratulations on the Campbell Award nomination!
Thanks! I didn’t become an author for validation, but it’s encouraging to know that people are getting value out of my writing. The readers are my bosses, so a Campbell nomination is like the ultimate employee of the year award.
Where did the inspiration for The Soul Cycle come from?
My influences don’t overlap much with other authors in my genre. I drew inspiration from some classic SF books and films, but the rest is mostly 90s anime, JRPGs, and tabletop RPGs. I’d also be remiss not to credit my otaku and gamer friends for helping me refine my ideas and giving me several new ones (see my books’ acknowledgments).
Which works and authors would you say influenced the series?
In terms of classic SFF: Frank Herbert’s Dune and H.P. Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle. Also Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.
A partial list of other influences includes: Star Wars, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman—especially Season of Mists. Folks have pointed out similarities between Nethereal and Outlaw Star, but I already had the story sketched out before I watched the series.
What was your favorite moment of the series to write?
My series highlight moment is a sequence one-third of the way into Souldancer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t lend itself to spoiler-free description. I’ll just say that it’s a confrontation between the dual protagonists, when both characters lay all their cards on the table.
What was the hardest part of the series for you to write?
The same scene mentioned above. I don’t know how many revisions it took, but finally getting that scene right (with Jagi’s help) is what convinced me that the book was finally ready for release.
The story seemed to me to have a heavy influence from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Is that real or am I imagining it?
Good eye! Nethereal’s hell is informed by the Inferno, but it’s not a 1:1 reproduction. Each of the Nine Circles is associated with a particular vice, but not the same as in Dante’s hell.
How many more books do you plan for the series?
Two more after Souldancer, which will make the Soul Cycle a quadrilogy.
Can you give us a hint of what we should expect in the next book(s)?
I’m writing the first draft of Book III right now. Since Nethereal and SD have set everything up, expect an even more fast-paced story that’s much heavier on action. The fantasy and horror elements will still be there, but it’s predominantly a space opera.
Book IV takes place a couple of centuries after Book III. My readers can rest assured that I know where the series is headed, and I think they’ll find the conclusion satisfying.
Do you have plans for any more novels outside of The Soul Cycle?
I have the first draft of a fantasy novella that I need to go back and revise in the near future. The plan is to flesh it out to novel length. I’ll keep you all posted.
Oh, and I’ve probably got enough background material for four Soul Cycle prequels.
For those of us anxious to read it, can you tell us when we should expect your next novel?
My new day job is slowing my writing down, but I’m well into the first draft. When that’s done, I’ll go back and revise it; then hand the second draft to my beta readers. I’ll revise again based on their reactions, send draft three to Jagi, and do the final draft based on her notes. When the art and formatting are done, it’s time to launch.
My goal is to release two novels per year. I’m confident I can meet that schedule in 2016.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2, in which Brian gives the best answer I’ve ever heard for the question, “what made you get serious about writing?”