Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed author Daniel Varona about his writing and his recently released book, The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution, an engrossing fantasy that offers a rewarding meditation on duty, responsibility, and on absorbing the burdens both generational and emotional burdens. (Read the review here.)
Daniel Varona, being the youngest of three, has been a fan of video games from a very early age and was heavily inspired by some recognizable classics. What piqued his interest in writing was the attention to detail those passionate developers pulled off at the time, no matter the technical limitations. Catching these small details impacted and elevated the storytelling experience for any consumer keen enough, making them understand and think on concepts themselves rather than being told everything point blank. This hobby, along with other creative outlets, brought to fruition Daniel’s desire to write his own story.
The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution combines elements of fantasy and science fiction. How did you decide to blend these two genres rather than sticking just to one or the other?
Fantasy is a broad spectrum, but the genre can grow even larger when you mix the two into Science Fantasy. I decided to go down this track because instead of simply following the rules of either genre, I get to find the perfect middle ground to express my ideas. Science Fantasy allows me to safely create bizarre and otherworldly rules for Eden while at the same time making it feel relatable by closely resembling our own world. The blending of spiritual power and technology is an idea seen in The Young Revolution where a certain character attempts to break out from the Cycle to pursue their own ambitions. Technology is a way for the people of Eden to take control of their own destiny instead of simply following the laws of Light and Darkness, the entities that created the cursed Cycle. So, instead of only having fantasy aspects like dragons and magic, you get a more modern feel where airships and robotics serve as the bridge to fill these gaps.
What (or who) were your inspirations for the character of Seth, the protagonist of The Young Revolution and a young (and perhaps unlikely!) hero?
Seth’s personality heavily aligns with my own morals and humor, but there are obviously parts of him that are far more exaggerated and interesting due to him being the main protagonist. He is easygoing and optimistic, but not blind to the darkness of the world. Change is not always achieved by strength alone, and Seth by no means is all-powerful. The Hand of Sin, the main villains of the Cycle of Eden, would tell you otherwise, but that is why Eden is as separated as it is in The Young Revolution. Change is not achieved by one person, and sometimes it takes a charismatic soul to bring together the most unlikely of people. Sometimes all we need to inspire change is a dream, a dream that brings hope to others around us. Throughout the series, I never wanted to portray Seth as the typical hero that simply saves the day because “that is his destiny/purpose.” Seth very much has to rely on others, even from the very beginning of the book. He may be the “main” protagonist, but that doesn’t mean he is better or more important than any of the other brave and talented souls he meets along his journey. He never could do this alone, and that is the point I make with his character. There is nothing wrong with getting help, because together, we as people can achieve anything no matter who we are.
An inspiration for his easygoing, wannabe lady’s man vibe was influenced by one of my favorite heroes, Zidane, from Final Fantasy IX. In terms of his weapon expertise with a rifle, his fighting style was inspired by a character named Magoichi Saika from Samurai Warriors, who also happens to share similar morals. His Gun-Kata style of fighting, where he shoots his rifle at close range, moving off of pure instinct and intuition, was always such a cool idea to me.
Aside from Seth, do you have a favorite character in the book?
Chase, Seth’s dog companion and best friend, was my favorite character to write in The Young Revolution for many reasons. He is the greatest partner you could ask for when in combat or exploring, for his instincts and heightened senses will save your life. He and Seth are able to communicate, and the banter between these two is where lots of the humor comes in. His loyalty to his loved ones is very important to him, and this quality can most easily be learned and experienced through pets such as dogs. Throughout the series, I put myself in the mindset of a dog in many scenarios, serious or humorous, and dug deep on what exactly Chase would care most about. Describing in detail a dog’s moral code and values, as well as how he would behave and speak, was easily one of my favorite parts to write! Most people don’t really sit back and think about the cultural differences between humans and dogs, and there are many moments this is put into perspective in The Young Revolution. This especially will be a fun read for anyone who has ever owned or been around a dog. Fun Fact: Chase is actually named after my own dog I had growing up and his design in the novel very much matches my childhood dog as well. He and Valentina, who would be my close second favorite character for her intense action sequences, share some very wholesome moments I adore. After many struggles and personal grievances, they both are able to relate and learn from one another even though they are different species.
Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Cain, one of the main antagonists in The Young Revolution, is a very complex character whose intentions are wild and illogical in this first book. There is a lot to unfold with him and it was a fun challenge making sure this character’s motives remained clear and consistent as more information was unlocked part to part. His actions in the past have impacted this Cycle’s entire history, and he also holds Eden’s future in his grasp. Yet underneath the madness and chaos he brought to the world, there is a plan he truly believes can save Eden. While writing him, I’m forced to pull out a dark side of myself, to express emotions and describe actions that aren’t particularly healthy to feel all the time. Getting into this dark zone is hard to find when life in general is going smooth, so I used the strategy of music a lot to bring out these complex thoughts. Using music as a tool to bring out any kind of emotion is a tip I’d give any writer stuck on a particular scene or who wants to push an idea further (including action scenes).
Another character that made me have to triple-check my consistency throughout the series was Vargas. In The Young Revolution especially, he is a man of many mysteries, mysteries that you aren’t supposed to understand until the future parts. His complicated past on Eden, much like Cain, is vital to understanding its important history. I’ve gone to great lengths making sure these historic scenarios are concrete throughout each part. In The Young Revolution, I provided vague hints that first time readers aren’t supposed to truly understand until they read it a second time/finish the series, and Vargas provided this fun challenge for me in making sure I don’t expose his secrets until the right time.
The Young Revolution is chock-full of action sequences and excitement. How do you go about writing an action sequence in a way that is dynamic without becoming confusing?
When it comes to combat, I’ve made it a point to make every single interaction fresh throughout the entire series. This is done through a variety of methods, whether that is a new weapon being acquired, an additional power-up, a new location such as a narrow hall or a wide-open marketplace, or introducing new enemies with different abilities to tackle. Focusing on something different from the previous action sequence keeps the writing from getting repetitive. For example, introducing a new character is like unlocking a whole new framework of ideas that I can now branch off of. All of my characters also have unique weapons or abilities that aren’t shared with anyone else, which allows them to shine in their own ways.
Another example seen in The Young Revolution is when Seth passes Chase his dagger to use instead of his usual fangs, allowing me to use language focused on the blade rather than his teeth like I did in the previous encounter. I also try to be very descriptive with characters’ actions and movements for the sole purpose of helping readers visualize what is being performed. Some martial arts techniques used by Valentina are very specific and explaining those techniques I find is more interesting than simply writing off the enemy with a simple kick to the face. I want you to see and feel these actions as if they are happening right in front of you, the words your eyes read forming them into a movie scene.
When multiple heroes are fighting together, I also practice following one character at a time to reduce reader whiplash. For example, instead of swapping sentence to sentence, I will dedicate a paragraph to Valentina describing everything she is doing with her fists and then transition to Seth by having him save her with a well-placed bullet, a weapon Valentina does not use, drawing a clear contrast of characters. The sequence then follows Seth for a bit, making use of his kit in the particular scenario which would be very different to how Chase would approach it, who I may switch to next to show his side. This process flows until a conclusion is reached, making each character show their unique usefulness for the situation at hand.
Your bio mentions that you’ve been interested in video games since you were young, and that you find inspiration in video games. Do any of your inspirations for The Young Revolution come from video games? If so, can you tell us a little more about that?
Like books or movies, video games are another way to convey stories to us that make us feel more involved through the process of controlling what is happening on the screen. In terms of Fantasy/Role-Playing Games, they put us in the shoes of heroes and/or villains, connecting us to their worlds, which makes our actions in the story feel more personal and impactful. They are a safe form of escapism, and I wanted to bring that level of immersion and thought to my writing when I started working on The Cycle of Eden.
Final Fantasy (VI, VII, and IX), Metal Gear, and the Earthbound/Mother series’ are a few heavy hitters that made me fall in love with storytelling. Final Fantasy has some character development masterpieces, Metal Gear makes you consider the grey areas found in our own world with intricate plot lines, and the journeys accomplished in Mother bring out true emotions from the players.
Originality is a concept today that is put on an unreachable pedestal. However, classic games like the ones I mentioned above were all inspired by something else. Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy, has stated many times that many of those games are highly inspired by the original Star Wars movies. Hideo Kojima, creator of Metal Gear, also wears his inspirations on his sleeve and brought a cinema-like experience to the video game sphere. This is all to say that there is nothing wrong with being inspired in today’s age, for it pushes our creativity forward. I find there are some ideas or concepts that don’t get enough attention being stuck in one genre, medium, world, or scenario. We as people have built off one another and created life-changing things for centuries and that same idea applies for creativity. There are brilliant ideas that are so awesome that could become even better when explored further and branched out in different ways.
Other media such as movies, manga, and anime were highly influential for my creativity as well. I’ve had The Young Revolution be described as a Space Opera, a term I’ve heard used for Star Wars, which is a classic example of blending Fantasy with Science Fiction. Star Wars blends spiritual ideologies such as “The Force” with space ships and aliens similar to how the “Light and Darkness” influence my Cycle of Eden series. Dragon Ball’s fast paced action sequences left quite an impression on me, along with the humorous dialogue and comfort of making bizarre rules found only in Eden’s world.
What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, is still one of my favorite book series from when I was younger. Much like how I blend Science Fiction and Fantasy, he too mixed mythology with the modern world, directly relating it to famous real-world monuments and locations. His characters’ dialogue was also relatable and authentic, a trait I strive to capture for my own characters.
Chris Wooding, author of the Broken Sky series, has been an author I’ve been recently indulging in. He describes his Broken Sky series as an Action Fantasy much like I do for The Cycle of Eden, and I find that our writing styles in that regard are very similar. What I find to be most powerful with his writing, though, is his worldbuilding, making the reader feel immersed, like everything in that world is normal and second nature.
The Young Revolution is the first installment in the Cycle of Eden series. What have you learned from writing and publishing this book that you will take into the process of writing the next book in the series?
All four parts of the Cycle of Eden are already completed, but I have still been reading through them over and over again to make sure every detail makes sense from beginning to end. However, something that became very clear to me after The Young Revolution was first printed was the length. Books with high page counts can be understandably daunting, so I separated the novels into four parts instead of three. I’ve also become aware of the length of my chapters and made an effort to add more in the next parts.
Patience is key; making sure you are prepared will help so much in the long run. Before I even submitted The Young Revolution to Atmosphere Press, I had written all four parts of the series. Keeping a draft document for Character Design and Key Features is also a good strategy to stay organized. Later on in the process of publishing The Young Revolution, I also put together a Timeline in relation to Eden, and this helped me formulate the History even better and provided me with even more details to enhance the story for you all.
Recently, in order to make the world of Eden feel more concrete, I’ve been organizing thoughts about alternate paths or “What-If” scenarios. These are related to all the choices the characters “could” make but not the ones that are chosen in the Golden Path, a.k.a. the actual storyline. For example, “What if Seth accepted to join Cain on the Airship escaping Haven at the beginning of The Young Revolution?” These outside-the-box thoughts are not only fun to think about but also help dig deeper into a character’s motives and goals in the main storyline. I’ve put effort into coming up with answers to these alternate plotlines. In the grand scheme, this is vital for bringing the idea of a world together, and it’s a fun activity to do when you need help with brainstorming or expounding certain sections you may feel are lacking. This hobby takes dedication, so another method I used to make sure my writing was consistent was reading separate parts at the same time, such as reading Part 1 while also reading Part 4. A good story writes itself, and the most fun part of writing for me was connecting those dots that strengthened Eden’s history to make it feel alive. Nothing will be forgotten or overlooked going from part to part, because I want this reading experience of the entire series to be rewarding beginning to end.
Can you provide links to any of these:
Twitter: Danny the Uncanny (@cubite6) / Twitter
Facebook: Daniel Varona’s Author Page | Facebook
Website: Home – Welcome (cycleofeden.com)
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