Lou Anders drew on a recent visit to Norway, along with his adventures traveling across Europe in his teens and twenties, to write Frostborn and Nightborn, combining those experiences with his love of globe-trotting adventure fiction and games (both tabletop and role-playing). However, he has yet to ride a wyvern. With the addition of characters Desstra and Tanthal, Anders hopes that his second book in the Thrones and Bones series will continue to appeal to boys and girls equally. Anders is the recipient of a Hugo Award for editing and a Chesley Award for art direction. He has published over five hundred articles and stories on science fiction and fantasy television and literature. A prolific speaker, Anders regularly attends writing conventions around the country. He and his family reside in Birmingham, Alabama. You can visit him online at louanders.com and ThronesandBones.com, on Facebook, on Tumblr, and on Twitter at @ThronesandBones and @LouAnders.
Kristin Centorcelli: What can fans of Frostborn look forward to in Nightborn? Would it be easy for a new reader to jump in at this point?
Lou Anders: Nightborn reveals a good deal more of the world than we saw in Frostborn. In the first novel, we’re confined to the northwesternmost corner of a large continent. In book two, we travel across it, visiting two new cities in two new countries. We meet a host of new characters and introduce dark elves, wood elves, and stranger creatures. The book is written to continue the story of Frostborn, but also to stand on its own. In fact, one of my early readers was a six-year-old fan who started with this book, and she was utterly captivated and not the least bit thrown by having skipped book one.
KC: How about Karn and Desstra? Will you tell us more about them and why you think readers will root for them?
LA: In Frostborn, Karn Korlundsson had the help of his friend, Thianna, a seven-foot-tall half giant who could back him up in a fight. Now Thianna is in trouble, and it’s up to Karn to save her. I wanted to take Thianna out of the equation and force Karn to confront the fear that maybe he couldn’t be a hero on his own. But don’t worry, Thianna returns as well! While book one was about the two of them forging a friendship, Nightborn tests that friendship and asks what they are willing to do for each other.
Desstra is our new character. She’s a dark elf from the city of Deep Shadow. When we meet her, she’s in training to join the Underhand, a sort of secret agency that polices and protects the dark elf city. She’s sympathetic because she’s bullied by a fellow student-turned-boss, but her goals are at cross-purposes with Karn and Thianna’s, making for some nice tension in the narrative.
KC: What supporting characters did you enjoy writing the most?
LA: I always have a blast writing the great dragon Orm. But there are a host of colorful characters in Nightborn, and I think readers can tell I had fun writing them all. The Uskirians in particular were a hoot. They are sort of my world’s version of orcs, but very sophisticated orcs.
KC: Was it easier to write Nightborn now that you have your “world” built out a bit? What are the particular challenges involved in writing the second book in a series? Has your writing process changed much from when you wrote Frostborn?
LA: Gene Wolfe once said, “You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.” Each one of my books has presented its own kind of challenge. With Nightborn, the trick was to find new ways for Karn and Thianna to develop, after all the growth they made in the previous book. There’s also a balancing act between wanting the book to stand on its own for new readers but connect seamlessly with the larger narrative for returning readers.
As for the process, I wrote Frostborn while I still had a day job, so that meant writing every Monday through Thursday evening from 9pm to 1 or 2am, and writing for eight hours at a stretch every other Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Nightborn was begun the same way, but completed during and after the Frostborn tour. These days I write full-time. I’m also fortunate to have a lot of requests for interviews, etc., so there’s a lot of promotional and marketing work that takes place in and around the writing that I didn’t have to factor in before.
KC: Have you gotten a chance to interact with young fans of the series? If so, what has been your favorite part of that?
LA: I have! I’ve been all over the country visiting schools, bookstores, and libraries, and I’ve been to a few book festivals as well. Interacting with kids has been tremendous. Before I became a children’s book author, I had already been doing a lot of public speaking, but never to anyone younger than college age. I was really nervous the first time I gave a talk to a room full of fifth and sixth graders. And one of the first experiences I had talking to kids was being ushered into a gymnasium with six hundred kids in it! I found out that I love talking to kids, and the more kids in a room, the more fun it is. But probably my favorite memory from the entire ride has been when a little girl thumped her chest and told me, “I am Thianna.” Right on the heels of that wonderful experience has been the times that I’ve played the Thrones and Bones board games against actual readers! Or seeing pictures of the Thrones and Bones sets that fans have made around the country (and overseas!). And there’s a little boy in the UK who cosplayed Karn! That just knocked me over! Also, the RPG Gamer Dad Podcast has been airing live sessions of a role-playing game set in the world of the novels and staring Karn and Thianna. I cannot tell you what an honor that is or how fun it is to listen to!
KC: What’s been our favorite part of writing the series so far?
LA: I have to pick a favorite? The whole thing! After nearly two decades of touting and facilitating other creators’ stories, I’m finally able to share my own work with readers around the world. I’m so proud of this world. Being able to share it is a privilege I’ll never live down.
KC: What’s next for you?
LA: Well, I’m just starting the rewrites on Skyborn, the third book in the Thrones and Bones series. I’ve also recently spent some time fleshing out two more countries on the continent of Katernia, complete with 5,000-year histories, major cities, their chief gods and goddesses, etc., and I spent a week working out the overarching theory of magic that underpins the world, all in preparation for three separate stories that I want to tell. Basically, there’s no shortage of tales that I can tell in this world, and I’m thrilled to be able to tell them.