The Renegade General

The Monster interviews General Asa, author of Black and Gold: Formation.

Black and Gold: Formation follows ‘the Summoner’, also known as the Renegade General. He’s an intriguing character. What was your inspiration for this character?

The Summoner, on a basic level, is the wounded, mysterious warrior type we see in so many stories: he has a secretive past, great insight into the world, and contacts all over whilst managing to keep his cards close to his chest. But, what sets him apart is of directly consequence from my annoyance at the generic and incredibly common characters that exist in fiction, of all art forms. Too many characters from separate stories all follow the same path, all redeem themselves the same way, and it gets irritating to the extent that you could be sitting in a cinema and guess the entirety of a characters arch from a single sentence, therefore ruining the experience. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that but, with the Summoner, I wanted to do something special, something different so, you could say, he ended up being a deliberate attempt at creating something new with such a well used and well loved character archetype.

The actions scenes in the book were thrilling. What is your experience with writing these kinds of actions scenes and how did it help you write Black and Gold: Formation?

I have no experience whatsoever with writing such scenes, Black and Gold: Formation being the only serious piece of writing I’ve ever done. However, being a lover of art, video games, and movies, I’ve always appreciated the physical creations people have come up with. Because of this Black and Gold: Formation was originally conceived as a comic book, but my artistic skills were not up to scratch to see the project through. Yet, having visualized so much of the story before I began writing it, it meant that I already had a very specific look and feel for the world which I was desperate to get across.

Now, combine this psychotic need for me to write down the images in my head to such a ridiculously specific degree, with my love of well directed action scenes overall, and you get the battles of Black and Gold: Formation. Many late nights were spent staring up at my bedroom ceiling imagining these action scenes, and I’m happy to say that most of them worked out very well.

The only issue I ran into, which you reference in your review, was that because of my requirement, I have issues okay, to write down every detail I had previously thought up, some of the scenes became a little confusing. Don’t let that dissuade you from reading it though.

Why I think these scenes help the overall story of Formation so well, and why I was so insistent to include them, was because they are the best physical representation of the world I could use. Malvia, where the story takes place, is not nice, kind, friendly, or joyful. The battles reference this, emphasizing the great loss and fear that such conflicts should create.

Early on I debated on the level of gore I should include in this tale, a question I ultimately called: the Tarantino Effect? He includes blood everywhere, but that is how it should be really. If you get shot, you bleed. If you get stabbed, you bleed. Many films and TV shows, because of their need to reach greater audiences, tone down their fights to make it kid or young adult friendly. That does not happen in Black and Gold: Formation because the world is not like that. There are numerous kills throughout the book which are quite gruesome and horrific but with these in place, knowing that such acts were always possible with the cast, helped immensely with understanding the feel of the world and story. These scenes are just as relevant to the story as any other part of the book.

The General recruits some interesting warriors for his group. What were your favorite warriors to write for?

I have to admit, without spoiling anything, that the characters introduced in the ‘Son of Gai’ten’, ‘The Crevice,’ and ‘The Psycho’ chapters were my three favourites. For me, it wasn’t just that they were powerful, intelligent, and obviously skilled at fighting, therefore making their scenes interesting to describe, but the world building that came with their chapters was what sealed the deal.

Other characters introduced have dodgy pasts, to say the least, many similarities shared between the cast overall, but these three I consider unique. From them we gain an insight into the religious aspect of Malvia, the underground gladiatorial games, and the respect shown between highly wanted criminals during quiet moments. I really enjoyed these sections and dealing with the subjects they raise. Once again, without giving too much away, all three reappear in the story again to some degree, and I very much enjoyed all of them coming back for more.

The characters have interesting magical powers. In these kinds of stories you don’t want to make them too powerful or too weak. How did you balance their powers in the world of Black and Gold: Formation?

When designing the world the story would take place in this was one of the hardest, most time consuming issues I had to deal with. Black and Gold: Formation has it all when it comes to fictional weaponry with magic being the main focus but there is also a healthy dose of steampunk, or Metalwork, technology found within the world. Each of the characters has a series of powers they call upon in battle, from swords to magic to guns to mythical creatures, but balancing them is the key to making them click with the reader.

With these powers, two problems arise. The first was to make sure that the main character, the Summoner, could be challenged by those who he met and fought throughout Formation’s story. The second, was to make sure that the characters who return and become the main cast of the sequel could also be challenged by people not yet introduced. If the individuals you’re following in the story are too strong, then all threat goes because you know that they will never ever be beaten.

Black and Gold: Formation may not approach the levels of fear that readers of the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ feel, for now, with any character having the potential to die at any point. But, the story will never reach the point where you as a reader believe characters are immune to anything and everything. So, it became a requirement to make sure that the Summoner feels pain and fear, over the entirety of the tale, and that the reader realize that nobody in Malvia, no matter how much they big themselves up, is too powerful.

Overall, the balancing of peoples powers could be called…. future proofing. The cast has to be allowed to grow, both physically and mentally, over the course of their stories. If this cannot be accomplished then the reader may not be able to relate to them, which then impacts other parts of the story. And that you do not want.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

*Minor spoilers* Also I just wanted to take the time at the end of this interview to address the biggest concern raised in the review, just to put peoples minds at ease if this issue really affects them. In the review the Hungry Monster made the point that at the end of the book a group is formed, without any women. Now, many individuals may take issue with this, believing that there needs to be a greater aspect of diversity in stories written nowadays. That is fine, and I am not saying that the critique raised by the Monster is unfair or wrong as I always knew that one day a cast of only males would get me into trouble. Seeing as Black and Gold: Formation’s first ever review raised the issue I believe that it would be best to offer up an explanation to those who find this unacceptable.

The story of Black and Gold: Formation is a linear one, focusing around the main character, the Summoner. The book centers around his perspective, his actions, his thoughts, it is all about him. Now, I have already started writing the sequel to Formation, although it is nowhere near completion, and it opens up its narrative much more the Formation ever did. This means that the world opens up, more towns and regions are visited then before, and where there is civilization there are people. Where there are people, there are women. If more characters are introduced from such locations, the likelihood that they be female increases. Point is, please don’t dismiss over six hundred pages of four star fantasy because of what you might believe to be a modern day injustice. You have no idea what is coming, should everything go to plan, and it would be a shame to miss it I assure you.

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About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is a book review website which consists of mostly fiction books, but we do enjoy non fiction works that we're excited about. All reviews are the reviewer’s honest opinion. We love books and read constantly (seriously, it’s an addiction). We're always open to book review requests and have aspirations of one day being sucked into the Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith where all he wants to do is read, but can’t until the world ends; you know what I mean?

Posted on October 22, 2015, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. For General Asa: Regarding a lack of women in the sphere of the Summoner. That doesn’t immediately put me off (even though I am of the female persuasion) if it works with the story and makes sense in the context of the narrative. You are the author and are telling a story from this character’s perspective. If this is his world and can be justified by his traits, beliefs, culture etc., than any criticism, imo, is really about what someone else wants the book to be. And frankly, not liking a book because you want it to be something else always bothers me in reviews. I am not saying, however, a lack of diversity it is not a valid point, observation or even criticism, because it is. But the answer is just what you have stated. It is the Summoner’s world.

    For The Hungry Monster: Your reviews always do books and authors justice. You were right to bring up this issue, but you were more than fair in allowing the author to discuss it at length. Great site here!

    • Hi, General Asa here, incredibly late so sorry about that. Just like to say that I appreciate the comment from a different perspective and agree with pretty much everything that you’ve said. I’m not against female or minority characters but on this occasion it simply didn’t end up happening. Some people are okay with that, such as yourself, and others aren’t meaning that ultimately creators will never please everyone. I’m sure if you read it you’d, hopefully, see what I mean and approve, which would be nice.

      Also, I would like to second the Hungry Monster’s site. A lot better then many of the other places I’ve had dealings with.

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