A War Of Light And Shadow

Michael R. Schultheiss Author Interview

The Third Way of My God follows a leader as he tries to bring the people in his kingdom to a new homeland safe from war. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

As an author, so much of what I do with my stories is to make life harder for my characters, and this is really a case in point: after two books of Rosteval confronting the Ketaryat armies of his grandfather, I needed to really make good on the threat of invasion.

But I couldn’t just give Rosteval that challenge, because I wanted to make things more interesting. That’s where the Gontuganti came in: a quasi-vampiric dark-elf-like race of warrior-sorcerers and their armies of reincarnated human thralls.

The Gontuganti are fun for a lot of reasons, but I wanted to use them to examine the pursuit of power and domination for its own sake, untethered to any greater telos or end.

Add to that an unstable goddess of light who styles herself the Mother of Exiles, and I figured I had my own spin on the classic fantasy trope of a war of light and shadow!

With the Mother of Exiles, I wanted to examine the whole concept of inclusion for its own sake, again unaccountable to anything else, anything greater, anything that can hold it in check.

There’s also the rather mysterious and spooky figure on the cover, who connects to an important person in Rosteval’s and Ghaitta’s pasts.

Of course, that leads me to the core of the book, the idea of a third way. I think a major theme in these books is that Rosteval has to find his own way, and that means rejecting the narratives of various power players who want to defeat or suborn him.

When you’re facing a terrible darkness, and the self-appointed champions of the light are bent on wreaking havoc of their own, what else is there to do but find a third way?

Were you able to achieve everything you wanted with the characters in the novel?

I think of this story as an adventure story wrapped around a quest story.

On the one hand, there’s the adventure story: Rosteval and Ghaitta have to lead their people into exile even as a massive war between gods and armies of light and shadow breaks out all around them.

On the other hand, there’s a new character who enters Rosteval’s life bearing a mysterious power that appears to be vital to the situation they all find themselves in. At the same time, she finds that the power comes with hidden dangers of its own, dangers that force her to make difficult choices.

There’s also the recurrent theme of Rosteval and Ghaitta needing to work with enemies, people they have every reason to hate but still have to work with. I don’t want to say too much because spoilers, but I had so much fun with this aspect of the story!

So, on the whole, yes, I think I achieved everything I wanted to with these characters. As to how well I succeeded, that is for the reader to judge.

What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer in this book?

For one thing, I really wanted to explore the concept of a third way. In the context of this book, that means a people, their priests, their king—and their god, who serves as a kind of collective archetypal representation or “oversoul.”

I juxtaposed this third way against a force of darkness, the Gontuganti, bent only on power and domination, but also against the power of a goddess of light who styles herself the Mother of Exiles.

It’s easy to see what’s wrong with power and domination for its own sake, but modern society is full of far too many people who are far, far too misled about the whole concept of inclusion and who have a great deal of unjustified and extremely naïve moral certainty on this point.

The problem is treating inclusion as a telos, an end in itself, or—put another way—as a prior.

To draw on the work of the philosopher Jack Donovan for a moment, inclusion is a good virtue within a perimeter, a shared and defended boundary.

Within a family, a neighborhood, a tribe, a nation, a religion, etc., inclusion is generally a good thing provided it does not encroach on more immediate obligations.

But the problem with the Mother of Exiles is that, by her nature, she cannot make these distinctions. She represents belonging without boundaries or standards—and without boundaries or standards, there can be no growth, no ascension, no excellence.

As Jack Donovan says in Becoming a Barbarian: “The Mother of Exiles offers the warm freedom of the womb.”

Now, you might say that I’m going on about tribes and deities and what-not, and the problem is that we don’t live in that world anymore.

My answer to that is to refer you to the ~300,000 years that our species has been on this planet. What that history tells me is that human beings are tribal and coalitional (a tribe, after all, is a coalition), and tribes and coalitions will always tend to fight for scarce resources and power.

This is what we are. Embrace it, I say, and use it to inspire you both to personal excellence, and to do great things for your in-group (family, neighborhood, people, etc.).

With The Third Way of My God, again, I wanted to explore all of these themes and point to what I believe to be a better and more desirable formulation than either the Gontuganti or the Mother of Exiles: a people who understand themselves in terms of a shared identity, mediated by a priesthood and ruled by a king, a ruler, anointed by a god who represents their Oversoul, their collective archetypal excellence.

What will your next novel be about, and what will the whole series encompass?

My next novel will follow the stories of four different men and women living in a future world ruled by a vampire elite who control the levers of power and manipulate public opinion.

It’s a bizarre and perverse world where law-abiding people are terrorized by vampire street criminals, mortal humans are unable to defend their own interests, and dissidents are subjected to severe financial and career consequences.

You might say it’s urban fantasy with a side of dystopian science fiction. 

As for The Rosteval Saga, I’ve also broken ground on the fourth book! I don’t want to say too much, but I will be working on both of these books at the same time.

My thinking at present is that there will be two more Rosteval Saga books for a total of five. I have big plans for the future, and I will look forward to sharing more of them through Literary Titan!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Darkness threatens all…
Light is their enemy…
Is there a third way?

Rosteval faces twin disasters when an enemy army comes for his kingdom, even as a terrible new menace arises from the darkness to threaten his entire world.
Forced to flee, Rosteval and Ghaitta lead their people into exile… but they are running out of time.
Outmatched in a war between gods and armies of light and shadow, can Rosteval and Ghaitta find a third way to save their people, their kingdom, and themselves?
Gods of light and shadow, clashing armies, legendary weapons, myths, mysteries, and perilous adventure abound in The Third Way of My God, sequel to The Spiral of My Destiny. Get it now.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on November 17, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: