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I’m Holding On Tight To Some Really Crazy Ideas

C.A. MacLean Author Interview

Elysium Protocol follows two sisters as they continue out into the universe meeting more alien races and trying to end the Scourge war. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

First off, thank you so much for your incredibly kind words in your review! It’s funny to think about digging to the roots of inspiration, because this one goes way back. The concepts that finally became Elysium Protocol, and these first three Architects books as a whole, had been something that I’d been kicking around since I was around thirteen years old, but back then the core structure of the story was largely informed by the kinds of media I consumed and continue to love: standards like Star Wars, games like Metroid and Star Fox – those were the kinds of stories that made me fall in love with the aesthetics of sci-fi, the alien worlds, the fantastic battles, the epic sagas of good and evil and all the gray in between. That’s definitely where the basic backbone of the story got solidified.

Because I’ve lived with the ideas that would become Architects for so long, I’d go through all these phases of falling in love with more and more storytelling and art, and some of it would stick and influence me in a big way – series like Mass Effect gave me a love of worldbuilding beyond the simple aesthetics of the style, and it’s in Elysium Protocol where I think my love of Doctor Who really starts to show, especially in Alis’s arc. There’s a lot of things going on here of that nature, from absolutely massive timescales to the multiverse, that I wouldn’t have had the creative courage or the confidence to tackle a decade ago. But I’m deep into it now, and you can expect the next books in the series to lean harder in that direction.

As far as the setup and the journey of the Engami sisters, another funny thing is that Elysium Protocol and the previous book, The Great Scourge, were originally envisioned as one novel. As you can see, that didn’t quite pan out, but I’m glad it happened this way, because the two books ended up being quite different despite both comprising the wider Scourge War arc. The Great Scourge is a very visually spectacular experience; for that one, I went all-in on huge setpiece after huge setpiece, with some wonderful visuals and some really large-scale action pieces. I set out on that book with something to prove as far as that angle is concerned, and I feel like I’ve proven it; I didn’t need to retread the same ground as The Great Scourge because I’ve already written that one.

And that’s not to say that Elysium Protocol doesn’t have its share of massive setpieces and huge action beats; if we’re taking Hivena as one big setpiece, then it is easily the biggest setpiece I’ve ever done, both in terms of in-universe size, and page-time devoted to it. And there’s some really cool visuals in the first act when Ashy’s fighting her way out of a pocket-dimension composed of her own memories, which allowed me to do some really fascinating, trippy visuals I’ve never really had leave to do before, and so on, and so forth. But on the whole, Elysium Protocol ended up being a very, very character-focused story: we see Daniel finally completing his transformation from the cynical, jaded mercenary we met in Seed Of Treachery, to someone who is willing to put everything on the line to make the hard choices for the right reasons because he’s become the kind of idealist who believes in more than just himself. We see Eva nearly crumbling under the weight of her failures and her pressures, real or perceived, only to push through, push herself to extremes she never thought she’d face, and become a symbol for more people than she’d ever thought possible. Her sister Ashy goes through so much in this story; we see more of the trauma and anguish she’s gone through, and I think as we journey with her in this book, we understand her a lot more, the person she wants and needs to be versus the forces that try to break her. If Eva’s arc in Elysium Protocol is about the crushing weight of responsibility, Ashy’s is about refusing to let the best parts of yourself be destroyed when it feels like everything is trying to run you down. And without spoiling anything for readers, she too rises higher than ever before. The sisters’ arcs tend to weave in and out from each other, always connected in some way, and while I do encourage readers to think about Architects as an ensemble cast, the sisters have always been the beating heart of the story. If I can be totally honest, and this is not to talk down on any other characters, but Ashy’s my favourite character in the series. She’s one of the characters who lives rent-free in my head all the time and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But those are just a few examples of how very character-centric Elysium Protocol ended up being, and in a way that ended up defining the structure of the story: while the basic plot details pre-dates a lot of these characters, they’re the ones who really turned it into a living universe.

There are many new alien species in your novel I have never come across in other science fiction. Where do you get your ideas for all the alien races you create in your novel?

For the alien races, it’s part what I think will be cool and provide a lot of opportunities for storytelling and building, and part what I think will be workable as a believable race in this universe. Sometimes it comes from the gut – ‘I really want this’ – and sometimes it comes from the head – ‘this will be very workable’. The arkerians are one of the races that came from the gut in that way, because, to be honest, I always wanted space birds. Some permutation of that was always there from, really, the very start. It’s probably safe to blame things like Star Fox and the like for planting an appreciation for that aesthetic somewhere deep in me, haha.

But it gave me an opportunity to build them into the world in some ways that gave me a chance to enhance the narrative: the fact that arkerians have hollow bones means they’ve evolved a species-wide athleticism that lets them perform tricky physical feats, like genetic parkour. That’s also enabled by their flexible raptor-like feet. There’s a scene in Elysium Protocol where Eva’s falling and grabs a foothold with one of her claws, hanging upside-down in a very ‘birdly’ way, which is the kind of thing I can get away with when I’m writing arkerians, so I can make action sequences with them a bit distinct. That’s just one example of using your in-universe assets to be able to tweak things about the narrative that just makes it more fun, more entertaining.

Altarans are fun to write because their whole culture is built around biological empathy: their aura nodes, the crystal formations they have on their heads instead of hair, transmit emotional states and feelings in a visual format, through pulsing luminescence. And I think it speaks to an underlying theme I’m trying to convey, the fact that a species who can see its emotions on the outside, and thus would naturally evolve a society based on compromises, common ground, empathy and care for others, is the one that ended up being the most populous race in the Convergence. And more broadly, Elysium Protocol is a story about the things that bring us together being stronger than the things that try to tear us apart. Altarans were actually a ‘from the head’ species idea as opposed to being from the gut, because as I was writing the first book Seed Of Treachery, I specifically wanted an alien race that would be aesthetically appealing because we’d be seeing a whole lot of them from here on out, but also distinct and iconic, and I eventually landed on the altarans as we know them. I’d love to plumb deeper into altaran culture beyond what we’ve already seen.

Alis’s race, the Everani, is definitely something that grew and developed as the series progressed. They started out fairly straightforward, with this idea of an almost Lovecraftian eldritch creature, except it plays against type, and it’s actually not some amoral or evil entity. Which brings us to how they communicate using avatars rather than their true forms to better fit in with who they’re talking to. As the series developed and one of the major thematic threads became dimensions/the multiverse, making it so that the Everani and all those like them throughout the cosmos could view alternate timestreams, through this thing they call the Sight, only made sense. Now, these are extremely powerful creatures, and Alis’s arc in Elysium Protocol was the next major step for me when I realized I wanted to go deeper with her: we saw in the last book, The Great Scourge, that when the Everani were finally forced into battle, they absolutely shredded their foes. You take an Everani (or tracoent – trans-corporeal entity, as Ashy insists on saying) at full power, and they are the MVP of any team they’re on. So the idea of de-powering them, locking them inside their Convergence-friendly avatars, was such a natural step for Alis’s arc in Elysium Protocol, because it forces her scenes to have real stakes, with the threat of death around every corner, now that she’s been promoted to a much more prominent role than in the last book. There’s definitely some of the Doctor from Doctor Who in her, definitely some of Castiel from Supernatural, and this book gave me some great opportunities to give my own spin on certain tropes associated with super-powerful, super-long-lived characters. Alis’s arc is one of my favourites; fans of Doctor Who will certainly find something to dig into there, because it’s my take on a number of themes and ideas that Who’s showrunners have also tackled over the years. Alis’s arc was actually one of the first full arcs to come together during the writing process of Elysium Protocol because I was so keen to dig deeper into her, and I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to take her arc from the start because of that.

That said, I’m planning so much more for Alis, as her final scene in this book teases. As far as leaning into the interdimensional angle that’s been probed more and more over the course of the last two books, Alis’s arc going forward is going to go deeper and farther into that than I’ve ever gone before. I’m so very excited about it, but I’m afraid I have to keep a lot of it close to the chest for now, as it’s all quite early-stages at this point.

The hiven were definitely a ‘from-the-gut’ choice for a race, dating way back to when I was a teenager. I tend to wear my influences on my sleeves in some regards, in this case being part inspired by the Space Pirates from Metroid Prime, one of my favourite games of all time (and funnily enough, yet another sci-fi series that has anthropomorphic space birds, although I can honestly say that the arkerians were not inspired by the Chozo specifically). Basically, the hiven started out as the kind of enemy that could provide fertile ground for big, thrilling action pieces (and I like to think they did!), but as the story developed, I turned a worldbuilding eye to the hiven themselves, a whole species whose cultural development appears stunted and broken off at the root. Or to put it another way, I became more self-aware about the sci-fi narrative tropes that the hiven represented, and I found a chance to really turn things on their head. I just had to wait until the eleventh hour, through like two whole books, to really pull the rug. In my last interview with Literary Titan for The Great Scourge, I remember teasing that there was ‘a twist coming’ about the hiven, and now it’s come. For the sake of readers, I definitely can’t just say that one out loud, but it’s one of those things where – as soon as you find out, everything about them makes so much more sense. In broad strokes though, they’re a race I definitely enjoyed writing because they offered a real chance across the last two books to bring so many of the action-forward big setpieces I’d been clawing away at since I was a teenager to life. I feel very lucky to have had that sort of opportunity.

I could go on all day about more species, and what makes various species tick, because it’s also good for me to talk about these things and keep it fresh in my mind, but I’d better cut myself off here before I start going into literally everything. =)

When writing a novel, what comes first for you, the characters or the plot?

It largely depends on the novel. Plot, characters and theme all can’t co-exist without the others, but since the basic skeleton of this story pre-dated a lot of these characters, you can say that plot came first here, which allowed me the luxury of building all these character arcs around the plot structure, knowing that there were certain plot beats that I needed to hit at certain times, which helpfully kept a lot of things anchored. And in a story this size, when you as a writer are trying to keep this many plates spinning at once, you really want to have an anchor or five.

But in the case of this story, character arcs developed organically around, along and within that structure. If we take Ashy’s arc in the second act, for example, that whole sequence where she infiltrates the Serronan pole base to acquire hiven signal codes was originally just her going it alone, way back at least a decade and a half ago (the story structure has been in the cooker for that long!). Her whole arc with Enistea came along because I found a way to integrate an earlier subplot, involving the Black Dwarf black ops organization who had framed Ashy for murder, into the story and move that forward at the same time. Then I was able to parlay the scenes I had with that into some thematic commentary on justice systems that mercilessly focus only on vengeance; so that sort of ended up being an example of character, plot and theme all winding around the same set of scenes and coming together to make the finished build what it is. (Incidentally, the theme of ‘justice without mercy is only revenge’ ended up dovetailing into a much more major game-changing decision taking place in the final arc as well.)

Or if we look a bit earlier in the story to the Stellar Hope arc, Caleb’s plot thread in this story was already set before the Stellar Hope scenes came out, but the Stellar Hope arc turned out to be a wonderful place to really express the core themes of his arc in a way that I feel turned out really well.

Vuroka’s arc, by contrast, is definitely a case of character coming after plot. She gained a lot more nuance in Elysium Protocol compared to The Great Scourge. It was also a really refreshing way for me to take the hiven scenes in a somewhat unexpected direction – she was fun to write from top to bottom, actually, from the absolutely bonkers aesthetic she’s rocking in Elysium Protocol with her biomechanical upgrades and the fact that her true form is just totally showing through her stolen host body (She almost feels like a sci-fi version of some crazy boss-fight-type character from the manga Berserk or something) to the fact that she’s so close to questioning everything she ever fought for – actually, her role in the story ended up getting more than double the screentime when I realized I had to completely re-work one of the subplots, and it gave me a great opportunity to deepen her role so that her newfound inner conflict is present through most of her scenes, not just a few.

And sometimes scenes or whole subplots can blossom out of single images that end up sticking in my mind. I have a very visual mind (even though I can’t draw to save my life), especially when I’m listening to music, so this happens all the time. One super-quick example being, most of the chapter at the server hub on Hivena expanded outward from this single visual I had in my head of Hannah carrying a wounded Naomi away from the battleground, fire from explosions licking at her back.

Though I will say this: the one character we see here who does pre-date the basic structure of the story, is Talon. In some form or another, every permutation that these ideas took prior to being fully realized as Architects, was anchored at least in part around Talon’s long-game arc. Being able to finally reveal so much about this villain in Elysium Protocol – though we still don’t know everything, we know a lot more than we did – was really fantastic. You get me talking about the creative process and I don’t know when to stop (…as you can see), so having to bite my tongue about so much of this for so many years was – I’ll call it “not easy” and leave it there. =) So there was really the weight of expectations when I was doing When The Devil Already Knows You’re Dead, the chapter where we get some pretty big revelations about his true nature, and it’s that weight of ‘oh god do not let me screw this up’, but I really feel like that chapter turned out to be one of my proudest moments as an author so far.

But as far as the characters’ arcs informing the overall plot and vice versa, something very deliberate happened along the way: given with the many Greek myth references and imagery in the novel, the story is divided into the acts Tartarus, Hades and Elysium, going from the deepest and most forsaken parts of the Greek afterlife to the highest and brightest. And our protagonists’ journey in Elysium Protocol reflects that, from the first act where everyone’s scattered and at the edge of losing everything, to the final act where everyone comes together at last, we get some long-awaited reunions, and things turn around, perhaps, for some who deserve it most (without spoiling it for readers!).

Were you able to accomplish all you wanted with this series or do you think you will need to write another novel?

Well, as it stands the series is only halfway done. There will be six mainline installments at the end of the day, with the second half of the series picking up and building on certain plot threads left dangling in Elysium Protocol, and introducing several new story arcs. But I’m also planning side-stories, and the next adventure in the Convergence is going to take us into the past instead of forward, with a side-story novella that is tentatively called The Kyre Crucible, which shows us what happened when Eva confronted the Kyre colonies that were abducting her own people as slaves, an event we’ve seen referenced numerous times throughout Architects. The novella is going to be taut, gritty, and absolutely packed to the gills with sharp, intense action. I’m in the middle of writing it now, and I’m finding it a wonderful way to refocus after spending so long finishing the post-production work on Elysium Protocol, which is just a huge, huge story with so many interwoven threads, that it’s really been refreshing to just dive into telling a story that goes full steam ahead on one tight thread. I’m also excited for everyone to see it because the action is going to have a whole lot of that arkerian agility that I mentioned up there, which is always so much fun to write and visualize. (We’ll see if I can keep it as a novella, knowing me there’s every possibility it’s going to just end up being a full-length novel, but on the shorter side.)

As for what’s next in the mainline series, though, I can tell you that we’ve only scratched the surface of the dimensional/multiversal side of the series, and I couldn’t be more excited to dive deeper into that. I have a ton of really cool ideas I can hardly wait to put onto the page, and I’m holding on tight to some really crazy ideas that I think readers are going to love.

I hope I didn’t go on too long, but I hope it’s been interesting! Again, thank you so much for your generous words, thank you for your time, and thanks for having me!

Author Links: Twitter | Website | GoodReads

We are not the dark between the stars. Taxed to the limit in the brutal Scourge war, the people of the Arela system fight on against the ravenous hiven, scrounging for the one thing that could bring them a decisive victory: Project Olympus. But it’s going to take everyone, working together when discord is but a fracture away. Only courage can prevail: courage on the battlefield. Courage to sacrifice. Moral courage in a time of desperation. But the enigmatic Talon has yet to play his hand. And the unthinkable truth of the Fireseeds’ elusive foe could change everything. Join the rejuvenated Fireseeds in the world-shattering climax of the Scourge war!

Elysium Protocol 

Elysium Protocol by C.A. MacLean is the third book in the Architects of the Illusion science fiction series. Following a species-diverse team known as the “Fireseeds,” Elysium Protocol picks up the shattered pieces left over from the devastating war in book two, The Great Scourge. In a time of interstellar conflict, multiple factions, some seen, some working from the shadows, are vying for power, control, and sometimes, just plain survival. Set in a distant future, the last remnants of humanity are part of an intergalactic organization known as “The Convergence,” an alliance consisting of “quintillions” of citizens.

The Fireseeds are pitted against a vast alien force known as the “hiven,” an insect-like species bent on zealous destruction and domination. Several science fiction tropes appear here, but they are executed skillfully; which ensures longtime fans of science fiction will find something familiar yet still intriguing. There are multiple alien races present: humanoid bird-persons (Arkerians), crystal people (Altaran), bug people (hiven), and more. The story is rife with many planet names and systems, such as Everan, Serrona, Vraunlith-3, etc. I feel this might make it difficult to follow at times but adds to the depth of a world that seems full of possbilites and begs to be explored further. I would have loved to have seen a map of systems in the book to look back on because this story reaches epic fantasy levels where readers will be completely immersed in a large world.

This is a robust novel, almost as long as the two previous entries combined. There is a lot of action going on with all of the characters and races. Readers have to be fully engaged in this story to keep up with who is who and what species is what; reminding me of the breadth of George R.R. Martin novels. However, the author effectively handles the task of keeping things straight, with the central characters being well developed with strong individual personalities. The Arkerian Engami sisters, Eva and Ashy, the tragic Altaran, Caleb Braze, the modest human, Daniel Byre, and many more fill this impressive work with relatable characters and a compelling story. Despite some massive decisions, the memorable characters and gripping action bring a universe of primordial planets, advanced spacecraft, and futuristic cities to life.

Architects Of The Illusion, Part III: Elysium Protocol is an action-filled science fiction space opera with memorable characters and planets. Readers will be able to escape into the world that has been created and feel like they are in the action.

Pages: 777 | ASIN : B09NPPJL1Q

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This Incredible Discovery

C.A. MacLean Author Interview

C.A. MacLean Author Interview

The Great Scourge picks up where Seed of Treachery left off. Although Ashy was exiled from her home planet she felt compelled to return only to find it in peril. This is an intriguing setup to a novel that is high in social commentary. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?

First off, thanks are in order for your very kind words about The Great Scourge. I’m happy you enjoyed the read! As far as a ‘moral goal’ goes, the first thing I probably have to talk about is the hiven. It can be easy to read them as a commentary on religious extremism, and while that’s certainly a part of it, it’s not the core of it. They’re a different kind of foe than the Jagged Edge from the first novel; the Jags were a very ‘gray’ kind of foe, in that they’re extremists reacting against a broken system but not altogether evil. With the hiven, they’ve exterminated countless civilizations across the Convergence, and on their face seem like a more “black and white” sort of foe, maybe more like the orcs in Lord Of The Rings or the Daleks from Doctor Who, but I wanted to avoid making it feel shallow. So with the hiven, I began to think about what makes villains like orcs and Daleks frightening to begin with, and it hit me: hate. I realized that there is something primal and scary about an entire race of beings who, down to the very foundations of their society, hate those who are not like them. The concept of such blind, irrational, cruel hatred is, I think, one of the scariest things we have words for. That’s the mindset I used when writing the hiven, who of course are the titular ‘Great Scourge’, and the characters’ reactions to them.

Part of the central plot discusses the ways in which science leaping forward can be used to heal or harm. The discovery of Zova crystals has so much potential for renewable and self-sustaining energy, but due to their circumstances, our heroes are forced to use this incredible discovery for the war effort instead. Is this the responsible thing to do, or should they have shelved it until such time as it could be used for constructive pursuits? I don’t believe all my cast of characters would agree on a single answer.

Similarly, there are some sections that touch on the role of faith and religion in a society so advanced that planet-to-planet travel is analogous to us flying to another continent, and where something like Zova exists, which under extremely specific circumstances and in the hands of the right entities, can perform what many would call miracles. I wanted to avoid hammering at this too deeply right just yet, however, but I couldn’t avoid beginning to build it up as it became relevant.

Of course, I tried to avoid being didactic throughout the narrative, instead letting these kinds of themes simmer and breathe. I want them to be thinking-points for the reader, something they can sink their teeth into beyond the straightforward narrative.

But one thing I do think of when you mention a ‘moral goal’ has to do with a love of space, stellar exploration and futurism in general. While there’s plenty of dangerous things in the Architects universe (there’d be no story if there was no conflict!), part of the reason I spend so much time in the Convergence is because of my real love for these things. For example, in the upcoming third book, there’s a scene where a character mentions the Drake Equation; if I get even one reader to google that and think, ‘oh wow, that’s really interesting’, then I’ll feel very happy about that. As a kid, I was drawn to sci-fi because there was an inherent coolness factor to worlds so far beyond what we have in the modern day, but it’s since become something more philosophical. If I can take readers in with that feeling of high-tech aesthetic excitement, and help (even just a little bit) to foster a passion for science fiction, science-fact, our future and the cosmos, then that’s the best possible gift I could receive as an author in this genre.

In that sense, I don’t know that I’m the one to answer whether I’ve achieved my moral goal just yet. In terms of delivering the themes that I set out to convey in TGS, I feel good about how it turned out. I’m happy with it.

What is one pivotal moment in the story that you think best defines Ashy and Eva? Did any of the characters development occur organically through the story?

I don’t know if I’d say there’s a single scene in TGS that perfectly sums up the sisters’ relationship. There actually is a scene in the upcoming third book which I believe sums their relationship up perfectly, but even talking about the nature of the scene would probably be considered a significant spoiler. Rather, in TGS I think their relationship is expressed by the fact that either of them would go through fire and ice for the other.

For example, there’s a scene where a hiven squad is about to breach the Nexus archives where Ashy is situated, and while a breach at that point could compromise the entire mission, Eva runs like all hell and can only think of her sister’s well-being. Though they were defined by the sour bitterness of the negative space between them in Seed Of Treachery, all of that is behind them in The Great Scourge, and we see more clearly a pair of siblings who love each other as deeply as it’s possible to love someone, who are best friends as well as sisters.

The Great Scourge sees Ashy grappling with the idea that, inspired by her sister’s deeds, she too can put her best foot forward, going out on the line to save and protect those in need. That wasn’t necessarily something I deliberately mapped out while storyboarding this; it just felt natural to include once the actual writing began. It wouldn’t be the last time she got inside my head in-the-moment; there are a couple scenes in the third novel where I had a WWAD (what would Ashy do) moment and it caused the scene to change, in one case rather significantly, and I do hope for the better.

It bears mentioning that Daniel’s turn, from being less invested in Earth’s history and fate in the first chapter of Seed Of Treachery, to being nearly consumed by it in the last act of The Great Scourge, also seemed to play out pretty organically, in-the-moment, rather than my storyboarding it like “okay, now this character is going to do and think this.” This is actually because the whole Nexus arc wasn’t initially part of TGS, and the writing process had already begun before I decided that TGS was the right time in which to do it.

Once I decided that Nexus would happen here instead of a later book, things started bursting at the seams content-wise and I realized that something had to give. That ‘something’ was a sequence that would have taken place at an old shipyard on Helix, which was the aquatic world whose resort district we visited in Seed Of Treachery. The sequence had been in the story since its earliest iterations and I was kind of attached to it, but I realized that it felt superfluous compared to the tremendous significance of the Nexus arc, so I scrapped it and placed the Nexus arc there instead. Elements of it remain (for example, Chenn’s squadron encountering the biomechanical squad on Nexus would have originally happened on Helix), so I got the best of both worlds, and I’m very happy with what resulted.

I got a bit off-prompter there since I wanted to explain why Daniel’s attitudes re: Earth came about organically rather than being originally storyboarded like that, but I hope readers find that little look at the cutting room floor interesting.

To sum up: the best advice I can give to fellow authors on this subject of organic development is, listen to your characters. They’ve got a lot to say.

The backdrop and characters provided a lot of great scenes in the story. What was your favorite scene in this story?

I actually have two very different ways in which to answer this, and I’m very tempted to indulge and answer for both. First is in terms of spectacle, and second in terms of theme. My answer for spectacle would have to be the entirety of chapter 16, The When, Why And How Of Winging It, which is entirely composed of one big scene: Admiral Hannah Andora has just discovered a catastrophic betrayal on board her fleet, which catapults her into a madcap struggle for survival amidst a crashing fleet. So much has to come together for a high-octane sequence like this, like the spatial awareness of where everything is at a given moment, and getting the science nailed down (IE, asking myself, what happens when an artificial gravity generator malfunctions, and can I play with that? Et cetera). That’s all back-end technical details, though; the front-end result is what I hope is an immensely entertaining section for the reader. Architects has no shortage of action scenes, but this is my favourite one so far.

In terms of theme, it just might be the final chapter, The Fall Of Babel. It actually began life as a small segue to bridge this and the next book, but once I decided TGS was the right place and time to begin moving on the Earth revelations, this chapter seemed like the ideal place to take a breather and see us out on an emotive note. The scene pokes at several themes that will be built up throughout the series, such as the need for disparate species to rally together and the importance of the Convergence, how our pasts (on a personal or species-wide level) can inform our futures, and how our lives are, perhaps, an ongoing series of ‘endings and continuations’.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?

Right now, my main focus is on the third Architects novel, Elysium Protocol. My goal is to have it released in late 2017, which means I need a working manuscript to send to my beta-reader by June or so. I make a point of trying to write something every day, and the progress is good.

As for what readers can expect from Elysium Protocol: this is the one that concludes the Scourge War arc that began with The Great Scourge, and as such, there’s a lot of what I hope is some really interesting payoff for a number of things built up in the previous book. Plans have been set in motion that could push back the Scourge for good, but there is no war without sacrifice. Expect a story that both looks at what this ravenous war has done to worlds we know, as well as takes us to new worlds and locations. As far as science goes, there’s something for readers to sink their teeth into whether they’re a fan of hard science, or Doctor Who-style fringe science. (naturally, I love both.) The new characters are settling into the environment nicely, and it’s going to be what I think is simultaneously the darkest, as well as the most epic Architects yet. And I think (hope) it’s going to take you places you might not have expected. It’s been consuming my life as of late, partly because there are so many moving parts to keep track of, but partially because I’m so excited about putting it out there. I can hardly wait.

I’m also working on the first of a trilogy tentatively called Corroded Angels, the first book of which is tentatively called Earthfall, and the trilogy will be a dark, intense take on the high fantasy genre. I’m excited about it, I feel like it has a ton of potential and I intend to shop it around to traditional publishers when it’s ready, although that’s probably a ways off yet. While I’m working on it and EP concurrently, EP has to take precedence right now. Although I will say that Earthfall’s writing process has developed well past the point where it stops being a mere ‘collection of ideas’ and becomes a cohesive narrative structure. So I’m looking forward to delving more into that as well.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

The Great Scourge (Architects Of The Illusion, #2)Tension grips the star system of Arela, picking up the pieces after the Jagged Edge conflict. But the still has been shattered by the rise of an ancient foe.

Caught between new allies that force the faltering Fireseeds to the fringes of science, and revelations echoing from humanity’s past, the galaxy stands between extinction and revolution. The Scourge saga begins: the Fireseeds and their allies leap into interstellar action against an enemy far beyond reckoning.

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The Great Scourge

The Great Scourge (Architects Of The Illusion, #2)

Architects of the Illusion: The Great Scourge, by C. A. MacLean, picks up where his first book, Seed of Treachery left off. Although Ashy was exiled from her home planet of Karani (a planet full of bird-like species), she felt compelled to return only to find it in peril. When things take a turn for the worse, Ashy must flee the planet and finds herself on planet Everan with mutant beings who are able to – unbelievably – reunite her with her sister, Eva. Together, they must fight all the adversaries that they come across in order find the answers they need and secure the future.

The characters in this book really come alive. The main characters are Ashy and Eva – who are adopted sisters from the planet Karani. Additional characters that play a major part in The Great Scourge are Curren, a bounty hunter, Caleb ‘Maven’ Braze, Daniel, Hannah and Admiral Andora, as well as a handful of secondary character. Mr. MacLean has a way of bringing these characters to life with their unique personalities and quirks. From the synopsis only, I knew that it would be an interesting book. When I began, my interest grew. As the pages went on, I began to understand more of the different lands. I began to get these feelings for the characters and began to feel empathy for them. Only telling a little bit of the story is very hard. What I can tell you is that every character, from major to minor, is so cleverly written and wisely interwoven, that you begin to think that if someone who was only mentioned once in the background may have a future story.

C. A. MacLean’s writing is almost indescribable. It’s simple for children and teens, yet complex so that an adult may love it. The way he writes his characters make you grow attached to them. His lands make you want to explore them. He never gives anything up too easy, leaving some of the things to your imagination. His descriptions of the lands make you feel you can reach out and touch them. However, it leaves just enough to your imagination that each person can see the land in his or her own way; which is one of the best parts.

The plot moves along at a good pace. There are surprises and mysteries that kept me reading late into the night to find out what was going to happen. This is a powerful story with some chilling and disturbing scenes without ever resorting to gore. It is deeply absorbing and has moments that I know I will remember for a long time, certainly any time I see a wisp of smoke rising on the horizon. The final paragraphs were breathtaking and managed to give a satisfying ending to the book… but I’m still anticipating the next one. You’re missing out if you haven’t read this book.

Pages: 502 | ASIN: B00P4ABLKE

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Seed of Treachery

Architects of the Illusion, Part I: Seed of TreacheryArchitects of the Illusion is about adopted royal sisters Eva and Ashy, members of a bird-like alien species. After Ashy is convicted of killing Eva’s husband, she is exiled to a refugee planet in another system, all the while maintaining her innocence, even though all evidence points to her as the killer. Eva turns to training and discipline, and, inspired by her late husband’s political career as a means to affect real chance, becomes a mercenary. Years later, Ashy escapes and sets off to find her own way in the universe, wondering if she’ll ever stop running, or if her sister will ever believe and forgive her. As an invading force threatens the planets with mutant monsters and destructive chaos, Eva and Ashy must confront their pasts if they are to save their futures.

The strength of this book is the characters. You really grow to care for Eva and Ashy, both as individuals and as estranged sisters. Eva’s mercenary lifestyle forcing her young son far away for his own safety, Ashy’s constant flight from the law and lawless – they’re both sympathetic characters, removed from the world both by their own choices and external influences, and both struggling to examine their relationship as sisters. Themes of love and duty are examined, leaving both characters and readers to wonder if familial bonds can ever be fully broken, or if they even want them to be healed. The secondary characters are also thoroughly unique and fleshed out, both through physical description and dialogue. The author has them often speak aloud to themselves when they’re alone, and while it can seem a little conveniently explanatory at times, there’s no denying that it always reveals more about the character. The author also has the characters speak about events in their past as part of their natural dialogue, without further explanation, allowing the reader to infer themselves, and making the whole thing feel a lot more organic, as if you were talking among old friends – mentioning past events without describing it shot-for-shot in a flashback, because you were all there. This is often hard to achieve in books, as a lot of writers feel they have to explain everything for their readers, but when handled correctly, the hints and quick dialogue with minimal set up work perfectly for better immersion.

The settings and world building are handled really well. Cities, space stations, even whole planets, are beautifully described without getting too bogged down in flowery language or extraneous explanations – they almost become characters themselves. The many varied alien species are also described well, with details about their physical appearances revealed naturally within the context of the story, as opposed to a solid paragraph of description, and their appearances are unique, yet plausible, and intriguing as you consider the evolution that brought them to their present forms. The actions scenes are appropriately heart pounding and tense, especially the exploration of the dying space station, and the quiet scenes are allowed to play out to further invest us in the characters. I will say there is a lot of colloquial language used in the dialogue, which I appreciate for attempting more natural banter than speech-like conversation, but it also has a few too many “like,” “it’s just,” and “errs” that bring it into present day, as opposed to distant future. Gangs of ellipses also litter the dialogue, but in the end, these linguistic and grammar problems do not ruin or negatively influence the book overall for me. Blending science fiction, a little bit of the unexplained, and the nature of human relationships, Architects of the Illusion has something for everyone.

Pages: 314 | ASIN: B00AW6AXZO

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