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Some Call it Speculative Fiction

Rick Stepp-Bolling
Rick Stepp-Bolling Author Interview

Patch Man follows two prophesized characters on a quest to end a deadly war between two countries. What were some sources that informed this novel’s development?

I’ve always been a fan of novels such as Dune by Frank Herbert and Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien where prophesy or magical evocation guide or misguide the reader through the story. The idea that a religion or religious book could foretell the future is, for me, as probable as it is accurate in describing the past. For Summians, the prophesy is a ray of hope in an otherwise dismal battle to save their homeland against Imperial forces. When someone has the thin thread of hope to cling to, even a gloomy present can make things bearable.

Patch Man has magical patches that allow him to heal the sick and open portals, among other things. How did this idea start and develop while writing?

Patch Man originally was intended to be a short story where the first chapter was the entire piece. I read it to my critique group and they said, “This isn’t a short story. This is a novel.” I had never read of a magical ability of patching before, so when the idea of patching wheels or reattaching arms popped into my head, I thought this could make an interesting short story. But critiques by other writers encouraged me to expand upon the idea and make it into a novel. By the end of the first few chapters I not only had Var (the patch man) patching things, but also reversing them to expand holes or bring a small child back to life. Once I introduced Var’s wife, Zefa, I needed a connection between the two of them for the creation and use of patches. It made sense because these two people were so connected with each other they would also be connected in the creation of the magic. So Zefa created the patches and Var was able to use them. How they came by this ability is revealed in the story and I don’t want to give that away here.

The book seamlessly blends fantasy, science fiction, and urban fantasy. Was this intentional or an organic growth of the novel?

As I said, I’ve been a fan of science fiction and fantasy since I was a kid reading DC Comics, but true science fiction like that of Isaac Asimov or David Brin contains a strong science background, one I really don’t have. I’ve looked into brain research and applied it in my classroom, so I utilized some of that in the novel, especially with Ulan and Kerash, the Lore Mistresses. However, I needed to use the patch man’s magic ability to do things science would not allow me to do, so I had to create a hybrid science fiction/fantasy novel, or, as some call it speculative fiction. The idea that technology is fading in Summia and magic is becoming a force is the meeting ground between the two genres. So I guess the answer to your question of whether this was intentional or not is yes, it was quite intentional.

This is book one in the Patch Man series. What can readers expect in the rest of the series?

I am currently writing book six in the series, so I’ve done quite a bit of exploration into the series already. Book two, The Battle for Summia, and book three, The Battle for Imperiana have already been published and The Battle for Summia has been reviewed by LiteraryTitan. That said, book two leaps ahead seven years and Summia is on the verge of extinction. In a desperate effort to save his country and people Var suggests finding allies to help them in the war against Imperiana. Using the portals, they recruit from other domains for a last ditch battle against Imperial troops. The conclusion of the war occurs in book three. I’ve also written the backstory of a couple of characters from the series. Icarian tells the backstory of Ka, the half-raptor, half-human character who plays a leading role in Patch Man. Ulan has been written but isn’t out yet. It tells the backstory of Ulan, the assassin. Finally, in book five, Doppelganger, Ten, Meesha and Ulan encounter their opposites in a parallel world.

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A prophecy declares a small child will decide the victory between two countries paralyzed by war…

An old man sells magical patches on the ruined streets of Hagra-Dis when a small, one-armed girl begs him to fix her doll. An Imperial missile blast kills the little girl, Meesha, but Var patches her back to life, and they flee marauding storm troopers.

Imperial High Command unleashes Ulan, a formidable assassin and mystic who chases the Patch Man and his ragged band of followers through a labyrinth peopled with powerful beings and monsters. Both the pursued and pursuers find themselves in life or death situations when they encounter the Greeter, a mysterious being who controls the entrance to parallel worlds populating the labyrinth. It is in these domains they discover clues to end the war—with little Meesha as the secret key to ultimate victory and peace.

The Battle for Summia

The Battle for Summia (Patch Man Book 2) by [Rick Stepp-Bolling]

Rick Stepp-Bolling’s Patch Man II (The Battle for Summia) is quite a read. It mainly follows the journey of Meesha and Ten as they look for Kerash, the Lore princess. It also sees Meesha’s guardians, Var and Zefa discover a life-altering truth from an unexpected friend and start on a journey to find warriors to aid in the Summia fight.

But by far one of the most interesting storylines is the one of Ulan, an assassin commissioned to find an elusive Shola and make things right. This mission takes her on an interesting journey throughout which she encounters unexpected allies and foes. Ultimately, everyone in this book finds what they seek in some shape or form. More interestingly, unexpected love blooms, ending this story on quite a high.

At the heart of it, Patch Man II is a book about patriotism and the constant fight for freedom. As such, like many books of this nature, it is packed with betrayal, tracheary, and a ton of action. Other running themes include family and love, making it relatable for many readers.

While its dialogue is concise and riveting, its scene descriptions are very detailed, its prose has the perfect balance of information and entertainment. Since the story hinges on a lot of science fiction, the details employed are quite helpful. However, it still can be tough to follow for those who haven’t read the prequel. Moreover, if you are not a huge science fiction fan, the plot can be confusing. The greatest issue that I have with this book though, is its several simultaneously occurring storylines. All the back and forth between the action-packed storylines can be disrupting.

But it must be said that the author has gone to great lengths when it comes to character development, especially with regards to the main character, Meesha. Not only do we get detailed descriptions of her physical appearance, but we also understand her giftings and interesting personality. The same is true for the other characters, giving you a holistic view of the narrative. I also appreciate that the story is far from predictable.

Patch Man II is another phenomenal example of Rick Stepp-Bolling’s ability as a writer to entertain readers with an epic story that is spellbinding and stirring.

Pages: 281 | ASIN: B07YS729SV

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Patch Man

Patch Man by [Rick Stepp-Bolling]

Patch Man opens with bombs going off in the war torn country of Summia. One of these bombs injures a one armed child that the Patch Man heals with his magical patches. The ensuing events propels Patch Man and this child on a whirlwind adventure. They accumulate a band of intriguing companions on a treacherous quest into the depths of a dangerous labyrinth where they seek the key to ending the war.

The thrill of reading Patch Man does not stop even as the reader digs deeper into the book. Rick Stepp-Bolling has written a science fiction adventure novel that hearkens back to the classic fantasy epics of the 70′ and 80’s. The flow of the story is compelling and gets to be exciting with the revelation of every new plot twist and new character. I keep wanting to compare Patch Man to other epic fantasy novels because it captures that same feel while remaining within the science fiction genre. Reminding me of the movie Mad Max which is able to accomplish this same balance.

Patch Man and his young female companion have been prophesized to end the war, but even knowing this did not keep me from second guessing their ability to pull it off. While on such a nail biting adventure it is easy to overlook the prophesy and only see the danger ahead. Patch Man was an impressive character. His patches give him a unique ability I have not seen in any other fantasy novel. His skills made him feel like an original character, even within the confines of some fantasy tropes. The other supporting characters in the book were equal parts alluring and compelling. Each added a new ability to the group, and a new personality that added depth to the overall story.

The action oriented plot and the heavily detailed world makes this a book that is easy to get lost in. The story line had me hooked from chapter to chapter as the events continuously build tension. Patch Man is a great book for readers who enjoy science fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal stories.

Pages: 324 | ASIN: B0759F9WDH

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Power Without Responsibility

Rick Stepp-Bolling
Rick Stepp-Bolling Author Interview

The Battle for Imperiana follows Meesha and her allies as they uncover a plot to restart another war which threatens Imperiana. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

In the first PATCH MAN book, I explained how the origins of the war between Imperiana and Summia began as a result of depopulation by the developer of the Labyrinth, Julius Gelfson. President Gelfson’s plan to destroy Summia is reminiscent of several of today’s world rulers who think power is the best way to get whatever they want, but power without responsibility, without compassion is simply a threat, and there will always be Meeshas of the world who will confront that threat.

Meesha is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided her character development?

Throughout the first three books of the PATCH MAN series, Meesha grows both chronologically and in her maturity. We see her as a young, one-armed girl in book one who is unflagging in her optimism, but in book two, like many teenagers, she is moody and controlled by her emotions. During these first two books, Var and Zefa, her adopted Father and Mother, guide her character’s development through their unconditional love. In book three, The Battle For Imperiana, she has matured, but her love for Ten becomes her driving force. She is both fiercely independent and emotionally attached, as I suppose many of us are.

I enjoyed the detailed and intricate world you’ve built in your Patch Man series. What were some themes that were important for you to capture in this book?

Two major themes are hard to miss: 1. War is destructive 2. Family can help us overcome adversity in life. Of course there are numerous subthemes as well. Balance is needed in any community if we are to live healthy, productive lives. In the book, this is shown through the loss of technological power and the rise of magical power. The Chunee are a good example of how a people have found balance in their lives. Another subtheme is a warning that children who play computer games all day may not interact well on the human level when they become adults.

This is book three in your Patch Man series. What can readers expect in book four?

Book four and book five have already been written, so I can talk to this question with some insight. Book four is Ulan’s backstory. It describes the forces and events that led her to become an assassin. Book five continues in Summia with Meesha expecting, but events soon have Meesha, Ten, Riata and Ulan thrown into a Doppelganger domain where they meet their opposites in a world no longer covered by desert but by oceans.

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With the war in Summia over, Imperiana becomes the new battlefield. Var arrives in Adriat hoping to convince President Gelfson to end his insane attempt to create an army of dead Imperialists and invade Summia to complete his plan of total genocide. Meesha, in an effort to save Ten, travels to Imperiana only to discover Moab has set a diabolical trap for her. Now she must choose between freeing Zefa, her adopted mother, or Ten, the love of her life. One will live and one will die.

The Battle for Imperiana

The Battle for Imperiana (Patch Man Book 3) by [Rick Stepp-Bolling]

As Imperiana is recovering from its great war the story follows Meesha and her group of allies to uncover a plot to restart another war which threatens Imperiana. The world they know is threatened by former enemies and their intentions for destruction become clearer as they race against time to prevent catastrophe. Former warriors of the previous war must find their own ways to save those that they hold dear to them. Enemies of the past along with a world on the verge of breaking from a fragile peace is about to erupt into war once again. With Meesha and her allies slowly piecing together the mystery of who is causing plans for destruction, they slowly realize that the war itself had never ended completely.

As I first started reading the book, it became quite clear that the “Patch Man Book III” is the third installment of the series. If your new to the series and jumping at this point, it’s a little disorienting at first, but after a few chapters I felt comfortable and enjoyed the story. In either case, the tension throughout this book is palpable. The story line is a fantastic mix of adventure, romance and military suspense. War and its nature of destruction are clear elements which all the characters are familiar with, must endure, and face on their own terms. The number of characters was numerous and sometimes hard to keep track of. But it reminds me of a well developed universe that is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings or Star Wars in the way it introduces the universe as a well established world we’re just being invited into. Nevertheless, the world in which the story takes place is fascinating and intricate. A blend of tribal culture mixed in with cutting edge technology made for some interesting concepts regarding old ways and the new. I especially liked how the author took the time to describe how the characters thought, their methods of battle, and the description of their skills. This added together with the uniqueness of each character made them each important in their own way. Roles assigned to certain individuals with certain skill sets and talents were placed into difficult situations but were able to overcome them using their own style. Some characters are so hyped up that my expectations of them were set high, and when the end came I was a little disappointed to find that they didn’t live up to my expectations. By the very end of the book I was very satisfied with how things ended in general and I was even satisfied with the loose ends that need to be tied in upcoming installments. For readers that like their science fiction to be well thought out then I recommend The Battle for Imperiana.

Pages: 324 | ASIN: B089S8TQ1P

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