Elí’s Biography: I was born in Akureyri in northern Iceland in 1982. Aside from a brief spell spent in Norway in my very early childhood I have spent my whole life here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum in my teens, which explains a whole lot and makes me just eccentric enough to be a writer.
I graduated high school in 2004, after which I dove into my first attempt at a proper fantasy novel. I finished the first draft a year later, but it took me until 2011 to get it published. I followed with a book a year for the next four years, before deciding to move into the English-language market. I translated three of my fantasy novels into English and self-published on Amazon, and then started writing original material in English. And here we are.
Talking with Elí Freysson
S&S: When did you start writing?
Elí Freysson: I toyed with writing a bit in my teens, but never really finished anything. I got serious about the whole thing just after graduating college in 2004.
S&S: Where’d the name for your book come from?
Elí Freysson: “The War of the Usurper” is the central conflict of the story. The culture the novel focuses on is quite fond of dramatic titles, personal honour and forging events into legends. So just at the dawn of the war the man who murdered the king and seized the throne is titled “The Usurper” and it sticks to him to such a degree that it effectively becomes his name.
S&S: What book got you hooked on reading?
Elí Freysson: I can’t point to any one work of fiction that really got me reading. As a kid, I was a bookworm since the day I could read. European comic books like Lucky Luke, Asterix and Spirou, were big favourites early on, and when I moved to prose I started out with pulpy stuff like Tarzan and Morgan Kane. But I can safely point to The Lord of the Rings as sparking my interest in fantasy.
S&S: Did the story of The War of the Usurper make its way into your dreams while you were writing it?
Eli Freysson: Boy, I wish my dreams were that interesting. No, I’m afraid I only get confused nonsense. As a writer, I can’t say I approve of all those internal inconsistencies and plot holes. 🙂
S&S: What’s your current favorite book?
Elí Freysson: It’s always hard for me to pick a favourite anything, but what’s fresh in my memory right now is Alexis Hall’s Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator series. I have to admire the way it manages to use many of the tropes that annoy me so much about the urban fantasy genre and still be entertaining… in part by skewering quite a lot of them. I also recently read and quite enjoyed Tim Lebbon’s Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void (two colons, how about that?), for the interesting take on the very early precursors to the well-known Jedi.
S&S: Did you ever read a book and think “I could have done it better”?
Elí Freysson: I’m not going to call anyone out by name here, but I recently took a look at a fantasy novel that had quite a lot of positive reviews, and it just felt like someone’s first attempt at writing. A prologue that is nothing but infodump that goes into exquisite detail about cultures, races and characters for several pages before actually getting to any real storytelling is not the way to go.
S&S: How long did it take you to write The War of the Usurper?
Elí Freysson: From starting the first chapter to finishing the last, I would say it took me about half a year. That seems to be my general speed, counting fixes, rewrites and long sessions at the café with a notebook, trying to untangle a plot problem.
S&S: How many drafts did you do before you were satisfied?
Elí Freysson: I don’t really work in drafts these days. I can’t seem to write anything down unless I’m satisfied with it, so once I have the finished manuscript all that remains are little tweaks.
S&S: What aspects of the writing community did you utilize? (Beta-readers, proofreaders, etc.)
Eli Freysson: Beta readers are an absolute must. To any aspiring indie-author who happens to read this and thinks they can go without a second opinion: Don’t. It’s my experience that authors are the worst judges of their material.
S&S: What was the hardest part of writing The War of the Usurper?
Elí Freysson: Possibly the fact that I was stepping out of my previous genre of choice (fantasy), and moving into space opera. Deciding on the technology level was also a challenge, given that I am the least technologically savvy person I know outside of a retirement home.
S&S: “For fans of” can be a dangerous phrase, but what well-known books would you say are like _____________________________ so that people can get a feel for if they might be interested?
Elí Freysson: Boy, that IS a minefield of a question. I have asked my beta-readers that on several occasions, and they haven’t really been able to come up with an answer. So I guess I can conclude that, at the very least, my book isn’t just same-old, same-old.
The War of the Usurper is the first in the Golden Throne series. It is my foray into creating my very own epic space opera universe, full of what I like about such settings: Casual space travel, many, many inhabited worlds, super-technology co-existing with magic, larger-than-life characters, a whole lot of backstory, and just sheer vastness of scale.
This first entry is a self-contained story about the titular nine-year war for the throne of the Realm of the Glorious Dawn. Power is seized by a power-hungry tyrant, who resorts to ever-greater atrocities to hold onto the throne, while loyalists secure the sole legitimate heir, twelve-year-old Princess Maraka, and begin the struggle to restore order.
Each chapter details a different flashpoint of the war, as important events must turn on the actions of wildly different people, spread far and wide across the social hierarchy and physical width of the Realm. Meanwhile, year after year, Maraka must grow up in the shadow of all of this, and learn to become both the steadfast symbol and the strong leader her subjects need.