Sunday, September 23, 2018

An Interview with Grace Draven, author of Phoenix Unbound and Radiance

Tonight I'm sitting down with my long time friend, Grace Draven. Grace is the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance, and the upcoming romantic fantasy novel Phoenix Unbound, book one in her new Fallen Empire series.

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview, Grace. I’m so excited about your forthcoming book, Phoenix Unbound.

Can you tell readers what was the genesis for your novel?

The music and lyrics to the song “The Royal We” by The Silversun Pickups lit the initial spark for this story in my brain.  I kept imagining the siege of a walled city and the clash of cataphracts in opposing armies.  It was the foundation on which I built the book, moving back and forth on the manuscript’s timeline.  I’m not a linear writer, so I can easily hop from one scene to another at various points in the tale.

The setting is so lush and visual, it seemed so real. Did you loosely base your world’s geography or culture on places readers would know in our world?

Yes, absolutely. The Krael Empire is loosely based on the last days of the Roman and Babylonian empires.  The culture of the Savatar people is based on those that existed in the Pontic Steppe during the classical period--mainly the Sarmatians, but also the Scythians, and in some cases the Parthians and the Mongols.

As I read your book, I also felt ancient history come alive. Could you speak to that? Why gladiators, and how did you make something fantastical feel so real?

This is strictly my personal opinion, but I believe humanity is a warlike species when you get right down to brass tacks.  The gladiatorial games of Rome were just one aspect of ritualized combat for the entertainment of the masses, in which the winners live another day and the losers don’t.  The popular Incan game of tlachtli, in which the losing team was sacrificed to the gods, was hugely popular in Mesoamerican civilizations, so the Romans weren’t the only ones who enjoyed that kind of high-stakes entertainment.  

I think these types of games/ritual combats shone a spotlight on human behavior at its best and its worst.  In terms of fiction writing, it’s a gem of a trope to explore when building both characterization and plot arc.

Making a far away moment in time feel real is grounded in recognizing that history repeats itself because humanity, as a whole, doesn’t change much.  The worries, cares, and fears we had centuries, or even millennia ago, are reflected today (with modern tweaks based on technological advances and conveniences).  We still love, we still hope, we still fear, we still hate, we still grieve, we still die.  Only the settings in which we experience those emotions change. 

Phoenix Unbound is also a sweeping romance that takes readers on an incredible journey of discovery and growth for your main characters. There is also a bigger than life theme behind it all. I’m curious. Why this particular theme for this series?

It evolved as I wrote it, so the theme sort of blossomed out of the chapters as I put them down.  Strength comes in many forms, and often it’s not so much a birthright as it’s a skillset learned through trial by fire.  Bad things happen to good people all the time, and in a world like the one in Phoenix Unbound, which I’d like to think reflects actual history in many ways, life was nasty, brutal, short.  What got you through it was will and hope, the two elements I think on which the concept of strength are built.

I admit I had a few tears rolling down my cheeks while I wrapped myself in the love story playing out between Gilene and Azarion. It’s compelling with incredible emotional depth. The brilliant moments of poignancy touched my heart and soul. Just how many tissues did you go through writing this story? I know I stopped counting after five.

This will probably sound cold-blooded, but I’ve only had my eyes water from writing one small scene for a book that’s barely in the beginning stages and won’t be released for another couple of years.  That being said, if what I wrote moved you to tears, then I did something right.

Will readers see returning characters from Phoenix Unbound in future books?

Yes.  This is a trilogy in which each book focuses on a different couple within the same world, dealing with interconnected problems, and common enemies.  Characters in each book make appearances in the other books in the trilogy.

I know novel writing is a massive undertaking that demands more than just time in the chair. Is there any part of the process you enjoy more than others?

Writing THE END.  There is no greater joy than that.  Everything afterwards, such as revisions, etc. is just cake.  Research comes in a very close second, but I also recognize that if I’m not careful, I will let research become the rabbit hole I fall into and don’t come out of until hours or days later.  Not always time efficiently spent.

And now for the silly fun stuff…
If you had to pick a book boyfriend from any of your stories, whom would you pick and what book is he from?

Hard to choose, but it’s probably toss-up between Brishen from RADIANCE and Ballard from ENTREAT ME.  Both men have personality traits I find very attractive in my husband, so I’m definitely partial to those personality types.

I’d like to thank Grace Draven for sharing her time to talk with us about her latest book, Phoenix Unbound, which drops September 25, but is available for pre-order now! I’m calling this one an instant classic, ya’ll.

A woman with power over fire and illusion and an enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire's capital--her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village's tithe has been the same woman. Gilene's sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire's most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion--and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire--and burn once more.

Links to pre-order:


Visit Grace's website at:

“Grace Draven's exciting romantic fantasy features characters who are fresh and original. Their problems and triumphs will keep you reading into the night.”—Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author.

“Fierce and captivating, Phoenix Unbound is the story of a gladiator and a fire witch fighting for their freedom against an empire that wants them enslaved.  With impossible odds, breathtaking battles, terrifying magic, and an unlikely love, this book is a must read. Grace Draven is a master of romantic heroic fantasy.”—Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“With exquisitely drawn characters and superb worldbuilding, Phoenix Unbound once again proves Grace Draven's mastery of fantasy romance. This is exactly the kind of sweepingly romantic adventure story that I've been yearning for—and I can't wait for more.”—Meljean Brook, New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Seas Series

“Stunning! This book entices and mesmerizes to an astonishing degree. Like an intoxicating elixir, the more I read, the more I craved.”—Darynda Jones, New York Times bestselling author

“When it comes to fantasy romance, Draven is in a class by herself....A phenomenal start to what is sure to be an amazing series.”—RT Book Reviews