Friday, December 14, 2012


Ross Harrison, author of the science fantasy Temple of the Sixth, discusses his writing style, his novel's background, and his series' direction. Check out his blog, Like his Facebook page, or Follow him on Twitter.

Prior to Temple of the Sixth, you’d already published the book’s prequel, Shadow of the Wraith, and a steampunk novella, Kira. What can you tell us about your background as a writer?

I have none. I wrote several small things when I was younger, which are hugely embarassing to read now. Probably the first real step towards what I write now were two short stories which totally ripped off the Metal Gear Solid games. Although publishing still hadn’t entered my mind, they were intended to be more of a proper… thing than the previous short, half-written stories about Brazillian gremlins and odd demon things which stole keys out of your heart…

Then I started writing a thriller about an NSA agent, which turned out to be the first proper thing I wrote. It had a proper story, fairly fleshed-out characters, and of course humour. It was going well, until my computer decided to wipe out half of what I’d written, leaving me with only an old version, devoid of the twist and well-thought-out clues I’d written into it – and which to this day I can’t remember.

So I have no actual writing background other than messing about and experimenting.

Temple of the Sixth is more of a spinoff than a sequel in that the main characters from the first Nexus novel, Shadow of the Wraith, play supporting roles. Why did you choose to make this book about Theak instead of Travis?

The NEXUS series was never going to be about Travis solely. Travis and his team will be the main main characters of the series, with them returning fairly frequently, but there will be plenty of others, like Theak. Those others may or may not return for other books, and if so, may or may not be the protagonist again!

I’m not entirely sure why I chose this particular book to be a break from Travis. Perhaps simply so that people could see early on that he won’t be the only protagonist. But I also wanted someone a bit different. Theak and Travis were best friends for quite a while, and you can see some similarities between them. Theak is more able to admit his limits and his fear, however, which is something I wanted for this book.

The conflict in Temple of the Sixth centers around an ancient, godlike evil, one that has more in common with epic fantasies than traditional science fiction. Why did you chose to blend genres?

I’m just taking the fantasy aspect of science fantasy a little bit further. I just thought that was what I wanted the book to be about, and wrote it.

Actually, I didn’t have much of a clue what the book was going to be about until we first meet the Sixth. I wrote her first chapter and realised that this was something very different to the pages that had come before, and the entirety of the first book, even. I was eager to continue that and see where it went.

I always had an idea that there would be a lot more to the universe than was in the first book, but there was no conscious decision, that I recall, to put that into this one.

Do you have a favorite character in Temple of the Sixth? What can  you tell us about him or her?

Well, I like the Sixth, and I like how she changes as she becomes accustomed to being a little more mortal than usual. But I think my favourite is probably Fonau. He’s incredibly weird, and (I think) quite funny. He’s responsible for the book having more humour than Shadow of the Wraith, while it is at the same time a bit darker. That’s one of those things that will be a matter of opinion. Personally, I think the humour helps emphasise the darker, serious parts, but I know there will be some who think it takes away from that.

Actually, I’m quite fond of B4, the little android, as well. I quite like seeing how the androids’ ability to learn creates such unique…"people," almost. Especially paired with the identity of whoever programmed them in the first place. B4 is a Necurian android, so he of course has their compassion. But as an android, he can never truly feel the compassion, and so that has some interesting results.

Did you mean for Temple of the Sixth  to be a sequel, or did the idea spring up on you while you were writing Shadow of the Wraith? In your opinion, does Temple of the Sixth represent a continuation of its prequel, or does it stand on its own?

As I said, the series was always meant to move between different protagonists, and therefore, not have direct sequels. But I think both of those are true of the book. It stands on its own as a unique story, and you don’t have to have read Shadow of the Wraith to understand it. With some of the protagonists from that book appearing, it’s unavoidable that there are some small and infrequent things that require knowledge of their background, but those things aren’t vital to the story, and the reader won’t feel like they’ve stumbled through the door in time to hear the punchline but not the joke.

One example is a crossover scene between the two books. At the end of Shadow of the Wraith, Travis meets Theak, and near the beginning of Temple of the Sixth, we have that same meeting. This time, though, it’s from Theak’s point of view, and will allow the reader who has come from SOTW a slightly different perspective on things. Seeing from Theak’s eyes how worn out and "beat up" Travis looks certainly isn’t vital, but it pads out the reader’s mental image of things.

At the same time, there are a few scenes that continue Travis’ storyline. For example, the second time we meet Travis, we learn a little more about the fate of his team and their ships. We also find out a tiny morsel about him and Juni. But again, new readers will get the gist of it, and likewise, readers of the next Travis novel won’t have to have read Temple of the Sixth in order to understand things.

Rather than calling it "Book Two of the NEXUS Series," it is "A NEXUS Novel." I intend most of the series to be standalone in terms of main story, rather than direct sequels. But of course, the series is called "NEXUS" because of the themes of connectivity, so there will almost always be some kind of connection between novels. However large or small!

How did you go about plotting Temple of the Sixth?

It started when Theak came aboard the ship in Shadow of the Wraith. I decided then that he would be the protagonist of a book, wherever that would come in the series.

When it then came to writing the book itself, I started with an abandoned space station. I wanted to set the scene of something a little more sinister, but I still didn’t know what that would be.

It wasn’t until I got to the Sixth’s first chapter that I knew what the book was going to be about. From there, I decided that I wanted to have it told from several perspectives. They would all be varying degrees of normality. From Theak, a pretty normal man, but with some military training, to Omar and Palitz, two secretaries who have never left their home town, let alone their planet, and have no clue what’s going on or how to deal with it.

The main problem with the story was how to end it. How do mortals destroy an immortal force? The answer always ended up the same: they can’t.

Much of Temple of the Sixth has to do with godlike beings existing on a higher dimenstion than our earthly realm. What can you tell us about them? Why did you choose to center your novel on these celestial beings?

The Hierarchy’s leadership were normal people once. They were killed in a way that created such rage and hatred in them that they were unable to properly cross over to the spirit world (whatever you want to call it). They were caught between worlds, and left to seeth in rage. Eventually, they bagan to harness that rage and hatred and use it to fuel their return to the mortal world. Here, they attempted to take revenge for what happened to them.

In response to this unforseen threat, something up there in the higher realms created the Celestians: six immortal beings whose sole purpose is to prevent the Hierarchy from destroying all life. Temple of the Sixth sees the Hierarchy finally become more intelligent, taking the Celestians by surprise. The six immortals are then forced to do something that isn’t in their nature: put their faith in mortals.

The Hierarchy is particularly dangerous because they are able to "infect" people. This works on two levels. Firstly, people are made to see what they want to see, and experience what they want to experience. In this way, the Hierarchy can sway that person to their side, without force. After all, they want the entire universe to wipe itself out, so having people willingly do so is a very enticing prospect.

Another form of this "infection" is more direct and forceful. The Hierarchy’s power takes over a person’s mind and bends it to their will. They become, more or less, zombies. In this way, the Hierarchy has a massive army to sweep across galaxies, and if those armies are defeated, it’s still a victory for them.

Above the Celestians and Hierarchy are the Ascentians – basically, angels. Or my version/idea of them. They aren’t in the book a huge amount, partly because I think writing such things requires more delicacy than I possess!

As for why I chose such beings… I don’t know.

Why did you choose to make the novel about Theak, who had only a supporting role in Temple of the Sixth’s prequel? What can you tell us about his character—what inspired him, how you developed him, etc.?

I took quite a risk putting Theak into Shadow of the Wraith, because he actually serves little purpose in that book, other than to set their course straight. But looking at the bigger picture of the series – at least in the short term – it made sense and had to be done. The whole idea is that it is not coincidence that brought them together.

Theak was on his own little mission when Travis came across him, and that needed exploring. What was it he was doing? Why was he floating in space in a damaged fighter? What was it that ensured their paths crossed? As I said, I wanted to show right away that the series is much more open than the reader might otherwise think, and isn’t only about Travis and his team.

Theak joined the Air Force with Travis, and so is a military trained pilot. Like Travis, he found the military too rigid and left. He was unemployed for three years before giving a go at private detecting. That went horribly wrong, and he decided that line of work wasn’t for him.

To begin with, Theak is completely against any idea of anything beyond what he can see, and dreads Travis’ speech, upon their first meeting, about how there’s no such thing as coincidence. Of course, it isn’t long before reality is thrown in his face, and he discovers that there’s a lot more than just what he can see in his own little world. Though, even with all the evidence in front of him, he’s still not entirely sure he believes it.

Theak is not a soldier, and he doesn’t pretend to be brave and courageous. So when he’s recruited to rescue a kidnapped god from an army of immortals, he’s understandably reluctant. He does agree though because on the one hand, how likely is it to be true? And on the other, he thinks he should do what he can to help, just in case.

What’s next for the NEXUS series? Will Theak or other characters from Temple of the Sixth be returning?

Some surviving characters will return, I’m sure. After all, there must be a reason they were kept alive! Others, perhaps not. Travis and his team will of course return. I intend Theak to have a small but fairly vital part in a dark turning point of Travis’ life. Just what place in the order of the series that will take, I’m not sure. Not in the immediate future, anyway.

I can say that B4 will definitely return, perhaps as soon as book three! In that same book, I haven’t quite decided whether to have a brief appearance by a certain other character or not. Another thing I can say is that the book will feature a protagonist readers almost certainly won’t be expecting.

Next for the series is a break. I’ve rewritten, edited and published two books of the series in short succession, with the creation of novella in between, and it’s quite tiring. On the plus side, book three isn’t actually written yet, unlike Temple of the Sixth, which was written before I even started properly rewriting and editing Shadow of the Wraith! That means I can finally get back to proper writing, instead of all this "maybe that paragraph should go before that one" rubbish.

As mentioned, book three will not see Travis return as the protagonist, as I wanted to explore someone else pretty closely connected to him.

The theme of connections will become more and more prevalent in the series, and although I intend to keep the humour, I also intend some entries in the series to be quite a bit darker and more serious than these two. That’s not to say they’ll become more adult, though.

For now, they’re entertaining adventure and allow the characters to…play, almost. But, just like children growing up, the time for play is ending. The galaxy is nearing a defining moment, and everything must change to prepare for that. No one will come out unscathed. Some heroes may not survive the journey, will turn on their friends, and will find their spirit broken.

Until then, we’ll just let Travis, Juni, Theak and all the others enjoy their blissful ignorance of the darkness to come.

Temple of the Sixth is available at: Createspace (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Smashwords (multiple e-formats)

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