Friday, April 15, 2016

REVIEW & AUTHOR INTERVIEW: From a Broken Land (Broken Throne, #1) / William R. Herr

TITLE: From a Broken Land (Broken Throne, #1)
AUTHOR: William R. Herr
PUBLISHER: Self-published


Fantasy - Epic fantasy


In FROM A BROKEN LAND, Will Herr creates a dark, mysterious fantasy world where the mist is alive and a supernatural blight threatens to end humanity. Gidon is a young Sidhean soldier who has witnessed the blight's horrors first-hand. Though well-trained in combat, he hasn't exactly been battle-tested yet. The Church sends him to Hammat, a rival land that believes all Sidheans are monsters, on a desperate mission: Gidon is to seek the help of the College of Seers, whose mystical powers may be able to stave off the blight. Since the Hammat are known to kill Sidheans on sight, Gidon disguises himself as a Hammat guard and winds up in East Carwich, a small village nestled in the snowy, misty woodlands, where he seeks Seer Renault, an old mystic with a tenuous relationship with the College. To maintain his guise, Gidon joins the local guard and soon finds himself drawn into their conflicts and politics.

Meanwhile, a young noblewoman named Kiranae flees an unwanted marriage, disguised as a commoner called simply Kira and determined to define her own fate. When her journey collides with Gidon's, forces of fate are set in motion, culminating in an epic battle for survival against the dark monsters within the mist.

The mysterious tone, dark worldbuilding, and steady pacing of FROM A BROKEN LAND make it a hypnotic read. The setting really comes to life, with intricate details about the magic, religion, lore, and politics woven into the narrative. The story takes place in a medieval-esque high fantasy world, with swordfights, taverns, and codes of honor. I love stories that take place in reimagined medieval worlds, so this book was like catnip to me. I also loved that Herr's book focused on the rank-and-file citizens of the world. While the nobility does play something of a role, the story is really about the everyday guards and citizens trying to survive in a harsh world.

This book is something of a coming-of-age story for Gidon, who starts off as just a simple messenger, posing as a simple guard, but soon finds himself thrust into a position of leadership, having to make decisions he never thought he'd face. His journey is reminiscent of the classic hero's journey we all know and love. And so is Kira's. Though she doesn't turn up until several chapters in, once she arrives, she makes a big splash. Stubborn, intelligent, and tougher than she seems, Kira quickly defies expectations and becomes a hero in her own right. She's determined to be "one of the guys" in a world that expects her to play the role of damsel-in-distress, and her tenacity makes her a fascinating character to read about.

Also worth mentioning is the colorful supporting cast, which includes the cantankerous old guard Rinkins, the roguish gambler Bergeran, and the icy Countess Damarc. And the mist itself. There's a creepy, atmospheric quality to this book, with the mist having a life of its own and an ominous voice that hums in the background of several scenes. Herr's writing reminds me somewhat of Ursula LeGuin's in the Earthsea books, with its flowing phrases and sharp descriptions. And the atmosphere reminded me of the Battle of Helm's Deep in the Two Towers... where you have supernatural darkness closing in on a group of ragtag underdogs.

I always know I love a book when I find myself having trouble writing a review, because I feel like my review can't do the book justice. And I find myself in this predicament right now, since there are so many layers to this story that can't be aptly described. This book grabbed me from the start and drew me in with its mysterious atmosphere, classic medieval-esque world, and intrepid characters. I ended up reading the entire second half in one sitting (staying up way later than I should have) because I just *had* to know how things turned out. Since FROM A BROKEN LAND is the first in a series, there's much that's left open at the end of the book, but it does have an ending in its own right (and a very satisfying one - enough to tide me over until book 2).

With its amazing worldbuilding, action-packed battles, and character conflicts, FROM A BROKEN LAND makes for thoroughly engaging and entertaining epic fantasy.


Visionaries, migrants, soldiers and thieves - Will, as his friends call him, surrounds himself with all of these and more. Obsessed with "the wisdom of the lowest classes," he views the world as a perennial outsider, in the company of men and women most would not want to meet in a dark alley. His work reflects this, as he winds dramatic irony and sarcasm together with romance and drama to paint a picture of the world that others prefer not to see.

William R. Herr was raised on the road and continues to live there. When not travelling the United States behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer, he can be found in Central Pennsylvania, either writing, editing, or arguing with college students over cups of coffee.

HE lives with his wife and an extremely vocal Irish Staffordshire Terrier named "The Duke."

An Interview with William R. Herr

Reposted from English Informer with the author's permission

What/who inspired you to write initially, when did you start to write?

                  When  I was young, around the tender age of 8 or so, two coincidences conspired to spiral me into the madness of writing. First, my father enrolled in a 'classics of the month' club. The shelves of our home became loaded with tomes such as the Oxford English Dictionary, The Analects of Confucius, The Art of War, and other timeless works.
                  The second coincidence was that we began to move. Every year or two, we would pack up the house and travel across the country to a new city, as my father pursued his career with IBM. This meant that a normally hyperactive child needed some outlet for his wild imagination (I had, after all, both attempted to fly my bicycle off of a roof and blow up our garage) and my mother chose books. She let me pick whatever I wanted from a bookstore, and I chose the John Carter of Mars series, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
                  I was enthralled, and read all 11 books at a single sitting. My mother was ecstatic at the sudden peace, and let me live in my new-found heaven. No one told John Carter to sit down and be quiet. He did not get grounded when he started a war, not even for the big ones. There were no bed-times. Just he, and I, as we fought our way across the surface of a distant planet.
                  And so, I was hooked. I moved on to the classics on the shelves, because we could not afford my reading habits. Shakespear fell before me. Confucius became my BFF. Ayn Rand confused the dickens out of me, but seemed nice enough. Lewis Caroll let me wonder and laugh. Ogden Nash convinced me that lyricism could be fun.
                  At the age of 12, I entered and won the Young Authors Conference, at the insistence of a brilliant English teacher named Mrs. Callahan (Sahuaro High School, Tucson, AZ). At the age of 13 I placed as an honorable mention. I have been writing ever since.

Did you have ambitions of becoming famous, have you had other works published? Basically a background outline opportunity for you as the writer. What do you find most rewarding about writing? Perhaps a little on your background. Do you use a pen or real name?

                  I considered using a pen name, but my work is not truly mine, to my mind, if my name is not prominently featured on it. If I fail to entice, to enthrall, or to generate wonder, I should be as culpable as I would be lauded, in the reverse case.  I am proud of my work, and will not hide from its result. If I ever try to laughingly publish erotica, I will choose a name like “Dr. Bigguns” or some such nonsense. Otherwise, William R. Herr is the only name under which I ever intend to publish.
                  As to fame, I view it as a necessary evil, if my work is strong enough. Regardless of how others might view me, I can never forget that I have, through the course of raising my son, shoveled liquid manure at a dairy, to make ends meet. I am no better than the least of my readership.

Can you tell me a little about your book(s)/memoir/ (perhaps add the/some title(s) here if applicable). Is it/are they available now?

                  From a Broken Land is currently available for pre-order in ebook, paperback, and hard-cover. It is, at its core, a gothic epic high fantasy—it incorporates aspects of horror, fantasy and romance to tell the story.
                  Of itself, the story follows the tale of a seemingly simple messenger who has been sent to his almost-certain death, and a young princess who seeks to escape a marriage she cannot abide. They are pushed together by dark forces beyond their control, and together face the slow advance of an apocalypse that cannot be stopped, spurred on by an evil which cannot be defeated.  And yet, somehow, they must.

Is this the type of work/style you prefer to write, (eg crime)? Do you write in a variety of styles?

                  I write in a variety of styles, and in a variety of genres. My first loves are Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I also love Noir, Comedy, Drama, and anything else that seems to fit a story. Really, the plot and the characters will tell me the proper genre, setting, and time-period. I am only an interpreter for their needs and desires.

How long does it normally take to produce your novel(s)?

                  This really depends. If there is a great deal of research necessary, it can take a year or more. If my research is already completed, or on a subject in which I am fluent, the process requires only the proper outline, efficient character diagrams, and a quiet space in which to work. From a Broken Land was one of the latter cases. It required 1 ½ months to write the initial draft, and three months to edit.

If you have had several books published which was your personal favourite and why?

                  My favorite, actually, is a play that I never produced, entitled Memorial in Green. In it, a young soldier struggles with who he has become, and the loss of who he once was, as he fights his way through an all-consuming addiction that threatens both himself and those who love him.
                  That play almost killed me. I laughed. I cried for release. I couldn't sleep, for the nightmares. I went on multi-day drunks to deaden the pain, and started bar-fights to erase the shame. In the end, I was too much of a coward to ever complete the final scenes, and I had to set it aside. Those who were closest to me, at the time, and who witnessed my downward spiral (among them, Jay Smith, Parsec award winner and writer/producer of HG World), wisely removed the play from my records and I have not seen it, since. I have never achieved that level of blissful and self-destructive angst since the play was taken from me.  I hope one day to rediscover it and finally put those demons to rest—just without alchohol, and as perhaps the final work of my career.

How did you come up with your titles for them?

                  Titles normally reveal themselves with the overall book-concept. Somewhere between the first and second draft, I discover that they are hideous, and replace them with something more attractive. Then I throw that out, and pick something that will maybe attract interest. In the end, my editor is proud to laud my stupidity, and the title reverts to something I threw away earlier. Titles are always in flux.

Would you like to tell us about your home life, while writing?

                  I have no home life, or at least not one that the average person would identify as such. Many years ago my wife and I chose to leave our home and possessions, to support our son through college. We embraced the lifestyle of over-the-road truck drivers, and have never looked back. Our functional homelessness works, for us, and we live the ongoing adventure. Our son is pleased that he does not have to proof my work. To date, it has made no sense for us to revert to an anchored existence, although that day may soon arrive.

Where do you normally write? We have some writers who like to move countries and go to a quiet venue.

                  This changes, as locations and background duties change. Right now, I am responding to your questions in the jump-seat of a 2016 Western Star 5700XE, outside of Atlanta, GA. Later, I may sit in the far corner of a diner whose waitresses know me and respect my need for coffee. On occasion I rent a hotel room (La Quinta is best for this, in my opinion) and do nothing but write for a week.

What about the process of writing the book(s), how do you go about it?

                  First comes the concept, and it usually is an offshoot of something else that I am researching at the time. For From a Broken Land, and the Broken Throne series in general, it was the nature of truth, as it related to politics and economics. How could I make that an approachable subject for the common reader? As I spun possibilities in my mind, at 70 mph through the Rocky Mountains, first images, then scenes and characters took shape. This was the first stage.
                  When I had a moment to myself, I began to outline in stark detail. I drew character diagrams and wove subplots into the overall plot, until it approached something that I found interesting.
                  Then it was time to write. Nearly all of the book had been composed, before-hand, so all that was necessary was to translate it onto the page. In the process, I deviated horribly from my outline, rewrote the characters as something more believable, and found an editor.
                  The editing process was brutal, but efficient. Every writer/author should have someone to whom they can turn, who will not only spot the inconsistencies, but also belittle the author into fixing them. I was most lucky that I was able to find that person in Jessica Gang.

Was your latest book a difficult book to write? Why?

                  Actually, From a Broken Land was a joy to write. The story wanted to be told, and it wanted me to tell it with my own style. The characters were alive and vibrant from the very beginning, with their own unique personalities and quirks. Again, all that was necessary was to translate the story that they fed me, within the bounds of their subplots and story-arcs.

Do you have a favourite chapter in this book? Why?

                  I enjoyed The Hand of the Trapmaster the most, throughout the writing process. That chapter is the point where the greater number of threads coalesce to create a staging-area for the final scenes—the pay-off for the reader. It is always rewarding to see your work take shape, and become something more than you expected it to be at its inception.

Do you feel that your books have an underlying message for readers? What will people find interesting about this/and previous books and what do you think will attract readers to them?

                  From a Broken Land has underlying questions. There is a great temptation among authors to preach to their readership, and that is something I do not want to do. I want to ask important questions—questions which can only be answered by the reader, from their own unique perspective. If, in the end, my readers discover something profound, I am only the imperfect translator for their own self-discovery.

What is the most rewarding part of being an author?

                  When the proofs first tremble beneath your fingers, the concepts become reality. You have created a thing of importance, even if only minor. You have frozen a dream into hot wax and copied it to vinyl, to be shared with the world. What drug can convey that level of absolution?

Have your family and friends been supportive in your chosen career?

                  I am fairly certain my family and friends think I am insane. Writers, after all, are unbearably cool. They think great thoughts, and write them down in squirreled-away notebooks, never to be treated by the public. They know things, important things, that mere mortals can never embrace with their puny minds. Writers are the gateway to all that is hip, immediate, and striking.
                  Authors, on the other hand, suck.
                  Authors suck worse than black holes and vacuum cleaners. Authors write schlock, and every writer knows it (and will tell you so, as they thumb through their unfinished manuscripts). Authors trip over their plots, stumble through unreasonable dialogue, and miss deadlines. They argue over minutia, and sacrifice their principles for a quick cuddle with a publisher. Authors are about as uncool as one can ever become. Their only saving grace is that they aspire, some day in the distant future, to suck less.
                  My family and friends understands this, and endeavor to outlive the shame.

What is next for you when this book is published, what are you doing with your time now? Any other literature-based projects on the go? (Include your website, Facebook and  any details you wish here for promotion please).

                  Currently, I am fully engaged with the promotion and publication of the Broken Throne series. Over the next month or two, it is my intention to finalize the first draft of book 2, In the Captivity of Choice (see my comments regarding titles, above). In the wings is a Broken Throne novella which I set aside, an Arthurian historical fantasy which I think will break new ground, and outlines for several hard SF titles. Which will garner my attention first? The one that beats me over the head, likely. In the end, this series takes precedence.
                  Readers may keep up with my many projects at .

So how can people get hold of a copy of the book? Please do not make the list of contact details so long that it turns off readers. You can add these to Café Pause section with a precise or text from each book.

                  From a Broken Land should be available at all booksellers in the english-speaking world (and some other locations as well), starting April 15. All formats are available for pre-order, up to that point. Electronic copies should be available wherever ebooks are sold, in all acceptable formats. While there are suggested retail prices listed on the books, themselves, pricing is exclusively the responsibility of the retailer, depending on their required markup. Failing all else, enthusiasts and adventurers may go to and select their favorite title from the drop-down menu under 'books'.

                  If none of the above are acceptable, I will be attending TusCon (Tucson Science Fiction Convention) in mid-November of 2016. Fans may acquire signed copies there, or at any other convention I might be invited to attend.

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