SPSFC Interview: Edward Nile, Author of “Ironshield”

I’m a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and wanted to spotlight some of the authors in the contest! Edward Nile is the author of Ironshield, a dieselpunk epic set in a war-torn world.

Edward Nile Interview

What was your gateway to speculative fiction? How did you decide to write it?

This is where I give the normal answer that I’ve been a lifelong lover of fantasy blah blah. It’s a cliché because it’s true. As a nineties kid, some of my first memories were of cartoons and television shows like the Power Rangers. I swung plastic swords and collected Transformers (No prizes for guessing why I write about giant robots) and generally was absorbed in stories, whether it was what was on the screen or what I made up in my own head while bashing figures together. I’d spend unhealthily long hours making stuff up until the sun rose. From Beast Wars to Gargoyles to Reboot, I devoured it all. A love of traditional fantasy followed. One of the very first movies I remember being engrossed in that wasn’t a Disney cartoon was DragonHeart when I was about six or seven. So, around that age I started drawing a lot, making up characters and scenarios to fuel my addiction to escapism. By the time I was twelve I was dead set on becoming a comic book creator. Anime was a huge influence at the time, with Escaflowne and Gundam Wing being two of my earliest discoveries. By age fifteen, after reading all the popular fantasy and sci fi everyone was reading at the time, I’d scrapped the comic book dream in favor of wanting to write my very own Robert Jordan-esque door stopper fantasy novel. And here we are.

And here we are.

I love that people can come to speculative fiction from childhood but have different influences. Can you tell us about your inspiration for your fantasy world?

After a hiatus from writing I tried to reinvent one of my darling stories from when I was 15. Scrapped it. Tried a dystopian sci-fi, wound up shelving a first draft that will never see the light of day. Moved on to an attempt at urban fantasy/horror. At this point I realized I needed to work on something unique just to keep myself motivated. I’d had an interest in dieselpunk for a while. Trench warfare always held a fascination for me and my reading was veering steadily from fiction to military history. I started listening to podcasts about WW1 and WW2 and picking up just about any book on the subject I could find. Then it was the American Civil War. Now, my shelves are crammed with books about just about every conflict from the Crusades to the Vietnam War (I’m currently reading an excellent book about the Anglo-Boer conflict and have a tome about the Crimea waiting for me). So, pretty quickly I knew I wanted to write something that reflected this newfound interest in 19th and 20th century warfare. Still being a fantasy nerd, I wrote my first published novel, “Bloodlight”, to be a blend of fantasy and dieselpunk. But before “Bloodlight”, I wrote a little short story called “The Worm Sleeps.” A vignette set in a dystopian future in which a mech pilot operates an old rust bucket, juxtaposed with the more advanced, futuristic machines of his comrades. This piece (which I’ve since thrown on Amazon with one of my fantasy shorts for a dollar) was a test run for me. I wanted to write about mechs, but I wanted them to have all the grit and grime of a WW2 tank. Fast forward about a year. “Bloodlight” is being prepped for release, and I’m at a friend’s place leafing through Shelby Foote’s series on the Civil War. And the scene just springs to mind, of a hulking gray mech standing in a dusty road, being challenged by a man with a field gun. Everything just grew from there.

I thought I sensed some of the historical background of both the Civil War and World War I in “Ironshield.” It’s good to know I wasn’t far off! How long do you expect the Ironshield Saga to be, and what other projects do you have up your sleeve?

I think any time an author taps into a world and story with this kind of scope, it opens the way for an almost infinite number of ideas. After all, the history of humanity and armed conflict is such a vast cornicopea of information it’s literally impossible to write or read everything involved. Doubly so for me, because while there are historical inspirations to “Ironshield” it is, at the end of the day, a fictional world I’m writing. I can do whatever I want with it, combine inspirations from just about anything. I have material for the Ironshield Saga to last for more books than I can count. Originally, I envisioned at least 4-5 large, numbered entries in the main series, plus a ton of smaller novels and novellas such as “Old Bolts” to flesh out the world further. And that’s just in the first era of “Ironshield.” I have plans for an urban detective story set a century or so after the main events I’m currently writing about. A series built around a central character in a steadily advancing dieselpunk world, complete with new technologies and the implications they come with. That being said, I have to be realistic with my time and my efforts. “Ironshield” clocked in at 170k words. “Iron Wrath,” coming out this June, is over 200k. These are large books with a lot of story to them, and I have to balance their production with real life obligations. Knowing that, it’s likely I’ll have to switch gears to another story setting at some point for my own sanity. There’s an epic fantasy book I want to write, as well as a dark fantasy western and a ton of other projects I really want to work on. More ideas and stories than I can reasonably complete in a lifetime. Of course, when this writing thing starts paying some of the bills, I’ll be able to put more time in (ha!).

Can we circle back for a moment and discuss a side topic? WWI and some of the other influences you mentioned were heavily influenced by colonialism. In “Ironshield,” some of that colonialism appears as a possibility in how both the Xangese people and the native inhabitants of the continent are treated. How are you wrestling with the history of colonialism and the evils thereof within this fictional setting?

What “Ironshield” wrestles with, if it “wrestles” with anything, is monarchy and centralized power. Xang, a monarchy ruled over by a king, has neglected its hold on a nearby island chain, which has since developed its own identity and considers itself a separate entity from Xang, even though they share a language and other cultural background. As far as Arkenia is concerned, why shouldn’t they? Why should someone miles away who knows nothing of the everyday lives of a people get to make blanket declarations about how they live? This was the basis of Arkenia’s Revolution, after all, the desire not to have a distant authority tell them what to do, what to believe etc. As far as the native tribes, I only really get to explore one fringe group, a cargo cult called the K’Tani, who worship machines, falsely believing the Arkenians had used their Warsuits (mechs) to save them from colonial rule. In fact it was their own freedom the Arkenians wanted, and the benefits to the tribes came as an unintended bonus. If my book was to be more focused on an anti-colonialist message, I’d be writing a different story. “Iron Wrath” has been delayed two years because I had to scrap an outline that was, in part, unworkable due to my trying to cram too much political realism into the narrative. Having real-world inspirations is great, but I’m writing books about stompy robutts. Everything that goes into the plot, therefor, leans toward said stompy robutts in some form or another. If an aspect of the world doesn’t tie into that, it doesn’t get explored too deeply on the page. Hence we only really see the tribe that is most directly involved with these machines.

I appreciate how the setting clearly has so much going on behind the scenes, too. Of course, the big draw for me was the stompies, too! How can readers connect with you?

Readers can follow my page, MechWizard Press on Facebook or shoot me a message. There’s also a blog where I give updates. I recommend readers hit “follow” on my Amazon author page and/or on Goodreads to get updates on my releases. Iron Wrath, the sequel to Ironshield is out as of June. If anyone wants a great short novel to read in the meantime, and wants some more background on characters appearing in Iron Wrath and future installments, I recommend they check out “Old Bolts” which was a semi-finalist for SPFBO 7.

Thanks for the interview and the thoughtful questions!

Thank you for your insightful comments!

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