I’m very excited to offer this new interview with Seventh Star author Nathan Day. Nathan has penned the Orphan Saga, which will be available this summer from Seventh Star Press. Originally from Lexington, Kentucky, he now resides in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to being a novelist, Nathan is also an actor who has appeared in Stash, Murder By Numbers, Bulletsong, and Enquiring Minds. He has also joined the cast for Stephen Zimmer’s upcoming Rayden Valkyrie TV pilot. Please enjoy this conversation where he shares his thoughts on his upcoming Orphan Saga:
Carl: By way of introduction for those who have not seen your videos yet or become familiar with your work, could you tell us a little about the Orphan Saga?
Nathan: Orphan is a speculative fiction series that will attempt to have a cross genre appeal: delving into spiritual themes, science fiction, horror, and the human condition and experience. It looks at science vs. God and how mankind would respond to the discovery of certain spiritual truths, and more so, what would happen when those truths were broken. Imagine teenagers suddenly given the keys to the kingdom with parents that will never be coming home. It also looks at spiritual beings, angels and demons, and how they are changed in the aftermath of God’s death (I don’t mean to give away the farm about God’s death, but it is literally the beginning of and catalyst for the entire series).
Carl: Interesting that your work has a ‘God is dead’ aspect… Did you put any thought into choosing a “Biblical” mythological setting, if you will? Have you written stories that explore other mythologies?
Nathan: I’m starting with a “write what I know and try not to step on too many toes,” philosophy. I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to push the “my religion is the RIGHT religion” angle, but it felt like the right mythos for this story. That being said, many characters from other religions and views will be involved as it is meant to be a very global story. And there are some things that crossover from say Christianity to Islam (angels, etc.), so I plan to pull from that as well. I also am consulting with a Muslim friend because I want her religion to be done justice. I’m not trying to be PC or pull punches, but if things get too bogged down in the “who is right” debate, then you start to lose focus on what the story is truly about.
In my next series, I’ll be creating a religion and foregoing any of those issues altogether.
Carl: Interesting—I’m curious how those themes contribute to the creation of characters. I’m an author who deals with concepts of angels, demons, as well, and also possession motifs, and find it changes the way one can think about identity. Do you find it works that way? Do you have characters who are “supernatural” and does that influence how you write and think about them?
Nathan: Oh absolutely! Possession is a major part of the first two books, Surfacing and Culling. With one character in particular, I am trying to convey a sense that he is as trapped by his own insecurities as he is demonic forces. That his pride and jealousy open him to such invasion. With angels, I’m looking at a race who was created for the sole purpose of servitude but is now with no one to serve. Now, immediately servitude has a negative connotation, but that’s not how two thirds of them feel (the last third being those that followed Lucifer and subsequently fell). They see their tasks and existence as an extension of their Creator’s love. Love means being selfless, doing more for others, or in their case, humanity. Some will choose to stay the course and serve the mortal world—but without guidance how will they do this? What happens when their own existence is threatened? Do they work to fortify mankind or do they discover a desire for self-preservation?
Demons, on the other hand, are essentially unleashed. They sense the shift of power and ravenously pursue their agendas. But they too have been disconnected from their hierarchy (a theme that will come into play more when the King of Crows returns for book three, Advent). As the angels weaken and grow worried and disorganized, they grow more malicious and bold.
And yet, as they move more freely on the world of man, they come into conflict with themselves. Generals at odds with generals. The old goals and prophecies are gone, and new opportunities are presented.
Carl: Sounds like there are some great dynamics at work here for both depth of conflict and depth of emotion. Does the book’s title refer to one of these characters you’ve mentioned? “Orphan” is a word with great feeling and resonance. Perhaps we could get little bit of a sneak-peak at a few lines providing a sketched portrait of this character?
Nathan: Orphan itself does not refer to a person, it is not a noun but a verb. This is something I know people will not likely get from the word go, but when God is killed, all of creation is orphaned. There are many primary characters and the story unfolds from many perspectives all across the globe. From the single mom scared for her son’s life, to the angel who had turned from his brethren but is now mysteriously drawn back into the fray, to the shadowy agenda of a secret scientific collective. It’s an ensemble piece that I’ve written in hopes that there is a character that will resonate on some level with every reader. The people are, for the most part, meant to be “everyday people”, but then we have some very comic-booky characters such as a fallen angel freed from the pit of Tartarus who still bears the chains that bound him.
Carl: Sounds like a cool concept and original use of language—which only adds to the tension—we’re all orphans now, not just Harry Potter! (Grin) So let me steer in another direction a moment. Many writers draw on personal experience for their writing, for example someone with a military or police background may bring those experiences to add a realistic flavor to their stories. For me, playing music and adventuring in both wilderness and urban landscapes influence how I write. Are there activities you engage in that inform your writing?
Nathan: Ha ha—yes, Harry Potter—well, anyway, I suppose I deal in possession every day, or try to… I’m practicing on my dogs first—I’ll let you know how it goes. When it comes to personal influence there are stories from my life that I’ve worked into certain characters and their experiences. Battles with cancer, experiencing service from a different religion, suicide and solitude. Obviously, I’m not the only to have these experiences, but I’m hoping I can draw from them in ways that give them more credibility and weight. That someone who has been there can say, “Oh yeah, that’s EXACTLY how it felt,” and thereby hopefully draw them in deeper.
Carl: All right, now let’s look at the converse—take a writer like George R.R. Martin, who I’m pretty sure has never beheaded anybody or engaged in any to-the-death longsword duels, yet writes about these things with tremendous style and force. Is there a topic for which you are passionate but that is not part of your day-to-day life that you have researched a great deal or taken an interest in that has helped you get “deep into” a scene and flesh it out?
Nathan: I remember sitting with Stephen Zimmer at Hypericon in Nashville on what inadvertently became a private session with three authors I won’t name (for no reason other than they aren’t relevant to the story) and Glen Cook, author of the Black Company books. I remember Steve asking Glen a very similar question to which he shrugged and said he doesn’t do much research, that he mostly just makes it up as he goes. I’ve done research on angelic and demonic hierarchy and names, etc., but in the end, there are so many sources and minor variances that I decided to take some influence here and there but mostly to craft my own designs and characters. The science used throughout most of the series will also be fabricated, but not without research as things like the MK Ultra experiments are actually part of what started things down this long, violent road. I try to do my research as I write, meaning that when I know I want to include something that I know way too little about, I pause and look some things up so that I don’t sound like a total fool. Still, I’m doubtful I’ll impress many experts on these subjects. I’ve researched places most extensively (Pripyat, Ukraine, Positano, Italy) because I want the world to seem real and alive and as diverse as the people in it. Also, because a large portion of the first three books, at least, revolve around a Catholic cathedral and followers, I’ve done some research on ritual, etc. I’m always weary of trying to “prove” that I know my stuff too much that I lose focus and start sounding encyclopedic. But if some details are left out, then I know I’ll lose some of the story’s credibility, as well. I’m definitely trying to start with a world that feels very real to the reader, but over the course of the series becomes increasingly unrecognizable.
Thanks again to Nathan Day for taking the time to discuss his Orphan Saga, available summer 2017 from Seventh Star Press.