Beyond the Story – The Black Wall

This interview is from one of the major characters from books Two and Three of the Tides Trilogy, The Black Wall and The Grace’s War. Ves is a sometime-companion and occasional friend of Kalis Syrina, the main protagonist.

Tides takes place on Eris, in a steam-powered civilization risen on the ruins of a much more advanced ancient past, ruled by theocracy and oligarchy, and at the mercy of the massive tidal forces caused by its giant moon, known as the Eye.

While this interview takes place during the events of the soon upcoming The Grace’s War, there are no major spoilers about what is to come (but there are some hints).

SJJ: My guest today steps out from the pages of The Black Wall Tides Trilogy by Author R. A. Fisher.
Hello and welcome to Beyond the Story. Please tell our guests today your full name and where you’re from?

Ves: Vesmalimali, but everyone who’s not from Ristro calls me Ves, so you can, too. Right now, I live on a steamship I, well, acquired and renamed Heaven’s Compromise, not that I remember what it was called before. But I’ve lived pretty much everywhere these past twenty-some-odd years. Everywhere but Ristro, because down there is nothing but insects and assholes. I can say that here, right?

SJJ: (Smiles) Of course you can, Ves. So, no last name, eh? Kind of like Sting or Bono.

And how would you describe yourself? What makes you… you?

Ves: How would I describe myself?

SJJ: Um, yes.

Ves: I’d say I was the most reasonable goddamn pirate on Eris and a respectable business man on top. My crew might have other ideas, but since none of them are here, let’s go with that.

SJJ: OK, sure. (Under her breath) Not sure I’d equate a pirate with a respectable business man.

So, you’re a self-professed pirate, but what were you like as a child? And what about your family life growing up?

Ves: Most people don’t know this, but the Corsairs are taken from their families when they’re young; trained at sea. They took me from my mum when I was maybe seven or eight, and I never saw her again. Voluntary, as in she volunteered me, since I sure a shit didn’t have a say in it. I don’t really hold it against her—I’m sure she had her reasons, though there’s plenty of times I wish I could have asked her why.

That’s all to say, I didn’t have much of what most people would call a family life. My family was the Corsairs. Right up until they weren’t.

SJJ: I’m sorry to hear that, I can imagine the questions you must have.

Now, you said earlier you are a pirate; can you elaborate on your career path a little?

Ves: I was what you might call a crime lord for a good long while, and I was goddamn miserable, fat, and lazy. I’m still fat and lazy, but at least I’m happy again.

SJJ: And what about other aspirations – anything you would truly love to do?

Ves: Nah, my dream job is what I’m doing now: riding the seas on a real ship, not a fucking sail boat, and relieving others of their excess belongings. Not regular folks unless I’ve got no choice; they’ve got it bad enough without me making it worse. But the Church? The way I see it, once they convince all those poor assholes to give up what’s theirs in Salvation Taxes, those taxes belong to me and mine. You can be sure the Church isn’t going to do anything useful with all that extra tin. And Ristro, too, because fuck those miserable shits. They taught me how to be a pirate, now I’ll show them what good teachers they were.

SJJ: Let it all out.

Ves, what is your biggest obstacle that is preventing your from achieving your goals?

Ves: Well, I’ve got this… I don’t think I could call her a friend. I’m pretty sure her kind don’t have friends. But she’s more than an acquaintance, too. A business partner on very good terms, maybe.

Anyway, Syrina has this knack for talking me into doing real stupid shit, which almost always means by the time it’s over I’ve lost my ship, or my barge, or my fucking raft, or whatever else I managed to scrape up since the last time, and I wake up one afternoon broke, drunk in a tree somewhere, and need to start all over again. And yet she’ll show up later and I’ll go along with it every fucking time, because despite the fact she’s made out of more lies than blood, and she looks like a different person every time I meet her, I think deep down under all the tattoos and bullshit she really does mean the world well. That’s rare enough these days, and ships are easy enough to come by, if you’re as good as I am at stealing them.
At least that’s what I tell myself, because otherwise it would mean I’m actually an idiot, and I have it on goddamn good authority that’s not the case. She was the reason I ended up as a miserable-ass crime boss down in Valez’Mui for twenty some years, though I didn’t know it was her at the time. That should give you some idea of how long she’s been fucking with me, though.

SJJ: Uhuh! I can’t help but wonder who this “good” authority is.

Anyway, tell us something about you that not everyone knows.

Ves: There’s nobody alive anymore that knows why I left the Corsairs and turned against Ristro. I suspect there never will be again, since I’m not telling, and the Astrologers that run that miserable swamp aren’t known for disclosing personal details. And yeah, it was personal. That’s all I’m going to say about it, though.

SJJ: Fair enough.

Do you have any regrets, Ves?

Ves: I don’t think anyone can live a life the way I’ve lived mine and not have more regrets than they could pack into this ample gut of mine. But what can we do besides try to do better next time? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Just like sometimes I drink to forget my grief, and sometimes I drink to remember it.

SJJ: Well, you are human. Er, maybe not. But a conscious being. So, it makes sense you’d have some big regrets.

And what about someone you admire. Is there anyone in your life you consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now?

Ves: There was someone, once. Not a mentor, but he knew me better than anyone is ever going to know me again. Kept me pointed the right direction; knew when to laugh at my dumb ass, and when to tear me a new dickhole… but he’s… well, he’s not around anymore.

SJJ: I’m sorry about that. Ves. It sounds to me like you could use someone like that again.

Now for a couple of lighthearted questions. What’s your idea of the perfect day?

Ves: A day of full fuel tanks, plenty of food and drink to go around, no land in sight, and everyone I care about is still alive at the end of it. You’d think I’d be an easy man to please, but I get days like that a lot less than I’d like.

SJJ: It’s nice to know you have a soft side.

What do you do for fun?

Ves: I drink, and sometimes I blow shit up. Sometimes I like to rile up my new first mate, just because. He’s a good guy, but fuck if that old man doesn’t have even more baggage than I do. If it wasn’t for me, he’d never loosen up.

SJJ: (laughs) You and I have different ideas of fun.

And after your perfect day and all that fun, what do you do to relax?

Ves: Isn’t that the same as fun?

SJJ: Well…

Ves: No? Not for everyone?

SJJ: Not mine, anyway.

Ves: Huh. Fair enough, I guess. Anyway, They’re the same to me.

SJJ: Well okay, then. To each their own.

If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?

Ves: That’s a tough one. Maybe Ving Rhames? He’s got the voice for it, but he better start drinking the hard shit now to get it just right.

SJJ: And what about The Black Wall Tides Trilogy Are you happy with the way your story was told by the narrator?

Ves: He did alright with what we gave him, I guess. He fucked a few things up, but they always do, eh? I don’t hold too much against him, anyway.

SJJ: Well, maybe you should have spoken louder, gotten his attention. He can only write what you give him.

And, on that note, if you could change one thing that happened in your story, would you?

Ves: There was that not-mentor I mentioned earlier. Remember him? Well, I love life, but I’d end mine at noon if I could spend one more morning with him. So, one thing I could change? That’s the easiest goddamn question here. I’d bring that man back to my side where he fucking belongs.

SJJ: Thank you, Ves, for being so candid with me today. I’m sure you’re eager to get back to that steamship of yours.

Author Bio

Robert Fisher has lived in Hiroshima, Japan with his wife and five-year-old son for the past four years, where he occasionally teaches English, writes, and pretends to learn Japanese. Before that he lived in Vancouver, Canada where he worked in the beer industry and mostly just cavorted about, getting into trouble and eating Thai food. He placed fourth in The Vancouver Courier’s literary contest with his short story The Gift, which appeared in that paper on February 20, 2009. His science fiction novella The God Machine was published by Blue Cubicle Press in 2011.

New Release from Author R. A. Fisher

Last year, you got to know a little about Author R. A. Fisher and his writing.

Robert joins me again this year to discuss his upcoming release, The Black Wall.

SJJ: What genre(s) does this book fall under?

RAF: The Black Wall is technically science fiction, but has a lot of steampunk and fantasy elements as well.

SJJ: Is this a genre you normally write in or are you trying something new?

RAF: It’s the second book in a series, so it’s what I’ve been doing for a while, though it’s evolved over time. When I wrote the now-scrapped first draft of it years ago, it was pure fantasy.

SJJ: Who is your target audience?

RAF: It’s on the mature end of YA, and anyone that’s interested in the “speculative fiction” range of storytelling. It takes place in a post-technology world, so they use cannons, swords and crossbows along with their dirigibles and steam cars, against a backdrop with advanced technology forgotten by the masses millennia before. There are even some romance elements, though that’s not the focus.

SJJ: When do you expect your new book to be released?

RAF: The Black Wall eBook will be released on Amazon July 14, with the paperback expected a few weeks before then.

SJJ: Please tell us a little about your new book.

RAF: When Syrina finds Anna and Pasha, survivors of General Mann’s assault on the valley hidden in the peaks of the Black Wall, she realizes they may be the key to discovering what she is. But after feelings she didn’t think possible well up for Pasha, things grow complicated.

With the help of Ves, pirate-turned-smuggler, they pursue Mann across the continent. However, growing tensions between factions within the Church of N’narad make the trip more perilous than they counted on.

Can Syrina find the key to herself and the voice in her head, and get revenge against her master? And what price would she be willing to pay?

SJJ: Where does the story take place?

RAF: The Tides Trilogy takes place on the world of Eris, which is an earth-sized moon circling a gas giant they call the Eye. The tidal forces from the Eye are extremely destructive, and what’s keeping them in check plays a central role in the series. Since the destruction of their technological advancements that brought them there thousands of years before, factions have formed, including a theocracy based on citizens buying into Heaven with Salvation Taxes, a nation of pirates, and the Merchant’s Syndicate, who are dedicated to controlling everyone else using long-lost technology.

SJJ: What inspired you to write this story?

RAF: The Black Wall was the first book I ever wrote, starting just after high school, and spanning 18 or so years. When I finished it was… awful, so I scrapped it, but I liked the ideas enough that I wrote a prequel, which became The Kalis Experiments. After that, I took the framework and some of the basic plot elements of The Black Wall and rewrote the whole thing. In the original version, Syrina was a one-dimensional killing machine who played a minor role in the story, and Pasha and Anna were werewolves and the central characters, which tells you something on how much it’s changed.

SJJ: What kind of research did you have to do?

RAF: For the series as a whole, the names of different airship parts and generally how steam-driven machines work. Also, which sides of ships are port and starboard, because no matter how many times I look them up, I always forget.

SJJ: I completely understand. Sometimes, information just doesn’t stick.

Was any part of this book particularly difficult to write?

RAF: There’s an escape scene where, when I first wrote it, I had no idea how the characters were going to get out, so in the first draft it was nine pages of them wandering around in the sewer not doing anything. Eventually, something happened, and later I went back and cut about 7 /12 pages of them milling around, talking about nothing like a Seinfeld episode taking place in absolute darkness.

SJJ: Did you enjoy writing any particular scene? Please tell us a little about it.

RAF: Syrina is a master of disguise, and I always enjoy writing her scenes from someone else’s point of view when she’s dressed up as different characters. There’s one where she’s going around as an old, syphilitic prostitute I had a lot of fun creating.

SJJ: Does your book have any message or is it purely entertainment?

RAF: Some themes that keep coming up throughout The Tides Trilogy are about self discovery; how we find out who we are, and what we do with that knowledge. Does there need to be a “point” to life, or is it ok to just live? Another one that comes up in the first two books is, what is love? Is it just a chemical reaction, or is it something more? Does it matter?

SJJ: How long did it take you to write? To edit?

RAF: As I mentioned, it took 18 years to write the first, terrible version. The rewrite took 8 months for the rough draft, and another few years of off and on editing. The third book is on track to be completely done in 8-10 months, so it definitely gets easier the more you write. As a comparison, The Kalis Experiments took about 5 years from concept to final draft, though I did write two novellas and had a baby in that time, too.

SJJ: During editing, did you have to delete a scene you liked but because it didn’t move the book forward, it had to be removed? Can you describe that scene?

RAF: Initially the first 80-100 pages were focused on Anna and Pasha’s lives in the valley before Mann came, which I later cut and summarized in one conversation between Pasha and Syrina. I really liked the complex society I’d come up with for the people in the valley and their beliefs, but on the first edit I was just waiting for the plot to begin for the first four chapters, so I slashed it all and began at Mann’s invasion.

SJJ: Who is your favourite character? Your least favourite character?

RAF: I guess it’s appropriate that Syrina is still my favorite character of The Tides Trilogy. I connect with both her flaws and her growth, and like I said before, her personas for every situation are a blast to write. I think my least favorite needs to be Pasha. He’s very rigid in his thinking. At first, I tried to push him to be more heroic, but it soon became evident that wasn’t his personality, and he’s often more immature than his little sister. That said, he’s central to some of my favorite scenes and events in The Black Wall.

SJJ: Please name the other published works in this series.

RAF: As I mentioned, this is Book Two of The Tides Trilogy, Book One being The Kalis Experiments, which you can buy here: http://mybook.to/kalis, or you can read the prologue first two chapters here: https://r-a-fisher.com/category/tides/the-kalis-experiments/. The third and final book of Tides, The Grace’s War, should be out within the next year or so if all goes well.

SJJ: Where can your new book be purchased when it’s released?

RAF: Book Two of Tides, The Black Wall, can be found on Amazon here: http://mybook.to/theblackwall, and you can read the prologue and first couple of chapters here: https://r-a-fisher.com/category/tides/theblackwall/.

Bio:

Robert Fisher has lived in Hiroshima, Japan with his wife and five-year-old son since 2015, where he occasionally teaches English, writes, and pretends to learn Japanese. Before that he lived in Vancouver, Canada where he worked in the beer industry and mostly just cavorted about, getting into trouble and eating Thai food.

He placed fourth in The Vancouver Courier’s literary contest with his short story The Gift, which appeared in that paper on February 20, 2009. His science fiction novella The God Machine was published by Blue Cubicle Press in 2011 under the name Robert Fisher.

He has been trying to write stories since he was four years old.

Links:

Website: https://r-a-fisher.com

Publisher’s Page: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/ra-fisher

Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/R-A-Fisher/e/B07T8PYST9