Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Rise of the Red Harbinger by Khalid Uddin
Tell us a little about your latest or upcoming release.
Rise of the Red Harbinger is my first novel. It focuses on a handful of teenagers who are dealing with learning to use magical abilities, while also being hunted down by the people they’re meant to protect. The technically haven’t done anything wrong, but they live in hiding or on the run. Compounding their problem is that there is a bigger threat, the Red Harbinger, who hopes to wipe out everyone, regardless of magical ability.
I think what sets this story apart from many other fantasy stories is that, while there is the magic aspect, it’s not really at the forefront. The characters and their issues are the main focus and they happen to be able to use magic. This story is more about the characters and their situations and decisions, rather than predominantly about magic.
If you are a parent do you find it hard to juggle writing and parenting? Any tips for time management or sneaking in writing time?
It is definitely hard to juggle writing and parenting. Most weekdays, I don’t really get to sit down and think about writing until about 8pm, because I have a toddler whose bedtime is about 7:30.
The funny thing about it, though, is I actually became more productive after my daughter was born. That speaks directly to time management. If you’re serious about writing, you’ll make time to write, whether it’s at 6pm or midnight, fifteen minutes or an hour. Once my daughter was born, I realized that I could easily say, “I don’t have time to write because of the baby.” But if I had done that, my book would still be years away from completion right now. I never had a schedule, I just made the choice to sacrifice sleep because I knew I could handle it. My advice is to write whenever you can, even if it’s five minutes to get ideas down.
A majority of my planning came during my daily commute. I would play my writing soundtrack in the car and just get into that zone and mindset of thinking about the book. I’ve also made regular use of the Notes app on my phone. Any time an idea forms, I can jot it down quickly.
My daughter was born in 2015 and that was actually my most productive year of writing since starting this novel.
Have you ever based your book or characters on actual events or people from your own life?
Most of my main characters are based on people close to me, for a few reasons. Those people have supported me through everything and I think it’s only fair to honor them that way. But even from a literary standpoint, it’s so much easier to form personalities and build characters when you have a foundation. None of my main characters are completely based on anyone, but there are definitely strong resemblances because those traits inspired me.
Furthermore, it also makes interactions easier to write when they’re based off of something authentic. Having seen how my closest friends have matured and interacted over the years, I know how different personalities will react to a short temper, a corny joke, a tragedy, and so on.
Is there a theme or message in your work that you would like readers to connect to?
One of the biggest themes that drives this story is the idea that life doesn’t exist in black and white. None of my characters are purely good or evil. I’ve put a lot of effort into creating characters with complex motivations, and that’s been part of the fun of writing this story. My villains all have their reasons for doing bad things and in their minds, they’re doing what’s right. Conversely, there are several times when my protagonists make poor decisions or give in to their flaws because they can’t handle doing the right thing all the time. I’m very curious to see how readers will respond to Garrison, who, by conventional standards, could be considered a mass murderer. In his mind, he was doing what he thought was right because of how his father raised him.
I think it works the same way in the real world. Most of us believe that what we’re doing is the right thing, and even when we are unsure of our actions, we have a way of justifying them.
What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?
I wanted to be an artist before writing. I actually taught myself how to draw in middle school and practiced like crazy throughout high school, because my dream was to become a comic book artist. I actually never read for pleasure in high school until I randomly picked up a couple of Michael Chrichton novels in an airport, on the way to London when I was in 12th grade. Because of Sphere and The Lost World, and a deep connection to Horatio in Hamlet, I realized at the age of seventeen that I actually enjoyed reading. Up until that point, I don’t think anyone, including myself, would have ever dreamed that writing a novel was in my future.
When you’re not writing what do you do? Do you have any hobbies or guilty pleasures?
I spend most of my free time with my wife and my daughter, who’s almost a year and a half. My daughter’s a nonstop motor of extreme cuteness and I can’t stand being away from her.
I do love to travel, though being a teacher limits that to mostly the summertime. I also love food, whether it’s cooking it or eating it. I’m kind of famous for these triple chocolate cherry cookies that I make. I think some people actually only like me because of the cookies.
My guilty pleasure is definitely hanging out at cafes by myself. I try my best to frequent Barnes and Noble, Panera, and The Coffee House (a local coffee shop that makes awesome sandwiches) just so I can unwind, put in my headphones, and read a magazine or write while enjoying a cup of coffee.
Is there a genre(s) that you’d like to write that you haven’t tackled yet?
I would love to write one of those courtroom thrillers where the whole story revolves around a lawyer trying to win an impossible case, basically like what John Grisham does so easily. I love those stories because they require such wit and ability to think outside of the box. I think I would need to learn a ton about the legal system before I can tackle that, though.
Of all the characters you’ve ever written, who is your favorite and why?
My favorite is Maqdhuum (pronounced “Macdoom”), from Rise of the Red Harbinger. He was originally meant to be a secondary character, but the more I developed him, the more I liked his dynamic nature. He’s wicked, sarcastic, cerebral, and he’s got so many more layers than others give him credit for. I think the turning point in creating him was drawing inspiration from Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights. But I won’t say any more about that comparison until people have read the book.
Maqdhuum is one of those characters that pretty much wrote himself. He is a big focus of Chapter 23 and it came so naturally to write from his point of view. One of the things I’m most excited about for the rest of the series is continuing to write his character. I haven’t planned out his arc because I’d rather just let him tell me where he’s going.
If this book is part of a series…what is the next book? Any details you can share?
Yes, this is the first of an intended four-book series. I have a skeleton of Book 2 worked out and I think I’ll need two more books beyond that to tell the whole story. However, there’s a chance that it could be three or five, depending on how things develop. The working title for Book 2 is The Ghosts of Ashur, but that could change at any time. I am in the process of planning out the specifics of the story arc now, so writing should begin soon.
What book are you reading now?
I am currently reading Morning Star, by Pierce Brown. It’s the third book of a sci-fi trilogy and it’s extremely well done. The society and civilization are developed so intricately that you’re drawn in from page one. I read the first one so quickly - I haven’t flown through a book that quickly since the Harry Potter series.
What is in your to read pile?
I would love to read the two books from Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive fantasy series, The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. I started reading the first book a while back but put it down to focus on my own series and never got back to it. Sanderson is an amazing author, in that he can seemingly develop fictional universes at will. I think he has about four or five series currently going on and he still releases books just about every year. I met him once and I follow him on Twitter, and he’s a genuinely awesome guy.
I also have to make it a point to read Go Set a Watchman. I was so excited that the book was coming out last year, especially after reading that it was the story Harper Lee originally intended to publish.
Rise of the Red Harbinger
The Drowned Realm Series
Publisher: Open Door Publications
Date of Publication: June 6, 2016
Number of pages: Around 400
Word Count: 180,000
Cover Artist: Genevieve LaVo Cosdon, LaVo Design
Thousands of years ago, the realm of Ashur was drowned by Darian, Harbinger of the god Orijin, to save it from the evil Red Harbinger, Jahmash. But the prophecies say Jahmash will return—and only Darian’s chosen Descendants, those who bear a black line on their face, can save mankind.
Baltaszar: An untried lad from a hidden village. He must find the House of Darian to learn how to use his mysterious powers.
Marshall: The last of a race of warriors slaughtered by Jahmash’s army. Will the other Descendants help him avenge his family and his race?
Prince Garrison: He spent years following his father, the king’s orders to kill all who bear the mark of Darian—even though he bears it himself. Can the other Descendants accept him? Or will they kill him?
Time is running short for the Descendants. Hunted by the people they are supposed to protect, can they save Ashur from its greatest threat: The Red Harbinger?
About the Author:
Khalid Uddin’s credits his creative beginnings to comic books, specifically “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “X-Men”. Throughout middle school and high school, his predominant hobby was drawing his favorite characters, original characters, and just about everything that was put in front of him. Once his college roommate introduced Khalid to Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” book series (later completed by Brandon Sanderson), his imagination evolved. He had already been familiar with Tolkien’s vivid world, but Jordan’s was something new and far grander. Khalid saw the beginnings of his own fantasy world coming to life, thanks to these authors and to many of his own coming of age experiences.
When his head is not stuck in the fantasy world, Khalid spends his free time with his wife Jen and adorable one year-old daughter, Emme, who have both been incredibly generous with giving him time to write and finish his novel. He makes a living with literature, being a high school English teacher in New Jersey.
Khalid regularly posts updates and news about his novel and the writing process on his website, www.khaliduddin.com