Interview with E.M. Thomas – Author of The Bulls of War

Please join me in welcoming E.M. Thomas to The Book’s the Thing. E.M. is the author of The Bulls of War, and has stopped by for a chat.

bow-cover-6 For love. For war. For honor. For vengeance.

Spanning vistas from majestic mountains, pristine lakes, and barren plains in the north to sweltering deserts, raging seas, and rain-soaked shrublands in the south,The Bulls of War is the first book of E.M. Thomas’s epic Chronicles of the Andervold Thrones.

Follow this sweeping tale of an empire on the precipice of war with its hated rival, a fragile truce teetering on the edge of a sword. Watch as tens of thousands of troops stand at the ready, only an order away from battles on a scale unseen in centuries. Beware as some factions within the Imperial capital fight to keep the peace, while others shirk no scheme, murder, or terror in their quest to trigger war – a war some fear could rend their divided empire apart.

It is in the midst of this dangerous game of brinksmanship that Generals Tyghus and Kyrus soon find themselves. Against a backdrop of deceit and suspicion, of blood and tears, of power and glory, their friendship is put to the ultimate test as they struggle to save their country, themselves, and those they love – all while battling their own tortured pasts.

What is the hardest part of creating a new world to set your stories in?

When it comes to fantasy, it’s really an issue of setting the rules of the world and making sure the story stays within them.  To that end, I prepared hundreds of pages of backstory to The Bulls of War and the Chronicles of the Andervold Thrones series of which it is part; some of that supplemental material finds its way into the appendix of Bulls, other parts I intend to release as short stories on my website and elsewhere.  As I discuss in the second question below, the extensive background hopefully achieves its secondary goal of adding depth to the characters.

 I’ve also written historical fiction, which presents its own unique challenges.  In that instance, it’s the painstaking amount of research that is required to make sure the historical era I am trying to bring back to life is at least remotely accurate.  Try as I might, the research repeatedly stood between me and furthering the story, a hindrance that oftentimes proved frustrating.

 Do you have any writing rituals that you adhere to?

Sure, at least a couple.  From a planning perspective, I adopted a process I read about which begins by preparing a one sentence summary of the story arc, then expanding it to one paragraph, then one page, and so on and so on.  In addition, the process calls for briefly telling the story (in one page or so) from each character’s perspective, even if a particular character’s point of view isn’t actually provided for in the novel.  I found that approach provides for more character depth and realism in their responses to what takes place throughout the novel. 

 In terms of actually drafting, I make it a point to advance the ball at least a little bit every day.  If that means tearing through ten to fifteen pages of drafting, then great; if that means simply thinking about possible resolutions to a predicament a character is in, then that’s fine too.  Just something to keep a sense of momentum at all times. 

 What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Well, I dabble in two genres – historical fiction and fantasy.  The first book to follow my fantasy (The Bulls of War) will be Fortress of the Sun, a historical fiction about ancient Greece – specifically, the battle of Corinth in the third century B.C.  Fortress takes place within a larger historical arc for which I intend to write several more volumes.  Bulls, of course, is Book I of the Chronicles of the Andervold Thrones, and books II and III are fully fleshed out and ready to go.  Whether I continue to alternate between releasing fantasy and historical fiction is a question I haven’t yet answered myself! 

 As a fantasy author – is that the only genre you read? 

No, in fact I would say my reading to date has been more heavily skewed towards historical fiction, though primarily because I came to fantasy later in life.  When considering all of my reading, the breakdown probably works out to half fiction, half non-fiction.  As I go into detail on my site, I have a strong passion for ancient history (especially Greece and Rome), a passion which incidentally informs all of the fiction writing I’ve done to date.

 Who are some of your favorite authors or books? 

Steven Pressfield is the king of historical fiction to me, having penned one of the all-time greats in Gates of Fire.  That book, as much as any other, pushed me to write and write historical fiction specifically.  Colleen McCullough and James Clavell are close seconds.

 For fantasy, I find George Martin the most compelling.  Perhaps because his works so convincingly mimic medieval England (much in the way I mimic Imperial Rome in the Andervold series), perhaps because I’m drawn to stories where the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are layered in shades of gray, but whatever it is, he’s my favorite.  As an aside, I found one of the highest pieces of praise I received in my Amazon reader reviews to be from those that compared The Bulls of War so favorably to Game of Thrones.

What are you reading now?

Right now I am finishing The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, the classic (American) Civil War novel.  Though secondary to my interest in ancient times, the Civil War period is the one I find most compelling in American history, and my recent completion of Ken Burns’ The Civil War anthology left me hungering for more.  The Killer Angels fits the bill.

What sports / hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time?

Beyond books, I am a TV/movie connoisseur, though between writing, work, and everything else, I don’t have much time for them anymore.  Nevertheless, current favorites include Peaky Blinders, The Leftovers, Narcos, and of course, Game of Thrones.  For entertainment beyond the walls of my house, I love to travel abroad and find myself a devout Rick Steves fanatic as a result – who I’m convinced has the greatest job on earth.

Thanks E.M.!

About the Author
E.M. Thomas is the author of two novels – an epic fantasy (The Bulls of War) and a historical fiction set in Ancient Greece (Fortress of the Sun).

 E.M. Thomas was born and raised on the East Coast of the United States but is a world traveler at heart. He caught the writing bug early on and has a passion for all good fiction, but especially that of the fantasy and historical variety. One of his favorite moments thus far in his young career was writing a chapter of his latest book about the great battle of Corinth – while sitting amidst the ruins of ancient Corinth.

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