Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Interview with Khalid Uddin, Author of Rise of the Red Harbinger

What made you decide to be an author? It wasn’t so much a decision as it was a realization that I could be an author. This happened in the middle of my college years. The first fantasy novel that I read and fully grasped, aside from The Lord of the Rings, was The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan. During and after reading the first novel of his series, I recognized that there were so many similar things going on in my imagination, in comparison to the fantastic happenings in his story. That recognition started a path that turned into thoughts, then daydreams, and eventually I was daydreaming enough that I was playing out whole scenes and situations in my head. It was at that point that I knew I had a story to tell.

What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? What I like the best is everything that writing allows me to do. For me, writing is catharsis, escape, stress-relief, self-reflection, and commentary. In writing for myself, there are no rules I have to follow except to be honest. I can take everything that’s on my mind and put it all out there, and it’s up to me if I want to share it or not. What I like the least is that there is never really a way to be completely happy with my work. Even when I tell myself I’ve finished something, part of me wants to continue editing and fixing. The greatest anxiety I had about my book was the thought that I should still go back and change something. What if one word doesn’t fit the right way? What if someone takes the wrong meaning out of a sentence because I worded it that way? It’s so difficult to be able to let go and accept that you’re not allowed to tinker anymore.

How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? I’ve had to overcome a number of obstacles to reach this point. Some of them have been curveballs while others have been self-sabotage. My resiliency in those situations has given me the power to be confident in my writing and to see my goals through, no matter what. Because of those experiences, I know that persistence leads to success. Not only that, but life experiences are just more material for writing a good story.

Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? That did happen at times while writing Rise of the Red Harbinger. I definitely connected with certain characters so well that they essentially wrote portions of the book for me. For me, that was the benefit of planning out characters and plotlines, rather than trying to wing it for certain aspects. I suppose that sounds somewhat backwards, but because I knew a certain character so well, I didn’t have to force anything when writing from his point of view. That was mainly the case with Maqdhuum (pronounced Macdoom). I spent much of the novel mentioning him, describing him in pieces here and there, that when I finally wrote from his point of view, the words flowed so easily.

You’ve written 1 novel and are working on a 2nd novel. What’s your favorite time management tip? Write whenever you have a chance. If you’re serious about writing and getting your book done, then you need to write any time you can manage it. Sometimes that will be five minutes, other times it’ll be an hour. It might be on a train, at work, or in the comfort of your home, but you have to make it a habit to write whenever you can, at least once a day. It took me about 6 ½ years to write this novel, and a lot of that had to do with being unsure of myself as well as making excuses when life would get in the way. My daughter was born in January of last year, and I think up to that point I’d written about 15-16 chapters. But I got tired of making excuses and I knew it would be easy to use my daughter as another excuse not to finish my book. Last year was my most productive year of writing ever, yet it was also the most demanding year in terms of responsibilities. So to any writers: Write. No excuses. Just write.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer? I’m a bit of both. In writing this novel, I had outlines for each chapter. I needed to know where each chapter was going even if I didn’t have all of the details in place. Often times, I was setting up clues or details that I needed to revisit in later chapters and hashing those out involved intricate planning. That being said, there were other times where I recognized I needed to just let go and let the story write itself. For most of the deaths of prominent characters in this book, even I didn’t see their deaths coming. The situation would just lead to it and I would realize, “Well, he/she needs to die here. There’s no way for him/her to plausibly get out of this situation.” That was also when I was having the most fun with the novel.

If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Take things one step at a time. Writing a novel can be overwhelming when you get ahead of yourself and worry about finishing, getting published, etc. But you have to stay focused on the writing process itself and understand that you won’t write an amazing book in a day. If you focus on a sentence at a time, they add up to paragraphs, pages, chapters, and eventually a book. Worrying about too much at once will only hurt your story.

Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? Oh man, music was my muse with this book. My playlist was around 400 songs and, as long as I was plugged in, I was inspired. Each chapter had a playlist of anywhere between thirty and eighty songs. I can’t really say there was one song that I kept on repeat the whole time, but certain musicians definitely appeared on my playlist more often than others. There was a good deal of hard rock like Linkin Park and Metallica, and some alternative rock, such as Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. However, the playlist itself was quite diverse. I was also inspired by Adele, The Roots, Charlie Puth, Deep Purple, Sam Smith, and Stevie Wonder.
Tell us about Rise of the Red Harbinger.
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?

Baltaszar sprinted to the outskirts of Haedon, stopping only to relieve the ache in his lungs and sides. The houses that lined the perimeter were dark and quiet. If he walked toward the school now, Baltaszar knew he could get to the square undetected. By now, the lanterns and torches would be out and there would be fewer houses for him to pass.

It took him nearly half of an hour to cover the remaining distance to Haedon Square, a distance that he could walk in a few minutes, given normal conditions. As he walked out into the wide open square, Baltaszar’s eyes groped through the darkness to find any evidence of his father’s body. Plumes of smoke danced from each of the buildings on the south and east side of the square. The moonlight shed some light into the giant courtyard. Searching across the square, he noticed a lump lying on the ground in front of the hanging platform.  It was the only mass on the ground of the courtyard. When he’d fled earlier, bodies had littered the square amidst the chaos. Only one mass remained.

However, what he saw was too large to be his father; it was almost big enough to be two people. And then he saw movement. Baltaszar froze, unsure of what he was seeing. Before worrying about the rational choice, he took flight towards his father’s body. Despite the mud, he kept his footing and dashed faster and faster ahead. Thoughts raced so quickly through his mind that they did not last long enough to entertain any of them.

Something or someone arose beside his father’s body. Another person. Baltaszar clumsily slid to a halt in the mud and found himself staring up into the eyes of a stranger. The man’s chest met the level of Baltaszar’s face; he stood taller than Titus the executioner, who until now was the largest man Baltaszar had ever seen.

I have to…No. Don’t think. Just act. Lunging, he butted his head hard into the man’s ribs and attempted to wrap his arms around the massive tree trunk-sized body. The man pulled him off with one hand and threw him to the ground next to his father’s corpse. Baltaszar landed on his back with a thud and, for once, felt grateful that the rain had left the ground so soft.

“I am not here to fight you,” the towering man whispered to him. “Stay calm. The last thing either of us needs is for attention to be drawn to us.”

The man wore a long dark cloak, similar to what Baltaszar himself had donned, except that it had no hood. “Then why in the name of Orijin are you standing over my father’s body?” Baltaszar managed to keep his voice low, despite the anger that drove it.

“You speak of Orijin. Good. Then you know religion. I was simply checking to ensure there remained nothing of value on him; nothing that someone else could find that would lead to you or anything else.”

“What? I don’t understand.”

“We have never met,” the man said. “But I have known of you for some time. Your father and I worked for the same people.”

“Your words are nonsense. My father has been a farmer his whole life. I’m warning you now, I have a weapon. I don’t know who you are, but if you leave now, I will not attack. I give you my word.” Don’t let him see your fear. He hadn’t realized it, but he’d gotten up and was standing and facing the other man.

“Boy, your threats mean nothing. If I wanted, I could kill you. Save your breath and your energy. Where you’re going, you’ll need it all.”

“Where I’m going?”

“I would assume, considering you have the Descendants’ Mark, you would be going to The House.”

“You’re not making any bloody sense.” Thought fragments pulled Baltaszar’s mind in every direction.

The man shook his head, “There is much you have to learn. Let us move behind the platform. We risk too much by talking out in the open.” Behind the burnt and blackened hangman’s platform, they sat beside each other, leaning against the wooden posts. “It seems you do not understand the significance of what is on your face,” the man presumed. “That line on your face represents an honor bestowed upon generations of Descendants.”

“It’s a damned scar from being burnt as a child. My house burned down and the fire killed my mother. It’s not some stupid line.”

“I imagine that’s what Joakwin told you. He lied. The only reason you live in Haedon is because he was trying to protect you. He assumed that if he tucked you away in the middle of the Never, he could raise you as a normal child and you would never question anything.”

“This doesn’t make any sense. What makes you think I believe anything you have to say? My father has just been killed in front of my whole bloody village, and you think that I will believe you just because I found you here in the middle of the night? I’m not some little child that’s going to hang at your every word just because you’ve come with these bloody stories about my father.”

“Then let me tell you more. If I cannot manage to convince you with what I know, then you are a fool.”

“Look, I don’t know what you want here, but I’m not going to sit here and listen to you. I have to leave before they kill me as well. I only came to bring his body back with me. My only concern now is finding out why my father was falsely accused of black magic, and then getting some type of justice on those responsible for this.”

“Think about it boy. That scar, as you call it, is a perfectly straight line down your face. How is it that you would only be burnt on that little piece of your face? Are you really that much of a fool?”

Baltaszar was losing his grasp on what to believe. “Fine, and supposing you’re right…I’m supposed to just believe you? If I hadn’t come back to get my father, we would never have met, and you wouldn’t have been able to tell me anything anyway. If I had stayed in hiding, what would you have done?”

“Trust me Baltaszar Kontez, I would have found you.” Baltaszar’s eyes widened. “Yes, I know your name. You’d be surprised about how many people outside this forest actually do. I was given this mission because of my abilities to find people. I am the best tracker in the world. After searching your father's body, I was coming to find you next.”
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,

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for hosting me! I am so grateful that you included all of this information! - K. Uddin