Brian Niemeier is a best-selling science fiction author and a John W. Campbell Award for Best New ‘Writer finalist. His second book, Souldancer, won the first ever Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel. He chose to pursue a writing career despite formal training in history and theology. His journey toward publication began at the behest of his long-suffering gaming group, who tactfully pointed out that he seemed to enjoy telling stories more than planning and adjudicating games.
Released this week, Brian’s newest book, The Ophian Rising, concludes his groundbreaking Soul Cycle series. Recently, I sat down with Brian to discuss The Ophian Rising, the rest of the Soul Cycle, and more. Part I of our interview focused on the Soul Cycle. Let’s now find out what is next.
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Returning to how layered your storytelling is and the wide sweep of authors and works that you’ve mentioned as influences, what authors have been most influential to your storytelling?
Frank Herbert. I’ve mentioned before that I read and fell in love with Dune in high school. In fact, it saved my love of reading from being smothered.
Also, Neil Gaiman. I loved the Sandman in its original comic run, loved Good Omens that he did with Sir Terry Pratchett. Neverwhere was okay. I really haven’t liked a lot of his solo stuff since but Sandman was a big influence.
Kevin J. Anderson’s and Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels from the mid to late 90s. The Thrawn Trilogy, Jedi Academy, and Dark Saber.
During one of our previous interactions online, you mentioned the importance of reading to an author’s development. What are you currently reading right now?
Right now, I am going back to fill in my Larry Correia collection. I have my copy in paperback of Monster Hunter Vendetta right here and I’m about a third of the way through.
Have you read Son of the Black Sword yet?
Yes. I took an interesting approach to Larry’s work, which is kind of unintentional. I’ve read the first installment of each of his series. So I’ve read Monster Hunter International, Hard Magic, and Son of the Black Sword, so now I’m reading the second book in each one. Hopefully by the time I’m done with Spellbound, House of Assassins will be out.
You are also an editor. Can you describe some of the challenges compared to writing?
Sure. In terms of the challenges, editing is a whole different animal. When you’re just composing original prose, the field is wide open. You know that you have this huge blank canvas that you can put anything you want on there, so you’re really free of restrictions. You can always come back and revise it later.
Editing is a far more technical process. It differs from proofreading in that I mainly provide three services, which is line, copy, and content or development editing. I don’t do what your junior high English teacher does. I’m not going through with the red pen and pointing out, “Well, this is a comma splice. This is ‘it’s’ not ‘its’ so it should have an apostrophe. You want to use ‘whom’ instead of ‘who’ here because it’s in the object.” I mean, if I find those mistakes I will correct them, but mainly I am the last line of defense between the readers and an unsaleable book. I’m there to give suggestions that, if followed, will make your book professional and make it saleable.
The questions I ask myself are: Is this prose easy to read and understand? Is it readable? Do the mood, tone, and themes that the author wants to get across come through clearly? Is the plot advanced? Is every page, paragraph, and sentence doing at least two things? Like advancing character, advancing plot, conveying mood and tone, developing a theme? Is this book structured correctly? Do the pinches and turns and climaxes and, you know, the peaks and valleys come at dramatically appropriate moments to maximize the audience’s emotional impact? Those are just a few of the challenges and, of course, so is doing all of that without killing the author’s voice.
I’ve always got to be on guard to make sure that I’m not editing this book into a book that I would write. It’s got to still be the author’s book because the author is still the ultimate authority. The author can take all of my notes and say, “Go pound sand. I’m not going to take any of this advice.” It’s the author’s call. So I’ve got to make sure that at the end of the day, even if he does take all of my advice, it’s still his book, not mine.
Can you mention some of the books you’ve worked on?
Of the books that have hit the market, I edited Justin Knight’s second book. I’m looking through my list of stuff I’ve edited to make sure I get the title right. That one underwent a title change– that was Praxis.
I also edited a short story for JD Cowan, who you may be familiar with, called “In the Eyes of the Demon”, and, just recently released, Vigil by Russell Newquist.
What’s your next project?
Well. I’ve done my passion project. I’ve done the Soul Cycle, and in terms of indie authors, it was a success. It exceeded my expectations. I was hoping to break even on it and I’ve actually been able to earn a living through that, sometimes supplementing it with the editing. It’s been critically acclaimed, it has gotten some great reviews, so I’m pleased. Well done, good and faithful Soul Cycle. Thanks to all the readers who supported it.
Now that we’ve got the more complex, layered, I don’t to say inaccessible story, but there is a curve you’ve got a surmount to get into Nethereal. I think you’d agree it’s kind of a tough nut to crack. You have to figure out how to approach it. I chalk that up to, one, being the first book in a series that tells a rather complex story, and that’s just how the story is. I mean, I simplified that thing as much as I could. And two, Nethereal is the midpoint of the whole saga.
I do at some point plan to go back and do a four book prequel trilogy that explores the life and times of Almeth Elocine and his rise and fall. We see him in the prologue of Souldancer and he shows up one more time in that book. Then he shows up a couple times in The Secret Kings near the end. Really, as has been hinted, everything is really his fault. The Guild itself, the purge of the Gen and other non-human races, and their defeat. It’s kind of all on him, which will be made clear. Nethereal is very much the echo of what he did before he got to Kairos at the beginning of Souldancer. I think he’s my most compelling character. You’ll get to see a bit more of him in The Ophian Rising. He’ll actually get to see him take the field and do stuff this time, so there’s a little tidbit for you. We’re going to examine him, but that’s not my next immediate project
So again, we’ve done the heavy stuff, we’ve done the more literary stuff, and you guys have been good. It’s time to give you a treat:
The next project is giant robots.
Let’s have some fun. Let’s get in our giant mecha and let’s blow up some space colonies. Let’s shoot the big laser straight down the middle of the approaching squad of enemy mechs and just watch them blossom in sequence into Christmas lights.
Like Macross or Gundam?
Remember when Nick Cole and Jason Anspach first launched Galaxy’s Edge? Before they had the title, they just called it #StarWarsNotStarWars. This is #GundamNotGundam. I say Gundam all the way. I mean, I like what I’ve seen of Macross, but I’m a Gundam fanboy. I love it so and I’ve got to be really careful because Bandai is super uptight even more than Disney about protecting their IP. I will probably not be able to use #GundamNotGundam in marketing. I’ve already got five books outlined for it.
There has already has been a short story published in that universe It’s called “Anacyclosis”.
Is that the story hosted on Sci Phi Journal?
Correct. So anybody who wants a foretaste of what’s coming next can go check that out. There’s quite a bit of the lore of that series contained in that story. It’s a good jumping on point.
Earlier this summer, you released a novella, “The Hymn of the Pearl”. Could you tell us a bit about it?
Anyone who signs up for my newsletter–which you can do through my website Kairos at BrianNiemeier.com–gets a free copy of my first novella “The Hymn of the Pearl” for free. It’s been described as a sort of historical fiction but in a version of Late Antiquity that never was. There are two competing magic systems practiced by two competing orders of priests. It deals with the fate of humans and gods and how they can’t be created or destroyed, just moved around. There’s a redemption story. There’s an attempt to start a war. It’s good, clean, wholesome fun.
Is this a setup for a future project or is it self-contained?
Right now, its self-contained. I do have ideas where I might go with it. There’s enough demand for an entire series. I have had people who’ve read it saying how much they want a sequel, but just as many have told me, “No, no, this is perfect as it is. I wouldn’t want to see you cheapen this with a sequel. I wouldn’t want to see you water it down.”
Let’s just say that there might be a sequel to “The Hymn of the Pearl” someday, but it’s on the back burner. I’m going to focus on my mecha series next.
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Thanks again to Brian Niemeier for his time and for writing the genre-bending Soul Cycle series.
You can get the final book of the award-winning Soul Cycle today, and complete your collection by picking up the other captivating books in this supernatural space adventure series.