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Finding Inspiration (the origins of The Sunsurge Quartet)

All books in my first epic fantasy series, The Moontide Quartet, have now been released, and I’m at work on the sequel series, The Sunsurge Quartet. It’s set in the same world of Urte, and the first book, Empress of the Fall, came out on 9th March – yesterday as I write this. While I’m pretty excited by that, I’m actually so deeply immersed in Books 2 and 3 that I’ve not had time to even raise a glass to Empress and her launch.

The new series had its genesis almost four years ago, when Jo Fletcher, my publisher, editor and personal Empress, asked if I had any sequel plans to Moontide. I had a few, and condensed them into two main ideas, which we talked through, chose one and tweaked it significantly. The result was The Sunsurge Quartet.

In Urte, a “Moontide” is a twelve-yearly geographic event where the unruly seas around the two known continents drop, allowing the Leviathan Bridge to be traversed. A “Sunsurge” is the opposite, occurring six years after each Moontide, in which the seas are at their highest, accompanied by severe rainfall, very changeable weather and the bridge completely immersed.

The Moontide Quartet drew on eastern culture and myth from our world, telling as it did a story set in a mostly desert environment. When it was conceived I was living in India, where I spent a total of four years and was completely blown away by the environment, the people, the history and the very real conflicts. The geo-political struggle of east and west were very much at the forefront of my mind. Moontide was mostly about culture clash.

But I didn’t want to just write another Moontide: I wanted Sunsurge to have its own distinctive “feel”. And I was back living in New Zealand at the time I was asked to formulate my ideas, away from more exotic influences. Naturally, my mind was drawn more to “western” myth and culture, than when I was dreaming up Moontide.

So for The Sunsurge Quartet I was influenced far more by things that caught my fancy growing up: classic fairy stories like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, real historical events like the Siege of Vienna (which was the focus of a favorite book from my teenage years, The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers), as well as elements of historical personages as diverse as Vlad Tepes (the original “Dracula”), the Princes in the Tower, and the reign of Elizabeth I of England.

But Sunsurge is mostly about the conflict of Church and State – of religious and secular rivalries – dynastic politics, and to some extent about class struggle: themes that have dominated western civilization for a long, long time. East-West culture clash is still an element of course – Moontide didn’t exactly solve that! – but it’s not the dominant theme.

Empress of the Fall isn’t an essay on those themes, though: it’s a tale of daring rescues, pageantry and chivalry, magic and murder. The Sunsurge Quartet, like Moontide, is written to entertain first and foremost. Themes are like subtle spices – if you notice them, fine, but my main goal is that the reader enjoys the meal… erm, tale.

Which I hope you do!

Best wishes

David Hair

Bangkok, Thailand, March 2017

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