I came across Sandra Kopp’s work via GoodReads, when I was looking for reviewers for my novel, she kindly offered to read my book and review it. Seeing that Sandra was an author as well, I got interested in her work and asked to read and review her book, too. I was quite excited when I saw her work was an Epic Fantasy series, since I appreciate the genre. Without further ado, here is an interview I did with her:
1. Tell us about the beginning. When did you start writing the Dark Lords of Epthelion series?
I think it was sometime during 2003 when I first saw “Fellowship of the Ring,” and everything about it–plot, characters, and setting (especially the Shire)–intrigued me immediately. My imagination kicked into high gear, and soon I was visualizing the six kingdoms that would compose Epthelion, along with the slender blonde maiden who became Merewyn.
2. What inspired you to write the story and how was your creative/writing process?
Warrior Queen of Ha-Ran-Fel began with the image of Merewyn standing near a dead tree in front of a ramshackle cottage, staring into the sunset as she contemplated which of the surrounding kingdoms might welcome a fugitive seeking sanctuary. I still didn’t know who she was or what threatened her. I didn’t even have a clear picture of Epthelion. But as Merewyn weighed the pros and cons of flight to each kingdom, Epthelion gradually took shape. There was Nimbia, mountainous land of the Arganian mystics whose spells alone enabled life in those precipitous cliffs; Ha-Ran-Fel, home of the savage Horse Lords, who I patterned partly after the Horse Lords in Lord of the Rings and partly after the ancient Scythians; Barren-Fel, the dark and mysterious spawning ground of evil sorcerers; San-Leyon, densely wooded among soaring peaks where dwelt the reclusive woodsmen and a race of gnomes. Merewyn dwelt in an agrarian kingdom called Liedor (the “breadbasket” of Epthelion). Up to this time I more or less placed her in an abusive marriage. However, I couldn’t quite formulate a plot that worked for me; but I kept writing, and soon the story seemed to take on a life and direction of its own. Merewyn was no pitiful victim of a domestic tyrant. She’d been dealt some serious blows, but regrouped and came back swinging. And she didn’t come from Liedor, but from the neighboring kingdom of Valhalea. Suddenly it all fell into place. Ironically, the image that started it all (Merewyn outside the cottage staring into the sunset) never appears in the book. And Warrior Queen of Ha-Ran-Fel was supposed to have been a stand-alone book. But a few devoted readers demanded more, and I responded with the Dark Lords of Epthelion trilogy. The maiden in the image that started it all evolved into the heroine of my second book, A Dark Moon Rises. And she’s no wimp, either!
3. Who were your favourite characters in the series and why?
Merewyn, of course, because she surmounted obstacles that would have paralyzed or killed most people. I’ve no doubt that many days she would have preferred death. But despite her pain and suffering, the endless setbacks, and her hopeless situation, she pushes through to achieve the impossible and exact justice for her murdered family. I love Arris, mystic and dreamer, a man of deep passion who, despite wielding unlimited power, kept his feet on the ground and his eyes on the goal. Davon is another favorite, working quietly behind the scenes on his brother’s behalf and desiring no glory for himself. And Hans, big lovable teddy bear, a little crude and bumbling at times but with a sense of humor and a heart of gold.
4. Do you plan on writing other novels/series? Are you writing anything at the moment?
Absolutely! At the time I started Warrior Queen I’d been working on a paranormal romance revolving around a haunted house and am now in the final polishing and editing phase, with plans to release the book in March. In this book, a young woman visiting a mansion that was restored after an arson fire discovers she bears a striking resemblance to the woman in a portrait miraculously spared by the flames. She becomes involved with the mansion’s owner–to the displeasure of the ghost who haunts his house. The book is entitled Bella, and I have plans for both a prequel and a sequel. I’m also working on a book inspired by an event in my father’s life (Lost Treasure of Rocky Bar), as well as a series of children’s books, the first of which I hope to release shortly after Bella.
5. Which are your biggest challenges as indie author?
Marketing, followed by maintaining visibility. When I decided to become an indie writer I had no idea there was so much more involved than just writing, plus I never considered competing against, not just thousands, but MILLIONS of books! Obtaining reviews proved harder than expected. I thought that, once a book began to sell, the reviews would naturally follow. This has not been the case. Unfortunately, no magic formula exists. Methods that work for one writer might not work for another. But as I network with other writers my knowledge base builds, and I very much appreciate all the help and encouragement I’ve received. Through it all I have made some wonderful friends!
6. Do you have any favourite books or authors?
I have several favorite authors. A few include: Colleen McCullough; Her book, The Thorn Birds, gripped me at the beginning and never let go. Robert K. Massie’s book, Peter the Great, provided the most vivid account of Peter’s life, Russia during that time, and the events that shaped Peter that I have ever read. Edward Rutherfurd’s Russka gives an in-depth look into Russia’s history from ancient nomadic tribes to the present. Frank Peretti (This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, among others) is a master story teller. Another favorite is The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy, and lately I’ve gotten into Joseph R. Lallo’s The Book of Deacon series and the Kate Nielson series by Rebecca Carey Lyles. My most recent favorite: As Cold As Thorns by Isis Sousa. I am eagerly awaiting the second part!
7. What can new readers expect from your series?
An escape into a magical world inhabited by alluring characters in colorful settings; tales of triumph, adventure, and human resiliency; and perhaps inspiration as they follow the cast through their respective trials to their resolutions.
Title: Warrior Queen of Ha-Ran-Fel (Dark Lords of Epthelion #1)
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Synopsis: Dead. All dead. Her father and mother. Their loyal servants. Her countrymen. Killed by her cousin, Lucius Mordarius, and his ilk, followers of the dark lord Ryadok. Though beaten down in the following years, hatred fuels Merewyn, keeping her alive. And then it comes: an opportunity to escape. Aided by four strangers she doesn’t entirely trust, Merewyn directs her steps to Ha-Ran-Fel, land of the savage Horse Lords, where she hopes to gain the strength to come back for her cousin’s head. But complications arise. The band of strangers hunt Lord Ryadok’s beast, the Baugonril, a monster born of magic, created to be impervious to attack. If successfully bred, the Baugonril would mean the ruin of every nation still fighting Ryadok’s yoke. Merewyn’s quest must expand beyond revenge to the salvation of her world, but there is little room left in her heart for anything but hate; so she thinks. The longer she remains with the companions, the more her suspicions turn from them to her reactions to their care and protection. Could she weaken so easily? Dogged by the sorcerer’s soldiers and her own inner demons, she survives maelstroms, near starvation, and the dangerous crossing of the raging Ashgard River only to arrive at her destination, what she believes to be the end of her quest, to be treated with suspicion and condescension. She must prove her worth and fight for the right to avenge her family and the honor of saving her world as the Warrior Queen of Ha-Ran-Fel.
Title: A Dark Moon Rises (Dark Lords of Epthelion #2)
Synopsis: Peace has returned to Epthelion. So everybody thinks. Even as the people rebuild their war-torn land the demon god, Anhuapta, regathers his strength. The war claimed a massive toll, leaving many widows and young women with few marital prospects. In the village of Garris Sarah Greene arranges a marriage for her daughter Melinda. Unwilling, however, to be yoked to a man thrice her age, Melinda flees to the northern village of Teptiel, a new colony of immigrants seeking to rebuild their lives. There she meets and marries the man of her dreams. But once the vows are said, his demeanor changes horrifically and Melinda learns that her husband has a sinister agenda. Anhuapta returns, seeking vengeance upon Arris Marchant, the Arganian mystic who beat him down but did not destroy him–and then relinquished his Arganian powers in order to marry the woman he loved. Even as he prepares to meet the demon, a series of supernatural events thrust Arris into a cult of shapeshifters comprised of supposedly honorable men who sold their souls. Can he stand, as a mortal, against such overwhelming odds?
Title: Castle of Blood (Dark Lords of Epthelion #3)
Synopsis: High in the Mystic Mountains, a shining new castle stands between the rocky spires of a menacing peak. Hans Ogilvie rides to investigate and when he does not return, Arris Marchant sets out to find his friend. The castle appears empty–but inside he finds an innumerable host embedded in its walls–including his own brother. Somehow he must free his brother and rout an enemy he knows he cannot kill.