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The Empire’s Lion: The Imperial Adept Book One

She left a slave. She returns a conqueror.

As an Adept, Reiva blasts fire from her hands and leaps over walls. But when her first solo mission leaves her half-dead amidst a heap of massacred allies, she gets just one chance at redemption.

The Empire orders her to crush the one kingdom she thought she would never see again: Talynis, the land of her birth, the land she left in chains.

Standing in her way is the Wolf, a vicious assassin hell-bent on killing Adepts—and a single cut from his cursed blade will destroy Reiva’s magic forever.

Even if she can survive, victory may come at a price too high to pay…

Interview with Nathan Tudor

1. Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey, please?

I’ve been writing on-and-off my whole life, but around middle school I started to get serious about researching how publication works. I was watching Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on YouTube, taking notes on which publishers would be a possible fit for my work. I started reading the Acknowledgments sections of books, scouring them for names of agents and editors I might submit to—not something a lot of teenagers interested in writing will spend their time doing—so I had an awareness of publishing as a business. Naturally, I was also attentive to the growth of self-publishing as the digital revolution finally hit the industry.

I wavered for a few years on what to do—traditional or independent—as I honed my craft. The more I researched the industry, the more skeptical I became as to whether traditional publishing was the right fit for me as a writer.

After finishing college in the middle of the pandemic, I figured it was time to really take this seriously and write something I would put all my effort into publishing—not just writing for myself or for some nebulous “maybe I’ll try to get this published” goal. This work was one I would take to readers. I decided I would self-publish my debut series, The Imperial Adept. Around this time, I met a recently published author, Michael McClellan, who drilled into me the importance of writing as a daily habit—that meeting was absolutely essential.

After about 18 months of work, I had two books totaling a combined 300,000+ words of epic fantasy fiction, ready for audiences. At the end of 2021, I put the prequel Adept Initiate up as a free download for newsletter subscribers, which I found through the StoryOrigin platform. Three weeks later on January 21, 2022, The Empire’s Lion went live on the ebook stores, with the paperback edition soon to follow. Ever since, I’ve been accruing mailing list subscribers, selling copies, getting reviews—I’m immensely happy with the reception my work has received so far, and I’m confident that as more readers give me a try, they’ll support me as a new voice in the fantasy genre.

2. How do you decide who to dedicate your books to?

I dedicated The Empire’s Lion to “my dad, who has waited the longest.” That’s a family inside joke—my dad hasn’t known about my writing any longer than my mom or brother, but his personality makes him experience time slower, if that makes sense. Objectively, it took about 18 months from conception to publication for The Empire’s Lion, but I think subjectively my dad waited two or three years. He was always one to ask how writing was going, whether I had an expected completion date yet, and once I had a beta copy for test readers, he was the first to finish it. He’s probably the most excited person in the world to read my writing, so I thought there was no one better to dedicate my first book to.

Adept Initiate was more nebulous, written “For those who always believed.” A lot was going on while I wrote and revised that book; it was a time I had to rely on friends on family more than usual. It also happens to be a story in part about someone learning who she can trust. Reiva, the heroine, is betrayed, torn away from her home, and placed in a training program designed to turn her into a cold-blooded killer. Despite that, she still finds people who will stand by her through trials, people she realizes she can trust and rely on, in spite of her trauma. I ended up dedicating the book to “those who always believed” because I felt acutely the importance of having people in my life who always believed I would manage to write and publish these books, people I could trust and rely on like my protagonist found. 

3. What was the inspiration behind your latest release?

After I decided I would publish a book, I had to decide which story I’d write. I already had a nearly complete first draft of a novel, so of course I contemplated fixing that up and putting it out there, but that project has a special place in my heart, and I knew my skill level wasn’t up to the task of completing it. I wouldn’t be able to do the story and the characters justice, and I also knew it would be difficult to sell (either to publishers or directly to readers) since it’s more idiosyncratic. It’s the kind of book I’ll send into the world once I’ve matured more as a writer and once I have a trusting audience willing to take a chance on something unique. 

So, I turned to dreaming up a new story—something fresh, something I knew I could put my own spin on that would be able to find home in the current fantasy market. I’ve toyed with writing a Roman Empire-inspired fantasy for much of my life, and I did my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies, most of my coursework focused on the ancient Near East and Greco-Roman antiquity, so I already had a strong conceptual background in that area. 

The real lightbulb moment happened when I devised the conflict between the protagonist Reiva and her adversary the Wolf. Reiva is an Adept, a mage warrior in service to the Empire. The thing about Imperial Adepts is, they are all foreign-born—no one of Imperial birth can wield magic. Reiva is sent to participate in the conquest of Talynis, her original homeland, and the Wolf stands in her way. Naturally, he sees her as the worst sort of traitor—a Talynisti-born woman fighting for the Empire. And the Wolf is the perfect foe, because he is armed with an anti-magic blade that will destroy her mystic powers if he lands so much as a scratch on her. 

There’s another key piece to the dynamic between Reiva and the Wolf, but to tell you would spoil one of the key plot points in the novel ☺ Read and find out! 

4. Do you find it hard to let your characters go when you finish writing the book?

So far I haven’t finished a series, so I haven’t had to say goodbye to my characters just yet. It can be difficult to kill characters, but there’s always the possibility of writing a prequel where they appear. I think the real challenge will come when I’ve finished the core Imperial Adept trilogy and don’t have any more side stories to tell. I’m sure it will be a melancholic experience to come to terms with the fact I won’t hear more banter between Reiva and Yaros, won’t see Mouse smiling as he charges into impossible odds without fear. All stories have an ending though, and there are many more stories to tell. I wonder what it will be like to come back after a few years and read these early books of mine—I’ll probably cringe at how much my skills will have grown, but I think I’ll also enjoy the reunion with these characters who first inspired me.

5. What was your favourite read of 2021?

Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow. I went into that book with few expectations; in fact, I might have been skeptical whether the premise was something I would enjoy. I gave it a try on a whim—and it blew me away. Towles establishes not only a wonderful cast of characters, he also skillfully develops the setting itself as a character. The passage of time is felt, the emotions are palpable, and the climax is perfectly executed—satisfying and surprising all at once.

6. Who is your favourite author?

The late Gene Wolfe. A science fiction and fantasy author who could stand shoulder to shoulder with any other great American writer, he was dubbed “our Melville” by Ursula Le Guin. His prose is beautiful, his literary allusiveness is dense and brilliant, and his oeuvre is an ever-deep puzzle I doubt any of us will ever fully plumb. His Book of the New Sun ought to be taught in university curricula as far as I’m concerned. 

7. Was there a point in your life that a book helped you get through, and which one?

Plenty of times—but one of the most memorable is Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer. I read that book the summer of 2018, after a year of college filled with natural disasters, more interpersonal trials and crises than I’d care to recount, and of course, some grueling academic coursework. In the summer itself, I was preparing to spend a term as a visiting student at Oxford, working a tiring internship, practicing to take my driver’s license test (and I’d only have one chance before my learner’s permit expired during the aforementioned time abroad)…there was a lot. 

In the middle of that, I read this novel that peaks with the revelation (spoilers!) “The most important step a man can take is always the next.” That blew me off my feet—it remains a personal reminder of the power fiction can have in people’s lives. Sometimes when I’m feeling like I’m hanging onto the bottom of the world, I just go back and re-read that section. I hope my writing can do something similar for people. 

8. Is there anyone that you would like to mention and thank for their support of your writing?

I dipped into this when describing the dedications, but I can really never thank my parents enough. They’re my first and strongest supporters, never having doubted whether I’d create something great. I also of course must thank the Boys (they know who they are)—I’m incredibly fortunate to have a circle of friends who have creative, artistic aspirations, and few things are as valuable to an artist as having others who understand the journey and the work.

9. If you had the power to give everyone in the world one book, what would it be and why?

Now that’s a question! How about the Gospel of Saint John? The reader may speculate as to my reasoning ☺

10. What are you working on now?

I’m working on the sequel to The Empire’s Lion. The title and release date are to be determined, but I will say readers can expect more magic, more intrigue, and more revelations about the world. Reiva’s journey has only just begun, and it remains to be seen just what sort of person she will become in the wake of her decisions in the last book! 

11. Lastly, do you have any questions for your readers?

I suppose the biggest question is, “What have my books meant to you?” It’s been so great to hear different interpretations of what my books are about. For some people it’s pure entertainment, for others it makes them think about morality and self-determination—if anyone has thoughts they would like to share, my website’s Contact page has ways you can get in touch! I’m always eager to hear. 

Thank you for stopping by today Nathan and answering my questions.

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