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Year of the Dragon: an Interview with Victor Borda, Author of Dragons of Aeronoth

Updated: Mar 1

We’re happy to announce we have a new imprint, Draco Vox Books! Our first author through Draco Vox will be Victor Borda. His novel, Dragons of Aeronoth, will be released on March 16th, 2024. For those who are not yet familiar with the plot or the author, visit our dragon page for more information.

Silver: Dragons mean something different to everyone. The dragon in the Chinese Zodiac represents luck and power. Whereas in psychology, the dragon is an archetype of the unconscious as well as often being the evil that the hero must slay on his journey. So what is it about dragons that drew you to make them the focal point of your novel? What was the first dragon that captured your imagination and why?

Victor: The first dragons that really captured my imagination came from the artwork of the Dragonlands Series, both the books and then the Dungeons and Dragons modules that were based on those books. And the cover of Dragons of Autumn Twilight, for instance, which was amazing. All of that artwork I still think is just absolutely fantastic. So that definitely captured a lot of my initial imagination, and then of course Smaug from The Hobbit. 

In an archetypal sense, dragons often represent an evil that needs to be slain. But in this trilogy, I really didn't see them that way. I saw them as more human-esque in their personalities, yet very much grounded in being an elemental creature, like they're tied in with the elements and the dragon riders through their connection with them. They feel this connection to the elements that goes beyond what a human would normally experience. And so within this trilogy, there's good dragons, and there's also evil dragons. But I think you also see that the humans and the human variants are perhaps maybe the greatest perpetrators of evil in the story.

Silver: You do have a lot of dragons in this book, almost as many dragons as human characters. But the main dragon we see is Keoria, and her friendship with Will. She is a very wry, unperturbed dragon. Tell us about the bond Will forges with her and what it was like writing about a consciousness that is not human.

Victor: One of my favorite scenes in Dragons of Aeronoth is the day that the new troop of dragon-riding recruits get to meet their dragons for the first time. And trying to communicate the experience that Will has when he meets Keoria. It's a complete out-of-body experience. And in his mind, he dives into the world of rock and flame and fire, all of the elemental power and strength that is this dragon and the connection that she has to that elemental earth-fire energy. And it coincides well with his particular path where he is as part of not-quite work study. It's actually more like he gets up to some trouble, and as recompense, he has to work in the forge at Aeronoth, working on armor and weapons. And so he forges his own relationship with fire and the elements; so those things really go together.

As far as Keoria’s personality, I love writing in her voice. It is very distinct and you're right, unperturbed. And with a sense of humor. I felt like those were aspects to dragon personality that I really wanted to capture. And it was important to me that all of the dragon personalities really be just as distinct as the human personalities.

Silver: You succeeded in that, by the way. The dragons read just like regular characters. They don't read as being inconsequential in any way. And in fact, I am curious why Keoria, like all the dragons at Aeronoth who pair with a human rider, is there because she wants to be. They are not simple horses that an army conscripts into use, but rather, powerful allies. What is it a dragon wants and why do they concern themselves with humanity at all?

Victor: There are really two reasons. The first is that the dragons who are at Aeronoth and paired with a rider are primarily young dragons. So they're still in a part of their life cycle where they're looking for adventure. They're looking for fun and they're looking for newness and camaraderie. And that's part of what draws them there. I make a distinction between that and the much later parts of a dragon's life cycle, when they're primarily in a meditative state, returning to the elements.

Map of Aeronoth and Beyond...

The second reason is that Aeronoth itself is a defensive construction. It's high up the cliffs, on the side of a mountain face, where it protects an area known as the Vale. The Vale sits right next to the Azirath Desert, where a great battle that happened a few thousand years prior between a wizard and a necromancer. And as part of that, the magic, the sacrifice, the nature of the battle that take place is so great that it leaves an imprint on the Vale and the area around Aeronoth. That energy is something that attracts dragons to it. The dragon riders fly out over the Vale, they experience a shift in the energy in the air. It's not a shield, but it is very much an awareness that the energy around Aeronoth is special in a way that can be felt through the ethers by anything sensitive enough to pick it up, including dragons.

Silver: Now that we've covered dragons a little bit, I wanted to talk about your human characters. Your hero and heroine, Will of Asharad and Misty, might easily fall into a predictable trope of young love, with Will a heroic dragon rider, and Misty a beautiful healer. How did you finesse their arc and how do they as characters grow?

Victor: That's a great question. It was really important to me that all of the main characters in the book each have their own character arc, their own journey that they're going through. And I wanted to present that as multilayer journeys. Even the necromancer is making his way back to the land of the living through different levels of hellish astral planes. And Will and Misty each end up making their own physical geolocation journeys as they're also going through their journeys into adulthood. For me, the story really is a dual protagonist story.

I wanted to challenge the notion of the common archetype of the fighter and the healer. So in the first book of the trilogy, there's a number of scenes where Will has to take on the role of healer. And he does his best to help keep other people alive after certain key battles. And meanwhile, Misty learns how to fight, and not just fight a little, but she trains with a female sorceress in Thunderhead magic, which is like elemental storm magic to the max. And so as each of them grows, it just adds this richness to the story and it helps avoid the common trope of the male fighter rescuing the female healer.

Silver: You do wonderful villains. I mean, dark, truly evil characters, such as the necromancer VladKerLich and the Summoner. But a character that really captured my attention was El-Shad, an assassin of the Mosh-a’Dai, an order of assassins. I’m not sure he is actually a villain. He is pure assassin, in the same way that a jaguar cannot be anything other than a jaguar. How do you conceive of El-Shad within the gamut of your characters and what inspired him?

Victor: El-Shad is an archetypal figure, in a way. You're right to not just put him in the camp of evil. For folks who have played Dungeons and Dragons, El-Shad would most definitely be a lawful evil character, which means that there's rules and laws that he abides by. He does not see himself as an agent of chaos, but rather as an agent of the natural order of things. And death is part of that order of things. So he is the agent of death. He doesn't apologize or hold back. So in that sense, he's an archetype.

I was inspired to write him by thinking about the term "assassin." Phonetically, it has its roots with the term “hash asin.” Those were the orders of assassins back in times of the Persian Empire. They would smoke hash, and that's actually where the name assassin came from. That history and time period and the archeology are things I've always found really fascinating. So it's a bit of a nod to that in a world that is very much from the world landscape mythology that Dungeons and Dragons put forth and that so much of fantasy fiction is written in.

El-Shad definitely is an incredible character. I love writing his scenes. And in fact, I'm starting a Patreon account soon, for which I plan to feature sub stories of El-Shad. He's just such a rich character. And there's so much potential there. On my Patreon account, I'm going to feature side stories involving El-Shad’s adventures and also how he became an assassin. I have a whole storyline there in my head about how that occurred. So I'm excited to share that with readers.

"Dragon Lance": an early inspiration

Silver: The premise of the book involves squaring-off of selfless honor and flagrant, debauched evil. In doing so, you’ve raised the stakes in the trilogy to something akin to Star Wars or Lord of the Rings; if good does not triumph, mankind is doomed to slavery and despair. And you’ve put the outcome of this battle in the hands of young dragon rider recruits and their dragons. What did you intend to communicate here in terms of dark and light, despair and hope, young and old?

Victor: We've seen examples in our world today of people who think nothing of human life and make decisions that are grossly harmful to other people who are just trying to live their lives and raise their families. So, it really wasn’t a stretch to write a character who is as evil as the Summoner. Of course, we also have humanity at its best in our world today. So there's always that balance, and I try and strike that in the book as well. The dragon rider recruits and the role that they play speaks to that need.

We're all capable of so much more than we think we are. And sometimes it just a matter of being put in situations that bring our fullest energy, intuition, and creativity to the surface to problem solve, to not just take things lying down, but to really be determined to make things better. So my characters have a sense of the value of friendship, teamwork, not giving up, getting creative and doubling down in the desire and the willpower to turn things to a positive outcome. And I think that there's a lot of choices within our world today where we all have to decide how much of our light and our own gifts we want to bring to bear to the world and see that reach out and create positive change. That definitely worked its way through the characters and through the storyline.

Silver: Your main character, Will, comes into the story as an orphan who is fleeing slavery. He encounters a sand fiend and in battling it, is brought badly injured to Aeronoth, where his fate as a dragon rider begins. In the first book, much of the focus is on Will’s development and healing, with many rites of passage to be faced, and scars to be healed. He spends a lot of time in the forge, strengthening his injured arm. It prompts a sort of purification and transformation in Will. How did this storyline come to be and what does it mean to you?

Victor: Will's time in the forge is a crucial part of the story. Not only does the forge end up being crucial to rehabbing his body and rebuilding his muscle to be in dragon-riding shape, but it also ends up serving as the mechanism by which he processes the emotional content that he's held on to around the death of his parents. He’s in the forge one day, working the steel, and the emotions come roaring up. Salazar, the man who runs the forge, sees this happening and he makes a remark about how the purity of the steel breaks every man.

You've got a wise, strong male figure seeing the emotional unlocking and processing that's happening in Will from the way that he's using his body in the forge. And Salazar gives him permission to roll with it, take time to do that, to tend to himself. And so he leaves the forge and he goes down to a particular room in the healing chambers, where he runs into the woman who is in charge of the healing chambers. And she takes the time to sit with him, and he just lets it rip. And so you have this balance of a positive adult female taking the time to then listen and provide that that sounding board, that compassionate listening. There's this duality of positive support for the fact that that Will is in the middle of a transformative process. To my mind, that represents something that people can provide for each other in those times when we need to process things we've been through.

Silver: This is only Book I out of III. Did you plot the trilogy out ahead of time? Can you give us one or two hints about Book II?

Victor: An author has a responsibility when the start out to write a trilogy that they be able to stick the landing at the end of the trilogy. I actually found my notes from when I was beginning the initial writing for this book and for the trilogy. I had written down most of the characters who end up in the book. I had their character arcs mapped out, with their key moments of growth, and the actual plot journey. I tried to take an approach that would give me the structure to tell a good story and have things come to a satisfying conclusion at the end of the third book, but would also be flexible enough that I could be open to inspiration as it has shown up. I like it when authors are really thoughtful about where and how they want to have closure on certain things, whether it's in the form of a trilogy or a single book or an extended series.

The first book covers the course of about a year. And then in Books 2 and 3, the time frame compresses. A lot of seeds that I've planted in the first book come to fruition in the second and third books in a fairly thoughtful way. I went back after I wrote the rough form of the first book, and added in elements to help seed the plot line into the second and third books. I'm about halfway done with Book 2 right now. I look forward to not making folks wait too long after they read the first book to read the second.

Silver: Thank you so much for speaking with me. Best of luck with those dragons!

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