The Lost War is fantasy novel, and the first book in the Eidyn series, from author Justin Lee Anderson.
Previously on Geek Native, we’ve looked at enjoyed Carpet Diem a comedy from Anderson in which the fate of the world rested on a bet God and Satan made on a carpet. The Lost War is a very different book, and we’re lucky enough to be able to chat with Justin about it.
Sale alert: We’ve timed this interview to match with a short sale on Amazon in which the Kindle price is reduced to £1.99/$2.99 for two days only.
Can you introduce readers to The Lost War and Eidyn?
The Lost War is a real mash up of genres. It’s a twisted low fantasy road trip mystery. There are four major POV characters, but the main one is Aranok, who is the first draoidh (magic user) ever to be named to as high a position as King’s Envoy. That’s not least because, in this world, people are afraid of and prejudiced against draoidh.
The story begins in the aftermath of a devastating war against an evil draoidh, Mynygogg – the first draoidh ever to have two sets of skills – and he got the worst: necromancy and demon summoning. The country is in a mess, and Aranok is at loggerheads with King Janaeus right from the off as they disagree about what to prioritise as they rebuild.
Janaeus orders Aranok to lead a group of relative strangers across the country in order to help restore a banished neighbouring queen to her throne, in order to create an ally Eidyn desperately needs. But as they take their journey, they find one thing after another that makes them question what they know. Something’s wrong. Maybe a lot of things are wrong. Maybe there’s a conspiracy that could bring down the kingdom. And they have to figure it out, without letting their own infighting bring them down in the process.
Geek Native’s HQ is in Edinburgh. Just how much has the city influenced Eidyn?
Massively. The whole country is based on Edinburgh’s history, mythology and etymology. I used to edit a guidebook to Edinburgh called The Capital Guide, so I knew a lot of about Edinburgh’s history, and there are several events and characters in the book that are inspired by it. Equally, I’m fascinated by the etymology of phrases, and so the towns and areas of Eidyn are inspired by them.
It’s hard to give examples without spoilers but, for example, Balerno comes from Baile Airneach – ‘the town of the Hawthorns’. Hawthorn trees produce white flowers and thorny branches. In Eidyn, Baile Airneach is the base for a group of religious knights called the White Thorns, who are crucial to the story.
What’s the etymology of the word “Draoidh”?
It’s Scots Gaelic for, essentially, wizard or druid. When I was dreaming up my magic system for the books, I read an interesting post somewhere by a guy who was sick of people always using Latin for magic, and challenging people to be more creative. Since I wanted a strong Scottish feel to the world, using Gaelic as my language of magic just fit perfectly.
I can say, though, that Google Translate might be good for some things, but this is not one of them! I had to do some proper research to get the right words, after the ones I started with turned out to mean quite different things than I intended!
While being cautious of spoilers, what was your favourite scene in the book?
Ooh. There are a few I enjoy. There’s a moment with Samily (the White Thorn) in an early fight that I particularly enjoy, but for a whole scene, the one that comes to mind is an inspirational speech by Meristan (the monk) during a particularly dark night for the characters. I’ve reread that one a few times and it always makes me smile.
Looking at the early reviews for The Lost War I can see they’re all really positive, but you seem to have blown people away with a twist in the tale at the very end of the book. Is that going to put the pressure on book two?
I hope not! In all seriousness, the ‘twist’ was always the original premise for the book. So while readers are being blown away by it (which I’m delighted about!), for me it was the starting point, so I know exactly where we’re going next and why. I suppose the pressure is to find a way to end the second book with something that gets the same level of reaction!
You might like…
I gather The Lost War is actually based on a tabletop RPG? Is that true? How many players and was it a long-lasting game?
Not tabletop, but RPG, yes. There are a group of us with a slightly changing role call who’ve been playing semi-regularly for over a decade. The particular characters I’ve used in Eidyn were probably played for about 5 of those years, I would guess, until our GM got sick of them and made us change to a new setting! We’re all parents who would get together and let our kids hang out upstairs while we played downstairs! We were mostly a group of 5, but for a while we let the two oldest kids play, too, and their characters also made it into the story.
Aranok and Allandria, two of the main characters, were mine and my wife, Juliet’s. She’s been enjoying the fact that, so far, the only reviews that have mentioned a favourite character have picked Allandria!
I haven’t actually played tabletop, but I’ve wanted to for ages. I need to find a game where they’ll be gentle with me as a total newb.
What system did you use? If a games publisher approaches you to license The Lost War as a campaign setting is there a publisher/system combo you’d hope to use?
We started out playing them in Fantasy Hero, changed to AD&D for a while and then went back to Fantasy Hero. I suppose I wouldn’t mind what system, honestly. I’d love to see it become an RPG setting, that would both be such a huge compliment and so completely appropriate, since it was born from RPG.
My business partner has already been talking about writing a Skyrim mod for it, which would also be exciting!
Does playing or running roleplaying games help people become better writers or does it encourage some bad habits that might get in the way?
For me, I think it has hugely improved my worldbuilding. It’s not necessarily something that comes naturally to me in the way that story or characters do, so I really have to work at it. I think the richer a world you create, the more immersive your game is, and that equally applies to books. Sean, our GM, comes up with amazing stuff through a combination of his own imagination and the worlds and scenarios he picks up from publishers, and he helped me with my worldbuilding.
I read a Tweet once, where they said something like “I want to GM my own game where I create the world and also play all the characters” followed by another saying “I have been told this is called writing a novel.” I think that’s a perfect summary of writing a book!
Are there any authors you think would be great to roleplay with? Which game would you play?
I played a game with Iain Grant at Worldcon in Dublin this summer. He was GMing and did an amazing job. It was essentially set in the world of the Oddjobs books he writes with Heide Goody and it was such good fun.
I know Anna Stephens has recently taken up D&D, and I believe Ed McDonald also plays. Since their two series, Godblind and Blackwing, have been among my favourite books of the last few years, I’d love to play with them. Add in RJ Barker, who’s just a riot and one of the nicest guys you could meet, and maybe Joe Abercrombie – no idea if he plays, but his books are phenomenal and he has great taste in whisky. And of course, my mate Ramy Vance. Ramy and I have been saying we have to play together for about three years and haven’t managed it yet!
What would we play? With that group, I’d imagine a pretty dark AD&D campaign with a thick vein of black humour!
What can you tell us about the next book in the Eidyn series?
Very little until you’ve read The Lost War! What I can say is that while The Lost War has a complete story within it, it is also very much only the beginning of a much larger story. There are some pointers as to where we’re going next at the end, and in the epilogue, which I hope will whet people’s appetites for the next book. There is a whole new story to tell, and our heroes are arguably in an even more difficult position than they began The Lost War. I’m really excited about writing it!
You can buy The Lost War for the Kindle or as a paperback on Amazon.
Join (or start) the healthy debate. Share your observations below.