It's wonderful the imagination that some people possess, giving the world a wonderful new story to dive into. I was lucky enough to speak to the fantastic creator behind the Legends of Orkney series, Alane Adams. She took time out of her very busy Gen Con weekend to speak to me about the first book in her series, The Red Sun, the inspiration behind it, the future for the Legends of Orkney and the gaming collaboration that gave birth to BattleKasters.
PopWrapped: It's been a great Gen Con so far!
Alane Adams: Yeah it's been crazy today since it's Saturday and Cosplay Day.
PW: Yeah, hopefully tomorrow will be a little more chill so you guys can sit back and relax a bit.
AA: Absolutely! Tomorrow is the big family day, which is always so much fun so we're super excited for that.
PW: So tell me a bit about The Red Sun.
AA: The Red Sun is in a fantasy fiction series from the Legends of Orkney, and it is the first book in the series. I wrote it for my 12 year old son; he's a huge fan of the Percy Jackson mythology series. I decided to base it in Norse mythology, and I set it in this part of the world called Orkney, which is a real set of islands off the coast of Scotland. Those islands were a part of the Arthurian legends, Morgana's family, Orcadian soliders and so on, were from that part of the world, so there's already a lot of mythology in existence in that area. I also took an interest in witch mythology. There are quite a few witches in their history and one of their stories is that this ring of standing stones that had witches trapped inside of them. So I thought it'd be really kind of cool to weave all of that together into a character.
The main character is Sam Baron, a 12 year old boy who is a descendant of Odin, as well as being the son of a witch. This makes him the first of his kind in a very, very long time and it gives him that light magic/dark magic feel. There's a lot of conflict for him as he's trying to get a feel for what kind of person he really is, what kind of magic he's really going to choose and how the magic is going to control him versus him controlling the magic. The book kind of sets him out; he discovers all this about himself while he's on a journey to try to save his friends, realizing he's kind of triggered this ancient curse that's connected to the 'red sun'. I was trying to build this world and was trying to think what would be interesting - when you enter into this magical realm of Orkney, what would be interesting about it? And I always think of the sun as the most powerful thing in our universe, so somebody would have to be incredibly powerful to actually curse the sun. So that kind of shows the lineage he has - real dark magic and real light magic. He is the only one that can stop the curse and every time he loses his temper, things get worse, a bit like in real life!
PW: That's cool! I haven't had the time just yet to skim through the book, and I'm trying to avoid spoilers and whatnot... but does he get to choose or is it more of a destiny-type thing?
AA: I really let him choose, and I let him make a lot of mistakes. I think as we try to discover who we are as people we tend to make a lot of mistakes; we have our good natures and our bad natures and sometimes you really have to explore the dark side a bit. My son was a huge fan of Anakin Skywalker growing up, and especially in Star Wars: Episode III, where they really explored his dark side. They had a character who had a tremendous potential for good, but ultimately chose poorly for a lot of conflicting reasons. That had a lot of influence on me while designing the Sam Baron character.
So we get to really see him in book one come to awareness and knowledge about his power and then in book two we'll get to see him make that left turn, where he starts to struggle with the dark side of his magic. hopefully in the end he'll come out on the other side to be good.
PW: Yeah hopefully!
AA: Yeah, we've definitely got our fingers crossed! (laughs)
PW: How many books do you have planned?
AA: Right now I have six books planned in the series, and I tend to write them in sets of three. You can think of books one, two and three as one big story arch and then four, five and six will pick up a couple years later and carry on the story arch while expanding the realm.
PW: Besides your son's influences, and the things that you love, were there other influences that went into the Legends of Orkney?
AA: It was really just mostly the basis of Norse mythology! When you use an existing mythology you have so much richness there for you to borrow from. For example, you have the Gungnir spear, which is Odin's spear that always comes back when you call it, all these different creatures and forms that Odin takes form are in there. The giant bear that we have here today, Brunin, is actually Odin in that particular form. Really when you have something like Norse mythology, there is so much there to borrow from. The key is to do your research so you have that inventory to pull down from when you need something, or are looking for a creature or something authentic that you can kind of insert in there. In the later books you see a lot more of the mythology come into it. The first book focuses more on introducing our human characters and bringing them together with the Orkney mythology of the witches and the real locations as well. The concept is that Odin basically scooped these islands out of our world into Asgard to protect magic. That's really the basis and then explains why there is no magic in our world. The answer I really wanted to provide was that Odin's choice was to protect mankind.
PW: That's a really interesting perspective, I don't believe I've heard it from that viewpoint.
AA:That's because I make up as I go along! (laughs)
PW: It's roughly 8 months between books, so you're hoping to be finished by roughly 2020?
AA: Yeah! I think that'll be nice for my readers as they get older and move on, they'll be able to continue to engage with the book series. It's just a matter of getting them out, as I've got the first three drafted.
PW: What would be the ideal reading age for the series?
AA: I'd say 8 or so, and especially if they're an advanced reader. If they like Harry Potter or like reading the Percy Jackson books, then they can read the Legends of Orkney series. It gets a little dark at times, when Sam has to struggle with his anger, but it's all handled in a way that's fashionable for young minds.
PW: Does Sam have any sidekicks?
AA: Yeah, there's always a sidekick! One of the more popular characters is this little witch named Mavery, she's a little bit younger than Sam and orphaned, so they kind of bond together as she shows him around. He also has three best friends - a girl and two other boys that are his companions as well. The witches have taken them into Orkney and he has to go save them; their travels kind of overlap. So he's got his friends, he's on a good hero's journey as he's trying to come of age and figure out who he is. He's also got an entertaining dwarf that's on his case, trying to get him to do the right thing. There's always a dwarf, right? (laughs) They're all great characters.
PW: Nearby we have this Battlekasters, how are you tied in with that game?
AA: With people today, we all have our phones and we're really engaged in digital content with games and information. so when I was coming up with the series, I wanted to get both kids and adults excited about reading the book series. I came up with a mobile game experience that fans at conventions can enjoy. This year we've been to a few conventions; we were in Denver, Chicago with C2E2, and of course San Diego Comic Con. We actually took over the Gaslamp District in San Diego!
What happens is we deploy these beacons, and we'll have you download the game. As you walk around the convention you'll pass one of our Bluetooth enabled beacons and it alerts you that you've just entered the realm of Asgard. Once you're there you use your phone to collect content and interact with characters from the book series. What it does is allow you to get to know the characters, the creatures, the magical objects, plus you see some really cool digital art. It's really meant to entice you to want to learn more and go deeper into the Legends of Orkney, and that's the kind of response we usually get, with people playing the game and having a really fun experience. We've had a great time here at Indy GenCon. We've had people who play the game and run back very quickly as this is a gaming convention and people are very competitive here. There are also people who have been playing it very casually over the last couple days, getting back into it as they find a new beacon. When they get back here and close the Stonefire, they get really excited that they were able to finish the game off and saved our world from dark magic! I've also been giving them a free copy of the book to keep the story going.
Plus on top of all that we've been raising funding for the Indianapolis Library, as I'm a huge supporter of literacy. I've made a pledge to the library for $2500 and then an additional $2 for every person who downloads and plays the game at GenCon. We call it Battlekasting For Literacy!
PW: In this area before our interview I've always seen people standing out in front playing the game, which is fantastic. Who all are you working with to make the game come to life?
AA: There's a company up in Seattle that I've partnered with called Artifact Technologies. They are a technology firm who just so happened to have the platform and software to build this game out on. We teamed up for a really cool fan experience for people at fan cons. You can only play while you're here, but we're working on a way to leave beacons behind in the city so that the game can continue on after the convention is done.
PW: Let's say we're at the end of book 6, are you hoping to have the beacons out in the world for people to find while travelling?
AA: Absolutely! It's a long ways away though. Books right now are coming out about 8 months apart, so the next book will be coming out next year. We are developing so fast that we'll see a lot of changes and a lot of opportunity for change. We are also developing an online presence over the next few months where you can socially engage with other players and get more cards.
It was wonderful speaking with Alane and seeing how thrilled and passionate she is about the Legends of Orkney. I, personally, have been reading the first book, The Red Sun, and am really digging it so far. Check back in the future, as I will certainly be reviewing it! You can follow Alane on many different platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, as well as her main website.
I want to thank Alane so very much for being a wonderful host and letting us dig into the fantastical world of Orkney!