An Interview with Brian Lee Durfee

Write on: Sat, 09 Feb 2019 by  in Blog Read 7454

Michael ‘sits’ down for an interview with Brian Lee Durfee, author of the upcoming epic fantasy, The Blackest Heart


This interview was conducted via email and edited for length, content, and grammatical errors at the discretion of Booknest.


M: Hey Brian thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. For anyone that doesn’t know, Brian Lee Durfee is an author and fine artist who is the author of the Five Warrior Angels series released by Saga Press- an imprint of Simon and Schuster.

Let’s start off with some rapid fire fun stuff so the folks can get to know you through your nerdiness. Don’t be afraid to give a short why if you feel so inclined.

Favorite classic fantasy?  

B: MemorySorrowand Thorn by Tad Williams. However the five books that inspired me the most were, Lonesome Dove, Pillars of the Earth, The Stand, Storm of Swords, and To Green Angel Tower.

M: Favorite fantasy that’s come out in the last 10-20 years?

B: ... I would have to say Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive and Pat Rothfuss, Kingkiller Chronicles

M: Favorite book you read in the last year?

B: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

M: Favorite band?

B: That would be a tie between: Queen, Prince, Journey, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Metallica, Billy Joel, Elton John, REO Speedwagon, Genesis, Springsteen, Kid Rock, Mellencamp, Bon Jovi, Pat Benetar, The Eagles, Santana, Motley Crue, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, Green Day, Stevie Nicks, Bryan Adams, Def Leppard, Annie Lennox, Tesla, Duran Duran, U2, Styx, Tom Petty, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, etc etc. I listen to a lot of classic rock whilst I write.

M: Favorite sports team? 

B: Oakland Raiders (soon to be Las Vegas Raiders…which is cool cuz I was born in Vegas)

M: Favorite Jedi or Sith(The correct answer is Kit Fisto)

B: Luke Skywalker [because] he was an orphan like me.

M: So Brian, I recently reviewed both Forgetting Moon and(the yet unreleased) The Blackest Heart and really enjoyed them. I think that you nailed that mix of the familiar and the unexpected that is so crucial in modern epic fantasy. Can you talk a bit about your inspiration for this series?

B: When I was ten or twelve years old I read The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. It was the first novel I ever purchased with my own $$$ and read for enjoyment. About 85 pages in, I knew I wanted to write a fantasy series of my own, and in fact there was a line of dialogue in that Shannara book (around page 80-89 or so) that inspired the overall theme for my series The Five Warrior Angels.

My next inspiration was Tad Williams. When I started reading The Dragonbone Chair, I really started to learn the use of language and how words could fit together to create real art on the page.

Third, Lonesome Dove is the perfect novel. I try and emulate that 4 book western series as much as I can. In fact, I kind of think of The Five Warrior Angels as an epic western adventure, just set in a fantasy world with swords instead of pistols. Also, I love the epic movies of the 1990s like Braveheart, Dances With Wolves, Gladiator, The Unforgiven, Last of the Mohicans, Saving Private Ryan—I really try and write on an epic-cinematic scale like I see in those films. I think The Revenant came close to that (a more recent film staring Leonardo DeCaprio). Stuff like that really inspires me.

M: Did you have a specific tone in mind or just tell the story you’ve been longing to tell? Do you consider your story to be ‘Grimdark’ or your characters as ‘antiheroes’ or do you think those labels reductive?

B: I always thought my novels would be grimmer than most just for the fact that I know I am telling a very vivid and detailed story about the stark realities of war, violence, and religious fanaticism. My publisher wanted to avoid the grimdark label as much as possible, but I never thought that was going to happen. And every review mentions grimdark, even the professional reviewers like Publishers Weekly and Locus. So it was labeled how it was labeled. I tell people it is R-Rated. 

M: I believe you told me that you had imagined a particular meeting of characters when you were ten years old. That seems crazy to me. In the introduction to The Forgetting Moon you talk about your own personal history of being a child of adoption. You also dedicate the book to first responders and your friends at the Utah Department of Corrections. As much as you feel comfortable would you like to share how your own personal story has shaped this imagined one? Maybe in ways that even surprised yourself?

B: Yes, Blackest Heart is chuck-full of scenes I envisioned as a kid. Forgetting Moon was really just a set-up novel so I could have an excuse to place all those cool scenes I dreamed up as a kid into bks 2-3-4-etc. Also, as an adopted child I was always drawn to the quest tales of orphans and bastards. I loved Luke Skywalker, and I love the old worn out trope of the orphan farm boy with a destiny.

In a nutshell, I am subverting that trope big-time (and in a lot of wild and weird ways) right up until the very finale of the series. I hope the readers dig all the twists and turns in the end.

And yes, I have worked in law enforcement for my day job for eleven years now. So I dedicated my first book to all public servants. I do believe working in an environment full of felons, criminals, murderers, rapists, gang-members, and child molesters has dulled my senses. Nothing shocks me anymore. I have seen the worst people can do to each other. And I reckon I suffer from some form of PTSD, though (like most in law enforcement) I’ve never officially looked into it. I relate to the war-weary knight, Gault Aulbrek, in my books the most.     

M: Something that really struck me was how intense the violence was and how it just seemed almost cinematic in the way you described it. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about fight choreography? Are you referencing historical or fictional works as you work to create those scenes?

B: ...There is a whaling scene near the beginning of Forgetting Moon. I really researched whaling and ships to get that right. I researched glaciers for the scenes that take place on (and in) glaciers. The sacking of Gallows Haven and all the aftermath midway through Forgetting Moon was taken right out of history books--how the Viking raiders would pillage and plunder and rape and torture the villagers of north-east England. I researched ocean tides and horses and sharks and all manner of things to get the final battle in Blackest Heart just right. Yes, as a kid I wanted to write a medieval battle scene that pitted armored knights against great white sharks…and by god in Blackest Heart I found a legit way to {expletive} do it and I think it’s AWESOME! 

M: Perhaps this is a little unfair because I imagine as an author you want your books to speak for themselves. But for those who haven’t taken the plunge into the Five Warrior Angels series, what do you think will keep readers engaged and invested in what you’re doing?

B: I write vivid detailed action-packed scenes, and I promise not one word or line of dialogue is wasted. It all means something in the end. Even the description of a forest or cathedral holds clues...

M: Thanks so much, Brian, for your time and I hope all our readers who find this series interesting will go out and give it a go. The Blackest Heart comes out February 26, 2019.




Michael McLendon is an actor living in NYC.

His favorite authors are Brandon Sanderson and Mark Lawrence. 

If he's not reading, he's making faces in front of a mirror or watching something with swords and/or explosions.