Sanctum: Sands of Setesh follows a Knight Wanderer on a final quest but the desert proves deadlier than expected. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Honestly? We live in Arizona, so we are surrounded by the desert, and it is always trying to kill you, if you aren’t careful. The Pandemic had just started, and the Governor had just placed our State under lock-down. Tony and I were sent home to work from our houses, and had only our household companions and the internet to keep us company. We had often written little stories and side quests for a couple of groups that we belonged to (We are old-school fantasy gaming nerds). So we just started to write a scene back and forth in Google Docs about these two characters. Well, ok, they are kinda cool – but… how did they meet? What did that look like? Next thing we know, our little story (that was designed to keep us sane) was 50,000 words and growing. So we decided to turn it into its own story… and here we are. Did the current environment play into the formation of the plot? Maybe a little, can’t lie.
Isolde du’Avalonne is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
Isolde really is that young woman who is seeking to make her mark on the world – in this case, a world that may not be too thrilled to accept the path that she has chosen for herself. She is an idealist as well as being steadfast in her friendships; even when those friendships may involve a people that her own might have avoided historically. She is the eternal optimist – not because she always finds the silver lining in every rain cloud, but rather because she chooses to recognize that challenges and hardships are part of life – she can either embrace those hardships as potential for lessons and become stronger for them, or allow them to consume her. If she (in her youth and inexperience) can still manage to continue the battle, even when offered a reprieve … she stands as a beacon of hope for others who might otherwise throw in the towel.
Being perfectly honest, I think see a lot of my daughter in Isolde – a young woman, coming into her own, and facing the world and all that it has become. She’s a pretty inspiring kid.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
There are a lot of hidden (and not-so-hidden) themes in Sands of Setesh. We have an overarching theme of acceptance that we see in the relationship between Isolde and Tulok. Not only do they have to come to terms with their differences in faith, but also their racial and cultural differences. It was really important that when we wrote Sands, that Isolde did not become a “white savior” type of character. She is in a strange land, with different people, and different customs, and she has to figure things out on their terms…and she gets her butt handed to her more than once in the process. She has to learn about these people, and their land … and their Gods… to survive. Her own faith helps to guide her; but not to the detriment of the Seteshi.
We also see the psychology of nature versus nurture in Tulok. Man versus Monster. Intellect versus Passion. He has chosen the path of the faithful, which has cut him off from his own people. Does that make him LESS than what he would have been otherwise?
We have some obvious call-outs to embracing female heroes as worthy of their own leading roles, and not merely being labeled a romanceable side-character.
Being honest – it’s more than a little about racism, and overcoming it – being better, and doing better than those who came before us. Finding the similarities in cultures, celebrating and embracing these as well as appreciating uniqueness instead of denigrating for difference. It’s the realization that we are all in this together, and without each other, we are not gonna pull through it on our own.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
We are currently working on a follow up to Sanctum: Sands of Setesh where we travel to Isolde’s homeland and continue our adventure there. Working title is Forests of Avalon. No more spoilers there; except to say you will get some deeper insight on the complexity of the cultures of Sanctum and what the Reaping meant for other lands. We are about ¾ of the way done with the 1st draft and hope to have it finished around the same time this year (September) as last.