Hey guys. I have a special surprise for you all. I am able to interview Ariel Paiement regarding her upcoming release On Twilight’s Wings. Ariel Paiement is the author of the Bane of Ashkarith novel, the first in the Legends of Alcardia series among others. I just want thank Ariel for giving me this opportunity to interview her about On Twilight’s Wings, her writing process and just her writing in general.
I would like to note that this is probably one of my longest blog post. Alright, let’s get into this interview.
1). As a Christian author, what made you want to write in the fantasy genre?
Great question! I grew up in a home that had a lot of controversy swirling around fantasy. My dad was an avid reader of the genre, but my mom couldn’t stand it because she hated how it included magic, witches, and wizards (the only things she really saw about fantasy at the time). In the end, my dad let us read fantasy, so my mom submitted to his decision on it. I gravitated toward the genre naturally, but at the same time, I also faced my mom’s obvious dislike and disapproval of the genre. She supported me in my writing endeavors, but I knew she didn’t like that I was writing fantasy.
Because of the controversy about the topic that reigned in the home—even with my mom submitting to my dad and staying quiet, I could still tell it was an area they didn’t agree on even if she supported him in the guidelines he gave us for reading—I wondered often which was right. I loved fantasy and while some of it was less than wholesome or Godly, I didn’t feel everything was wrong. However, I understood why my mom felt the way she did as I started to look at it from her viewpoint.
(I never would’ve said it to her face because I had too much pride then to admit it since it felt like a defeat if I conceded even a little, but many of the fantasy books, even for children, were filled with witchcraft and promoted things that Biblically are wrong.) I read things then that I knew she’d never agree with and that I now look back on and realize toed the line more than they should have. (No, I am not talking about Harry Potter. I wasn’t allowed, and even with my looser standards on what I would or wouldn’t read back then, I wasn’t ever comfortable with that.)
As I got older, I really started thinking a lot about what I wrote, read, and listened to in conjunction with my faith. I was a Christian first and a writer or reader second, so I began to wonder if what I was writing could be considered okay. Over the years, with a lot of thought and consideration of the issue, I came to the decision that I had to make sure that my books all did the following:
- Clearly presented right and wrong in a Biblical way even if the book wasn’t Christian directly in its content (by this, I mean that it wasn’t allegorical or presenting a Gospel message/talking about Christianity and didn’t include Christian characters).
- Not show deities who did not represent the Christian God as being actual gods. They had to be either figments of the imaginations of various cultures for the sake of realism, people/alien races elevated to god-status because of their abilities even though they didn’t deserve that kind of worship (much like we see happening in sports today), or they could never really be shown heavily unless it was clear that what was being worshipped was evil and most definitely not God. Otherwise, any being worshipped as God must represent the Christian God, even if He is not called God by those following Him on the fantasy world.
- Show clear consequences for decisions, right or wrong. Every choice leads to consequences. Sometimes, a right choice will lead to good consequences, but sometimes it leads to wrongful suffering. But a wrong choice always results in some negative consequence, however slight, at some point or another, and that must be made clear.
For me, these guidelines were ones I felt strongly convicted needed to be followed, and I follow them in every book no matter how great or how little Christianity features in a given piece. So, that’s how I got to the point where I am: writing fantasy as a Christian author. And I continue to do so because I strongly believe that we need more Christian fantasy out there, especially for our young people, that does a good job of telling a story while also promoting what’s right and true. I feel it is my responsibility as a Christian writer to help do that, even if it means going against the grain and ruffling feathers in doing so.
2). As a Christian author, what were some of the challenges that you faced when writing this story?
Hmm. That’s a tough question. I think I had a hard time figuring out what the themes were and how the book fit with my goals as a Christian author. It went through a ton of edits with me taking things and putting other things in until I felt that the piece was leading in the direction I wanted it to be leading and could really support the more overt references to Christianity that happen in the second book. This one is actually Christian YA fantasy, though I know it isn’t obviously so in the first book. But that was the challenge I faced.
I had to do a lot of setup to get Cat, Gabriel, Awnia, and Sibhor (who was not a main character or even a minor one in On Twilight’s Wings, but was greatly important for book two and for the last book) into place and to set up a political and social climate where the events in On Anarchy’s Wings (Book 2) can make sense, not only in regards to the story but in regards to the introduction of Highest, the representation of Christ and the Christian God of the Bible in this series, toward the end of the second book.
Without giving too much away, one of the main challenges I faced with Eclesia (the planet that Cat and Gabe come from) was that at this point in their history, most of the followers of God have died out. They know vaguely from Earth that Christianity is a thing, but their days of interacting with Earth have largely faded. As a result, they don’t actually know the God of the Bible. Those who do come from Riladia, a planet introduced in the course of the later half of the book, and these are few and far between. They’ve stayed quiet and hidden because when they first fled Riladia, they had to leave their life behind. Of all of them, Cat is the only one who knows much of anything, but she didn’t grow up in any sort of religious home and has no real belief on the matter. In fact, even her presence on Earth in the beginning of the book is an exception to the rule and quite unusual.
Her presence there and the explanation for it, in and of itself, also presented some issues since the only way I could explain what happened to her involved explaining that their people had the ability to bind her soul into a human body as a baby, resulting in her being born as a baby with no recollection of her memories until a certain point. (I won’t go into this too much since it’s a major part of the first part of the plot, but I will say that, as with anything technological or magical in my worlds, things go wrong, and they certainly do here.)
I know for more conservative Christians this could present a problem because it could be interpreted as reincarnation, so I had to make a really tough call on how much of the process to explain and what to even say. I settled on a brief explanation here and there of the whys for what happened to her and avoided going into details since it wasn’t necessary.
3). What was the inspiration for the story and this idea of The Eclesian Chronicles?
I’ll be honest. I can’t remember. The book was started a long time ago, and it has been edited at least four times, I believe, since I wrote it. One of those edits was a major rewrite, but I believe I first wrote the book back in 2014 or 2015 when I was in my junior year of high school and doing dual credit at our community college. Much of that time is a blur of faces, struggles, lessons learned, and classes.
The reasons for the book have long since been lost, but as I began to rewrite and rework, one inspiration that kept me writing and fixing what was a very sad rough draft was the understanding that the novel had the potential to be one book that could help, alongside other Christian fantasy, to provide parents and children with well-written, engaging Christian fantasy that doesn’t compromise on the Bible’s standards of right and wrong.
4). With your release of On Twilight’s Wings coming up, do you have an idea of where the story might progress from here?
Yes, actually. Before I even put this through the final edit, proofread, and editorial design/cover design processes, I had the second book written. It also needs a lot of editing because some of the visions I have for it and the third book don’t come out as well as I’d like. I will say that there’s a huge cliffhanger at the end of On Twilight’s Wings, but because I don’t have the heart to force readers to wait until next year for an answer to what happens, I have left the first, unedited chapter of the second book up on my Wattpad and Inkitt profiles so that no one is left wondering.
But the plan is for the series to explore themes of light battling against the darkness in our world, and while I’m still figuring out the logistics of how to approach what happens toward the end of the second book with that theme, I do have the theme itself solid. Another thing is that the series is going to have a pretty strong focus on the concept of God’s sovereignty and His wooing of those who will come out of darkness into light. This kind of just has to happen naturally because, as I said earlier, Eclesia doesn’t have a clue who Highest—the God of the Bible—is.
They have to be reintroduced to Him, and if the fight between light and dark is one that they’re going to win, they have to turn to Him. In a very real way, the series reflects the fact that there is a battle going on in the hearts of men every day, even after salvation. That battle is between the dark and the light—or as Romans puts it, the flesh/old man and the spirit/new man. You get to see some of this on an individual scale in On Twilight’s Wings even before Highest comes onto the scene as a named player in the desperate situation they all end up facing.
On Twilight’s Wings really narrows the focus in on what happens when someone who was initially good (in human terms) goes through suffering or loses something precious and turns bitter or turns their mind toward revenge. Not only does the villain show where that ends, but the characters themselves have to struggle with it. Cat, in particular, struggles with this hatred toward Kellan—the antagonist—for what he does to her and to Gabriel through the course of the book.
In the end, she actually ends up losing. She is fighting against him for a righteous cause, but she loses the battle to avoid being hateful and bitter even as she’s doing the right thing on the outside. That’s something, then, that has to be faced later on. It colors every interaction she has with Kellan throughout the entire book, and in some ways, the reader sees what happens when we choose to respond to someone else’s bitter, complaining spirit by becoming bitter and complaining in our own spirits.
By the end, she does have some sympathy for him and the pain he has and does endure, but the hatred is still stronger. So you really get to see that struggle in a human soul between the darkness and the light, and you see that even those who are good, kind people lose that fight if they’re fighting alone, and then later on you get to see it on a grand scale as the forces of light and dark clash in a very obvious way in book two.
5). What were some of the key differences between writing On Twilight’s Wings and your other novel Bane of Ashkarith?
Great question! One of the key differences was that I knew more about what I was doing when I wrote Bane of Ashkarith! I didn’t have to do as many edits because I was a lot better as a writer when I wrote that rough draft than I was with On Twilight’s Wings.
Another big difference was in the main characters’ stories. On Twilight’s Wings features a couple that is unmarried and being torn away from each other by outside forces. This meant that I did focus a little more on the budding relationship between them, especially in the first book, and I had to figure out how to keep certain things—like physical temptations—realistic while avoiding going over the line with stuff.
It’s a Christian YA fantasy series, so I really wanted to give the characters strong reasons to keep things from ending in pre-marital sex or anything too heated, but I also didn’t want to be unrealistic, particularly given where the relationship between the main characters was at in different stages of the book.
I ended up finding that balance by giving one of them more traditional values and the other both a history of abuse and a strong component of shyness/nervousness about physical contact in general. This helped me to strike a balance that was realistic in the absence of religious beliefs on the part of either individual. This part was so much easier in Bane of Ashkarith! It isn’t based mainly on building the relationships and showing any serious building around the politics or unrest in the country.
On Twilight’s Wings required a heavy focus on both of those things, and it wasn’t an adventure fantasy. Bane of Ashkarith is about a married couple who are on an expedition to find out the truth about something they dug up during one of their archaeological digs. The couple isn’t really heavily focused on relationships growing and becoming more romantic since they’re busy running from cursed spirits who want to be free of the grip of evil. They have some interactions of a romantic nature, one of which gets them into huge trouble, but overall, the focus is on their journey and the dangers they face.
The last really huge difference, I would say, is that Bane of Ashkarith isn’t connected to Earth at all. I mean, the world is, just like many of my worlds or universes are, but in the Legends of Alcardia series, the portal connecting the universes isn’t working properly, and no one really remembers how to work it or where it is, so it’s just not a focus. Instead, the world is isolated and all its own thing.
On Twilight’s Wings is connected to Earth, and about five of the first chapters take place mostly on Earth, in fact. So I had two different worlds to utilize in this book, and travel between them was possible. Not just possible, but easy, as a matter of fact. But as a fun trivia fact, both Alcardia (the world where Bane of Ashkarith is set) and Eclesia (Cat and Gabe’s home world) have Gates or Pathways that aren’t function properly for some period of time.
6). Which world could you want to live in: The world of On Twilight’s Wings or Bane of Ashkarith? Why?
Tough call, certainly. But probably Alcardia (Bane of Ashkarith’s world). I’ve done so much world-building for that world that it just feels way more real and explorable. It isn’t that the world for On Twilight’s Wings hasn’t been developed, because it has, but it doesn’t have as much explorable territory, to be honest. The world itself only has a small portion that’s habitable, which is why you only see one kingdom featured in the book. Alcardia has, I don’t know, like fifty or more countries to explore with unique cultures for each and lots of interesting creatures.
Plus, there are the telfies from Bane of Ashkarith. They’re creatures that have soft fur that changes colors with their moods, tiny nub-like horns, long tongues, wings, and tubular bodies. They make all kinds of fun trilling noises, and they’re great pets if you don’t mind the fact that they’re worse than dogs about chewing and ruining shoes, what with their ability to produce acid slobber that allows them to literally ingest the shoe if they feel like it. I just love the creatures, and I’m not ashamed to admit that the telfie alone would be enough to make me want to live on Alcardia.
7). Finally, I know that you’re currently working on a novella for Wattpad’s Open Novella Contest. Can you explain a little (without spoilers) about the premise for the story?
Absolutely! So the novella I’m working on for ONC is also Christian speculative fiction. It’s much more sci-fi in flavor than most of what I write. The premise is that these two close friends are living in a world where tolerance and inclusivity are the keywords of the day, until you rock the boat and don’t conform to what the government says is within the range of acceptable, tolerated, and inclusive behaviors. Once you don’t fit that, the degree to which you’re shunned or mistreated depends on how badly you fail to conform.
If you just like to dress a little weird, you might get strange looks, but you won’t necessarily be entirely ostracized. If, on the other hand, you want to tell them something is wrong that the government—and society by extension—holds up as good and commendable, you’ll be lucky if the government doesn’t come in and haul you off to some super-secret prison underground, lock you up, and throw away the key.
In this world where conformity is what keeps you safe and alive, the main characters, Sebastian Auclaire and Vivian McGayen don’t live up to the standards of conformity in more than one way. In the beginning of the book, Sebastian is attacked for reasons that neither he nor Vivian are certain of, and, shortly after the attack, when Vivian shows Sebastian the research she’s been doing on Christianity, which once flourished before the government took over everything, the two of them end up becoming targets for the government and the shadowy organization backing them, simply known as Oblivion.
The two of them have to decide if they believe what Vivian’s research says, and if they do, what they’re going to do. This leaves them with a choice much like the one facing so many Christians around the world: conform or die. Christianity and its God is the single most hated belief system in their government’s book, and if they choose to follow Him but sacrifice conformity to the government’s demands and rules, they know they’re going to suffer.
So the premise is really all about that choice that faces believers, even in first world countries. The choice to either conform or be ostracized, ridiculed, and—in so many countries around the world—martyred for their faith in the end. The book also explores what happens when a country (or in the book’s case, an entire world) turns to tolerance and conformity as a god instead of turning to God, the Creator who rules all things even when His creation refuses to admit it.
Once again, I just want to thank Ariel for this opportunity to interview her regarding her release of On Twilight’s Wings, the first in the Eclesian Chronicles. If you’d like to know more about Ariel and her various writing projects, you can click the links below.
Facebook: Ariel Paiement, Author
Website: The Fantasy Nook
Pinterest: The Fantasy Nook Blog
Instagram: Ariel Paiement