Some Thoughts with … NC Koussis
NC Koussis was born in Perth in 1993 to Greek and Kamilaroi ancestry. He has moved all around Australia, settling in Newcastle for the moment, where he lives with his wife, son, and staffy dog, Nala. He’s been writing fantasy books since he was a little boy, after falling in love with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. He decided to publish a book in 2019, and it only took him three years. He considers himself an enthusiastic amateur of medieval history, historical battles and tactics, and food. When he’s not writing, he’s making sourdough bread and working on a PhD in neuroscience.
Welcome to this part of the blog, where I interview the different authors (and maybe now I feel confident to call it interviews). Today we are accompanied by N. C. Koussis, whose debut, The Sword of Mercy and Wrath will be published soon (many of you might read this after it is published).
Let’s dive in!
1.-What impulsed you to take the self-publishing route?
I queried for over a year with two books (The Sword of Mercy and Wrath was one of them) and saw very little success. In some parts, I think because it’s almost impossible to succeed without connections in publishing, or trying for many, many years. Plus to succeed *now*, you need a cracking commercial hook, be ahead of the trends (somehow), and be willing to give up creative control at the same time. I had a story I wanted to tell and a bit of money I’d saved up, so I decided to give self-publishing a go. I’m committed to that path now. For me, TSoMaW is a story about the demonization of a people that (spoilers) were the original inhabitants of the Continent. It’s a story that parallels the struggles of many indigenous people (and stories of blood libel, cannibalism, etc) that arose during the Colonial period.
2.- Being The Sword of Mercy and Wrath your debut, which challenges have you found in the process?
Many, many, many formatting issues. Learning how to market on the fly, engaging with ARC readers, and getting eyes on my work. I still struggle with that, because there’s so much noise in the indie space.
3.-Who was the cover designer?
MiblArt! They did a fantastic job, imo.
4.- Werewolves take an important paper in the novel, why did you decide to take this creature as central to the plot?
I touched on it above, but originally the story was conceived in a DnD game where I was the DM. I imagined a world where every human could turn into a werewolf or werebeast of some sort, and I tried to imagine the different consequences of that – like how religious orders might spring up to fight them and fight for the ‘purity’ of humanity. Perhaps subconsciously, it transformed into a story that parallels indigenous struggle. As a Gamilaroi man, I’m particularly invested in exploring these ideas.
5.- Sigur order is peculiar, what inspired you to write them?
The intention behind Sigur’s order was to show how religious orders could so deftly inspire loyalty and fanaticism. That was the purpose of (again, spoilers) having Selene be broken and hurt before she enters the Order. And how the Order breaks people, because their job is extremely dangerous (one of Selene’s friends at the end), but they do it because it gives them an identity they can cling to.
6.- It is refreshing to see a MC with a disability, why you decided to write Selene as it is?
Again, this goes back to the idea of making someone broken before they go into something like a religious order. Losing a part of herself and everything and everyone she knows leaves the Order able to build her back up – and they do, giving her purpose and strength she didn’t know she had. Plus I wanted to show more disability representation! I’ve got ADHD and chronic back pain, and I have to make accommodations in my life for those things. But like Selene, I can also mess with the best, and often do things that typical people can do (and often better!)
7.- Could you tell us a little bit more of the world of SoMaW (and this offtopic, acronym being so close to Soma is just casual?)?
It takes place on a Continent of several countries, many of them culturally different from each other. The Empire of Istryan spans the largest extent, controlling most of the western coast. It was heavily inspired by 1300s Germany (i.e. the Holy Roman Empire, which was, as Wilde put it: neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire). In a similar way, the Empire of Istryan isn’t holy, though it claims trappings to the different gods (especially Sigur); they pretend to have lineage to the ancient conqueror Istryan, though that was many, many centuries ago, and the ruling family have been replaced many, many times, and they’re not an Empire either, not really. Each of the provinces are ruled by princes that absolutely hate each other, and go to war for control over different parts, taking chunks of the others’ provinces. Mercenaries and internecine war were the order of the day, and the Empire of Istryan parallels that development.
Badonnia is pretty different, explored a bit more in the novella, The Sword of Salt and Smoke, which everyone can get free by signing up to my mailing list. Badonnia parallels 1300s France, for the most part, but is a bit more isolationist. The Empire claiming parts of it I wanted to parallel with the Black Prince, Edward, raiding and sieging all over.
There’s no link between Soma and the title – that’s just a funny coincidence.
8.-What can we expect from N. C. Koussis in the future?
I’m already working on the sequel, which I can announce is going to be called The Last City, and doubles in length and scope (it’s going to be 140k words most likely). It takes place 15 years in the future, and involves invaders from across the ocean coming in and conquering the people of the Continent. For those that might be disheartened that they won’t see more of the Order or of the werewolves, don’t be!
1. TSoMaW was always intended to be a standalone novel. If you want more werewolf and Order action, you can get the novella free!
2. Selene and the Order return (albeit in a much-lessened capacity – the Order, I mean), along with Leon and a bunch of new characters that I hope people will love. Plus, the time skip gives a lot of room for other companion books to explore that period as well, which I also have in the works.
Stay tunned, cause in 4 hours from this point, we will be able to reveal in exclusive the blurb for The Last City!