Welcome to a BRAND NEW feature on my website.
I’ve been doing a bunch of #WritingCommunity Indie Author Interviews lately, and often we touch upon their work in a none-spoilery way. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading Edge of the Breach by Halo Scot, and I was struck by two thoughts…
1 – I REALLY need to get an interview with Halo!
2 – I REALLY REALLY want to dig into her book Edge of the Breach in a deeper way than I usually do.
I did an interview with Anna Mocikat recently, which dipped into some discussion about her book Behind Blue Eyes. Trust me, that tiny snippet of info on the interview is NOTHING to what Anna and I chatted about behind the scenes. We got deep into the nuts-and-bolts of her epic. Talked in depth about the characters, the story, etcetera.
I found I was eager to learn more from Halo about her book, and I thought it would be great to share it with you guys. Halo, bless her, was good enough to say yes!
So, without further ado…
Let’s set the scene…
I’ve been ploughing through my To Be Read pile this year, and the next one up was the first book in Halo Scot‘s Rift Cycle series. It’s called Edge of the Breach and it’s billed as a grimdark fantasy. I’d heard it was a brutal and unforgiving book. Literally putting the DARK into GRIMDARK! I admit, I was a little nervous to start reading it.
Holy Cow! It’s a staggeringly good book. To set the scene for this post, here’s my little review (click the book to buy it, click the review to embiggen):
So, now you know where I stand on Halo’s book, let’s get into the nitty gritty of it with the author herself!
Before we do a deep dive into Edge of the Breach, give me a little about the background of Halo Scot and the path you took to become an author.?
Oh, it was a messy, chaotic, tumultuous path, indeed. I always loved reading and writing, but both hobbies took a back seat to my math- and science-focused early years (I wanted to be an astronaut…or the pilot of a starship). In college, I switched gears and studied music with an emphasis on composition—that laid the groundwork for my methods of “composing” stories with regard to repeated motive, formal analysis, and melodic (or lyrical) permutation.
However, the industry wasn’t for me, so I switched gears again and studied coding. I took many design courses and noticed similarities between visual composition and music composition—which I then adapted to literary composition. At the moment, I’m a full-time web developer during the day and a demonic, barbaric, character-slaughtering writer at night.
I mean…who doesn’t want to be a Starship captain. I’m STILL holding out hope on that front!
So, my confession at this point is that I’ve only read book 1 in your Rift Cycle, Edge of the Breach. I loved the book so much, and found it so layered and deep, that I really wanted to do a deep dive on it with you.
So for anyone who hasn’t read Edge of the Breach yet, PLEASE go and buy it before reading this post. It truly is worth going into it unspoiled and watch the story play out on the page. Don’t worry, we’ll wait…
Okay, so with that said…
Before we get into the details of Edge of the Breach, I want to talk a little about the book itself. If there’s two words I’d use to describe Edge of the Breach, I’d use “uncompromising” and “slow-burn” (yeah I know that’s two words!). Would you say that’s fair? What two words (or phrases) would you use to describe it?
I love both! And I definitely agree with both. I’ve heard it referred to as “merciless” and “unapologetic” quite often, so I’d have to add those.
The covers are some of the most striking I’ve seen from the Indie Community. The matte black finish with the awesome red logos. It’s a gorgeous set when they’re together on the shelf. I know I’ve had a vision for what the Songbird Saga will look like as a set from day 1, but did you always know that they were going to look like that?
Thank you so much for your kind words! And not at all lol. I went through at least a dozen cover variations before I settled on these. They were all quite different, too—some were surreal, some were crime-based, and some were blood splatters (surprise, surprise). However, in the end, I diluted the theme to its most basic message. Both Kyder and Rune become symbols to their communities, so branding symbols on the covers amid a bleak expanse seemed apt—hope at the end of the world.
For a while, I flirted with querying for Hunters, but eventually decided to go Indie mostly because I had a particular vision for the series, and I truly feared that having interference would dilute or change it. With Edge being so utterly uncompromising, did you ever query (or are you still querying) for these books? Or was your mind always set on Indie publishing for the Rift Cycle series?
I queried for quite a while and underwent the “avalanche of rejections” rite of passage—but I was a music major, so rejections are like family to me. I still wanted to fight for this story, to publish this saga, so I went indie and was happy with the creative control. Though I’d definitely love to try the traditional route in the future!
Okay, now I’ve got to comment on your prose. It is horrifically beautiful! There’s some stuff in Edge that is hard to read sometimes (no surprise you put a warning on the back of the book!) but as a reader you can’t turn away because you’re drawn in by some of the most wonderful wordsmithing I’ve ever read. I need to know how you do it? LOL Where (or how) did you learn how to put words together like this?
Jon, you are a hero—THANK YOU! And gah, I can’t accept that compliment, but I read tons of books and researched poetic devices, then applied those to prose. It was really just years of me enabling my introversion while hounding Google and YouTube for instructional videos—I wish it was more epic haha!
The book is both exceedingly complex, but also brilliantly simple. I’ve read other books lately where the author revels in creating this fantastically complicated world, but often it requires almost another book’s worth of notes to remind the reader what is what! But you stitch the understanding of your world together gradually, and lead the reader by the hand gently (or not so gently!) through it. It’s easy to get a grasp on how your world works in terms of the societal structure and geography etc. I think you said in your interview with @BoomerOnBooks – (see it here LINKY) – that Edge is almost a prequel book to the Rift Cycle series, so was all this planned out beforehand?
Again, you melt me! It was “planned” out. I brainstormed and built the world and characters, then structured the plot. The initial arc for Edge of the Breach instead stretched through the series, yet many of the intermediary points changed along the way. The ending is the same; the road to the end took many detours. The original outline had far fewer childhood/teenage chapters, but Kyder went rogue and murder-happy in Edge, and who am I to deny him a little bloodshed (or a lot)?
Let’s talk characters…
Kyder and Rune are effectively flip-sides of the same coin. Both have an exceedingly hard start to their lives. I listened to your interview with @BoomerOnBooks, and you revealed that you yourself had suffered a great deal of trauma in your past, especially with grief. The origin stories of Kyder and Rune mirror your own experiences. I imagine this was intentional, so was this an effective way for you to process that trauma to a degree?
Thank you so much for listening! Writing started as therapy for me, as a way to process pain. Kyder and Rune are hyperbolic personifications of my experiences, ways to normalize mental illness and grief. Society so often smothers discussion surrounding these topics, and I wanted to showcase mental pain as if it were physical—because we understand physical pain. No one would tell someone to sprint on a broken leg, but sufferers of mental illness are often told to “sprint” and function despite the pain.
I also wanted to raise awareness and let others know they’re not alone. Most struggle with some “invisible” illness or trauma, and I hope that being transparent with my own experiences helps others. Please reach out if you need help. I know it’s hard—believe me, I know—but there are good souls in the world who want to help you through.
Both play out the trauma of their childhoods in a similar way at first. Both are self-destructive to a degree. With Rune playing the games with the Roofers, and Kyder self-harming. But Rune never crosses the line that Kyder does when it comes to harming others. I have to admit that, for the first maybe third of the book, I was wondering who was going to turn out to be the villain as it felt so easily for a while like it could go either way, especially for Rune. I think it was around the time when Kyder met Maia, and Rune was about to be kicked out by Ela. Those moments seemed like branching points in both of their arcs.
I heard you say, again in the @BoomerOnBooks interview, that sometimes you just like to “write the characters and see where they go”. Was there ever a time when you almost reversed Kyder’s and Rune’s path?
It is so funny you say that, because someone else told me they thought Rune would be the villain, too! However, in my mind, Rune was always the “good” one, and Kyder was always the “bad” one, though they are both morally gray, to be honest. And because they are so magnetic, because there is such a push and pull between them, they reverse each other’s paths, if that makes sense. Even in the first book, both nudge each other in directions contrary to their ambitions.
Both seem to be searching for something to complete them but due to their personal circumstances and, in a big way, their family upbringing they go about trying to fill that hole in very different ways. In fact, family seems to be the key word. Kyder is the boy who never had a family. Rune is the girl who had hers ripped away. Since then both have searched for a surrogate for that, Rune finding some solace in the Roofers, while Kyder has constructed the Apolli around him.
Yet while both of those sate their need a little, it’s only when they find each other that this gap in their lives is kind of filled. For me, the hospital chapter late in the book was the watershed moment. When they both tell each other their first names. What’s your thoughts on this? And where do you feel like the key chapter in book 1 is?
I love that phrase: “watershed moment.” The hospital chapter is definitely the point of no return for Kyder. It’s perhaps the most important point in the series, because it is the first time he admits his trust in Rune (with his first name). There’s no going back after that vulnerability, and she informs all his decisions thereafter, as you see in the final scenes. It’s also the turning point for Rune. She witnesses Kyder commit horrific, vicious crimes, and yet she stays by his side and saves him, despite the consequences. Both are irreversibly changed from that moment on.
The canal scene is also important. It’s a quiet scene, an intimate scene—well, after Kyder almost drowns—but it captures their youth. They’re both just kids thrown into a brutal world with exorbitant, crushing power. It’s easy to forget they’re teenagers at that point, since they’ve lived through so much responsibility and hardship. But this scene reminds us of their fragility.
Another pivotal scene is when Kyder wants to play Yield with Rune on the rooftop. He’s drawn to her and wants to understand her—by running and colliding with her at top speed, of course (a metaphor for the whole series). The fact that she’s fearless, that she doesn’t back down, perplexes him, because he’s used to everyone cowering in his path. This humanizes him a bit as he realizes he’s not omnipotent.
I put a blog post up on my website a while back about how I liked to build my characters. I said in it that one of my bug-bears with some books was how they make their characters the bestest of the best, but then don’t give the character flaws. I hate perfect characters. In my book Hunters, Gayle who is one of my main characters draws some similarities to Rune, in that a quirk of her birth makes her the most powerful of her kind. It was a trait that she used to revel in, but as you meet her in Hunters she’s broken. Grieving and addicted. In that way I could see parallels with Kyder and Rune, that they have great power, but don’t or can’t use it to their full potential. What was your thought process when creating Kyder and Rune?
Gayle sounds epic, and I love that premise! I actually started by creating their flaws, because flaws and reactions to those flaws inform characters’ motivations. I wanted Kyder to struggle with mental illnesses, and I wanted Rune to struggle with grief, and those two compasses guided all their decisions. Kyder wants freedom and peace from his “demons,” ways to cope and ways to escape, but the world exacerbates his struggles and drives him to extremes. Rune wants to honor the memories of those she lost, and she puts ridiculous pressure on herself to do so. Thus, many of her choices are self-sacrificing and self-sabotaging.
In the process of writing my Songbird saga, there is that scary moment where you have to ‘lockdown’ the first book for publishing. At that point you know that everything in that book is canon. Set in stone. That it will inform the books that follow it. In hindsight, is there anything you’d change about Edge of the Breach now that you’ve written the other three books in the cycle?
Ooh, that is such a tough question! The series came to me in a linear arc—if I remove any part of the path, the whole road crumbles. It’s by no means perfect—nothing ever is—but I am content with where it stands (at least for the moment).
Last thing… Okay, here’s a bit of fun. Elsewhere on this website (link) I do a ‘Casting Call’ where I talk about who I’d cast as the main characters in the inevitable HBO Max/Amazon TV series of my books. So, who would you cast as Kyder and Rune?
Amazing question, and I love your Casting Call! I’d prefer unknowns—an actor and actress who finished drama school but are just breaking into the film/television scene. However, if I had to choose from those currently in the industry, I’d go with:
- Amandla Stenberg as Rune (she played Rune in ‘The Hunger Games‘ and totally captures Rune’s energy)
- Alex Høgh Andersen as Kyder (he played Ivar in ‘Vikings‘, and Rose J. Fairchild so wonderfully pointed out the resemblance to me on Instagram)
Thank you so much for these amazing questions, Jon! I’m so grateful for all your support!
Oh God, Halo! Noooooo! Thank you for entertaining me with your epic book and for answering my questions. This was so much fun for me! 😀