Today I’m happy to be featuring Megan Linski, author of the Kingdom Saga, as she talks about the various motivations behind her characters in her newest novel, Prince of Fire, which you can find here.
Thief lord. Wanted criminal. College student.
Zayde Amirmoez is in his last year of college at Ashana University, and he couldn’t be more eager to leave. A talented thief, Zayde makes a living by robbing jewelry stores in order to care for his ailing mother, who grows sicker each passing day.
Then the dreams begin. Zayde’s nightmares echo memories of a land from another time, visions of a mysterious princess who lived two thousand years ago. At the insistence of his annoying history professor, Zayde becomes friends with the beautiful freshman who loves to dance…the girl who looks exactly like the princess in his dreams.
As a dangerous new Dean and his spiteful son take the helm at Ashana University, Zayde learns of the legends of Queen Bennua, which are eerily similar to his nightmares. Could Zayde’s dreams be a coincidence? Or is it possible that Bennua and Zahid have returned, to save Sahrahn once more?
How did it compare when writing Zayde’s voice as opposed to Bashira’s?
It was very different writing Zayde’s (Zahid’s reincarnation) rather than Bashira’s this time around (Bennua’s reincarnation). Bashira likes to think on things and use all these complicated words, and ponders each situation before she goes into it. Zayde gets straight to the point and doesn’t like describing anything or being fancy in any way. Even when something bad is going on, he’ll try to make the situation humorous, or shrug it off instead of taking it head-on like Bashira. Bashira also likes talking about her emotions a lot, while Zayde doesn’t reveal anything about how he feels, even to himself. Everything’s very cut and dry with him. He’ll tell you enough to move the story along and make it interesting, but you have to read between the lines with him because he has to conceal everything. He likes living in the shadows and being quiet, and that’s just how he is.
What are some of the main differences between Zahid/Zayde and Bennua/Bashira, and how are they going to be covered in Prince of Fire?
Bashira tends to be worried about everything, and Zayde takes everything in stride. As he sees it, bad things will happen when they happen, and he’ll deal with chaos when it comes, but not a second before. He doesn’t tend to get as riled up as she does. The world could be ending for Bashira, but for Zayde, it’s just another day. Something that did surprise me, though, was the dark side in him. It’s a lot bigger than I thought it was, and he hides it well, but sometimes his sadness and despair peeks out at the most surprising at times. It was a blast playing inside his head, because he’s so honest with you as a character. In the previous Kingdom novels, Bennua took so much more work because I had to cut through the layers and layers of her in order to discover who she really was. It took multiple drafts of Kingdom From Ashes to get her to open up, whereas Zayde in Prince of Fire was like, “Here it is, and this is as good as it’s gonna get, so you can take it or leave it.”
Who do you believe is your most complex character within the Kingdom Saga?
I believe, more so than any of my other characters, that Bennua is more misunderstood than all the rest. I can agree with readers when they write me and tell me Alora (from the novel of the same name) is too prideful, too arrogant, when they say Kiatana (from Kiatana’s Journey) is aggressive and bratty, because that is who they are and who I made them to be. Bennua, however, is vastly more complicated than either of these two. There is always a hidden meaning behind her actions that few see or understand. Even she has trouble comprehending her decisions at times. Bennua has been referred to as brave, sacrificial, a true leader and hero, but has also been called selfish, eco-centric, and immature by the same readers who adore her. There are reasons why Bennua does the things she is apt to, and none of them come from a feeling of selfishness. Rather, her entire focal point as a character is centered around other people, much like Zahid. She makes decisions not on how they’ll affect her, but everyone else.
So do you believe Bennua obtains undeserved criticism from readers?
I wouldn’t say undeserved, as she does make irrational choices. Many readers forget Bennua has had no easy journey; she has lost multiple friends and members of her family along the way to bring peace to Sahrahn, as well as has been subjected to some of the worst experiences mankind has to offer at the ages of seventeen, eighteen, and twenty-one. Not to mention she’s felt the repercussions of a repressive society and a judgmental (and sometimes abusive) family during her childhood. The mistakes she made, and continues to make, come from a place of fear within her. Her worst fear, ultimately, is to be abandoned, and so she will do what it takes to work around that fear and keep the people in her life safe and happy, even if it means making herself miserable. This fear leads her to quick and misplaced decisions that wreak more havoc than she realizes. She longs to help too much, in an effort to be loved, and so it leads to chaos.
What about Zahid?
Readers are more willing to let Zahid’s flaws go because he conceals them, and so, we hardly ever see them. His true feelings and desires are rarely revealed to anyone, even Bennua, so it is easy to understand the things he does. It can be hard to sympathize with Bennua at points, but what readers must understand is that she’s willing to share her true thoughts. Zahid’s not. Many readers haven’t yet noticed that Zahid can be rather distant in his relationship with Bennua, which I cover more in Prince of Fire. Zahid’s biggest issue is that he shuts others out, and has a tendency to continue on regardless of the problem at hand. You could have a knife to his throat, and he still won’t talk about how he really feels. In Prince of Fire, readers are going to see that Zahid does have a darker side to him, a flawed side, that Bennua loves just as much as all the other parts. His darkness makes him the man readers fell for.
Faith is a huge theme in The Kingdom Saga. Was this influenced by any personal beliefs of yours?
I’ll always tell people that if you want to know what my beliefs are about a higher power, go read the Kingdom Saga. My faith parallels Bennua’s, while my doubt rivals Zahid’s. Only together do they make up what makes my faith, my faith. In recent years, I’d say one can’t get by without the other, even though I’ve spent plenty of time in both camps. The entire series has been an evaluation from where I started with “Alshams” until now. It’s definitely not always pretty, and the answers are few and far between, but regardless of whatever happens that higher power is always a central part of my life. Even if I try to escape it, that faith seems to tie my story together, just like it ties together the story of Bennua and Zahid.
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