AC Cobble:Hi Andy, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. First, I think my readers are most likely to know you from your Hero of Darkness (Darkblade Assassin) series. Can you tell us a little bit about that one, and what else have you written?
Andy Peloquin: There are two answers to this question…
The first is that the Hero of Darkness series is an epic, action-packed novel about a bad-ass immortal assassin. If you love heart-pounding fight scenes, breathtaking worlds, fascinating cities, and neck-tweaking plot twists, this is the story for you. Hero of Darkness follows the Hunter as he journeys from his city, wandering the world in search of answers about his forgotten past, his true identity as a half-demon. Though he begins his journey as a mostly amoral killer, he ends up a slightly more moral killer who ultimately is the “hero” who saves the world.
But my real answer, the one that feels more genuine, is that the series is the story of an outcast seeking a place in a world where he doesn’t belong. As an assassin, he has to conceal his identity from the world, but that means he’s concealed HIMSELF from the world. He’s not human, so he can’t really relate to human problems. No matter where he is or who he’s with, he finds himself alone.
For people like me—and so many others—a character like this is very real and relatable. I spent most of my childhood and teenaged years as an outsider (courtesy of my Autism Spectrum Disorder and my varying “odd” interests). The Hunter’s journey of self-discovery came at a time in my life when I was learning more about myself—I’d just been diagnosed ASD, so it was an emotional and psychological journey to understand exactly what that meant. Being able to walk this fascinating, complex, tortured character through many of the same difficulties I was dealing with was a way for me to understand myself and the world around me better.
AC: Your books sometimes delve into the darker side of human nature. What is it that intrigues you about that darkness?
AP: That stems directly from my diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. When I was diagnosed ASD, I found myself diving into the realm of psychology and neurology to understand why my atypical brain made me different than my wife, kids, and the people around me.
As I did that, I found all sorts of fascinating links to conditions and diseases where the brain affected other people in other ways—psychopathy, sociopathy, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, Williams’ Syndrome, and the list goes on. The more I researched, the more I realized that these conditions are very common among not only real-life people, but characters in fiction. That was when I started incorporating them into my stories—both so I could better understand them, and to help readers understand them as well.
AC: A lot of us write characters that have odd tics, but mental illness is rarely explicitly dealt with in fantasy. Do you have any favorite books where the topic is addressed?
AP: Almost every one of my books deal with mental illness in some way. Different, Not Damaged is a collection of shorts focused on autism, PTSD, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, and other physical disabilities. The main character from my Hero of Darkness series is an assassin with schizoaffective disorder, which manifests as voices in his head that drive him to kill.
Everything I write deals with the psychological effects of violence, death, loss, sorrow, trauma, and abuse. As I mentioned above, my diagnosis of Asperger’s lead me down the rabbit hole of psychology and neurology, and now I write it into everything I create.
AC: Does that explain why you love assassins so much?
AP: It’s because they’re just so damned much fun! They’re a sort of “wish fulfillment” character. We’ve all had bad days when we want to murder someone: that nitpicky boss, that irritating “friend”, the ass**** who cut us off in traffic, etc. Assassins actually DO it, and there’s a sense of justification and vindication when they do.
Of course, the elements of sneaking, cunning, clever planning, and wicked action scenes just make them so much better!
AC: If you were to assassinate someone - let’s assume they were properly evil and deserved it - how would you go about doing it?
AP: I’m a battle-rager/barbarian type, so I’d probably go about trapping them in someplace and blocking off all exits, then going straight up the middle with heavy armor and a greatsword or battle axe. It’s just my personality type to have head-on confrontations.
AC: I heard you have some martial arts experience. Can you tell us about that, and how it influences your writing?
AP: I studied a mixture of Karate, Kung-Fu, Taekwondo, Hapkido, and MMA for about 18 months, got halfway to black belt (6 of 11 belts). You can see it reflected a lot in my earlier works, as I wrote those while I was still practicing. Seeing as I was very focused on learning each move, each sequence, and each technique, I wrote those into my books in greater detail.
Training in martial arts gave me a much better understanding of the human body, physical mechanics, muscles, joints, and the way weapons interact with our movements. My fight scenes no longer get into such great detail, but they still move the way a sparring match or training bout does. A lot of back and forth, ebb and flow, each person sizing up their opponent to find openings in their guard.
AC: In my writing, I’ve found cultures that I experienced through travel provided a huge influence in my books, sometimes in obvious simple ways, sometimes in very subtle adjustments to the way people behave. Can you tell us how your own experiences with different cultures has bled into your stories?
AP: So, I was born in Japan, lived there until I was 14, then moved to Mexico, where I traveled around the country (and the US) and lived in 10 different cities for the next 16 years (before finally moving “home” to Canada at the ripe old age of 30).
I will say there are two huge influences resulting from this:
My characters have no sense of “home”. I realized this as I was writing my second series, Queen of Thieves. All of my protagonists have been uprooted from their homes, have lost their parents, were raised as orphans, or had something else happen to take them away from their home. That’s definitely the result of my traveling around to many places where I don’t truly belong. Even in Canada, the country that should be “mine”, I don’t fit in because I spent so many years living among other cultures and people. My characters’ journeys reflect that—they always find that sense of “home” with people that matter, causes and missions that make them feel like they matter.
My stories are varied and include elements from around the world. I love writing memories from my past and favorite places I visited into my stories, as well as places I’d like to visit in the future. Traveling around so much has exposed to so many amazing things, and it’s a thrill to share those with people through my stories.
AC: How’d you get into writing?
AP: It’s all thanks to a passionate grade school teacher! He loved science and the arts (odd combination, but he was and still is a wonderfully odd man), and he would include a lot of extra-curricular activities in our classes. We’d go on nature walks and write poetry about a weird-looking tree, or we’d throw elaborate science fairs with all manner of crazy projects.
I come from an artistic family (musicians, writers, artists, graphic designers, etc.), but I had no art of my own until I discovered a penchant for the written word. It was my way of turning on the tap to let out the innate creativity within myself. Now, it’s such an ingrained part of my life that I can’t imagine living without it.
AC: What is your best experience as an author, or as a reader?
AP: As a reader, it’s being sucked into a book or series so completely it becomes an addiction. That hasn’t happened often in the last few years—maybe because I’m more cynical as an adult and a writer. But there are a few series I can think off off-hand—Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards, Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives, and David Weber’s Safehold,to name a few—that make me forget the world around me until only this fictional world remains. That’s a breathtaking feeling that I can never get enough of.
As a writer, it’s always nice to get those five-star reviews and comments saying, “I loved the book!” But the real joy is when I hear people saying things like, “Whoa, I totally felt the Hunter’s loneliness and depression—it’s exactly how I feel” or “This character you wrote is exactly like me, or she embodies the qualities I want to have.” That connection with people is the reason I got into writing. I have a hard time in social situations, but being able to connect through my writing is the most rewarding feeling of all.
AC: What did you do before becoming a full-time author?
AP: English teacher, salesman, balloon artist, and copywriter/blogger. All fun jobs, but nothing close to writing!
AC: Tell us something no one knows about Andy Peloquin?
AP: I’ve been dying to start a podcast/webshow where I read erotic scenes from romantic novels and utterly RUIN them—with the wrong voice and accent. I did it at a conference I attended in 2018, and I nearly suffocated laughing so hard. It was the most fun I’d had (and a terrible drinking game when attending a romance-heavy conference) and something I’d love to do more often.
AC: Why were you at a romance conference? Any pen names you want to share with us…?
AP: No pen names, sadly. I just happen to write articles for the magazine that organizes the event, and I was up for one of their awards. The first year I had so much fun that now I go back every time. They’re just such wonderful, kind, friendly people—and many of them with utterly filthy minds! Endless amounts of laughter and fun there.
AC: Now that Hero of Darkness is complete, what’s next on the agenda?
AP: By the time you’re reading this, the new series, Heirs of Destiny, is already releasing. Heirs of Destiny is a sequel spin-off to both Hero of Darkness and my other series, Queen of Thieves. It follows the young (secondary) characters from both series, teaming them up on a mission to save a new city from evil creatures, corrupt politicians, bloodthirsty death cultists, and ruthless criminals.
As that series is releasing (all five books are written), I will resume work on another series: epic military fantasy. Think Black Ops/Rainbow Six, but set in my fantasy world. A team of soldiers are handpicked to join the “Grim Reavers”, a team of special operatives given the most dangerous missions that could put an end to the century-long war gripping their continent. I wrote the first two of six books in 2018, and it’s going to be one hell of a fun series to both write and read!