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A New World – With Champions

05-12-2012

This summer will mark the end of the six-book His Majesty’s New World series, but readers curious about the fate of Earth and its colonized planet won’t have long to wait to find out what comes next. Iceberg Publishing will be launching the next series set in that universe this fall, and preparations are already well underway. We spoke to Kenneth Tam, the author of both series, for an update.

What can His Majesty’s New World readers expect from this summer’s finale?

A lot of answers, I hope. We’ve been fighting the blue men for months, and the questions surrounding those creatures have been building. In The Expedition we got to meet the dragons, and that should serve as a catalyst for more… definitive interactions.

Some readers having been asking: is Caralynne truly dead?

I’ve heard those questions. I think the answers are pretty obvious.

Obvious?

Well Smith watched her die. I don’t know what more can be said.

Will the question be settled in these last two books?

I should think so. But who knows, a little mystery mightn’t hurt either.

On the subject of mystery, The Badlands was originally slated to launch last fall. Now it’s being released in tandem with The Empire. Was this by design for some plot reasons?

Not really, no. After we had to withdraw from Hal-Con 2011 due to a scheduling conflict, we decided we might as well save The Badlands and release it with The Empire, as part of Iceberg’s tenth anniversary year.

Now readers will have them both at the same time, no suspense in between?

Exactly.

His Majesty’s New World started in 2008, and is wrapping in 2012. Is that the shortest time you’ve ever spent on one series?

I suppose it is… though with Champions being so closely related, I don’t really feel like the story is done. We just hand it over to a new team.

And that leads to the next question: what is Champions?

Well, His Majesty’s New World took us to another planet in 1919 and 1920. With Champions, we skip ahead another twenty years, and also bring the story back to Earth. All the world events that we’ve heard hints about in these six books… well, the Champions will be mixed up in all of them.

So is this a new series for new readers, or a continuation?

Honestly, both. It’s been developed specifically to be a fresh start for people who may not have read His Majesty’s New World, but if you’re familiar with those books, there will be hints that are more rewarding. I might liken its structure to the new Doctor Who: a lot of people started in 2005 without ever seeing the old one. But those who’d followed the classic series were doubly rewarded.

Will there be visits back to the new world, and to characters we know?

Absolutely. The best comparison might be the second half of the Equations series. The timeline doesn’t just end; those who survive The Empire will likely still be around twenty years later, having changed over the years. They will be in the background, perhaps even in the foreground, as a new cast of heroes deals with the fallout of everything they did.

Are there direct connections between these new heroes and our favorite characters?

Yep. Two of them are daughters of some of His Majesty’s New World’s finest, and one of them will have been part of all these events, just one of the faces in the crowd the whole time. And as I say, some of the characters we know will still be part of the story.

So it’s a next generation story?

I think that’s fair to say –– but with a different tone. It will be focused on a team of three, instead of a regiment, and the problems they’ll be dealing with are largely human… the challenges faced by a world that has seen half its great powers influenced by alien technology. We won’t be shying away from the mess that’s created.

Fair enough. Now, before launching His Majesty’s New World, Iceberg ran a photo shoot to secure cover images for the books. Has that happened again with Champions?

Definitely –– the success of that shoot for His Majesty’s New World convinced us there was no other option. We started planning in September of 2011, and ran the shoot last week.

Eight months of prep?

I keep calling it nine months, but I think your count is right.

What went into all that planning?

Things were a lot more elaborate this time –– because we’re dealing with a team instead of a regiment, we had to portray very specific characters. We needed to track down the right models, wardrobe and props to fit this version of 1940. And we also wanted to be sure that we had the right talent behind the camera, and doing hair and makeup, to make the most of everything.

So you brought in experts?

We did. Models with talent and experience, in Lizz Caston and Kris Noelle Scalisi. Hair and makeup was handled by Absolute Beauty, and Amy Bridger –– veteran of many fashion shoots. Our props came from Movie Armaments Group… they supply films out of Toronto, like The Hurt Locker, and the new Total Recall.

Finding the right photographer was most important, as we needed to come up a level from the shots we got for His Majesty’s New World. We found a fantastic young shooter, Olivia Witzke, and she really made the most of everything we pulled together. We’ll look forward to working with her again, though her career might not keep her within our reach for too long.

And, of course, the re-enactors?

Absolutely –– last but not least. Mark Kipper, from the Canadian Military Heritage Society, came back for this one. He’d been with us in 2007, did The Reprisal launch with us in 2010, but had never had a cover. Now he’s the face of one of the main characters, so he’s finally getting the attention he deserves. His son Matt was also instrumental… they helped us figure out equipment, and especially, the uniform for Stephanie. Finding British battle dress from 1939 that will fit a model from 2012 isn’t easy. Even though we’re very much in an alternate timeline now, getting the history right was hugely important, and there are none better for that than the CMHS’s men, and Mark and Matt in particular.

What was the toughest part of arranging all this?

All of it. I don’t think publishing companies usually do shoots this elaborate… but our main focus was to get all the details right. Finding the right white coat, the right boots, the right guns… we were a bit uncompromising. But it paid off.

When do we get to see the photos?

Right now, we’ll be using Iceberg-taken shots for the series promotion. We’re saving our very best –– the photos taken by Olivia –– for the covers themselves, so you’ll begin to see them in the fall, when we launch the first book. But it’ll be worth the wait.

So, it sounds like Champions will be Iceberg’s next big adventure…

One of them. It’ll be my main project for the next few years, with Defense Command and His Majesty’s New World complete. It will also be launching our second decade. But there will be plenty more adventures to come.