Interview with Theophilus Monroe, Author of Gates of Eden: The Druid Legacy

22 Sep 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, Gates of Eden: The Druid Legacy?

Gates of Eden: The Druid Legacy is the seminal series of one of two “branches” in my broader Gates of Eden World. The other branch, The Voodoo Legacy, represents the second branch. There are a few characters who appear in both. But the unifying “idea” in all the Gates of Eden books came from my background in religious studies. During the course of my studies I noticed a lot of religions and traditions had some kind of “other” world, a primeval world, unmarred and unstained by human corruption. In the Judeo-Christian tradition it is the Garden of Eden. For the Druids and Celts it is Annwn. For Louisiana vodouisants it is Guinee. Intrigued by these similarities I began to ask, “What if there really was such a place–a place that put us into touch with something “original” to our nature, something that was lost, something that made us more than we currently are?” This is the “genesis” (pun intended) of the idea that under-girds these books! All of the Gates of Eden books are based on a particular mythological or spiritual tradition. While the magical systems are my own creation, they are based on rites, lore, and mythologies unique to these traditions. There is a lot of overlap between traditions in these books–what the Druids call one thing, the Voodoo Mambos call something else. In the end, however, we see in these books a magical system that transcends the differences in religion and myth and unifies us all under a common force, a power, something uniquely human but nonetheless absent from our magic-less world. There may be many “Gates,” but ultimately there is one Eden, one Annwn, one Guinee. One humanity. This particular series draws chiefly from Celtic mythology and Arthurian lore but brings it into a present-day setting with real world characters who are coming of age and learning the truth about their rich histories.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

A few years back I was binge reading my way through Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. As I was reading my mind kept wandering to ideas that I had for stories of my own. I found myself developing stories, characters, and ideas that were begging to come to life. I’d always been a fan of fantasy fiction but this was my first introduction to the world or Urban Fantasy and the whole idea of interweaving fantasy worlds and magical systems into the real world. As I started writing I found myself reinvigorated. For almost two decades I was immersed in an academic world. I thrived in academia but always felt a little out of place. I had an “itch” but I couldn’t figure out where to scratch. I hadn’t really done much creatively since I was a teenager. Then, I did a lot of writing (mostly satire) and engaged other creative pursuits. Once I started writing fiction again I was getting back in touch with my creative side–and I haven’t turned back. Writing stories, now, isn’t just something I do. It’s a part of who I am.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

I’ll answer this Letterman style (starting at 5 and working my way to 1).
5. Elantris, Brandon Sanderson.
4. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis.
3.. The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice.
2. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien.
1. The Once and Future King, T.H. White.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Probably Brandon Sanderson. I’m a big fan of his books–especially Elantris and the Stormlight Archive. I think he might be the best author out there today in terms of world building, especially the unique magical systems he creates. I’d probably ask him how his world building process works–how he moves from a general idea to a complicated system that, while complex, remains nonetheless simple enough that it doesn’t get lost on his readers.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I just enjoy getting “lost” in the lives of my characters. These characters are my brain children. I get attached to them. I enjoy seeing how they develop. As they come alive I find that, while I’m writing these characters, they really come to control their own narratives. Their personalities, values, and histories intersect with the stories I tell and I’m often surprised by the direction my own characters end up taking. While I’m not afraid to kill off characters (be warned!) doing so is a very emotional experience for me. One day, after writing the death scene for one of my characters, I was bumming around the house. I had to tell my wife about a character who died that day. We laughed about it, a little. But she understood where I was coming from.

What is a typical day like for you?

About a year ago I built a new “writing studio” for myself on my property. It’s a relatively small building, but I built the whole thing by myself. It was the first time I built anything more complicated than a dog house. I didn’t have much of a choice. With three kids at home (1, 3, and 7) I don’t get a lot of writing done in the house. So, every morning, around 5 a.m. I head out to my studio and write about 1000 words before I go help get my oldest ready for school. I am back in my studio writing from about 8:30 until 4:00 pm. During that time I try to write anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 words in a day (or spend the day plotting my next book), spend an hour (or two, if it’s close to a launch) marketing my books and responding to reader emails, and drinking way too much coffee. After 4:00 pm. my time goes to the family. Sometimes, after the kids are in bed, I’ll write another 500-1000 words. Or, my wife and I will enjoy an hour or two together before hitting the sack ourselves.

What scene from Gates of Eden: The Druid Legacy was your favorite to write?

The finale in book one–Druid’s Dance–might be my favorite scene I’ve ever written. I don’t want to give any spoilers here, but the scene is filled with a ton of emotion and Elijah has to really dig down deep to find the strength to do what has to be done. Also, the scenes in Camelot in the second and third books were quite enjoyable. I’ve always been obsessed with Aruthurian lore so it was thrilling to bring my characters into the world of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

There are a lot of them! The Serenity Prayer is a big one. But there’s also a statement in T.H. White’s Once and Future King that inspires me-: “We cannot build the future by avenging the past… It is generally the trustful and optimistic people who can afford to retreat. The loveless and faithless ones are compelled by their pessimism to attack.”

Theophilus Monroe is the author of the new book Gates of Eden: The Druid Legacy.

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