JOEL EISENBERG AND STEPHEN HILLARD
JOEL EISENBERG AND STEPHEN HILLARD
The book shown on the left is by Joel Eisenberg and Stephen Hillard. Click on the cover to order.
This interview was conducted by Douglas R. Cobb on September 2, 2015.
The Chronicles of Ara is an eight-volume epic fantasy written by Joel Eisenberg and stephen Hillard. The Chronicles of Ara: Creation contains the first two books of the series, and it is a companion piece to Hillard's Mirkwood, A Novel About J.R.R. Tolkien. Ara was a character in Mirkwood, and she is greatly expanded upon in The Chronicles of Ara. The Chronicles of Ara: Creation also has Tolkien as one of its major characters, along with many others, like Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, who Carroll was inspired by when he wrote Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, in Book Two.
The first two books of The Chronicles of Ara, compiled in The Chronicles of Ara: Creation, are a page-turning, mind-expanding journey into the realms of the imagination and deep questions like what is it that inspires art and authors. For instance, one of the things that inspired the young J.R.R. Tolkien were tales he was told by his mother about there being dragons in a nearby forest.
Authors Joel Eisenberg and Steve Hillard recently agreed to sit down with me and do an interview based primarily on
The Chronicles of Ara: Creation, though there are a couple of questions about Mirkwood and related topics, like the possibility that The Chronicles of Ara will be turned into a TV series.
Douglas R. Cobb:
First, thanks to both of you, Joel and Steve, for agreeing to do this interview with me and taking time out of your busy schedules! Either one or both of you can answer all or parts of any of the questions in this interview; please feel free to jump in whenever you both like!
First of all, why did you decide to revisit the character Ara, from Mirkwood, and write a series of books about her? What was it about her character that made you feel she and her backstory could become central to an 8-volume series of books?
Joel Eisenberg: Ara was a character in "Mirkwood" who begged for expansion. What if there was a single muse who inspired the entirety of the world's art and invention? What would happen then if this muse was corrupted? In "The Chronicles of Ara" this is exactly what happens. We corrupted this ancillary character in "Mirkwood" and made her central to the new proceedings. What then? Well, it would go to follow that all of our art has a purpose, and that purpose will one day lead us to darkness.
Regarding the 8 volumes, the number "8" means "rebirth" in The Bible (which in this series is treated as literature only - we ask challenging questions in this work). Ara leads the world to its end and, without spoiling anything, the number "8" becomes integral to the plot as it advances ...
Stephen Hillard: There was something about the character of a muse, which so much mythology has based on since early times. Let's turn that concept on its ear and see where it goes from there. The character Ara had so much potential in that regard.
Douglas R. Cobb: How did you both work out the logistics of co-authoring The Chronicles of Ara series? Who wrote what; or, to put it another way, what did each of you contribute to the series?
Joel Eisenberg: Steve wrote the original novel, "Mirkwood", that this new novel was based on. I personally found his work that inspiring, and by the end of the series we will have well over one million words written for this universe.
We discuss plot and we're we are headed, and one or the other of us takes the reigns for the first draft. And we go from there.
Stephen Hillard: What he said.
Douglas R. Cobb: What is it about Ara that makes her so dangerous? Also, could you please tell our readers why she seems to prefer dragons to humans?
Joel Eisenberg: She is dangerous as she has suffered a tragic loss and, frankly, cannot handle it. Despite her immortality and abilities, Ara is very much an adolescent. She has loved a mortal from afar. He was unaware of her existence. His tragic end sets Ara on a course of vengeance.
As Ara can influence but otherwise not interfere, she will manipulate the world's creators into creating works that in turn will influence cultures. We will then lead ourselves to the end ... and it just may be too late to turn back.
And Ara does not prefer dragons to humans. She has taken a dragon, the companion of the dragonslayer she has lost (not a misprint there), and uses him for her own purposes ...
Stephen Hillard: Ara inspires all of art and invention, so what does art and invention inspire? Cultures. Worlds. Beliefs. It all comes down to the word. Ara inspires the word ...
Douglas R. Cobb: Who is Thomas McFee in Book 1 of The Chronicles of Ara: Creation, and what news does Donovan give him about all of the greatest works of literature?
Joel Eisenberg: Thomas is a prominent New York author, whose literary status has derived primarily from biographies of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Donovan Bradley is an antiquarian, who Thomas visits on behalf of his publisher, who claims to possess the fabled "lost" book of "Beowulf". This find sets us on our course ...
Stephen Hillard: See Joel's answer. The one other thing I would like to add is Thomas McFee represents the artist. We wanted to have an artist - in this case - a writer, in these books. Why? We want artists everywhere to realize that their creative frustrations - and their wins - are shared by so many. Thomas represents that artist.
Douglas R. Cobb: How are the plans progressing to turn The Chronicles of Ara series into a TV series? Do either of you have any ides yet of what actors you might like to see play certain key roles?
Joel Eisenberg: Going well, we hope (caveat there). By the time this interview is printed, perhaps we will have a more definitive answer.
Do we have actors in mind? Yes. Who? We'll hold that close to the vest for now, as our agent is presently handling and we don't want to upset the apple cart.
Stephen Hillard: We seem to be at the penultimate stage in this process, but we cannot say more yet.
Douglas R. Cobb: With Mirkwood, why do you think that there was so much backlash with the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien?
Joel Eisenberg: I will defer this one to Steve.
Stephen Hillard: Initially, there was a concern that we may have been treading on J.R.R. Tolkien's property, his creations, which was agreed upon reading the work was not the case. Further, there was a concern that utilizing Tolkien as a character in a fictional novel may lead to an unfair portrayal. Again, none of this was the case and the sides settled.
Douglas R. Cobb: Are any of the characters in The Chronicles of Ara: Creation based on any people that either of you know or have known?
Joel Eisenberg: Yes. Samantha McFee is based on one of Steve's children, who asked him one day why Tolkien did not feature anymore heroines in his work. Thomas McFee and the enigmatic X 'may' be parts of myself. I'll never admit to it any stronger than that ...
Stephen Hillard: My daughter as Joel mentioned above. And I think Joel touched upon the answer that Thomas McFee represents the artist in all of us.
Douglas R. Cobb: What is the "Infinity Pass" that you write about, and why is it impossible for Ara to see beyond it?
Joel Eisenberg: Ara has been led to believe she cannot see beyond the Infinity Pass by her immortal family. She has been led in this direction as "containment" due to threats to other gods and the "natural order." She does not have knowledge of the full extent of her abilities.
The Infinity Pass itself is a mystery for now; the implication is, once penetrated, the answers to life, death and other universal mysteries - "The Truth" - are found within.
Stephen Hillard: The Infinity Pass to me represents the timeless mysteries of the universe. What the other gods are implying to Ara is that she cannot see beyond the Pass - but neither can they. She, in fact, is the only god who can indeed breach that barrier. Once done, all hell breaks loose.
I'd say "literally" but I don't want to spoil too much! (laughs)
Douglas R. Cobb: With characters you both write about ranging form real-life ones like J.R.R. Tolkien to Lewis Carroll to fictional ones like gods, goddesses, and dragons, do you think that the novels as a TV series will be potentially as successful as HBO's Game of Thrones?
Joel Eisenberg: We can only hope. Our series is meant to entertain and challenge. Time will tell. Game of Thrones in my opinion is a literary and television masterpiece.
Stephen Hillard: If we didn't think so, we wouldn't bother.
Douglas R. Cobb: American authors like Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft are also characters in The Chronicles of Ara -- why did you chose them? Is it mostly because they are other authors you both like to read?
Joel Eisenberg: It is my belief that writers who tend to troll the darker, or more primal, sides of their natures have found answers that many of us are unwilling to face. For that reason, their work resonates and lasts. Poe and Lovecraft are two such examples.
Stephen Hillard: Yes, they are authors we both, I think, like to read. But to Joel's answer above, that was our intent. We wanted to portray those who seemed to have a deeper glimpse into the darker sides of human nature.
Douglas R. Cobb: Who is X, and what is Lewis Carroll referring to when he told him “You used to be much more . . . ‘muchier.’” You’ve lost your muchness.
Get it together, X."
Joel Eisenberg: X is an enigma. He is a teenage boy who propels the plot via a series of "Letters to the Media", where he takes credit for discovering the existence of "Ara" and he warns the world of his findings ... to little effect. No one believes him.
Lewis Carroll's words imply that X is going in a wrong direction with his warning. Everyone will continue to believe he is nothing but a crackpot if he doesn't change his strategy.
Stephen Hillard: Exactly. Whenever someone stands out with a contrary opinion, or a dangerous outlook - dangerous to others, that is - that person has an uphill battle to convince everyone else of their conclusions. Regarding Carroll's quote: Let's just say X used to be so much easier to deal with.
Douglas R. Cobb: Why does Ara tell the king that she "will help only Eron"?
Joel Eisenberg: Eron is the mortal she had loved (from a distance). He was a great dragonslayer and his outcome in a horrific battle is the plot point that begins Ara's journey.
Stephen Hillard: Agreed.
Douglas R. Cobb: Who is your character, Searle, and who does he credit with "showing him the way"?
Joel Eisenberg: Searle is a controversial Professor who had run a school for troubled students. X was one of his students, in fact, the only father-figure the boy had ever known. Searle leaves X without a trace, leaving the boy to fend for himself to disasterous effect.
Regarding the second question, we will elaborate on that shortly ...
Stephen Hillard: Again, that is the best answer ...
Douglas R. Cobb: Great answers so far, Joel and Stephen! I just have one more question for you both, if you would please let our readers know, in Book 2 of The Chronicles of Ara: Creation, what are you referring to when you mention the "Second Measure of Creation"?
Joel Eisenberg: X created a mathematical equation - inspired by his greatest literary influence, Lewis Carroll, that he insists solves the world's mysteries - sort of similar to the Infinity Pass discussed earlier. There are 10 Measures of Creation that collectively "prove" that the world is ending.
Stephen Hillard: Ptolemy and so many others throughout history credited mathematical concepts as being able to solve the unsolvable. X solves the mysteries of creation in this series.
Douglas R. Cobb: Thanks, Joel and Stephen, for agreeing to do this interview with me and answering the questions I posed! The Chronicles of Ara: Creation, composed of the first two books of The Chronicles of Ara, is an amazing tour de force, shifting between times and characters. It is a Must Read for fantasy fans, and fans of authors such as Tolkien and Lewis Carroll. I wish you both much further success, and I hope to see the series turned in a TV series in the near future!
Joel Eisenberg: Thank you Doug. That was fun.
Stephen Hillard: Thanks again!
Read Our Review of The Chronicles of Ara: Creation by Joel Eisenberg and Stephen Hillard
Visit the Authors' Website
Visit the Ara Series Page