Kal S. Davian

March 14, 2014

Fantasy author Kal S. Davian was born in Libertyville, Illinois, but has spent the majority of his life in Appleton, Wisconsin and Quebec, Canada. After many years of working on a childhood idea for a video game, he eventually turned to writing.

Davian is married and has two children, and, aside from writing, has a passion for graphic art, 3D modeling, anime, physics and disc golf. He is also one of the founders of Forgotten Fiction, a group for writers and artists dedicated to assisting one another in producing and releasing their respective creative works.

Branding of a Heretic, the first book in Davian’s Nihilian Effect series, was released in 2012. A sequel, Naming the Bane, followed in December of 2013.

kalWhen did you first begin work on Nihilian Effect, and how did the story originate?

I’ve been into books ever since I was little. I grew up on a horse ranch, so I started reading horse books like Indian Paint and, since I was fascinated by space and science as a child, I eventually got into light science fiction. I also grew up playing the Atari and Nintendo, but what really affected my interests was when I was discovered RPG videogames around the age of 10 or 11, I think. I received my first and still all-time favorite games, Final Fantasy Tactics and Breath of Fire 3. These games changed the way I saw stories by introducing me to the fantasy genre. I may have gotten into fantasy a little before then, though nothing significant comes to mind.

After that, I started reading fantasy more than science fiction, and to this day, I prefer to read fantasy and watch science fiction movies instead. But, I will admit, I have never read a single Lord of the Rings book. Anyway, I was really intrigued by the world of Breath of Fire, and this sparked the embarrassing idea to make a fan fiction sequel game to Breath of Fire 3. Being a kid, I knew no better, and even brought some of my friends in on the idea. It grew for several years, throughout junior high and on into high school. I worked on this story and world constantly. Mind you, this was before indie games and the way the market is now, so I had no idea how I was going to make this a reality.

After high school, I moved to Canada to be with a girl I met online, who I later married, and she helped me pull the core of the story out of the fan fiction and put it into its own world. We moved back to my hometown, and I met up with a group of friends from high school. The idea changed and grew further, but we were only writers and artists with little to no programming skills, so eventually we realized our limits and the group fell apart. I continued to develop the ideas on my own until about three years ago when I finally accepted that I could not yet make the idea into a videogame and decided to turn to writing instead.

What challenges did you face in building the world featured in Nihilian Effect?

What every world builder faces, I guess. This world has been building for years, even after going through several overhauls. I think the biggest challenge would be to keep timelines proper, for a lack of a better word. A lot of times you see stories with medieval ages that last for thousands of years with no progressions. In my story, on the main world at least, the idea spans from a stone age to a space age relatively quickly due to outside influences, but I also have to make sure that it is not too quickly that it is unbelievable.

How is writing a videogame different from writing a novel? How is it similar?

I don’t know how to word this correctly, but I think the main difference is that you tend to visualize things like cutscenes a lot more and you can skip a lot of things. It is almost backwards in that sense from a book. Like in videogames, if you have a cutscene, you need to plan every movement or swordslash, but for things like a forest, you can skip the story part of it entirely for a videogame and just have that be a part where the player gets to wander, where in a book, you either explain in detail what happened in the forest, or jump ahead. And then there are the obvious things, such as planning for status increases and item finding, which can be affected by the story.

At first, this strongly affected my writing and the way I visualized things. It is great for progression and action scenes, but not other things. It can also make you want to info-dump often. It took a while to break away from that.

What authors have been the biggest influences on your life and your writing?

Robert Jordan, Rand Miller, and Brian Jacques. I think the first fantasy series I read was the Redwall books, and ever since then I have loved animalistic characters. I played the Myst games as a kid (though I was not very good at it at the time) and immediately fell in deep love with the Myst books when I was introduced to them. They are the most original story I have ever read and a pure diamond that most people overlook.

When I first came to Canada about 10 years ago, I needed something to read, and happened upon the Wheel of Time series in the small English aisle of the otherwise all French library, so I consider finding it there as fate. It has become my favorite book series.

There is also one more writer that has influenced my writing and the way I perceive stories. His name is Andrew Hussie, the writer of Homestuck, the online webcomic. Most people see it as a goofy and crazy story, but if you really take the time to read all of it, it is one of the deepest and most twisted stories I have ever read.

How have you evolved creatively since you first began writing?

This is hard to answer. I think I have come to realize the things I should avoid and strive for, and I have taken a lot of time learning all of the proper grammar and punctuation. Part of the problem with answering this question can be answered with a quote from Gene Wolfe to Neil Gaiman: “You never learn how to write a novel, you only learn to write the novel you’re on.”

Every book you write is different. Each book has its own voice (unless you stick with the same cookie cutter for every story, which I would assume would end up very bland after a while). The point is that you learn to write each book individually. Even if you know how to write, with every new book, you learn again. I am probably just starting to repeat myself, here.

Are there any contemporary fantasy RPGs that you enjoy? Or are you still drawn to the classics of the 1990s?

A lot of games lately have not met my standard. I won’t name games, but there are a lot that have flat characters, linear gameplay, and lack in many other areas. Not worth $60.

One game that I really enjoyed lately was Tales of Vesperia. It is probably my favorite game of this latest gaming era. Not everything was black and white, and the main character did some pretty dark things in the name of justice, which you don’t always see in videogames. It was also very long and had a lot to do.

Another one was Final Fantasy Chrystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers. I will admit it was a pretty short game and not terribly difficult, but it was also original and a ton of fun. The player has the power of gravity, and uses the Wii wand to point, grab, and affect things with gravity. Not something I have ever seen in a game like that.

How did you get into disc golf?

I used to work with a few people who played it. Appleton, my home city, has about 10 courses in the local parks, so that gave us plenty of options. Around here, all I have is a nearby soccer field to throw across, and there are always people in the way. It can be frustrating. It is the one sport I am actually good at, unless you count foosball.

If you could snap your fingers and travel back to any point in history, where would you go and why?

If we are talking all of history, then there are too many places to name. I hated history in school, which is funny because now most of what I write is fantasy history for other worlds, but I now find that there are many interesting places in history. World building for my own stories has opened my eyes to the intricate details of people and events of the past.

If we are talking about my own history, well, then I am torn between my scientific view and childish desires. Scientifically, going back to any point in history would be disastrous and should never be done under any circumstances, but childishly, I miss the days of going over to my best friend’s house every week and spending days playing videogames and watching movies all night long.

What are you working on next?

After I finish this third book, I have plans for two to three more books for this lore series, then I will be getting back to the original novel ideas. Those will consist of at least three novel stories, which may end up as series of their own depending on how long they become.

Beyond that, there are a few side stories that I may end up writing later. I have so many stories I want to write from this world. It is so vast that I could probably write for the rest of my life and never run out of material. I do not plan on stopping, either.


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