The Key of Alanar: Author Interview and Giveaway

The Key of Alanar by Rory B. Mackay
(The Alanar Ascendant #1)
Publication date: August 15th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Book Summary (Goodreads):

Lasandria: an ancient, advanced civilization, consigned to oblivion by the greed and power-lust of its own people. The coming apocalypse heralds the arrival of a new evil that will ravage the world of Alanar for an entire age. Yet on the eve of Lasandria’s destruction, the ethereal overseers of the mortal realm grant a dispensation—a promise of hope for the future.

That hope lies with an orphaned teenager named David, born some ten millennia later; a boy whose isolated and uncertain existence leads him on a journey upon which hinges the fate of not just his world, but countless others.

On the run from a brutal military force, David’s quest is one born of shattered dreams and tainted by the thirst for revenge. As an inter-dimensional war that has been waged since the beginning of time threatens to consume his world, the dark force that destroyed Lasandria lurks in the shadows, ready to take possession of the one thing that will either save Alanar or destroy it: David.

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Author Interview

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you begin writing? What inspires you to write?

My writing journey began at a young age. I was a highly creative child, forever lost in my imagination and often not entirely in touch with the ‘real world’ (what can I say, the world of my imagination was just so much cooler ;)) I created my own comic books and stories, and every day when I walked my dog after school, I would imagine my own imaginary series of science-fiction/fantasy adventures unfolding in my head. Some of the ideas from those childhood imaginings actually made it into the series of books I’m now working on!

I knew from quite a young age that I had stories I wanted to be able to tell. In particular, I began creating what would form the basis of a fantasy/sci-fi series when I was about 16 years old. Progress was very slow. School kept me busy, then studying for my social science degree and working. As both a slow writer and a crippling perfectionist, it took me a great many years to finally complete my first novel “The Key of Alanar” (released last September). Perhaps confusingly, my first published novel, “Eladria” (published 2013), was released prior to “The Key of Alanar”, even though it was written after it (although I since went back and completely edited and virtually rewrote “The Key of Alanar”).

“Eladria” serves as a prelude to The Alanar Ascendant series, in much the same way as The Hobbit serves as prelude to The Lord of the Rings. I’m now working on the next book in the series. It’ll be wonderful to finally complete this writing project that has consumed so much time and energy over the past two decades. If I never write again after this, I guess I’ll be satisfied, as I’ll have said everything I ever set out to say. It’s all in these books, which are not only action-packed adventures, but thoughtful, reflective, philosophical books exploring some pretty major life themes. My novels are reflections of my journey through life; the hardships, the challenges, the wisdom gained and lessons learned.

What inspires me to write is the knowledge that words can transform and heal. According to Joseph Campbell, stories are one means by which we process reality, make sense of our lives and develop a sense of identity and community. Stories can awaken our sense of wonder and awe about life and the universe around us; they can expand our knowledge, challenge our assumptions and broaden our spiritual horizons. I’ve always believed in the power of words and stories, and although not a hugely prolific author compared to some, I wanted to tell some interesting, emotionally and spiritually authentic stories that might inspire and challenge people, making them consider themselves and reality in different ways.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

My books will appeal to lovers of fantasy and science-fiction, as well as fans of visionary fiction; stories with an underlying message and themes dealing with all facets of life. But really, one can enjoy the book on whatever level they want; the themes are quite subtly intervowen and tie in with the story and characterisation.

How did you come up with the title of your book or series?

‘The Key of Alanar’ was originally titled ‘The Journey: Awakening’; ‘The Journey’ being the original title of the series. I wanted something a little more dynamic and unique, however, and one day the title ‘The Key of Alanar’ popped into my head, because that is an object that is a crucial focus of the story. I think it sounds quite cool! The series later became titled ‘The Alanar Ascendant’, and that was a name I struggled to come up with, but I’m happy with it!

Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

The cover was designed by Damonza, a company that design beautiful, extremely high quality book covers. I worked with a designer named Grady who I found extremely helpful and obliging and I’m delighted with the results. I had a very clear idea what I wanted, and this is pretty much exactly as I envisaged it. It captures the feel and energy of the book somehow. From the very start I felt the cover was going to feature the lead character stepping into the gateway, and would have amazing blue and purples.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Without a doubt, the lead character, David. The book is an intensely personal telling of his story; the mystery surrounding his origins, the tragedies that befall him and his subsequent fall from grace and eventual, possible, redemption. He’s a complex, flawed character and I risked making him potentially even a little unlikeable at times, as his judgement is clouded and he finds himself stumbling down some dark paths. He’s a hero but he’s also extremely human character; he makes mistakes, he learns and he changes immensely throughout the course of the story. I love this character especially because I put so much of myself into him, and he’s also alive to me somehow; he exists in my head, my psyche and my heart.

How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?

Ha, I like all my characters in one way or another. The one I least like, however, by virtue of the fact he is a supremely terrible person, is the main antagonist, Zayron. I knew I ran the risk of Zayron becoming just a generic, moustache-twirling bad guy, so I tried to explore what makes a villain a villain. Initially Zayron is a very shadowy and mysterious character, relegated to a sinister background presence, but as he takes centre stage I get to paint him as the dangerous psychopath he is. Having studied psychology, I spent some time exploring the nature of sociopaths and psychopaths; how they think, how they function and what makes them what they are. I managed to weave this into the story and offer a little glimpse into what potentially makes people go bad.

If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?

I can’t tell you how long I worked on this novel. We’re talking years and years. I’ve rewritten it dozens of times, changing virtually every sentence at one time or another. I finally got to a point where I’m actually really happy with it; finally, after all these years, satisfied! Of everything I’ve ever worked on my entire life, this book is the thing I’m most proud of. I actually don’t think there’s anything I’d change.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

When I initially came up with the idea for this book and series, back in the late 90’s, I envisaged it as a series of movies or a serialised TV series. I was a little ahead of my time: serialised TV series based on books is now a pretty big thing, but it was virtually unheard of back then. I’d love to see my books brought to live on the screen. Many people have commented on the vivid cinematic nature of my work, and how marvellously it would lend itself to the screen. Part of the reason for this is that, as I come up with the books, I see them as movies unfolding in my head.

What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?

I combine the classic epic fantasy quest with a sci-fi twist and a philosophical undertone that I think is maybe a little reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. When creating the series, I was quite inspired by that, and JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.

How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

Please take a look at my website You can learn all about my books; read about the background, characters, see artwork, read interviews, reviews, etc and also read the first several chapters from both books — and download free short stories that serve as lead-ins to the books. I offer a wealth of material on my site, so do check it out! There’s even a free music soundtrack to my first novel that can be downloaded in mp3 format.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m going to complete The Alanar Ascendant series. In all, there will be four books: ‘Eladria’ and ‘The Key of Alanar’ (both now published) and the final two books in the series, tentatively titled ‘Shattered Time’ and ‘War of the Gods’. After that, I have some ideas for a couple of more fantasy series, maybe with a more Young Adult tone.

What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

Marketing is one of the hardest things in the universe in the publishing world right now. The market is so saturated, it’s extremely difficult standing out in the crowd when over 4,000 books are being published every single day. So the help of my readers is essential! Word of mouth is essential to all authors; so telling other people about my books, writing reviews and sharing via social media is immensely helpful. I don’t think readers really know how much power they have in helping an author to succeed. I appreciate every single review and all of the wonderful support I have received from people.

Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Publishing is fraught with both opportunities and challenges these days. Traditional publishing and self publishing both have pros and cons. I’ve done both, and to be honest, I would recommend that authors work extensively on building their own platform (something I have not been good at, I must admit), and forming relationships with readers and tapping into the market for their book. Oh, and making sure that their book is the very best it can possibly be. I’ve learned that, as a writer, I never stop learning and developing my skills.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

To both writers and readers alike; keep dreaming, keep pushing boundaries and keep appreciating the magic in not just fiction but the everyday world around us, for one of the functions of storytelling is to awaken us to that natural, everyday magic. Sometimes the more we dream, the more we awaken.

And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

David knew he was in mortal danger. The darkness was impenetrable and smothering, the air thick, musty and cold; the silence broken only by the drumming of his heartbeat and the uneven motion of his breath as it passed in and out of his body.

Although now a young man on the verge of adulthood, David felt as vulnerable and defenseless as a child as he crouched down low, praying that he would remain unseen by whatever it was that pursued him. He could feel its presence all around, an ancient, primordial evil, lurking amid the blackness; reaching out, sensing, searching—for him. There was no escaping it. It was too strong, too powerful, and it was getting closer by the second. Closer and closer…

Overcome by desperation, David realized that he couldn’t give in to it. He had to do something: he had to try to escape. He picked himself up from the ground and began to run. Squinting in the dark, he could barely see more than an arm’s reach ahead, but he relied on every other sense, not least his intuition, to guide him. He got only a fleeting sense of the environment around him as he ran: cavernous, cold and forbidding.

The moment David started to move, he had made himself visible. Behind him the enemy’s minions gave chase. Demonic shadow men, they were little more than soulless husks, like corpses animated by whatever dark force was pursuing him.

Hastening his pace, David raced as fast and as far as he could until he was forced to stop dead in his tracks. The path ahead was obscured by a gaping abyss. There was nowhere left to go.
Staring ahead, he saw a figure appear on the other side of the chasm: a girl, illuminated by a pale white light. She was around his age, perhaps seventeen or eighteen, dressed in a blue-violet tunic and trousers, with dark locks of hair falling to her shoulders. She reached out her arm and called to him from across the abyss: “David!”

He didn’t know why, but she seemed intimately familiar to him, as though he’d seen her face a thousand times before. But where? Struggling to process his memories was like trying to piece together a thousand half-forgotten dreams. Whoever she was, he knew that she was there to help him. If he could just get to her…

But almost the moment he stopped his pursuers were upon him. He felt their nails digging into his skin, drawing blood as they grabbed hold of him and reeled him back. With deformed faces contorted with malice, their was skin pale, thin and blistered, and their eyes sunken, reddened and leaking pus. He tried to fight them off, to break free of their grasp, but they were too strong and they quickly overpowered him. A pair of bony hands grabbed his throat. He struggled as they tightened their vice-like grip.

As he choked, David felt a wave of darkness crawling over his skin, penetrating his body and mind, seeping into and overwhelming him. It consumed him from the inside out, like a cancer devouring him until there was nothing left but a void of blackness.

David sat bolt upright in bed, his skin covered in sweat and his chest heaving for breath. Disorientated, it took him a moment to realize where he was and what had happened.

A dream…it was only a dream. It had felt so real, the images and sensations so intensely vivid. His pulse racing, he felt nauseous and his throat was tight and constricted, as though someone had indeed been trying to strangle him.

He crawled out of bed, feeling as though he’d been mauled by a wild animal. Wiping a band of sweat from his forehead, he pulled back his curtain and peered out the window. It was still the middle of the night; the velvet black sky punctuated only by the twinkling of distant stars.

David lit an oil lamp and carried it through the house to the washroom. He set the lamp down by the basin and poured some water from the ceramic jug. Splashing his face with the cool water, he tried to wash away the nauseating sense of terror.

He dried off his face and hands and filled a large glass with water. He was about to take a sip when something caught his eye. It was his reflection in the mirror. Somehow drawn to it, he gazed into the mirror as if seeing his own reflection for the very first time: his tousled shoulder-length dark hair framing a tanned, square-set face, illuminated by the flickering lamplight. His glistening dark eyes seemed to draw him in, as if they were a gateway to a whole other dimension; a hidden world that seemed to promise answers to questions he hadn’t yet dared ask. He snapped out of his strange reverie when he inadvertently tipped his glass and spilled the water.

By now he felt calmer and the specifics of the nightmare that had so disturbed him slipped away like grains of sand through outstretched hands. Returning to the warmth of his bed, he was soon overcome by a wave of sleepiness and any lingering thoughts pertaining to his dream were dispelled as he drifted into an altogether more restful sleep.

A natural born writer, thinker and dreamer, Rory Mackay was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1979. As an ardent student of Vedanta, Zen and Taoism, one of Rory’s true passions is exploring the potential of fiction and art to elevate mood and expand consciousness.

Rory is the author of the visionary fantasy/sci-fi novels “Eladria” (2013) and “The Key of Alanar” (2015), as well as a translation and commentary of the Tao Te Ching (2014) and several short stories. He is in the process of writing a self help book and writes a regular blog at His website is

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23 thoughts on “The Key of Alanar: Author Interview and Giveaway

    • It is, Sue. It’s quite an archetypal story in some ways, and the theme is very much the surmounting of the limits that bind us, and the suffering that causes us so much pain. It’s a story about becoming all that we are and are capable of being, and finding our place in the world. There’s definitely a lot of hope and inspiration in the story.


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