Hi, Kuir Here with the renown ARG and his new epic, Dragons, Sieges and Volcanoes. DSV is about the great historical novel Jinora read about in the Legend of Korra, apparently it involved war, death, love and suicide; all the great things needed for a great romance! In a twist, ARG combined it to be the same story as the Siege of Ba Sing Se. Now we need to know the facts behind this great epic, from the author himself. Concept and some other stuff...
1. Hey ARG, how are you doing?
Hey Kuir, I’m doing well - been busy lately. Thanks for giving me this interview today!
2. So what gave you the idea to combine the romance of Jinora's book with the battle that broke Iroh?
For me it all fell right into place with combining the “historical saga” mentioned in The Spirit of Competition and the legendary six hundred day Siege of Ba Sing Se. With Iroh as the enemy general, Lu Ten as the enemy general’s son and Iroh already having an established history with dragons, most of the pieces seemed in place. Under this setting lay an opportunity to introduce a heroine from the Earth Kingdom who comes to grips with the world she lives in through her romance across enemy lines with Lu Ten, who’s supposed to marry the princess (that’s also his second cousin) and by discovering origins of the conflict through the dragons, who are also the original source of firebending, as well as old friends of General Iroh.
3. Ratana clearly becomes the strong central character that can do anything she sets her mind to. Will this resolve be shaken in later chapters?
Ratana is certainly a very headstrong protagonist, so her intentions aren’t shaken very easily. Along the way, she encounters a lot of obstacles that challenge her and force her to face situations outside of her comfort zone. Although, she has a clear view of right and wrong and everything being fair, her sense of justice can gear more towards punishing “wrongdoers” than toward making things better for victims. It’s not always a bad trait, but at times it can become her downfall. My goal with her is to present the protagonist as a realistic human being with their own flaws, but at the same time also a hero the reader can root for. It’s a delicate balancing act and some of my readers thought I strayed too far to the former side with Energy Saga, so I hope I can better myself in that way with Dragons, Sieges and Volcanoes.
4. Terra Team's boss, Colonel Quan Jing , seems a little shady, especially after the failed battle of Gujuhmin, is there something we should expect to come of this as the great Siege of Ba Sing Se looms closer?
Colonel Quan Jing is a practical man from a humble background now serving his country as an elite high-ranking officer. He has a well-regarded reputation in his role, and he holds himself in high esteem as well. Above all, he’s protective of his own self-interests, and performing his job takes a back seat if the two conflict. In a war, there are people of all types and calibers on both sides, and Quan Jing, while he has his place in this story, is definitely no hero. Now, he’s sent Ratana on her mission to find the dragons in the Fire Nation, so the focus is off him for the time being, but he’ll be back and prominent before the Siege of Ba Sing Se starts.
5. Iroh's army is completely made of volunteers, meaning it takes longer to recruit but also has more willing participants, why was this so important to your story?
Well, those were the two key reasons why I thought it was appropriate. Firstly, he fact that it will take him so long helps explain how an entire book of the story can take place between the revealing of the plan to attack Ba Sing Se and when the attack actually starts. This opens up a time frame for Ratana to have her dragon journey and for all the other necessary pieces to fall into place before the Siege. Secondly, it makes the Fire Nation army more resolved and formidable compared to previous attacks against Ba Sing Se, which the Fire Nation would’ve almost undoubtedly have attempted in the past ninety years. Additionally, it sets Iroh apart from other Fire Nation generals. He’s a complex man with a long history. His initial encounter with Ran and Shaw has already occurred, but Lu Ten’s death has not. At the present, Iroh is unambiguously on the side of the Fire Nation, but he’s no heartless warmonger. He’s still got the same tea-loving wise man in him everybody loves.
6. In the Dragon Chambers, we met a couple of the other 'Dragons' alongside the Dragon of the West, where did you come up with their titles? Will some more Dragons be expanded upon?
When someone earns their “Dragon” title, it honors them for having slain a dragon, reaching the highest tier of firebending mastery possible and proving themselves greater than that which they conquered. Each title is uniquely theirs, and can refer to where they conquered their dragon, how they conquered the dragon or anything else about themselves in general. I realized that there would have to be several names, so I went with the elements and directions for some. Azulon, the Fire Lord, is the Dragon of Fire. Han Shui, the adversary of the Southern Water Tribe waterbenders, is the Dragon of Water. Genzor, the only spiritual man amongst them besides Iroh, is likewise titled the Dragon of Aether. For the Dragon of Pure Luck, his title indicates how he got it. Since gaining the title is supposed to be a trial of great skill, the others who have conquered dragons hold great disdain for him. I’m not sure if or how many more will be introduced along the way, but the story of Iroh conquering the last dragons (which we know to be false) is central to the plot of the first book, and it’ll remain important in the second and third as well.
7. We get to meet a living Lu Ten who's not a little toddler, how did you decide to make his character? Are you happy with how he is turning out?
We didn’t see anything really from him in the show, so I pretty much had to start from scratch. I began by picturing him like a modified younger version of Iroh who would also work great as a love interest for Ratana, which was a requirement. I then pictured some scenes with him and wrote some scenes with him in order to “flesh him out” and develop a substantial identity of his own. So far, it seems to be working. As he was raised as a Fire Prince, his position in life was really a given from the start, and off the battlefield most of his conflicts are personal ones. Unlike others in the royal family, both his mother and father were good parents. Therefore, he has the same expectations on his back as other family members, but he’s also had a little more space to maintain his sanity and stability.
8. The Dragon of the Water has a nasty habit and a eye for reality, but played his hand too soon, will he get another chance at revenge against his foe?
Han Shui, the Dragon of Water has been recruited by Iroh to serve by his side in the Siege, so he won’t be going anywhere for a while. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but he has other stuff up his sleeve. There is a lot more to come from him
9. With Ratana heading for the Fire Nation, is there anything she might miss? Say, someone she didn't realize she loved? Or that they loved her?
Even though she’s a member of the Terra Team, which relies on group coordination in battle, Ratana has somewhat of a loner personality, and likes to avoid relying on others wherever possible. She has those she’s close to, of course, including Tooru, her earthbending partner, Brawki her earthbending trainer and her mother from growing up. As for the love part...come on, man. A lot of the major events are already a given, and still you think I need to give more spoilers?
10. So how will Ratana do in the Fire Nation?
Well, she’s on her way now and she’s got her disguise and her mission. As said by the premise of the story, she will find dragons eventually. Naturally, most people still believe dragons to be extinct after Iroh “conquered” the last one twenty years ago, so she’ll have to dig deep to find them, which is something all the combative earthbending in the world won’t help her do by itself. She’ll have to rely on her thought, instincts and those around her. I’d like to use the opportunity to explore the main characters a little more along the way.
11. Ratana met Toph and gave her some good advice for the future. Will any more events like this show up as the story progresses?
Since this is toward the end of the war, it takes places shortly before ATLA, and I liked to do some foreshadowing of events that come after it from the show. It won’t necessarily be Toph next time, but yes, I intend to do more of that.
12. How related to the Energy Saga is this?
It’s a somewhat different kind of long story than Energy Saga was, with romance as a more major focus, but they do take place in the same continuity and there is some foreshadowing of Energy Saga as well as for ATLA. Ratana was mentioned in Energy Saga, as I came up with her main character idea long before I wrote Dragons, Sieges and Volcanoes, which sort of doubles as a prequel for both ATLA and Energy Saga.
Structure and other stuff...
13. How long do you intend to make the series?
It’s going to be quite a long series. In fact, it’s still only just beginning even after sixteen chapters. When I first watched The Spirit of Competition and got inspired by Jinora’s quotation, I had either a one-shot or a shorter series in mind. As I delved into it, this blew up and expanded the story to incorporate dragons and stretched from before the Siege of Ba Sing Se to the end of it. The way things are going, it should be just as long as Energy Saga, if not longer.
14. How will the Books divide up the story?
The books are Book 1 - Dragon, Book 2 - Siege and Book 3 - Volcano. The first book begins with Ratana in the Earth Kingdom and Lu Ten in the Fire Nation. Although it’s still a secret, higher levels of Earth Kingdom intelligence have gotten wind of the impending invasion. Ratana is then sent on a mission into the Fire Nation to find proof that dragons still exist and to use this knowledge to stop the Siege of Ba Sing Se before it starts. Eventually, Ratana will come in contact with live dragons, but the attack on Ba Sing Se will go forward anyway. Book 2 will begin with the beginning of the Siege, and there will be a lot closer interaction between Ratana and Lu Ten, as well as opposing forces across and within both sides of the battlefield. A major turning point in the story will then mark the end of Book 2 and the beginning of Book 3. Book 3 will intensify things in a way that makes Book 1 and 2 seem more innocent. At the end....well, I won’t give it all away, but a big part you already know. She jumps into a volcano.
15. Will there be more racking revelations as the story goes on? Or will they all come at the beginning, or will it just explode at the end?
Of course they’ll be spread out! With such a long storyline, they kind of have to be. If everything were at the beginning, it would just drag after a while. There will, however, be a lot going on at the very end. Just like with when I started writing Energy Saga, I’ve already started thinking about the finale. A lot of the story in between events is flexible and subject to change.
16. Will Ozai and his power plays happen in the story, or is that just a silent fact?
Oh, that’ll definitely be shown in the story. It won’t be seen so much in the first two books, but it that will be the source of some conflict between major characters. Ozai’s in the background now, but he’ll become more prominent as time goes on. Since this is all part of a story where to some extent everyone knows how it ends, I try to make use of any chance for a twist or a turn around it.
17. As unlikely as it is, will there be a happy ending for someone in this story?
Not everything about the end of a tragedy has to be tragic. If you look at Hamlet, even after all the bloodshed, a new king took the throne and brought order back to the country. Likewise, in Romeo and Juliet, after their heart-wrenching ending, their two feuding families finally reconciled. Not that I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare, but I think those are some of the classic examples that come to mind when one thinks of “tragedy.” When I write sad things, I like to end on a more hopeful note. It’s kind of like writing something upbeat but ending on a dark or suspenseful note in that it gives better meaning to the end of a piece.
Some other questions...
18. What would you say inspired you to write this awesome epic?
At it’s earliest stage, it began long before I ever heard the quote in The Spirit of Competition. One of the first ideas I ever had for an Avatar fanon involved a romance between Lu Ten and an Earth Kingdom soldier-woman. I also was fascinated by the dragons in the world of Avatar, and their part in The Firebending Masters. I like personal journeys that connect individuals and connect to greater truth and understanding at the same time. When Jinora pointed me in the right direction, I got carried away and the rest is history.
19. Given that you are a very renowned writer here and have an army of followers, who would you say has some good writing out there?
Well, a lot of the stories and writing on here are good, but they’re different styles and different kinds of stories. In a way, saying who I think is the best writer on here feels like saying who the best person is at track and field, when that actually includes some who’s the best at sprinting, the best at long distance running, the best at long jumping, high jumping, shot putting, etc. As some of you know, I’ve been following Wordbender’s Air closely. I thought the story was already great when I started reading, but now that it’s almost over, it’s grown so much in quality that it’s totally blowing me away. I know that’s become a popular one nowadays, but I started reading it shortly after it first came out. Another fanon I’m taken away with is Avatar: The Heir of Ban, by Manzai. It’s about an antihero Avatar born to a criminal boss in Ba Sing Se long before the time of Avatar Aang. I know that I’ve recommended this one to people before, but I’ve got to recommend it again. Manzai enriches his imaginative tale with unbelievably believable OCs against an inspiring setting fueled by his knowledge of writing, literature and even pieces of real world history one would never normally associate with an Avatar fanfic, but that fit there so well. With his level of writing, I’m surprised he doesn’t have more people clicking to subscribe than he does now. He’s not as visible on here as other writers like Lady Lostris, The Ultimate Waterbender, Mageddon725 or Minnichi, but he ranks among them in my book.
20. With the Fanon Awards coming up, are you expecting some interesting events to come up?
As someone who participate in the event the past two years, I know the Fanon Awards are always something fun to look forward to. I enjoy taking part in them and nominating users I think are deserving and interacting with other users about them. If you’re asking me if I want to win something, well of course I do, doesn’t everyone? Just being nominated for something always feels good, whether one wins or not. There’s a lot of deserving competition in the heap this time around, so I can’t really predict anything yet.
21. How close to canon will you keept this?
Every generations has it’s trials to overcome and its heroes to face them. This tale is about the generation of heroes in the Avatar World right before the “great generation.” It’s a different sort of journey from the one that the Gaang went on, but it’s all connected, and I intend to continue including parts about that. As for The Search, I’m not sure yet what if any relationship this will have with it. I’ll have a better idea of that when parts 2 and 3 come out.
22. And one more question, do you have anything to say to any readers or fans?
Try to comment if you have the time. Every writer likes feedback. A longer comment is better than a shorter one, but if you don’t have the time for a longer one, a shorter one is better than nothing. Other than that, stay tuned! We’ve got a long way to go.
Well, that was it from ARG today. Go check out DSV now! And for his latest chapter, check out !!! Kuir Signing Off!!!