Nicholas Eames (he/him) is the author of Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose, the first two books in the hilarious and heartfelt trilogy The Band. I’m grateful that he took the time to speak with me about the musical influences on his work, how he decided to write a book with a queer female protagonist, and what we can expect from the final book in his trilogy. Please enjoy this interview with Nicholas Eames:
The world of Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose feel very inspired by D&D and RPGs. What is it about those systems and stories that inspired to you write these books?
The main premise of the series is inspired by rock bands, but there are a lot of similarities between bands and RPG groups, namely, getting together with friends to have a good time. I hope the books capture the spirit of roleplaying with the camaraderie and friendship that can form while playing RPGs with a lot of laughter and drinks.
I’ve played D&D since my first year of high school. I skipped school for the very first time to play D&D and had this epic odyssey getting home, jumping ditches and dodging cops. It was pretty memorable. Right off the bat, I immediately knew I wanted to tell the stories myself. I’ve been DMing ever since.
What motivated you to write the second book in your series with a queer woman as the protagonist?
It wasn’t something I set out to do when I originally wrote it. The main character was a boy named Tom, but halfway into it, I wasn’t liking the way his relationship with the band and Rose in particular was playing out. It was all too cliché. I talked to my editor, and even though it was pretty late in the writing process, I made the main character a girl instead. It wasn’t as easy as changing “he”s to “she”s; every conversation became different. I had to go back to the beginning and start over. It made a night and day difference to the story; Tam’s relationship with Rose felt right, and her relationship with Cura developed. The character just fit better.
When my editor and I were talking about making this change, we knew there would be some pushback. Kings of the Wyld was a book about older white cis dudes, and that appeals to a certain kind of reader who is going to expect more of the same. We knew assholes would gripe about it, and we checked in with each other: Do you care? No – okay, let’s do it. Luckily, people responded pretty well. And ultimately, if you get one teenage girl who writes and says she sees herself in the character, it’s worth it.
I didn’t find it difficult to write from the perspective of a queer woman, but you obviously want to be as careful as you can and not to fall into any stereotypes. With all of my characters, their sexuality doesn’t define them. It’s something that affects them, but it’s not everything. A lot of fantasy will make a big deal out of a gay character; I wanted to make it a fact of life.
I really enjoyed seeing the story through Tam’s perspective, and I would love to know why you chose to make her the protagonist rather than the titular Rose?
I was using famous rock and roll tropes, and Bloody Rose is Almost Famous with a rock journalist on the road with the band. When a band is full of self-destructive assholes, you can’t see that as much when you’re in their shoes. You have to see that from someone else’s perspective. Axl Rose telling his story would just be, “I’m amazing.” And yes, Axl Rose is the inspiration for Rose’s name.
Your female characters are all very diverse and complex, and Cura became one of my favorite characters. The reveal that she has been weaponizing and reliving her trauma through her tattooed summons was really powerful, as was the way she eventually started healing. What inspired you to tell this particular story?
Kings of the Wyld was about the music of the 70s, and Bloody Rose is about 80s music. The characters in the second book had to be larger than life, with the equivalent of the facepaint and big hair in the 80s. The tattoos were originally not about trauma. She had butterfly wings tattooed that would come out, and fireballs tattooed on her arm. I hadn’t gotten through the first scene with her before realizing it sucked. I knew it had to be something more, and with the theme of the self-destructiveness and self-harm that happened with 80s rock, I wanted her story to be about gaining mastery over something that haunts you.
One of my favorite themes is “hurt people hurt people” and the cycle of violence. We see this on both a personal and systemic level in your books. Why did you choose to focus your story on this theme?
I wrote Kings of the Wyld as a standalone, but my publisher asked if it could be a series and obviously I said yes. I knew I was not going to keep the same main characters, which turned into the idea that the series would move through eras of music and involve different generations. You can read them in any order, but the events in one affect what happens in the next. Within each book, the characters carry something forward from the past – like resentment of or love from parents – and consequences are always cascading into the future. That cycle is the point of the whole series.
What can you tell readers about the third book in the series?
It’s called Outlaw Empire, and it’s inspired by 90s music. If I’m picky, it’s about early 90s anti-establishment music: grunge, hip hop, Rage Against the Machine. They were all angry about things. I’m going to keep the book funny and light, relatively, but it will definitely be defined by its music.
There will be some carry over characters. It’s the final book of the series, so anyone who’s alive might be in there at some point. If anyone had kids, you can almost guarantee they’re in there. In fact, you’ve already met three of the four band members. One of the characters is a kobold named Shortknife; he’s mentioned briefly in a Kings of the Wyld scene. By the time I was writing the third book, I knew the group would be made up of both men and monsters, and he was a perfect character to put in. He’s got a really cool power, and he’s that one character who gets to say the fun and ludicrous things (in the first book, that was Moog, then Roderick in Bloody Rose).
It must be a very different experience to write a book on your own in contrast to writing the third book of a series with an already established audience. How has that experience been for you?
Before I wrote Kings of the Wyld, I spent ten years writing a giant grimdark fantasy book. I was racking up rejection letters, and I decided I wanted to write something that was the exact opposite. I didn’t want to get lost in worldbuilding, and I let the story be funny and goofy. Kings of the Wyld was a one in a million idea, and I’m so lucky that I thought of it, and that no one else had thought of it first. Bloody Rose is good, but it was more challenging to write.
I was hellbent on finishing Bloody Rose quickly while Kings of the Wyld came out. I had a rough time dealing with expectations, especially in my own head. Honestly, I had a relatively miserable time writing most of it. There came a point at the end of it when I had also started writing the third book that I just snapped. I knew I couldn’t keep stressing out about it. I would lay in bed and get out a calculator to work out how far behind on my word count I was, and how many days were left until the deadline. But I came to the realization that nothing is worth your mental health, so I took a big step back. Now I’m working toward finding a balance.
Is there anything else readers should know about your books?
I have curated playlists on Spotify (Kings of the Wyld | Bloody Rose), with songs that are a chapter by chapter breakdown for Kings of the Wyld on my website. They’re not imperative, but they add a lot to the books. Certain songs were so important that they unravelled scenes I was stuck on, and you can listen to them and read the chapter beat by beat.
Queen’s song “Too Much Love Will Kill You” is Freecloud’s song, and Meatloaf’s “For Crying Out Loud” is the final battle scene in Bloody Rose. I listened to it 4 or 5 times on the way to work to plot out that scene, right down to a pause for the moment Tam releases her arrow.
What queer and/or nerdy things are you enjoying at the moment?
- Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth. Harrow in particular is bewildering as hell, but worth the read for the writing itself – it’s phenomenal. Both books remind you that you can tell a fantasy story with a contemporary voice.
- The Unspoken Name. My god, I love it. It’s great, and the last sentence is absolutely beautiful.