Interview with Auston Habershaw (author of The Iron Ring)

This morning we have the great pleasure of welcoming Auston Habershaw to the Ruins, here to talk about The Iron Ring, the first book of his Saga of the Redeemed (now available from HarperCollins).

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Auston. For those who haven't yet had a chance to encounter Tyvian and the world of the Iron Ring, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect from the series.

THE IRON RING is the first book in The Saga of the Redeemed, which follows the trials and tribulations of arch-criminal Tyvian Reldamar as a sorcerous ring is slowly torturing him into becoming a better person. The series is very character centered, long on action and wit, and set in a world that’s going through a kind of Sorcerous Renaissance (or, as one reviewer on Amazon put it, a “Magical Industrial Revolution”) where the once forbidden arts of magic and sorcery are becoming more and more available to the average person.

As the series goes on, Tyvian is going to get dragged further and further from being able to live life on his own terms (which he hates) and will find himself placed in more and more complicated situations thanks to the ring. Along the way, he is going to gain companions and enemies which both drive him to dig deeper into himself and see if there is, in fact, a hero hiding under all that selfish, vain arrogance.

Q: I love the twist of an evil rogue magically prevented from any evildoing. How did you come up with the scenario, and which came first – Tyvian or the Iron Ring?

Oh, Tyvian definitely came first—he’s been a character I've had kicking around since high school. He even acquired an iron ring at some point, but I really wasn’t sure what it was supposed to do. Then, some years ago, I wrote a role-playing game set in Tyvian’s world and ran a campaign for my friends. In it, I stuck something called “the Iron Order” into the game and didn’t really think much of it until a buddy of mine wanted his character to join. That’s when I created the whole idea of a sort of secret society that tries to turn talented villains into noble heroes by way of this enchanted/cursed ring that punishes them any time they do bad things. The inspiration for that, incidentally, was Clockwork Orange. Except with magic and not science and with a significantly more adventurous style.

Q: Very cool. To put you on the spot for a moment, what do you think is the biggest hook or twist that would turn a curious reader into a dedicated one?

Without a doubt the story’s secret weapon is the character of Hool the gnoll. She is the magic glue that makes this story sing. You just wait—if you don’t love her, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. I mean, Tyvian’s great and the action is fast and the banter is fun, but once Hool starts throwing people around, the whole story gets turned up to eleven. At least that’s the plan.

Q: You’ve listed Robert Louis Stevenson, JRR Tolkien, and Robert E Howard among your literary influences. How did they influence your writing, and where do you feel you’ve most significantly evolved or branched out from those influences?

Hmmm…let’s see…

Stevenson taught me about character building in the context of an adventure story and he also taught me a fair amount about anti-heroes (Long John Silver is one of my all-time favorite characters). Stevenson keeps things moving and uses dialogue as much as anything else to really bring his characters to life, and I try to do the same thing.

Tolkien has world-building down. Middle Earth is full of wonder and history and weight. It seems like a real place. Any fantasy author has to take notes from him, even if they plan on departing well away from his example. He wrote the book on it, so-to-speak.

Howard knows his pacing and, also, creates vivid characters without slowing down the action. When I read Howard, I read for how to raise the stakes and keep the danger present without losing the mood of the story.

How I’ve branched out is really a question of how I’ve blended those influences together. I think Stevenson writes great characters and dialogue, but his descriptions and voice are rather dated. Tolkien writes beautifully, but it takes ages for anything to actually happen. Howard has great action, but his characters, while memorable, aren’t deep or dynamic enough to really sustain a novel-length work. I’ve kinda started with all those masters and tried to take the best from each—fast paced, character driven prose set in a vivid and complicated world.

Q: Fair approach, indeed. Your biography talks about how learning that Skylab fell from space on the day you were born pretty much sealed your authorial fate. I know there must be more to the story . . . can you enlighten us?

When I was a kid, I was really into the space program. I had a subscription to Odyssey, which was this magazine about space for kids. I read it cover-to-cover every month. I read every book about space I could find. To me, the age of interstellar travel, ray-guns, and space pirates was right around the corner, and I wanted in on the ground floor.

One day, I’m lying on my bedroom floor, reading about the world’s first space station—Skylab—and right there, in black and white, it tells me that it fell from space on July 11th (my birthday) in 1978—the year I was born. Now, funny story about that: a little while after I started putting that in my bio, I decided to look up Skylab just to make sure I was right about the year and date it fell. Well, turns out I was a little off—it fell from space on July 11th 1979—my first birthday. Now, I’ve spent the majority of my life thinking (and telling people) that it was the day I was born, because that’s what I honestly thought. The way I see it, though, is that my first birthday really isn’t that much different than the day I was born and plenty of people lie about their age, so I’m just going to stick to that one little fib. It makes a much better story for a scifi/fantasy author to tell.

Q: You know you're an author when . . . LOL. You have some short fiction to your credit, but The Iron Ring marks your debut as a novel. How different is it to plan out such an extended story arc versus concentrating everything for the utmost impact, and which format do you find easier?

I have always been a novelist at heart. I find plotting out novels far, far more intuitive than writing stories—it’s just how my mind works. I took up short fiction and began to write that more seriously because I realized that, for as difficult as it was to write a short story, I could write a whole lot of them in the same time I could write one novel and that would give me correspondingly more chances to break into the writing world. I figured if I could sell some short stories first, I would have better odds of selling a novel. I don’t know if it actually worked that way (you’d have to ask my editor), but it certainly made me a better and more serious author.

As for the difference, I tell it like this: a novel is to a short story as an anecdote is to a joke. An anecdote has a lot of moving parts—there’s an opening, there’s that part in the middle where you always make the funny sound, there’s the grand finale, etc., etc.. A joke has only one functional purpose—one moving part. You either nail it or it flops. Short stories are like that—they either work or they don’t and they don’t really work in “parts.” Novels, meanwhile, have sequences and chapters that you love and sometimes ones you don’t which creates a more complicated picture overall. They are both challenging, just in wholly different ways.

Q: Well said. In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to the The Iron Ring that you've encountered to -date?

There are two things that I find most interesting. First, a lot of people are surprised that there’s humor in the book. “It’s funny,” they say to me, as though they weren’t expecting it. Upon thinking about it, I came to realize that there actually is very little humor in most fantasy. It’s there, sure, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Secondly, I find it interesting how everybody pictures Tyvian. They always ask me what I think he looks like or give me their opinions of who should “play him in the movie.” My favorites are “Adam Samberg” (mildly surprising) and “Peter Dinklage, except taller” (which I find, frankly, spot-on).

Q: I know we talked a bit about your literary influences, but who do you find yourself turning to when it’s time to relax, enjoy, and refresh your imagination?

Over the past few years, I've had the most knock-down, silly fun reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Man, can that guy spin a page-turner (and, also—humor!). Beyond that, my favorite fantasy authors right now are Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss. If I want to really recharge the imagination, though, I usually listen to music—classical, often, or movie soundtracks. Music really can paint pictures for me. It gets the juices going.

Q: You already touched on this a bit, but assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles were the The Iron Ring to be optioned for the big screen . . . and would it be live action or animated?

100% Live action (with a CGI Hool, of course). Tyvian is a really tough pick—I need somebody with the right voice, the right build, the right smirk. Right now I’m leaning towards Damian Lewis (of Homeland fame), just based on looks (even though he is a bit too big). If there were a way to give Damian Lewis the voice of Timothy Dalton (or Peter Dinklage), it would be perfect. Artus would have to be a newcomer (a kid who gets the epithet “and introducing…” in the credits). Hool would be voiced by Viola Davis.

Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Clearly there are more books to come in the Saga of the Redeemed, so are we looking at a sequel soon or is there, perhaps, something completely different on the way?

The Saga of the Redeemed is currently guaranteed out to a third book (currently under revision) and, if these books go well, I’d like to continue the series. Tyvian’s got a long road ahead of him and his world is just so big and intricate that I can’t wait to do more with it. I have a lot of other books waiting in the wings—some space opera, some hard scifi, some urban fantasy/horror, some post-apocalyptic stuff—so hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the years to come. For now, though, Tyvian and me have some unfinished business to take care of. I invite you all to come along for the ride!

Thanks very much!

Thanks for joining us, Auston.


About the Author

On the day Auston Habershaw was born, Skylab fell from the heavens. This foretold two possible fates: supervillain or scifi/fantasy author. Fortunately he chose the latter, and spends his time imagining the could-be and the never-was rather than disintegrating the moon with his volcano laser. He lives and works in Boston, MA.

Auston is a winner of the Writers of the Future Contest (2nd place in quarter 1, 2014) and has published stories in Analog, The Sword and Laser Anthology, and Stupefying Stories. His debut novel, The Iron Ring (Book 1 in the Saga of the Redeemed), was released on 2/10/15.


About the Book

Tyvian Reldamar—criminal mastermind, rogue mage, and smuggler of sorcerous goods—has just been betrayed by his longtime partner and left for dead in a freezing river. To add insult to injury, his mysterious rescuer took it upon himself to affix Tyvian with an iron ring that prevents the wearer from any evildoing.

Revenge just got complicated.

On his quest to get even, Tyvian navigates dark international conspiracies, dodges midnight assassins, and uncovers the plans of the ruthless warlord Banric Sahand—all while running from a Mage-Defender determined to lock him up. Tyvian will need to use every dirty trick in the book to avoid a painful and ignominious end, even as he discovers that sometimes even the world's most devious man needs a shoulder to lean on.

ebook, 192 pages
Published February 10th 2015 by Harper Voyager Impulse


  1. Inspired by role-playing. Nice!
    Guess they decided to celebrate your birthday by bringing down Skylab.
    Congratulations, Auston.


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