In all my time as a critic and working within the publishing industry, I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a more daring novel than V.C. Boldick’s The Firstborn.
For starters, the plot is super fantasy and, at a time when George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series (and show, even though it’s ended) is more popular than ever, everyone seems to be looking for the next big thing. For me, I latched onto Boldick’s fictional universe, embracing her world that, thanks to vivid descriptions and plenty of visuals, really pops off the page.
Aside from the world that her characters live in, I found myself drawn to the characters themselves, too. Prince Leif of Shadovia is the closes thing this story had to an Eddard Stark, but don’t let these GOT comparisons fool you—Boldick has come up with her own storyline and setting, and her heroes and villains aren’t ripoffs in any sense of the word. In fact, it’s her originality that, more than anything, stood out to me as I flew through the pages.
Just after the book’s release, I caught up with V.C. Boldick, who went on the record for our Five Questions segment. Read the full Q&A below, then click here to find out more about The Firstborn, a must-read for fans of fantasy and mythical thrillers.
TRBS: How did you come up for the plot idea for this book?
Boldick: It was something that was spinning in my head for a long time. I had the characters and world created well before I first put pen to paper, the plot took a little longer. I didn’t want my novel to become another cliché revenge story. So, I took a good deal of time to find a way to make it less revenge, and more character. I want the reader to feel what the characters feel- from joy to pain and everything in between. The Firstborn is a story about loss, and how you cope with it, both in healthy and unhealthy ways. We live in a world where mental health is only now being recognized as a real problem and even still it is stigmatized. We brush it under the rug and do our best to ignore it and I am hoping that my novel will show how dangerous that mindset is. I want the reader to have someone they can believe understands what it is like. The fact that its set in a fantastical world full of magique makes that easier, I think. I understand how important support is to someone struggling with mental illness and a lot of what the protagonist, Leif, thinks are feelings and emotions that I have felt and had to fight through in my own struggles. The Firstborn is more than just a revenge story, it’s about loss and the multiple ways we humans deal with it. It is a story about overcoming obstacles no matter what happens, a story meant to show people that even in the depth of despair there is hope.
I went on a bit of a tangent there, but the point remains. The Firstborn is a reminder that we all go through struggles and hardships. What counts is that you keep moving forward, no matter what. Leif’s struggle is exactly that. Does he keep going, or should he roll over and give up when everything goes wrong. It’s a decision everyone I know has had to make at some point in their lives, and it is a decision that I had to make too.
TRBS: When did you know you wanted to be a writer, and what made you finally decide to pursue writing your first book?
Boldick: I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I decided I wanted to be a writer, but it was around two years ago when I took a month to complete my first draft of The Firstborn. This period was the first time I did something, and it felt right. I could see with complete clarity that I wanted to write, and I was going to make it happen, I just did not know how. The first draft was rough, and in the end, I’m pretty certain I revamped it several times and I know I shelved it even more. It was a pretty rough time for me after I decided to be a writer because I didn’t trust myself fully. I didn’t want to take any risks, when there were no guarantees I could make it. Being a writer is hard work and I was self-defeating back then. It took some deep conversations with myself to take the leap and finally publish The Firstborn. In the end, I am very glad I did, it has been an exhilarating experience.
The main reason I chose to write the book is that I know I wasn’t the only kid who has been their own worst enemy. It can be hard to be trapped in your own mind with no escape and I created the characters in The Firstborn to help facilitate my own. If my novel helps one other kid like me then I feel like I’ve done well. That is why I decided to write my first novel, to help other kids who need a lift out of the depths out of their own darkness.
TRBS: What sort of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write this one?
Boldick: I was bad, and I didn’t do any research when I began the novel, I just started writing until I came to a sword-fighting scene and realized I had no idea how medieval sword fighting worked. So, I hit the internet and found a bunch of forums whose suggestions I didn’t feel were credible. So, my next step was doing more in-depth research. I found a few YouTubers who ran a sword-fighting channel and also owned a ‘sword school’ on the other side of the world. I took a look at their site and got a good feeling that they were credible, (better than the forums anyway). With the video instructions (and a few other instructions I found) I wrote the scene and went back over the rest of what I had written and began more in-depth research into clothing styles, politics in the medieval era, the code of chivalry, I even found a few historical podcasts that used primary sources on different questioning techniques of the era. The hardest research I had to do was when I was creating the different languages used with my magique system. I didn’t want to solely trust google translate, so I went to my local library and checked out some translation books and began creating the three different languages that appear in The Firstborn.
I learned my lesson though, research comes first, before I go off and write.
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what was the last really great book that you read?
Boldick: I’m a big fan of James Patterson and his Alex Cross series and as a teen, I loved reading Maximum Ride. Orson Scott Card is pretty high on my list of authors as well. The last really great book I read would be The Firstborn! I’m kidding, I do love my novel and I do consider it good, but I may be biased. Joking aside it would probably be Mark Lawrence’s Emperor of Thorns. That book has great character development and I am a sucker for a good coup d’état.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you now that THE FIRSTBORN is finally out?
Boldick: Onto the next one! I have started the second novel in the series, Reborn. I have a lot of plans for this series, one of which is something that I have not seen attempted in fantasy and in writing in general, but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. Apart from The Shadovian Chronicles, I have an idea for an alternative history novel that will contain some fantasy elements, but before I attempt a project of that magnitude, I want to hone my writing skills further.
Reborn takes place in the aftermath of The Firstborn. It is currently in the editing stage and from there I am going to begin querying agents. After self-publishing The Firstborn I want to try getting into the more traditional style of publishing. Self-publishing was a great learning experience, but I feel like my writing and my style would improve tremendously with the help of a team backing me.
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.