Emmanuel M Arriaga - A Fun Space Opera
Emmanuel M. Arriaga grew up in the inner city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From a young age, he was obsessed with fantasy and science fiction. Breaking the shackles of a low-income life, Emmanuel developed an interest in science, technology, and engineering. He went on to graduate from Pennsylvania State University with a Master's in Information Science. For almost a decade, Emmanuel has sought to share his vivid imagination with the world, learning the art of story crafting and eventually becoming an award-winning author. With a love for travel, gadgets, and volunteering, Emmanuel is enjoying life and helping others. As our Author of the Day, he tells us about his book, Pride of Ashna.
Please give us a short introduction to what Pride of Ashna is about
Pride of Ashna is the second book in the Foundra series and picks up shortly after the ending of book 1. It introduces a new character named Serah’Elax who is a young woman from an alien species called the Das’Vin. After a traumatic event as a child, resulting in the death of her twin sister and one of her parents, she is forced into military service for a zealous matriarchal order called the Ashna Maidens who police a lawless sector of space known as the Outer Rim. Growing up within their ranks, she becomes an elite soldier known as a Scion who is driven by vengeance against the pirates who murdered her family.
Due to a series of unexpected events, Serah’Elax must team up with characters from the Founder’s Elites, an elite military unit introduced in the first book who find themselves in the Outer Rim while chasing down a band of pirates who hijacked a cruise ship. Together they uncover an extradimensional plot that threatens to tear the Ashna Maidens apart and jeopardize the entire Twin Galaxies.
What inspired you to write about a young girl in a lawless space who devotes her life to a zealous matriarchal order?
Back when writing my first novel, I thought up the concept for a Matriarchal order of elite soldiers who protected the helpless on the fringes of the galaxy. I always intended for the second book to explore that society and I wanted Serah’Elax, the main character, to reflect the struggles of those in the Outer Rim, the lawless sector of space that they call their home.
Serah’Elax experiences severe trauma with the brutal loss of her family and that ultimately shapes her into the woman she is in the novel. There are many people in my life who had to overcome severe trauma and I wanted this character and others in this novel to represent their struggles and ultimately their overcoming of those struggles. Additionally, I wanted to explore how holding onto that trauma can negatively affect us. In our society, a lot of us experience trauma, but people rarely talk about it. I wanted to put trauma front and center and show the real struggle that people have with that trauma and ultimately how they can overcome it.
Where does your fascination with fantasy and sci-fi come from?
I’ve been a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy stories/settings for most of my life. I grew up reading fantasy novels and watching sci-fi tv shows like Star Trek, Andromeda, etc. I’ve always had an overactive imagination and used to spend hours daydreaming about sci-fi adventures and fantastical journeys. My dad also influenced me on the fantasy front as he was a big movie buff and into video games.
Tell us more about Neven. What makes him so special?
Neven is one of the main protagonists from the first novel. He’s a young engineer who gets drafted into the military to become a Secnic, a type of combat engineer who pilots fantastical power armors on the battlefield. He’s a genius and was homeschooled by his mother who is a world-renowned roboticist. He has a type of innocence to him that other characters are drawn to. This is primarily because he’s been sheltered for most of his life and experiencing the real world is a shock for him as he’s exposed to the shades of grey that the people he works with operate in.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have an engineering background and work for Google in Silicon Valley. I’m also an avid gamer although I don’t have nearly enough time to play anymore. When I do have time to play, I enjoy real-time strategy games and MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Write more. Looking back, I spent a lot of time playing games that I could have utilized moving my books further along. It’s harder now with more responsibilities to publish quickly although I can outsource a lot more due to having more resources. But when I was younger, I had more time which allows you to bypass a lot of what I have to do now. I’m sitting on a growing backlog of stories that I want to write and publish and having written more while younger would have led to my writing skills progressing much faster. I used to role-play a lot on fan forums for games that I enjoyed, I could have turned that into serious writing much earlier and been scrappy about what I published. I’ve seen a lot of successful self-published authors doing this. Just getting their work out there and getting that feedback to improve.
If you could choose one character from your book to spend a day with, who would it be? And where would you take them?
This is a tough question for me but I’d have to go with a side character who I absolutely love named Marcus Henson. He’s this elite giant of a man who has lived his entire life in the military. He’s a genetically enhanced super soldier who utilizes a large and powerful type of power armor called Archlight Armor. Off the battlefield, he’s this incredibly humble fun to be around a guy who is very caring and generous. I’d spend the day with him listening to all the battle stories from his life on the front lines of the mobile infantry while we relaxed at the mansion built for him by Lanrete on Lanrete’s personal planet. Lanrete is one of the immortal founders of the Huzien empire and his planet Zen is a paradise world that not everyone can travel to.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
Creating the Ashna Maidens was the most fun I had with writing this book. They are a matriarchal society that is highly religious and militaristic. They exist out of necessity in the Outer Rim, a place abandoned by the Huzien Alliance and other galactic empires. This leads to marauding pirates having free rein with the people unlucky enough to be born on the planets there. The Ashna Maidens are the light in the darkness and extremely zealous and it was fun thinking through how a society like that might function. Serah’Elax, the new main character introduced in this novel, is a member of the Ashna Maidens and the reader is able to see their society from a firsthand perspective.
Are you thinking about making this into a series?
I am already working on the third book in the Foundra series which will pick up right where Pride of Ashna ends. There is a slight gap of time between the end of Foundra and the start of Pride of Ashna but it mostly picks up right where Foundra left off. While each novel in the series is written to be enjoyed as a stand-alone adventure, there is an overarching story that will continue for some time. There is a definitive end to the Foundra series but it will be a while before we get there, so expect a host of future Foundra novels in the coming years.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
With the primary focus of this book being on the Ashna Maidens, I wanted to showcase the new main character in a significant way and give hints of the Ashna Maiden civilization in the background. It was also important to really get across the point that this is a sci-fi novel, so you see those elements added in with the epic space battle taking place at the top of the cover. There are a lot of easter eggs in the cover that I worked with my cover designer to add in, so I encourage readers to try and spot them.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
Since I work a full-time job in addition to writing, most of my day is spent working with engineers building cool stuff. After my kids are put to sleep is when I’m really afforded time to write, and I have it down to a surprisingly good system. I try and write every day, whether it be new lore that came to mind or actual work on an upcoming novel. If I’m working on a novel, I have a few phases that I work through. The first phase is selecting a story concept from my backlog of dreams and lore ideas. Once that’s done, I take that story concept and expand it into a full outline. That may take me a few days to really nail down. Once that’s done, I then start the first draft of the novel and begin to expand those bullet points in the outline into individual chapters in the book. This process continues until I’m done and then I work on the next project before coming back with fresh eyes to work on the second draft of that novel. This will continue for some time until I’m happy with the final draft and then I engage professional editors and a host of other folks to get the book ready for publication.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on the third book in the Foundra series which takes place right after the end of Pride of Ashna. I’m also in the early phases of creating a new sci-fi horror universe that will kick off a brand-new series.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
There is an official Facebook group called the MinSci that people can join to engage with other readers and discuss lore related to Foundra. My social media team also maintains the Foundra Universe Instagram (@foundra_universe) and Facebook Page where you can find interesting facts about the books. We are also building a fanart community so if you’re a fan artist and you’d love to have your work highlighted on our official accounts, tag the Foundra Universe with your Foundra fanart.
I also have a personal Twitter (@emmanuelarriaga), Instagram (@emmanuel_m_arriaga), website (http://www.emmanuelarriaga.com) and blog where I post regular content and readers can subscribe to my official newsletter, the Founders Log where I regularly highlight new things I’m working on and post about topics that I find important.