At the end of September, Silverstring Media released Tales of the Stop, an anthology of short stories that I edited to accompany my project Azrael’s Stop. It features stories from ten different authors [including a new story I wrote] about the various people that visited the Stop during the course of Azrael’s Stop that I couldn’t get to in the main story.
I decided I wanted to ask each of the authors a few questions about why they decided to join me in this experimental journey. This is interview number six, a few questions with Ian Llywelyn Brown, who both wrote The Ones We Leave Behind. You can read the previous interviews as well: Wren Handman, Scott Walker, Steele Filipek, Nathan T. Dean, and Allison Friebertshauser.
Lucas: What attracted you to Azrael’s Stop that led you to writing a story for Tales?
Ian: I really enjoyed the melancholy tone of the original Azrael’s Stop, and the atmosphere that that created drew me into the story’s world. I also enjoyed the implication of a wider fantasy world full of adventures and strange magic, but that the focus cozily stayed on the Stop. I wanted to write something that slid into that melancholy world, and to get a chance to use the setting of the Stop itself to keep things focused on more intimate, emotional problems.
Lucas: Have you ever written content for pre-existing settings before? What was it like to do so now?
Ian: I haven’t! This was my first time. (Unless you count some half-finished fanfic I’m sure I must have written at some point in my life.) It was a really interesting experience for Azrael’s Stop. The main characters of the primary story do a really good job acting as secondary characters without losing any of their life, and it was fun to get to use them to highlight the issues and emotions of a new set of characters. I was surprised at how friendly the setting felt towards expansion and adding stories of new characters. In a lot of settings, partially moving the focus to a new set of characters makes a story feel like it doesn’t belong, but with Azrael’s Stop new characters seemed right at home.
Lucas: How did you choose what to write about for your story? How much was it affected by the existing Azrael’s Stop story or world?
Ian: I was enraptured, in the original story, by the idea of the regulars at the Stop, the people that drink in a bar known for death every day. I wanted to explore their lives, and at the same time I knew I didn’t want to focus directly on Ceph or the other character, that I wanted to have a different set of protagonists. The melancholy feel of the world was also a huge influence. I knew I wanted to capture that same sense of quiet desperation and despair that pervades parts of Azrael’s Stop, and also the strong sense of silent camaraderie between its customers. So out of that came a story about a pair of friends helping each other deal with the loss of a third.
Lucas: How important was Azrael’s Stop’s experimental origins to how you approached your story or the project as a whole?
Ian: I fully admit I didn’t think to experiment with the format of the story when I produced it. However, one of the things I liked about Azrael’s Stop’s experimental origins is it felt like it could support a lot of different stories. The mythology didn’t feel rigid, and the setting felt like it could be tweaked and changed and taken in new directions as necessary. The experimental nature of the piece made me feel more comfortable with using its settings and themes as a flexible framework to build off of, rather than a rigid set of constraints.
Lucas: Your story played very well with the main themes set out in Azrael’s Stop — someone unsure how to live when their loved ones have died, and getting through it thanks to strong friendship. How do you think your story differed or strengthened those ideas?
Ian: I think my story differed in that many of the characters we see in Azrael’s Stop start without a support structure, without the friends they needed to get through their troubles, and slowly built up those supports over time. Whereas I feel like in The Ones We Leave Behind Coros and Leni start the story with each other to lean on. It was less about finding the friends you need, like the main story, than it was trusting those you already had to see you through. That said, the denizens of the Stop help Leni and Coros, too, so they did find some community and support there. (And gave support back to it at the end of the story.) I just think they relied more on old friends, and the community of the Stop enabled them to do that, instead of the community of the stop forming those main friends to be relied on, like in Azrael’s Stop.
You can read Ian’s story and the others in Tales of the Stop — it, Azrael’s Stop, and the official soundtrack that accompanies it are available now for digital download. [And you can read more of my own thoughts about the project at Chuck Wendig’s blog, here.]