Let Me Introduce You To…Nicholas Tanguma

As a publisher, I take pride in the amazing talent that Seven Realms has acquired in the two years that we’ve been in business. We have introduced some of the best new authors around to an unsuspecting world, as well as have attracted big name folks like David Golemon, Jeremy Robinson, and Hy Conrad. Let’s face it…the Lord has been very good to us and I think those of you who’ve read any of the Seven Realms books can attest to that.
So let me tell you a story about the beginning of 7R. A story that few people know. My best friend at the time, and co-worker, had convinced me to start the company after I’d self-published my first novel Primal Thirst. My friend had written a romance novel and had wanted me to publish it for her as well. And though I didn’t want to deal with romance fiction, I agreed to start the company with her and Seven Realms was born. We registered as an LLC, then did all the other legal things needed to start a company, and finally, got around to building our very own website with submission guidelines for all the people that would soon be coming our way. We didn’t have to wait long at all.
One of the very first queries we ever received was from this extremely eloquent and polite fellow with a submission about a cyberpunk thriller with a Christian worldview about the world as it approached the End of Days. I read the first three chapters and had to take a breath. It was good. Really good. Professionally good. I wasn’t used to that. The first two or three submissions we’d received, quite honestly, had been disheartening to say the least. I’ll be even more blunt…they were just plain awful. But in reading the opening chapter of SONS OF GOD AND DAUGHTERS OF MEN, I was floored. The way in which the Prologue ended literally left me speechless as a matter of fact. So, as was the policy in those early days, I sent the submission over to my partner and friend for her review. I didn’t have much hope. She was none too keen on science fiction, much less sci-fi wih a Christian bent. So when she came back to me with that same opened mouthed awe that I had had, I knew we had something special. Really special.
So what did I do? I rejected the submission.
Yeah, I know. Crazy, huh? Why on earth would I reject a submission that both of us were in awe of? Why would I turn something like that away? Simple. I had no idea what in the world I was going to do with it. We simply weren’t ready for it. Oh, don’t get me wrong…the books 7R published before we finally got around to publishing this one are equally as good. But this was a genre and scope that I simply wasn’t prepared for. Having never read any cyberpunk in my life, it was unfamiliar territory to me. Hardboiled detective fiction, sure. Pulp adventure? Oh yeah. Even romance was something I could wrap my brain around. But I was totally unprepared to jump head first into an epic sci-fi adventure like this. It was, quite simply, alien to me.
So, I told this aspiring young author to contact me in another year if he’d not been successful at finding another publisher. And he did. I re-read it a year later and loved it just as much…and so, Seven Realms Publishing contracted Nicholas Tanguma for his very first novel. And it is with great pleasure that I’m able to introduce both the author, and the book, to you tonight.
So, Kent, you might be asking, what exactly is Sons of God and Daughters of Men about? Hmmmm. That’s kind of a long story…but it kind of combines the neon cyberpunk grit of techno-noir, the savvy of a political thriller, and the rich language textures of beautifully surrealistic weird fiction into a dreamscape that’s never been seen before!
Here’s the back cover copy for your consideration:
Three souls to stand against the Apocalypse…
Jeremiah Nicholas, a wet work asset specializing in linguistics and untraceable weaponry.
Sayo Tomo, a scholar who has spent her entire career hunting a demonic creature with the power and the desire to unleash Hell on Earth.
Tamara St. James, a spy and assassin for the Phaelon, once Nicholas’ protégé and lover, now his competitor.
The door to Hell is about to open…
The world has descended into absolute chaos.  Total war and economic collapse have redrawn the map.  Terrifying new weapons have transformed entire nations into nightmarish landscapes. True power rests in the hands of the Phaelon, a secretive and dangerous religious synod that has emerged from the ashes, wielding an army of deadly operatives, to defend a secret as old as creation.
The Phaelon has a new enemy, a demonically invincible woman who has found the doors to Hell itself, and now seeks the means open them.  Only three Phaelon operatives can stop her, but first they will have to find her.
Sounds amazing, right?! Trust me, it is a great read. It’ll have you turning page after page. And before anyone says, “Christian fiction? I don’t want to read Christian fiction”, well you misunderstood me. Yes, it does have a Christian worldview and Christian themes, but it’s very light. Anyone can read it and enjoy the way cool science fictiony goodness that it provides without feeling like you’ve just sat on a hard pine pew for a three hour sermon. Trust me. If you like great sci-fi, you’ll love this book. [But Nicholas talks about his Non-Christian Christian novel in the interview. He explains it much better than me.]
Anyway, recently, I had a chance to talk with Nicholas about his debut novel, writing in general, and everything in between. Here’s what he had to say:
1) So I’ve both read and thoroughly enjoyed your debut novel and have shared the book summary with our readers. But I always like asking authors to describe their book in their own words. What’s it about? What can people expect from it? Tell us a bit about the characters and setting. What exactly does “Sons of God and Daughters of Men” mean?
Original image I used for the cover background
I like bending genres.  In Sons of God and Daughters of Men I put old school cyberpunk together with contemporary urban fantasy, mix in some noir detective mystery, and throw this mixture against a backdrop of geopolitical news headlines, accurate as per eschatological prophecy.
Most of the story takes place in the near future; specific dates are intentionally left out.  Technology culture and social culture are merging into the same experience–the bionic marriage of analog and digital within both the human body and the human mindset is letting mankind develop an existence that considers virtual and analog to be of equal reality.  The USA long ago split due to the Second Civil War, with the Bible Belt states having seceded to form the fundamentalist Nation of God, and the remaining secular states having formed the United States of North America.  The NOG is a free-market capitalist society, and the USNA is a progressive socialist society; there is constant economic battle between the two.  All of Europe has become a curious mix of state capitalism and outright communism, except for the Balkan region, which is completely uninhabited.  Eastern Europe went to war with Turkey after that nation’s democratic republic fell to an Islamic caliphate calling itself the Turkic Shari’a Nation.  When the Balkan States finally endgamed the TSN with neutron bombs, they were macrobiotically frozen by a preternatural weapon of unknown sorcery/technology from the TSN as a retaliatory death throe.  So both the Balkans and Anatolia have both been declared international deadzones.
In response to the world’s growing communism, teetering economies, and widespread military conflicts, the democratic republics of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and several nations of Southeast Asia have formed a tightly knit alliance called the Republic of Greater East Asia.  The Republic’s greatest enemy is China, and the two countries are increasingly hostile in the grab for resources, especially for crude petroleum.
Which brings us to the third geopolitical aspect of the novel’s backstory.  A great percentage of the oil reserves in the Middle East have been running dry, and the provinces of Colorado, Texas, Utah, and Alaska in the NOG now produce enormous amounts of the world’s petroleum and natural gas.  Years before, Russia invaded Saudi Arabia in order to militarily claim the last of the oil fields located there, and just recently the Republic of Greater East Asia has done the same in Iran.  Israel and the NOG are intensely close allies, so Israel is never short of oil for its economy despite the ever dwindling amount its Arab neighbors suffer every day; this, of course, constantly pushes Zion and the Arabs toward a war of their own, which they are literally just days away from starting.
Amid all this political and prophetic madness is a fanatical religious synod called the Phaelon, doing its bloodiest and best to steer the world toward what it believes is God’s plan for the End of Days.  This secret society has been murdering, bribing, and bullying within various governments for century after century, as well as hoarding away or destroying “blasphemous” magickal arcana it believes hinder God’s plans for the earth and mankind.  To carry out these operations the Phaelon employ a private army of operatives ranging from IT support staff to academic scholars to wet work assets, which are aided in their assignments by a private global satellite chain that can hack into the rest of the world’s spreading technological grid.
The Phaelon’s oldest nemesis is a dead human body inhabited and kept “alive” by a demonic entity with a case of clinical schizophrenia.  This unclean spirit was cast of out Heaven with Lucifer’s army of fallen angels untold millennia before, and ever since then has been begging Yahweh God for some kind of the redemption back into Grace afforded to humankind with the shedding of the blood of the Christ.  Alternate to this begging the demon woman curses God and all of Heaven, and seeks a way to open the doors to Hell, in order raise up an army and achieve what Lucifer could not.  The fallen angel at one point in its exile on earth fell in love with a human woman, and she with it, and the woman eventually became pregnant (this woman’s body is the very one now inhabited by the demon).  But mixing a mortal, natural genome with an immortal, supernatural genome created a monstrous child that killed its mother as it was being born.  (These are the Sons of God and Daughters of Men referenced in Genesis chapter 6, and their one-half preternatural offspring, which were literal giants.  Such as Goliath of Gath, Og of Bashan, the Anakim and Rephaiim, etc, all referenced in the Biblical Old Testament and the Apocryphal Book of Enoch.)
For many centuries the Phaelon have known of the demoniac’s quest for vengeance, and have been sending operatives to hunt her down with terminal prejudice.  But the demon woman is intensely cunning, and gives her human flesh astonishing physical prowess and curative vectors, so that she is not only immortal, but very nearly invincible, too.  When the woman finally finds the actual earthly location to the door of Hell Itself, and a means to blow it wide open, the Phaelon fly into overdrive, sending the three best assets they have to finally end the threat once and for all.
These three are:
– Jeremiah Nicholas, who is ridiculously intelligent (he is a linguistics expert in several languages), almost superhumanly skilled with blades and bullets (especially of the obsolete and untraceable variety), and is also clinically psychotic (though he doesn’t know it because he’s also clinically obsessed with mental self-discipline).  He lives for nothing but his perfect kill record and a paycheck.
– Tamara St. James, who many years ago Jeremiah Nicholas seduced out of the life of a child prostitute and into the life of a Phaelonic wet work operator.  She was first Nicholas’ protégé, then later his lover, then later his professional competitor within the society’s employment.  In order to have a weapon equal to the supernatural abilities of the demoniac, the Phaelon secretly infect St. James with an unclean spirit of her own.  This demonic possession is slowly driving Tamara St. James suicidally mad.
– Sayo Tomo, who the Phaelon hired several years ago to academically analyze their demonic nemesis, and find some way to stop her.  Tomo is even smarter than her colleague Jeremiah Nicholas, which fact often sets her at odds with him due to his monstrous ego.  Tomo is a scholar through and through, and has absolutely no field work or wet work skills whatsoever; this fact constantly annoys her gunslinger partners.  Furthermore, she has a slight touch of Aspberger’s Syndrome, which makes her endlessly awkward to work with.
2) Is Sons of God and Daughters of Men part of a proposed series? If so, tell us a bit about what you have planned for the series. If not, tell us what other projects you have in the works?
No, there’s no series in the works here. 
Except, that there is. 
I like novels that are stand-alone pieces, but with the storylines of each taking place in the same universe, referencing similar historical events and characters.  In my opinion a non-series is the best kind of series because it doesn’t matter if the plotlines have nothing at all to do with one another directly, or even if they happen a thousand years separated.  Think of William Gibson’s cyberpunk Sprawl Trilogy and Bridge Trilogy and contemporary cyberculture trilogy, and China Mieville’s Bas-Lag trilogy, or even what H P Lovecraft did with his Cthulhu Mythos eighty years ago, and you’ll immediately understand where I’m going with this.
3) How did you come up with the idea for Sons of God and Daughters of Men? There are plenty of “End of Days” thrillers out there, but this sort of takes a very different approach to any that I’ve ever read. I’m curious as to what the process was like when you began developing the story.
Personally, I almost never read Christian fiction.  That’s because that stuff almost always sucks.  Some notable exceptions, of course, but they only serve to highlight my point.
True, there are End of Days thrillers aplenty.  And that’s the problem.  Why dribble more drivel?  When said books are Christian, they’re usually blandly written (very blandly written), thinly veiled Sunday school lessons.  When said books are secular, all the doctrine is usually hideously inaccurate and the plotlines are usually some sort of anti-Christian political agendizing.  If I wanted that kind of subversion from either side I could simply watch cable television every evening.
Sons of God and Daughters of Men is a Christian novel that’s not supposed to be a Christian novel; it’s also a secular novel that’s not supposed to be a secular novel.  For certain, however, it is Ol’ Skool cyberpunk, and New Weird surrealism, and contemporary urban fantasy, and all of this with Ted Bell- or Brad Meltzer-flavored current news geopolitics.
I wanted to craft an End of Days novel that was original.  I wanted something that no one has ever seen (and isn’t that what every artist wants?), something that was truly a genre-bender in the most literal sense.  I wanted an End of Days piece that’s eschatologically accurate, but still makes the Christian sector say, “Um, this is really gritty.”  And I wanted the traditionally left-winged speculative fiction sector to say, “Well, it’s great urban fantasy/cyberpunk, and is all this cabalistic Scripture true?”
In short, I wanted something that anyone and everyone could experience like I did so many years ago with Aestival Tide and The Gunslinger.
4) Who are some of your favorite authors? How have they influenced Sons of God and Daughters of Men? How have they influenced your writing in general?
I could self-indulgently answer such a question for ream after ream–what author doesn’t have dozens of novels and films and whatever that are personal inspiration?  However, off the top of my head, these are the authors and their specific works that have most drawn blood and inspired dreams and carved up my brain:
– China Mieville, Perdido Street Station, Iron Council, The Scar
– Elizabeth Hand, Winterlong, Aestival Tide, Icarus Descending
– M John Harrison, Light, Nova Swing
– Clive Barker, Imajica
– Stephen King, The Gunslinger
– Yxta Maya Murray, The Conquest
– Richard K Morgan, Altered Carbon
– William Gibson, Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties
I first read Elizabeth Hand’s Aestival Tide when I was fifteen or sixteen years of age, and it was such a literary epiphany that I dare call it religious.  It’s brimming with literary and religious and art and historical allusions that baffled me at the time, and the vocabulary is extremely advanced, so that back then I usually found myself struggling to comprehend everything a sentence wanted me to know.  Nonetheless–or perhaps because of these very things–I was instantly captured by the novel’s ability to turn hard science fiction into genuine literature.  I found myself astounded that a sci-fi piece could get away with turning up its nose at traditional clichéd tropes the likes of Star Wars dogfights in space and villainous Star Trek aliens.  Hand made Aestival Tide and its sequal Icarus Descending with science so technically detailed it can be hard to follow, but painted with vocab and syntax that make such technicalities devastatingly beautiful.  This paradox crafted my view of what “pulp fiction” could aspire to be.
Likewise, the first time I read Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, I could hardly believe the impossibly successful bending of genre.  The novel is undeniably science fiction, but it’s all hidden underneath Tolkien sword-n-sorcery fantasy–except that the fantasy itself is layered over with absurd 1960’s Sergio Leone spaghetti western.  And against all odds such shenanigans actually work.  Essentially, The Gunslinger opened my eyes to the fact an author could construct ludicrously improbable universes and characters and yet seduce a reader into happily believing it was all somehow deliciously possible, as long as the author himself believed it.
Were we to combine the above mentioned works of Hand and King, the result would be China Mieville’s trilogy of Bas-Lag.  These novels pretty much did the same thing for me, except with steampunk and urban fantasy.  Mieville’s world of Bas-Lag is covered in radically advanced Victorian-era technology, but the people and beings using this tech are usually using it in conjunction with obscure forms of sorcery.  Ridiculous.  Yet Mieville’s wording is as lush as any literature from Victorian Britain, making the ridiculousness somehow not only beautiful, but credible.  Basically, the trilogy showed me that science fiction should never be so easily identified as science fiction.
William Gibson’s Sprawl and Bridge trilogies, M John Harrison’s Light and Nova Swing, and Richard K Morgan’s Altered Carbon taught me that textbook-accurate science injected into a 1940’s noir aesthetic was not only inventive, but exactly what cyberpunk needs–to be somehow historically accessible despite the bewilderingly technical quantum physics.  And it can be so without Mieville’s or Hand’s lavish vocabulary and syntax–it can be so with sharp edges and grit, and no lovely vocabulary.  Yes, the smart readers will delight in being challenged this way.
Clive Barker is a sicko, and a psycho.  He’s sexually perverse, revels in witchcraft and demonism, and has an unhealthy obsession with the most explicit of gore; these, of course, are part and parcel of fantasy stories going all the way back to the Greek sagas.  His 800-page masterwork Imajica is fantasy that contains all of the above and yet still laughs at sword-n-sorcery’s tired use of them.  It seems to me that so many authors in fantasy have just been following J R R Tolkien and Robert E Howard since the 1930’s, trying to use the same old formula of magic and quests and dragons and wizards to regain what Frodo and Conan already did for us.  What Barker did in Imajica is craft the most sweepingly epic story I have ever read without using any of the old fantasy model–he showed me it could be done.
At this point, you might be wondering how chick-lit author Yxta Maya Murray’s The Conquest got onto my shortlist.  The prose is succulent; it’s delectable.  But there’s a deeper answer, one that by now should be predictable: more genre-bending.  In The Conquest two completely different storylines are intertwined to the point they become, by the end of the novel, a single tale.  One story is told as a present day romantic comedy, the other is told five hundred years in the past.  As a fantasy epic..that’s historically accurate.  No, really.  Murray deviously weaves a romantic comedy, a fantasy epic, and a historical novel into one single narrative.  Think of what Darren Aronovsky did with his film The Fountain, and you’ll be right on track.  I simply adore pairing these kinds of ostensibly anachronistic elements in my own work.
5) So I noticed on your bio that you went to college to learn to write novels, then dropped out of school in order to write them. Care to talk a little more about this?
The iStock model used for the cover
Way back in fifth grade, when I was supposed to be doing schoolwork, I was instead hand writing a novel in my notebooks.  Every single year since that time, through elementary and middle and high school, I was writing increasingly polished manuscripts that I dreamed would one day be my living.  I didn’t care much if my grades suffered–my greatest focus was to read as many books as I could and then write my own manuscripts.  I was absolutely convinced that one day I would be a professional writer, and things like long division and trigonometry and cell mitosis and economics would be as useful to me as a wiffle bat to a Jedi (ah, the naiveté of youth).  Clearly, I’ve known from a very early age what I wanted to do with my life, and naturally that translated into an English major when I started college.
But I dropped out after two years because I wasn’t learning anything at all that would help me actually become a professional author.  My class assignments were always to read a book and then write a report on it.  Ludicrous.  My every spare moment was already expended on reading and writing, so rather than continue accruing student loan debt, I pulled out of the system.  I made a conscious decision to literally completely devote myself to achieving the dream.  I was prepared to do it for as many years as necessary.  And I did.
I worked a part-time job that paid just enough to exist on.  I lived alone in a crumbling rathole apartment.  I completely stopped dating.  I gave up all forms of a social life.  Since I lived in within a mile of my workplace and the laundromat and the grocery store, I was able to sell my automobile and walk or bicycle most everywhere I needed to go.  For years I did nothing but learn how to write novels by reading novels and then hammering away at my own, sending them out to publisher after publisher after publisher, only to be rejected time and again.  I did eventually move out of that terrible apartment, and for a couple of years was semi-homeless, but some years later moved back in with my parents because I had nothing in life but that tormenting drive to become a professional author, and my father believed in me enough to let me have my old bedroom.  While living with my parents I continued my self-imposed hermit lifestyle, but did get another part-time job so that at least I could pay rent and buy my own groceries.  By all appearances I was the laughably stereotypical drop-out loser living back at him with his parents, with no money, no car, no friends, no girl, and no prospects for the future other than an obsession people called self-delusion.  Ha!  All I needed to complete the image was to play Dungeons and Dragons.
It was a dreadful period in my life that lasted for year after year after year.  I sometimes had raging bouts of depression; I tried to kill myself three times in a row (and clearly, by the grace of God, failed all three times).  I would never want to go through any of that season of my life ever again, but now, looking back, I’m glad I did go through it.  It was training.  I was taught the brutality of self-discipline; I was taught the true depth of faith, which is simply trust; I was taught the utter impotence of self-promotion.  I learned that when a man finds a treasure in a field, he sells everything he owns just to buy that field; I learned that when a man finds a pearl of great price still stuck fast in an oyster, he sells all he has to afford that oyster.
I learned that pain is inevitable–but suffering is optional.
6) Tell us a little about Nicholas Tanguma. When you’re not writing, what do you like doing? Hobbies? Interests? Adventures? Feel free to share whatever comes to mind that will help us get to know you a bit better.
Motorcycles, man, motorcycles.  Vintage ones.  And adventure riding throughout the world, especially Asia.
There’s no real-world adventure like riding ancient motos through places they should never be ridden.  Imagine baking for mile after grueling mile in China’s Gobi Desert, or slogging across the swamped steppes of Mongolia, or wheezing 16,000 feet above sea level in the Himalayan kingdoms of Leh and Ladakh and Bhutan and Tibet, or down dirt paths in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam and Thailand and Borneo and Sri Lanka and Malaysia.  Imagine seeing magnificent ancient temple ruins in every part of India where white men haven’t set foot in numbers of more than a dozen.
Now, in your imaginings, remember that you’re riding through and across these places on a moto that’s sixty years old, carbureted, on bias ply tires and oversprung, underdamped suspension, and with slim chance of spare parts availability or extra petrol (or oil, because of course your engine is leaking like a sieve).
7) If you could only offer one piece of advice for aspiring writers out there, what would you tell them?
Aspiring writers, go back and reread my answer to question number five.  No, wait, don’t just read it again, this time meditate on it.  If you’re not willing to do the same as I did, then you’re really not ready at all.  You may never have to actually suffer the extremes I did (and I hope you don’t), but if you’re not at least genuinely willing to experience them should they come, then you’re only a hobbyist.
Wow. Awesome interview. Thank you, Nicholas, for your candidness. And thank you for opening up. Readers, I often tease Nicholas about being in the J.D. Salinger school of writing. When he talks about being a hermit, I get the distrinct impression, he ain’t kidding! Haha! But I hope you can see the passion this man has for writing and the passion he has for his debut novel.
And I hope you will do what you can to make this man’s sacrifices pay off and make his dreams come true. Support him. Share this interview with your friends. Get his book. I promise you…it’s quite the experience and you won’t regret it.
Sons of God and Daughters of Men is available in print via BN.com and Amazon.com (though Amazon’s being silly lately and don’t have it in their warehouses yet).

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