Prolific local author Damian Shishkin has a new book on the shelf: Revelations 2520: The Broken and the Damned.
“This is a new series of books, under the series name of 'Revelations 2520' which is separate from my original five-part series that I am working on ending later this year,” explained the author, adding, “apart from those, there is the one off venture into the world of Fantasy of my werewolf creation In Human Clothing which garnered a lot of attention worldwide and even earned me a finalist spot in the Caffeinated Fantasy Awards.”
So where did the idea for the latest book come from for Shishkin who was born and raised in Yorkton, spent a few years in Saskatoon, then found his way back home and has made a good life for he and his family here?
“The inspiration for this book came from so many conversations with friends of mine who were in the military and the way they felt abandoned by the government that deployed them upon their return,” he told Yorkton This Week.
“Looking into that deeper, and coupled with the current climate of science denial, I created characters that took that feeling of rejection to new heights in a world that is the exact opposite of what we have now. One man's utopia is another's hell, and sometimes the soldiers that fight for that utopia have no place in it once achieved.”
So what was the writing process like for Shishkin who by day is a licensed Mutual Fund advisor and loans officer (commonly called a Banking Advisor) at the RBC branch in Yorkton?
“This one took about a year to write, as it was a whole new world creation which took a bit longer than I would have liked,” he admitted. “The flow was pretty off and on for this book, as there were many stressful days at work that drained me of the will to do any writing of any kind.
“After a few major rewrites, I was able to push forward on it during the first few months of the shutdown. But the rewrites honestly continued through the copy edit phase and right up to the publication date as I strived to create the perfect mood for the setting and the main characters.”
And of course there was research along the way too for Shishkin who notes, “Like many of my peers, I don't have any formal training as a writer.
“I was published in a scholastic magazine back in Grade 9 for a creative writing assignment, but of course that type of learning ends around that grade. I moved forward into art for the duration of my high school years and beyond only to re-find my writing voice in 2010 with the beginnings of what would be my first published novel 'Rise of Aen'.”
As for the latest book, he said, “I did research on basic ground assault tactics, as well as modern battlefield strategies for this book as it is more military based than any of my other works.
“I even learned a bit of Latin as there was a phrase in the book I wanted which took about a full evening to translate properly.
“Other than that, while I write my phone is right beside me as my research tool as I go.”
While The Broken and the Damned might be Shishkin’s sixth book, that does not mean writing has necessarily gotten easier.
“With my previous series, once the world, or universe, building is established, you are able to dive right into the story without a great deal of character or location description,” he said. “It enables you to rely on the previous foundations of work while creating new places and characters to drive the story further.
“The continuity end is more difficult, just because I love casting out webs of small plot lines throughout the series that don't seem like anything at the time but end up being major plot drivers later.
“I am constantly going back to the previous books to make sure I keep it straight.
“This will be the same for this new series as this book established the new and crazy environment far from Earth, but will constantly be reaching back to our home planet.
“Political and economic ties reach all the way out to the new frontier, and have a great deal of pull in this story.
“Even in an established utopia, there is always an underlying political unrest. It isn't detailed highly in the novel, but it is felt in the background the whole time and will grow as the series progresses.”
Interestingly Shishkin cited something you might think would be easy to create as the most challenging aspect of the project.
“Finding a suitable alien world to use as the major location of the story,” he said. “I finally found my inspiration by the newly discovered twin planets in the Teegarden's Star system which I used to full effect with creative licensing of course.
“Once the location was set, I simply inserted the four main characters I had created a few years back into it and away I went.”
While the book takes place among the stars, Shishkin said it still comes down to characters making the story a good one.
“The best aspect is the relationship of the four main characters,” he said. “They are cybernetically and genetically enhanced soldiers that were used, for the better part, to usher in a United Earth government but then put into cryo-storage when it was all over.
“Four hundred years later, they are bought and reawakened to complete an impossible mission.
“This story shows the struggle to not only comprehend how much has changed over the time of their sleep, but how they grow together as a makeshift family as everything else seems to be against them.
“In the end, a soldier's bond with his/ her unit is tighter than family and I wanted to put that on full display.”
And, the author is all smiles about his latest creation.
“I love this book, especially the characters in it,” said Shishkin. “I managed to create a diverse group of soldiers with different backgrounds, quirks, and faults that fit their roles perfectly.
“Making them hated outcasts in their new future opened so many doors that typical protagonists don't have available, and I think made them easier to identify with.
“Living with the moniker of the 'Four Horsemen of the Republic' paints a target on them, thus keeping these characters from ever truly belonging to the new culture around them.
“They are relics of a past which no one wants to remember, but a much desired asset in the future that hates them. This creates such a wonderful dynamic for them to grow within themselves as the series progresses.”
And there is more to come from Shishkin.
“For now, the last book in my previous series (book five of the Aen Saga ) is hopefully going to be completed by the end of the summer and released late fall,” he said.
“After that, I have a collection of short stories I want to put together before starting out on the next chapter of this series. If all goes well, which it rarely does, I hope to have the second book of this series out late next year.”
For more information check out www.damianshishkin.com