Cleve Lamison is the author of the upcoming fantasy novella Full-Blood Half-Breed, to be published by Hydra on March 11:
In Cleve Lamison’s hard-hitting debut, two young men divided by an intense hatred—yet marked with a common destiny—have the power to save the world . . . or destroy it.
It’s been two thousand years since the bastard spawn of the god Creador lost their war to enslave humankind, transforming the Thirteen Kingdoms into a violent world where the martial arts are exalted as sacred gifts from the gods—and honor is won through arena blood sport.
Paladin Del Darkdragón, a sixteen-year-old warrior-in-training, is a “half-breed.” His battle against pure-blood bullies like Fox the Runt has forced him to master the four fighting forms. But when he blends them, he is condemned as a heretic by authorities and banished from the training temples. Seeking redemption, he enrolls in the arena games, savage trials that end in death.
This year’s games mask an old plot driven by a new prophet. With a horde of Creador’s Bastards and an army of fanatics led by Fox the Runt at his command, the Prophet will bend the world to his will or burn it to ash.
Paladin faces an impossible choice: redeem his honor in a fight he can’t hope to survive, or abandon his loved ones to perish in the sweeping holy war consuming the Kingdoms.
Thanks for making time to talk with me, Cleve. What’s the book about?
It’s based in a warrior culture-ruled world where there are four kingdoms and everyone recognizes four gods, but each kingdom thinks that their god is the best. Because it’s such a warrior culture, the gods have bestowed upon each of these people a kind of martial art. The hero of the story, Paladin, is a quarter of everybody: His parents are both half-breeds, so he is one-fourth of each people, so he feels like he should worship every god. He learns all of the martial arts, so it ticks everyone off. He proves that there is some merit to this when he enrolls in the arena games. Meanwhile, this religious war is brewing, and given his blend of religions, you can sort of guess where things are going!
There are several points here upon which I’d like to touch. The first is your character’s experience of being a “full-blood half-breed”: I thought it was a fantastic phrase because it sums up the reality of most Americans in the sense that our ancestry comes from all over.
You really hit the nail on the head. For me, Paladin is representative of America: He’s the best of all of it.
The second thing I want to bring up is what inspired your idea of Paladin taking from all of these different fighting traditions and using the best from them. Were you inspired by real-life mixed martial arts and what’s been happening in the martial arts world over the last twenty years or so?
What really inspired me was that I heard about Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do and his philosophy that the artist doesn’t limit himself. If you think about it, it seems like an obvious thing that you would take all of these different styles and do a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but these were considered such pure, sacred things that no one ever thought to do so until Lee did. He started a revolution!
It’s a revolution that has continued, in Lee’s case. He’s considered the founder of mixed martial arts. I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu student and I’ve done a little kickboxing, too, and it’s great to have seen how all of these erudite disciplines have been boiled down into basically what does or doesn’t work. There have been some traditional martial arts practitioners who haven’t been very pleased about that. How do the traditionalists in Paladin’s word react?
They don’t like it. When the story begins, Paladin has studied at three of the four temples in town. He’s been kicked out of all of them after people find out what he does, so he’s been very careful to practice his martial arts in secret so he won’t get kicked out of the fourth and final temple. An enemy discovers what he’s doing and busts him.
It’s funny how so much of that stuff happens even now in the martial arts world. Sometimes you get bad blood between styles, schools and teachers, and rather than just cross-training you end up with a lot of smack talk. It doesn’t help anyone build their game. Have you studied any martial arts?
I haven’t, but I have enrolled my son in a martial art. I’ve never studied the martial arts, but they have always fascinated me. I really don’t to know too much about the mechanics of them because, for instance, I would say in my book that the martial arts system that Paladin invents is actually the primary magic system. The other stuff in the book is the secondary magic system; It’s all mental stuff. For me, I want to keep something mystical about it.
As a writer, is it hard to find a sweet spot between sharing too much about something and boring your audiences and not sharing enough to interest them?
I think there is a sweet spot, and when you know a lot about a subject you have to sort of winnow things out in the rewrite. I’ve written about things I’m technically proficient in or know a lot about and then gone back and reread and it and realized that nobody would care about all of the little details.
We’ve got a mix of magic, martial arts, high fantasy and intrigue. Is this Paladin’s last adventure?
Oh, no. He’s just getting started. His legacy will be measured in millennia. He’s in the process of changing everything!