YEM Author Interview: Daniel Varona chats about his favorite part of creating worlds such as the one in his book The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution

Daniel Varona is the author of The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution. The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution follows Seth who has the monarch of good murdered before his eyes by his older brother. The novel explores many growing characters and intense action sequences. YEM was able to speak with Daniel about what inspired him to write the story of The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution, what his writing process is like, and any advice he has for someone who wants to be an author.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Daniel Varona: I’ve had a love for storytelling and fantasy ever since I was a child. Most of my inspiration came from the video games I played growing up that had a huge impact on my life. As a hobby, I would write short stories and scripts for game ideas in my head, and this also was how The Cycle of Eden first started. Truthfully, I never expected to become an author! However, the more I developed the script I was making for Eden, the more I was falling in love with the world I was making, and one day I said to myself, “I can make this more than what it is now.” To put this into perspective, I started writing a script for what is now The Cycle of Eden in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2017 when I started fleshing out the story, world and characters. I’m always curious to hear how others found their passion for writing to see if it was as spontaneous as my epiphany was.

YEM: What inspired you to write the story of The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution?

Daniel: The concept of Light vs. Dark typically revolves around Good vs. Evil. The Young Revolution sets this up to be the usual case, but there are aspects involved in the first chapters involving Seth’s mother and later on in the series that will make my readers question that norm. Maybe there is a place, a reason, for Darkness in the world? Maybe the Light is too good to be true? Lady Eve, Seth’s mother, representing the “Moon with a Dark side” has a lot of meaning readers will catch on to as the series progresses. This part in the setup was what I had planned for a while. The vagueness behind the essences of Light and Darkness match with the fact that Seth is still a growing hero who has much to learn. The readers will learn more about Eden at the same pace Seth and his companions do which leads to many twists and turns in the plot.

In terms of general inspirations, Final Fantasy (VI, VII, and IX), Metal Gear, and the Earthbound/Mother series are a few heavy hitters that made me fall in love with storytelling. Final Fantasy has some character development masterpieces, Metal Gear makes you consider the gray areas found in our own world with intricate plotlines, and the journeys accomplished in Mother bring out true emotions from the players. Video games such as these are a safe form of escapism, and I wanted to bring that level of immersion and thought to my writing when I started working on The Cycle of Eden.

YEM: Is any inspiration for your book from your real life?

Daniel: Some characters are exaggerations of or share traits with people in my life. This was the starting point for quite a few in the main cast, but as time went on, they each started becoming their own people, their own characters that stand apart from the inspiration I initially had.

The symbolism of the Moon and Stars found in the Reclaimer group’s beliefs are also ideas that came from my life. Stargazing is a hobby my mother and I share in the real world, so many of those references seen throughout the series are inspired by her. The moon is very inspiring when you look at it from a certain perspective like Seth and Eve do.

Chase, Seth’s dog companion, is actually named after my own dog I had growing up and his design in the novel very much matches my childhood dog as well. Having grown up with a dog and having a close bond to him, I put myself in the mindset of a dog in many scenarios, serious or humorous, and dug deep on what exactly Chase would care most about. Describing in detail a dog’s moral code and values, as well as how he would behave and speak, was easily one of my favorite parts to write! Most people don’t really sit back and think about the cultural differences between humans and dogs, and there are many moments this is put into perspective in The Young Revolution. This especially will be a fun read for anyone who has ever owned or been around a dog.

YEM: What does it take to create a world such as Eden?

Daniel: Patience is key; making sure you are prepared will help so much in the long run. Before I even submitted The Young Revolution to Atmosphere Press, I had written all four parts of the series. Keeping a draft document for Character Design and Key Features is also a good strategy to stay organized. I also put together a Timeline in relation to Eden, and this helped me formulate the History even better and provided me with even more details to enhance the story for you all.

Time and dedication will also be expected when crafting a world. Many weekend hours and late nights were spent on not only the building blocks that hold the world together, but also the tiny intricacies that make exposition fun and interesting. There have been many times I just laid in my bed all night being unable to sleep because my brain just couldn’t stop thinking of ideas. This is why I have a notepad in my phone where I constantly jot ideas down to remind myself later.

Inspiration is also key. Don’t be afraid to be inspired by other creative minds found in your daily life. Being inspired by others is how we continue moving forward as people, constantly learning and growing to improve in whatever we do. Thinking about your own work daily will also randomly pop ideas into your head when digging deeper on certain aspects.

YEM: What is your favorite part of creating worlds such as the one in your book?

Daniel: Building the history of a world has been my favorite part of writing the Cycle of Eden series. When you as an author find a way to connect events, locations and character backgrounds throughout the story, it’s just as rewarding for you as it is for your readers. Some readers may not catch the little details you leave behind explaining why something is the way it is, but some will, and their experience will be expounded by this. I find that the more complicated a character is, the more they are involved with the world and the events, the more interesting and fun it is to invest and learn about them. At the same time, simple characters can be just as or even more endearing and can serve a whole different purpose in contrast to the complicated ones.

There are a lot of vague hints I drop at the start of the series, especially in Books 1 and 2, that readers aren’t supposed to understand until they finish the series or read through it again. I love the moments in storytelling where I go back and notice/recognize an aspect I didn’t or couldn’t realize before. Those moments of “Ohhhh, that’s why this was written.” or “Ohhhh, the author was referencing this the entire time!” are both rewarding for the readers and the author. Figuring out the deep lore or mysteries is part of the fun, and my perfect reader would be someone that manages to put all the puzzle pieces of Eden and its characters together.

YEM: What was the writing process like?

Daniel: The writing process for me was a lot of spot checking and triple checking on my consistency. There are a few characters especially that are heavily involved with the past that caused what is happening in The Cycle of Eden currently, and I have to make sure I don’t forget anything, which is very difficult in life. In general, when I started off, I made a rough draft or script that lined up the events to the ending I had already set in stone. After I had a solid ending or finish line to reach, I then went back and filled in the blanks at my own pace. After the main storyline, in this case Seth’s story, the main character’s plotline, was settled, I went back and built upon the other characters’ backgrounds which end up expanding the world naturally. Working with Atmosphere Press only made my ideas blossom even more thanks to the other creative minds on their team and I learned so much working with them.

YEM: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be an author?

Daniel: In a time where originality is put on an unreachable pedestal, it is important to remember that there is not a single person in this world that is exactly like you. You are the only you; therefore, you are original, and no one can take that away from what you create.

Never rush the process. From my standpoint, writing out all four books of the Cycle of Eden series before publishing the first book was a huge benefit. This allowed me to make my world more concrete by connecting dots and details I wouldn’t have if I’d worked on one novel at a time.

Another huge component I used when writing was using music to my advantage. Listening to music really helps convey and evoke whatever emotion you are looking for in a scene. For example, getting yourself in a sad mood isn’t healthy, but using more melancholy music can put you in a space to better describe a scene. The emotion felt from the music enhances my own thought process and puts me in the character’s shoes, especially when trying to find the words they would say in dialogue or their thoughts in the moment.

I made sure to have a strong ending before fully committing to certain aspects. Having a general idea of how you want your novel to end will help a lot in the long run. It’s like you have a goal post set to reach, and along the way, you will fill in the blanks and also make the ending stronger by the time you reach it after building up your world. Overall, try to be as organized as possible from the start, which includes a character sheet in which to place all your main ideas and reminders. I even attached images to my characters to better describe them in the story.

YEM: What is something you want your readers to take away from The Cycle of Eden: The Young Revolution?

Daniel: There are many positive messages that relate to our own world that I hope my readers take away from The Cycle of Eden. In many ways, Eden is obviously a representation of our own Earth and the moral dilemmas we as humans put it through. A major lesson in The Young Revolution is “…the best way to find kindness is by sharing your own.” No matter how dark and lonely the world feels, kindness will always be the unifier, for we all seek and deserve it. In general, the major message I discuss as the series goes on is the importance of history. As long as we learn from our past mistakes, the hope of changing for the betterment of the world will always exist. There are also some dark moments, but another relevant theme in The Young Revolution is finding the strength to survive. Any reason to keep getting up after we are hit down, big or small, is worth it. Self-discovery and character growth are big components that were important to me as well, especially the ability to have relatability with the characters. Understanding why certain characters are the way they are and why they find a reason to change gives us perspective for people in our own world.

Throughout the series, I never wanted to portray Seth as the typical hero that simply saves the day because “that is his destiny/purpose.” Seth very much has to rely on others, even from the very beginning of the book. He may be the “main” protagonist, but that doesn’t mean he is better or more important than any of the other brave and talented souls he meets along his journey. He never could do this alone, and that is the point I make with his character. There is nothing wrong with getting help, because together, we as people can achieve anything no matter who we are.

YEM: What is a book that made you fall in love with literature?

Daniel: Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, is still one of my favorite book series from when I was younger. Much like how I blend science fiction and fantasy, he too mixed mythology with the modern world, directly relating it to famous real-world monuments and locations. His characters’ dialogue was also relatable and authentic, a trait I strive to capture for my own characters.

In terms of world-building literature, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien was one of my favorite reads ever, a true founder of the high fantasy genre.

YEM: What is your favorite part of writing for young adults?

Daniel: When writing for young adults, I don’t feel as limited in what I can say or do. The Cycle of Eden is what I like to call an action fantasy, which means it involves many detailed action sequences you wouldn’t usually see. Being able to freely express these chaotic scenes so readers can visually grasp what is happening in their own minds is a goal I wanted to bring to the book sphere. Young adults can see the inspirations I draw from when it comes to the action and compare them to movies or anime they’ve also seen. I also feel my taste in humor translates well to the younger adult audience.

YEM: Is there someone who always reads your writing before anyone else?

Daniel: For most of the writing process, I kept the existence of my novels very secretive until a couple months before I started the publication process with Atmosphere Press. I wanted to drop it out of nowhere and surprise everyone when I was comfortable and ready to move forward with it. After I shared the news with my parents, my mother immediately read through multiple parts of the series from her laptop before The Young Revolution was published. This meant a lot to me personally because I dedicate the series to her in more ways than one. She’s my number one fan, and I appreciate her immensely.

YEM: What do you have planned for in the future in terms of writing?

Daniel: Even before I started publishing The Young Revolution, I wanted to make sure that the entirety of the Cycle of Eden series was completed from beginning to end. This preparation has helped so much in developing the world of Eden even further than I imagined and has saved me lots of time and stress by making the story as concrete as it is now. At this current moment, I am in the process of publishing Book 2 in the series, which not only carries over the elements of The Young Revolution, but also improves and expounds on the plot, world building and the characters’ growth. After that, there are two other parts waiting to be shared with everyone!

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