Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of Wild Sun: Unbound! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Ehsan and Shakil Ahmad: No longer bound to a life of forced labor in the enemy mines, Cerrin leads a small band of escaped slaves in search of a new home in the ancient forest where she was born. But freedom is not the same as victory. And death is never far behind.
We’ve always been captured by stories of human grit and determination that it takes to upend steep, oppressive forces. There are indelible characteristics of those that are willing to sacrifice everything for their own beliefs – even if those motivations are as simple and innate as the desire to be free.
BD: While this book may be the second in a series, it also serves as a solid jumping-on point for new readers. What can you tell us about your shared creative process in bringing this story to life, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
E&SA: Collaborating, even as brothers, can be a real challenge. Both of us had to find a common vibration so that we could cast internal fears away and make room for an inherent vulnerability, which we needed to truly wade into the depth of the themes we wanted to weave into Wild Sun.
There is always a natural tension in those dynamics. But there is an unspoken charity between us so that we mutually barred the doors to our egos, to allow for the best ideas to come to light, regardless of the source. Another benefit of a shared upbringing is overlapping tastes, in music, art, film, and books – that’s allowed us to connect dots rather quickly in each other’s thinking.
A real positive outcome of working with someone whose artistic inclinations you respect is that you force yourself to raise the bar of your own thoughts and ideas. There is a shared sense of effort and work. Being brothers, there’s always a tinge of healthy competition between us and we know that our ideas have to be strong enough to survive the impact off of each other.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Cerrin’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
E&SA: It was important to us that Cerrin didn’t come across as just the typical warrior. We believe a lot in the gray area of people – the constant oscillation between good and evil, right and wrong, and all the varied ways individuals even begin to define those concepts. She’s both fierce and vulnerable. That dimensionality was critical in her telling, since she really is grappling with aggressive physical, emotional, and spiritual forces working in a constant push and pull to define her.
Bucking authority is fine and good, but she knows her weaknesses too, so she has to be smart and calculating in how and when she makes her moves. The stakes had to be real, just like the choices in our own lives are. Through Cerrin, we’re able to tackle complex themes of colonialization, spiritual dogma, interracial social dynamics and what it means to lead.
We’re going to be delving further into her personality and motivations through Book 3 of Wild Sun.
BD: What makes Uproar Books the perfect home for Wild Sun: Unbound?
E&SA: Uproar Books has been a fantastic publisher for us. As first-time authors, we assumed there would be plenty of passes on our work initially. Rejection gets easier to handle each time, but only marginally. Once we engaged with Uproar, the fit felt right almost instantly. Rick Lewis, founder of Uproar Books, is a massive sci-fi fan himself, so we were able to be nuanced in our initial conversations. His approach is extremely methodical – to say he "dives in" is to say nothing. With that kind of attention being invested into our work, it laid a firm groundwork for a great relationship.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into other entertainment mediums if given the opportunity?
E&SA: Absolutely. We are film fanatics. Wild Sun actually began as a backstory for a screenplay we were writing. Throughout our creative process, we reference films as much as other books to relay ideas and concepts. There is also a much larger creative universe of which Wild Sun is a part of, so we feel there is a lot of opportunity to expand into other mediums, particularly film and TV.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
E&SA: Two major projects are on our agenda for the coming year. We’re working on a novella about one of the main characters from Wild Sun which will serve as a companion piece to the Wild Sun series. That will most likely be released Summer 2021. In late summer, we begin the writing process for the third book in the Wild Sun series.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Wild Sun: Unbound and your other work?
Ehsan Ahmad and Shakil Ahmad are the authors of Wild Sun: Unbound (February 16, 2021; Uproar Books) and Wild Sun (2020; Uproar Books). They grew up in New York City as the first-generation American children of immigrants from Pakistan. Ehsan spent his early twenties traveling across four continents to meet the people of countless cultures, while Shakil earned degrees in psychology and social research. In their late twenties, the brothers reunited in Pennsylvania to start a wedding film company. Ehsan also spent those years writing lyrics and playing bass for an alt-rock band, recording three studio albums. In their thirties, they sold the film company and returned to the city of their birth to work for separate tech startups and collaborate together continuously on screenplays and novels.