Episode twenty-eight of the World of Azuria podcast is a special bonus episode celebrating the one-year publication anniversary of Buried Heroes or, more accurately, the one year, four month anniversary! In this episode, I’ll take you through my journey with this story from one-on-one D&D campaign to epic fantasy series.
And welcome to season two, episode eighteen of the World of Azuria podcast. My name is Beth Ball, and I’m the author of the Age of Azuria epic fantasy series, which we’ll be exploring in this show. In some episodes, we’ll be swept away into the magical world of Azuria as I read chapters from the novels and stories. In others, we’ll dive into the lore behind Azuria, and I’ll answer your questions about the world, characters, and more.
Gather ’round, my friends, for a story that bridges our world and one of the imagination…
In this tale, a young couple in love embarks on a journey together.
They’ll face monsters, befriend dragons, and learn to distinguish friend from foe. They’ll grow closer climbing ancient mountains, flirt and smile at an elegant ball.
But most importantly, as in all such stories, they’ll find love at the heart of it all.
Come closer around the fire. Rest your feet; warm your hands. Our tale begins a few years ago, on a windy March afternoon in 2018…
One year ago today, I published my first novel, Buried Heroes, book one in the Age of Azuria epic fantasy series.
But the series’s origins go back farther than when I first started drafting the novel the year before. A few years prior to that, shortly after our move to North Carolina for my PhD, my husband Jonathan started to play D&D.
Maybe you’re already familiar with Dungeons and Dragons or maybe tabletop role-playing games are outside the realm of your experience. I had never been a fan of rule-intensive strategy games that took hours and hours.
For Jonathan, it was the opposite. He’d always wanted to play D&D, and he was delighted to finally have a group of people to play with.
For one whole year, he asked if I wanted to play this in D&D campaign with him, and each time, I said no. I was positive I wouldn’t like it.
You may be thinking, “A year is a long time to say no to something without trying it.” And that’s probably true. But toward the end of his first year of playing D&D, a few factors converged, and I decided to give it a try.
- Jonathan was going to lead (be the Storyteller for) his first session and asked me to play so he’d feel more at ease. [I agreed, and thus, Briseras, who you’ll meet in Hadvarian Heist, was born!]
- Jonathan designed a special, duet (one-on-one) D&D campaign for me. He helped me design a character, a half-elf who I named Iellieth Amastacia. She lived in Io Keep in the kingdom of Linolynn. [If you’d like to read the whole story, you’ll find it in Buried Heroes.]
The thoughtfulness of both of these moves, and the intimacy of us getting to play with just the two of us, led me to say yes, I would try it.
And that decision changed my life.
Welcome to Azuria!
Our D&D campaign started with me, as Iellieth Amastacia, wandering around Io Keep and bidding farewell to my friends and loved ones before I transmigrated north to Hadvar. (We later adapted that first campaign session into a D&D adventure called First Blush, part one of the Crystalline Curse Trilogy!)
Some of the characters, like Scad, remained the same from that session, while others, like Master Ketch, appear in earlier stories. (You can find him in Aurora!)
What was so cool about Azuria was that Jonathan and I had designed it together before we started to play. He asked me questions about Iellieth and her family, and we filled in those details more while we played.
Over the next several months, the epic fantasy world of Azuria grew, as did our understanding of our characters. (Jonathan has the best voice for Marcon! I’m hoping to have him read for Marcon on a future World of Azuria podcast episode.)
I wrote notes, journals, and letters as Iellieth. I created backstories for side characters and the fallen world of Eldura that had come before. Before I knew it, I had hundreds of pages of material and countless story threads. [You can read more about my love for Iellieth here.]
As I looked at all of those documents and notes, I realized that if I could write so much for these characters and this world, then I could finally achieve one of the biggest dreams of my life: becoming a novelist.
I’ve always been a storyteller. Growing up, novels like A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle, Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare helped me feel understood, less alone in the world. Even though I felt different from everyone around me, those characters were like me. And I wanted to create that same feeling of acceptance and belonging for other people.
But I had a problem. Though I had written several short stories and started a few different novels, I couldn’t get more than a few chapters into a novel! How was I going to become a novelist if I couldn’t get past the first part of the story?
For me, D&D was the perfect answer to this problem. Because a D&D campaign is more free-form, I can feel my way through the story and follow the character’s desires instead of me trying to lead them. I also had the bonus encouragement of seeing that I already had a novel’s worth of material—I just needed to do a lot of retelling and revising!
There are lots of differences between what works as a D&D campaign and what works as a novel, and I’m so thankful to my amazing editor Kristen for helping me find those along the way. If you’re interested in turning your D&D campaign into a novel, I made a quick-reference list for you here!
Jonathan and I also started a blog and a side business called D&D Duet where we help other people who want to play D&D one-on-one! Writing posts and adventures increased my confidence, a key ingredient in believing in myself and writing my novel.
Looking back, I can hardly believe everything that’s happened over this past year. I had no idea, the day I published Buried Heroes, that I would have five finished books one year later! [Story Magic comes out June 1st, but I’m still counting it here.)
Right now, I’m working on revisions for book three in the series, Amber Queen, which I plan to release at the end of the summer this year. [Find my monthly author updates here or, so you don’t miss anything, join my reading community, the Story Enclave, and get early access to cover reveals, bonus excerpts, and more!]
I have plans for a second series and have started to sketch out some of those scenes, and there are more short stories and bonuses in Azuria planned for later this year. Truly, I could never have imagined all of this when I first published Buried Heroes one year ago.
Thank you so much for coming along on this journey with me. I hope this post has inspired you and your belief in your dreams. Sharing these stories, this world, with you, is a dream come true and one of the greatest honors of my life.
And I cannot wait to see what this next year brings!
Thank you so much for joining me for today’s adventure through our real world and the creation of Buried Heroes and the world of Azuria. If you’d like to find out more about me or my fiction, you can find me at bethballbooks.com. You can also find my books worldwide at your favorite bookstore or ask your local librarian to add them to the library catalogue.
To stay up to date with the world of Azuria and be the first to know about upcoming fiction projects, visit bethballbooks.com/join. I would love for you to be a part of my reading community, the Story Enclave, and, as special thanks to you, for a limited time, you’ll receive a free ebook copy of Aurora when you sign up.
If you enjoyed our time together today and would like to hear more stories set in Azuria, you can support the podcast on Patreon at patreon.com/groveguardianpress. Look for the fae and daimon tiers.
The theme song for this podcast was created by Garrett Rose of The Bardic Inspiration who you can find on instagram or patreon at “thebardicinspiration”.
Happy travels, and I hope that we’ll be adventuring together again soon!