1: Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I don’t have any stories fleshed out quite yet. But I do envision a future where I’ve finished this trilogy and am working on my next series, whilst perhaps publishing the odd short story here or there that fill out the world of the Rive. The first story that immediately jumps to mind would be a prequel-esque story covering how Turiel and Kwah first met in the Shimmering Isles. I already touched on it in book 1, Child of Destiny, but I think there could be a fun story to tell there. It would also allow me to expand on the worldbuilding for the Shimmering Isles, as they haven’t really be explored yet within the story. Other than that, I can think of one or two other ideas that could be written as short stories as well, but I won’t talk about those as they spoil parts of Book 2!
I think short stories can be beautiful additions to fantasy worlds. If you want some prime examples, although they’re not short in the slightest, you should look to Joe Abercrombie’s standalone novels that are set between his initial First Law trilogy and his new trilogy. They build out the world wonderfully, introduce us to a whole host of great characters, and help us understand the world-state as we find it in the sequel trilogy.
I would also consider writing short stories based on reader feedback. If the readers fell in love with a specific character that I wasn’t really expecting, then I would definitely consider fleshing them out with backstories and “side-stories” in the future.
2: What book do you think everyone should read?
Firstly, I will preface my answer by saying that I’m talking directly to fantasy readers right now as I think they’re the audience I could best understand. If I’m being more specific, I may even be talking just to fantasy authors. But, if you have any interest in fantasy worlds, their creation or lore that is crafted from scratch, then you simply must read “The Silmarillion” by J. R. R. Tolkien.
The Lord of the Rings is rightfully held up as the grandfather of the fantasy genre, but not enough people these days (that I’ve seen) discuss just how ground-breaking the Silmarillion was and still is. Tolkien created an entire language, and off the back of that he developed a history so in-depth and lengthy that it gives our real-world history a run for its money. Authors since have adapted their world-building, focussed more on economies, religions and more intricate aspects that are missing from Tolkien’s world. But none have matched the grandeur and majesty reached in The Silmarillion. Even if you’re a masterful fantasy author in your own right, I strongly believe that there are always lessons to be learned from Tolkien’s work.
Then, from the point of view of your average reader, there are amazing stories to be gleamed out of the Silmarillion. The early ages of Middle Earth, Valinor and Numenor are rammed full of amazing characters, betrayal, war and love.