Pride of Ashna Foundra Book 2 by Emmanuel M Arriaga Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
In the Outer Rim, a lawless region of space filled with violence, a young girl vows vengeance against the marauding pirate bands who brutally murdered her family.
After enlisting with the zealous matriarchal Ashna Maidens who attempt to police the Outer Rim, Serah'Elax quickly becomes a powerful weapon.
Meanwhile, a ruthless pirate band has taken over a cruise ship deep within Alliance space. They run into unexpected trouble when they encounter a few members of the highly trained force of military specialists known as the Founder’s Elites, who happened to be vacationing on the vessel. Disturbed by the boldness of the pirates, the Alliance tasks the rest of the Founder’s Elites with dealing a powerful blow to the marauders, who normally operate in the Outer Rim, once and for all. However, they quickly discover that things in the Outer Rim are not as expected.
The young warrior and Founder’s Elites must come together to face an extradimensional threat left over from the Rift War that seeks to turn the last bastion of safety in the Outer Rim into something that could threaten the entire Twin Galaxies. Will the new allies have the cunning necessary to defeat this insidious threat or will it tear the Ashna Maidens apart from the inside?
The Huzien Empire has existed for 80 millennia and a powerful invisible force known as the enesmic permeates every aspect of the Twin Galaxy.
Neven is an engineer working for the pinnacle of scientific achievement known as the MinSci on the Huzien homeworld of Thae. His genius draws the attention of one of the immortal Founders and he finds himself drafted into the military as part of an elite group of special forces known as the Founder’s Elites. Not given much time to adjust, his team is called to investigate stories of otherworldly creatures attacking fringe colony worlds.
Soahc is the most powerful wielder of the enesmic in the Twin Galaxy, he’s also incredibly cocky. That is until he senses a powerful shifting in the enesmic that he can’t explain. Terrified that something is horribly wrong, Soahc leaves his comfortable planet and hitches a ride with Neven and the Founder’s Elites as they investigate the carnage on the fringes of the empire.
Neven, Soahc and their allies discover something ancient from another plane of existence. Something that exposes the fragility of their galactic empire as they fight to survive annihilation from enesmic beings.
*Reader Reviews for Foundra*
“Well written, ambitious sci-fi epic.”
“An entire space saga you won't want to put down.”
“Amazing characters, exciting new world, incredible writing.”
“If you love reading about galactic empires, get your hands on this book.”
“An elaborately fun sci fi story.”
Emmanuel M. Arriaga grew up in the inner city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From a young age, he was obsessed with fantasy and science fiction. Breaking the shackles of a low-income life, Emmanuel developed an interest in science, technology and engineering. He went on to graduate from Pennsylvania State University with a Master's in Information Science.
For almost a decade, Emmanuel has sought to share his vivid imagination with the world, learning the art of story crafting and eventually becoming an award-winning author. With a love for travel, gadgets and volunteering, Emmanuel is enjoying life and helping others.
What inspired you to write this book?
Pride of Ashna is a standalone sequel to Foundra. The book focuses on a Matriarchal society called the Ashna Maidens who are a devout order of all female warriors who police a lawless sector of space called the Outer Rim from pirates. Since I first dreamed up the Ashna Maidens years ago, I always wanted to explore their culture and create a book centered around an Ashna Maiden who grew up as part of that society.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m working on the third book in the Foundra Series which will go deeper into the Foundra Universe. In addition to that, I’m also finishing up two novels that are nearing publication, a religious fantasy novel and a fantasy romance novel. I’ve also laid the groundwork for a new sci-fi horror series that will launch another expansive universe similar in scope to the Foundra Universe in the coming years.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Almost every character I introduce has a character arc that will play out over the course of multiple books. It’s a way for me to build out the universe and reward readers who have been in it from the start. I sometimes have scenes and/or story ideas for characters that haven’t yet made it into the books. This is one of the challenges with having an entire series planned out that will span multiple books. You know how certain characters will develop and want to show off how cool you plan them to be, but it takes patience to build them up right and do it in a way that doesn’t distract away from the story you’re trying to tell. Everyone doesn’t automatically become epic; their experiences make them that way and I try and show this through Foundra and Pride of Ashna. It’s also important to note that not everyone is given the opportunity to become epic, because life can sometimes be an unfair chaotic mess.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Pride of Ashna?
Pride of Ashna primarily follows Serah’Elax Rez Ashfalen who is a young Ashna Maiden who lost most of her family due to a pirate raid. She’s driven by vengeance but is young and inexperienced with the broader world with a mother who tries to temper her rage but who is largely unsuccessful due to dealing with her own trauma.
We also have Neven Kenk who is one of the main characters from the first novel. He had the opposite experience in that he lived a mostly sheltered life and was thrust into a dangerous chaotic universe where he had to quickly learn how to survive and kill. In Pride of Ashna, he experiences PTSD from the events of the first book and is not given the time to really process what he’s going through, leading to more challenges as he’s pulled into a new conflict. He’s also madly in love with Zun Shan, a fellow member of his team who is a renowned scientist but also significantly older than him.
Soahc is an immortal magic wielder (known as a Cihphist) who was introduced in the first book. He’s dealing with the loss of his wife Brime from the first book and struggles to return to normalcy. He’s introduced as this larger-than-life character who is always in control in Foundra but in Pride of Ashna, he’s a broken man who can’t stop blaming himself. After a dream, he believes Brime is alive and starts a dangerous journey to rescue her from the Enesmic plane, an alternate plane of existence that is extremely hazardous to all life from his universe.
Zun Shan was introduced in the first book and is a brilliant and opinionated scientist who has had a long prestigious career at the top of her field who is now looking to live the rest of her life free from the chains of responsibility that she lived under for most of her life. This caused her to agree to join Lanrete on his elite team and why she is unafraid to charge headfirst into danger. She was widowed in the first book and has rebounded with Neven with a relationship that she was originally hesitant about but that has developed into something she thinks might be real.
Lanrete is the last character I’ll mention because he’s one of the immortals in the book who finds himself at the forefront of every galactic emergency. He’s Neven and Zun’s commanding officer and has the unique vantage point of seeing how his actions from millennia ago have impacted the galaxy in the present age. He’s one of the Founder’s of the Huzien Empire and has a blood stained past that he’s in many ways trying to atone for. Being a figure that is deified by his people, it’s an interesting dynamic when he tries to be relatable to those under his command. There is a reverence held for him that can directly interfere with his desire to have people speak their mind and/or challenge his will.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
Outside of a handful of characters who are inspired by real people in my life, most characters are original creations who speak to me as I write with them. It’s a weird process really, I used to spend hours coming up with backstory and motivations for each character ahead of time, only to then go back and change everything because the character took on a life of their own. Nowadays, I don’t invest this energy up front and instead fill it in after I’ve spent some time learning from the character through writing with them. They come alive and develop their own personalities in what is truly one of the coolest and weirdest parts of writing for me.
With every character, I define their physical characteristics up front, simple things like eye color, hair color, species, skin tones, etc. And then I put them into a scene and let the scene bring them to life, define their personality, build out their backstory and all around establish them as a living breathing character with wants, needs, motivations and challenges. All major characters get this treatment, and usually after a chapter or two, I have all this stuff defined for a new character in a fully written up profile. There are a few select characters where for story purposes, I have pre-established things in their backgrounds, but I try to limit this as it feels unnatural to shoehorn a backstory onto a character instead of letting it come to life through the creative process.
In terms of the concepts, a lot of them start as dreams that I have from my backlog of story ideas. That’s usually the starting point and then the story for future books in a series develops as I write the current novels. I know how everything in a specific series ends, so the goal is to get from where it is today to that point and develop the characters in such a way as they become the characters I envisioned them to be at the end. I intentionally create the characters far away from the self-actualized versions so that there is some development that happens for every single one of them. Like in real life, the goal is to have them shaped by their life situations and the choices that they make. It’s interesting because I’ve changed major story elements and plot points simply because a character makes a decision in a moment as I’m writing and it feels like the decision that the character would make, contrary to what I had originally planed for them. I believe this is part of the creative process and I have no problem deviating from my outlines if it makes more sense. This of course creates a lot of additional work from a planning perspective, but it always works out better and feels more natural.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I have no problem coming up with names on the spot, I think it’s just something that comes naturally to me. I know some authors really struggle with this or feel that every name needs to have some deep meaning. For much of my writing, that’s not the case. There are some instances where I’ve intentionally chosen a name for a specific purpose but that’s rare and it’s mostly on impulse. I’m also fairly good at anagrams and have been since I was a small child, so I’ll sometimes utilize this approach to transform names of notable figures into character names if I want to ascribe some meaning to the name subconsciously.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I really enjoyed envisioning a Matriarchal society in Pride of Ashna with the Ashna Maidens. They come to exist out of necessity, to fight against space pirates who have established their own brutal societies that exploit women. Ashna Maidens are the light in the darkness of the Outer Rim where the major galactic empires have turned a blind eye to the pain and suffering there. Most societies in our history have been Patriarchal and that has brought with it a host of problems that we still deal with today around gender inequality, etc. Envisioning what a futuristic Matriarchal society might be like and how different it would be from what we’ve accepted as normal in our world is one of the reasons I love sci-fi and the ability to explore possibilities. Making the Ashna Maiden a zealous religious order also added some complexity because most of the religious institutions today have a patriarchal bias, so what if that was reversed?
I also go deeper into a species I introduced in Foundra called the Das’Vin who are a genderless species centered on science, harmony, and the protection of their people. The race is largely considered female by the galactic populace due their physical appearance but Das’Vin do not consider themselves male or female. It’s an interesting dynamic in that they’ve accepted being called female by other species to be harmonious and are often underestimated even though they are the most technologically advanced species in the galaxy. The main character is part of the Das’Vin species but has grows up in a hostile environment that changes her values and makes them at conflict with her mother who was raised in Das’Vin society. In Foundra lore, the Das’Vin were the first space faring species and didn’t understand the concept of conflict until they started interacting with non-Das’Vin species. They then quicky learned the art of war through covert observation and built the most powerful drone armada in the galaxy.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
In Pride of Ashna, there are largely five main characters. Serah’Elax Rez Ashfalen, a devout member of the Ashna Maidens who has experienced a lot of trauma in her short life with the loss of half of her family to a brutal pirate raid. She is driven by vengeance and thrives on the battlefield, a veritable goddess of war.
Neven Kenk, one of the main characters from the first book, is a former superstar engineer who is recruited by Lanrete to join his elite team. He’s recovering from the first book and being thrown headfirst into a bloody war and the trauma caused by having to kill. He is driven by his desire to become a Feshra, which is a prestigious title granted to paragons in the field of science and engineering who are at the forefront of the Ministry of Science or MinSci as its commonly referred to.
Zun Shan, another character from the first book, is a brilliant scientist and Feshra who previously ran the MinSci. She’s healing from the sudden loss of her husband in the first book and has a strong desire to start a family before its too late which leads to her rebounding into a relationship with Neven, someone who reminds her of her late husband.
Soahc is one of the immortals in the Foundra Universe and is a broken man, dealing with the tragic loss of his wife Brime in the war from the first book. He’s a powerful magic wielder known as a Cihphist who created an elite order of magic wielders known as Argents. Soahc is driven mad with grief over the loss of his wife and has a dream in which he believes she is alive on the Enesmic plane, another plane of existence that exists parallel to his own. He goes off in search of her and risks his life, and the lives of others, to travel to the Enesmic Plane, a dimension that is hostile to all life from his universe.
Lanrete is another immortal and a Founder of the Huzien Empire which is the dominant galactic superpower. He leads an elite team of specialists from across the galaxy to do the seemingly impossible missions that require his team’s unique skillset. He has a bloodstained past that serves as the backdrop to his empire’s dominance in the galaxy and he regrets a lot of the decisions he’s made in the past. He’s trying to atone for the actions of his younger self by putting himself on the front lines and personally risking life and limb instead of simply ordering people to their deaths.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
The title Foundra came to me organically as I took the lore I had established for the universe and started crafting it into a story. The main figures in the Huzien Empire that the narrative follows are called Founders and the ships they all utilize have monikers of Foundra before the description part of the ship to highlight that they are the official vessels of the Huzien Founders. It just made sense when I was thinking about the title to name if Foundra. The word brings to mind foundation and founding, in other words, a starting point for the series.
Who designed your book covers?
I utilize an amazingly talented artist named Jeff Brown. He’s the cover artist for the Bobiverse series and does a really good job with sci-fi covers and spaceships. The original cover for Foundra, which was done by a different cover artist, didn’t really feel like a sci-fi cover so when I did the 2nd edition for Foundra, I wanted to do a cover that was undeniably sci-fi. When I started working with Jeff Brown, I immediately knew I had made the right decision in hiring him and I’ve been working with him ever since.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not really, I’m proud of how Pride of Ashna turned out. I honestly feel like it’s the best novel I’ve written and fully captures my skill level as a writer today. I pour my heart and soul into every book and I’m truly exhausted at the end. I will say that its easy to fall into the optimization trap. You will always find things to tweak, ways to improve your prose. At some point, you simply must stop and move on to the next thing, otherwise you’ll never publish. The moment I finished the final round of editing/proofreading, I moved on to the next writing project because I have limited time and there are too many stories that I need to share with the world.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Something that I’ve improved a lot with over the years is showing more and telling less. I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten much better at nuance in character interactions. I’m able to convey a lot of emotions and give the reader a sense that they are truly there in that moment, without describing it to them in detail. It’s something that I’ve surprised myself with because I consistently work at trying to improve in that area.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’ve thought about this funny enough. Originally my thoughts went to a lot of older actors like Dwayne Johnson, Idris Elba, Kumail Nanjiani, etc. but the reality is that the characters in Pride of Ashna skew young and/or look to be in their early twenties given their immortal nature. So, I had to change my preference to favor characters who appear younger than the older actors I grew up with. With that said, I’d want Tessa Thompson to play Serah’Elax Rez Ashfalen. Michael B. Jordan to play Lanrete, Donald Glover to play Soahc, Mena Massoud to play Neven Kenk and Michelle Yeoh as Zun Shan.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I highly recommend checking out Foundra before reading Pride of Ashna. It’s not a requirement but there are some easter eggs in the book that will only be recognized by readers of the first book in the series. Either way, I’ve written Pride of Ashna to be something anyone can pick up who has never heard of the Foundra series. I also have a monthly newsletter called “Founder’s Log” where I share recent blog posts, social media highlights and other relevant topics in a quick, easily digestible format.
How did you come up with name of this book?
Ashna is the deity of the Ashna Maidens and the figure that they have built their society around. They are monotheistic and not only worship Ashna but uphold a strict code honor to be more like their deity, a warrior goddess who is wise and all powerful with a hyper focus on sexual purity. Only women can be in service to the goddess Ashna and hold positions of power. Since the book would primarily focus on this society, I thought it fitting to name the book Pride of Ashna, highlighting that the Ashna Maidens are the pride of their goddess. There is a double meaning in this title, but you’ll have to get through the book to learn what that’s all about.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
Without giving too much away, when Soahc finally makes his way to the Enesmic Plane and experiences the horrors that exist there, that whole section of the book took me back to my fantasy roots. I loved writing it and just showing off this raw survival story of one man versus a foreign world trying to kill him. It’s an epic section and a lot of character development happens there for Soahc as he must adapt or die.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
This is a tough question for me but I’d have to go with a side character who I absolutely love named Marcus Henson. He’s this elite giant of a man who has lived his entire life in the military. He’s a genetically enhanced super soldier who utilizes a large and powerful type of power armor called Archlight Armor. Off the battlefield, he’s this incredibly humble fun to be around guy who is very caring and generous. I’d spend the day with him listening to all the battle stories from his life on the front lines of the mobile infantry.
A close second would be Lanrete, he would also have a treasure trove of stories to tell from his 80,000 years of life and temporarily experiencing the opulence of his lifestyle would be an interesting journey to say the least.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Most of the characters are original, but there are a handful whose personalities are based off real people who I know in life. They are of course, taken to the extreme and in most cases, the characters that exist today have deviated greatly from their original inspiration but yes, there are a few. Since I have friends who would immediately be able to recognize who the characters relate to if I said which ones, I’ll remain silent on that front.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
My characters hijack the story all the time. I learned a long time ago to just go with it and the outcome is always significantly better than what I had in mind. It’s a surreal experience because it feels like I’m watching a movie play out without knowing what’s going to happen next, even though I’m the person writing it. It’s hard to explain but I love it!
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
An underlying theme in Pride of Ashna is that we all process trauma differently. Given that we have all just experienced a trauma inducing year with covid, I think my book is a good way to see how to work through that trauma in different ways. Some of the characters go through some heavy stuff and they have to move forward because the fate of the galaxy is at stake. In our lives, we’re not saving the galaxy but it’s still just as important for us to learn how to process and deal with our trauma so that we can move forward and ultimately help others who are dealing with theirs.
At Pride of Ashna’s core, it’s a story about how bad things happen to good people and that’s a reality that’s hard to accept for many of us. But my goal is to show that even when bad things happen, there is still some good that we can focus on. Life can be a painful chaotic mess if we let the bad overwhelm us. We must focus on the little moments of joy that appear and allow those to dominate our thoughts instead.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I have a fantasy romance novel that has been complete for a few years. I’m planning to go back and rework that one before I’d be comfortable moving forward in the publishing process with it. I also have a religious fiction novella that is complete and ready to move forward in the publication process. Outside of that, I have a massive backlog of story ideas that I need to work through to bring to life (i.e. create an outline for). I have outlines done for five new novels and have even written chapters already for a few of them but a lot of work is needed. I also have a lot of work done for the Foundra series and am about a fourth of the way through the 3rd book in the series with high level outlines done for the next few books.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Cherry vanilla scented candle.
What did you edit out of this book?
A lot! I typically have a “Cut out stuff” doc that I create for each novel I write. It’s where I pull out scenes that distract away from the narrative or that don’t make sense anymore because of a change I did in the story.
There was a scene that I loved at the start of the book about this group of pirates that are playing holographic cards in a room in this pirate compound. One of the pirates gets upset because he thinks someone is cheating and they are about to have this big brawl, and then this grenade rolls into the room and starts blinking. It’s this intense moment where they all realize they are about to die and kicks off the assault of the Ashna Maidens on the pirate compound. At the end of the day, it was unnecessary and took away form the focus on Serah’Elax as she’s storming the pirate base at the start of the book, so I removed it.
There are a bunch more but they would ultimately spoil some of the plot points in the book or give away some things out of context, so I’ll just share that one.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I did this funny enough. When I was writing my first novel, I reached out to one of my favorite authors on Facebook, R.A Salvatore, and asked him for advice with publishing. I also shared the first chapter of my novel and asked for his feedback. A short time later, he responded and gave me some advice. It was nice having someone a lot more experienced in the medium giving me some tips.
Today, if I could pick someone’s brain, it would be Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (James S.A Corey, the duo who wrote The Expanse). I love their sci-fi series and would love their feedback on my Foundra novels and on the plans I have for the future of the series. They do a great job with the progression of time and building a narrative that encompasses multiple characters over the course of multiple books with a deep overarching storyline that builds up as the series progresses. These are all things that I’m working on with Foundra and the evolution of their series has greatly impressed me. Where they start in Leviathan wakes and where they are heading in the last novel are genius. It’s that type of transformative experience that I’m working hard to create in the Foundra series over the course of the next collection of novels.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
It took me 5 years to write Foundra but only took me 3 months to write Elevator Quest. They are drastically different novels (i.e. Elevator Quest is just a stand-alone novel vs Foundra being a series) but once I had a system for creating novels, I’ve been much more effective in how I use my time. For comparison, the first draft for Pride of Ashna was complete in under two years. The novel went through an additional 6 drafts before I was ready to bring in a professional editor to start preparing it for publication but I’m confident that the third book in the series will be done in record time.
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