Narrator: Melissa Reizian
Length: 16 hours 7 minutes
Publisher: EA Starchilde Company⎮2022
Genre: Science Fiction; Space Opera
Series: Foundra Series, Book 1
Release date: Mar. 4, 2022
2021 Reader's Favorite Finalist for Best Sci-Fi Romance Novel
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.
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Emmanuel M. Arriaga is an imaginative award winning author with an engineering background working in the Technology sector. He is best known for the Foundra Series, a sci-fi space opera and National Indie Excellence Award (NIEA) Finalist. His rich worlds introduce diverse characters and expansive worldbuilding with innovative technologies and concepts. He is a bronze winner of the Readers' Favorite Award for Best Young Adult Action Novel and a TopShelf Book Award Finalist.
About the Narrator: Melissa Reizian
Melissa Reizian has been a full-time voice actor for 20 years. She is an Audible-Approved Producer for audiobook narration and has accreditation from the World-Voices Organization.
Over the years, Melissa's work has been featured by popular global brands, corporations and government agencies, including: Dr. Pepper, Sam's Club, the Humane Society of the United States, The American Heart Association, Lytx (formerly Drivecam), Verizon, Motorola, 5/3 Bank, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
Previously, Melissa was an award-winning, Emmy-nominated television journalist. Most recently, she was a reporter/producer/anchor at WLEX-TV in Lexington, Kentucky, where in addition to daily reporting and anchoring duties, she produced the award-winning half-hour education TV show, “Rising Star.”
Melissa's news reports from Armenia aired on CNN World Report during the early 1990s, where she reported on the blockade there and war in neighboring Nagorno-Karabagh. Melissa is a 2nd-generation Armenian-American, and was there to help train journalists in that country in the ways of “American style journalism” after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Melissa holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she minored in Theatre.
Interview with Emmanuel M Arriaga
When I created Foundra, I had a mental image of how the characters looked and sounded. It was incredibly valuable to document this process during the creation of Foundra, especially the phonetic process because it helped me further flush out aspects of the universe and language that had simply been in my head before hand. When you have to explain to a narrator how to pronounce something, it makes it real, and the first time you hear it spoken by an incredible professional like the narrator for Foundra, it blew my mind. During our collaboration on this project, Melissa invested a lot of energy in getting the pronunciation just right and I appreciated that professionalism.
Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?
I spend most of my reading time listening to audiobooks, I think it brings the content to life in a way that is true to life for the original author and their vision of the characters. With that said, I think audiobooks with a lot of action translate very well. Combat scenes and intense moments of conflict build up that suspense in a way unique to the format.
Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
I always planned to have Foundra made into an audiobook. When I was in the final editing stages, I actually read the novel out loud, to make sure it flowed well. It was something I did unintentionally that really brought the story alive for me and something that I was excited to work with a professional to bring to everyone.
How did you select your narrator?
I spent a lot of time with auditions for Foundra. I utilized the acx platform and invested a lot of time and energy in going out and looking for great narrators. I would reach out to them directly and ask them to audition. This was how I met Melissa. After I heard her read my book, and the care and thoughtfulness that she spent in bringing the story to life, I knew immediately that she was the right narrator. People say it all the time but honestly, once I heard her audition, I knew I found the right person. I had over 15 people who had auditioned, many of them very good, but Melissa was heads and shoulders above the rest and just treated the content like it was special, putting energy into it that I hadn’t seen from anyone else.
How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
We worked very closely during the original creation process, many text messages were exchanged with audio clips and questions about how to say something. It was a learning process for me and a valuable experience for understanding the process for how an audiobook is created. It’s not as simple as most people think and involves a lot of time and effort, re-listening to clips, noting down changes, etc. It’s a time investment for the narrator and the author (and producer if the narrator doesn’t do their own production).
Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
Some of the characters in Foundra were inspired by people I know in real life. I say inspired because they aren’t carbon copies, rather someone's personality, style or character trait influenced a character and then that character took on a life of their own and became a unique individual. In many instances, characters are mash ups of multiple people I know and done in a way that allows for originality in the characters' decisions and life choices.
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
Honestly, the best way to avoid burn-out is to write every day. It sounds counter intuitive, but it’s actually surprisingly effective. I find when I take breaks from writing, or write infrequently, it actually becomes harder to write. It is less of a muscle and more of monumental effort that I have to find time for. But when I write daily, I find myself easily able to hop onto my computer, write a chapter and then head off to go do something else. The creative energies are constantly flowing, my subconscious continuously at work building out plots and sub pots and cool scenes and other things and I just have to sit down and get it into a doc to allow the creative process to continue. When I wait a long time to do that, my writing suffers and my progress slows. I also feel less fulfilled in everything else in my life and that tells me that writing is truly something that brings me joy. Something that influences every other aspect of my life. So for me, to avoid burn-out, I have to write daily.
Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
I love audiobooks, it’s the primary method that I get through books today with two young boys and a full-time job in Tech. When I think about how I best digest information, lecturing and hearing information has always been most effective for me. So when I listen to audiobooks, I process it quickly and usually listen at a faster speed than normal. This allows me to get through books quickly in a life that would otherwise make it difficult for me to sit down and physically read a book.
Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
There is this section of the story that deals with this monumental battle. It’s this pivotal section toward the middle of the story that switches between characters fighting in starships in space orbiting this planet and then characters on the ground of the same planet fighting in frontline combat. Without giving anything away, the emotions that come out across the two conflicts are raw and showcase the creative power of Melissa in bringing the story to life through the eyes of characters in this conflict, both on the side of the protagonists and the side of the antagonists in this conflict.
If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
If I had the power of time travel, I would go forward in time, there isn’t anything for me back through history and I’m not just a sci-fi author but a huge fan of sci-fi. I’d love to travel forward to the time where we’ve mastered faster than light space travel and to experience that first hand while exploring the galaxy. That is a true dream that I sadly don’t think will be realized in my lifetime so I’d love to jump forward to when it’s the norm.
If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles?
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 Foundra 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 Michael B. Jordan to play Lanrete, Donald Glover to play Soahc, Mena Massoud to play Neven Kenk, Maya Hawke as Brime and Michelle Yeoh as Zun Shan.
What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
I don’t think this is true at all. That’s like saying attending a lecture on a topic is cheating when compared against just reading the textbook. I think they are two different ways to consume content that really just comes down to a personal preference and how you best consume content. Life situation plays a big part in this as well, if you have a long commute, audiobooks are a saving grace.
How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
I started the next novel! No joke, the moment I was finished with Foundra, I immediately started work on Pride of Ashna which is the sequel. That energy of completely wrapping the story up carries over into planning the next book. I have a lot of ideas that I didn’t’ get to explore in the first novel that manifested in the following one. Starting from scratch, I can shape it to include that content.
What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?
Writing every day helps me avoid this. And if I run into any roadblocks while in this mode, that’s usually my subconscious telling me that whatever I’m trying to do right now in the novel isn’t working. The moment I acknowledge that and play around with a different concept, the energies are flowing again and I can move forward. As for reading, it may just be that I’m not that into a book and i’ll stop it and start something else. I’m not afraid to do this as I’ll eventually come back to the prior book when I have the energy needed to finish it. I hate not finishing a book but sometimes it takes moving onto something else and then coming back to accomplish that.
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
When I wrote Elevator Quest, my award winning fantasy novel, I always intended for that to be a stand-alone novel. It was an inspired dream that I had become obsessed with and became an homage to D&D with a modern flair. I had no intentions of turning that novel into a series and once the story was complete, I was satisfied. I’ve had fans ask me if I planned to write a sequel but I don’t believe one is needed. The freedom you get from doing a stand-alone novel is leaving it open ended. You don’t have to craft this multi book narrative or worry about building continuity. You just tell a story that’s in you and move on. The challenge with this is that sometimes you start to envision what a series could be but when you come back after the fact, and try to tack on a sequel when you didn’t originally plan one, it doesn’t usually have the spirit of the first novel in it.
Now when you look at a series that you intended to become a series, the spirit is in the series, you spend a lot of time worldbuilding in your first book and building excitement for this new universe that you’re creating. The character arcs, overarching narrative and sub-plots that you create continue throughout multiple stories and manifest in creative and interesting ways that bring life to the characters and the evolving nature of the universe. You get more time to flush out this detailed narrative that allows you to take the reader on a journey over the course of the series. It’s a completely different writing process and requires a lot of effort to pull off effectively. I keep so much material, a library if you will, of my Foundra Universe that I reference when I’m writing. At some point, all this lore and content that you create when world building has to become a reference that you can come back to in order to ensure continuity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created an interesting class concept, scene or piece of lore that I “discover” when digging through my reference material that I simply wrote down and forgot about.
Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?
Many of my characters are inspired by dreams. I write down my dreams on a regular basis and many of them have become scenes or whole story ideas (Elevator Quest was one of those dreams). I have a dream log of over 200 scenes / ideas that I’ve started categorizing. Some fall in the Foundra universe, others are completely new book ideas with a few of them already future planned series.
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write every day, you become a better author by doing primarily three things, read a lot, write a lot and get your work critiqued by a professional editor. I have learned so much as a write through the editing process and reading great books has helped me understand different writing techniques and storytelling methods that improve my own personal toolset. This is such a valuable thing that many aspiring authors overlook.
Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
Invest in finding a good narrator, it’s a lot of work and something you don’t want to shortcut, because the quality of your narrator directly influences the quality of your audiobook.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on the third book in the Foundra series, additionally, I’m in the editing phase for a new fantasy novel that I’ll share more about in the coming months. I’m also hoping to start work on the audiobook to Pride of Ashna, the sequel to Foundra, toward the second half of 2022.