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La Jolla High grads launch fantasy book series, ‘Curseborn’

The four creators of the Curseborn Saga line of books — two of whom are La Jolla High School graduates — consider themselves a traveling, storytelling band of pirates. Their story, expressed in novellas and graphic novels (and eventually a series of audio books and an animated series), explores the myth of Eiendrahk, the never-ending war between the Goddess of Life and the God of Death, in a made up world of fantasy.

With illustrations by Sean Lam Hayashi, the foursome includes brothers Trevor Barber (pen name Elnath Shanks), Justin Barber (pen name Trowa Cloud), and friends Peter Kolias (pen name Squall Ace) and Simon Gatsu Sandoval (who doesn’t use a pen name). They released the first novella in March, and the second with an advanced release May 30 at Warwick’s, where they held a book-signing. The second novella became available online June 1.

“(Cloud and I) are La Jolla Elementary, Muirlands Middle and La Jolla High school alums and extremely excited and grateful to have had our first official book signing at our hometown bookstore,” Shanks told La Jolla Light.

Curseborn Saga creators Peter Kolias (aka Squall Ace), Trevor Barber (aka Elnath Shanks), Simon Gatsu Sandoval (who doesn’t use a pen name) and Justin Barber (aka Trowa Cloud) hold a book signing at Warwick’s May 30.
Curseborn Saga creators Peter Kolias (aka Squall Ace), Trevor Barber (aka Elnath Shanks), Simon Gatsu Sandoval (who doesn’t use a pen name) and Justin Barber (aka Trowa Cloud) hold a book signing at Warwick’s May 30.
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The Curseborn saga creators will next travel to the Los Angeles Anime Expo July 2-5. Subsequent installments in the series will be released every three months (though the authors tease more could be on the horizon), until the end of the year. In addition, the stories will be adapted into short Manga graphic novels, comparable to comic books. The novellas are also at amazon.com and curseborn.com

Drawing from the Japanese style of storytelling, the creators set out to weave a long, epic story complete with classic characters and a focus on developing each one. Avid fans of anime shows such as “Naruto” “Bleach” and “One Piece,” Sandoval said, “A lot of our influence came from shows we watched. There are some that have run for 10 years and have 700 episodes.”

Although using Japanese-style illustrations inspired by anime, Ace said the books could also be read by adults and children older than 10. “In America, people assume cartoons are just for kids. But in Japanese cartoons, the characters talk like adults because they are adults. When Japanese cartoons are adapted and translated into English, they talk like children because that’s how Americans view cartoons. Our series could be for anyone of any age.”

Art from the Curseborn Saga, by brothers and La Jolla High School grads Trevor and Justin Barber, and friends Peter Kolias and Simon Gatsu Sandoval. Courtesy
Art from the Curseborn Saga, by brothers and La Jolla High School grads Trevor and Justin Barber, and friends Peter Kolias and Simon Gatsu Sandoval. Courtesy

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Shanks said they came up with the storyline and characters, but let them gel over four years with daily sessions at one of their homes with note cards and talking out the story, all before they ever put pen to paper.

Although they would commit a certain amount of time every day to the story development — and subsequent writing of the story — all but Shanks have other jobs in town.

“When you read or watch, for example, ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Harry Potter,’ there are side characters that come and go, but there’s still a backstory, and so you get attached to them,” Sandoval said. He credited Cloud with developing the characters’ rich histories. “You get an incredible amount of depth and detail in each one, so people get attached to them. Every character has a goal and a reason why they act the way they do.”

None of the creators planned to be professional writers. Nevertheless, Cloud assumed the author role and writes the novellas. He said the tale is split up into story arcs, similar to how the Harry Potter series is broken into adventure-based books. “Within the span of Harry Potter’s life, there are seven mini-arcs and those stories are what make up the seven books. It’s like one big jigsaw puzzle, all the pieces have to fit in the right place,” he said.

Ace added that anyone who enjoys a fantasy story — such as “Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars” — would be able to enjoy their saga. But as with any saga, the tale is told over time, so readers must stick with it.

“If you follow a storyline done this way and see how deep the feelings are in the situations, there is a lot of emotion that hits you really hard.”

Art from the Curseborn Saga
Art from the Curseborn Saga

Age of transmedia

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Between the media and the audience, the creators agree there is no other time this project could have been done. With fans of this type of tale flocking to movie theaters, and Comic-Con attendance in the hundreds of thousands, the team knew they had the audience, they just needed to reach them in a way that did their story justice.

When they starting developing the story in 2010, they realized it would be too large to tell with the level of detail they wanted in one novel or film, so they decided on a series of novellas of about 200-250 pages each with about 15-20 illustrations. To reach a different audience, they decided to also produce graphic novels that are primarily illustrations with dialogue. To reach further than that, they plan to expand their adaptations into audiobooks and an animated series.

“We want as many people as possible to be involved with this,” Sandoval said. “Some people only watch TV, or only read books, or only read graphic novels.”

And now, in the age of self-publishing and mixed media, they can. “This is the dawn of transmedia. The idea that we can take a story that we wrote and self-publish it and print it on demand allows us to do what we are doing now,” Shanks said. “We don’t need to go through a publisher and order 10,000 copies of a book and break the bank and then go and sell those copies. I upload a file to Amazon’s Createspace Publisher and people can have it printed and sent to them. We have all these tools in our hands.”

Ace said the timing was right to release an original story because most other forms of mainstream entertainment consisted of remakes, adaptations and sequels. “When we decided to come up with this story, there was nothing coming out that we hadn’t already seen. These are all stories, characters and powers we already know about,” he said. “We wanted to get our original content out there.”

Shanks added, “At the end of the day, we are all just big nerds who love this genre and these stories. We get to live in a world that we created, and we want others to be there too.”

The Story of Eiendrahkt

In written legend, every 100 cycles the God of Death breaks free of the chains that cage him to his dark world, and he once again descends upon Goddess of Life in an attempt to steal her element and enter the first sun of the universe; a place that can only be entered when Life and Death are one. The Goddess of Life is protected by the Sorians, a race of Demi-Gods that live Soria, two floating worlds within her realm. However, because of a terrible curse, the worlds of Soria have been divided and broken, and many believe it is only a matter of time before the two worlds go to war.

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