Interview with Anna Kashina
Author of Lacrimosa of Dana, The Ys VIII Novelization
Available Oct 18, 2023 from Dragonwell Publishing
Hi Anna, thank you very much for joining us! Please tell our readers a bit about who you are and what you do.
Thank you for the invitation!
I write fantasy novels inspired by world history and mythology. My fans know me mostly for my Majat Code series, featuring action, intrigue, and swordplay.
I am a biomedical scientist running a research lab. I also teach biochemistry and cell biology.
When I am not working or writing, I love to play with my two children. I have too many hobbies for my own good, including jewelry making, ballroom dancing, and sword fighting, not necessarily in this order. I also enjoy reading books and playing video games.
How were you introduced to the Ys series?
I really like an adventure game with a good story. Storylines are my main motivation for gaming.
During the worst of the COVID shutdown I really wanted to find a good video game. I ended up searching the Internet for any suggestions based on other games I enjoyed. This was how I came across Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, mentioned in several forums with enough details that sparked my interest. I decided to give it a try.
When I started playing it, I quicky fell in love with the game. From that moment, I became a devoted Ys fan.
I'm sure you had to play the game several times to take notes in order to properly research the game's story. How many times have you played Ys VIII exactly? Who are your main three party characters?
When I first started the game, I ended up playing it through at least three times, nonstop. After getting the contract for the novel, I played it again very slowly, and wrote down all the scenes, dialogue, and any descriptions or thoughts that came to mind as I played. This took a few months, and the notes from this round formed the first very expanded draft for the novel. I did another playthrough or two after that.
So, how many times is that? Five? Six? Seems about right.
On my first round, my favorite characters to play were Adol, Dana, and Hummel. I swapped out for Ricotta sometimes against armored enemies. Almost never used Laxia or Sahad. On the last two rounds, I played with Adol, Dana, and Laxia.
The novel provides additional story such as Dana's time in Eternia to enhance character growth and relationships
I'm sure many fans of the video game want to know: Did every castaway from the game make it into the novelization?
Oh yes. I would never leave anyone behind! Some are mentioned once, but everyone is definitely there.
Awesome. I imagine the book would be way too long if you had to flesh out each castaway's subplot. That makes sense. What about pikkards? Shoebill? Master Kong?
Yes, yes, and yes – even though they aren't a major part of the story.
Ok...... on a serious note...... what about... the pickles?
You wouldn't think I'd omit such a central plot point, would you?
Haha, ok. Just testing you. So, according to the official Ys timeline, Ys VIII takes place after several games, notably soon after the events of Ys V. What steps have you taken to ensure that hardcore fans will recognize and appreciate that this story is, in fact, set within a larger narrative?
Like many other Ys games, Ys VIII has a standalone story that can be enjoyed completely on its own. But as an author, I of course wanted to ensure that every detail is fully consistent with the rest of the series. Much like I approach any historical fantasy by doing extensive research on a corresponding time period, I started my work on this novel by researching the world of Ys. This enabled me to get familiar with the geography, history, lore, mythology, currency, metric system, and of course, characters' backgrounds, so that I could create an immersive authentic experience both for the newbies and for the hardcore fans.
Now, the flip side of all this knowledge is the temptation to actually lay it all out in the book. I carefully balanced every detail I wanted to show in the story. One example is the Isios blade, which Adol acquires at the end of Ys V and brings aboard the Lombardia at the beginning of Ys VIII. There are some other details like this scattered throughout the story.
How did this novelization project begin? What was the process like in order to officially license this project?
I can't really comment on the business side of things, but it is not an exaggeration to say that one of the main driving forces for this project was my love for the game. I am not using the word "love" lightly. It is exactly how I felt when I first played Ys VIII. I couldn't stop dreaming about the story, and how much I would enjoy writing this novel.
I first approached my agent, who, to my delight, was extremely supportive and assured me that it was not a totally crazy idea. And then, I actively searched for an opportunity to do it.
I am very grateful to Dragonwell Publishing and Nihon Falcom Co. for this opportunity.
Obviously, it is impossible to translate a video game to a book verbatim, especially if the main protagonist is mostly silent. What are some of the differences between the novel and its source material, and how did you decide on these changes?
My first step was to start thinking of the characters as if they are real people. Fortunately, the game developers made this easy. In the game, every character seems alive, once you truly get to know them. And then, if you put them into each scene from the game, they literally start acting on their own, and all you need to do is write it down.
I think the biggest difference between the game and the book is that in the game all you see is action and dialogue, while the book gives you an opportunity to get into the characters' heads. Once you do, the dialogue becomes sharper, more emotional. Even better, some details not really explained in the game come out into the open. How is Dana so good at sword fighting? When did she become friends with Olga and Sarai? What is her background with Chief Dran and Rastell? Why do Laxia and Franz act so strange around each other? How does the mechanics of using a charm to breathe underwater really work? The book takes you deeper into all that, and more.
As for Adol being silent – is he really? Maybe he doesn't say much, but I think the fans of the series are well aware of his key qualities: his level-headedness and ability to make quick decisions, his kindness, his humor, his shyness around women. I never had to question what he would do or say, or what kind of things he would never even consider. Giving him a voice felt easy.
This is the second official Ys novel released in the West. The first was a short novel "The Lost Sword" written by Nihon Falcom and translated by NISA, and was bundled with the Ys IX Collector's Edition. Adol also speaks in it.
How long is the novel? How do you decide on the length?
This novel is approximately 460 printed pages. But compared to the size of the game, it really isn't that long.
In deciding how long it should be, my goals were to preserve every detail essential for the main story and characters. While some scenes and side quests had to be carefully omitted due to length, I never compromised when it came to the important things. On the flips side of this balance, I had to make sure that the tension is maintained, which left no room to pause for breaks and characters' relaxation. And, there are extra scenes not shown in the game, which added the page count in the most unexpected ways.
In the end, I tend to feel that this length is exactly right for this book. But I do feel sorry for all the deleted material, and am thinking hard of how it can be used.
Of all the characters, who was your favourite to write as? How do you get into the mindset of these characters when writing?
This is a bit like trying to decide who is the favorite among my children.
I loved writing as Adol, because he is so balanced and well rounded. I felt like a better person when I was in his head. Laxia was fun because of all her contradictory thoughts and inner struggles. She is the one who changes the most throughout the story, much like she does in the game, and watching her grow felt very rewarding. But if I did have to choose one, I would probably pick Dana. Her inner conflicts, her hidden pain, the extreme tragedy of her life—contrasted with her liveliness, positive energy, and an incredibly strong drive—are so compelling.
Several characters surprised me. I always liked Hummel, but he felt like a challenge from the writer's standpoint. In the game, it was all about his looks and skill. I never expected he would end up being such fun that I couldn't wait to get to his scenes. Sir Carlan was deliciously annoying and I really loved throwing him into a conversation. Laxia and Sahad started off as nearly exact opposites, making for some funny exchanges. But the one that gets the prize is Franz. He isn't very noticeable in the game, and shows up really late in the story, but to me it was totally worth the wait. I am really curious to see what others think about my take on him.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? For example, do you drink tea while writing? Do you have the game literally next to you at all times?
Not tea, wine. But jokes aside, writing time is a luxury for me, so my creative process is really all about snatching random chunks of time here and there to write down what is swirling in my head. Some writers have routines and certain times of the day allocated to writing, but to me it was more like being continuously suspended between my own reality and the Isle of Seiren. Addictive. I still miss the feeling.
What formats will the novelization be available in? Where can people purchase this novel?
The novel is available as an ebook as well as paperback and hardcover, and all these formats should be available from any major retailer. Amazon, of course, will sell it everywhere in the world, and it is also listed with such retailers as Walmart, Target, Barnes and Noble, and many others. Bookstores are probably not going to stock it, at least initially, but you should be able to walk into any store and order it at the counter. Dragonwell will also make it available for direct sales through their store online.
You can find more information and some of the preorder links on the official website: lacrimosathenovel.com
You had mentioned about pre-order bonuses on social media. Can you tell us more about what they are and what the process is to receive them?
There are many side scenes and quests I had to give up on, because they would have made the book unrealistically long. Some of these quests easily lend themselves to standalone stories. One of these stories is included into the preorder bonus that, for a time being, will be available exclusively to those who preordered the book. Another bonus currently announced is a recipe card for one of the dishes in the game.
To get these bonuses, please preorder the book before publication (October 18, 2023) and email your proof of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, don't include any sensitive information.
One thing that I think may not have been made clear in these announcements is that the bonuses will be sent after the publication date, since the hope is that the novel, not the story, would be the first written piece for the readers. But these digital items in this format will be exclusive to those who preordered.
When playing the game, players choose a party of 3 from 6 possible characters. The novelization has all six interacting and battling at the same time.
Would you consider writing another Ys novelization as a follow up?
Absolutely. By now, I've played all the other Ys games available in the West, and all of them have amazing stories that are practically begging to be novelized.
If you could meet Adol, sit down with him, and chat.... what would you ask him?
I would definitely ask who his one true love is. And no, I wouldn't take "adventure" as an answer.
Other than that - his favorite places to visit? His goals? His favorite fishing spots? His thoughts about settling down and having a family some day?
And, I would ask him about his sword skill. The source material describes it as a blend of all styles, elevating his swordplay to an art form. Moreover, he seemingly developed it on the side, without spending years and years in training. This has to come from a very special, almost spiritual talent that should, on some level, define him as a person. I would love to know more about it.
What about Dogi?
One thing I was always curious about with Dogi is how he became Adol's companion. This is never really explained in the games. One day Dogi MAKES an entrance, literally, and has been by Adol's side ever since.
I would like to ask him more about Adol. He and Adol are different, so what binds the two of them together? Will he stay with Adol until they both grow old? I like to think of them settling down and having families close to each other, so that their kids can play together and they could sit around remembering their adventures. Would Dogi see it the same way?
Anna, thank you so much for spending some time with us. Do you have any final words for our readers?
I would like to thank the Ys community, for being so passionate and for just being out there. Working on this novel, I felt awed and humbled by how important it is to Ys fans. It felt like a privilege, and a huge responsibility, to be the one to write this book. Sharing this love for the game, and for the series, was special.
I hope you enjoy the novel. If you would like to support this project and make sure there are future books, please consider posting reviews online and sharing your opinions and experiences. Your feedback matters a lot – and of course, for those of you who like my book, spreading the word is really the best way to ensure that there will be more books in the future.
I also want to thank Digital Emelas for this interview, and for all the support.
Available on Amazon: USA / Canada
More information and order links on the official website:
Also available to order worldwide from your local book retailer, or as an eBook on your favourite digital platform.