While many are familiar with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it wasn’t until I came face to face with Veronica Rossi’s Riders duology that I learned about them.
Riders and Seeker follows Gideon Blake, a teenager who is following his dream of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger but somehow ends up becoming War, one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Not only does Gideon have to figure out his new-found powers, but he also must follow Daryn, a beautiful but secretive girl in order to find the other horsemen in order to save the world and convince the U.S. government that it’s all real.
“Riders came to me from a few different sources of inspiration—which unfolded over time,” said Rossi.
“First, the main character. Gideon had a voice that was vivid and would not be denied. He was just demanding to be on the page! Second, I had always been interested in the Four Horsemen, and wanted to demystify them, or make sense to them, in my mind. And a third reason would be that I like writing antiheroes. We are all flawed; why shouldn’t our heroes be?”
When readers first meet the individual horsemen – Gideon, Sebastian, Marcus and Jode, these teens are just that – teenage boys. Each of them are living their own lives, trying to deal with the past as they move into the future. They are as flawed as any one of us.
“I wanted Biblical names, which I found in Gideon, Sebastian, and Malachi. The exception is Jode—which is a name that just felt perfect for him, and had the right sound,” explained Rossi.
Before the awesome names came the base of the story – the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which appears in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament in the Bible. Rossi, who is Catholic, does not remember exactly when she first heard about the Four Horsemen.
“I can’t remember not knowing about them. I was drawn to them because they scared me, to be totally honest,” she said. “And yet, in the Bible, they are agents of good. That always seemed confusing to me. In a way, these books were an attempt to try to wrap my head around that.”
But though Rossi was familiar with the Four Horsemen, she still conducted plenty of research in many different areas to get her novels right. She took an online course about the Book of Revelation and took horse riding lessons for a week on a ranch. Because Gideon enlists to become a U.S. Army Ranger, she even reached out to some real Army Rangers to help her out with that aspect of the novel.
“I knew he was a military brat,” answered Rossi when asked about how she went about developing Gideon’s character. “I knew he would see the world in a very wry way … but the bulk of discovering Gideon happened through the writing process itself.”
The first book, Riders, is told through Gideon’s point of view. The second book is told through Daryn’s point of view.
“Daryn, in many ways, possesses qualities that I wish were stronger in me. She is so independent and so compassionate. She’s a real survivor, and fighter, but she holds onto her empathy. She’s as ready to battle as she is ready to forgive. I love that about her.”
Throughout the two books, readers get to learn about all of the characters, not just Gideon, as their friendships grow.
“One of the things I love to write the most are friendships, and I think that’s part of the strength of this duology,” said Rossi. “I truly loved writing this group of characters, and hope readers will enjoy them, too.”