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Home of Authors Stefan M. Nardi, Jacob S. Nardi, and Damian Jeffrey

Author Interview: Georgina Makalani

This week I am interviewing fantasy author, Georgina Makalani. Georgina’s new book The Caged Raven will be out on June 1, 2018 and to celebrate she has been kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

What is the first book that made you cry?

The Hole in the Forest and I was probably only 8 years old at the time. Although I can’t remember the story at all now, I can still remember the terrible feeling of loss that had overwhelmed me. It was the first time I really felt connected to the characters and lost within the world I was reading.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I have to say both. Usually when I get lost in the writing I feel completely energized by it and I know that if I don’t start my day with writing I don’t quite feel right during the day. It is an essential part of my being. But then there are those crazy editing days that I walk away feeling utterly wrung out.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Can I say Netflix? I’m prone to distraction. I try hard not to but I can’t help it. And I love a story, a good story that sucks you in and won’t let you go (both reading and on screen). If I get caught up in a good series I can lose whole days before I realise what has happened.

What is your favorite fantasy trope?

That is a hard question. I enjoy most. I love a good quest.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have lots of ideas burning away and several of those are in the planning phase. That doesn’t exactly answer your question though as I plan to finish all of them. I do have a romance novel tucked away in a box somewhere that I spent five years writing only to realise romance was not my genre and I needed to work on my craft a bit more.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I love naming characters. It depends on the book as to what I do, sometimes I mash two words together to create something different, or mis-spell or aim to pronounce a known word differently. I’m amazed sometimes to find a name I thought I made up in someone else’s book and so I try to google the names to ensure they don’t mean something odd or rude or are the main character in someone else’s work.

I have a list of medieval English names that I refer to for a lot of my current work. Sometimes I’ll search out different lists to see what I can find. For example the little men in one of Iski’s adventures all had magic. I searched up old names that meant “little” and the power they had.  Such as Egan which means little fire.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It always feels like too long. At the moment it is taking me about two years from planning to publishing. If I’m focused it doesn’t take as long, but then I get distracted easily.

What was your hardest book to write?

There are two here both of them within the Iski Flare Series:

Episode Five – The Tree Maiden.

I had this book planned from the beginning of the series, everything before it led to this point and so it should have been easy. But it was a huge emotional roller coaster and I found it quite emotionally draining to write.

Episode Six – Reflections

This one was harder for Iski. Things weren’t going the way he wanted them to and he refused to work with me. He huffed and puffed and I scowled at the screen. It seemed to take a very long time to come together.

You recently released Raven’s Dawn: The Raven Crown Book 1. What was your favorite thing about writing this book?

I tried something a bit different with this book, writing from multiple points of view and I learnt a lot more about my characters that way. I think I found that the most enjoyable part.

What was the hardest thing about writing Raven’s Dawn?

This was my first novel size series and I wanted to make sure the story was strong enough for three books. I spent a lot of time revisiting who was doing what and what that led to and how it would impact on the following books. It did teach me that I needed to plan better and I have changed my planning and outlining process since then.

Of all of the characters you have created, which is your favorite?

I love Meg in the Raven Crown Series she is a super strong woman and I’m really impressed with who she has grown to be.

But that said, I still have a soft spot for Pira in The Mark of Oldra. If I could write my perfect man, I think he would be it.

Of all of the characters you have created, which do you dislike the most?

Everard Whitton – he turned out to be far nastier than I expected.

What book/series has had the greatest influence on your writing?

This is a hard question. I have read so much and not just within the fantasy genre; I can’t attribute it to any one series or book. I love to get lost in a story, where you connect completely with the world and the characters and you forget about the real world for a while. I wanted to write stories like that. I’m not sure that I have for my readers, I hope so, but I know that I have lost myself to those worlds and characters when writing them.

If you could write in any fantasy world, which would you choose and why?

Terry Pratchett’s discworld. There are so many options with a world this big and I love every story he wrote. There are so many things that could happen on the disc.

What is your favorite thing about worldbuilding?

The fact that you can create a whole new world from nothing and transport the reader there.

What is the thing you dislike most about worldbuilding?

Despite being able to make it all up, you still have to ground the reader in the known and I worry that the reader will know more than me (which is highly likely) particularly when writing in a medieval setting. One of my beta readers often says that “in a setting like this, people would be doing x rather than y.”

I love how you can make anything happen with fantasy and that it can happen anywhere, but it still has to connect.

 

About Georgina’s Books

Raven’s Dawn

With the death of the King of Rocfeld a new queen is expected to be marked from among his three daughters. The Gods will mark their choice with raven hair but as the days turn into weeks without a new queen, speculation and suspicion grows. The youngest daughter, Meg has been raised to put her duty first and has determined the Gods will make the right decision.

But Rocfeld is not what it was. The harder Meg tries to help her kingdom, the more dangerous her world becomes. Elalia, her eldest sister makes decisions as though she is already queen. Enemies hide in the shadows whispering of magic and death and her allies may not be as they appear.

Which sister will be queen and what will she do with the power of the Raven Crown?

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The Caged Raven

Scared of being sold to another land, Princess Meg is relieved when exiled to a rundown family estate. But she is far from the world she longs for and the people she loves.

Trapped and surrounded by soldiers, Meg fears the soothsayer’s prophesy. She believes the old woman mistaken when told she would become queen and that the men she spoke of will never reach her. Yet Meg continues to dream of death and darkness and fears the motives of the Silent Sisters and what that might mean for her kingdom.

Struggling with her captivity, Meg seeks solace with the gods. How much could the gods give and what could they take away? The chance to return to Rocfeld comes at a high price.

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About Georgina Makalani

Georgina Makalani survives life as a servant of the public by hiding in cafes at lunch time with dragons, witches, a laptop and a little bit of magic. Georgina and her daughter live in beautiful southern Tasmania, with two crazy cats and a writing desk that overlooks the water.

You can find out more about Georgina’s writing journey at www.theflowofink.com
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Author Interview: Rosalyn Kelly

This week I am interviewing Rosalyn Kelly. Rosalyn is a fantasy author and one of the authors that I worked with on Beyond The Deepwoods!

Tell us about a great book you’ve recently read!

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan. It is described as a ‘steampunk flavoured’ fantasy and has a modern, industrial revolution kinda feel to it with guns, machinery and steam powered engines rather than a medieval setting.

There are drakes, animals similar to dragons, and their blood allows select people who are ‘blood-blessed’ to do remarkable things, such as super speed, healing, creating fire, communicating through mind trances, and telekinesis.

It has great worldbuilding, characters and action. It was a five-star read for me.

What is the first book that made you cry?

I can’t remember the first book that made me cry, but I can definitely remember the book that made me cry A LOT. Seriously, I blubbed for hours! A book has never made me weep like that before or after.

That book is One Day by David Nicholls.

It is so cleverly done, as each chapter tells of the same day, 15th July, in the life of two characters for twenty years. It follows the ups and downs in Emma and Dexter’s lives, and their ‘will they, won’t they’ relationship.

And then the ending. Wow. I’ve got a tear in my eye thinking about it!

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing massively energises me. I absolutely love the entire process. From coming up with an idea, then stretching it out into a story, the planning, plotting and brainstorming, bringing the characters to life and then getting down to the writing. I get a buzz from it and, even after spending hours typing away at my laptop, am still happy.  

I also enjoy the editing and rewriting process, which I know a lot of writers don’t like. Every time I ‘touch’ my work I’m improving it and I find that thrilling! (Is that odd?!)

Of all of the characters you have created, which is your favorite?

It’s got to be Jakira. She is the mother of Ammad, who is a point of view character in my novel Melokai. Jakira is a powerful, intelligent, subtle woman with a gift for remembering everything. She has ambition and she’s not afraid to manipulate people and situations for her own gain. She also loves her son, despite all his flaws.  

I adore Jakira so much that she is the focus on my new novella The Sand Scuttler. It’s set twenty years before Melokai and tells of her early life in the desert country of Drome.

What is your favorite thing about worldbuilding?

I find worldbuilding absolutely fascinating and I spend a long time considering it before I start writing. My favourite part is thinking about what made a country and people the way it is presented in the story, what events triggered certain cultural quirks, what part of its history led to how it treats other countries or its own people.

Melokai is predominantly set in a matriarchal society. It is not perfect in the slightest, and has evolved to be ruthless and treat men as second-class citizens. It was interesting thinking about what had happened in the past that led to the women taking rule and how their customs and practices evolved.  

When you aren’t writing, what do you like to do with your free time?

I’m a voracious reader. All genres, but mostly fantasy. I never watch television and prefer to read. Travel and seeing new places is a big passion of mine. I’m also a fan of being outdoors and walking and hiking. Painting with acrylics is my much-loved hobby to relax and unwind.  

You recently released Melokai: In the heart of the mountains Book 1. What was your favorite thing about writing this book?

I loved everything about writing Melokai! But I think my favourite thing was imagining the settings and locations and then bringing them to life in my writing.

A number of reviewers have mentioned my descriptive and immersive language that allows them to vividly picture the setting. I’ve been fortunate to travel and live around the world, so I draw on personal experiences when writing about places.

You are participating in the upcoming fantasy anthology, Beyond The Deepwoods. Can you tell us a bit about the story you have written for it?

My story for the Beyond the Deepwoods anthology is called The Tunnel Runner. It tells of the story of the young Lord Andrew Chattergoon who is sent on his first clandestine mission to deliver an important message to the true King, who is currently hiding out in Lian and amassing an army to overthrow the false King.

To do this, Chattergoon must venture into the tunnels that were excavated underneath a vast desert inhabited by their enemy, which link the country of Fertilian, where the false King resides, to the outlying city state of Lian.

It is Chattergoon’s first time in the tunnels, but he has been trained for the task by his famed tunnel runner father. However, he comes up against a number of obstacles – giant, sand dwelling, poisonous creatures as well as dangerous bandits, unstable tunnels and mysterious desert nomads.

The Tunnel Runner is set in the same world as Melokai, but twenty-five years before. Lord Andrew Chattergoon has a small part in Melokai, however he plays a bigger role in book two of the In the Heart of the Mountains trilogy.  

What did you enjoy most about writing this story?

It was a lot of fun thinking about Chattergoon’s backstory. He’s a distinctive character in Melokai, although only has a small part, and it was great to develop his history and delve deeper into his personality and beginnings.

Why should readers check out your books?

Readers who like deep worldbuilding will enjoy my books. I currently have one novel, two novellas and two further short stories set in the same rich world. It has been described as ‘immersive and atmospheric’ and ‘a masterclass in world-building.’

Melokai has a large cast of characters and multiple point of view narratives. Whereas my novellas, The Fall of Vaasar and The Sand Scuttler (coming out in May 2018), and my short stories, Peonhood and Ruby’s Return, are all told from one point of view character.

My books are dark and gritty adult fantasy, and often described as grimdark, with no guarantee of a happily ever after ending, and sometimes the bad guy wins. There’s action and battles, as well as intrigue and unpredictable twists and turns.

You can find out more about me and my books here www.rosalynkelly.co.uk

About Rosalyn’s Books

Game of Thrones meets Kushiel’s Dart set in a ruthless land ruled by women.

Legendary warrior Ramya has successfully ruled as Melokai for longer than most. Prosperous, peaceful, and happy, her people love her. Or so she thinks.

Ramya’s time is up. Bracing herself for the gruesome sentence imposed on all Melokais who have served their purpose, she hears instead a shocking prophecy.

Is the abrupt appearance of a mysterious, eastern cave creature the prophesied danger? Or is it something darker, more evil? And what of the wolves? Will the ferocious war with their kind oust her from power?

Suddenly Ramya must fight threats from all sides to save her mountain realm. But while her back is turned, a conspiracy within her inner circle is festering. Ramya and her female warriors must crush an epic rebellion before it can destroy her and devastate her beloved nation.

She thinks it’s the end, but it’s just the beginning…

If you love elaborate fantasy worlds and deep worldbuilding, perilously high stakes, magic, brutal battles, intrigue, and unique creatures and beings, then Melokai, Book One of the grimdark, epic fantasy trilogy In the Heart of the Mountains by Rosalyn Kelly, is for you.

Dark and gritty adult fantasy with adult content. For fans of George R. R. Martin, Mark Lawrence, Anna Stephens and Joe Abercrombie.

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About Rosalyn Kelly

Rosalyn Kelly grew up in the magical New Forest ​in the south of England and has lived around the country ​as well as in the Middle East, and travelled all over the world.

She studied English Literature and Language at Oxford Brookes University before embarking on a PR and marketing career.

After ten years telling the stories of international brands and businesses, she decided the time had come to tell her own and her debut novel MELOKAI was written in 2016 after quitting her job, going travelling for four months and then writing solidly for the following four.

The inspiration for her epic fantasy trilogy came when she was trekking in the mountains of Nepal’s stunning Annapurna Sanctuary.

When she’s not putting her heart and soul into book two of the In the Heart of the Mountains trilogy, she daydreams about where to travel to next, paints with acrylic, reads voraciously and writes book reviews on her blog.

Author Interview: Devin Madson

This week I am interviewing Devin Madson, the winner of the 2017 Aurealis Award for best fantasy novella.

First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

 Sure can, I’m an Australian fantasy author with a magical ability to turn fried zucchini and chocolate (not together) into books. I’m also a gamer, a terrible gardener, and parent of three including the infamous Toddler of Doom.

What book are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?

Not actually a fantasy book! Rare for me, but I’m reading Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein, which is a YA thriller set in Australia and given I don’t often branch beyond fantasy I didn’t think I would enjoy it but WOW. Talk about beautifully written and freaky as all hell. Really enjoying it. Last fantasy book I finished was Kings of the Wyld, which I’m assuming NO ONE needs me to tell them about. Lots of fun.

Your third novel, The Grave at Storm’s End, released in November last year. Did you find it easier to write the first book or the sequels?

I don’t find third books are harder to write than first books in a general sense, as in a first book you need to be laying groundwork you’ll reap the rewards of in the later books, but in the specific case of The Grave at Storm’s End – that was a difficult write for me. Between bringing out the second book and the third I moved country, got divorced, moved country again, started a new relationship and had a baby. That’s the kind of life upheaval that interferes with ANY book no matter where it sits in a series.

Last year your novella, In Shadows We Fall, won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novella. What was that experience like?

There was a lot of screaming involved. I thought seeing my name on the nomination list was as good as it was going to get because it felt much safer to just assume I wouldn’t win. Better to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed. Sadly I am optimistic by nature and couldn’t help having a sliver of hope no matter how much I tried to crush it. So yeah, when they read my name out I ran around my house screaming and then my editor called and started screaming at me. Safe to say my whole team was thrilled.

Which of your characters do you most enjoy writing and Why?

In The Vengeance Trilogy it was Minister Darius Laroth, who is a very intelligent, broken and snarky fellow who has been with me for quite some time, but in my new series Cassandra Marius takes the cake. She’s an older whore turned assassin who has no illusions whatsoever about the world and her place in it, but she also happens to have a voice in her head with which she argues and fights for control of the body they share and as sad as it is to say I crack up every time I read those scenes and they’re damn fun to write. She’s also snarky, rude and doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks of her.

What was the hardest thing about writing The Vengeance Trilogy?

Having to do it while parenting little kids! I am laughing and crying as I say that. But honestly about writing the actual books… probably getting the ‘magic’ system right. It is based on soul science and carries not only into my new books but every book I have planned, all in the same world. So my first of these characters, my Empaths, needed to be right to set the foundation, and they weren’t easy to write because they see the world so very differently so that was a challenge.

Now that you have completed The Vengeance Trilogy, what’s next for you?

I have the first book of a new series coming out June 7th. We Ride the Storm, Book 1 of The Reborn Empire. I’m also working on a spanish/moorish thieves and political intrigue fantasy series set in a different part of the same world. There are so many books in my brain waiting to be written that I need more hours in the day!

What drew you to writing Grimdark Fantasy?

Its honesty and the ability to really delve into the darkness of human psychology. Grimdark allows me to explore the shades of grey, and to have stories that focus heavily on the decisions of very complex characters rather than good heroes and evil demons, both of which I find difficult to empathise with and understand.

What book/series has had the greatest influence on your writing?

Gosh that’s tough, because although The Belgariad brought me to fantasy as a teenager and A Song of Ice and Fire opened the door to grimdark, I think the actual books that had the most formative influence on my writing itself aren’t fantasy at all but the works of Georgette Heyer, which I read repeatedly in my teen years. She was a master of characters and witty banter and was not an effusive describer of things other than ballgowns yet still managed to bring Regency England to life on the page with humour and mystery. I’ve just taken everything I learned from her and used it to write about people ripping heads off and backstabbing each other. No ballgowns though.

In your opinion, other than Tolkien’s works, which fantasy series has had the greatest influence on the fantasy genre?

This is one of those questions that could lead to author war. So many have changed the genre, decade to decade, but from where I’m sitting only two have guided enormous shifts in the way people outside the fandom perceive and receive fantasy: Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. Between them they not only brought swathes of new readers to fantasy, but also helped bring fantasy from ‘geeky nonsense’ to ‘mainstream cool’.

If you could write in any fantasy world, which would you choose and why?

Well, mine of course. But assuming you mean other than my own… The world of Bioware’s Dragon Age games. I have always been a massive fan, but what I love about it is the inbuilt conflict within the society on a basic, ethical level. Should mages be allowed to live free despite the danger they pose to society, or should they be kept in circles, guarded by templars to protect the rest of society even though it infringes on their rights and their freedom. After all they didn’t choose to be born a mage.

If I had to pick a book world it would have to be Westeros because I love scope and naturally write low-magic high-politics character drama with lots of blood.

If you could write a book using another writers character, which character would you choose and why?

Can I pick two? Because to separate Locke and Jean (Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards of course) would be a crime. I have loved their deep and enduring friendship since I first picked up Lies of Locke Lamora, and I can well imagine them having all sorts of mad adventures in pretty much any setting. They would be a fun pair to transplant, because they are resourceful and entertaining and snarky banter is totally my thing.

An evil wizard casts a spell on you and transports you to a world from a fantasy novel. Which fantasy world would you want it to be?

That’s tough when most of the fantasy worlds I read about are grim and awful. Assuming I have magical powers, I’d have to go for the Harry Potter world simply because I can wander back to the muggle world and my muggle friends and my high speed internet whenever I like. If I had to go for a full other world then Discworld all the way because that place would be off the wall.

You cannot return from the fantasy world you have been sent to and are doomed to spend the rest of your days there, what profession do you choose to take up?

Can I still be an author? It is seriously the only profession I have ever wanted or actually ever had. I tried three different university degrees in an attempt to educate it out of me, but ended up just writing in my lectures. I’m really not cut out for much else.

What is the weirdest place you have found yourself working on a book?

In a haunted insane asylum (not kidding). Also in front of endless Thomas the Tank Engine re-runs.

What weird writing rituals or habits do you have?

For each book I pick a set of epic music and listen to it every time I sit down on that particular book, which often ends with me unable to ever listen to it ever again mind you… And every writing session starts with green tea and chocolate. Otherwise everything just feels weird.

Why should readers check out your books?

Hardest question of all because all writers are built of self-doubt and coffee (tea in my case) but my books are a bit different, I write characters in all shades of grey and like to explore the depths of the human psyche to see just what we might do if forced into situations our world doesn’t possess. So if you’re not after fluffy happy endings and you like complex characters and snarky humour then this is for you.

About Devin’s Books

You will die. Your children will die. The empire will burn.

Empress Li is out of favour at court. Foreign-born and past her prime, she is to be set aside. But she won’t go quietly. With nothing left to lose, Li will do anything to stop Emperor Lan signing a secret alliance that could tear the empire apart. Yet when her life is threatened, old mistakes come back to haunt her and only a three-year-old boy can change the course of history.

With everything at stake, could an innocent child be the best assassin?

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About Devin Madson

Devin Madson has given up on reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue with a lot of points sunk into stealth and lock picking skills. A completionist at heart, she works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. She is still waiting for her Hogwarts letter (a total Ravenclaw) and dreams of flying away in the Tardis.

Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now.

If you’re after happy, fuzzy tales then you’ve come to the wrong place. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.

Battle of the Sub-Genres: Noblebright vs Grimdark

I have always loved fantasy. SciFi and thrillers are great, but fantasy will always be my one true love. I read pretty broadly in the genre too. From sprawling epics like the Wheel of Time, to nice quick urban fantasy reads, I like a mixture. One thing I have come across in the past year or two is the rise of two new sub-genres; grimdark and noblebright.

The two terms originally came about in the gaming community and eventually expanded to book genres. Grimdark and noblebright have both been around for a fair while, but the terms have become more widely spread and more prominent over the past year or two. Thanks to some stellar authors like Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, and Miles Cameron, grimdark has by far become the more popular and widely used term. What exactly is encompassed within each of the sub-genres can be pretty vague and whether a book is considered grimdark or noblebright will vary depending on who you ask. I think C.J. Brightley put it best in her article on Noblebright.org:

GRIMDARK

The notion that the actions of one person can do little to improve this world in decline, that the forces of evil and inertia and temptation will ensure that all of us are doomed. The best we can hope for is a little struggle with morally ambiguous heroes to oppose danger and maybe rescue for a brief time a few others.

NOBLEBRIGHT

The notion that the actions of one person can make a difference, that even if the person is flawed and opposed by strong forces, he can (and wants to) rise to heroic actions that, even if they may cost him his life, improve the lives of others.

One thing that I have come to realize, is that a lot of people seem to think that you have to choose one or the other. Fans of grimdark will often slander noblebright saying that it is all just unicorns and rainbows and fans of noblebright will do the same of grimdark (obviously without the rainbows and unicorns. If someone can write a grimdark book with rainbows and unicorns in it, I would be seriously impressed). I see people insisting that if you like one, you cannot like the other. And I hear this from both authors and readers. But I’ve never understood why.

Both grimdark and noblebright are fantastic sub-genres and both have their place. I have books in both genres that I love. Miles Cameron’s ‘The Red Knight’ is a great book that I absolutely loved reading. Yes, it can be a bit dark and yes it can be violent, but it’s a great book. Even though I haven’t gotten to the other books in the series yet, I’ve already bought most of them and they are sitting on my shelf glaring at me. I also love Chris Riddel and Paul Stewarts ‘The Edge Chronicles.’ They are brilliant examples of noblebright and they definitely don’t have unicorns and rainbows in them and I have loved them since I first found them when I was a teenager.

And that is what really bugs me about this. I get that people have different tastes and like reading different things but given the broad range in both sub-genres, I’m sure if people gave it a try, they’d find something to enjoy in both.

Anyway, that’s the end of my mini-rant. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Drop me a comment below and tell me what you think!

Author Interview: Martin Owton

First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Real life scientific researcher (drug designer), married no kids. Diagnosed with CLL in 2014, lost my hearing 2016, cochlear implant 2017.

What book are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?

Darkmage by ML Spencer. Certainly enjoying it, but it’s difficult to turn off the internal editor that suggests enhancements to the tale.

You’ve been writing and publishing short stories since 1995 and you published your first novel, Exile, in 2016. What was the hardest part about transitioning from writing short stories to a full novel?

 I didn’t find much difficulty.  I had no intention of writing a novel; Exile was a short story that just grew unexpectedly. Now I find it very difficult to go back and write short stories.

What inspired you to write Exile?  

The old ‘what happened next’ plus ‘you can’t end it there, that’s too easy’.

Which of your characters do you most enjoy writing and Why?  

Lord Tirellan, he has all the best lines. The guy is very smart, very ambitious and totally amoral.

What was the hardest thing about writing Exile?  

Same as with all my work – characterisation. I’m fairly good with plot but giving my characters real depth is a continuing challenge. Fortunately I have great beta readers who pull me up on it.

What book/series has had the greatest influence on your writing?  

The works of David Gemmell.

In your opinion, which fantasy series has had the greatest influence on the fantasy genre?

I think that has to be Lord of the Rings and the rest of the Tolkien universe.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the fantasy genre since you first started writing?  

The rise of e-books and self-publishing. When I started only the desperate resorted to it, but now with e-books it is a very viable alternative. My agent failed to get a deal for Exile and it would still be sitting on my hard drive if electronic publishing had not delivered a whole new world to smaller publishers and self-publishers.

If you could write in any fantasy world, which would you choose and why?

Gemmell’s Drenai world. Because it is full of possibilities and Gemmell’s world-building is loose enough to accomodate them.

If you could write a book using another writer’s character, which character would you choose and why?  

Conan, again a world of almost endless possibilities. Also plenty of other authors have written in this setting so there’s less chance of upsetting fans.

An evil wizard casts a spell on you and transports you to a world from a fantasy novel. Which fantasy world would you want it to be?  

Juliet McKenna’s, because she builds such a very coherent world you can imagine it carrying on working when you close the book.

You cannot return from the fantasy world you have been sent to and are doomed to spend the rest of your days there, what profession do you choose to take up?

Alchemist/mage.

What is the weirdest place you have found yourself working on a book?

Hospital ward.

What weird writing rituals or habits do you have?

Writing without much of a plan – though I don’t think that’s weird. I’ve written a couple of books with no idea of what the end will be.

Why should readers check out your books?  

If they love fast-paced adventure with real (as real as I can make them) characters facing real threats then my work should suit them. They are deliberately non-epic so if the bad guys triumph its rotten for the characters but the world keeps turning; the Dread Emperor and his endless army of zombie penguins will not take over everything.

 

 

About Martin’s Books

‘The Exile of Darien’ is a fast-moving tightly-plotted fantasy adventure story with a strong thread of romance.

Aron of Darien, raised in exile after his homeland is conquered by a treacherous warlord, makes his way in the world on the strength of his wits and skill with a sword. Both are sorely tested when he is impressed into the service of the Earl of Nandor to rescue his heir from captivity in the fortress of Sarazan. The rescue goes awry. Aron and his companions are betrayed and must flee for their lives. Pursued by steel and magic, they find new friends and old enemies on the road that leads, after many turns, to the city of the High King. There Aron must face his father’s murderer before risking everything in a fight to the death with the deadliest swordsman in the kingdom.

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About Martin Owton

Fantasy and Science Fiction writer.

I am Martin Owton, I write fantasy and science fiction stories and novels. I am a member of the London-based T-Party writers’ group , and am represented by Ian Drury of Sheil Land Associates.

My first completed novel is a secondary world adventure fantasy called ‘The Exile of Darien’. It is available from the Phantasia imprint of Ticketyboo Press since April 2016, and the sequel ‘Return to Nandor’ will follow shortly.

Author Interview: Brandon Draga

This week I am interviewing fantasy author Brandon Draga. Brandon is the author of the recently concluded fantasy series, ‘The Four Kingdoms Saga’.

First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Certainly! My name’s Brandon Draga which, despite what’s now become a bit of a joke over on /r/Fantasy, is my real name and not a lazy nom de plume. I’m the author of The Four Kingdoms Saga, a high fantasy quartet that’s been compared to Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf novels, and other sorts of popcorn-fantasy. I live just outside Toronto, Canada. I’m a nerd in all that I do, so I’ll be just as quick to bloviate for hours about books as I would about tabletop gaming, punk rock, skateboarding, and video games.

What book are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?

I most recently started the audiobook version of Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft. Ninety-five percent of my reading since I started writing seriously is via audiobooks, and so I was really excited when I saw Orbit was releasing Josiah’s books as such. Senlin has, so far, lived up to every bit of praise it’s received.

You published the conclusion to your Fantasy series ‘The Four Kingdoms Saga’ in May last year, how did it feel to end the series?

I’ve tried on a few occasions now to really accurately put into words how I felt throughout the process of writing and releasing Collapse of Kingdoms. Writing the final book in a series is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever experienced, and the amount of empathy I gained for Pat Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin, who have infinitely greater outside pressure to finish their series’, multiplied exponentially.

After all was said and done, finishing the series was ultimately bittersweet. Yes, in some ways it was a weight lifted, but it was a weight that I charged myself with carrying. It’s easy when you surround yourself with other authors to start feeling like writing and publishing a book isn’t such a great achievement, but it absolutely is, and to say I’ve finished an entire series is something I can really take pride in.

What can readers expect from you next?

I have a few different projects on the go at the moment. I’m working on a short for a new digital magazine being launched by Ellen Michelle, the editor of the Dwarves of the World anthology, I have a dark fantasy novelette I wrote a few years back that I’m hoping to do something with by year’s end, and I’m working on a new full-length novel set six years after the end of Collapse of Kingdoms tentatively titled Shadows and Sand.

Which of your characters do you most enjoy writing and Why?

Most recently, I think I had a lot of fun with O’Den Overhill. I had the opportunity to write him at two very different points in his life: first as a side character in Collapse, and then as the main protagonist of my story in the Art of War anthology, which is nearly twenty years prior. It was fun getting to write this glimpse of who he is, and then to write a pivotal point in shaping that. I actually might try and do more with him in the future.

What was the hardest thing about writing The Four Kingdoms Saga?

If I’m being totally honest, I think the hardest thing was when Realmwalker Publishing Group folded. I wrote and self-published the first two books, as well as the picture book I did with my fiancee, when RPG approached me. In the brief time I was with them, I was emboldened to really try and make the third book worthy to be next to the other authors RPG published. Despite the whole operation being small, I was seeing greater success in terms of sales than I had seen when I self-published, and it really felt like a step in the right direction.

By now I’m sure most of the industry knows that RPG ended with a lot of drama. Beyond all of that for me, though, was the sense that, despite working harder than ever to write a good book, do boots-on-the-ground promotion, and really up my own level of professionalism, it felt like I had made no headway in the end. It was something I struggled a lot with when writing Collapse, and is probably a large part of why it took me as long as it did to finish.

What book/series has had the greatest influence on your writing?

I think in the beginning I tried really hard to emulate R.A. Salvatore’s pacing, whether I knew it or not. As I’ve grown and evolved as a writer, I simply take mental notes on what other authors do that excite me, and figure out a way to make those things work in my books, and on my terms.

In your opinion, which fantasy series has had the greatest influence on the fantasy genre?

I think, whether people like it or not, Lord of the Rings is the stepping stone upon which nearly all modern fantasy stems. Those books are to fantasy what The Ramones’ first album is to punk rock.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the fantasy genre since you first started writing?

The change had already began as I entered the world of published writing, but the destigmatization of self-publishing. In a lot of ways it’s starting to feel like self-publishing your work has gone from the fringe vanity act of someone unable or unwilling to find an agent, to becoming an integral step in getting oneself published by a larger house. Five years ago most publishers wouldn’t touch work that had been self-published with a ten foot pole, and now Mark Lawrence is organizing his annual SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off), and agents are using it to scout under-the-radar talent. It’s a fascinating paradigm shift to be privy to.

If you could write in any fantasy world, which would you choose and why?

The whole team behind the Art of War anthology recently did an AMA on /r/Fantasy the day the book came out, and I sort-of half joked that I’d love to write a short story set in Nicholas Eames’ Heartwyld. For those who haven’t read Nicholas’ debut, Kings of the Wyld (first off: do), it’s a setting that leans heavily on rock and roll analogues, and I’m enough of a geek that I think I could do a fair job injecting some punk rock into the world.

If you could write a book using another writers character, which character would you choose and why?

I feel like I’d be incredibly self-conscious writing any one writer’s characters, but I would willingly have several non-vital organs removed for the opportunity to write Batman.

An evil wizard casts a spell on you and transports you to a world from a fantasy novel. Which fantasy world would you want it to be?

Most likely Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. It seems like as long as I kept my head down, I’d have the least chance of dying a gruesome death there.

You cannot return from the fantasy world you have been sent to and are doomed to spend the rest of your days there, what profession do you choose to take up?

Writing. I figure I’ll stick with what I know.

What is the weirdest place you have found yourself working on a book?

Most of my writing happens in the places that aren’t that weird to us writers: at home, in a coffee shop, on a bus, at work when no one is looking. I’m sure at some point I’ve furiously scribbled lines or plot points while on a forklift. Don’t worry, it wouldn’t have been moving at the time.

What weird writing rituals or habits do you have?

Nothing too crazy, really. I just make sure I have coffee handy, cue up my writing playlist on Spotify, sacrifice exactly twelve grams of cotton candy and two ounces of triple sec to the elder god Shoggoth, and just let the words flow out.

Why should readers check out your books?

Because they’re fun! I referenced popcorn fantasy earlier, and I didn’t mean it in a derogatory sense. I think there is plenty of room in the genre for books that are light, fun jaunts, and I think I’m pretty good at writing them. Fantasy is an infinitely long buffet of all the foods in the world, but if you’re in the mood for some comfort food, I make a mean shepherd’s pie.

Sounds delicious, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions today!

About Brandon’s Books

Enna Summerlark has spent her entire life as a farmer’s daughter in the kingdom of Hallowspire, paying little mind to anything past what to sell at the next market day. When the next market day comes, however, strange events take place that will reunite her with an old friend, bring her into the world of a pair of sell-swords, and reveal a secret that will change Hallowspire forever, and cause ripples across the whole of the Four Kingdoms.

The first book in “The Four Kingdoms Saga”, The Summerlark Elf introduces readers to compelling characters in an engaging world of swords and sorcery, personal turmoil and political intrigue!

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About Brandon Draga

Brandon Draga was born in 1986, just outside Toronto, Ontario. His love of all things fantasy began at an early age with games like The Legend of Zelda, Heroquest, and Dungeons and Dragons. This affinity for the arcane and archaic led to his studying history in university from 2005 to 2011. In late 2012, he began writing a D&D campaign setting that would lay the groundwork for the world of the Four Kingdoms. Brandon still lives just outside Toronto, and when he is not writing enjoys skateboarding, playing guitar, and playing tabletop games.

 

 

Author Interview: A.Z. Anthony

This week I am interviewing fantasy author A.Z. Anthony. A.Z. Anthony has previoulsy written a number of short stories and his debut novel, Servant Of Rage, is due to be released in April this year!

First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m renowned author A.Z. Anthony, best known for my genre-warping fiction which crashes global markets, and my humility. More realistically, I’m the author of several award-winning stories, as well as my debut novel, Servant of Rage. I’m also a ghostwriter by trade and a contributor at The Fantasy Hive.

What book are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?

I’m currently reading Supremacy’s Shadow by T. Erik Bakutis and I am absolutely enjoying it. It’s billed as “grimsnark” and it’s definitely had me laughing a fair bit.

Your debut novel, Servant of Rage, the First Book of the Bloodrage Trilogy, is set to launch on April 3, 2018, what is the book about?

Well, some anonymous, but really important person (who’s definitely not me), has called it “Avatar: The Last Airbender as directed by Quentin Tarantino.” But, just in case that word of that really important, definitely famous person isn’t enough, here’s a quick summary:

To kill an heir is to claim their power. But at what cost?

When the khan’s fiercest headhunters, brothers Subei and Bataar, are struck by lightning from a freak storm, they awake to find unnatural powers growing inside them. And they’re not alone – all across the land other “heirs of the ancestors” have been similarly blessed. To kill one of these heirs is to consume their power, but as the brothers do just this, and their power grows, so too does a primal, uncontrollable madness within.

What was your favorite thing about writing this book?

Actually writing it. I’m not the biggest fan of plotting or editing, but I love writing. I always draw up outlines for my novels, but they inevitably change in some ways when I get to the act of physically writing the story. I love that. I love following the text as it develops in unexpected ways and takes me in new directions.

What was the hardest thing about writing Servant of Rage?

Character growth, for sure. I didn’t mean to write a book that required so much character growth, but it turned out to be essential to the plot. I don’t think it’s one of my strongest areas of writing, but advanced reviews have said they liked how the characters grew and changed, so I’ll take it!

How does it feel to be releasing your first book?

At first, it was more stressful. I was worried about a dozen things, primarily, that no one would buy the book. But all that worrying built into an important realization: I was so worried about the book doing well, I’d forgotten to just enjoy my writing. That realization has helped me get back to the basics. Writing for writing’s sake, and releasing the books when they’re done, because, what else do you do with a finished manuscript anyway, eh?

What drew you to writing Grimdark Fantasy?

Joe Abercrombie. He was the gateway drug that led me down this dastardly path. I’ve always appreciated the depth and mixed morality of his characters. I love a good morally gray protagonist, or outright anti-hero. They’re so much more interesting than your typical “good guy.” Also, I’ve always loved hard rock / metal as a music genre, and grimdark really is just the hard rock of the literary world, isn’t it?

What book/series has had the greatest influence on your writing?

Ooh. This one is tough. Based on how Servant of Rage turned out, I’d say Abercrombie’s standalone novel, Best Served Cold. But, my current WIP is a standalone that draws much heavier on survival thriller influences such as Jurassic Park. I’d like to think my writing is moving in a direction to be some abominable mashup of grimdark and man vs. wild, survival thrillers.

In your opinion, which fantasy series has had the greatest influence on the fantasy genre? 

I mean, I have to say Lord of the Rings, right? It’s good – not my favorite story out there – but the influence it has had and still does on the fantasy genre is undeniable.

If you could write in any fantasy world, which would you choose and why?

I’d have to go with the universe of Andrew Rowe’s Sufficiently Advanced Magic. I read that book recently and, while I can’t explain why, it’s just really stuck with me. Something about the world he created fascinated me. I’d love to take a crack at writing in it. But he’s almost done with work on the sequel, and I think reading that will satisfy the craving for a while.

If you could write a book using another writers character, which character would you choose and why?

Oh, jeez. That’s a tough one. I hardly feel qualified to write another author’s characters. I suppose, if I had to answer, I’d want to write Nicomo Cosca from Abercrombie’s works. He’s always been one of my favorite scoundrels. That being said, I’m absolutely sure I’d not be able to do the character justice.

An evil wizard casts a spell on you and transports you to a world from a fantasy novel. Which fantasy world would you want it to be?

I quite like living. Thus, I’d definitely want to go to a world where consequences are not quite ever-lasting and I’d have a better chance of not being randomly slaughtered by a passing lord. So…I’d go with the fantasy world of Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld. Also, airships. Yes please.

You cannot return from the fantasy world you have been sent to and are doomed to spend the rest of your days there, what profession do you choose to take up?

Airship mate, and if I work really hard, maybe I can make it to First Mate. I’d not want to be captain, though. Too much responsibility. I just want to sail the skies in a badass ancient relic ship and watch the sunset over the horizon.

What is the weirdest place you have found yourself working on a book?

The weirdest place I’ve found myself working on a book is in the pick up / drop off lane of our local T (Boston subway) station. Sometimes while I’m waiting to pick up my fiancee, I’ll write on my phone. Not planning, but actual writing. It’s strange to write on your phone, and it’s much slower than  keyboard, but it gets the job done, eventually.

What weird writing rituals or habits do you have?

The first time I answered this question in an interview, I had to ask my fiancée if I did anything weird while writing, because of course I don’t. Without hesitating, she reminded me that I work out while I write. Every forty-five minutes or so, I do a quick set of exercises with free weights. I find it helps keep me active, encourages the creativity to flow, and the ever-increasing physical exhaustion makes it easier to stay at the keyboard (a comfy computer chair is far preferred to crunches on the hardwood floor with a weight on my head).

Why should readers check out your book?

It’ll fix your love life!* It’ll whip you into impeccable physical shape!** It’ll put money in your bank account!*** And because, as one advanced reviewer put it, Servant of Rage is “a dark yet hopeful tale of magic and morality in a violent world…packed with action, conflict, and enough fighting to satisfy any fantasy reader’s cravings for magical battles.”

*It probably won’t
**It definitely won’t
***It’ll do the opposite, actually

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions today!

 

About The Book

To kill an heir is to claim their power. But at what cost? 

As the khan’s fiercest headhunters, brothers Subei and Bataar are feared across the steppe. When they’re struck by lightning from a freak storm, however, they awake to find unnatural powers growing within them. And what’s more, they’re not alone.

All across the land other “heirs of the ancestors” have been imbued with these powers. Some call it a gift. Others, a curse. The khan calls it opportunity.
Under the tutelage of two infamous women – one a conqueror, the other a monk – the brothers are sent to the lands of the mighty Zhong empire to hunt heirs and consume their power for the good of the khanate.
With each kill, their powers grow. But so too does something else, boiling beneath the surface until it breaks free in uncontrollable fits of violence. As these so called bloodrages grow stronger and last longer, Subei and Bataar must weigh their duty, and their honor, against the unnatural madness growing within.

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About A.Z. Anthony

A.Z. Anthony is best known for his genre-warping fiction whose popularity commonly crashes global markets. Also, his humility.

More realistically, he is the author of several award-winning short stories. His debut novel, Servant of Rage, releases April 3, 2018. He’s also hard at work on an additional standalone novel, the two sequels to Servant of Rage, and is a contributor at The Fantasy Hive.

Should you wish to reach out to A.Z. you should know he prefers to be contacted exclusively through Sasquatch-esque whoops and tree knocks. However, he can also be reached through these less effective means:

Twitter: @GrindarkGuy
Goodreads: A.Z. Anthony
Email: Write.aza@gmail.com

 

 

Author Interview: Peter Mclean

This week I am interviewing Fantasy author, Peter McLean. The first book in Peter’s new series, Priest of Bones, is due to release in October this year.

Thanks for joining us today Peter. First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a British author living and working in Norwich, near the east coast, a couple of hours from London. I’m married with two grown-up children and two grandchildren. I’m the author of the Burned Man series of urban fantasy books, and my new series, War For The Rose Throne, launches in October from Ace/Roc and Jo Fletcher Books.

What book are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?

I’m currently reading the Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium omnibus from Black Library, and it’s an absolute hoot. It’s one of the very few light-hearted 40K series, written in the style of The Flashman Papers.

Your novel, Priest Of Bones, is set to release in October this year, what is the book about?

Priest of Bones is basically a gangster novel set in a fantasy world. It tells the story of army priest and former gangster Tomas Piety, who returns from war to find his criminal empire has been taken from him by a foreign gang. In the process of reclaiming what was his, Tomas finds himself drawn into a shadowy world of government agents, spies, and conspiracies. Barnes & Noble called it “Peaky Blinders with swords”, and I think that’s pretty much on the money.

What was your favorite thing about writing Priest of Bones?

I’d wanted to write a proper “swords and horses” fantasy novel for a long time, so it was a treat to finally be able to do that. I greatly enjoyed shaping the city of Ellinburg where the story is set, basing it partly on Edinburgh in the early Tudor period and partly on industrial revolution-era London.

What was the hardest thing about writing Priest Of Bones?

Strangely enough, getting the economics right. I’m rather obsessive about worldbuilding, I have to confess, and Tomas Piety moves in world of money and business so I felt I had to make the economics of the city’s industry at least plausible.

Which of your characters do you most enjoy writing and Why?

Oh, Bloody Anne for sure. She was Tomas’s sergeant in the war and since returning to Ellinburg she has become his second in his criminal operation, the Pious Men. She’s a hard-bitten soldier, a ruthless killer with a tragic past, but her and her woman Rosie end up being the most successful relationship in the book. The thing I love about Anne is her utter loyalty to Tomas, and the depth of the friendship between the two of them. In a world where almost nobody can be trusted, Tomas and Anne have an unshakable bond that’s really quite special.

Priest Of Bones, seems quite different from your previous series. What inspired you to write it?

As I said I’d been wanting to write a fantasy for ages, but there’s a lot of fantasy already so I wasn’t sure what I could bring to the genre that would feel fresh. I certainly didn’t want to write about a chosen one destined to defeat a dark lord, or anything like that. I do like crime fiction though, and I was re-reading The Godfather at the time, and something just clicked in my head and said “Do this. Do this, but with swords”. So I did.

What drew you to writing Grimdark Fantasy?

This opens the “what is Grimdark” can of worms, doesn’t it? I guess most of the fantasy I enjoy reading is what’s commonly called Grimdark – Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Anna Smith Spark and so forth – but it’s more that that’s just how my head works. I’m never going to be an “elves and unicorns” kind of writer, that’s for sure!

What book/series has had the greatest influence on your writing?

Probably Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy. Writing for me is character voice first, everything else second, and Joe’s narration in Logan’s and Glokta’s POV scenes is just a masterclass in voice. I first read The Blade Itself about ten years ago, before I’d even started writing my first novel, and I’m very glad I did. I learned a lot from it.

In your opinion, other than Tolkien’s works, which fantasy series has had the greatest influence on the fantasy genre?

Oh boy, that’s a tough one! I think different works have influenced the genre in different ways. Stephen Donaldson and Ursula Le Guin proved that fantasy other than Tolkien could be considered literature, and Terry Brooks’s Shannara series proved that fantasy could sell in vast quantities. Those two things helped open the genre up to mass appeal in the wake of Tolkien, and opened the gates for the massive expansion of popularity that followed.

If you could write in any fantasy world, which would you choose and why?

I have to say, I’d really love to write a Star Wars novel one day. You listening, Disney?

If you could write a book using another writers character, which character would you choose and why?

David Gemmell’s Druss the Legend, hands down. I just want Druss to be my dad, basically.

Now for some fun questions. An evil wizard casts a spell on you and transports you to a world from a fantasy novel. Which fantasy world would you want it to be?

Ah well, do I get transported as me or as a character? Because I was going to say Westeros, but if I went as me I’d be dead by sundown!

You cannot return from the fantasy world you have been sent to and are doomed to spend the rest of your days there, what profession do you choose to take up?

If I’m stuck in Westeros I’m going to set up shop as an undertaker. I’ll never want for work, that’s for sure.

What is the weirdest place you have found yourself working on a book?

On the balcony of my hotel room at the Disney resort in Florida last year, franticly taking calls from my agent as we did the deal with Ace/Roc for Priest of Bones. I kid you not, I felt like one of those authors you see in TV who always seem to be inexplicably wealthy!

What weird writing rituals or habits do you have?

I’m not really big on that sort of thing, to be honest. I tend to write in the evenings and sometimes long after midnight rather than in the mornings though. It’s not just because it’s frowned upon to drink whisky at 9am, honest…

Why should readers check out your books?

If you like fast-paced, character-based thrillers set in a fantasy world, I’m your guy! I hate trying to sell myself, so I’ll leave you with what Mark Lawrence had to say about Priest of Bones: “A charismatic and very more-ish book with solid prose and a strong voice. Priest of Bones is a story of organised crime with shades of the Godfather. It sounds grim and dark . . . and it is . . . but our priest of bones is quite the humanitarian for a ruthless crime lord. With high-tempo action it’s just very fun to read.”

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions today!

About The Book

‘Sixty-five thousand battle-shocked, trained killers came home to no jobs, no food and the plague. What did Her Majesty think was going to happen?’

Tomas Piety takes his duties seriously: as a soldier, as a priest of Our Lady of Eternal Sorrows and as a leader of men. He has come home from the war to reclaim his family business, to provide for his men and to ensure the horrors of Abingon can never happen in Ellinburg.

But things have changed: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg – his people – have run out of food and hope and places to hide. With his best friend Bloody Anne, his war-damaged brother Jochan and his new gang, the Pious Men, Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his.

And as Tomas is dragged into a web of political intrigue by the sinister Queen’s Men, forced to work against the foreign infiltrators lurking in the backstreet taverns, brothels and gambling dens of the Stink, one thing becomes clear.

The war has just begun.

‘Charismatic and very more-ish’ – Mark Lawrence, bestselling author of Red Sister

‘Fans of Daniel Polansky, Mark Lawrence or, dare I say, Blackwing will most appreciate this book’ – Ed McDonald, author of Blackwing

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About Peter McLean

Peter McLean was born near London in 1972, the son of a bank manager and an English teacher. He went to school in the shadow of Norwich Cathedral where he spent most of his time making up stories.

By the time he left school this was probably the thing he was best at, alongside the Taoist kung fu he had been studying since the age of 13. He grew up in the Norwich alternative scene, alternating dingy nightclubs with martial arts and practical magic.

He has since grown up a bit, if not a lot, and spent 25 years working in corporate IT. He is married to Diane and is still making up stories.

 

 

Author Interview: Anna Smith Spark

This week I am interviewing Grimdark, Fantasy author; Anna Smith Spark. Anna’s first novel The Court of Broken Knives is currently on the Long List for the David Gemmel Awards for Fantasy.

Let’s start with a bit of an introduction, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Anna Smith Spark. I’m a fantasy novelist, aspie girl and notorious shoe wearer. I tell sad stories of the death of kings.

What book are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?

I’m rereading War and Peace, because I chose it as my ‘what book would you chose if you were stranded on Mars’ in another interview and as soon as I picked it up to check something I had to start reading it again. It has everything – vast battles, romance, politics, closely observed daily life, a sweeping, complex cast of characters. Tolstoy found in the Crimea, at the siege of Sebastopol, is writing war from direct experience. He understood the strange mixture of fear and horror and boredom and utter joyous excitement that war engenders, he’s not sentimental about it but equally he sees the horrible reality that people caught up in it do enjoy it. There’s a horrifying scene in his Sebastopol Sketches where young soldiers are running into battle, almost certain to die but cheering, feeling themselves glorious in rushing to killing and death. Tolstoy saw – personally felt – that intoxication of killing and death. And the sheer confusing boredom of war, as well.

I’m also reading a science fiction novel called Diamond Roads: The Outer Spheres by Andrew Wallace. I do struggle with hard science fiction, I can never make any sense of the world as soon as high technology gets involved. But the disorientation here is part of the point, the reader is lost in an endlessly changing, claustrophobic, unreal world, without bounded dimensions, without any anchor-point. It’s very much a piece of stylized modernist prose about disorientation, taking the noir world of ‘trust no one’ physically – and makes a wonderful counterpoint to War and Peace.

Your second novel, The Tower of Living and Dying, is set to release in July this year. Did you find it easier to write the sequel or the first book?

It was a totally different experience writing the two books. The Court of Broken Knives was written very fast, purely for my own enjoyment. I had no idea what I was writing, where it was going – I didn’t even set out to write a novel, let alone a grimdark fantasy, I started writing with no sense of anything beyond the desire to write. The world, the characters, the themes and plot, were all totally unknown to me.

I got an agent really quickly, within days of finishing the first draft of the book [pro tip: DO NOT DO THIS. DO NOT APPROACH AN AGENT THE DAY AFTER YOU TYPE THE FINAL FULL STOP]. So writing The Tower of Living and Dying was suddenly ‘I’m afantasy novelist and I’m writing a fantasy novel for publication, and here’s the plot synopsis I’ve had to come up with’. And, slightly more cerebrally, the world existed, the characters existed, I actually knew what I was writing about. It was less exciting as a voyage of discovery. But I had a greater confidence in my writing, I really felt that I had found myself as an author, realized where my strengths lay and what I could do. Which of your characters do you most enjoy writing and Why? I love writing Marith because he’s Marith, he’s the great love of my life, he’s my Alexander fan fiction slash fiction and I get off writing about him, oh yeah. But the character I find easiest and most fun to write is Tobias. Beneath that poised, feminine exterior, I’m apparently a cynical foul-mouthed bastard-hard old mercenary letting out rip-your- face-off farts.

In other interviews you’ve mentioned that Empires of Dust is going to be a Trilogy. After you complete the Trilogy, what’s next for you?

Honestly, I have no idea. I would love to write more stories set in my world and have some ideas. Not ‘actually it doesn’t end with book three, I’m thinking at least a ten parter’, I hasten to add, it does end at book three and I’ve already written the end. But other stories in other places and times within the world that exists so clearly in my head. Irlast is my subconscious, a place where I can explore themes and images that mean things to me, let go of constraints and immerse myself in everything I love. I want to keep writing in it.

But it all depends on my publishers, and sales, and that, hint hint cough Gemmell Awards cough hint.

You’ve also written a number of short stories for fantasy magazines and anthologies, do you prefer writing short stories or novels? Why?

I much prefer writing novels. It takes me a long time to work out what anything I’m writing is about, what the underlying plot structure and intention is. So a short story will inevitable involve a lot more work as there’s a lot less space to roam around in before I find my direction.

I am interested in the idea of writing fragments, multiple snatches of voices – rather like a volume of poetry, or a collection of eyewitness accounts of a battle. I did some work on oral history at university, the use of multiple, fragmentary accounts of personal experience and memory to tell history, as opposed to one definitive narrative. It’s something that short stories can do beautifully – but it can be less interesting to read. Which kind of defeats the point of a story.

What drew you to writing Grimdark Fantasy?

I didn’t consciously sit down to write a grimdark fantasy novel – to be honest, I didn’t sit down to write fantasy or a novel. But dark fantasy has always been one of my great loves. I’ve always loved epic fantasy, my dad read me Tolkien, C S Lewis, Alan Garner, Kevin Crossley-Holland as a child and it called to me. And I was always more interested in the more, uh, morally complex characters, I remember very clearly the picture of the Assyrian-influenced dark godpower in The Last Battle; I fell madly in love with the Black Rider in the Dark is Rising sequence*. I was never quite being clear why anyone wouldn’t want to be on the same side as that.

I read and reread the Norse myths, the Tain, the Iliad – and it’s their bleakness, their lack of morality, their pitiless awareness of human frailty and the absurdity of meaning in an immoral, pointless cosmos, that drew me. Then as a teenager I read the insane cosmology of Lovecraft, Haussmann’s La-Bas, James Ellroy, the great modernist poetic responses to the absurdity of the 20th century’s wars. I wrote a lot of body horror and psycho-sexual horror stuff as a teenager, torture porn, pain stuff. The experience of physical violence, of casual cruelty, of utter cynicism and despair and revulsion at the world and the self. I was brought up a pacifist and a socialist, to care about others, to want to help change the world – but also as an anarchist cynic with a healthy disrespect for power of any political stripe. I’ve spent my life trying to make sense of war, of violence, of cruelty, of power.

I’d love to believe in a compassionate, interventionist god. But everything I’ve read and seen suggests that Lovecraft was right when he placed the blind idiot god Azathoth at the center of everything. Read Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies on eroticism, violence and death. That’s why I write grimdark. What book/series has had the greatest influence on your writing? Oh gods! Thousands of books…. the god Bakker, Mary Renault’s Alexander trilogy, Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy, Le Guin, Mark Lawrence for the sick jokes. My father’s poetry magazine, Great Works, for shaping my literary aesthetic since I was a child. T S Elliot for the same. James Ellroy, for showing me just how far pulp literature meets modernist high art can go. Lord Dunsany and Clarke Ashton Smith and early Lovecraft, for fantasy as sensuous romantic symbolist dream.

Probably Tolkien, right back in the beginning when my dad read it to me.

*The use of ‘black’ to mean ‘evil’ drives me to distraction. If you read carefully I never once elide the two terms. But that’s what he’s called. The book is an old on, and, in Cooper’s defence, she does also have an evil White Rider – although he gets a lot less of a role.

In your opinion, which fantasy series has had the greatest influence on the fantasy genre?

Tolkien. Without a doubt. Yes, there were fantasy novelists before him. But the total creation of a secondary world, rather than the dream-slippage between our world and the world of magic, of dreams, is something most of us owe directly to him.  

If you could write in any fantasy world, which would you choose and why?

Michael R Fletcher’s Manifest Delusions. It’s a world within which delusions and morbidities shape reality. As someone with long-term health issues, the concept fascinates me – I find the way Fletcher portrays mental ill-health is very convincing, he shows how utterly destructive mental ill-health is (and it is. It really is. There is nothing positive or interesting about mental ill-health) but also makes it very clear that there is no such easy division as ‘normal’ and ’abnormal’, just people in various degrees of fucked-upness and temporary stability and mental pain. We’re all deluded and lying to ourselves and everyone around us, all the time. And we’re all capable of great acts of pure heroism, of perfect moral goodness, at times.

Also his world contains a lot of scope for body horror and pyscho-sexual violence and torture porn, which I do still enjoy the odd wallow about in.  

If you could write a book using another writers character, which character would you choose and why?

That’s a lot harder. Hmmm…. Honestly? No one. My characters are all so much a part of me, they’re all aspects of my psyche. I couldn’t write someone else’s existing character, it would just be pastiche. Trying to pretend to be inside another novelist’s head.

I have thought about writing historical fiction about Alexander the Great and Seleucus I . Real historical people! But that’s very different to writing about someone else’s characters, because we know so little about their internal worlds that it would be an act of self-projection. I’d find imagining someone’s inner character within the confines of their life story much more interesting. (Also easier, as no need to think up a plot. I hate bloody plots).

Let’s have a little bit of fun now! An evil wizard casts a spell on you and transports you to a world from a fantasy novel. Which fantasy world would you want it to be?

Oh, my own! Declare my undying love for Marith, wander through Sorlost lost in its haunted beauty, ride down to the beach on Third Isle and bathe in the cold grey sea.

Or Terre d’Ange. That would almost certainly be a good place to live. Probably rather more pleasant than Irlast as a lifestyle choice.

You cannot return from the fantasy world you have been sent to and are doomed to spend the rest of your days there, what profession do you choose to take up?

Adept of Valerian House. Definitely. Fun fun fun in a silk dress.

What is the weirdest place you have found yourself working on a book?

Stark naked, dripping wet, standing in a freezing cold kitchen, sending myself a very long text message. I had a good idea in the shower.

What weird writing rituals or habits do you have?

I’ve postured on about the naked writing and the writing while fellating my own middle finger before to remarkably little interest.

I snack a lot when I’m writing, I get through huge amounts of black decaf coffee and chocolate. I need things to do with my hands. I tend to listen to the same CD on repeat for days at a time while I’m writing if things are flowing well – the CD must be inspiring me, so I keep it going on and on. It’s possible the neighbours feel a bit upset when its an industrial folk metal album.

Why should readers check out your books?

You mean this interview hasn’t already sold them completely? What was the point, man?

People have come near to blows over whether Broken Knives is any good or not (seriously, there was one very strange week where there were four different arguments about the book running on my facebook feed). I am either the most talented new voice in fantasy for the last decade, writing a lyrically beautiful exploration of human darkness, or an unbalanced, willfully obtuse charlatan with an obsession with repetition and no ability to write plot. Join the debate and break the last scarred remnants of my heart via goodreads.

It’s about a quarter as long as a volume of Marazan, and the whole series only runs to three books.

If people buy my books, I can buy more shoes.   

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions today!

About The Book

Perfect for fans of Mark Lawrence and R Scott Bakker, The Court of Broken Knives is the explosive debut by one of grimdark fantasy’s most exciting new voices.

They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust.

In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion – and only one man can see it.

Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him – beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.

Available Now

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About The Author

Anna Smith Spark is the author of the critically acclaimed Empires of Dust grimdark epic fantasy series. The Court of Broken Knives is out now with Harper Voyager (UK/world) and Orbit (US/Can); The Tower of Living and Dying will be published in summer 2018. Her favourite authors are Mary Renault, R Scott Bakker and M. John Harrison. Previous jobs include English teacher, petty bureaucrat and fetish model. You may know her by the heels of her shoes.

 

www.courtofbrokenknives.org

Twitter: @queenofgrimdark

Facebook: Anna Smith Spark

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