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

Tag: Grimdark

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?


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: 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.

Preorder Now

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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



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

Preorder Now

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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.

Twitter: @queenofgrimdark

Facebook: Anna Smith Spark

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