SFX Interview

Those lovely people over at SFX Magazine have interviewed me in their latest issue.

I recommend that you immediately rush out and buy yourself a copy. However, if for any reason that is not possible here’s a copy of the interview in full.

You have 50 words to sum up the book. What would you say? (Basically imagine you’re writing the blurb for the back cover yourself)

Angels, demons, giant-clans, betrayal, wyrms, wolven, draigs, giant bears, wars, feuds, magic, coming of age, blood-sucking bats, flesh-eating ants, betrayal, an ambitious prince, a young warrior looking to make his mark, an outlaw with a conscience, politics, betrayal, shield-walls. And did I mention betrayal?

 Is Malice your first attempt at a novel, or do you have others sitting unpublished in a drawer somewhere?

Malice is my first attempt at a novel, my first attempt at any writing outside of essays and dissertations, really. It began as a hobby to keep my brain from turning to mush, a bit of ‘me’ time.

 Have you had a “Eureka!” moment where you’ve thought, “Yes! I’m an author!”

Not really – it all still feels quite dream-like. It has been a very surreal experience so far. In saying that there have definitely been some special moments along the way. The first one was being taken on by my agent, John Jarrold – he was really the first person outside of friends and family to take a look at Malice. Then of course when he phoned me to tell me Tor UK had made an offer. That was pretty great – dancing a jig and drinking mead was involved. Then seeing the artwork come together – I just love that sword on the book cover. When I received the proof copy in the post – a physical book – that was pretty cool. When I saw Malice on Amazon for pre-order I felt a little glow.

I imagine there will be more of those moments, but I can’t honestly say that I feel like an author at all. How is an author supposed to feel? I’m just enjoying the whole process, the ride. And it’s wonderful to hear that people are enjoying Malice, people beyond my wife, children and mates, that is!

 Were there any fantasy cliches you wanted to avoid with Malice?

I concentrated more on what I wanted to do, rather than what I didn’t want to do.  I didn’t set out with a list of do’s and don’ts. I just included what I thought was cool, and left out the stuff I thought wasn’t. I didn’t write Malice for a demographic, I didn’t have a checklist or a target audience. I just wrote something that I wanted to read. I love fantasy, all types of fantasy, from epic to urban to gritty, as well as a large dose of historical fiction, but my first love is epic. That is where my love-affair with fantasy began, with Tolkien and Feist and Brooks. I wanted to write something that conjured up those warm, familiar feelings of nostalgia, but add to the mix, try and make it something contemporary, more character driven. Fantasy cliches are part of that, I think, but I tried to have some fun with them, to turn some expectations around. Every story has been written, I’ve heard more than once. But it’s how the tale is told, the journey as much as the end. For me, I need to feel emotionally hooked by a story, and by the characters in that story. I want to care about them, and what happens. For me that sets apart the books that I love from the books that I like. That’s what I attempted to write, the grail I was searching for. Something epic and intimate.

 The flipside of that: were there any key elements you felt you had to get in there?

I wanted Malice to feel familiar, but with a twist. A little like how the films Gladiator and Braveheart took epic’s like Spartacus and Ben Hur and repackaged them, contemporising them for a modern audience. There are fantasy tropes in Malice, such as ‘the prophecy.’ I’ve tried to play around with them a little, though, and have some fun with them.

 How big is the world you’ve created? Does it go much beyond what we’ll see in Malice and its follow-up? How did you go about world building?

There’s certainly more to the world than just the Banished Lands. That’s really just a continent in a bigger world.

The world building was great fun. I started by reading, a lot, and pulling out of the reading things that sparked some excitement, and that leads nicely on to the next question…

 Did you do much research into real-life history for the development of The Banished Lands?

I did loads of research! The only way I knew how to write was the way I had learned at uni. Read, read and then read some more. So I did – the stuff that I get passionate about – ancient history, especially the Romans and Celts, but also a truck load about the Greeks and the Steppe and the Middle-East and wolves and swords and…well, lots. Also world mythologies, again Celtic and Greco-Roman, Norse, Slavic, Eastern. Then of course Beowulf, Milton’s Paradise Lost, some Blake, Dante, Machiavelli, its all gone into the pot. I think I probably researched more than I needed to (about two years!) partly because I felt inadequate actually writing the story. Once I began, though, with a bit of prodding from my kids, it was just great fun.

 You have a sequel to the book on the way. Did you always see your story as being bigger than a single book, or is that how it evolved? Is this a world you want to return to after the first two books?

Yes, it was always bigger than one book. And yes, there is definitely more to tell beyond the first two books. The Faithful and the Fallen has always been a four book series in my mind.

 Which three SF/fantasy authors would you like to be compared with in a dream review?

What a crazy question. When I first saw Tor’s press release for Malice, mentioning George R. R. Martin and Robert Jordan I nearly fell over. Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as those guys is a ridiculous honor.

If we are talking dream-world, well, here we go.

Tolkien, because I love him.

George R. R. Martin, because I love him.

And stepping out of the genre slightly, Bernard Cornwell, because I love him, and because his ‘Arthur’ trilogy  stands right next to ‘the Lord of the Rings’ and ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ as my most beloved series, ever.

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