Interview by Carl Marsh - September 2014
you are a very popular and respected new fantasy writer from the UK, and you have just had your second book published by Orbit. I know you self-published first, so what made you do this initially?
Mainly because every agent I sent the Blood Song manuscript to, sent it back with a rejection letter attached. This was in 2010-11 and I'd been hearing about some people having success with self-publishing ebooks, so thought it couldn't hurt to give it a try. Within four months of the book going up on the Kindle store, I had an offer for a three book deal from Ace, and within a year, the UK rights had been sold to Orbit and six other countries. So, all in all, I'd say any expectations I had were greatly exceeded.
As an author, why do you feel that people should read more?
It's a bit like asking why people should talk more, or do more of anything else that makes us human. Books are still one of the most inexpensive forms of entertainment available and, unlike movies or TV, they don't suffer from budgetary constraints.
What is the best book you have ever read, and why is that?
It's really impossible to pick just one book above all others, when you've read as many as I have. Gun to my head - I'd say the best fantasy novel I have ever read was Wolf in Shadow by David Gemmell, due to its mix of action, pace and heart-rending pathos.
Are you reading anything yourself at the moment?
I just finished 'Prince of Thorns' by Mark Lawrence which more than lived up to the hype. I'm just beginning 'Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914' by Max Hastings because I remain a committed history buff.
What made you become a writer, was it always your dream?
If I can mis-quote Goodfellahs 'Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a writer.' Well, more accurately, ever since I realised there were such people as writers, I wanted to be one. I had a compulsion to tell stories as a child, often scaring the other kids at playtime with ghost stories. The impetus to actually write didn't really take hold until my mid-teens though, whereupon I commenced ten years of writing some of the most awful prose ever set down on a stolen school exercise book. Thankfully, they didn't have the Kindle store back then, so none of my early work exists to embarrass me now.
For any potential writers reading this, what advice would you give to them about getting a book released?
If you're going to self-publish learn from my mistakes. My two principal errors were not getting my manuscript proof-read, and not paying a professional to produce a good cover. I got away with it because enough people liked the book to forgive the many typos, and my less than stellar homemade cover image. If you're going the traditional route be prepared for rejection, it's a writer's lot I'm afraid, and make sure you research their submission criteria before sending manuscripts to agents or publishers. Other than that, read a lot and just keep writing. Not giving up is a skill you have to learn along with everything else. Oh, and buy Scrivener, it's brilliant.
With your latest book, what is it about?
My latest book, Tower Lord, is the second book in the Raven's Shadow epic fantasy series which began with Blood Song. The story follows renowned warrior Vaelin Al Sorna through the many tribulations of his life complete with magic, intrigue and plenty of battles. Tower Lord expands the world introduced in the first book as well as introducing new point of view characters.
The next 12 months, what do they hold for you?
I'll be agreeing the final draft of Queen of Fire, Raven's Shadow book 3, with my editor. I'll also complete the first book in my new fantasy trilogy and, hopefully, finish my SF Noir series Slab City Blues with a full-length novel. In short, I'll be fairly busy.
What has been your most memorable experience so far as a writer, your best achievement/etc?
It's hard to settle on one thing, looking back the whole thing's been pretty incredible. Getting a five star review for Blood Song on Goodreads from Felicia Day was terrific, as was getting another one from Mark Lawrence recently. However, I think Tower Lord getting to number 1 on the Kindle epic fantasy chart in both the US and UK was a very special moment, even though it only lasted for a day and a half.
Any regrets along the way?
Yes, I wish I'd done this sooner.
I always end on a literary note, so using your imagination as if you were to write it in one of your books, so, “If you could be an animal, what would it be and why?”
"I am Steeltooth, war-wolf to the ice people and scourge of the iron-shapers. I smell all and hear all on the ice. I hunt without fear, I run without tiring, I kill without mercy.
The iron-shapers will tremble at my howl, for my brothers and sisters are coming.. and we are very hungry."