“Stabbing. A Lot of Stabbing” RJ Barker Interview – Writers of Fantasy

r-j-barkerThis week’s Writers of Fantasy Interview is with RJ Barker, who talks to us exclusively about his debut fantasy trilogy, Age of Assassins! I met RJ at FantasyCon by the Sea earlier this year and knew right from the get go that this is an author who is going places, so we’ve nabbed an exclusive with an author you should deffinately look out for.

If you’re an aspiring author yourself, this interview also touches on the writing process and beyond! Check it out!

Your debut novel, Age of Assassins, is coming out through Orbit next year (2017). What can readers expect?

STABBING. A lot of stabbing. And there’s intrigue and magic and then more stabbing in AoA (which is a quite a cool looking shortening). Also, Mystery. I love 1930’s crime and in a way AoA is based around that idea, sort of Agatha Christie[1]: you have a castle, a cast of characters and you know someone wants someone else dead.

Girton, the lead, is fifteen when we meet him and extremely capable. There’s a fluidity to the action sequences that I think readers will enjoy and they’re backed up by some real emotional heft. Girton himself is likeable, he’s funny and driven to do the right thing even when it’s not in his best interests. One of the first comments I had back was ‘I’d quite like to go for a drink with him[2]’ and I thought, yes, that’s what I’m after, this might be the one. Oh, and antlers. Antlers play a big part in it (as they should in EVERYTHING.)

I like antlers.

How much writing of novel-length had you done before? And do you see common threads and themes in the kinds of things you enjoy writing about?

This is novel number four. The first was rubbish. The second I love but know needs reworking and probably has quite a niche appeal. The third, a space opera, nearly got picked up but in the end wasn’t really commercial enough. It might have been that I could have self published it or found a small press that would have taken a chance on it but when I first started writing seriously I’d made a promise to myself that it would be one of the a big publishers or nothing. It seemed like a completely ridiculous ambition at the time, but I’ve never been short on ridiculous.

As to common threads, I like outsiders but not outsiders in a strong, silent mysterious way. I tend to write people who are outside and wishing they could come in, but don’t know how to do that. Which I think is a feeling we’re all familiar with. And people who are good, because I think generally people are. In a lot of ways the difference between good and evil is more about how much of your own best interests you’re willing to put aside for others than it is about intent.

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Jeremy Bulloch Interview – Boba Fett Speaks

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As part of Scifi Fantasy Network’s Star Wars Month, I got to interview Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett! He has also been in Doctor Who, James Bond, and has been acting since the age of 12! So, naturally, I had to ask him about that, and get his perspective on the ever changing world of media and film.

He appeared in two Doctor Who stories, The Space Museum (1965) where he played Tor alongside William Hartnell (the First Doctor) and then he was Hal the archer in The Time Warrior (1973) with Jon Pertwee (the Third Doctor). From 1979-81, he was a regular in ITV’s sitcom Agony, where he played Rob Illingworth, one half of a gay couple. He also has roles in three Bond films, twice playing Q’s assistant Smithers.

[Watch here]

Juliet E McKenna Interview – Writers of Fantasy

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This week’s interview on Writers of Fantasy is with Juliet E McKenna, author of The Tales of Einarinn, The Aldabreshin Compass, The Hadrumal Crisis and the upcoming Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom, which launched at BristolCon this October!

Juliet is an incredibly thoughtful and talented writer with countless books under her belt. We talked about the changing landscape of fantasy fiction, the rise of eBooks, politics, feminism, Doctor Who, and of course some good old fashioned writers’ advice. Take a listen below! You’ll also find some key quotes under the player for those who can’t listen right away.

[Listen Here]

southern-fire-small-200x300On the new editions of The Alderbreshin Compass and working with Wizards Tower Press.

“Ah, the cover art by Ben Baldwin [on The Aldabreshin Compass] is absolutely fantastic! Those are the covers I’ve wanted for those books since I first wrote them!”

“This is one of the things that happens when you’re a writer who’s been around for quite a long time. When The Tales of Einarinn and The Aldabreshin Compass were written there was no mention of eBooks in my contracts. eBooks weren’t a thing. … So, basically, I retained all those rights. And, unsurprisingly, publishers have come along in recent years and said ‘Do let us do eBooks for you and we’ll give you a whole, oh, 15%!’ to which my response was ‘Thank you, but no!’ Because the returns on something like an eBook edition if you do it independently, obviously if you’re a writer, are very much higher. The trick is, of course, that you need somebody to do all the tech stuff!”

On working with Independent publishers vs bigger publishers.

“When it is one person working with one person on one specific project, we can have an exchange of emails in a morning and get umpteen things sorted out. An editor in a big publishing house is dealing with who knows how many writers, who knows how many books at different stages of publication … Again, a lot of people have to be involved in discussions and decisions and that inevitably builds a time lag into the process.”

[Continue reading…]

David Anthony Durham Interview

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Our Writers of Fantasy Interview series continues with David Anthony Durham, best known for the Acacia trilogy and his new book The Risen. We talked about building fantasy cultures, characters, and wider themes of representation and more!

acacia-uk-cover-736216Your books develop and explore numerous political machinations (Acacia especially); what was the development process for building and developing them? What did you enjoy most about the political intrigue? 

I think the same thing sort of answers both parts of your question.

What I enjoyed most about the political intrigue was the process of slowly uncovering the secrets that are at the heart of what makes the Acacian world tick. In the first book I introduce the notion that the Acacian empire trades with a distant power that they know little about. They offer slaves; they get drugs to help them sedate their people in return. That’s about as much as the reader knows about things in the first book. Thing is, that was also about as much as I knew as well.

All the power players of the novel have secrets, things they keep hidden from others to give themselves advantages. They tried pretty hard to keep them hidden from me, too! I mostly had to figure things out by writing the story forward, following the characters, and every now and then going, “Oh… so that’s what these guys are up to…” And a little later, “And that’s what these other guys are up to…” And, “Wait… so these guys over here are actually doing this because of…” And so on.

That was fun. It kept things interesting and, hopefully, unpredictable.

With a number of cultures represented in your books what was the most interesting part of making new cultures and countries for your worlds?

I enjoyed being able to take bits and pieces of cultures from our world, pluck them out of their entrenched context, and splice them together with things that wouldn’t be possible in historical fiction.

The culture of the island power of Vumu, for example, is a real mixture of influences. Racially, I picture the people as looking like Sri Lankans. But the culture that took shape in my mind wasn’t particularly Sri Lankan. The mythology is more influenced by The Epic of Gilgamesh, which came from an entire different part of the world. I loved the racy bombast of the story, the epic conflicts and deceptions and the strange turns of events.

The people of Vumu take my variations on those types of stories and bring them to life with a visual religious display and ceremonies that seem to me to be sort of Polynesian. And I took the historical tidbit that there were once eagles in New Zealand that were large enough to snatch people into the air. I gifted that particular problem on Vumu. It became a physical danger on the islands, and it wove into their mythology and religion as well. The result, I hope, is fun and interesting and not quite like anything on earth.

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Kelly Robson Interview – Writers of Fantasy

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This week’s interview in our Writers of Fantasy series is with Kelly Robson, author of Waters of Versailles, which won the Prix Aurora Award and was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Nebula Award.

We had a really great conversation about the ins and outs of writing, the life of a writer, and how the industry is changing its attitudes. Take a listen, or check out the key quotes below if you can’t listen right now.

[Listen here]

The GrimCast Episode 002

There’s a podcast I co-present with Zoe Harris all about the publishing world. The second episode is up now and you can take a listen at the link below;

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LISTEN HERE

This month, we’re talking to Joanne Hall – author of The Art of Forgetting, Spark and Carousel and The Summer Goddess – and Adele Wearing from Fox Spirit Books.

We compare the differences between self publishing, going with a small indie press and going the traditional route. Jo, who is a Grimbold author as well as an editor for us, offers her unique perspective on both sides of the publishing fence, and Adele talks about everything that goes into running a small press from acquisitions to cover art to editing and production.

Follow Fox Spirit Books on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Joanne Hall on Facebook and Twitter.

The first episode can be found here.

Aliette De Bodard Interview – Writers of Fantasy

house-of-shattered-wings-uk-resizedThis week’s interview in the Writers of Fantasy series is with Aliette De Bodard! She is best known for her incredible historical fantasy novel The House of Shattered Wings.

She is a master of both short fiction and long novels, with a number of historical fantasy settings that have kept readers hooked for years.

We talked about her development as a writer, comparing her short stories to novels, the writing process, character building and much, much more.

Take a listen! There are key quotes below.

[Listen here]

“The first book in English that I bought with my own money… and it turned out to be Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet. I didn’t know anything about her at the time, but all I knew was that it looks thick… and it has dragons on the cover! I mean, hey bring it on, right?”

“I made my way through [Earthsea] with a dictionary because it was so bloody hard!”

“I picked up a book titled ‘How to Write Fantasy and Science Fiction’ and I read it and I was like ‘You can DO this?’ I never really thought about this because an awful lot of French literary canon is people who have been dead for quite a bit!”

“I actually started by writing novels. They were these epic, like, 200,000 word novels. The kind of thing you can use as a weapon against other people. Obviously at this length it’s difficult to find readers for them, especially when the quality is not great. So I had this brilliant idea, I thought ‘I’m going to write short stories so it’s going to be easier for people to give me feedback and then I can work on my craft!’”

“Writing a novel and writing a short story are actually not very much alike, so for the first five to six years I was writing a lot of short stories and I was getting better and better at writing short stories. But when I decided I was going to write a novel I suddenly discovered that I might know how to write short stories but novels were different and in particular pacing was a big problem.”

“My very first draft, my husband read through it and said, ‘I think I have one major comment before we get around to any of the other stuff like logical points and character development and so on and so forth… You realise that your characters have not slept or eaten for at least four or five days.’”

“Ever since I’ve been very careful to give the characters lunch breaks.”

FULL INTERVIEW HERE

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A M Dellamonica Interview

This week in our Writers of Fantasy series is our 91c2t4kdfrlinterview with A. M. Dellamonica, author of Child of a Hidden Sea, A Daughter of No Nation, and over thirty short stories.

She writes science fiction, fantasy, and alternate history.

We talked about how she has changed in her craft over the years, what it takes to build characters and worlds, her theatre background, and the importance of representation and diversity.

KEY QUOTES;

“It was an inspiration story in the sense that the concept kind of hit like a bolt of lightning. That’s always really pleasant. I think that’s something that happens more when you’re new because you haven’t built up the infrastructure in your mind for simply generating good stories weather inspiration strikes or not.”

“When I came to write The Hidden Sea Tales, I wanted to write about someone who was markedly different from me. So I looked at the people in my life who from my more button down point of view are – sort of – over sharing all the time. So I started there.”

ON DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION:

“There’s been a long, ongoing effort by a lot of writers to broaden the palette. Those of us who are gay in some variation have always included those characters, but I think we also tended to make more compromises to make more characters that a more general audience would grasp onto.

So the gay characters might be tucked in at the side or the people of colour would be secondary. They wouldn’t necessarily be as integral to the story. And that’s a sad thing, but it just seems to be slowly becoming the case that you can pick characters from the full range of options available and it doesn’t necessarily tank your chances of selling a novel.”

“I’m still honestly surprised when I see things that reflect my life on TV.”

ON CREATING HIDDEN SEA TALES

“I just started making this enormously long list of everything that I think is cool or fun and delightful.”

“I included court proceedings, because I’m a huge nerd. (Like all science fiction writers).”

[Listen here]

Kameron Hurley Interview

The latest interview in our Writers of Fantasy series is with Kameron Hurley, author of the Gods War series, The Mirror Empire, and her new book of essays, The Geek Feminist Revolution (which is pretty amazing).

We talked about how she develops her cultures in writing, explores gender and sexuality, as well as building characters around stories. She has a lot of experience and is well worth listening to!

gods-warYour books expand and explore numerous cultures in depth; what has been the most interesting aspect of developing them?

I wanted to come up with cultures that I really hadn’t seen explored in other fantasy and science fiction novels. I see so many novels that will take exactly one “big idea” and have that be the only thing that changes in the entire world of the novels, and it feels astonishingly lazy to me. So they’ll throw in faster than light travel, but military and social hierarchies remain the same, people talk the same, live the same, the social mores are the same. And that’s just boring to me.

I read science fiction and fantasy because I want to go places that are really different. If all you’re doing is picking up a piece of tech and throwing it into a status quo version of the world we see on TV every day, I’m just not interested.

What I love most about creating cultures is seeing how each aspect affects every other aspect. So if you have a polyamorous matriarchy, say, there are very different conversations that go on about property inheritance/distribution, and while there’s still plenty of social drama, it’s very different drama, as it’s no longer “I can only choose one man!” it’s “We can all choose each other but now we need to figure out how to get along.”

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Becky Chambers Interview

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Our Writers of Sci-Fi Interview series continues with the incredible Becky Chambers. Best known for her phenomenal ‘A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet’, Becky talks about her writing process, her history, and how she developed her characters. Moreover, she gives an insight into how and why she tackled social issues such as gender, sexuality, and humanity’s place in the universe.

“I REJECT THE IDEA THAT THE FUTURE IS FOR ONLY ONE GROUP OF PEOPLE.”

LISTEN HERE

Key quotes:

“Once I put my butt in a chair and started writing it, it took me about a year and a half, but I’d been working on it for a good seven years before that. Just writing little scraps of stuff; characters, cultures and what not. So, it really was just this sort of melange of things that interested me, documentaries I’d seen about a particular culture or whatnot… I compare it to making leftovers from whatever’s in the fridge!”

“A lot of my alien cultures do come from my general interest in biology and the animal world. So, a lot of the time I’m starting out with physicality – how are these people different from us physically? And then, how does that affect their culture. That, for me, is a really fun way to build a new culture.”

“I didn’t want to write a story in which humans are either the leading power in the galaxy, or are they’re the underdog that we see come up.  I really wanted them to be in a sort of lowest rung on the ladder position.”

“We have this image of ourselves as the end-all be-all of evolution here on earth… But I like the idea that we’re not special, and that that makes us special. That sort of Carl Sagan idea of we’re very small and finite; we are not the best, but we are unique.”

“The thing about science fiction in particular, is you’re always talking about the world you want to see. So, whether that be a hopeful future – here’s what we could aim for – or something fearful – here’s what we should avoid. So, I think in terms of representation, in terms of creating futures that include lots of different people – I’m not interested in working with anything else.”

“I don’t like the idea of surviving just for the sake of surviving. We have to have a reason why this struggle is worth it.”

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