This time last year many of your readers were eager to find out how you can follow up the epic trilogy of Jorg Ancrath with a new series. How was the feedback you received since in general?
Prince of Fools has proved very popular – it has a much higher score on Goodreads and Amazon, largely because while lots of people really enjoyed it (as with Prince of Thorns), there were very few outraged readers who really hated it (whereas Prince of Thorns had quite a few of those).
The main thing I noticed is that it’s not a good idea to put down Emperor of Thorns and reach for Prince of Fools. People need time to readjust and hopefully to inflict their book-hangover from The Broken Empire on someone else. There have been some reviews which basically say “where’s Jorg?” … and that was kind of the point of ending Jorg’s story.
The Red Queen’s War books run chronologically parallel to the Broken Empire trilogy and in Prince of Fools we found some of the characters of the two series occasionally crossing paths. It’s quite fascinating to see how they interact and what they think of each other. Are we going to have more similar encounters in The Liar’s Key?
Off the top of my head I think there are only two such encounters, one pretty brief. They are fun but the fun depends in part on having read The Broken Empire trilogy and that’s not a requirement for The Red Queen’s War trilogy, so such cross-overs have to be sparing and written in a way that makes them accessible to new readers.
There are powerful female interests pulling on the strings of Prince Jalan’s life. His love interest, Lisa DeVeer, is only glimpsed briefly at the beginning of the first book, yet Jalan’s fascination with her sees him through during some pretty difficult times as he journeys to the north, – as a piece on the Red Queen’s chess board, under the spell cast on him by a third woman, the Silent Sister. As an author with two women for editors and a series of female beta readers, did you find it easy to identify with your character while writing the story?
I would find it hard to write three books with a first person point-of-view that I didn’t feel. I’m not sure that ‘feeling’ a character is the same as identifying with them though. Editors and beta readers tend to be much more helpful than Jalan’s elderly relatives have proved so far!
After the infamous Justice scene some of us might be dreading to find out what will happen to that poor giant wolf on the cover! Were there any parts in The Liar’s Key you found difficult to write?
For all you know that might be a friendly wolf who is just having a quick nap in front of scene of carnage!
I’d say no – nothing in the book was harrowing to write in quite the way some sections of Jorg’s tale were. That’s not to say there weren’t emotional scenes or exciting ones – but Jalan’s story has always had a different vibe to it and wasn’t intended to delve the depths. Snorri’s elements come closest.
You recently finished the last instalment of the series. How did it feel compared to writing the last page of Emperor of Thorns? Will we in the future perhaps see some short stories with characters from The Red Queen’s War books, too?
Jalan is very different from Jorg, his story is very different, and the feeling at the end was …very different.
It’s nice closing out a story (be it a stand-alone, trilogy or (I expect) series), whether it ends happily, or tragically, whether you might see the characters again or not. You feel a sense of accomplishment. If I had ever managed to build something … or even put up shelves straight … I expect the experience of standing back at last and taking a look and saying, “I did that, and it’s good.” is much the same.
I like writing short stories so I’m sure I’ll populate at least one of them with Jalan, Snorri, and friends at some point.
As a reader what kind of books or stories do you enjoy? Did the way you see other authors’ books change since you started writing novels? What are you currently reading?
My tastes in fantasy seem to be fairly popularist – which is probably a good thing if you want to sell books. I find that generally (though not always) if I pick up a book that everyone else seems to like (A Game of Thrones, The Name of the Wind etc) I will also like it.
I have read a lot of 20th century classics and literary fiction in the past and enjoyed a lot of it – but right now I have little time for reading and spend it almost exclusively on fantasy.
Currently I’m continuing my extremely slow read through “The History of the World in 100 Objects”, non-fiction, by Neil MacGregor, and I’ve just started Rough Magic by Kenny Soward.
You posted on Facebook about becoming a full-time writer this year. How do you envisage a day as your own boss? Are you planning to get back to beer-making and can we expect to read more from you, may those be books, short stories or blog posts?
They say that work expands to fill the time available, so I’m not sure there will be a spectacular surge in productivity. Also, there may be an upper-limit to the rate at which good ideas come to me and so having twice the time may not lead to twice the number of pages. We will have to see!
I do know that a lot of good ideas have come to me when my mind is relatively empty during the hour of cycling I do each day getting to and from work. I think it’s important to have empty time for the mind to wander in – so I will probably take up one of the hobbies I had to drop through lack of time … or find a new one. Anyway … that’s my excuse for buying a PS4.
You also posted on Facebook from the prologue of something you recently started to work on featuring ‘Sister Thorn’, then later found out that in Joe Abercrombie’s Half the World the female protagonist is also called ‘Thorn’. This took me back to Joe’s question to you in your Reddit fantasy AMA last year: “Your work reminds me a lot of the work of Joe Abercrombie. Coincidence…?” Did you see Joe’s choice of name in his new book as him being two steps ahead of you again or more like a homage he’s paying to the Broken Empire books?
Well, I understand from my wife, who has read Joe’s new books, that they’re set in a future Europe. So … I’m going with ‘homage’.
You wrote a great blogpost on writing previously. Is there anything more you could help the contestants with? What qualities are you hoping to see in the entries as a judge?
There’s a temptation with only 300 words to try to cram your plot in as efficiently as possible – a game of plot-Tetris if you like. I would avoid that. There’s only so much story you can tell in a flash. Better to relax and concentrate on saying it well. Show you understand the power and the beauty of the language you’re using and the judge is more likely to sit up, take notice, and remember you.
Thanks Were you OK with the questions? None of them too awkward or anything?
it’s all good. 🙂
Cool! 🙂 I wish I could have come up with some better ones! We don’t do this often.
you didn’t ask me what the biggest gun I’d ever fired was :O
I had it in mind! That or the most powerful weapon you ever wielded? +1?
the D&D player in me would see the +1 and snort, I’ve swung a +5 sword 😀
Actually the most powerful gun I’ve fired was an air rifle when I was 13 in my friend’s back garden. We were shooting tin cans at the far end of the garden and started to wonder what the things buzzing past our heads were. Turned out they were ricochets coming back off the wall behind the cans…
by Agnes Meszaros