In case you might have missed it, Mark had an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit Fantasy on 11th June. I have collected just some of the best questions and answers below. To view all 298 comments please visit the following Reddit link.
On writing and own works
CourtneySchafer: Hi, Mark! Because I’m the sort of person that loves to anticipate cool things waaaaay in advance, I want to know more about the new series you’re writing (Red Sister, right?). You’ve written some fascinating protagonists already in Jorg and Jalan (and I love that they are such different people) – so tell us about the heroine of Red Sister. How is she different in personality from the two J-boys, and what to you is her most interesting trait?
MarkLawrence: Red Sister is a new direction since it’s the first book I’ve written in the third person for a while. That gives me (or seems to) less time in the character’s head and less commentary from the point of view, but more time for plotting and world building. Also, I’m starting my new girl off young and growing her through the first book, so it’s not entirely clear what she’ll turn into yet. She shares more with Jorg than with Jalan, but unlike Jorg she’s not filled with personal ambition or an over-arching desire for revenge, and she values friends very highly. I think her most interesting traits are how she accommodates her tendency to violence, just how far she’s prepared to go for a friend, and what will happen if that faith is misplaced/betrayed.
starbreakerauthor: How the hell do you make a living at this? I’d love to quit my day job and focus on writing, especially after putting in a fourteen hour day yesterday, but I feel trapped.
Wait. Never mind. You were laid off recently. See what excessive overtime does to reading comprehension?
MarkLawrence: Your question is still relevant. I wrote my first five books while having a day job (research science) and looking after my disabled daughter.
I wrote a fair portion of my first book while in hospital with my daughter. Often in the small hours of the morning.
When pressed for time (i.e. always) I jot down one-liners regarding ideas. When writing (typically late at night) I just write the story, glancing occasionally at the notes. Often those are just good phrases I want to use and from which a story grows.
It has been a lot easier in the past 6 weeks. When Celyn goes to school I can sit down and … waste time on the internet… I’m not actually writing any fast now than I was!
The bottom line is that you don’t need to quit your day job to write, and that you need to sell a lot of books to make enough (certainly as traditionally published) to live on. And those sales can leave you as quick as they can come.
tealatte: I’ve just finished Liars Key and it’s one of my favourite books of 2015. I particularly like Jal maturing (or not so much…) throughout the two books so far.
Who do you find more challenging to write, Jorg or Jal? Who do you enjoy writing more?
Will the protagonist in your next trilogy also have a name beginning with J? It’s been too long since there’s been a fantasy character called Judy…
MarkLawrence: Jorg is more emotionally challenging to write. Both of them are great fun to write, but in different ways. Jalan gives a lot more laughs, and on the rare occasions he does man-up a little it’s very satisfying. And Jorg of course gives (gave) me the wonderful freedom of hacking through convention and politics and just letting loose with the mayhem – which can be very cathartic!
And no, the Red Sister protagonist begins with an ‘N’ … unless I change her name!
RaizenTheFallen: Not a question, but I wanted you to know your short story in Grimdark Magazine, “Bad Seed” hooked me, I’m starting Prince of Thorns later this week. So excited.
MarkLawrence: Great to hear. Short stories are generally a labour of love – on a $ per hour basis they’re about the lowest paid employment to be found, even if we include the third world.
I’ve earned a grand total of $30 for this one, which is one of the best things I’ve written. http://www.amazon.com/During-Dance-Mark-Lawrence-ebook/dp/B00MC1E466/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_img_3
Bad Seed is one of the ‘brother tales’ I’ve written, exploring the back stories of Jorg’s companions. As such it’s less stand-alone (and easier to write) than a general short story. So I’m very glad it was able to stand-alone and interest you in The Broken Empire!
I’m hoping to gather them into a collection next year.
Ornithoper: If you had to be bound to Baraquel or Aslaug who would you pick? If you obtained loki’s key what doors would you open and what doors would you lock? Also which player in the Broken empire do you like writing for the most?
MarkLawrence: If you had to be bound to Baraquel or Aslaug who would you pick?
Tough one. If it weren’t for the spider-thing it’d be Aslaug like a shot.
If you obtained loki’s key what doors would you open and what doors would you lock?
I guess I could begin my life of crime by electronically unlocking the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt corporations and downloading their money.
Also which player in the Broken empire do you like writing for the most?
Hmmm. If Dr Taproot can be considered a player … then him!
mooksandwich: One of the best parts about your books I’ve found is the writing itself. How did you develop such a talent, which was immediately apparent in your debut novel?
The writing itself, line by line, has always been the most important thing to me. Then characters. Then plot. I wrote poems before I wrote short stories, and short stories before I wrote books. I’ve always loved the power that language has to move readers (those with the ear/heart for it) with just a single line.
I guess I did my 10,000 hours. My first published book wasn’t my first written book, and I wrote in various other mediums before that (including D&D scenarios, and play-by-mail fantasy).
Halaku: Sir, is there any chance we’ll see either of your Broken Empire trilogies in omnibus form?
Alternatively, I know you’ve put out short fiction both in that setting (like the Blackguards submission) and out of it (like During the Dance), is there any chance we’ll see a collection of those works in one volume?
MarkLawrence: Yes. Yes there is!
A leather-bound omnibus is winging its way toward us. I can say no more at this stage.
I don’t have any plans to collect my general short fiction, but I do hope to gather the ‘brother tales’ together in one volume, hopefully in 2016.
ePrime: Hey Mark! I’m almost finished with The Liar’s Key but I was wondering where you make more money(or fantasy authors in general) Audiobook, Paperback, or ebook? If there was a difference I would prefer to reward you as best I can.
MarkLawrence: Thanks for the concern, appreciated!
I make the most money from an ebook priced close to the hardcover, next is the hardcover, then the audiobook, and finally the paperback from which I make very little. Though I also make very little from a very cheap ebook.
Norwegianskill: Where did you find inspiration to write Jorg? I love the complexity and how you make ~all readers cheer for him.
If The Broken Empire is adopted to a movie, who would you say fits the role as Jorg? Anyone who’s already got it in them?
MarkLawrence: Jorg is (at the start) a direct steal from Anthony Burgess’ book of 1962, A Clockwork Orange. Alex DeLarge is a young, amoral, charming, intelligent, very violent chap that Burgess manages to get the reader to care about, or at least care what happens.
I wanted to see if I could use the same trick – a simple one – write in the first person, do it well, and the reader starts to care no matter what the character does (pretty much). It helps if the character has a sense of humour and if they can’t be taken entirely at face value, and if they’re young (with potential to change).
It certainly would take a very charismatic actor to carry the role. I’m not really knowledgeable enough about young actors to pick one.
Readers came up with a bunch of suggestions here: http://shielded-earth-3157.herokuapp.com/user/28/7/13
FrontierBrain: Back when Game of Thrones was getting big, my mom would always refer to the book and show as Prince of Thorns for some reason. This was before your book came out, so not really sure where she was pulling it from. When your book came I out, I knew I had to get it for her, and we’ve both been huge fans of your work ever since.
As for a question – what’s your writing process like? How much do you plan out beforehand as opposed to letting things develop as you write?
MarkLawrence: She’s clearly a visionary! Very glad she enjoyed the book she predicted 🙂
I’m not a planner. I put a small amount of planning into the last book of the Red Queen’s War trilogy, and into my current project, Red Sister, but really very little. With the Broken Empire trilogy there was no planning at all. Not a jot of it for Prince of Thorns. For King and Emperor a notebook with lines or images that caught my imagination. ‘a row of severed heads … and the eyes follow him’ sort of thing.
I think they call it being a ‘gardener’.
amongstravens: This is a question about the first trilogy more so than this one. Jorg is a horrible human being and the main character of the first trilogy. That being said, a lot of people freaked out and said that you support the things Jorg does because you’re the author and books are clearly a platform to write down your beliefs. How hard was (or is) it to dispel things like that?
MarkLawrence: How hard is it to dispel stupidity?
It’s very easy to put up simple self-evident statements that reveal the attitude you describe to be ridiculous.
But people all across the world hold ridiculous beliefs in their millions… in the end you just walk away and let them stew in the stupid. They’ll come out when they’re done. Or drown.
WillWeisser: Mark, I just started the Liar’s Key! But I want to know about this next series you’ve allegedly sold to Harper Voyager. What’s it about? Why did you choose this particular story to devote the next X years of your life to? What about it excites you?
MarkLawrence: Allegedly? 🙂
It’s about life in a convent.
I really can’t remember why I chose it. I don’t so much choose things as start typing and see what happens. I wanted to write a short powerful poetic prologue – inspired by Rothfuss to some degree. And this happened.
What excites me is the same thing that always excites me about writing. I have a character packed full of all kinds of potential and she’s about to explode into a world I don’t know much about yet – so we’ll discover it together and see what we find.
PoeDiddy: Hey Mark, I know that some people have criticized your works because of the lack of females. While working on the new Red Sister trilogy, is this something that you have thought about? Is there possible a motivation to prove those critics wrong with the trilogy you are working on? Thanks sir.
MarkLawrence: Nope. I’m not really interested in those sorts of criticisms except as abstract objects of curiosity.
Given my contrary nature such criticism would be more likely to write something that genuinely did have no women in it. At all.
However, it’s more the case that I didn’t let those voices stop me writing what I’m writing now, and certainly not the case that they prompted me to it.
If someone tries to control what I write my natural instinct is to tell them to go fuck themselves and do the opposite. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of that.
Mollow: You may have explained this elsewhere, apologies if so, but what is the reason for the split publication dates? I’m a little jealous of our US friends who have already devoured it.
MarkLawrence: I haven’t explained it, and can’t. It’s all down to the mysteries of publishers scheduling. They have a long list of books to get through production and onto shelves. This 16 day gap is the longest I’ve had between Ace and Voyager – it’s normally less than a week.
It’s a pain.
0ffice_Zombie: Can you tell us a little about your writing history before Prince of Thorns? Did you have any novels written before that? Was PoT your first attempt at getting published?
MarkLawrence: I wrote dungeons and dragons scenarios as a school kid (& GMed friends through them). After university I helped run a fantasy Play-by-Mail game for a year full time, then for ten years part time. Writing turns for the hundreds of player exercised my writing skills. I started writing poems and short stories in my early thirties. Short stories turned to longer stories. I wrote two books before Prince of Thorns but didn’t try to get them published. Even Prince of Thorns sat in a (electronic) draw for three years before I sent it anywhere.
Ivenn_: After TLK I really wanted to ask you: is there any chance for a prequel/sequel story about Gorgoth? 😉 Or just a simple one-shot about him? I’d love to read about him/his past.
MarkLawrence: There’s always a chance. I’m intending to write a few more ‘brother tales’ for my ‘brother tales anthology’. No reason why Gorgoth couldn’t sneak in there.
awildwiggy: Hey, Mark! I really loved the Broken Empire! I was wondering who your favorite character was(besides Jorg) in the trilogy? Thanks for your time, Mark! I can’t wait to start Prince of Fools!
MarkLawrence: Glad you liked it! Try the Red Queen’s War 🙂
Who did I like best? Difficult one. Makin is an easy answer. But I liked Katherine and Miana a lot too. And Dr Taproot is fun – he shows up in the next trilogy, so I’ve grown to like him a fair bit.
On other books and personal matters
MarkLawrence: Celyn and I have just finished Castle in the Air the 2nd book in Diana Wynne Jones’ trilogy that starts with Howl’s Moving Castle, and started the last one, The House of Many Ways. And yes, they’re surprisingly good. Some YA is a bit of a grind to read, but this is fresh and inventive and fun.
Mitriel: You mentioned before that you had 18 stitches in your head once. When was this and what exactly happened? Is this how you research your combat scenes?
MarkLawrence: I suspect you might have been around when after a very short clipper-cut someone asked “what’s that big scar running around the back of your head”.
My standard (& truthful) answer is that I received it during a heated encounter with a gun-wielding skinhead.
The sight on his paint-ball gun tore across my head when I attempted to run through him rather than around. I was carrying the enemy flag and yards from the target zone and too damn winded to go round.
tealatte: Can you give a rough day in the life of Mark Lawrence?
You could mean a rough outline of a day, or a rough day… I’ll choose the former. It was until recently much more crowded with cycling rapidly to work as soon as Celyn (my disabled child) was dispatched into the care of the school bus. Now it’s typically more relaxed (at least on days with no hospital appointments or emergencies). I give her over to the carer on the bus at 8:30 and until 3:30 I can slob about the house alternating between chores, writing, and the niff-naff that surrounds writing (sending out books, answering blog interviews, tweeting, facebooking, talking to publishers, agents, translators, editing already written books etc). Then it’s look after Celyn until 9 unless we have a 3 hour care session, which we often do, though 6 of the last 8 were cancelled and I’m often called in to help lift/change/placate Celyn even when there is a carer.
What’s your favorite book published within the last year?
Which book is in your opinion the most criminally underrated?
MarkLawrence: I’m reading Rough Magic by Kenny Soward. It’s a tale of high adventure and low gnomes. And more gnomes.
I don’t read many books a year and only a fraction of those are newly published, so I’m drawing on a small stock. However, Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin was a joy to read, and Myke Cole’s Gemini Cell was another fine piece of work.
Again, my low annual book count doesn’t put me in a great position to judge. Additionally I tend to think that every decent book I read that has low sales is criminally under-rated. But if you forced me to pick one I’d go for Low Town and the eponymous trilogy by Daniel Polansky. I love his writing and he seems to have been scuppered by poor decisions on the part of his US publisher.
cheryllovestoread: Hi Mark. I just want to say that I appreciate all stay-at-home Dads and Moms and especially those with special needs children. I’m interested in your child’s medical condition, if you are comfortable sharing about it. If you’re not, I totally understand.
I also want to acknowledge that most caregivers of special-needs family members are chronically exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically. It must take enormous effort to also be creative and disciplined in your writing. So, I want to pat you on the back and say ‘thanks, man, good job’ on behalf of all your readers.
MarkLawrence: Many thanks.
Celyn has cerebral palsy. She can’t use her limbs, hands, speak, or eat. She’s registered blind, doubly incontinent, has epilepsy, scoliosis and autism. She’s clever, demands entertainment, and likes to laugh. The hardest thing in the world is to see her realise that her disabilities set her apart from her able-bodied friends and that so much experience and ambition is realistically beyond her.
Kassaapparat: Which are your 5 favorite Fantasy characters not from your own works and why?
MarkLawrence: Um… today it’s:
Tyrion Lannister – GRRM
Fitz Chivalry – Robin Hobb
Aiken Drum – Julian May
Cugel the Clever – Jack Vance
Rincewind – Terry Pratchett