Today I welcome Reece Bridger at Fantastical Imaginations. Reece is a brand new author whose first novel ‘The Perfect Mortals’ was published on 24 April 2013.
F.I.: Welcome, Reece, at my blog. Let’s start with the classic question, shall we? What was your first introduction in the world of fantasy?
My first introduction to fantasy… Well, as a child, I used to be rather hyper, especially on Christmas Eve. I mean, what six-year-old isn’t? My brother used to calm me down and get me to sleep by reading me J.R.R.Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’, although we never got more than two chapters into it before I was zonked out. I used to read a lot of children’s books around that time, too, but that was my first step into the real world of true magic and swords fantasy.
F.I.: That’s a great introduction to the fantasy genre. What is it that you like so much about ‘The Hobbit’?
I suppose it was the imagination of it all; when it comes to stories, I love it when the books possess true imagination. Not when you’re telling a story that didn’t happen, but when you can make anything happen inside the story, and still have it make perfect sense. I suppose I liked the continuity of ‘The Hobbit’ as well, with how it all fits together with the rest of the Middle Earth stories. I like it when, even over a long series of stories set within one universe, the effects of one echo back through the rest. Like, say, just off the top of my head, if someone in book one of some story plants a tree to commemorate someone’s memory, then five books later, the heroes of book six find that same tree… I like that; it all just works, like a puzzle.
F.I.: What’s your opinion of the Peter Jackson movie version of ‘The Hobbit’?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the movie, if not just for the music or the fact that Peter Jackson is still continuing to bring us the Middle Earth world on a silver (screen) platter. As usual, I love the visual effects as well, and the music on ‘Misty Mountains’ was just glorious. I like the extra bits that the movie had in it, too; it made it a little bit more of a PG film rather than something someone can read their 6-year-old brother. All in all, I thought it was fantastic, but if you’re talking movies, you’d have to talk to my brother; he’s the film nut out of us two!
F.I.: Let’s talk a bit about writing in general. Which author would you like to have classes from? In other words, who is your favorite author, and why?
Ohhh, that’s always one of the hardest questions… At this point, I’d like to say that I’ve already been taking ‘classes’ from fellow self-published author Ben Galley, who’s acted as my mentor since May 2012 and has helped me get to this point. So, hypothetically speaking now, I think I’d have to go between two authors, Kristin Cashore and John Flanagan. Cashore, because her novels are always filled with great, original ideas and superb writing, with lots of imagination. The portrayal of monsters in ‘Fire’ was a bit of an inspiration for my book’s different take between monsters and beasts. And Flanagan’s ‘Ranger’s Apprentice’ series was just so believable to me. I remember, I bought the whole series up to book six, since that was the most recent one out, while in California on holiday, and I read most of them before getting back on the plane, along with all the Darren Shans I had with me. Flanagan’s stories still have all the best things that fantasy should have: archers, swordsmen, monsters, evil lords, and wars between countries. But the way he presents them is just so believable; it all makes sense, even when one creature that looks like a deformed bear looks you in the eye and petrifies you with fear. Both of these authors have particularities in their writing styles that I have taken some inspiration from.
F.I.: How do you like the magic in fantasy books? Subtle and small or over the top?
Ooh, that’s a toughie. I suppose it depends on what magic is included. I like the idea of it not being something overly inclusive, something absolutely every man, woman and child can do. I even like the idea of it being a genetic matter, from father to son and the like. In ‘The Perfect Mortals’, it refers to different kinds of mages, who specialize in combat magic or healing magic, as well as introducing the idea of common magic, where everyone can use magic to a certain extent, but it’s really just, to quote, ‘enough to keep you warm during the colder winters, or to protect your household from the elements, but other than that, … really nothing special.’ I don’t like it when magic is so powerful that everything can be done with a wave of a wand; I like the idea of it being an organic force, something that drains away and needs to be replenished, kind of like a human battery. And, of course, there is the potential for it to go the other way, where there’s too much magic, so it builds up and has to be drained away before it destroys the user. Those sorts of ties to magic add a flair of responsibility and sense to the idea, in my opinion.
F.I.: You have some interesting ideas, I must say. About your own writings now: how would you describe your first novel ‘The Perfect Mortals’, part one in the ‘Buan’ trilogy?
I’ve been asked this many times before, and I like to think of it as more of the prelude to an adventure rather than the adventure itself. It details the responsibilities and stresses that come with suddenly having power and legend thrown upon you. I find that most fantasy novels like mine that I’ve read always start off with a well-worn warrior who’s seen death and caused it all too many times before and has already learned how to use his powerful gifts, but it doesn’t really focus on the stresses that he experienced when they came to surface. There are always the tragic backstories like the parents that were cut down or the loss of a childhood friend, but I didn’t see too many people shaking with fear and anger at what was happening to their bodies, all the changes taking place… Kind of like your standard case of magical puberty, in a way.
F.I.: Sounds like an original take on the classic coming-of-age stories. Which book would you say is most similar to your book in terms of writing style and storytelling?
Out of Cashore and Flanagan, I’d have to say that my book is more like Flanagan’s, more for the fact that it shows the progression from when someone’s journey to become something starts, rather than already knowing what you are. All of the Harmon siblings no longer have parents, and they have their responsibilities thrown upon them by circumstance, much like Will in Flanagan’s series. There are some similarities between all of them, even including Ben Galley’s books as well, but out of those two, it’d probably be closer to Flanagan’s.
F.I.: ‘Company of Heroes’ is the second part in your trilogy and will hit bookshelves in 2014, if I’m correct? How far is your progress with this book right now?
That’s all correct, and the progress is an embarrassing story. I started ‘Company of Heroes’ a few days after the first draft of ‘The Perfect Mortals’ was complete, so in September. However, over Easter, my MacBook suffered a fatal problem with its hard drive, and those 60,000 words that I had already written were one of the unfortunate files that had not been backed up or recoverable. So, I’m sort of back to square one with that, but it’s still picking up speed; I remember all the stuff that happened, and exactly how I wrote it in places, so it shouldn’t take me too long to recover it all. I just need the right amount of time, and the best music to listen to. As far as word count estimates goes, considering what the 60,000 words I had already written included, I’d put this one at at least 140,000 words, if not even more. There’s a lot to get done in it. But, of course, nothing’s set in stone yet, so it may be around the same as what ‘The Perfect Mortals’ was.
F.I.: I wish you all the luck with the recovery of the book. To which kind of readers do you think that your trilogy will appeal the most?
I think that the Buan books, and its following series filling that universe, will probably appeal to a 16+ group first. It’s definitely a read for fantasy/fiction nuts, maybe even role-players of that variety. It does, however, contain a lot of violence, blood and swearing, as well as some deep ideas involving perfection and heroism, so there may be room for some horror fans as well, particularly in ‘Company of Heroes’.
F.I.: Sounds all very interesting, I must say. Now I’m even more curious about your book. Let’s end this interview with some more personal questions. How did your family, friends and classmates react when your book was published?
My family, friends, and classmates – I love the distinction between the last two, I have to say – have always been very supportive of me in my writing goals. I’ve come to a lot of them for help with beta-reading and critique on the first book, and it’s doubtless I’ll go back to most of them again, as well as a few more. They were all very impressed and proud of me when the book was officially published, and my family even stayed up until midnight with me that Tuesday night so I could press the button and send the news that I was a published author across the internet. They continue to be a great source of support and encouragement to me, and a few of them are even asking for me to look at a few of their pieces to see what I think. It really makes me feel proud to say I can have an actually professional opinion now!
F.I.: That’s indeed something to be proud of. A question about your hopes and dreams: what is your biggest dream in life?
I suppose I have the same dream that any professional author does: to write, write, and write some more. I always have said ‘Write for the words, publish for the pockets’. If I didn’t make money from my books, then I would get another job – maybe something in the food industry – but that wouldn’t stop me from writing. I suppose I want to write what people will read, and to get all of the stories I have in my pile of ideas out there for people to experience. I already have a very well-planned idea for a five book series that I’ll be writing after this current series. I’ll be able to start it when I’m about 26, I imagine.
F.I.: One final question: What advice would you give if someone came to you and asked you how to become a writer?
“Keep at it and never give up!” first and foremost. I don’t think you can simply become a writer by writing; anyone can write, but it takes hard work and dedication to see what you write actually mean anything. I would tell them that, as easy as it seems to write and do nothing else, it really is hard and can be stressful, so they have to be sure about going down that path. I’d also tell them not to give up at school or other jobs as well; just in case writing doesn’t work out, it’s always good to have a backup plan. Personally, I’ve always been interested in world foods; one of my occasional hobbies is preparing sushi at home.
F.I.: Thank you for this interview, Reece. I wish you all the luck with your career as a writer.
Reece’s bio (in his own words): My name is Reece Eliot Bridger. I’m a young author from the south of England, and I’m 17 years old. I currently study four AS level subjects: sociology, psychology, English, and I’m beginning my extended project qualification very soon. At age 15, I was diagnosed with High-Functioning Aspergers Syndrome, but I don’t see this as anything less than a blessing that acts like a curse; without it, I don’t believe that I would have been able to get where I am today. I started writing at age 13, with a half-baked pipe dream of an idea that eventually evolved and evolved into the Buan Trilogy as it is today. I live with my brother, mother, stepfather, and my pet Whippet.
Author James Maxey
Number of pages 352
Publisher Solaris Books
Publication date 26 June 2012
The invulnerable, super-strong warrior Infidel has a secret: she’s lost her magical powers right at the moment when she needs them most. To keep a promise to a fallen friend, she must journey to the frozen wastelands of the north. Her quest leads her through the abstract realms of the Sea of Wine, where she uncovers a conspiracy that threatens all life. Hush, the primal dragon of cold, has formed an alliance with the ghost of a vengeful witch to murder Glorious, the dragon of the sun, plunging the world into an unending winter night. Without her magical strength, can Infidel possibly survive her battle with Hush? If she fails to save Glorious, will the world see another morning?
‘Hush’ is the second book in the ‘Dragon Apocalypse’ series where we return to the highly magical world of ‘Greatshadow’. Infidel and Stagger are back in Commonground and are preparing for a quest to bring back the Jagged Heart to the northern wastelands, to fulfill a promise they made to a friend. They team up with a witch named Sorrow and a crew of Wanderers, the Romers. While travelling north, they discover that a witch named Purity has joined forces with Hush, one of the primal dragons, to destroy Glorious and put the world in a never ending darkness. That’s the beginning of an even more magical tale than book 1.
James Maxey goes all out with ‘Hush’ in terms of magic. We get to read about quite a few interesting magic users like Blood magicians, Weavers, Shapeshifters and dragons who are nothing less than primal forces like fire, ice and thunder. The world itself is drenched in magic and is one of the most fantastical places I’ve read about in fantasy. You might think that so much magic in one book is way too much to enjoy the tale, but believe me when I say that that isn’t the fact. Maxey has enough writing talent to make this a very believable world. A world where there’s a marvel behind every corner. Even the characters are wonders of their own. Take a look at the Romers and you’ll see what I mean: that crew of sailors exists, among others, of a boy who swims through the air and a guy who has the mouth of a shark. All this gave me the feeling that I was walking in an RPG world like the computer game ‘Diablo’, with all its enchanted weapons and armor.
Maxey’s writing style consists of a charming prose full of witty and sarcastic dialogues from characters that are well developed and a pleasure to read about. One of the author’s favorite topics is religion and, like in book 1, he touches some delicate points of the real world church and implements them brilliantly into this story.
While the story unfolds, we are given hints and glimpses of some bigger force, behind all this dragon hunting of the Church of the Book and dragons who wants to destroy the world, which pulls strings to achieve a dark goal. Maybe we’ll get to see in book 3 what this force really is and what its goal is. I, for one, am very curious about it.
An honorable mention also goes to the narrator, Stagger. James Maxey invents some very interesting ways to let Stagger continue to haunt his wife Infidel and tell us the tale of their further adventures.
‘Hush’ takes all the good things from ‘Greatshadow’ and combines that with a much better ending than we read in book 1. So, for my conclusion I can say that I enjoyed ‘Hush’ very much. Book 2 of the ‘Dragon Apocalypse’ is a very enjoyable read of a magical world full with some over the top, but lovable characters. With ‘Hush’ being a slightly better book than ‘Greatshadow’ I think that, if Maxey can stay on this curve, book 3 will be even better. After finishing ‘Hush’ I’m convinced Maxey can do that.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off now, continue to read in book 3 ‘Witchbreaker’.
Today I welcome Mark Lawrence, author of ‘The Broken Empire’ trilogy at Fantastical Imaginations for a fun interview with a lot more nonsense questions than I usually ask. But while doing the interview it gradually became an interview with also some serious questions about, among other things, his upcoming novel ‘Emperor of Thorns’ and his new trilogy ‘The Red Queen’s War’.
F.I.: Welcome, Mark, at Fantastical Imaginations. Let’s start with some fun questions. Which author, or other famous person, would you like to be locked up with in a dark room with a lot of sharp things at your disposal?
A dark room and lots of sharp things sounds like a recipe for disaster… so whichever author or famous person (and generally these are very distinct groups so your ‘other’ was largely redundant) has a light and a way out.
F.I.: Smart answer. In which author’s head would you like to mess around a little bit?
Turns out I’m a bad candidate for questions regarding authors, famous people, and genre, as I have little interest in any of them. I like reading. The author behind the words has never really been a factor for me. Until I actually had a book on the shelf I was largely unaware of authors as people and the only one I’d ever looked up anything about (thanks to the ease of typing a name into Google) was David Gemmell. Even now, though I may trade ‘witty’ one liners with various writers on twitter, I really don’t think about the author before, during, or after reading a book.
F.I.: Let’s talk about some of your colleagues for a bit, shall we? You and Joe Abercrombie are what I like to call the two grandmasters of the gritty, dark fantasy of today. What is your opinion on Joe’s writings and personality?
God I’m boring… I’ve never read an Abercrombie book, never met him, and until he turned up on twitter a few weeks back I’d no window at all onto his personality. I guess the fact that my caring duties don’t allow me to go to conventions etc. means I’m rather outside the old boy’s (and girls) authors’ circle. I’m never going to be in the in-crowd.
To your question though – from observing some small fraction of the one thousand 140-character tweets Applecrumble has made I am fairly sure he’s evil.
F.I.: Mazarkis Williams told in an interview I’ve had with her that someone thought that she was your sister. Which of your female colleagues would you like to be the older brother of?
Every possible answer to that sounds either creepy or condescending or both. Anyhow, I’d rather be the annoying younger brother with no implied responsibilities – I’m tired of being old. Also, Maz is about the only author I know who is older than me. Hurrah!
F.I.: I couldn’t resist asking this question: since Sam Sykes is always such a nice guy on Twitter, how is he in real life? (F.I. – this is a slightly different version of the question that I asked Mark in the first e-mail I’ve send him).
Ah, this is the replacement for the ‘what do you think of Sam Sykes’ books’ question that I warned you off (I read stupidly few books these days). The spiraling nosedive continues as I fail to entertain. I’ve never met Sam. I’ve never met anyone that has met Sam. He may not even exist. It is true that a dash of Sykes would probably brighten these proceedings up but that would require me to invent that time me and Sam shared a bucket of tequila and ended up robbing a patisserie dressed as raccoons.
F.I.: Very interesting answers. I love them. Now let us switch to some fun questions about your own writings: how do people react when you tell them that you write fantasy instead of ‘real books’ (at least that’s how a lot of people look at fantasy)? What’s the funniest reaction you’ve had?
Being a hermit I have few opportunities to tell people what I do. However, on those rare occasions that I have done so, you’re correct in anticipating that there is a certain stiffening of features when they ask what kind and I reply ‘fantasy’. It’s odd, because I’m pretty sure that a good proportion of the people I’ve had this with don’t read books, period. And so why it requires an effort not to sneer on their part I’m not sure. Possibly it’s because the nascent sneer implies ‘oh, I only read highbrow works of great literary quality’ and might reflect well on them… though these days the truth is that ‘Hello Magazine’ is the apex of many people’s reading experience.
A fair number of these people go on to say “…you mean… like Harry Potter?” To which I have ill-advisedly said, “No, adult fantasy.” Thereby conjuring entirely the wrong image. And once ‘adult fantasy’ is out in the room everything you say from then on is just digging yourself a deeper hole.
F.I.: I can imagine that, yes . What’s your funniest review you’ve had during your writing career?
There was one that said the story was fine until they reached the spaceship. I can only assume at that point the reader was abducted by aliens because they weren’t reading my book, that’s for sure.
And I guess I get a degree of amusement from people who (sometimes after reading two whole books) are still berating me for my obvious error of including real world references into what is clearly a medieval fantasy world.
F.I.: Let’s suppose there’s going to be a television show with fictional gladiators and Jorg is the reigning champion. Against which fictional character of world literature would you like to see him fight?
All the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood, starting with Piglet to warm up and saving Pooh Bear for last.
F.I.: Thank you for the great answers so far, Mark. I want to ask you also a few serious questions: which is your favorite book of all time?
I imagine the vast majority of people opt for something they read early. The books that first open our minds to a particular type of imagery, emotion, or situation are the ones that stick with us. Like your first kiss. I’m no different. I’ll opt for Lord of the Rings as my favourite fantasy because it did those things for me and it’s shielded by the years from any criticisms I might have if I came to it cold.
Freefall by William Golding is my favourite work of literary fiction.
F.I.: What’s your opinion on the ‘Gender Issues’ discussions that we see appear a lot last months?
I must have missed them. There’s a gender issue? What is it?
F.I.: Yes, there’s talk of Gender Issues lately. Apparently some female authors are concerned about the fact that readers read more books from male fantasy authors than books written by women (I think they have a point). What’s your opinion on this?
As someone who might be unkindly described as a glorified statistician I am naturally skeptical about statistics! The most common faults in analysis being claiming statistical significance where there is none, and in the selection of samples. Where does fantasy being and end? A couple of weeks ago I did a blog post ‘Always a bigger fish’ with a short video to show the relative sizes of book sales for different authors (through the loose correlation of sales with number of Goodreads ratings). The last three authors on that list, utterly dwarfing all the usual fantasy suspects and even making GRRM’s A Game of Thrones look small, are women. Suzanne Collins, JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer have sold in truly extra-ordinary numbers.
As a child I read Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, and Katherine Kurtz until I ran out of their books. Later on it was Katherine Kerr. The bazillion selling Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis seem to have single handedly floated gaming fiction and kept my kids entertained from age 8 to 15… It seems self-evident that if as a woman you write the fantasy people want to read you can sell millions.
My books have been purchased by three English language publishers, each headed by a woman. Each of these women has female second and third in commands. Their subsidiaries are female headed. The publicity people are female. I don’t think I have ever, out of the score of people I’ve interacted with in publishing on a professional level, communicated with a man. So… the gatekeepers don’t appear to be skewed in the male direction… My book was even blurbed by a woman – the excellent Robin Hobb who has sold many millions of fantasy books.
Are the female authors with the aforementioned concerns also concerned about the apparent reading of more books from female fantasy authors in the area of paranormal fantasy, or in romance of any stripe?
Is the perceived imbalance in this case statistically significant or an artifact of small samples and the choice of where the boundaries were drawn?
I don’t know. I do suspect however that very few people care who wrote their fantasy books – they just care if it’s good reading.
F.I.: That’s a very interesting point of view, something to think about. About the concluding book of your first trilogy: what can we expect of ‘Emperor of Thorns’?
Well, not more of the same for one thing. I was quite clear (at least with myself), once I knew the publishers wanted a trilogy, that King of Thorns was not going to be a longer version of Prince of Thorns – and think most people will agree that it isn’t. Similarly I hope that Emperor of Thorns will provide something fresh and bring the story to a satisfying yet unpredictable end.
I have a body of readers worried that Jorg won’t change, and a body of readers worried that he will. Others hope he’ll settle down with Miana or consummate with Katherine… Let’s see shall we! It’s a good job books aren’t written by committee.
F.I.: Can you tell us something about your new book deal that you’ve signed? What will those books be about?
With the Broken Empire trilogy the initial spark of inspiration was for the character and came from Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, leavened perhaps with a little of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.
With the next trilogy (working title: The Red Queen’s War) the character was again the start point, and this time the spark came from the Flashman books by George MacDonald Frasier. I wanted to stay in the same world that Jorg inhabited but see it through very different eyes – and so I dropped a privileged cowardly womanizing bully into the Broken Empire. Also I turned up the Viking dial several notches. There’s considerably more humor in these books but they aren’t a comedy.
F.I.: Will we see Jorg or other characters from the ‘Broken Empire’ trilogy reappear in ‘The Red Queen’s War’?
There will be brief appearances by quite a few characters from the Broken Empire trilogy, yes.
F.I.: How far is your progress on this new trilogy? Do you have a release date set for the first book?
I’m about 20% of the way into the second book and the first is due for publication some time in June 2014.
F.I.: A date to remember, for sure. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Do not give up the day job.
F.I.: Great advice. One fun question to end this interview with: when your wife found out that you write fantasy, what was her reaction?
Well – when I met her I didn’t write fantasy. I met her when she was 19 and I was 21 at a pub-meet for the players of a play-by-mail fantasy role-playing game called Saturnalia. It turned out that we had both signed up to go and live where the game was run and join the small team of games masters running it. Which meant we spent the next year full time writing turns for the game. This basically consisted of reading what the characters (run by the 1000 or so players) intended to do given their last turn, and writing out the story of what happens next. So we were both fantasy writers of a kind at that point. I didn’t start writing ‘proper’ fiction for another ten years, and it took twenty years before I got a book published. So she had plenty of time to get used to the idea.
F.I.: Thank you for doing this interview, Mark. I’ve had a lot of fun doing this.
Marks’ Bio (in his own words): I’m married with four children. My youngest, Celyn, is severely disabled. Caring for her takes up most of my spare time and dominates our lives in a way that people who haven’t experienced it really won’t understand. My day job is as a research scientist focused on topics that the layman might call artificial intelligence. I came late to writing and without any great plan, ambition, or expectation of success.
I used to have a list of other things I did beside working and writing and caring for my daughter – but all of that has pretty much gone away these days, replaced with too much time on twitter and more writing/writing related things than before.
Today I give you an interview I’ve had with Al Ewing, famous for his work on the 2000AD comics of Judge Dredd and Tharg. His sixth novel ‘The Fictional Man’ is highly anticipated and will be released by Solaris Books on 9 may 2013.
F.I.: Hi Al, welcome at Fantastical Imaginations. Let’s begin this interview with my classical opening question: what and when was your first stray in the realm of the SFF field as a reader?
Almost certainly my first copy of 2000AD, when I was about nine. It was the first comic I ever read on a regular basis that wasn’t meant completely for kids – more an ‘all ages’ read. (It’s not quite as all-ages as back then, but then very few action-adventure comics are.) Anyway, 2000AD had it all – SF from Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog, F from Slaine, SFF from Nemesis The Warlock… it was a great read and I was lucky enough to catch it during its golden and silver ages. I’d still recommend it today, but then again I would…
F.I.: What is it that you like so much about SFF?
I feel like calling your work ‘SFF’ is an implied permission you’re giving yourself to break the rules. Once you label your work as ‘science fiction and/or fantasy’ – there aren’t any limits there in terms of what you can write about or what you can do with the form. Even calling it ‘science fiction’ isn’t a limit, because people will put it on the general fiction shelves anyway if it crosses some arbitrary line they have in their head. (There’s a lot of ‘no true Scotsman’ arguments when it comes to categorizing what science fiction is. Coming from a comics background, I’m used to that.)
F.I.: Which author made you decide to start writing yourself?
Oh, all of them. Although I suppose Alan Moore was one of the biggies, in that, having grown up with him as being one of the greatest literary voices of the latter part of the 20th Century, (and still going strong, really), I took a look at his very, very early work and noticed how, well, early it was. He wasn’t “Alan Moore” yet, not quite. In fact, I thought arrogantly, I’ll bet I could make a pretty decent fist of that myself. And here we are.
I think it’s something everyone with aspirations could stand to do – take a look at a giant in your field and realise that they, too, had a beginning, that they started from somewhere and they weren’t as good to begin with as they eventually became. So there’s hope for you, which means you might as well stop faffing and get started.
F.I.: That’s great advice. Let’s talk about your own writings now. You have written quite a lot of comics and your sixth novel is coming out in a few weeks. Which of your writings are you the most proud of? What’s your masterpiece in your own opinion?
I think the best thing I’ve written is always the last thing I’ve written – I’d feel very depressed if that wasn’t the case – so The Fictional Man is my masterpiece, at least until the next thing comes out. Before I wrote that, it was Pax Omega, which by an odd coincidence is the novel that I wrote right before it.
F.I.: Your new novel ‘The Fictional Man’ is coming out on 9 May 2013 and is much anticipated. What can we expect from this novel? To which readers do you think that your book will appeal the most?
It’s a character piece as much as anything. There’s a fistfight, a bit of sex, some loud arguments, but no car chases, no explosions, none of the pulp blood and thunder I think people have become used to from me. I hope they like it anyway and my old readers don’t desert me in droves, but I feel like this one could just as easily end up on the General Fiction shelves as the SFF shelves. (This is probably true for a lot of SFF these days, now I think about it.) And there’s a lot of comedy to go with the emotional drama. So people who like that sort of thing.
F.I.: Is your new novel a standalone or part of a new series?
It’s standalone. I’ve really said all I particularly want to say on this topic. If I come back to it, it’ll be in ten or fifteen years, once my thoughts have changed or evolved. The next thing I do will probably be with more of an eye on a franchise, though.
F.I.: Interesting. We’ll talk more about that last sentence later on in this interview. How and when did you come up with the idea for ‘The Fictional Man’?
About ten years ago I did a five-page twist-ending comic strip for a small press magazine, introducing the concept of Fictionals – I called them Vactors back then – and the idea seemed such a fun one that I was always kicking myself slightly for not using it in something bigger. For the past five years or so I’ve been knocking together ideas in my head for what that something might look like, and when Solaris approached me to write a book for them I immediately knew that that would be it.
Where the original idea came from… I have no idea. Ten years is a long time.
F.I.: A fun question about ‘The Fictional Man’: let’s assume that the world from your book has become reality. Which fictional character would like to see alive and have a chat with?
God. I’m here all week, try the veal.
Seriously… I’d like to see Superman alive – probably the one from All-Star Superman. Someone with near-infinite power who cares for even the worst of us. Most importantly, he’s the only fictional character I can think of who always does the right thing, without fail. I suppose that’s the same as saying ‘God’, really, but I’d be much more comfortable bringing Superman to life.
F.I.: Great answer. Back to your future projects now. What will be your next project after ‘The Fictional Man’ has hit bookshelves?
Like I said, I have an idea for a franchise. It’ll have to stay secret for a little while, though – in the short to medium term, I’m just going to relax and concentrate on comics. Let things percolate for a few months before I get down to the pitch.
F.I.: Something to look forward to. Let’s end this interview with some fun questions. What’s the funniest remark you’ve got when people found out that you write SFF?
People are generally quite good about the SFF side, although I’ve had ‘why don’t you write a proper novel’ from my Mum a couple of times. This one might satisfy her, but probably not – it’s a bit filthy.
F.I.: In which author’s head would you like to be living for, let’s say, a week and why?
Well, I need a holiday, so I’ll stay in Jilly Cooper’s head during her bonkbuster period. It’ll be like a week at a really posh hotel, but full of beautiful people having sex in cut-glass accents. Lovely.
F.I.: Lovely, indeed. I think I volunteer myself for staying in that hotel. One final question: what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Start small. Keep it under five hundred words and give yourself just one day, or a couple of evenings, to do it. And then get it out there. Build a website. Put your short fiction up on it. (Personally, my experience is with comics, but it’s all the same. Get a pen and some paper and a stapler and make minicomics and sell them. Use clip art. Use stick figures. Nothing is stopping you except you.)
Because once that’s done, you’ll have finished something, and that’s the most important thing. I’ve met so many people who come up with ideas for 600,000-word epic cycles and then never start, because it’s easier to give yourself a task too big to ever finish and then blame the task than it is to admit to yourself that you’re too scared to even set yourself a realistic goal. Start small. Work up.
That’s really advice for people who’ve never written a word and want to be writers. If you’re already writing lots of things – keep at it, get it out there, look for opportunities and be prepared to write for literally decades before anyone notices you exist.
F.I.: That’s indeed great advice. Al, thank you for this interview. I had a blast doing this.
Al’s Bio (in his own words): I’ve been a professional comics writer for over a decade now, working mostly on 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, but also writing the crime comic Jennifer Blood and various other bits and pieces in the States. During that time I’ve also written five novels, all published by Abaddon Books as part of their various shared worlds – the El Sombra trilogy is probably the most well-known of those. The Fictional Man is my first novel for Solaris.