Matthew Harffy Q&A

Today I’m doing something a little different to my normal Q & A’s.

I’ve been a loyal fan of Matthews for a while now and I recently bought the hardback copy of his book, The Serpent Sword.

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Now I don’t think there was anything wrong with the self-published book but the new hardback is so gloriously beautiful I just had to own it.

One of the clear differences I spotted instantly was this beautiful map! Every good book needs a map!

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The new release got me thinking. Beobrand really has grown over the series from a young man into an older but not necessarily wiser man, trusted by many even though he doesn’t see his own worth in himself.

There is deep changes within him during Killer of Kings as it’s time for Beo to head home and face his past..

It’s be a long journey for Beobrand and also for the author.

Matthew very kindly offered to answer a few questions about his work.

Enjoy.


 

So one of the big changes since I first read The Serpent Sword is you’ve been picked up by Aria Fiction (Well-deserved I might add).

One of the biggest OMG moments is seeing a hardback version of The Serpent Sword hit the shelves. It’s really great to have been along with you on your journey and I’d like to ask a couple of questions.

Is it a good feeling to have a publisher behind you and do you miss anything about being self-published? 

It is great to have a team of professionals behind me now. The feeling that things are happening behind the scenes is really amazing. This includes things such as the brokering of translation deals, or selling the audio rights to Audible, and things like press releases, marketing and publicity.

As to whether I miss anything about being self-published, I think the truthful answer is not much. I suppose I am a control freak, and I have very strong ideas about how I like to do things, so if I miss anything, it is having total control. Having said that, I think Aria and its parent publisher, Head of Zeus, are perhaps different from the norm in terms of publishers, as they allow me a lot of input into things like the covers and are keen to involve me in most of the decisions, which I am really grateful for. Aria is a very young, dynamic publisher and they can get things done very quickly. I think I would possibly go mad working with one of the much bigger publishers, that have very slow turnaround from handing in a manuscript to seeing it published. As it is, I am already sometimes frustrated by the loss of agility from when I was self-published. However, any perceived loss of control is more than outweighed by improvements to quality and visibility and distribution of my books.

Do you feel any pressure to churn out the books or do you thrive having targets to meet?

Yes and no! Having deadlines that are written into a contract certainly focuses the mind and I would go as far as to say that at the beginning of the year, when I knew I had a new manuscript to deliver in November and I had nothing written, I felt the pressure. Now that I am hundred thousand words into the first draft of book 5, Warrior of Woden, that pressure has lessened. However, once I’ve handed it in, and I look towards book 6 which is due for delivery to my editor by November 2018, I am sure the pressure will be on me again. So there is pressure, but I actually think having targets is a really good thing for any long project. Even when I was self-published, I set myself weekly and monthly goals. Without them there is a tendency to drift and not to progress towards a defined target.

Since being picked up have the books gone through more editing?

The Serpent Sword and The Cross and The Curse both went through a couple of extra rounds of editing. But as they had already been published and edited when I was self-published, the process was lightweight, with not many changes being made. For the subsequent books, Blood and Blade, Kin of Cain and Killer of Kings, the editorial process has been slightly more thorough than when I was self-published I would say, mainly due to the fact that the publishers pay different types of editors, such as copy editors and proofreaders, who are professionals. When I did these things myself, I enlisted family and friends and was lucky to have people with an eye for detail who I could turn to.

I’ve been very impressed with some of the comments from my copy editor, who manages to spot points of inconsistency in things like names and spelling between books. For example, he mentioned that I had used the name of a small character in book 3 that was also mentioned in book 1, but in each occurrence it was a different character being referred to but sharing the same name. It was a very minor point but by changing the name in one of the books it removes any confusion that might be there for the reader.

So far in your writing career what’s been your highlight?

It’s hard to name just one. Getting the first good reviews from total strangers, finishing each novel, signing with Aria. I think recently the two things that stand out are hearing the audiobooks for the first time (I was worried that I wasn’t going to like them, but in the end I loved what Barnaby Edwards has done with them), and holding in my hands the recently released hardback edition of The Serpent Sword. There had been two versions of print on demand paperbacks of the book already, but for some reason the hardback feels more real. Not just that, but the book is now available in libraries and in high street shops, which is a huge step forward.

Any low moments?

There are lots of moments when the writing process gets me down. It is by definition solitary, and it is easy to lose sight of the ending of the story and to get lost. Now that I have a few books under my belt I push through these moments, trusting that I’ll find a way. So far, I’ve managed to do just that.

It’s also very disheartening to receive truly negative reviews. I understand that not everyone is going to like my writing, and that’s fine, but from time to time somebody will leave a review online that seems to be trying to cause offence. I know all authors get this type of review, so I know it’s nothing personal, but it certainly feels personal when somebody is slagging off a book it’s taken a year to write!

It doesn’t affect me now as I am not actively sending out my manuscripts looking for a deal, but earlier on in my career, when I was looking for a publisher and, before that, an agent, it was quite demoralising to receive rejection after rejection. Writing certainly isn’t for the fainthearted.

Looking at the hardback the biggest improvements I see is the map which is much more prominent and detailed. Whose idea was it to make this addition?

I agree! The map is wonderful. I had always wanted a better map in the books, but when I self-published I was doing all of the work myself, including the maps, so I didn’t have the skills or the time to do anything more detailed than a simple map of Britain with the place names of the major locations in the books. When releasing the books again, Aria spruced up the maps I had created, making them look more artistic, but they hadn’t added any more detail.

When the hardback was being designed, I went to a Head of Zeus sales conference in London and was approached by Nicolas Cheetham, the deputy MD of the publisher. He produced a rolled up printout of a new map that was more detailed and drawn in the style of Tolkien’s maps from Lord of the Rings! Nic had read the Serpent Sword and thought a better map would really elevate the hardback release. Having seen the final product, I can only agree with him. The plan at the moment is to include similar style maps in all subsequent hardback releases of the Bernicia Chronicles.

Who picks the quotes for the backs of the books, you or your publisher?

That was the publisher. There were a few that didn’t get used on the hardback, but I don’t know how they decided which to use. I’m guessing other quotes might get used on the paperback edition.

The most important question..when’s the next hardback coming out?

The hardback of The Cross and The Curse is due for release in November 2017, coinciding with the mass market paperback release of The Serpent Sword. Just in time for Christmas!

So the next book for release is Killer of Kings. What should we expect?

In Killer of Kings we follow Beobrand south into East Anglia. There he quickly finds himself embroiled in a battle of epic proportions. On his travels he also returns to his old home village in Kent where he meets old friends and uncovers some dark secrets.

What’s next for you?

Right now I am writing book 5 of the Bernicia Chronicles, Warrior of Woden. After that, it will be on to book 6! When I finish that, we’ll have to see what’s next. I’ve got a few ideas about more books in the series, or starting a new series, but time will tell!

Thanks for the great questions. It’s always a real pleasure doing an interview on your blog.


Thank you Matthew for taking the time to answer my questions.

Killer of Kings is out now! You can read my review here or head straight to Amazon

Want a Hardback copy of The Serpent Sword? Check out Amazon for more details.

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