Category Archives: 10 Questions With…

10 Questions with Alison Morton.

Today I’m very glad to bring to you a Q&A with Alison Morton, author of the Roma Nova series.

You can read my reviews of Aurelia and Insurrectio by clicking the images below to open a new window.

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One of the biggest things I’ve enjoyed about the series is that it turns the traditional and outdated idea of social structure on its head.

I hope you enjoy the questions, do let me know your thoughts 🙂

P.S look out for my review of Retalio book 6 in the series soon!


 

Q1 – For anyone who’s read my reviews of your works I’m sure they will know how much I’ve enjoyed reading them but for anyone new what would you say to convince them to give your books a try?

You don’t believe in starting with an easy one, do you, David?  😉

Seriously, I try to provide a cracking story and provoke a few questions along the way. Yes, my books are thrillers, but without dripping body parts and with a different take on what might have happened at the end of the Roman Empire.

I enjoy a good twist when I read, so I like to put a few of those in my own books, but of course, all good reads are not only about the story, but equally about characters. We love to gasp with horror, feel that frisson of fear, fall in love and celebrate along with our heroine (or hero).

Q2 – Strong female leads are something I’m starting to see more and more in books and I love it. Did you always set out to write a series that knocks on the head the idea of the male characters being in charge?

In brief, yes! I wanted a female character who led the action and pushed the story through. Too often the woman is the sidekick or the mother/daughter/sister/colleague who waves the hero goodbye as he sets off on his quest, whether in the 4th, 21st or 43rd century. Virginia Woolf wrote in 1929 about fictitious women, “But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men.” So it’s nothing new!

A little secret: if I find myself slipping back into the action man/passive woman trap when writing, I reverse the dialogue to make sure my heroine is making the decisions!  But it doesn’t make Roma Novan men any less masculine or tough. (I explain it all here.)

Q3 – Your idea of alternative history and that the fall of Rome didn’t mean the end of Roman culture opens up lots of writing possibilities, where did the idea come from?

Several things! I’ve been a ‘Roman nut’ since I walked on my first mosaic at Ampurias in northeast Spain. In fact I’ve clambered over quite a lot of Roman Europe! The idea of a modern Roman heroine has been bubbling away in my head for years.  She would have to be modern as even in Late Antiquity no woman could have a public role, let alone a military one, and Rome was essentially a military society. Then I read Robert Harris’s Fatherland and learnt about alternative timelines and outcomes.Two more neurons connected in the brain!

No fingers were hovering above a keyboard yet, though. Then I saw a really bad film. The cinematography was gorgeous, it was set in modern Rome and it had the enormous bonus of starring Ewan McGregor. (Your women readers will understand the last one better than men, I feel.) However, the dialogue and continuity were rubbish. I knew I could do better. The trigger was pulled. Ninety days later I had a manuscript of 90,000 words. Rubbish, of course, but it went on after much slashing, rewriting and polishing to become INCEPTIO.  The legend of Roma Nova was born.

Q4 – The great thing about the setting of your tales is that you have some leeway with historical accuracy. Was the accuracy in describing the Roma Nova culture important to you?

Absolutely! I have an MA in History which has given me a grounding in being picky about accuracy and sources in a methodological way. I don’t think you can alternate history without knowing it first.

When you choose to diverge from the standard historical timeline, you have to know exactly what the world was like at that point. This is the last solid foothold you have on the historical record. For example, the Roma Nova storyline is that the group of senatorial families who trekked out of Italy at the end of the fourth century to become the first Roma Novans were pagans persecuted by Christian Emperor Theodosius II. This persecution really was taking place at the time (not something we’re taught about). Theodosius signed the final edict outlawing worship of the traditional Roman gods in AD 394; the punishment was death.

Once you have researched that divergence point in time ad nauseam, then you project forwards using historical logical until you reach thelater time when your story is set. It helps to have a general knowledge of ,and a feel for ,history here. If not, research!

In fact, everything has to be checked from technology and attitudes in the 1960s (AURELIA), how to mount a coup d’état, intelligence techniques, warfighting of the 1980s (INSURRECTIO, RETALIO), weaponry, signals, locations and transferable Roman practices for all the books. But I love research. Honestly!

Q5 – How long have you been a writer and what influenced you to first put pen to paper?

I’ve written most of my life, but mostly practical stuff: student theses, government papers, exercise reports, corporate documentation, PR copy, articles, an academic dissertation even. As a trained translator, my work turning foreign language text into English was precise with a touch of creativity in expression, plus I edited at least one million words in that time. Now, making up stories? Ever since childhood. Writing them down? That only started in 2009 with that bad film.

Q6 – Would you contemplate writing a book in any other genre?

Ha! The great Conn Iggulden who endorsed INSURRECTIO gave me a suggestion about that. But I’m not telling at the moment!

Q7 – How important is feedback from your readers?

Very important. I’m not so grand that I don’t read and take notice of my reviews. Of course, they are all subjective, but I’ve gleaned some excellent advice from readers and fans since INCEPTIO was published in 2013.

The Roma Nova Enthusiasts’ Group on Facebook is small but going well, as is my Facebook author page and I always love it when people react to my blogposts (alison-morton.com) or tweets (@alison_morton).

Q8 – Who have been your biggest influences within the writing community?

This is such a difficult question as it changes all the time! Like many Roman writers, my first Roman book was The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. I grew up on a very mixed diet of fiction, swinging from Georgette Heyer, Leslie Charteris’s The Saint to Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise and Dennis Wheatley’s adventure tales.

I adore Gore Vidal’s Julian, and anything by Margaret Attwood and Tom Clancy. These days, Lindsey Davis is a clear favourite along with Steven Saylor, Ruth Downie, William Boyd, J D Robb and of course, Robert Harris.

Q9 – What books are currently on your reading shelf?

Legionary: the Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual by Philip Matyszak. I’m enjoying it tremendously. I’m ex-military myself, so it’s raising a few smiles.

Q10 – Future plans? More books I hope J

More books, certainly!  I’ve just completed a novella featuring Carina and set between INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS. Perhaps I’ll write more ‘inbetweeners’ or a collection of short stories. Then there’s the foundation story of Roma Nova waiting for me…

Thank you so much for letting me ‘invade’ your blog, David!

 

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10 Questions with……. Jesse Teller PLUS SNEAK PEAK :P

Hello!

Did you see my review of Liefdom by Jesse Teller? No!! well click here to read it quick! 

Today I’m very glad to continue my 10 questiosn with feature with non other than Jesse Teller himself who very kindly took the time to answer some of my questions.

I do hope you enjoy, keep reading to the end for sneak peak of whats to come next from Jesse!


Wellcome Jesse,

Q1 – For anyone who’s read my reviews they will already know about the life of Gentry Mandrake but for those who’ve not had a chance to read the book yet can you give them a little insight into the story?

Okay, so Gentry Mandrake is a fairy. In my world, fairies are born to a different realm called The Veil, and every time a fairy is born, a child is born. That fairy and that child are bound together. The fairy serves as the child’s immune system to magic and other properties of my fantasy world. If the child dies, the fairy dies, and vice versa. All children are born innocent. So when Mandrake is born and he’s of monstrous size, has natural armor, and natural weapons, it begs the question, what kind of monstrous baby could have inspired such a monstrous fairy? We find out during the course of the book whether Mandrake is really a monster, serving a monstrous child, or if he is something else.

Q2 – I love the idea of the connection between humans and fairies..and especially the idea of the consequences of being a bad human/fairy has on the other.. Where did this idea come from and did it take a while for you to develop it fully?

Well I guess you could say parenthood. If a parent goes sour, usually the child does as well. Not all the time, but sometimes. So, in my world, when a fairy becomes jaded and dark, so does the child, and vice versa. This puts fairies as the guardians of the child’s innocence. Just as, in many ways, a parent is the guardian of a child’s innocence. When a person goes truly evil, when a child goes truly evil, it’s soul is severed from the fairy, and the fairy has a chance to turn itself back. This is the shift between changeling and imp. This mimics parents and children too, because when people become truly evil, it’s not necessarily a reflection of the way they were raised. At a certain point, they just cannot blame the parents anymore for their own decisions. In Liefdom, as in most of my work, I’m studying the relationship between parents and children.

Q3 – Something that really sticks with me from the book is the progression Mandrake goes through as the story develops. My number 1 must for a book is character development and I loved how you managed this. Was it hard for you to find the right balance between action and character development?

Not really. Character development is not an engine in itself. A lot of writers consider themselves masters of a train yard. On one track, they have plot development, on another they have character, and still another they have scene development, setting, voice. To these writers, they are managing the travel of all these different trains on many different tracks, trying to get all the goods, all of the story, in one place at one time, at different paces, with different strategies. For me, this analogy doesn’t hold up. I’m more like an arsonist burning the story to the ground. Create certain things, let’s call the heat of the fire the plot, the smoke is character development, the fire itself is the action. All these things go up simultaneously. All these things happen at the same time. So, the action creates the character development. I don’t see them as separate entities at all, just one great conflagration.

Q4 – How long have you been a writer and what influenced you to first put pen to paper?

Well it was my first writing assignment, right? That’s when everybody starts writing. They’re in grade school and they’re told to write some sort of short story. Mine was about a purple hippopotamus. I was in fifth grade. Some writers, it starts in college, when they can put together their ideas and they are driven. They’re telling themselves, this is what I want to do for my career, and they’re moving towards that goal. With me, I didn’t have that. There was a whole life full of distractions. I wrote occasionally. I wrote when I was given an assignment to. I didn’t really start creating a world until I was much older. Didn’t start writing with purpose until high school. But the thing that told me I really wanted to do it was the way it felt. Telling a story, creating a story, something captivating, something that pulled the reader, if just for a second, out of their world, their understanding. I was aware of that in fifth grade. I became aware of it with every story I told. It gets seductive after awhile. Coming up with a story for people to talk about, for people to experience, you can get carried away with it if you let yourself. It pulls at you, gently at first. If you write another chapter tonight, then you can spend the day talking about it with your wife, with your friend. It gets seductive. It can turn you into a junkie if you let it.

Q5 – Would you contemplate writing a book in any other genre?

I’m working on an autobiography. I’m not intellectual enough for sci-fi. Not funny enough for comedy. I’d love to be able to write historical fiction, maybe medical drama, but these have a lot of research to them. I respect authors of all genres, but fantasy is really my thing. In fantasy, if you can dream it up, you can find a way to make it happen. In fantasy, you can be undone by an infection, or standing your own against thousands of men. Fantasy is really the only language that I speak.

Q6 – How important is feedback from your readers?

Well, you can’t grow without feedback. That’s just a fact. If you’re writing in a bubble, you can’t expect to move on when you find yourself churning the same ground over and over again. I’ve got two people who have read everything, and they keep me honest. When a new review comes out, good or bad, I’m excited about it, because I learn from all of it. I find peer review to be the most helpful, hearing the opinions of other writers. But everybody who reads my work has an opinion, and I’d love to hear all of them.

Q7 – Who have been your biggest influences within the writing community?

Anybody who works really hard, who puts out quality work relentlessly. Glen Cook was really big for me in this respect. He put out a lot of solid work and I liked his gritty take on the fantasy genre. I went to a lot of workshops with an agent named Donald Maass. He had a big influence on how I wrote, process and technique. I’m inspired by author/marketers. There are indie authors who write and publish their own work and then spend years marketing it and getting it out to the world. That’s just inspiring to me. I can’t really pull that off. I’m obsessed with the work. I find myself working late at night, isolating myself in the work, pounding out one word after the next. But my wife does all my marketing. If she didn’t, nobody would ever hear of me. I’m not even sure I would ever publish, just sit in my basement and pound out one word after the next.

Q8 – What books are currently on your reading shelf?

Paradise Lost, John Milton. This has been a dream for a long time, a long time. The idea of the process of writing this piece sets my imagination on fire. This guy was blind when he wrote this epic poem. He was blind, which means he couldn’t write it out himself, he had to dictate it. When you’re writing, part of your mind’s eye is in the place that you’re writing, but your actual eye is on the board or on the screen. You’ve got that veil between you and the world that you’re writing about because you’re looking at a screen. This veil, this tiny step of distance that most writers have, Milton didn’t have. So when he described the fall of Lucifer, he was in the air tumbling at the same rate as Lucifer. When he described the building of the castle Pandemonium, he stood on its foundations as it was being erected. He knew the fires of Hell. He knew the bliss of Heaven. He experienced it all as he was dictating it. I’m also going to read the rest of Robert E. Howard. I’ve got his complete works. He’s my favorite writer of all time. I want to say I’ve read everything he’s done. He was a contemporary of H.P. Lovecraft. He wrote pulp fantasy and horror, created Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn. He wrote Solomon Kane, the puritan warrior witch-hunter, demon-hunter. Can’t get enough of that guy. I’ve got some of my own contemporaries on the list as well, other indie authors, Dyrk Ashton, Josiah Bancroft, M.L. Spencer. It’s an exciting time to be a reader. Before now, there was never really a viable way for a writer to get his or her work out unless they were traditionally published. Now there’s a free flowing of ideas and experimental projects that we’ve never seen before.

Q9 – What’s the best bit of advice you would give to those considering writing a book?

Write all the time. Pick a small window of time during your day every day and allow yourself in that time to obsess about your work. Throw everything else away, just for those brief half-hour, two hours, four hours, throw everything else away. Allow yourself to say, “Nothing else matters at this moment but my work.” And then just go, just pound out the words, just write and write and write, and when the timer goes off, and it’s time to go back to the real world, do so, content in the knowledge that tomorrow that same window of time will be open to you.

Q10 – Future plans? And will we see Mandrake again any time soon?

My future plans are to publish 1-2 novels every year for the rest of my life. I’ve got a book coming out in October where Mandrake makes a cameo. But in the releases for the next 15 years, we won’t see Mandrake. As time progresses, I believe he’ll come back into the main story unfolding of the world, but for now, Liefdom is the only glimpse we have into Mandrake. I’ve written a number of rough drafts, they’re poised and ready to go. I’ve got a lot of story saved up, waiting on a shelf. So keep your ear to the ground. You’ll hear more from me soon.

Thanks Jesse!


 

What’s next for Jesse.. well pn the 5th October his new book Song is released!

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Here’s the blurb –

Some of the darkest minds in Perilisc attacked Mending Keep, releasing all its prisoners. Despite his strained relationship with the crown, Rayph Ivoryfist calls old friends to his aid in a subversive attempt to protect King Nardoc and thwart terrorist plots to ruin the Festival of Blossoms. But someone else is targeting Rayph, and even his fellow Manhunters might not be enough to save him.

Jesse has kindly given me a excerpt to share with you all, do let me know what you think of it. If you like what you read head to Amazon to pre-order your copy now!

The Guard of Mending Keep

One Year After The Escape

The serving boy’s face was stained green with disgust and horror. He looked about to be sick, about to flee, about to weep. Rayph saw the trembling lip and the panic in the eyes, and he knew what the boy was carrying. It was small, maybe a little over a foot wide, spherical, and covered with a towel. The boy wove a path through the reclining bathhouse patrons and made his slow, methodical way around the main tub to the corner where Rayph sat with his good friend, playing crease and taking in the steam.

As the boy drew closer, the dread that rose up within Rayph prompted him to turn to Dova and grimace. Rayph moved his tile, tapping it lightly with his finger, and shook his head.

“I’m afraid we are about to be interrupted,” Rayph said.

The boy trembled beside the gaming table. His white, sweating face held the world’s shock, and Rayph nodded at him. “Set it down.” He waved his hand across the boy’s eye line and muttered his spell’s incantation. The serving child’s face smoothed clear of all trepidation, and he let out a long-held breath.

“Where did you get it?” Rayph asked.

The boy’s dark eyes looked troubled even through the effects of the spell. “He hurt me,” the boy said.

“Hurt you how?” Rayph asked.

The boy pointed to his temple. “He got in here. He burned me.”

Rayph clenched his fist and anger bubbled deep within him. “What did he look like?”

“He was trimerian, but his third eye,” the boy rubbed his forehead, “it seemed to be flaming. He stunk of sulfur.”

Rayph’s blood ran cold, and he stood. “Watch the boy. Lock down the house. If he returns, do not engage, just defend, Dova. He is beyond even you.”

He looked to his ethereal friend, naught but churning wind where his body sat. The towel draped over Dova’s shoulders and tied around his waist, the only indicator of his form.

Rayph grabbed the boy’s shoulders a little too rough, just a little too hard. “Where did he go?” Rayph tried not to let fear get the better of his voice, but it trembled. There are so many innocents here. If he unleashes, how much of the city can I save? The answer was very little.

Dova exploded with a slight puff of wind. The towels fell to the floor. Rayph could feel his friend fill the room, warm air, fluttering and vibrant with life, swelled, blowing curtains in a flurry. The doors to the bathhouse slammed shut.

“Where did he go, son?” Rayph asked the boy.

“Who said he’s gone?” The voice held a new lilt of arrogance to it, a soft tinkling, musical and filled with spite. The boy leapt back. His forehead ripped open, betraying an eye. His back split and out flapped two wings that bled greasy smoke.

“Clear the room,” Rayph commanded as he loosed his spell. The power of the spell’s thrall was so great that every reclined man leapt to his feet and rushed for the door. The doors flew open to slam closed again. Every lamp in the room surged, hissing flame before dying completely. The room was thrown into gloom, the only light issuing from the great opening in the roof centered over them.

With a flick of his wrist and the uttering of a command word, the air around Rayph’s right hand tore and his sword dropped from the wound. The air zipped closed again, and Rayph turned to the serving boy, who hovered before him.

“You harm that boy any further and I will hunt you, Meric. I will plunge into that darkness you surround yourself in and I will rip you from it.”

The boy tossed his head back and unfurled a hideous laugh that trembled the ceramic tiles of the wall. “I have not come to quarrel with you, old friend.”

“You and I were never friends,” Rayph said. The sky above the opening darkened, and Rayph stepped closer. “Why have you come here? Why show yourself now, after this many millennia?”

“The nation is wide open, dear friend. No one is watching over Lorinth in your absence. You have forsaken your post.”

“I still guard this nation. I serve not the throne, but this is still my home. I will return as court wizard one day.”

The boy’s head lobbed back, and he poured out another hideous laugh, so violent the corners of the mouth split, and the boy coughed blood. “Too late, Rayph, you will return too late.” The head shook. “You have not yet looked at the present I left for you. How rude you are, Ivoryfist.”

Rayph extended an arm toward the table and muttered a word. His eyes stayed locked to Meric as the object floated the room to hover before Rayph. With a jerk of the cloth, he unveiled the severed head. Rayph looked in horror at the face, so contorted in pain from its last moment he could not recognize it.

He stared at it. The left side of the face was badly burned, the neck severed with some keen, hot blade that cauterized the wound perfectly. Deep claw marks covered the right side of the face and neck. Blood stained the chin and mouth.

Rayph’s heart broke out in a rampaging rhythm, and his mind burst into flames as he recognized the face. “No.” He looked away, but his eye was drawn to the head again as the identity of the head locked in his mind. “It can’t be.”

A gurgling laugh filled the room, and Rayph summoned forth the power to smite Meric.

“No, Rayph, you mustn’t!” Dova screamed. He threw his whistling form before Rayph, and two thrumming hands landed on his shoulders. The air that comprised Dova’s body filled with the water of the tub they stood in, making a figure of rampaging moisture. “If you engage him here, you will destroy my city. You must not.”

“Listen to Dova, Rayph. He always was one for caution,” Meric said. “Caution and cowardice looking so much alike and all.”

“Rayph, who is it?” Dova motioned toward the head.

“Stoic,” Rayph breathed. “He has killed Stoic.” Saying it aloud let the words take on meaning. His friend was gone, his guard, dead. What would become of Mending Keep? Had they all fled? Had the world’s unkillable fiends made good an escape?

He knew the futility of the words before he spoke them but felt helpless to say anything else. “I will make you hurt for this, Meric. In this one act, you have killed yourself.” Rayph felt nauseous.

“Step aside, Dova,” he said.

“Oh, my dear Rayph, please do keep tight check on that temper of yours. I would hate to reduce this city to rubble because you threw a fit,” Meric said. The black smoke issuing from the flapping wings filled the room with unbreathable air. “Stoic is gone, as are his charges, but that does not mean we need come to blows. I was not the one that killed your boy.”

“This head was severed with your blade. Do not try to deny it.”

“Yes, for easier transportation, I assure you. He was dead long before I got there.”

Was Meric lying? Did he have any reason to? Why bring the head at all? Meric was not one to gloat. It was not his way. Why alert Rayph the prison had been broken in to? There was an element to this Rayph could not see, something big moving powerful pieces about the board.

“Who did this?” Rayph asked.

The boy laughed again, weaker this time. He doesn’t have much time. I have to get Meric out of that boy as soon as possible.

“I won’t do all of your work for you, Ivoryfist,” Meric said. Lightning flashed outside, the inky clouds that followed Meric everywhere boiling in the sky above them.

“Does this mean you’re coming off sabbatical?” Meric asked.

“I will find out who did this and why, and when I do, if your name comes up at all…”

The boy laughed again, a hissing wheeze that scared Rayph.

“Remember who helped you when it all comes out, Rayph. Remember who alerted you to the break. You owe me now,” Meric said.

“I owe you nothing. You did not do this for anyone’s reasons but your own.” It’s big. It’s really big, but I can’t see it.

Meric laughed again. The wings pumped, throwing blood through the air, and the boy’s body lifted.

“Leave the boy!” Rayph said.

“You don’t give me orders any more, Rayph. Those days are over.” The boy’s body lifted high above the bathhouse, and Rayph splashed into the center of the tub to stare up at darkened skies. With a deafening explosion, Meric broke loose of the boy’s body, and the child dropped. Rayph set his feet and watched as the body tumbled. The boy dropped through the opening in the ceiling, and Rayph caught him in his arms. The sky opened and rain hammered the city. Rayph looked up at his friend and grimaced.

“I must leave, Dova,” Rayph said. “But first I have to know what happened to Stoic. Can I use your lab and summoning room?”

“Everything I own is at your command, Ivoryfist, you know that.”

The boy woke up screaming.

Did you enjoy that? if so why not pre-order your copy of the book – Amazon

About the Author

Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.

He lives with his supportive wife, Rebekah, and his two inspiring children, Rayph and Tobin.

Recognition

SPFBO 2017 entrant
Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner, April 2017
Drunken Druid Editor’s Choice, March 2017
Drunken Druid 2016 Book of the Year Short List
Hungry Monster Gold Book Award Winner, September 2016

“Jesse Teller is a talented author with the future in his hands.” —Peter Tr, booknest.eu

“A very strong author who boldly builds the world he has created with strong themes and no apologies.” —Dianne Bylo, Tome Tender Book Blog

“Jesse’s newest project, Song, is part of his Perilisc fantasy world: a richly detailed setting, ripe with legends, magic, and secrets whispered but not yet explored.” —Bookwraiths.com

Author Links:
Website
Facebook
Goodreads
Amazon
Twitter
Reddit
Smashwords

 

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.

10 Questions with…Frank Westworth

Today I bring to you my 10 questions feature with author Frank Westworth. If you’ve been following my reviews you’ll know I’m a big fan of his work.

 

Frank is the author of the brilliant Killing Sisters series and also the JJ Stoner short tales I love so much.

If you havent already please take a look at the Author Spotlight I did for Frank last year.

You should also check out my recent reviews for the following books –

The Stoner Stories – Volume 1

The Redemption Of Charm

I hope you enjoy the Q&A 🙂


 

First of all welcome to my blog Frank. The first question has to be the most important… so obviously I want to know if you are a tea or coffee kind of man? Or do you prefer something stronger?

Both. Everything. No limits. Whatever tastes right. No constraints. If I want to drink a coffee – I drink coffee. Tea’s the same, there are tea days and there are coffee days. And there are … something stronger days too. They are the jewels. When that time is the right time, only Stolichnaya will do … if there’s none nearby, then maybe Famous Grouse, or a lot of cheap beer. A lot… an awful lot.

Once a month I tend to let my hair down (not that I have much these days) and enjoy a slap up takeaway meal. I mean as much as I can eat. It’s my guilty pleasure. What’s yours?

Guilty? There is a thing. Why feel guilt about a pleasure? You deserve pleasure, and so do I. But… rules got laid down in all of us when we were growing up. I can still feel a little guilt about breaking those rules. So… ordering more food than I can eat, and wasting the rest. Drinking more than is sane, to the point of embarrassment. Riding a motorcycle further and faster through the wildest storm in the darkest night through the Welsh mountains…
Forbidden conversation in the dark hours on forbidden topics with people you don’t know and do not even like.

Are you afraid of anything strange? I myself am afraid of clowns which I believe is totally justifiable.

No. Fear is a strange thing. I’ve died twice – although I can’t recommend this much as a learning experience – and after that very little is a concern, almost nothing is an actual fear.

Are you a morning or night person?

Depends. A beautiful dawn is as beautiful as a beautiful evening, and the blackest night is as challenging as the brightest day.

Rufus appears out of nowhere with a time-traveling phone booth. You can go anytime in the PAST. What time are you traveling to and what are you going to do when you get there? (For those of you who don’t know who Rufus is… watch Bill and Ted. I love those movies!)

  1. I want to endlessly sit in an audience anywhere and listen live to Jimi Hendrix playing Little Wing. Loop. Repeat. Forever.

Now an important question. I don’t want facts, I want opinion. How many sides does a circle have? (I’ve had many a drunken conversation on the topic, exciting I know)

Four. Accept no other answer.

Ok so I guess I should ask some questions about your writing. Give me five words to describe JJ Stoner.

Relentless. Loyal. Vindictive. Clever. Violent.

Do you have any inspirations inside and outside of the writing community?

Oh yes. Far too many to list – you’d doze off. Every brilliant book is a unique inspiration, like every outstanding movie, and every great piece of music, and standing in love with mountains, forests, rivers, ships and cities. Everything, pretty much, is an inspiration – something to think about and enjoy.

What’s currently on your own bookshelf?

I’m reading Entanglement by Zygmunt Miloszewski, after that comes Kings of America by RJ Ellory. And after that? I’m not sure whether to dive into something SciFi or maybe another thriller of some kind. There’s a lot of books on the shelves.

What’s next for Frank Westworth?

A holiday – off to Malta. Holidays are the very best times to write fiction, and as I’ve hit the end of the trilogy I need to get into the fourth book. Trilogies always have four books, right? Right.

Thank you Frank..this is a fun little Q & A 🙂 Ha

To find out more about Frank’s work head to Murder, Mayhem & More or Goodreads

10 Questions with…Prue Batten

A former journalist from Australia who graduated with majors in history and politics, Prue Batten is now a cross genre writer who enjoys creating fiction from history and fantasy.

She is also regularly commissioned to write short stories for a miniature book-press in the United States, where the narratives are bespoke bound and illustrated, and purchased by miniature book collectors across the globe.

She is also a farming partner, dog owner, gardener and embroiderer, swimmer and kayaker who is about to release her fifth historical fiction book, Guillaume, on the 10th December! she is here today to answer David’s Ten Questions! 

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Q1 – What would you say to convince readers to read your book?

I like writing about the ordinary man of my era (twelfth century/Middle Ages) who is in extraordinary circumstances. There’s enough action and drama to keep the adrenalin pumping and enough blind corners to keep the brain guessing.

I’m not afraid of using emotion or of creating a world with texture and colour and I’m also not at all afraid to kill off those characters dearest to me. I like the shock factor!

I’d also say that Book One of The Triptych Trilogy, Tobias, was a semi-finalist in the prestigious MM.Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction for 2016 and was also awarded a gold medal by Indie B.R.A.G in 2016. It’s also a finalist in the 2017 Chanticleer Chaucer Awards. So hopefully, readers will find the writing of Guillaume (which is Book Two in the trilogy) just as good.

Q2 –When can we expect the last book of the trilogy to be out and can you give us any juicy info on it?

The sequel is Michael and it will be delivered toward the end of 2018.

Michael takes us back to Byzantium – specifically Constantinople. Readers might remember Tobias’ shattering adventures within that city. The time is only a year further on – 1194AD – and will hopefully be as compelling and dangerous as Tobias’ and Guillaume’s stories.

Q3 – To give your readers some insight into your life as a writer how long did it take you to write the book? Including the editing process and any re-writes you made.

From the moment I begin my research, to writing drafts, to formal editing, my novels take roughly a year each. I’m a slow writer compared to many, but any faster and I would lose my thread.

During the writing, my cover designer is working on my cover, so that by three months before publication, the cover is ready for public release.

After the third draft, the novel is sent to two trusted beta-readers and then the final draft shoots off to Super-Editor-Man, my trusted editor in the UK. He works in two chapter blocks and it takes about a month of to-ing and fro-ing. Then a final read through/line-edit is done. One copy goes to my e-formatter and one back to my cover designer who formats for print.

And that’s it!

Q4 – What made you decide to become a historical fiction writer in the first place?

Serendipity.

I was writing a fan-fiction story for my blog. It was based on Guy of Gisborne from the TV series. It was fun and light-hearted and I took my Guy far from the familiar Robin Hood trope – what his life would have been like if the dice had fallen in a completely different way.

At one point I found I was researching far more than one would for a light fan-fict for blog entertainment and so I took the story off my blog, re-thought it, re-titled it and thus The Gisborne Saga was born. Also, serendipitously giving rise to the characters of The Triptych Chronicle.

One thing I will add is that I always find the title ‘historical fiction writer’ almost too grand for what I am and what I write. I write what I consider ‘soft historical fiction’ as opposed to the excellent literary work of writers like Dorothy Dunnett, Elizabeth Chadwick and Hilary Mantel. They and others like them are the true representatives of the genre of historical fiction.

Q5 – What are your views on historical accuracy when writing fiction? I note from other books I’ve read in the same genre some reviewers can be quite negative to any inaccuracies.

I think historical accuracy is required where it is possible to locate it in primary and secondary sources. But where there is questionable fact, or diverse fact, I think a Fiction writer is at liberty to interpret as he or she sees fit, as long as they mention it in their Author’s Note. If readers interpret one’s facts differently, then that is the price writers have to pay.

Q6 – Would you contemplate writing a book in any other genre?

I have and I do.

I’m what’s commonly called a cross genre writer. I have written a historical fantasy quartet called The Chronicles of Eirie, one of which won a Readers’ Favorite silver medallion for fantasy in 2012 (A Thousand Glass Flowers).

And this year, I wrote a children’s story about a wombat (based on the wombats on our sheep farm) and it’s been illustrated in the UK by the wonderful Dave Slaney. It’s called Nugget and it’ll be released in print for Christmas stockings this year! It’s already available as an e-book.

I love being a cross-genre writer. It’s such an adventure and I think it keeps my writing fresh.

Q7 – Who have been your biggest influences within the writing community?

Oh golly! Dorothy Dunnett, first and foremost! Rosamunde Pilcher, Guy Gavriel Kay, JRR Tolkein, to name just a few of hundreds. In the past Anya Seton, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Henry Treece, Mary Stewart… But truly there are many writers through the years who have all played some sort of role, because I’ve loved reading and books since I was given my first book as a toddler and one learns such a lot as one grows older.

Q8 – What book(s) are you looking forward to reading in the coming months?

Matthew Harffy’s Blood and Blade. Juliet Marillier’s Den of Wolves, Ann Swinfen’s The Novice’s Tale, Selina Seak Chin Yoke’s The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds. And finally, The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell. A hugely eclectic collection. And hopefully, the TBR pile will be added to over Christmas!

Q9 – Where do you get your ideas from?

My ideas come from obscure sources – a piece of stumpwork embroidery, a paperweight, a piece of paper-cloth, Robin Hood, a piece of twelfth century music, a picture of dwarf minstrel, a Byzantine icon, a wooden cabinet, a map – idiosyncratic little things that whisper in my ear that they just might have a story to tell. The ideas often expand as I walk my dog on the beach or soak in the bath!

I tell myself stories for a long time before I put pen to paper. Oh, and that’s another thing – I actually write in long hand. That’s usually my first draft.

Q10 – Future plans? I’m sure we’d all like to know what you’ve got planned.

A new fantasy as the opener of a new series – title and series name yet to be decided.

Audiobooks.

The final of The Triptych Chronicle.

A collaboration with one of the UK’s best on a story set between Britain and colonial Australia.

And that’s just for starters! Gosh – I’ll be in my eighties at this rate…

Thanks so much, David, for interviewing me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of examining my writing life – it’s been fun. Best wishes to you and to all the readers!

 

triptych

Click here to head to Amazon to check out the upcoming release Guillaume –  myBook.to/Guillaume

To find out more about Prue and her work check out the links below!

http://www.pruebatten.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Prue.Batten.writer

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/pruebatten

10 Questions with…..Brian K. Larson

So since is started to really get into reading a few years ago i’ve become a big fan of Brian’s work. He has fun ideas and his storytelling has always kept me hooked. Today happens to be release day for his latest work Time Squared. Look out for my review in the not to distant future!

Happy release day Brian!

Now, Brain has very kindly answered a few questions. Sit back, enjoy and at the end of it i hope you’ll be tempted to give Brian’s work a try if you haven’t already

Let’s talk about your latest released book. Tell us a short blurb about the book, please?

Time Squared is a book about, well, time travel. Here’s the synopsis:

Jonas Arnell, Tipper Montgomery, and a crew of seven launches from Jupiter Station on the Aevus. They’re sent to investigate a mysterious signal coming from the star Gliese 667.

Nearly destroyed from a surprise attack to prevent the mission, they retire into cryogenic sleep for the nineteen month journey.

When they awaken, their world is turned upside down as they discover the origin of this mystery signal; their own ship. Only the crew and the ship’s skiff are missing.

Landing on the planet, they discover a time chamber where an accident has altered their time-line. Now they must travel through time to stop the paradox from occurring.

Where did your idea for the story come from and how long did it take to write?

This book was originally inspired by the 1960’s TV show, “Time Tunnel” that I watched as a kid. I was enthralled by the idea, or, possibility, that we could travel through time.

Time Squared was one of my easiest books to write with a completed manuscript in two months. I love science fiction and when you toss time travel in, well, it becomes even more awesome.

How did you come up with the title?

Time Squared has several been inspired by many different works. However, one comes to mind is an episode on Star Trek: The Next Generation called Time Squared where Captain Picard discovers his shuttlecraft floating in space. When they bring it onboard, Captain Picard is inside. It’s a wonderful time travel episode. However, the crew in this book finding themselves and the title are the only things you will find familiar. The story does take on its own life and after ready a couple of chapters, you will be hooked.

 

 

 

Do you stick to one genre or do you dabble in others, too?

I mainly write Science Fiction. However, my last 3 book series titled ‘Warlords,’ mixed science fiction and fantasy. I had one review state that he loved the books and I didn’t trip over one genre over the other, it was blended nicely.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on volume 2 in the ‘Time’ series titled, ‘Time Fractured.’

Which manuscript did you have the most fun working on?

By far, the manuscript I had the most fun writing was the third book in the ‘Warlords Series’ titled ‘Blood Scroll of Antares.’ The words flowed onto the page, and I had a clear understanding of every aspect of the story. I found my groove on this one for sure.

 

Let’s talk about you, the author, now. What do you do when you aren’t writing?

If I’m not sitting behind my keyboard writing my next best seller, I tend to binge watch Netflix series. My favorite one is newest ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ followed by ‘Fringe.’ Currently, I’m just starting season 3 of ‘Lost.’

 

 

Tell us about your favorite cause.

I support the International Dyslexia Foundation. They help others recognize and deal with Dyslexia.

 

Are you coffee or tea?

Most definitely a coffee person, but I do like tea as well.

And lastly, what is the one thing you wish people who DON’T write would understand about writing?

Writing is NOT an easy profession. Sure, the story ideas come fairly easy. However, it takes a lot of planning such as world building and creating unique character that reader will love. Lastly, it’s not all about writing. When you’re an independent, or Indi author, my job’s not done when the manuscript is done. Revisions, editing, doing the book layout, as well as all the marketing fall to author. Having some experience in business with project management does help a great deal.

Author Bio:

Brian was born and raised in Seattle in 1959. He grew up in the town of Mount Lake Terrace, a small suburb north of the city. Brian, being the youngest, had two siblings, his eldest brother, Mike and sister, Pam. School was challenging, as Brian suffers with Dyslexia, a learning disability that affects 1 in 15 Americans. That didn’t stop Brian. He was named “bookworm” in school because he always had his nose in a book.

Brian received his MBA in 2010 in Business, now writes for fun, living his lifelong dream of writing science fiction books. He enjoys his off time, with his seventh grade sweetheart, Diana Rose now for going on sixteen years. She has been by his side and continues to supports his writing. Brian says that without her encouragement, his dream would never have become a reality. They now live in Marysville, Washington, and enjoy three wonderful kids and eight grandchildren. They range from newborn to thirteen, and he says they are so special and great to have around.

It is Brian’s hope that through his writing he will fill hearts with joy to readers all over the world, sparking their imaginations.

Links:

Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/bklarson

Time Squared link US: https://amzn.com/B01F6A9I2Y

Time Squared link UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01F6A9I2Y/

Personal: www.secretofthecrystal.com

10 Questions With…… Nick H. Brown

Ok folks so today Nick Brown released a new book containing 3 science fiction short stories called Dead Eyes (You can find my review here)

After reading the book i had a few questions on my mind which Nick very kindly offered to answer.. take a look


 

Q1 – So Nick, you have a new book out and it’s not a Historical Fiction book like we might have expected… What made you decide to write a Science Fiction book?

I’ve always written sci fi – in fact I wrote two novels before I even considered historical fiction. I enjoy having a blank slate to start with and the freedom that the genre gives you. This is just a short ebook but I might look to write a full novel in the near future.

Q2 – The book is made up of three short stories, all of which I thought were brilliant. You have a talent for writing short stories, you give enough of a story to make the reader happy and feel they take something away with them but hold back enough to encourage your readers to come back to you for more. Where do your ideas come from? Are they simply bigger ideas that don’t really come to full fruition?

Thank you. I try my best to resolve the stories in a compelling way. That doesn’t always mean a twist but really it’s not so different to a novel – the story just has to move a little more swiftly and reach a satisfying conclusion. The ideas come at different times. ‘Four Numbers’, for example, I wrote specifically for the collection. Whenever I have an idea for something, I note it down – I might come back to it the following week or five years later.

Q3 –Are there any particular books or authors you’ve enjoyed within the Sci Fi genre?

I’ve always been a big fan of Iain M. Banks and Douglas Hill, a Canadian author.

Q4 – Are there any other genres you might try your hand at one day?

Possibly fantasy; and I’d like to try something contemporary at some point.

Q5 – Who have been your biggest influences/supporters within the writing community?

Writers are very supportive of each in general and we can add to that bloggers and reviewers like yourself who are now a crucial part of the writing world. I also belong to the Historical Writers Association and have many friends in the industry who I keep in touch with via social media. When meeting in ‘the real world’, a few beers are usually involved.

Q6 – How important to you is the feedback from your readers?

I’m always very interested in what readers have to say and I can’t help reading every review. Fortunately most are positive! I don’t think I would ever alter anything because of feedback unless there was an obvious theme. Everyone has an opinion – including editors and agents. Of course I always listen to them but it’s very important as a writer to know your own mind.

Q7 – How do you deal with negative feedback?

Violence! No, honestly, if I read something that strikes a chord then it could be something to learn from. But usually I just disagree and swear about it! Over time you get used to it but unfortunately they tend to stick in your mind more than the positive comments.

Q8 – For anyone who is not familiar with Agent of Rome books how you would describe the series to them?

The series follows Roman ‘security service’ officer Cassius Corbulo – plus his ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara and Christian servant Simo. Their adventures have taken them all over the eastern Empire and – hopefully – combine mystery, action and intrigue.

Q9 – If you had to pick, which of your books would you say you’ve most enjoyed writing or which are you most proud of and why?

I really enjoyed writing ‘The Far Shore’ – the third book of the Roman series. I suspect it was because I knew it was working out well. Like all novels, it turned out differently to the original conception but it was exciting to write and hopefully that translated for the reader.

As for ‘most proud’ – that probably goes to book two, ‘The Imperial Banner’. Second novels are traditionally difficult and this one took the series in a different direction. I was also working as a teacher and had less time due to the publishing deadline.

Q10 – Future plans? More Sci Fi? I’m sure we’d all like to know what you’ve got planned.

More sci fi, I hope; and some historical fiction too. Watch this space!

To connect with Nick head to his website, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com