No, I’m not dead. Not yet, anyway.
It’s been a while since I last blogged. Work has consumed me this past couple of months. My next deadline looms over my shoulder, the last for a while. It’ll be good to get it done, but we’re not there yet.
Things have been happening in the background. And the most recent and exciting development is this:
The latest draft of the front cover of Pariah’s Lament. What do you think, honesly? Would it catch your eye on the bookshelf?
In other news, a couple of weeks ago my writing pal and Of Metal and Magic partner-in-crime, JM Williams, got me up at an ungodly hour of the morning to take part in a live event he was hosting in South Korea. JM recorded the whole thing and it’s well worth a watch. Insights, tips and advice galore.
To watch the video, head over to JM’s Facebook page [click here], and scroll down to his post of 19th Feb. If you’re looking for my bit, it’s about 36 mins in. Give the page a life while you’re there!
Because my accent is thick and brutish there’s a good chance you won’t understand me, so I’ve copied my answers below.
1) Explain your background as a writer.
Growing up I never really had an ambition to write. I had a wild imagination, but I never really channelled it into anything structured. I just used to run around with my friends playing out some fantasy. I think I began to realise my fondness for writing when I was in university. I’d spend hours and hours labouring over my essays. When uni was done I found myself missing that bit of writing, as weird as it sounds. For a while, I didn’t do anything until one of my best mates and I decided to give comedy a whirl. We sat down and wrote out a sitcom based on a driving school, but that fizzled out after a while and once again I found myself doing nothing.
I experienced that angst I think everyone gets in young adulthood: what am I going to do with myself for the rest of my life? At the time I was working as a lawyer and loathing a 9 to 5 life spent indoors. It wasn’t satisfying me, and I think that drove me to think of other things I could be doing. During one of many moments spent pondering an idea came to me for a story. An epic tale of good versus evil. I picked up a pen and couldn’t stop scribbling. It was as if I’d caught some kind of virus.
That was about four years ago now. Writing has become a part of my daily routine. It pisses me off when I don’t get a chance to do it. I mostly write fantasy, but I’ve dabbled with historical fiction and literary fiction too. Everything I’ve had published to date has been short stories. Now all except for OMAM.
2) How did you get involved with OMAM?
It all seemed to come out of the blue. I’d met JM via our respective blogs. He’s always publishing terrific and insightful things which have helped me tremendously as a writer. JM sent me an email telling me about the OMAM project and asked if I’d be interested in getting involved. I didn’t really know what to make of it at first. I was pretty zoned into my work in progress at the time and I felt a reluctance to put it aside. But after we spoke, back in October in fact, which feels way longer ago, he sold the idea completely to me. He’s a good salesman, this guy. I sent him and the Fiction Vortex editors a short story and they liked it and next thing I was signing a contract for a book I hadn’t written. I didn’t even have an idea.
It was a bit of a strange one. Luckily it didn’t take long to come up with an idea. I don’t want to jinx myself, but so far the writing has been quite fluid. I think JM’s regimented approach to planning and deadlines have helped massively. As a serial procrastinator, it’s great to have someone to keep you on task. My first novel took me 2 and a half years to write. I’m on course to do this one in 6 months.
3) Describe the project you are currently working on.
Pariah’s Lament is an underdog’s story, one about how the most unlikely of figures step up to save the day. I read a lot of fantasy stories about great wizards and fearless warriors and I felt like I wanted to do something a bit different. What about the people who are thrust onto the frontline, way out of their comfort zone, willing themselves to do things they’ve never done before? So in short, that’s what this story is about.
There are two protagonists. Edvar is a young advisor to King Ashara of the Kingdom of Yurr. He’s taken the place of his legendary and recently deceased father and finds himself in the midst of a sea of political conspiracies geared toward removing the King from his throne.
One of the chief suspects is King Tesh of neighbouring kingdom Karrabar, whose hatred for Ashara stems back to their embittered childhood. Despite efforts by Yurr to appease Karrabar, they keep on the warpath.
The conflict ripples throughout the Kingdom of Yurr, stirring trouble in a quiet little town beside the Forest of Giants known as Haberdam. Isy, cast aside by the people of the town for the black birthmark covering her face, gets kidnapped by a huge, grey-skinned humanoid with a face like a frog. She comes to learn that they’re called the Amast, a race of people who have lived peacefully for centuries, hidden from the rest of the world. Until they were discovered and massacred by soldiers from Karrabar. Survivors from the attack fled west, but reached only as far as the forest not far from Habderdam. They plead with Isy to guide them to King Ashara with the hope of petitioning him for refuge in his Kingdom.
Let’s just say there’s more to it than that. Their paths start off very differently but they meet and then become intertwined. I’ve probably put you off it now.
4) Any writing advice?
Writing advice is what I dedicate my blog to so I could bore you for hours. But I’ll share one of my favourite bits of advice which in fact has nothing to do with writing. It’s a nice simple one: persevere. Writing a novel or a story of any length is a challenge from the off. Even the best admit to their struggles. What makes them the best is that they stick at it. They don’t give up when their backs are against the wall. They kept on chipping away and for me, I think this is one of the most important things to keep in mind. There are going to be many low times on this journey, when all we feel is doubt and despair, but you’ve just got to keep on writing, focus on that next word and never give up hope that the good times are around the corner, that all this hard work will pay off.
On a more technical level, I’ve recently read some bits of advice on premise that have really struck a chord. Premise or theme is something I hadn’t really paid much attention to. I considered it, but never in much detail. It was more of a hope and pray situation. Premise does have a knack for finding its way naturally into stories, so I kind of hoped that was the case for me. I suppose I ignored it because it was one of my weaknesses. I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t really know much about it. I decided to change that, and in doing so read a book by Lajos Egri called The Art of Dramatic Writing.
Egri’s belief was that premise provides direction, a way to get to the conclusion of the story. It helps to keep the writer focused. Characters and plot are the vehicles to get to the conclusion and the fuel to propel them to that end is conflict. It is these three elements—character, conflict, conclusion—that Egri says every premise must have. I think it’s a great way to break down theme, something which can sometimes feel complicated.