Him? He’s me, he is! Professionally, I was usually found knocking around the publishing world (albeit with side-ventures into pharmaceuticals, banking and the computing industry at Apple). I set up one of the first websites for a magazine, Nature.com, back when nobody apart from scientists knew what the Web was. I worked for the Financial Times as an editor and publisher and ran a swathe of their online operations for a while. Now, I guess I’m just the geek with seven genre novels behind him.
Your next novel, In Dark Service, is due to be published by Gollancz in May 2014. It’s the first in a new series, no? How would you introduce the series to new readers?
The new series is called The Far-Called Sequence. The first novel, In Dark Service, has at its heart the tale of two families – the Carnehans and Landors – stuck in the nub-end of a backward, rural kingdom. Slavers attack the town they live in and carry away all the youngsters to sell. The town mounts a rescue expedition, hampered by the fact that the world, Pellas, is an amazingly large one, and their lost people could be anywhere in it. Those taken have to survive as slaves in a hellish environment. Those in the rescue expedition face their own kind of hell as they struggle to track down their missing loved ones.
What inspired you to write the series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I often take a comic-book series called the Trigan Empire (which I grew up with) as my starting point for inspiration. It has gorgeous illustrations – each panel like an oil painting in its own right – by Don Lawrence, and stories by Mike Butterworth. Every issue they would go off to some distant, exotic land, and the characters would have marvellous adventures that blew my young impressionable mind. If I can achieve even half of that feeling for my readers with the new Far-Called series, then it’s ‘job done’ as far as I’m concerned.
How does this novel (in terms of story and approach) differ from your previous series, The Jackelian Novels?
The main difference between the Jackelian series and the Far-Called sequence is that the Jackelian books were structured in a similar way to Sir Terry’s Discworld novels – all set in the same world, but each novel’s plot standing alone on its own, with a motley crew of characters who would dip in an out of the books. The Far-Called sequence is closer to Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones – you’ll need to start with the first book, and move on through the books sequentially to get the most from it. Same characters and a single, coherent plot arc.
How were you introduced to reading and genre fiction?
My father is a massive fantasy and science fiction reader, so I was very lucky in that I grew up with a library filled with all the post-war pulps and genre classics. Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford D. Simak, Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, E.E. Doc Smith, Fritz Leiber, Jack Williamson, Robert E. Howard, Tolkien, Harry Harrison. You name it, we had it, and I read it!
How do you enjoy being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
It’s better than working for a living!
What's it like, being a professional author? Is it what you expected? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
Because I had twenty years of service in white collar open plan offices, I find I can write best somewhere like a museum or a coffee shop, where there are other people and a bit of a buzz to surround me as I write. The lack of human contact and interaction is the thing that gets to me the most, compared to my previous career(s). Of course, you have social networking, which you can kid yourself doubles as your ‘marketing’ – but the world of online distraction is a bit too disruptive to the task of writing a novel, so I try and resist being over-attached to the web, either by phone or laptop.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I actually started writing fiction in university, encouraged by actually being published in print in various eighties game magazines – computer and RPG, mainly. I thought: “Well, if they’ll pay for my articles, why not my fiction?” No training or academic background in the field. I just went out and did it.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
It’s interesting times, with the many changes brought about by online book-selling, the failing real-world retail, and the advent of e-books. As far as the genre goes, I’d be happy if my work’s just slotted into whatever corner is labelled, “Fantasy – not many Elves, Halflings or Dragons.”
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I always have about ten books on the go at any one point. I’ve just finished How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams, which was very amusing. I’ve nearly finished One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson, and The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, not to mention the thought-provoking Who Owns The Future? by Jaron Lanier.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
That I’m a failed comic-book illustrator who once studied part-time at Saint Martins but dropped out when I changed employer, and the new bunch wouldn’t allow me the time off to continue my studies.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Why, starting the next novel of course!
In Dark Service is published on May 15th 2014, by Gollancz. It is included as part of the Gollancz 2014 Debuts eBook promotion, and will be available for just £1.99 from now until the end of the first week of publication.