I am happy to introduce an interview with Mark Lawrence, author of many fantasy series, including The Broken Empire, Book of the Ancestor and more. On May 11th 2023, his latest book, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn, will be released.
You’ve said in a previous interview that you mainly start building a new story with a character. How do you come up with character ideas and develop a story with them in mind?
These sorts of questions always feel like, “How do you ride a bike?” Or, if you took a comedian who is simply witty in debate, asking them, “How do you come up with such funny returns?” The fact that book writing takes place on a longer timescale than the witty comeback encourages the belief that there’s a process that can be explained and unpicked. But for me, there isn’t. I just get ideas and pursue them. You might as well ask me how I dreamed of whatever I dreamed last night.
What is your writing process?
Without wishing to sound like a dick, and with the distinct feeling that I’ve failed: I sit down and type.
If you don’t plan or outline, how do you craft the pacing of the story?
This question, like the others, seems bedded either in a false perception of writing, or just somebody else’s different experience. I don’t know if anyone “crafts the pacing”. For me it’s a phrase without meaning. I just write the story as it occurs to me. Perhaps there are writers who really do these things – I honestly don’t know.
What do you love about writing?
Love isn’t a word I have ever used about writing. Writing scratches an itch. I enjoy doing it … but love is too strong a word. If I didn’t write then I would soon find myself doing something else creative as an outlet for the restless energy that would otherwise bug me. This doesn’t mean I don’t write with passion, but still, “love” feels like the wrong word.
What elements of fantasy make you like reading and writing in the genre?
The freedom, and a love for sword and sorcery that started with the books read to me when I was very young. Including but not limited to: Where The Wild Things Are & Lord of the Rings.
What are some of your favourite recent reads?
I’m reading The Blacktongue Thief, it’s really good. Rather than risk offending authors by not mentioning them in a list, I’ll leave it at my current read.
When Prince of Thorns was accepted by an agent and later you got a three-book deal, did your life change overnight or was it a slower process becoming a full-time author?
Well, I kept going to work for another 5 years, and writing in my spare time. So, no, it was a slow change. Certainly it was a big event, but I didn’t expect to still be being paid for doing it years later. I expected to follow the more frequent career path for a new fantasy author, which tends to be one trilogy and then being released back into the open sea.
I have watched some of your YouTube videos and read previous interviews and, as far as I can tell, you’re a genuine, nice person! With this in mind, how do you write from the perspective of a character who is definitely not nice?!
Well, I don’t lay claim to being nice. But a mainstay of imagination is being able to put yourself in the shoes of a different type of person and then saying ‘what if?’. There are many differences as big or bigger than being nicer or not nice. A writer hopes to be able to portray a lot of them.
Your latest book, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn, comes out in May later this year. An intriguing feature is the vast, ancient library – something many readers and writers dream of spending hours in! Are there any real-world inspirations for this library, the worlds and times, and characters?
My inspirations are often opaque to me. However, when my parents returned from the US to the UK with the 12-month-old baby that was me, my mother’s first job was as a librarian. So I have dim toddler memories of roaming a library that dwarfed me in height and seemed endless.
If you could be any fantasy character, who would it be and why?
That’s difficult. If I was them, I wouldn’t be me. So what would be the point? And if I was me, but in their situation with their powers … I wouldn’t cope well with their challenges. So, I guess someone secure and powerful – like Pug from the Feist books. But then near ultimate power makes everything seem cheap and pointless… And, as you see, I overthink things, and from overthinking stories spin themselves.
Questions from Readers
What are you currently reading?
The Blacktongue Thief. It’s great. Try it. He has a black tongue!
What led you to create SPFBO?
Survivor guilt, a restless imagination, and a love of contests.
I didn’t feel I’d been given a 3-book deal because I was great. I felt it had happened because I wrote a good book that was fortunate enough to catch the right eye and meet a temporary demand I wasn’t even aware of. I thought it would be good if self-published authors had an extra route towards being noticed.
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