I have previously reviewed books 1 and 2 in the Songs of Chaos trilogy if you want to read some rave reviews!
What elements of fantasy make you like reading and writing in the genre?
I love it when a fantasy story can achieve the difficult feat of feeling mythological, of feeling much greater than the sum of its parts. When things resonate that strongly it sort of gives you the sense of exploring toward something very true in a psychological sense. It gives a sense of meaning, and if it works it’s properly inspiring.
Ash and Holt are two of my favourite characters in fantasy! What makes you connect with a character?
First, thank you very much! Second, I think it ties into my answer to the first question. I think (and I say I ‘think’ because it is frustratingly hard to put these things into words) that I connect best to characters who are progressing themselves in some way.
Whether it’s starting in a bad place (morally or situationally) and taking steps to improve on that, or having a goal they are pursuing and making gradual steps toward it, whatever the arc is, progress is important to me. When a character feels like they are spinning in place I am likely to switch off.
Now that’s not a hard and fast rule but I think it covers most bases.
For instance, my favorite character in A Song of Ice and Fire (so far) is Jamie Lannister. Tony Stark was my favorite MCU character. I like to see the growth. In Songs of Chaos, I find a lot of satisfaction in gradually maturing Holt throughout the series.
The next major component is consistency. This doesn’t run contrary to the previous remark so long as the change in the character has been properly earned, and we understand the steps to get from A to B, but there are few things more frustrating in storytelling than when a character does a 180 on their personality or make a decision completely at odds with everything we know about them and their motivations – see Luke Skywalker being willing to murder his own nephew over something which ‘might’ happen… we did not get the necessary story work to build up to such a moment.
Give me clear progress and be careful and consistent in how they act and react to things and you’ll be 90% of the way there to winning me over. It’s a lot harder than you might think!
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I’m not sure I have a typical day as it depends on which part of the book cycle I’m in. Assuming I’m deep into the first draft, a solid day will consist of checking my ads and picking at some simple admin to start things off before starting the writing just before lunch. I’ll then continue the bulk of the writing in the afternoon. If I have a clear evening and I’m on a bit of a roll, I’ll work into the night.
When it’s full on it’s full on, and when there is downtime after a book is finished, I’m not doing very much. Bit of a famine or feast situation. I’m going to try and change things up to be more workmanlike and consistent but if I don’t have a clear sense of the story prepped before hand things can be glacial so I’m better working everything out beforehand.
When did you start reading? And what books/series did you read over and over again?
Couldn’t tell you the exact age but when I was young for sure. As a kid I listened to the Alex Rider spy book series on repeat alongside the Harry Potter books. I’ve always listened to more things than I’ve read.
As an adult, my most repeated listen is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
What are some of your favourite recent reads?
Very late to the party but I listened to the First Law trilogy back around Feb/March this year and quite enjoyed it. It didn’t quite reach the lofty heights I gave in answer to question 1 but I adore Joe’s prose and I think he’s genius.
More recently I was lucky to receive an advance copy of Sebastien DeCastell’s latest book The Malevolent Seven which was a fun, irreverent adventure of a band of mages who are not exactly a chivalrous bunch.
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing and reading?
Those who have read Songs of Chaos won’t be shocked to hear I enjoy cooking and that bleeds into the series. I enjoy staying on top of my fitness and trying to push myself to ‘progress’ in that regard (broken record, I know). Long walks with a great audiobook or podcast is always a favorite. Lately our kitten (also called Ash) has me running around throwing bits of paper and waving feather dangle toys which keeps me on my toes. And I’ve got the standard hobby of gaming locked down as a fantasy writer, although I’ve yet to be able to actually play DnD with a group of friends… maybe one day.
Perhaps it’s sad but I also adore talking shop with anyone who’ll listen! I love attending cons and meeting other writers and industry folks to get all my work talk of my system, which is just as well otherwise I’d bore my fiancée to death.
If you only had one piece of advice to give to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Edit. Edit, edit, and edit until you’re sick of the book. Extremely few writers can knock it out on the first draft, so you can bet you can’t either. Be critical. Work on it until nothing in your gut is nagging at you anymore. Why take the risk of not doing it? Just edit for goodness sake.
Are you working on any new books or other projects at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on the outlines for Songs of Chaos 4 and 5. I figure having a firm grasp on both books will make the writing a lot smoother on them. Or that’s the hope anyway. As to when Songs 4 will be ready is anyone’s guess right now, but this series is my sole focus.
And thanks very much for the questions!