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By Chris (2007-10-09)
First of all I'll welcome you to the blog, Brian, and say thank you for participating :) Well done also for producing one of my favourite fantasy novels!
A: Thanks. Itís very nice to be here.
Winterbirth is out now in paperback in the UK and will be arriving in America in September for the launch of Orbit US. To whet the tastes of those as yet unfamiliar, could you tell us about your debut, and what is planned for the final two volumes in The Godless World Trilogy?
A: Well the trilogy as a whole is basically about what happens when an old, unresolved conflict starts up again Ė driven by the followers of the Black Road, who think they can bring the Gods back by conquering the world Ė and amidst the chaos that ensues, a rather different and even more serious threat starts to emerge. Iíve seen it described as epic fantasy or as heroic fantasy, and I guess itís both, really. Winterbirth follows a number of characters who get caught up in an unexpected invasion that becomes much more complicated than it at first appears. In the next two books, weíll basically see some of those characters struggling, with varying degrees of success, to control, influence or halt the chaos thatís been unleashed.
Your writing style has been compared to that of George RR Martin'sóyou both write a gritty, tight story; the magic is somewhat subdued; and you are unafraid to kill your characters, etc. Was it a conscious choice to move away from some of the more common trappings of mainstream fantasy? (Sorry for the ultra long questionsóthey get shorter later!)
A: Kind of, but I donít really think Iíve moved very far from the fantasy mainstream. Thereís still a lot of relatively traditional stuff in there, even if itís not always right in the forefront of the story. As you say, there is magic in there, for example, itís just that itís not explicitly called Ďmagicí and itís not driving the whole plot (although it does become steadily more significant in books 2 and 3). And killing characters isnít all that new Ė Tolkien was pretty ruthless where Boromir was concerned, after all Ė though GRRM has obviously used it in rather new and inspired ways to unsettle and surprise the reader. I admit there are a few more deaths in Winterbirth than is common in a lot fantasy. Iíve got a vicious streak, though Iím not sure Iíll ever quite match GRRMís bodycount.
Itís more a matter of tone and how things are presented than anything else: the internal skeletonís much the same, but the skin laid over itís slightly different. I certainly made a conscious choice to go for a gritty, uncompromising sort of tone. That seemed to come most naturally to me, and I willingly went with the flow: better to swim with the current than against it, I figured, especially on a first novel. Whether by design or accident (itís mostly the former, with a bit of the latter thrown in for good measure), I ended up with a fantasy thatís got a hint of Ďrealismí running through it: itís a world where horses and men get tired if they have to run for more than a few minutes, where trying to kill someone face to face with a sharp bit of metal is a thoroughly brutal and messy business, and where the participants in a ruthless conflict face the distinct and persistent risk of injury or death. As a style of writing fantasy I donít think itís inherently any better or worse than any other style, itís just the one Iíve chosen to adopt for this trilogy.
It's been quite a wait since Winterbirth was released in the UK. Any news on the status of Books 2 & 3 that you might care to reveal?
A: Book 2 Ė Bloodheir Ė is written. Iíve even seen an early version of the cover, which is a rather nice piece of work. Itís scheduled to be published in the first half of next year. Iím writing Book 3 now (currently sadly lacking a title Ė Iíve got Ďtitle blockí or something), and if all goes according to plan it should be published in Spring 2009, I believe.