I’m very excited to have author, AJ Smith on the blog today. Check out the interview I did with him, and the information on his new, fantasy novel, The Sword Falls!
Interview with AJ Smith
How long did it take to finish writing The Sword Falls?
Since I started this glorious career, six books ago, my general rule has been to write a book a year. Obviously this is moderated by editing and related shenanigans, but I’ll say it took me about a year.
What was the inspiration behind The Sword Falls?
I wanted to tell a story about a young fantasy world, without thousands of years of history. The scope here is a couple of hundred years, and the interactions are brutal, primitive and immediate.
Also, I am a little obsessed with H.P Lovecraft, and I think his brand of cosmic horror works surprisingly well in a fantasy setting. A very nice reviewer once described my stuff as “George R.R Martin meets H.P Lovecraft.” That kind of sums it up.
If you could choose a character from The Sword Falls to have dinner with, who would it be and how would that go?
Hmm, tricky. Though I love most of my characters, I can’t think of many who’d behave sufficiently to have dinner with. Actually, a character called Tasha Strong is an excellent cook, so I’ll pick her… but only if she cooks her famous fish stew, with chilli and crusty bread.
Do you experience writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Yup, I think every writer does. It’s not so much a block, as it is writing myself into a corner. I’ll get too attached to a character, a plotline, or just a stream of consciousness, not realizing that it doesn’t go anywhere. I can then spend days not being able to continue, because I don’t know what happens next.
As for overcoming it, I have a piece of paper above my monitor that reads, amongst other things, “Just write, you idiot.” I find it strangely powerful advice.
Do you have any specific writing “rituals” you always do when you sit down to write?
Ernest Hemingway said, “Write drunk; edit sober.” Just kidding.
I write best at night, and normally don’t start until 8pm at the earliest. I’ve never understood why, but I struggle to write in silence, and have developed the habit of half-watching films and TV series while I write on a minimised document in the bottom left corner of the screen.
What is the research/outline process for writing a Fantasy novel?
I’m sure every fantasy novelist would have a different answer to this. It’s a genre riddled with clichés, most of which can still be amazing when done right. As a result, it becomes all about imagination, characters, and how good your voice is.
I find that travelling and learning about medieval cultures inspires stories and characters. Also, knowing how swords and armor work is pretty important. But, beyond all that, it still needs to be about something.
What is your favorite part of the writing and publishing process? Least favorite?
I love writing. It’s my version of therapy, allowing me to decide what happens next, without waiting for the world to make up its mind. That’s my favorite part – just the creation and imagination. As for my least favorite, I’ll go with everything else.
What made you want to be a writer?
It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted. I’m fond of saying that writing is the only thing I do that doesn’t make me think I should be doing something else. Sometimes you just know what you’re meant to be doing. And I’m meant to be doing this.
However, it’s a curiously bipolar occupation. Most of my time is spent in a darkened room, hunched over a keyboard, making up shit about swords and monsters. The rest is spent attempting to be interesting in interviews and other interactions with people. I try my best, but I’m sure I come across as an idiot.
Did you plan for this to be a series or did that happen over time?
It was always a trilogy. I had the last book vaguely planned before I started planning the first one. The world came first, then the titles – THE GLASS BREAKS, THE SWORD FALLS, THE SEA RISES.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Write… just write. Choose something you want to write about, and write about it. It might be rubbish, but you’ll never get better until you try. I get this question a lot, and I see so many people crippled by self-doubt about their work. Any given sentence or paragraph might be terrible, but ignore it and carry on. If it’s something you really want to do, just do it. Creases will be ironed-out over time; confidence will grow; stories, characters and worlds will gain lives of their own. Oh, and enjoy it.
‘Best described as George R.R. Martin meets H.P. Lovecraft, The Glass Breaks is a fine example of British fantasy writing at its most entertaining’ Guardian
A MAN OF THE DAWN CLAW WILL BE THE ALWAYS KING.
It will ever be so. They will always rule… but they will not always lead.
Prince Oliver Dawn Claw, heir to the Kingdom of the Four Claws, is thrust into a world he doesn’t understand as he waits for his father to die. Away from home, with few allies – and too many enemies – he faces a new and otherworldly threat from beneath the sea. Alliances break and masks fall, as the Dark Brethren reveal their true master.
Meanwhile, Adeline Brand – called the Alpha Wolf – refuses to wait, and becomes the edge of the sword that swings back at the Dreaming God. Assembling allies and crushing resistance, she enters a fight she doesn’t know if she can win, as the sea begins to rise.
PRAISE FOR A.J. SMITH:
‘An epic feat of world-building from one of British fantasy’s most innovative voices’ Bookseller
‘British fantasy writing at its most entertaining’ Guardian
‘Interesting and enticing, deftly sidesteps fantasy cliché and thrusts you towards the next installment’ SFX
A.J. Smith is the author of The Black Guard, The Dark Blood, The Red Prince and The World Raven. He spent 12 years devising the series. When not writing fiction, he works in secondary education as a youth worker.
Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to interact with you. If this sounds like something you would read, let me know!
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