Following on from my previous blog post (Blackwing Book Review) I thought what better way to learn and find out more about the book Blackwing, the author Ed McDonald and this exciting new fantasy series than with an interview with the author himself.
How did you get into writing? Also did you always intend on becoming an author one day?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. One of my earliest memories is reading the title of a book in a library (it was ‘Help!’) and I’ve always been working on something. I think that when I was about 18 I decided that I wanted to write as a career, but it was a kind of “I’d rather do that than a boring job” kind of feeling. When I was about 27 I decided that actually, I was going to make a real attack on it and determined that I’d be published by the time I was 50. I made it at 35, so I’m ahead of schedule.
How did you feel when you got your first publishing break?
It was an odd thing. Really, really odd, because you go from normal daily life to having achieved your main life ambition in a handful of phone calls. Most people’s publishing stories involve 6 month long waits, but for me the gap between being taken on by an agent and having four publishing deals was only about three weeks. For a time, I kind of had to question whether it was all real. It was a total life-flip.
Tell us more about your book, Blackwing.
Blackwing is a fantasy thriller set up against the edge of a twisted magical wasteland, the aftermath of a vast and terrible magical weapon (kind of like a magical nuke, except much, much worse). There’s intrigue, there’s monsters, and there’s all kinds of magic, backstabbing, front-stabbing and ultimately, love.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write fantasy or is an aspiring author?
There’s no advice that works for everyone except for this: write what you want to write, and keep doing it until you write something good. What will make it good is hard to pin down. Whether it will ever sell is another question, but write because you want to create something that’s excellent, not because you want to sell. If you aim to create something that you love then one day you can be satisfied that you did it – it’s a finite goal. If what you aim for is publication, then that’s not in your power. You can write something that’s brilliant but comes along at the wrong time, or the market is saturated or you just don’t tickle an agent’s fancy.
Oh, and also, try to do something that’s individually you. I recommend fantasy writers to read Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight. The style is so clearly individual and different, and it’s really refreshing.
Do you write every day? If so, do you have any tips?
I don’t. I don’t think that you should pressure yourself like that. If you want to write, you’ll make time and do it on your own terms. I probably write four days per week.
What works for me is getting out of the house. I go and write in the pub, but on a train, in the park, anywhere that’s not home will make you more prolific. It helps to focus me for some reason.
What authors do you like to read? And what five books do you feel have really shaped and inspired you as a writer and a person?
The most important for me is David Gemmell’s Legend. It really moved me and made me think about life differently, and for the better. Rather than listing a bunch of fantasy classics, I’ll say that I also like Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ books because they’re punchy, quick and rough, and I prefer that to a meandering story – perfect holiday reading. I also enjoyed M. Casey’s The Girl with all the Gifts recently. I think it’s important not to only read in the genre you write in.
What sort of research did you do to write this book?
The only thing I had to research was how black powder guns are loaded. I have a couple of degrees in history and I train swordsmanship for fun, so I kind of already had a lot of the stuff I needed in my head. I did go and sit on a horse a couple of times too, but it didn’t really impact the book. Great fun though, I love horse riding.
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
It evolved so organically over time that there was never a single idea, or even a theme. It started off as something else completely and slowly melded into what it is now, but it only got there over a dozen re-writes. I guess that the main idea, which is about heroism and choice, is just something I carry with me.
Who are some authors in your genre that inspire you?
I guess that the once to beat is Joe Abercrombie. I’ve had some comparisons to him, which is very flattering, but I see him as the bench mark for gritty, witty, exciting fantasy and that’s what I aspire to write.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today!
(Photo and edit is my own please do not take/copy without permission first)