Friday, 24 June 2016

Interview - John Hornor Jacobs

Hello Peeps!

I am chuffed to bring you an interview I've wanted to do for a long time. A very long time. 

John Hornor Jacobs has been one of my favourite authors since he first released his debut novel Southern Gods. John took time out of his very hectic schedule to shoot the breeze with me, and share some rather disturbingly hilarious tales from his youth. 

Read on... if you dare. 

John Hornor Jacobs, welcome to Smash Dragons. 

First up, tell me a little about yourself and your writing career so far. 

I started writing seriously in November of 2007 for National Novel Month and it was then I wrote the first half of Southern Gods. Since then, I’ve written nine more novels, a passel of short stories, a few novellettes. And now I’m coming to the end of my writing contracts and I have to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my writing career.

Was writing something you always envisaged yourself doing one day? 

I think so, though I can’t recall formally stating “I want to be a writer” at any point. I was always a bookworm – once, when I was eleven, my father’s friend busted me with a book in my waders in a duck blind, much to my father’s embarrassment – and I think most early readers at some point want to add their stories to the great human chorus.

I was 37 when I formally declared that I wanted to write a novel, but I never thought of it as “becoming a writer.” I’ve worked in advertising as a creative so long, writing copy, designing and programming websites, making animations, working on television commercials, writing a book seemed a big task, but not an insurmountable one.

Can you remember the first story you wrote? What was it about? 

I was born in 1971, and distinctly remember the fear and dread that accompanied the cold war and the threat of nuclear Armageddon. The film The Day After affected me deeply, plus books like Alas, Babylon and Farnham’s Freehold and countless others that depicted nuclear holocaust – well, they kinda fucked me up. I remember, during thunderstorms, wondering if every flash of lightning was actually an ICBM detonating. In my spare time, I would draw plans for underground shelters, that I fully intended to build, in our backyard. But I was realistic for a kid: I knew that I wouldn’t be able to dig out a shelter by myself for my whole family, so I designed them just for me. And, looking back on them, they very much resembled deluxe coffins.

All that considered, it wasn’t surprising that when I wrote my first story, in the third grade - it was a story of the apocalypse, about a boy who lives in a cave and has to fight off radioactive wolves. My mom has it somewhere in her files, but she’s suffering from dementia, and can’t recall where she filed it. I imagine I’ll find it again someday. Some very sad day.

Your work covers a wide range of genres and topics. Do you have a preferred niche, or are you someone who loves to cast their creative net widely? 

I have said elsewhere, I am creatively restless. I’m more geared toward writing standalones, exploring whatever creative challenge that appeals to me at the time, and moving on once it is done. Which is funny, because I’m coming out of a long tunnel of writing two trilogies. It’ll be a while before I write anything that long again, unless it’s a single book. That’s the deal with trilogies, really – they’re really one long-ass book, sold on the strength of the first third and published in sections. Longer series differ, but trilogies on the whole are just fragmented standalones.

My agent came into town recently, and we discussed my career, and discussed my strengths, my weaknesses, and what I wanted to do in the future. What became clear in that conversation is that I always write about family. And when she said that, it was like a cloudburst to me. Whatever genre I’ve dipped my toes in, I’m always coming back to family, its problems, its dysfunctions, its strengths in the face of adversity. I think that’s my niche. Writing about family. 

I’ve read that all literature is a conversation about family and human connection. I haven’t found an exception to that yet.

The South features prominently throughout your work. What is it about that region in particular (apart from being born there) that appeals to you as a writer? 

The American South appeals to me for the same reasons that many dystopias appeal to writers. Edges of frontier, desperately marginalized peoples, poverty, brutish class systems, inequality, gun culture, hatred – most of the South is a pre-packaged dystopia for your reading pleasure. Plus, I grew up here, I live here, I know the people and places, their rhythms and aspirations. I find it fascinating to explore my own culture.

You deal with some incredibly strange (and cool) things in your writing. I’m curious, what’s the strangest and most bizarre thing you’ve ever seen?

I went to an authentic hog slaughter once. It was… traumatizing. Most of the bizarre things I’ve seen in my life were related, chiefly, to human behaviour. It’s nothing compared to war stories. But there it is.

I adored your mash up of Southern Gothic, Weird fiction and Cosmic Horror in Southern Gods. Where did this story start in your minds eye? 

Big change of gears, here. First of, thank you. I’m glad you liked it!

It started with assorted interests and a few images. A&R reps in the 50s, the birth of rock-n-roll, the history of race music in Arkansas in the South. Pirate radio stations, and crime noir. In my mind, when I wrote Southern Gods, I was writing a crime noir novel, firmly rooted in the tradition of gumshoe protagonists hunting down their appointed targets, but mashed up with Southern Gothic and the supernatural.

Was it a long process of thinking things through, or did you get a flash of inspiration? How long did it take you to write? 

Much of the writing, honestly, I can’t remember. The way I often work is I have ideas for scenes – say, when Bull Ingram finds the dead man in the radio station, with a record still spinning on the turntable – and I write with that in mind, getting my protagonists to that situation. Much of the rest, as in most crime noir, is connective tissue, establishing a narrative voice, instilling dread through tone and diction, slathered with setting and mood.

As I said earlier, I wrote the first 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month and took four or five more months to complete and polish into a shape I was ready to start shopping. Concurrently with the writing of the novel, I was doing everything I could to learn about the publishing industry, how it worked, what was getting published. I join online communities, Twitter, Facebook. I blogged (something I don’t do much anymore), and attended various conventions.

R&B and Blues pay a central role in Southern Gods. I’m curious, what songs and artists did you listen to whilst writing it? 

You’d think I listened to a lot of Robert Johnson, wouldn’t you? I didn’t. I listened to Alan Lomax’s recording for the Library of Congress. Field hollers, penitentiary call and response cotton chopping songs.

And, strangely, I listened to a lot of Sufjan Steven’s Come on Feel the ILLINOIS.

I wrote this years ago in answer to a similar question, so I’m posting it here:

“I grew up on the rhythms of the South. Blues, soul, gospel and country were the constant accompaniment to the long car rides with my father, crisscrossing Arkansas, towing a flatbottom, a full cooler, and rods and reels and shotguns. In every country store dotting the landscape of the delta there was music; you open the door with a creak and the customer bell rings, a voice thick with tobacco and molasses and bacon-fat greets you. The air-conditioner hums and the strains of a gospel choir, tinny and indistinct, sound from the radio above the counter, tuned to the AM band. The hiss of a Coca-Cola being opened and the bright clatter of the cap falling to the floor. The snick of a Zippo. The husky laugh of a woman hefting a child on her hip.  Barefoot feet slapping on a poured-concrete floor.

When I sat down to write Southern Gods, the amalgam of music from a lifetime of living in the Delta welled up and came out, in one way or another. It spilled into my plot, into my style. Maybe into my voice. I don’t know. But I know what I wanted it to sound like. It needed pain and horror and the suck of gravity.”

Your post-apocalyptic novel This Dark Earth is pretty brutal reading. What sort of research did you do in order to nail down that realism? 

I worked with a pathologist to develop a plausible zombie virus, though zombies are inherently nonsensical. I did some research on the U.S. Army, but I had worked on the Army of One television campaign, so I’d been around a lot of the war machines in the field, like the Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Apache helicopters, and could fake the rest. That book was pretty much my zombie survival plan in novel form.

I was hesitant about your latest series when I first read a synopsis. I struggled, initially, to get my head around the direction you were going in. Once I started reading The Incorruptibles however I was hooked. The western tones, the bizarre infernal driven machines, the alternative history and fantasy mash up. Where on earth did you draw your ideas for this series? 

When I was a kid, I misheard “internal combustion engine” as “infernal combustion engine,” and that miscommunication stuck with me. When I used to be a semi-professional musician, I wrote a song called “Infernal Machines” and always loved that idea, engines powered by daemons. From there, it was figuring out how to use that in a story.

How have you changed as a writer since the release of your first book? 

I hope I’ve become a better writer. On a technical, sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph level, I know I’m a better writer. Am I a better storyteller? Maybe. Book sales would indicate no on both points, as Southern Gods remains my most popular book.

One of the things I deeply admire about you as a writer is your ability (and courage) to experiment with different voices and tones throughout your books. You have written books in the first person with past tense, first person with present tense, third person and even had an epistolary chapter in This Dark Earth. What is the motivation behind this constant state of change? Are you looking to avoid being cast as a writer who only does one sort of thing? 

At one time, I was a big fan of Dan Simmons. Once I got to know him some, and learned more about him, his personality and his crazy right wing political leanings, my admiration for him somewhat cooled. But early on, I thought that his career would be a good model for mine, writing widely in any genre that I enjoyed or drew my attention. On a personal satisfaction level, it was a good choice. Career-wise, it might’ve been ill-considered. I’ve had three debuts – one in horror, one in young adult, one in fantasy. Not a lot of the fans I managed to attract in one followed me to the others during my literary perambulations. But I’ve enjoyed the journey.

I must admit I adore the way you depict some of your characters. Bull, Fisk, Shoe, Livia, Lucy and Shreve are all amazing and memorable, and have such authentic voices. What makes a good character in your opinion? How do writers achieve authenticity when writing? 

Characters with flaws are interesting. Those characters that have their own voices, and viewpoints, they tend to take off – even if they’re horrible people, they have their own momentum.

What motivated your decision to venture into YA with The Twelve Fingered Boy? How does your writing process change when writing a series aimed at a younger reading age bracket? 

I like YA fiction, it deals with the crucible of adolescence that, with the exception of a few folks that seem like they never were kids, we all went through. So it taps into some universal truths about the human condition.

The main difference between writing for teens and adults is, adult literature is often told from a POV that is from a great remove – of time, of voice – and for literature to really connect with teens, it needs to feel like your characters are in the shit, right then. This is why, possibly, present tense is so popular in young adult books.

Take me through a day (or night) of writing with John Hornor Jacobs? Do you plan or pants it? Do you have a preferred writing space? What is your beverage and snack of choice when working? 

I’ve had a hard year, writing-wise. Two years ago I became a partner in an advertising agency, and since then I’ve been working 60-70 hour weeks and my writing taken a toll. But now we’ve expanded, I have a couple of assistants, and I’m not working as much and even finding time at the office to write. I used to be able to do my job at 60% in positions at other companies and write the rest of the time. That went away with the partnership.

In general, my writing day starts with my commute, which is about 20 minutes, tops. I don’t listen to music or news. I drive in silence and think about the book. It’s usually very productive time. When I arrive at work, I usually have thirty or forty minutes before anyone else arrives and I’ll write then. I’ll write when a job stalls out, or I’m waiting for something from a client or a coworker (and that happens quite often). When I get home, I spend at least three or four hours with my family, chatting, having dinner, going to Cuong Nhu classes with my daughters. At some point, I’ll wander down to my home office and write. That might be 9:30 or 10, and by then, I’m pretty tired. If I can write a thousand words in a day, I consider that a really good one. Occasionally, my wife will give me weekends off where I can head out to the lakehouse and really buckle down.

I don’t have a preferred writing space, or choice beverage, though in the day I tend to drink tea and water and at night I tend to drink wine.

Woah… I had no idea you were a martial artist! That’s cool!! How long have you trained in Cuong Nhu? Does having a background in martial arts help you choreograph fight sequences in your books? 

I wouldn’t call myself a martial artist. I am just a guy who trains in a martial art. Martial “artist” seems to imply some sort of mastery, of which I have none, other than maybe I can punch hard and I’m passable at sparring (but a lot of that is just because of my build and height). I’ve been doing it for about four years now, and I’m about half-way to being able to test for black belt in this discipline (maybe half-way – it takes around eight years of constant training, approximately). And the more I train, the more I realize there’s a good possibility I’ll never reach black belt. I’m 45, and a big guy – some of the things they ask you to do are hard for 25 year olds – forward rolls, backward rolls, side drops, serpent stance, flying kicks – so maybe it will never happen. But I enjoy the community of the dojo and I enjoy doing the work.

How has your career in advertising helped you when it comes to writing? What skills do you think transfer well between both professions? 

Because I'm primarily a visual creative, I’m used to executing things quickly and having them be complete in a short amount of time. I think that gave me the confidence to try something longer. You just don’t get jobs in advertising that take a year (or more) to produce. 

You’ve written a number of short stories over the years, but not as many as I expected I must admit. Why is that? Do you prefer to work with a longer format, or is it a case of not having the time to juggle all of your longer projects with shorter works?

When I started out, I made a decision to focus on writing novels, because, in the end, the possibilities of reward from longer fiction seemed greater. That might have been a mistake. But I’m writing more short fiction now, relearning the craft. Writing a short story, a really good short story, is very very hard. Much harder than writing a novel.

What’s your take on the horror genre right now? Have you noticed any new trends emerging? What can we as a genre do better in light of all of the recent controveries? 

I love horror, and read it, but not solely and extremely widely, so I couldn’t tell you what the trends are. I wasn’t aware of any controversy in horror – or maybe I was and can’t recall, since there’s a literary controversy every day. But if I was going to tell you my favorite horror novels I’ve read this year, Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts, would be a the top of the list, followed by Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Fine. 

I’m far more familiar with horror movies, actually.

What’s the most loved book in your library? Why?

I have first edition copies of Faulkner’s Sanctuary, The Reivers, and A Light in August. But those are just possessions and don’t mean much. My own books have more emotional significance to me, but I don’t reread them. Usually, the books that mean the most to me are those on my bedside table, the ones I’m currently immersed in. 

The most important book in my life is always the one I’m writing.

Who are your literary influences?

Twain, Bellairs, Faulkner, Stout, Tolkien, Westlake, Chandler, Hammett, More, O’Connor, King, Simmons (like him or not), Homer, Shelley, Stoker, GRRM. There are so many. Any and every book I’ve ever read has left its mark.

You mentioned your Zombie Survival Plan earlier. I’m curious… which other authors would make your Zombie Survival Team? Why? 

Zombie survival team? I wouldn’t want any authors, whatsoever. None of them would lead – possibly with the exception of maybe Myke Cole - but they’d all have firm and vociferous opinions on what we should do. I’d prefer to have carpenters, laborers, and construction workers. People who’ve spent most of their life working with their hands and know the value of labor. Surviving the zombie apocalypse is dirty work.

Funniest thing a fan has ever said to you?  

Not exactly a fan, but someone from high-school asked me seriously why I drive a Honda if I’m a published author. “You can drive anything you want  now you’re rich and famous!” A gentleman in London introduced himself to me and started praising me up and down for my books, which was really sweet, until it became obvious he thought I was Ben Aaronovitch.

What sorts of stories enthral John Hornor Jacobs? 

Books with bears doing human things.

Best new writers emerging now that the general public may not have heard about?

Daniel Polansky, Robert Jackson Bennett, Molly Tanzer, Daryl Gregory, Stark Holborn, Bo Bolander, Den Patrick, Ed Cox, Matt Fuckin’ Wallace. These folks are really killing it.

What are you working on right now? Do you plan to ever revisit any of your former worlds (Southern Gods for example)? 

I’ve got a story, maybe a novella, in mind for some of the characters (those that lived, at least) in Southern Gods. I had a loosely planned sequel to This Dark Earth plotted, about what the world looked like 15 years after the events of first book, called Zero Mountain but TDE didn’t sell well enough to pursue it and I moved on to other things. Like I said, I’m creatively restless and don’t want to have to write the same book over and over.

If you could meet one other author, and pick their brain over a beer, who would it be? Why?

I would’ve said GRRM, but I’ve already done that. So, I would love to have a chance to speak with Jo Rowling, not only because me and my whole family love her books, but also because she’s just a lovely person all around.

To what dark entity must I make a sacrifice in order to be allowed to purchase a signed book of you?
You would have to sacrifice Mammon. Though usually you sacrifice stuff to get the dark entities.

And finally, best advice you have for any budding writers out there? 

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule stipulates that you have to do something for, you guessed it, ten thousand hours for you to become a master at it. Ten thousand hours is a long ass time. Reading counts toward writing.


Read whatever you can. For god’s sake, read out of genre. Read classic literature, read modern non-fiction, read literary, read thrillers, read kids books. If you’re gonna write horror, don’t just read horror. 


Go to college, if you can. You definitely don’t need college to become a writer, but you’ve got to make a living until your book hits. Learn to cook cabbage. Learn to cook rice. 


Fall in love. Fall out of love. Get in fights. Indulge in arguments. 


Put yourself in situations that scare you. Walk in the woods, alone. Scream as loud as you can, until your lungs and vocal cords can do no more.


Build a fire and look at the stars. Run down a long hallway. When you cut yourself, push the pain aside long enough to perceive the pain, to hold it in your mind. 


Examine conflict, in yourself and others. Examine your fellow humans, figure out why they act as they do. Listen to the way people talk. 

All in all, become a student of humanity, in all its terrible glory.


John Hornor Jacobs, thanks for stopping by!

You can find all of John's books at all good book outlets. I implore you all to go out and buy them... you won't regret it. You can also stalk (follow) John and find out what's going on in his life via his website

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Interview - Greg Chapman

Hello Peeps!

I'm delighted to bring you yet another cracking instalment in our ongoing interview series here at Smash Dragons. This week I had the great pleasure to chat to writer and artist Greg Chapman. Greg has an international reputation as an artist of the highest quality, and his literary work is fast gaining a cult following. He took time out of his hectic schedule to chat about his latest work, and what's coming up for him in the future. 


Greg Chapman, welcome to Smash Dragons!

First up, tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a former newspaper journalist, turned PR man, father of two fiery redheads and husband to another. I’m also a man obsessed with his own imagination and I put it all down on paper, whether it be writing or art.

You're an accomplished artist and writer. Before we go any further I’m curious, is there anything you are actually bad at? 

Hah! Yeah, basically any and all sports. Total rubbish. Also rubbish at all the stereotypical things a guy is supposed to be good at. So safe to say I’m not your average bloke.

The Eschatologist is your latest story. Can you tell me a little bit about it? What was your inspiration in writing it?

I wanted to write a story about the end of the world without any zombies or other typical end of the world scenarios. So I asked myself “How far would people of faith go to ensure the world ends according to God’s final plan”. It’s a story about faith, but from the perspective of how bad faith can be. I’m pretty sure everyone, regardless of what they believe, can relate to that in this day and age.

Can you tell me about some of your other stories that you've published? What sorts of themes do you like to explore in your storytelling?

I've had 4 novellas published, (Torment, The Noctuary (2011), Vaudeville (2012), The Last Night of October (2013) and The Eschatologist (2016), a short story collection, and Vaudeville and Other Nightmares (2014). My debut novel, Hollow House comes out this July. I've also had a bunch of stories published in anthologies. My full bibliography can be found here - I like to write about the human condition as it relates to horror and throw in a bucketful of the supernatural. The idea of hidden worlds encroaching on our world fascinates me.

A friend of mine has described your writing style as evocative and powerful. Is that how you would describe yourself?

Who said that? I suppose I should pay them for such kind words. :P That’s very flattering. I guess I can see the evocative part. When I write the entire story plays out like a film in my head and I try to echo that in my words. I always aim to ensure that the reader remembers my story after they’ve finished reading it, not because of the scare factor, but the messages I’m trying to convey.

What do you think your strengths are as a writer? Weaknesses?

My biggest weakness is probably brevity. I write very sparsely. I wonder sometimes if that’s a turn off for some readers. My biggest strength is that I’m never short of an idea.

What writers and stories have helped shape you into the artist and writer you are today?

A lot of people already know that I love Poe, M.R. James, Clive Barker and Stephen King. But I also adore Thomas Ligotti, Graham Masterton, Richard and Laymon. You’d probably find I’ve borrowed from all of them in my work.

You mentioned that your never short of an idea. Do you tend to write down all of these ideas when they spring to mind and revisit them down the track? Or are you someone who has to take an idea and run with it as soon as it forms in your head?

Usually if I have an idea for a novel or novella I'll write it in a notebook or scrap piece of paper (I have many of them) or if it's a short story I'll start writing it straight away. I guess it all depends on how formed the idea, the setting and the characters are in my head.

Take me through a day of creative work with Greg Chapman. Do you have a particular space you work in? How many hours a day do you spend writing or working on your art?

Well, as I say I have a full-time job and I’m a dad, so writing and art is something I only indulge in during lunch breaks, after work and on the weekends. I’m most productive on the weekend and I try and pen one story and do a couple of drawings during those two days.

What’s your take on the local horror scene at the moment? What do we need to do better in this country to make the scene more vibrant?

I think the Aussie horror film scene is certainly making a come back with films like The Babadook, Wyrmwood, Wolf Creek and its TV spin off. I think Australia is a hot bed for speculative fiction. We’re so diverse with many authors writing across many genres. I think the only thing that’s hindering us is the mainstream publishing industry. Very few authors are making it into the mainstream, which is a shame.  

You write about some incredibly harrowing things (biblical apocalypse for example). I’m curious, what scares Greg Chapman?

Spiders. I bloody hate them. That’s all I’ll say on the matter.

You recently had the misfortune to discover some of your artwork had been stolen and was being printed on shirts overseas. What can artists (and writers for that matter) do to protect themselves from this? What would you say to people considering stealing an image, or pirating one of your books?

Sadly there’s not a lot you can do to protect yourself, but I’ve come up with some ways to minimise the risk of it happening again. An artist friend told me not to violate my art with a watermark and I tend to agree. I think you just have to be careful about where you share your art. People steal stuff, and that’s never going to stop, but I think if you see it happening then you should definitely say something about it.

Do you remember the first art piece that you sold? What was it?

I used to draw a lot of caricatures and I remember doing one for a birthday present when I about 15 or 16 I think. 

How would you describe your art style? Have you always had an innate talent for it?

I try and mix it up using different mediums. I like to dabble and I also like to work quickly. It all started with comic books when I was little. As soon as I read one I wanted to draw my own. I taught myself how to draw by studying comics.

What are you reading right now? What was the last amazing horror story that you read?

Right now I’m jumping between Into the Mist, a military horror novel by Lee Murray and a non-fiction book on the discovery of chloroform, which is utterly fascinating. The last amazing horror story I read was Lee Battersby’s Magrit. Sort of a middle reader’s ghost story.

Where can people go to buy your art? Do you do commissioned pieces? What are your rates for those? 

I have prints of most of my art at society6: 

What are you working on right now? What projects do you have coming up?

I just finished the new version of my colouring book, The Horrible Colouring Book, which should be available in a week or so. My debut novel, Hollow House, is also coming out from Omnium Gatherum Media in the US next month. I just this weekend finished penning a Halloween-themed tale. Apart from that I have a regular gig creating art for Dark Discoveries Magazine.

What's your debut novel Hollow House about? Can you give us a sneak peek?

I can't give you a sneak peek of the actual work, but I can give you a run down on the concept and themes: It's basically a tale centred around the people living in your average street. On the corner is a house that they all think is empty. In a sense it is and it isn't, but they all come to learn the truth about the house as it reaches out to infect them. Some of the themes include teenage suicide, family dysfunction, psychological abuse, marital discord, abnormal behaviour, and of course dark magic and murder.  It's basically Neighbours, as directed by David Cronenberg. :) Well I hope it is. It's my first novel, so of course I hope everyone who reads it, likes it. 

If you had to pick one writer or artist to have a coffee with who it be and why?

Man I'd love to have a coffee with Stephen King and just shoot the shit. I mean he's Stephen freaking King. 

Will you be appearing on the convention circuit over the coming months?

Sadly no. Being so far away from the big smoke, and my work and family commitments makes it hard.

Best tip for aspiring artists and writers?

Read, write and draw!

And finally, to what dark god must I offer a sacrifice to get a caricature done of myself?

Probably Cthulhu. Send me proof of sacrifice and I'll think about it :P

You can buy Greg's latest story (The Eschatologist) at all good online book retailers. Check out Booktopia for it. You can also buy prints of Greg's art here. His work is amazing, and extremely affordable for those of you looking to spice up your wall space or wardrobe.  

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Interview - Alan Baxter

Hello Peeps!

To celebrate the upcoming paperback release of the Alex Caine trilogy (available from the 20th of June) the man himself, Alan Baxter, decided to drop by for a yarn and a laugh. 

Read on, and enjoy! 

Alan Baxter, welcome back to Smash Dragons!

Thanks for having me!

First up, what’s new with you? What projects have you been working on since you last popped by? 

So many things! Obviously the Alex Caine re-release, which I’m sure we’ll talk about more in a minute. Otherwise, I’ve got a new collaborative novel with David Wood called Blood Codex coming out in a few weeks, which is a straight-up action adventure yarn. And another collab with David coming out in January with Cohesion Press – this one a giant monster thriller called Primordial – that I’m very excited about. I’ve got a few short stories recently published or in the pipeline, but more importantly, I’m finally getting a collection of my short stories published. It’s going to be called Crow Shine and it’ll be published by Ticonderoga Publications in September. Very exciting! And a novella called The Book Club is coming out from PS Publishing (Australia) some time in late 2017. And of course, there’s always new work out there looking for a home.

I’m stoked to finally see Abduction and Obsidian being released in paperback form! How does it feel to finally see the entire series come together like that?  

Oh, it makes me so happy. It’s been very frustrating, but so great now to see the whole trilogy about to hit shelves. I was so awesome to see them in all their papery physical glory, especially with the amazing new covers. I really hope people get behind the series and buy the set to look awesome on their shelves.

Will there be any changes to the new books when compared to the original digital releases?

No changes at all other than the new covers, but oh, those covers! ☺

The new covers are sensational. Did you have much input in the design process, or was that something Harper Voyager took the lead on? 

Voyager absolutely took the lead, but we did have discussions about style and vibe, what kind of thing we were looking to do, all that stuff. And I did get to give some feedback on the original drafts of the new covers, but I was really happy with what Voyager did, so didn’t have much to add. These covers finally give a really good idea of what the books are about, that dark, gritty, thriller vibe, plus magic and monsters!

For those people who haven’t read the series, can you give them short run down on what they can expect to find in the books?

Magic, monsters, mayhem and martial arts in a fast-paced dark urban fantasy thriller series. Quests around the world, lost cities, powerful beings battling for the fate of the humanity. And swears.

Will you ever return to the universe you created in the Alex Caine series? I for one would LOVE to see more about the origins of the Subcontractor… a short story even!  

If the books are successful enough, I’ll definitely write more Alex Caine novels. I’d love to extend the series and make it ongoing beyond this trilogy. While these three books make a complete story, I deliberately left a few small things here and there unresolved so that I can return to them, and there’s a lot of scope to do more with these characters yet. I’ve got lots of notes for possible future novels. More on the Subcontractor? I don’t know, but never say never!

Will there be a book launch or signing that people can attend for the release of all of the Alex Caine books? 

Yes, there will be something in Sydney – on June 30th at Galaxy Bookshop, with myself in conversation with Garth Nix! But it’s filling up, so check my feeds for details and RSVP soon. And I’m sure I’ll try to get around the country again as much as I can, visit book stores, and so on. And I’m Guest of Honour at Conflux in Canberra in October and will definitely be signing books there. I’ll be at Book Expo in Sydney on October 9th too. Watch my blog and social media feeds for news as more stuff gets organised.

More congratulations are in order as well. Your novella “In Vaulted Halls Entombed” recently won an Australian Shadows Award. How pleasing is it for you to see your work being recognised and acknowledged across different genres? 

It’s really exciting and honestly humbling. Selling books and being read is what we’re all aiming for – that’s the real success we’re chasing. But to be recognised by award juries, to get that kind of endorsement that what you’re doing stands out, that’s a feeling you can’t compare to anything else. And to win that particular award, The Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction, is really special. Paul was a good mate and I miss him badly. It’s an honour to win the award named in his memory.

I felt that you had a wonderful grasp on writing cosmic horror with “In Vaulted Halls Entombed”. I’m curious, how did that story come about? Where did you get your inspiration for it? 

I was asked to write a story for the SNAFU series, which is an anthology series of military horror. So I had to decide what soldiers I wanted, what they would be up against and where they would face their horror. I’ve long been a fan of cosmic horror and often write stuff that touches the edges of that genre and decided this story would be a direct play in that particular sandbox. I’ve got more cosmic horror stuff on the horizon and the story published in F&SF last year, “The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner”, is probably my most cosmic horror short story published thus far. My inspiration comes from all the great stuff written before and then I curdle it for a while in my brainmeats.

Speaking of the 'The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner'... that story in particular contains some of the best moments I think I've ever read in any short fiction piece (Scarlet Wind heading toward maw-like portal for example). Just how much did you enjoy writing that particular story? Was it an idea you have played around with for a long time, or did you write it specifically for submission to F/SF? 

Thanks! For a long time I'd been noodling around with ideas for a historical pirate/cosmic horror piece. It marinated in my head for months (maybe years) before it finally began to take shape and I wrote it. It was enormous fun, required a fair bit of research, and is actually a precursor to a novel I hope to write. Whether the specifics of that story match the novel, I don't know, but it was an exercise with the form. It's one of my favourite stories, I must admit.

Random question… you write about a lot of supernatural and weird things in your books and stories. I’m curious, do you actually believe in any of those things (ghosts, demons, cosmic terrors etc)? 

I don’t buy into the majority of that stuff in the “popular” realm, I’m a dyed in the wool skeptic, but I don’t think for a second that we know everything. There are energies and the potential for lifeforms well beyond anything we can currently comprehend, so I’m open to any “supernatural” discovery. The majority of what people consider supernatural in this day and age is largely psychological. But I sure as hell know that I don’t know everything and I’d love to be proven wrong.

I once described you as the love child of Stephen King and Jim Butcher. Since then I think you have grown even more as a writer. Do you feel you have improved over the past few years? What would be the area you think you have shown the most improvement? 

I did enjoy reading that comparison you made! I hope that I grow all the time. As a writer, I want everything I create to be an improvement on what came before. I’m always learning. The most improvement? No idea. I don’t think I can really be an objective judge of that. But I strive to improve everything about my writing with every new thing.

I’ve always been curious about the writing habits of authors. For example, George Orwell apparently wrote a lot whilst lying down in bed. Do you have any particular idiosyncrasies like that when you write? 

Not at all. I’ll write anywhere, any time I get a chance. Running a martial arts academy and looking after my two-year-old son means I don’t have the luxury of time for idiosyncrasies!

A lot of writers find it uncomfortable to read their work once it has been published. Do you ever re-read your stories once they have been let out into the wide open world? 

Nope! I'll reread often while drafting and then in the editing stage, but not after that. Bear in mind that once a story is published that's months or even years after it was written. I've long since moved on. Having said that, if I get to write more Alex Caine novels, I will go back and read the first trilogy again to get my head back into those characters and that world. That will be weird!

Tell me about the first story (published or unpublished) that you ever wrote. What was it about? 

The first one I remember was when I was about seven. We'd been told to wrote a story about what we'd done during our school holiday. I came back with a five page epic about going back in time to fight dinosaurs. The teacher had me read it to the class and I knew I wanted to be a writer.

What's the funniest feedback you have ever received from an editor? 

Here's a direct copy/paste of a conversation with an editor:

Me: Aw, you took out the "impressive penis" line! :)

Editor: Lol!! I thought you might be attached to that line... It just seemed a bit superfluous.

That's just one example of many. And no, I'm not telling you who that was or what story. :)

You recently were invited to the Beechworth Writer's Retreat by Geoff Brown to help mentor and guide other writers. How did you find the experience? How pleasing is it to give back to people who are just starting out on their own writing journey? 

I love the opportunity to give back. I got so much help and support as an up-and-comer, and I still do now, so I relish the opportunity to pay it forward. I wrote about the Beechworth thing here: and there are lots of pictures linked from there too.

I have to ask (the people want to know)... how is Dolly settling into her new home? 

She's fine, and taking well to her new... Wait, where's she gone? And where are all the kitchen knives?

Oh no! Quick, before you go, where can we find out about new things you’re doing?

Have a look at the bibliography page on my website - to see everything that’s out or forthcoming, and if you can’t track anything down, drop me a line. And find me on Twitter @AlanBaxter for a chat if you like.

Alan Baxter, thanks for coming back to Smash Dragons! 

You can buy the amazing Alex Caine trilogy from tomorrow (20th of June). It will be available at all good book retailers across Australia. You can also pick the books up from online platforms such as Booktopia. For more information check out Alan's site. And don't be shy, Alan likes to chat, especially when it comes to books! 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Review - Abduction by Alan Baxter

As promised, my review of the final book in the Alex Caine trilogy by Alan Baxter. Abduction is a crazy read... and a fitting finale to the series. Read on... you know you want to! 

It is no secret that I am a fan of Alan Baxter. When I first read Bound last year I touted him as one of the future stars of speculative fiction in this country, and after reading Abduction I still stand firm on that opinion. 

Abduction finds Alex Caine in a bad way. The weight of the world and its secrets have taken their toll, and some days Alex finds it hard to even get out of bed. Alone one night, Alex is overwhelmed by a band of Fey who kidnap him and take him away from the mortal realm. Their leader, a powerful enemy, wants the Darak from his chest. Another more familiar enemy has also returned seeking vengeance, and Alex and his friends will need all of their power and intellect to fight both of these foes. The fate of the world rests on whether they succeed or not. 

So what did I love about Abduction? Pretty much everything!

Abduction is a cracking adventure that will leave you needing a sweat rag and a lie down after finishing it. From the outset Baxter sets a frantic pace that pulls no punches as Alex is suddenly kidnapped and whisked away to the deadly realm of the Fey and their Queen. From this start the story unfolds at a rapid rate and twists and turns as Alex and Silhouette attempt to save the world, and familiar and unfamiliar players emerge from the shadows in a showdown that has been coming for a very long time. 

Sublime action is Baxter's norm, and Abduction does not disappoint. Each action sequence and fight scene were choreographed brilliantly, and at times I was left stunned by the realism and violent intent on the pages. You really can tell that Baxter has a background in martial arts, and by god does he use that knowledge to great effect! I was glued to these to these scenes, and I felt every punch and kick ricochet off the pages as I read.

The characterisation and world building were again very strong in Abduction, and I adored seeing old foes return to the fray as events spiralled out of control. Alex, despite being incredibly powerful, has almost buckled from the pressure that this has brought upon him, and his conflicted nature was one of the highlights of this series for me. I loved the fact that despite his power he still experiences depression, fear, anger, and hopelessness. His power bears a cost, and it is one that he struggles with. With Alex being trapped in the land of the Fey there is also a much greater focus on secondary characters in Abduction. 

Silhouette is again alluring and deadly, and the roles of Armour and Black Diamond are fleshed out much more. The Lady is an enthralling new player who both delighted and terrified me at the same time, and the return of Robert Hood is brilliantly executed. Hood was one of my favourite characters from Bound (alongside the Subcontractor, who just creeped the fuck out of me!), and his return really added a sense of dread and danger to the book for me. Baxter also knowingly laces the narrative with tidbits and world building that both delighted and informed me without ever slowing the pace of the story down. His universe is dark, deadly, and addictive, and it will grab you by your eyeballs and steadfastly refuse to let go.

Baxter has continued to improve with each book, and Abduction is arguably his finest work yet. The twists and turns left me reeling, and the ending was both surprising and very satisfying. Baxter has now reached the milestone of being an author whose work I immediately buy without question now, such is his talent for weaving a great story. 

Abduction is a fantastic tale filled with magical splendour and pools of bloody and violent realism. I would highly recommend it (and the rest of Baxter's work) to anyone with a beating heart and functioning brain.

4 out of 5 stars

Abduction is available at all good book retailers across the country. Tomorrow, I speak to the man himself! Stay tuned. 

Friday, 17 June 2016

Review - Obsidian by Alan Baxter

As promised... my past review of Obsidian! Baxter follows up his amazing Bound with yet another cracking tale filled with chaos and grit. Do yourself a favour... buy this series. 

Read on, fellow traveller and bibliophile! 

Alex Caine returns in this bloody good adventure and follow up to Bound. Obsidian finds Alex and Silhouette looking for purpose and direction in their lives. When they are recruited by a mysterious organisation to combat evil magic, they find themselves transported and trapped in an alternate realm and city where magic, monsters and death lurk around every corner.

Like in Bound, I really enjoyed the easy and action packed style that Baxter writes with throughout the story. It is a fast paced, balls to the wall style that works extremely well alongside his characters and plot. I thought the fight scenes were well choreographed (again, like in Bound) and written, and I was fascinated by Alex's growth and direction throughout the story. I also adored how Silhouette grew from the first novel, becoming even more complex and interesting.

The introduction of new organisations and characters also worked well overall in setting things up nicely for future books (although I thought the introduction of new character Claude Darvill was cliched initially, I soon found myself just enjoying his role in the book). I will admit I did a little dance when Black Diamond returned! 

I also loved the elements of horror that Baxter brought to this book. The monsters were both exhilarating and creepy, and Obsidian itself was fascinating. If I had one small criticism it would be that I wanted more monsters and more fight scenes!

All in all Obsidian is a very worthy follow up to Bound. It is dark, creepy, and action packed. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series. If you love dark urban fantasy or horror then Obsidian is the read you are looking for!

4 out of 5 stars.

Obsidian can found at all good book retailers across the country. Check out this link for more information. You can also pop online at retailers like Booktopia and pick it up a reduced price. GO GO GO!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Review - Bound by Alan Baxter

As promised... my past review of Bound by Alan Baxter. 

And look at that new shiny cover! This book is truly great. If you dig gritty dark fantasy pick it up now. I promise you won't regret it. 

Read on for more detail and glory. 

I picked up Bound, by Alan Baxter, on the recommendation of a friend. I owe that friend a few drinks now.

Bound is about cage fighter Alex Caine, a man who can see his opponents moves before they make them. Following a successful fight Alex is approached by an Englishman called Welby, who knows his secret and wants Alex to help him unlock the key to an ancient and powerful grimoire. Drawn into a world filled with magic, violence, and a chaotic Fey godling called Uthentia, Alex must harness his innate magical ability and fighting skills to prevent the end of the world as we know it.

Upon finishing Bound my first thought was 'damn.'

My second thought was that if Stephen King and Jim Butcher ever had a love child then it would be Alan Baxter.

Finally, my third thought was that Bound is a seriously entertaining read.

Full of dark, gritty and bloody goodness, Bound is possibly one of the best debut novels I've read in many years. Cracking action and dialogue propel the story along at a fast pace as the reader journeys from the cages of the underground fighting scene in Sydney to the icy wastes of Iceland. I loved the fight scenes, and I could tell they were written by someone who has trained extensively in hand to hand combat and martial arts. I almost felt the bones being broken and smashed at times throughout the book, and their realism kept me enthralled. The world in which Bound is set was also gloriously gritty and full of things that go bump in the night. Dark horrors exist everywhere (the Three Sisters for example), and the world is full of mythical and supernatural creatures such as gargoyles and the Fey.

Alex Caine was also a fascinating protagonist. Flawed in many ways but still noble and honest, he was a believable hero who I couldn't help but cheer for as the odds kept stacking up against him. His rages, lust, frustration, and mistakes throughout the story only added depth to his character and made him more human. His dialogue and interplay with the other characters (like Silhouette) throughout the novel were also loaded with wit and humour that had me chuckling well into the night. 

The other characters and creatures in Bound were also interesting. I loved the idea of the Kin, and the dark horrors like the Three Sisters and the Subcontractor. However, the two characters I absolutely adored were the evil duo of Mr. Hood and Miss Sparks and their Black Diamond Inc. They are the perfect narrative foil for Alex and Silhouette, and their dark and twisted relationship and actions brought a real nefarious essence to the story that was both creepy and strangely thrilling as well. 

All in all Bound was a bloody excellent read. I cannot recommend this book enough to fans of Butcher and Wendig.

4 out of 5 stars!

Bound is available from all good book retailers. But if you need a helping hand go here and pre-order it now. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Review - The Riven Wyrde Saga by Graham Austin-King

I love discovering new and exciting writing talent. It is one of the simplest pleasures I have in life as a reader and reviewer. That sweet moment when you realise you're reading something incredibly cool that shows no sign of relenting.

I got that feeling about halfway through the first book of The Riven Wyrde Saga. And from that moment on I never looked back.

The Riven Wyrde Saga tells a familiar story. Humanity has forgotten about the danger of the Fae over hundreds of generations, and their terrifying and evil nature has been diluted by stories and legends. But now, at the start of the saga, the wyrde that has kept the Fae in the outer dark has weakened. The Fae are returning, and humanity is not ready. 

Sounds cliched right? You're probably thinking that you've read that story before. And you would be right. An ancient evil that returns to plague humanity is a well used trope from the fantasy playbook. So why exactly should you read this saga? 

Well, you should read this saga because Austin-King does something amazing with it.

The Riven Wyrde Saga is epic in every sense of the world. Austin-King uses a well worn trope and launches it into the stratosphere, building a detailed world filled with fascinating detail and adventure. I adored pouring over all of the little tidbits that Austin-King wove into these books, from the little cultural details (Viking and Medieval influences) right through the the mythology and world of the fae. This is one of Austin-King's major strengths as a writer, and something I found utterly enthralling as I read through the books. From that original cliched trope Austin-King builds a richly layered world that is both unique and addictive to read. 

The characterisation throughout the series is also amazing. Austin-King is what I would call a descriptive writer, and his ability to create interesting characters with depth and layers was a joy to behold. I adored Kloss, Devin, Ylsriss, and the Fae! Fuck me the Fae... if you want to read a book that totally nails the original evil nature of the Fae then look no further. They are cold, alien, ruthless, and utterly terrifying throughout the series. Even when some of the Fae become less hostile towards humanity they are still totally alien and uncomfortable to be around. Austin-King shifts wonderfully from character to character, so you never truly get settled or bored with point of view. Every single one of them also has agency within the story, an important quality when writing an epic fantasy that stands out from the rest. I was riveted by the trials and tribulations that every character experienced, and the growth of the main protagonists was balanced brilliantly alongside the reveal of important story details as the series progressed. 

Another strength of this series was its action. For the most part it was choreographed wonderfully, and brimming with realism and bloody mayhem. Austin-King shocks at times, and his affection for horror and gore is often on full display throughout the books. There are also some truly awe-inspiring battles and killer magic for the reader to soak up, and the pace is relentless and uncompromising throughout those moments. I cannot think of any recent epic fantasy series, expect maybe Mitchell Hogan's Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, where the battles and magic were so vivid and cool. And the encounters with the Fae... damn. Just... damn. 

The story itself starts slow, and that is one of a couple of the small problems I had with the saga in its entirety. I understood what Austin-King was trying to do in the first half of The Wild Hunt, but it was hard going for there for awhile. It was pleasing to note that this issue of pacing never reared its head again as the books unfolded. The other small problem (and they are small problems, and didn't really detract from my overall enjoyment of the series) I had was the imbalance between male and female characters in the first book. Again, this issue was resolved as the series progressed, and I got to fall head over heels for awesomeness of Ylsriss and others as war and chaos unfolded. It was also great to observe just how much Austin-King improved from the first book to the last. His writing gets tighter, and his ability (already good in the first book) to weave together impressive world building and intricate characterisation becomes masterful. There is a real attention to detail in The Realm of Twilight and The Sins of the Wyrde, and it makes reading those books an absolute pleasure. 

All in all this saga was wonderful. Austin-King has done a stellar job in taking a well-used fantasy trope and recasting it in a powerful, terrifying and addictive way. The Riven Wyrde Saga is epic fantasy as it should be written, and I cannot recommended it enough for fans of the genre. 

4 out of 5 stars. 

You can pick up the entire Riven Wyrde Saga here for less than 8 dollars! An absolute bargain for three amazing books. You can also read them via Kindle Unlimited if you are a subscriber to that. 

How cool is that!? Keep an eye on Graham Austin-King... he is going places fast. 

Interview - Graham Austin-King

Hello Peeps!

I'm delighted to bring you yet another instalment in our ongoing interview series targeting great authors doing amazing things. This week I had the privilege to sit down and chat with Graham Austin-King. Graham has done some incredible things since he burst onto the scene with the first book in his Riven Wyrde Saga, and he spoke openly about the ups and downs of publishing. 


Graham Austin-King, welcome to Smash Dragons!

First up, tell me a little bit about yourself and your career as a writer so far.

I've been writing stories my whole life. English was always my favourite subject in school and it's always been something I'd love to have made a living from. That said, I wanted to be an astronaut and Superman too. I read EVERYTHING as a kid and kind of put authors in the same category as movie stars. In my head you didn't just become an author, it was something unattainable.

That said, I've been writing stories forever. I got into roleplaying games as a young teen and quickly moved from playing a character to running the games and writing the campaigns. It's actually a lot like writing a book. Writing is like a roleplaying game for one.

Stupidly I never studied writing in university. I've studied journalism, international relations, and law. I've worked in media, finance, and lost my soul in the Civil Service. If I had my time again I'd have studied writing.

The first books I self-published were children's books for my kids and I think that's probably when I became aware of self-publishing. I'd found Kindle Direct Publishing almost by accident and, through a number of Facebook groups, became aware of how many people were trying, and succeeding, with their books. Suddenly what had once seemed so out of reach became a lot more realistic, and I started writing Fae – the Wild Hunt.

What made you pursue a career in writing? Was it something you always envisaged yourself doing when you were younger?

I've touched on this already but I guess the answer is both yes and no. I always wrote, I just didn't think it was something that normal people could achieve.

Do you remember the first story you wrote? What was it about?

I tried writing something when I was about nineteen. It was sort of a horror/thriller along the same vein as Dean Koontz. The concept wasn't bad but the writing was NOT good. It was about a woman with multiple personality disorder. One of her personalities was self-aware and wanted to be free of her body. It was also psychic and was using its/her abilities to project nightmares into the minds of the other students. The idea was that if it made enough people afraid of it then that belief would give it the power to leave her body and exist independently. Now I think back on it, it's not a bad concept. Maybe one day I'll go back to it.

What roleplaying games did you play and write campaigns for? Can you recall your favourite moment from these games? Do you remember the first character you created for an RPG? 

I started roleplaying with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay which was created by Games Workshop. My first character was your stereotypical elf. I'm pretty sure his name was Linflas, though I might just be stealing that from somewhere else. Anyway I soon realised that I much preferred running games to being in them (depending on the DM).  It wasn't long before I moved onto other systems though and I've played a whole bunch since.

I wrote my own campaigns using the Rolemaster system which is a bit like MERP on steroids. I'm a vindictive DM and I've done everything from curse my PC's to running a campaign where they were essentially penniless the whole time. I think my favourite memory was when one of my players summoned a demonic familiar. He was probably expecting something helpful. He ended up with an overly sarcastic imp that followed him around and essentially heckled him the whole time. Trying to sneak up on sleeping Ogres when you're familiar is loudly shouting "Don't wake them up, Mr Oh So Powerful Wizard!" didn't end well.

We here at Smash Dragons really enjoyed your Riven Wyrde books. How did the idea for the series come about?

Good question. I'd wanted to write something about fairies for a while. I'm not sure entirely sure where the notion came from but it was something about the original concept of faeries. These were things that were genuinely feared once upon a time, when the night was pitch black and people huddled close around the fire, clinging to the light.

I'm not much of a planner when it comes to writing. I tend to make things up as I go and see where it takes me. Some of the things in the books were planned out from day one but a lot of it just developed as I went along. The glyphs, for example, that become more important in the latter half of the series, took me completely by surprise.

So the story sort of developed organically. If faeries are real then where are they? If they are kept out of the world, then by who and what?

One of the things that fascinated me with your Riven Wyrde books was your incorporation of horror elements within what is arguably an epic fantasy saga. Was this something you consciously set about doing? Or did the story take you down that dark path naturally?

I wouldn't have said that I was aiming specifically for horror but I did want it to be dark. I've always loved horror writing, especially when it touched fantasy. Writers like Clive Barker and Stephen King are definitely among my influences.

I think I worked quite hard, especially with Obair's character, to inject an element of bleak despair – that much was certainly conscious. I also wanted the fae to be downright scary. I think there's a world of difference between a brutish monster and a creature more capable of thoughts and feelings. I wanted the fae to definitely be more like the latter but to see mankind as so far below them that they were not worthy of consideration. Mankind are like cattle to the fae, possibly even lower.

I adored the world building that you did throughout this saga (Haven, the world of the fae, the melting pot of cultures and ideals etc). I have read before that you originally didn’t want to write a sprawling epic fantasy loaded with detailed world building. What changed?

The original plan kind of went out the window. I had this idea for an epic fantasy but somehow focused on Widdengate, almost as if the story was zoomed in on the village and whilst things are happening in the wider world the reader only gets to experience them as they impact upon the village.

It was a cool idea but, in practice, I couldn't make it work. By the time I started writing about Kloss and the Bjornmen I'd more or less abandoned it. The story wouldn't have worked within those confines.

Did you have a favourite character when writing the saga? Why?

I have a few. I think my overalls favourites are Selena and Ylsriss. Selena is probably my favourite character overall. She grows a lot over the three books. They both have some great lines. That sounds a bit arrogant, as I wrote them, but they were both very easy to write and the dialogue flowed easily with both of them.

What was the reasoning behind self-publishing these books?

You imply this was well thought out. The reality is that I was stupid, naive, and impatient. I finished Wild Hunt and sent it out to agents long before it was really ready. I self-published before it was ready too and it's been pulled and re-edited a couple of times now.

I'll hold my hands up and admit I made big mistakes there. I was learning as I went and not doing a great job of it. Thankfully I found some good editors and the books are better for it.

What were the benefits behind self-publishing the Riven Wyrde books? What were the drawbacks? What challenges did you face as an author trying to market your books to a global audience?

The benefits to self-publishing are in the royalties. I earn far more from an individual sale than someone like Mark Lawrence. That said, he sells far more books than me. Publishing has changed a great deal and even the major players are required to do far more of their own marketing than they ever used to.

The drawbacks are obvious. If you choose to self-publish you are on your own. You need to find editors, cover art, formatters etc. This is all going to cost, and if you try to do things cheaply then you will usually get what you pay for.

You're also responsible for your own marketing which is a huge challenge. I have no idea how I've managed to make my books stand out a little. I know other authors who's books are no worse than mine, some are far superior, who are simply not being read. There are millions out there and more being published every day.

I'd like to be able to pretend that I know what I'm doing but really I'm just fumbling my way along. Some of the things I do must be working but I couldn't tell you which ones they are.

How did you grow as a writer as the trilogy unfolded?

Oh my writing definitely improved. I think each book is better than the one before and personally I think it shows in the characters. My prose also improved with writers like Mark Lawrence and Patrick Rothfuss being a huge influence.

I also learned a hard lesson in that just because it makes sense and is obvious to me, it might not be so clear to the reader. I actually had to write an entire scene into the second book because a number of people who read Wild Hunt didn't get something I thought was blindingly obvious. Of course I knew it, I wrote it. I was too close. So I basically put a great big neon sign into the second book so people would get it.

You mentioned that you like to write and see where the story takes you. What are the disadvantages and advantages to this approach in your opinion?

Well the obvious disadvantage is that I don't know where the story is going either. I had almost completely painted myself into a corner by the end of the first book, or so it seemed at the time. (Spoiler alert) With the fae released, running riot over Haven, and seemingly far superior to mankind, how was I going to claw this back? It took some long walks, during which I openly talked to myself and gathered many odd looks, before I figured it out.

The advantage, at least to me, is that it flows better. I've tried plotting things out before. Anything that goes beyond the roughest of sketches is a waste of time as I'll go off on a tangent anyway.

Who are your literary influences? Why?

Clive Barker definitely for creating that feel of forgotten or hidden truths. Robert Jordan for much the same reason. Lawrence and Rothfuss for the beauty and pure poetry in their writing. Hugh Cook and Joe Abercrombie for gritty realism. I could go on for days here...

Pratchett because, well, he's Pratchett.

If you could sit down for a cup of tea with another author (dead or alive) to get advice who would it be? Why? 

Hugh Cook. He wrote an amazing series of books, "The Chronicles of an Age of Darkness" but they were plagued with poor sales. He was the first author I ran across that leaned toward the "grimdark" with a gritty, harsh, realism. He actually had a 60 part saga planned that would be formed of intersecting series. It would have been amazing to just sit and pick his brain.

Take me through a day (or night) of writing with yourself. Do you have a word goal? Do you like to plan what you’re going to write or do you just pants it and see what happens?

I do set a word goal. I like to get at least 1500 words done a day and average 10k a week. That doesn't always work out and my word counts are always much lower at the beginning of a book.

I stay home with my kids so once I have them off to school and nursery then I start work. I write in 30 minute sprints using an internet blocker (yes my self-control is that feeble) and use the time in between to sketch out what I want to happen in the next section.

How much research did you undertake before writing your books? What was it about the Fae and their mythology that fascinated you?

Not a lot. The internet allows me to research as I go. Right now I'm writing about mining and smithing a lot and there is a wealth of information that I can access pretty much instantly.

I think what drew me to the notion of the fae is that the fairy myth is pretty much global but the effects of Disneyfication mean that most fairy tales now have them as benevolent, friendly, creatures. This is definitely a new thing. Even Tinkerbell wasn't benevolent if you go back to JM Barrie's original work. She abducted babies, kept them for her own ends and tried to kill the girl that interfered.

I wanted to get back to a more Grimm style fairy tale. Of course, from there I went out on my own with my take on satyr and the fae'reeth, with glyphs and the almost-religion of the fae and the moon.

Most interesting tidbit you've discovered whilst researching for your writing?

Just about every nation on Earth has a myth of fae/faeries/wee spirits of some form. Composite bows are actually made of layers of different materials. It makes sense when you think about it, but I never knew.

Arrows are bloody deadly. You're far more likely to die from the wound becoming infected than anything else though... this happened a lot!

What’s the most loved book in your library? Why?

Pawn of Prophecy. Well the entire series really. Pawn of Prophecy was one of the first fantasy novels I read. I've probably read the series a hundred times or more over the years. I still go back to it now on occasion. David Eddings gets a lot of stick for some reason. I think if these books were released today they'd be marketed as young adult. Luckily I read them when I was the right age and they just resonated with me. Reading them takes me back to those first steps into a fantasy world.

What are you working on right now?

I'm working on a novella which has now taken on a life of its own and grown into a novel. It was supposed to be me taking a break, just small project to clear my head. As it stands it's definitely going to be a full length novel and may even grow into a series.

It's about a religion dedicated to the god of creation, specifically with regards to blacksmithing and fire. Most of the book takes place within mines that run deep under the temple and the slaves that serve the temple from them.

Sometimes it's not just darkness that lurks in the deeps.

Will you be appearing at any conventions or events in the coming months? 

I'll be at Nineworlds in London in August and then a bunch of smaller shows later in the year.

Worst writing tip you’ve ever received?

To read over my work, make each chapter perfect before moving on to the next.

And finally, best advice for those of us looking to get into writing?  

Just do it! Get started! Don't read back over what you've read, you can polish anything and make it better. To start with just bang some words out and make sure you write every day (or every day you can).

You can find out more about Graham and his work via his website. The Riven Wyrde Saga can be found online at all good book retailers. You can buy the entire saga at Amazon for little over 7 bucks! An absolute bargain for what is great dark fantasy. 

Until next time peeps. Be nice to each other, and keep on reading.