Q: How did you get into Fantasy?
I wish I could remember! I know I wrote my first at school – in an exercise book. I recall being annoyed at having to cut short the ending because I was running out of pages – LOL!
I came across a dog-eared copy of one of Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories in a charity (thrift) shop and devoured the series. The tortured soul of his main character intrigued me, as did his layered use of myth and history. It was rather the same with Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun series. It’s the melding of history with fantasy that I find fascinating.
Pilgrims Of The Pool, Book 3 in the ‘Torc of Moonlight’ trilogy set in northern England where I live. The books follow Nick’s attempts to extract himself and his lover, Alice, from the slow resurrection of a Celtic water goddess. Ever tossed coins into a ‘wishing well’? Who do you expect to answer?
Q: What makes your series stand out?
They’re set in real places readers can visit using the books almost as mapping devices. The trilogy wasn’t meant to be written this way, but research showed reality held a rather creepy, if welcome, undertone. And which writer would ignore that?
Book 2: The Bull At The Gate – probably because I’m emotionally far enough away from it now. Despite the focus being on the two contemporary characters, there’s a strong but different historical thread running through each of the books. In Pilgrims of the Pool it’s medieval, hence its title. The Bull At The Gate is set in York with a Roman historical thread, and its title refers to the Roman Mithras temple buried beneath a Christian churchyard on Micklegate. York – Eboracum when the Sixth Legio Victrix was stationed there – held 5,000 men within its fortress. Its walls became the foundation for the medieval walls still standing, and its area is huge. There was a large civilian settlement on the opposite bank of the river, and when I laid my hands on an archaeological map of the Roman era set on top of the modern city I knew I had my novel.
Q: How do you come up with your stories?
I fell into this trilogy (pun intended) by accident. I was writing weekend walks for a regional newspaper at the time and kept coming across artesian springs named ‘Lady Well’ on Ordnance Survey maps of the area. Some of these carried tiny offerings hung in nearby bushes (used in Pilgrims of the Pool) and research showed that each spring would have carried a named deity, subsumed into The Lady’s Well when Christianity demonised earlier religious practices. I love maps. The British Ordnance Survey maps carry a shorthand for the history beneath our feet.
Nicholas Blaketon, though I guess I need to considering he carries the trilogy. He starts off during Torc of Moonlight being an student almost fresh out of home-life, still with the inherent arrogance of youth, but finds himself tested beyond his own belief. Three years separates each novel, and so not only does he have to mature, but his experiences – which he can’t share with anyone for fear of being labelled unhinged – have to affect him. He’s no super-hero; he’s an ordinary man coping with extraordinary circumstances.
Q: Do you have a specific method for developing characters?
None of us are born fully formed. We are nurtured through our experiences and guided (rightly or wrongly) by the experiences of others, so I do a great deal of back-life planning for my characters. How they act comes from this; how they look – body-shape, colour of hair and eyes, etc – develops as the story progresses as other characters notice these outer image markers. But for me, it’s what makes the characters tick that’s important.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read widely, particularly in your genre and sub-genre. Pay for a line edit on at least the first 50 pages and study the report so you can extrapolate its findings across the entire work/s. It’ll help enormously if you intend to submit to agents/publishers, and will give a good grounding if you intend going indie.
Thank you Linda Acaster for participating in this author interview.