In case anyone’s curious, here’s what I’m up to at Dysprosium – I’ll be around from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon and available to be bought drinks throughout most of that period. You’re very welcome to talk to me too should you want, but I understand that mostly people wouldn’t choose that so don’t feel you have to.
Friday at 17.30 – Cryptids: A Modern Bestiary?
Impossible creatures as the focus of literature and art, with Peter Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky.
Friday 21.15 – Apocalypse Yesterday:
The Apocalypse has come and gone: what is in store for the survivors? Are post-apocalyptic representations in literature, television and film true to current thinking? Has this changed significantly from Survivors to the Walking Dead? How does this affect people as people and their representation as characters in fiction? With John Bray (mod), Nigel Furlong, Sabine Furlong, and Sarita Robinson.
Saturday – 4.15 – Signing!
Naturally I’ll be the big draw at the Saturday signing. And by that I mean I’ll be doodling the size of the line in front of Jim Butcher… But there will also be Aliette de Bodard, Charles Stross and Adrian Tchaikovsky, so there’ll be a range of fans waiting there and idly wondering who I am.
Sunday 11.15 – Gollancz Room Party
The reprobates in the Gollancz stable will be herded out by judicious use of cattleprods to meet a crowd of people hoping to meet Joe Abercrombie
Sunday 12.15 – Reading!
John Kaiine (whom I don’t know but after a quick google looks like a cool guy, artist, photographer and writer) and I will be doing readings. I’m down as reading from Old Man’s Ghosts as it’s the new book out, but I’ve struggled to find a section short enough so I’ll be coming armed with the first scene of my next novel Stranger of Tempest too – which is brief, a bit bloody, and a little sweary, and thus sums up the book nicely.
But I have now found a scene from OMG so we’ve got a choice, depending on what people fancy and whether anyone’s interested.
So it’s been ten years this Sunday since I signed my first contract with Gollancz. Which remains somewhat astonishing to me, mostly that I’m still allowed to make stuff up when I should be working a proper job… But anyway I was going to do a giveaway of all my books to celebrate when it occurred to me that I’ve done a few of those over the years and it was maybe time to do something different.
Instead, I want your money. Or rather, I want it to go to my local charity. I’m looking for bids on a set of all my published books (that’s the entire Twilight Reign plus the two Empire of a Hundred Houses books, seven novels and one collection of short stories – plus, if someone proves particularly generous, perhaps also a promise for copies of the novella and novel I’ve written but haven’t come out yet).
The charity is Helen and Douglas House, a hospice for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions. http://www.helenanddouglas.org.uk/ – and in case you want to just throw money their way right now, the best place for that is via their website or here - https://www.justgiving.com/hhadh/ – the do brilliant work and are lovely people so well deserving of your generosity.
So put your bids in the comments here, as replies on facebook or twitter or emailed through my website even – I don’t care where, I’ll do my best to collate them and make it clear what the leading bid is. I’ll be covering postage (so kinda hoping for a UK-based winner ;0) ) and I’m open to negotiation when it comes to format, size of winning bid depending – I think I’ve got most of the ones printed – and will sign/dedicate/first line as requested so long as it’s vaguely reasonable.
I’ll leave this to run until Monday morning, get bidding!
Fatigue: you’ve probably been running on caffeine and adrenaline to finish that last chunk of the book, writing longer and harder than at any other time. Now it’s done you realise you’re knackered; you’ve burned yourself out and the chemicals propping your brain up have started to drain away. Warn colleagues and family that all you want to do is curl up and sleep for a weekend so anyone bringing their problems your way needs to use words of one syllable and be prepared to dodge flying coffee mugs.
Elation: Holy crap, you’ve actually finished the book! Sure there’s editing to do but the hardest part is over – the bulk of the words are on the page and it’s time to sink into a whisky or four and celebrate getting that monkey off your back. You’ve got a burst of energy – it’s time to fix that shelf or work in the garden, say nice things to your family and try to remember what being human is like.
Illness: Remember those weeks of marinating your brain in caffeine, adrenaline and panic? Weeks when you were too frantic to be ill? Well I’m sorry, but your body was storing all those germs from people on the tube and plague-ridden toddlers, waiting for its chance. Time to fill the bath with lemsip and stay there for a week.
Depression: Often this’ll come hand in hand with the illness. You’ve got nothing to do and feeling adrift without the book to focus on – the last thing you can summon the strength for is starting a new book and you need a break from the current one. You’re tired and ill and dammit there is a lot of editing waiting for you. The answer is probably chocolate and brainless movies or a box set. Both are excellent at quietening the (by now ingrained) guilt you feel at not working.
Hope: Finally you start revising. There’s a long way to go, but you’ve shaken the flu and can face doing some work. At some point you laugh at a character’s joke or find yourself having no changed anything for five pages because you got swept up in the story. You realise it’s not terrible, that there’s some good to be found in that first draft and the critics may not publicly crucify you. You realise that maybe, just maybe, you can do this again. Which is good, because there’s always another deadline.
Now I know very few people care about my best books of the year, I’m not that in-depth or intellectual about my reviews on top of the fact most books I read came out a while back, but since it’s the season for them I thought I’d just list the ones I though were five stars offerings since I do now record what I read on Goodreads.
In reverse order of reading, because frankly I can’t remember much so I’m running down the list, we have:
The Violent Century – Lavie Tidhar. A brilliant literary take on the superhero novel, encompassing a chunk of the the West’s darker history in this century.
Broken Homes – Ben Aaronovich – a pitch-perfect supernatural crime series – funny and such a breeze to read it feels like a cosy crime novel, but it’s also intelligent and dark at the same time. This is the series that the BBC should be filming for their prime time slot or Christmas specials.
The Wild Places – Robert Macfarlane – I read most of it last year but finished it this year. Non-fiction and just an account of journeys in the last few wild parts of the country, it’s aching beautiful. Probably the best descriptive prose I’ve ever read so worth a mention here.
Leviathan Wakes – James SA Corey – intelligent space opera that still doesn’t take itself too seriously and has what most SF novels are lacking, real humanity.
The Tooth Fairy – Graham Joyce – A dark, elegant coming of age story from a master.
Honourable mentions – Son of the Morning by Mark Alder which was brilliant for the main, and The Shadows of the Apt books (I read a couple last year) by Adrian Tchaikovsky which is one of the few fantasy series this jaded old bastard continues to plough through with childish delight.
So there you go.
There's been lots of talk about publishing and Amazon and I'm not going to add to the debate (much), but I do have one thought that troubles me.
We're effectively at a situation where self-published authors have been set against traditional publishers/authors - there's a natural point antagonism there that companies (not just Amazon) have pushed for their own goals, but it's broadly ended up with self-pub authors on Amazon's side and against the traditional side.
So it's us against them, or certainly that's the prevailing mentality. What Amazon are mostly concerned with are the big five publishers, as the core of the traditional side, and the fight over terms that's going on there. If Amazon win, a lot of self-published authors are going to be pleased/smug about events. Perhaps it'll work out well for them, perhaps well for all us authors. That much I don't know. What I do know is that we'll have an enormously powerful company with a near monopoly over books in the English speaking world, standing over the broken bodies of it's only real opposition. They have no intention of putting up prices of ebooks, that much has always been clear. They believe they should be cheap for consumers and I'm not going to debate that point because there's no point. What I will point out is that, if the shareholders of Amazon have a time in mind for demanding real profits from this multi-billion-dollar corporation, that'd be a good time to do it. Once the war is one, the opposition broken and the Department of Justice still on your side.
And prices aren't going to be going up, which means there's one obvious direction they can squeeze. But maybe they'll never really want profits.
So... I’ve done something I hope none of you actually notice. I can smell your anticipation already.
You know the saying that a book is never truly finished, only abandoned? Well that’s never truer than with a first novel. At some point you have to just step back and unleash the thing on the world. You might fix a few more errors when you’re checking the paperback proofs or whatever, but over all – just get over it, move on and start your next book.
Apparently I’m not so good at that bit.
With the Twilight Reign finished, one thing I was so pleased about when Moon’s Artifice hit the shelves was simply that I had a new first book to show people. Before that point, if you wanted to get into my work there was really only one place to do it, my rookie novel. But it got me thinking about how sometimes you get to revise those first novels and it occurred to me I REALLY couldn’t be bothered to do that. Not only couldn’t be bothered, but I didn’t want to.
It’s the book I wrote and I’m very happy with it, hell – I’ll enjoy it if I sit down and read the thing as I have done before. There were bits about the book that some readers didn’t like and fair enough, but for all that I might not write it exactly the same way if I started it all over again, a big overhaul isn’t ever what I’d wanted to do.
But maybe the odd tweak. Maybe a few sentences could be a bit shorter. Maybe there’s the odd scene where the POV switches and I’ve confused the reader. Maybe Isak sounds rather more well-spoken in book 1 than he does in later novels. Little mistakes you don’t notice as much as you should and it’s not second-nature to avoid them yet. Yeah, I’d totally fix a couple of those.
And that’s what I’ve done. My new editor in a fit of inadvisable politeness failed to trot out the usual editorial line of being swamped at work (despite actually being so) so when we were having a chat about a free Tom Lloyd sampler – forthcoming, to contain a massive chunk of Stormcaller on top of a massive chunk of Moon’s Artifice and a few short stories for good measure – he failed to splutter in outrage through his pint when I asked if I could do a few very minor adjustments to make it an easier read.
For formatting reasons, that proved to be a colossal and hideous mistake on both our parts, but we only realised it too late and had to press on until the end. I now know that the road to hell is not paved with good intentions but line breaks and margin changes. Manually fixing every line of a 175,000 word document was, ah... not fun.
But we got there and lo a new e-version of The Stormcaller is born. It’s almost exactly like the old version. Fans re-reading won’t be able to tell the difference I suspect, at least I hope not. But I also hope it’ll be just that bit smoother to new readers too. You try to replicate on the page the story that’s in your head and your skill as a writer determines how well it appears to those reading it. So this isn’t a revised edition of the book, that would be over-stating things, but it is a version that is simply a little truer to the story I was trying to tell.
And so the wheel of interview turns, and in another age, called about tea time by some people, A J Dalton answered me thusly:
1. Adam, your books (Empire of the Saviours, Gateway of the Saviours, etc) are pretty hefty. How much does size matter in fantasy, do you think?
Well, when I started reading fantasy (a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away) the 'big fat' 1000-page epic fantasy was the norm. I loved it - cos I find such books so 'immersive'. You never want them to end. However, tastes are changing - life is too short, time is money, blah, blah. The 'big fat fantasy' isn't selling like it used to. My publisher is asking me to go shorter. So, my most recent release (Tithe of the Saviours, April 2014) is a mere 145K words, the shortest book I've written in my 'career' (if I may use such a grandiose term for it!) so far.
2. Of all your books, do you have a favorite, or do you love all your children equally?
For some weird reason, I always enjoy writing the third/last book in a series, cos I know it's only the true fans who will be reading as far as that book. I find I have more permission to 'go for it' with that book. And my publishing editor is far less fussy/nit-picky about that book too. So, I've enjoyed Necromancer's Fall and Tithe of the Saviours most. I'm (probably) getting better with practice, so my most recent is probably the best - Tithe of the Saviours.
3. Readers always ask authors where they get their ideas or inspiration. Do you have a muse? What's your secret?
The problem is too many ideas really - and deciding which should be left out. I read a lot of fantasy and will sometimes read something and think, 'Hmm. I wouldn't have written it like that. I'd have written it like this. Oo. That's a good idea. Maybe I will write it like that!' It's like writing a photonegative really. So, that's my muse and secret in one - reading other fantasy authors. One of the UK's leading fantasy author (in terms of sales anyway) often says he doesn't read fantasy very much. I just don't get that. Doesn't he enjoy the genre he writes in?
4. Who is your favorite fantasy author now deceased? Why them?
David Gemmell. I grew up reading a lot of his stuff - you don't get better fight scenes - and they've helped me with my own stuff.
5. Who is your favorite living fantasy author and why (apart from Tom Lloyd or A J Dalton)?
Oh. Easy. Michael Moorcock. '
6. What's the best thing about being an author?
The best thing about the writing is... the writing. I enjoy the process, creativity and discipline of it. You've got to. Otherwise, you just couldn't stay motivated and inspired for the year or so it takes to write a book.
7. And the worst?
Worst thing – never having enough time for the writing. The writing doesn’t pay enough to cover your bills, you see, so you have to go out and get a day-job. Finding time to write is tricky, and the stress of that (especially when you have a deadline) really reduces the pleasure of the writing.
8. What are you currently working on that you can tell us about without then having to kill us?
A standalone ‘science fantasy’ called Lifer. Just 90,000 words, so a snip for the likes of you and me! It’s going well, and I’m enjoying it – cos there’s no deadline or anything (I haven’t looked into getting a publishing contract for it yet). In fact, it’s probably the best thing I’ve written to date (getting better with practice maybe). It’ll be the book I’m remembered for when I’m long gone, I suspect.
9. If people want to find out more about you, what sites do you maintain and what's your handle on Twitter?
My site is www.ajdalton.eu. I'm on facebook. Twitter: @AJDalton1. Beyond that, I tend to haunt the Fantasy Faction fan forum.
10. What question have I not asked you that I should have done? And what's the answer?
Maybe 'What's the trick to life as a writer and reader of fantasy?' Well, write what you enjoy reading, and don't be upset if it isn't published immediately. You're probably born ahead of your time. You have to wait till the world catches up. Or your stuff isn't currently 'in fashion' with publishers. Rejection should never be the same as dejection. Books get rejected for loads of reasons - and 'quality of prose' is really one of the rarer reasons. If you want to get published, focus on what the more common reasons are and address them.
For those as might be interested, my good friend A J Dalton suggested we do a double interview with each other, if that makes sense. He used better words of course... Anyways... here it is - I'll be posting his side in a bit, always interesting how people respond differently!
Well, almost. Though it's an ebook edition so it'll never sell out no matter how many we sell... ahem. I'll come back in.
SALE! The Stormcaller is on 85% discount on Amazon UK - that's just £1.49! It's almost like it's free*
So if you fancy giving my first novel a try, go download it today! it's the start of the Twilight Reign - more than a million words of epicy goodness and if you don't like it, you don't get your money back but it was only £1.49 so not too punishing a price to take a punt on something right?
Here's what some folk said about it:
...fantasy with the same magnificence of conception, the same sense of looming presences whose purposes are not ours to apprehend. -- Time Out - Ros Kaveney
...good ideas and a suitably flawed hero. The world is beautifully realised, the battles suitably grim... -- The Guardian - John Courtney Grimwood
It gallops along with scarcely a dull moment. -- The Times
The Stormcaller shows how high the bar has been raised with its sheer vision and inventiveness -- SFX - Sandy Auden
The world that Lloyd has created seems much more real than that of most fantasy books. -- Emerald City - Cheryl Morgan
Isak is a white-eye, feared and despised in equal measure. Trapped in a life of poverty, hated and abused by his father, Isak dreams of escape, but when his chance comes, it isn't to a place in the army as he'd expected. Instead, the Gods have marked him out as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the Lord of the Fahlan. Now is the time for revenge, and the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and moulded to fulfil the prophecies that are encircling him like scavenger birds. The various factions jostle for the upper hand, and that means violence, but the Gods have been silent too long and that violence is about to spill over and paint the world the colour of spilled blood and guts and pain and anguish . . .
*almost free not the same as actually free. In many ways it's not free at all. All the ways that are important.
So hey, first online review that I can post, and it's a good 'un from Starburst!
The summary is "Moon’s Artifice is a book that demands the full attention of the reader, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s sometimes frustrating, can be a challenging read, but is ultimately rewarding, working well as a standalone story, while leaving anyone who has invested their time looking forward eagerly to the next volume of what promises to be a fascinating series."
and pleasingly for me if not anyone else, they liked Kesh best.