Thursday 19 July 2012

Vive la France!

Continuing in my green habits of recycling and avoiding waste - here's an interview I did for a French magazine, en Anglais here for those of you not fluent in French and/or not subscribing to a host of French magazines...

1. Your main character is thirteen year-old. Why did you choose such a young boy to be the hero?

The reasons for the choice are simple and several-fold. Firstly the inspiration for the book was Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange wherein the violent protagonist is of a similar age leading a gang of older reprobates. Secondly, and for quite possibly similar reasons to Burgess, I chose a young age to:

i)  cloud the issue of guilt in his crimes.
ii)  highlight the matter of nature vs nurture
iii) place the protagonist close to the events that have shaped him.
iv) give him potential for growth.
v) explore the changes that are wrought in us through experience in contrast to those that occur through simply growing.
vi) and to focus on the business of moving from childhood to adulthood even when the former has been stolen rather than discarded.

2. Jorg is very cruel, ready to kill his fellows when they are not agree with him. Then, can we still speak about a hero? Is Jorg an anti-hero?

Neither. The great writers (and I make no claims of being one) turn the spotlight on us, reveal truths, reframe them and offer them up without judgement. If fantasy insists that each book be about a hero, or the opposite, then the genre will never have anything any more important to say than do bodice-ripping romances or slick thrillers sold in airports.

I’ve always felt that a genre in which there are no limits in terms of imagination should not find itself corralled by simplistic expectations regarding its characters. Other authors have led the way in expanding the fantasy genre toward its full potential and I’m hurrying along behind.

I wrote a book about a person and stamping a label across his forehead implies we’re dealing with characters from a role-playing game, paladin, thief, etc. Fantasy writing is much more than that.

3. It asks the question of good and evil. It seems that every characters of The Prince of Thorns are on this evil side ! Was it something intentional ?

I think there are a number of characters in the book who are decent people. They aren’t a major focus but they are there. It’s certainly true that the men Jorg surrounds himself with are unpleasant and dangerous.

I don’t think I could say anything in the book was unintentional – I’m not sure how that would work! The book does ask questions concerning good and evil, but the main intention was to present a person who does bad things but who is able, initially through his charisma and cleverness, but later through his back-story, to make the reader want him to succeed and to like him despite their horror at what he does.

4. Is there any details of the book that could be interpreted  as a description of the 21st century?

No. The inspiration came from A Clockwork Orange which is set in the near future and did offer a critique/satire on current society, but if Prince of Thorns says anything deeper than the story presented then it’s about the business of being human rather than about the particulars of our society.

5. Is Jorg inspired by the young people or the world of nowadays?

No. He’s inspired by the strange combination of nihilism and excess that characterise many people’s transition from child to adult, and by the uncompromising and violent reaction that tragedy can evoke in a person when it hits during that period. I think those things are more timeless than contemporary.

6. These acts of wanton violence, torture? What’s your point of view about that?

Um . . . wanton violence and torture are bad things.

7. You have four children? Did they inspire you to create your main character?

No. My children are all angels . . . *cough*

8. You’re a scientist, working on AI. We could expect Science-Fiction from you? How did you come to Fantasy?

I’m asked this a lot but I don’t follow the logic. All the other fantasy writers have jobs that might inspire them to write things other than fantasy. I doubt any of them tend unicorns for a living. My mother read me Lord of the Rings when I was seven (I cried when Gandalf died), so I was introduced to fantasy a long time before anyone noticed I was good at mathematics. I’ve read fantasy books ever since and been involved in fantasy gaming.

9. By the way, how the idea of The Prince of Thorns was born?

I guess the same way most book ideas are born – an open page with nothing on it. I just started typing and this is what came to me.

10. Reading the book, it seems beer have is importance for the characters. Is it true you make your own beer?

I do make my own beer but I wouldn’t like to pretend that I’m good at it. We’re talking about a big plastic barrel and beer-making kits here, with the motivation being that it’s so much cheaper than buying in a shop and paying all that tax to the government. It’s quite fun to do.

11. Your book is a Fantasy and nevertheless it seems god is some kind the Christian one. You also speak about Jesu ! Why Jesu and not Jesus?

You might ask why Crath City isn’t called Paris. The book is set a long time in the future and the language and names have changed – as language and names do. The reason I made the change explicit is to put a little distance between the faith practiced in the book and the one practiced today.

12. How can we place your story in history?

The setting is something I would prefer readers to discover while reading the book, but anyone reading reviews or interviews before reading a book must expect some spoilers. . . The events take place about a thousand years after a nuclear war that occurs a few decades into our future.

13. Last but not least question : Your book is very humoristic even if it’s very dramatic and violent. Where does this point of view comes from?

Part of it is simply that it is through Jorg that we see events unfold and Jorg does take a savage delight in his endeavours – he has a quick tongue and a sharp one, it’s part of his charm. And also I guess that being able to joke even in the darkest of times is part of what being human is about. For the most part though it’s a subtle and observational humour.


  1. Dear Sir,

    I am French and more precisely Parisian.
    I stumble onto your book a week ago and enjoy it very much.
    As soon as the tome 2 will be available I will buy it.
    When during my reading I understood that the action was taking place in a distant Europe I ran to the map and everything became clear: Luxembourg, Lyon, Rhône, Normandie etc...
    Save for one thing: When I put your map upon an actual one, instead of Paris I saw Crath.
    I didn't found any link with any other etymology. And if those in Vienne and Rome can remember the name of their city why not us?
    Therefore I do ask you the question: why Crath City isn’t called Paris?

    Best Regards

    P.S: I apologize for any mistakes in my English.

    1. Hi Anonymous - Saint Petersburg became Petrograd became Leningrad became St Petersburg again all in the space of 80 years or so. Some names persist, some are replaced with the names of conquerors. The Ancraths took the city and imaginatively called it Crath City.

      Very glad you enjoyed the book!

    2. Thank you very much for your quick reply.
      This is a perfectly fine answer and a completely satisfying one.

      Once again let me say you bravo for your wonderful book.

      And if it happened to be so pleasant in French and with such an enjoyable and nervous style I an wondering how good it will be in English.


    3. Hello Mark, just wondering, which building in Paris is the Ancraths' castle, if you thought about that?

    4. I never fix anything unless it's needed in the book. There's more flexibility for future stories that way.

  2. Amazing books Mr. Lawrence I am now reading Prince of Fools and I hope that someday I might see Jorg and the Brothers in a TV series!