Wednesday 31 October 2012

VOTE, damn you, VOTE!

A hugely important poll is coming up and you must get your vote in! It's your democratic duty.

You can also vote for Barack Obama or Mit Romney if you're so inclined (and American (and not a felon)).

What I'm talking about though is this:

Possibly the most important picture book of our generation. It's crazy frikken robots for godsake!

Read it here. Or watch the motion picture here!

Through some ridiculous bureaucratic error

                                               it seems that Wheel-Mouse has been omitted from the Goodreads Choice Awards nominees for Best Picture Book 2012.

Clearly this is crazier than robots. However, all is not lost. Friend Elephant can still save the day. All you need to do is go here to the poll. Scroll down to the write-in box, and start typing in Wheel-Mouse vs all the crazy robots. And we're good to go.

All profits from the book go to the hospice charity.

Look. Here's a picture of Celyn handing over the check for the monies made so far (also the check from the sale of the King of Thorns manuscript).

Also, if you really want to, you could go here and vote for King of Thorns as it's been nominated in the Fantasy category!

Here's what being nominated did for King of Thorns' fortunes (and the rest of the trilogy):

Let's do this for Wheel-Mouse!

Thursday 25 October 2012

Lost in Translation

Prince of Thorns is now out in twenty-three languages and half a dozen alphabets. In fact it came out in Dutch first, then German, and I had to wait another six months for a copy I could read.

Some of the many translators involved have contacted me for clarification on one or other point and so I’ve had the chance to get a small insight into the business of moving a work of fiction from one language to another.

So far I’ve spoken to (well, had email from) my Dutch, French, Hungarian, and Greek translators. I’ve also seen comments on the translation of Prince of Thorns from my Indonesian and German translators in interviews and blogs.

[addition: my Greek translator blogged on the business of translating Prince of Thorns here]

The translation of a work of fiction is so much more than the ‘simple’ mapping of one language to another. Google translate does that (albeit far less well than a skilled human) but that task is the tip of a wordberg.

Just for starters, Prince of Thorns now has at least six titles. The title of course may be driven by marketing directives as well as issues of translation, but it’s possible the title sounded silly, or awkward, or rude in other languages.

We have:
Prince of Darkness (Germany)
Prince of Lightning (Italy)
Prince of Evil (Spain)
The Skinned Prince (France)
Prince of Revenge (The Netherlands)

I discovered recently that Indonesian has no tenses! That puts paid to all my tense games with box-memories in King of Thorns! It also means that sentences may need considerable help in order for the required information to come through them. I saw this on my Indonesian translator’s blog (Linda Boentaram). [Translated here for you by Google Translate!]
This novel is the hardest novel I ever translated. In addition to the language of the 'guy really' short-short alias that often have to be read twice to understand his point, there are sentences that seem to have no context or not important, but it is an indication for the things that happened next. I would not be surprised if the readers of this novel difficult to read or comment on the book's frustrating, because I have the time to translate it flips. Sometimes I had to add the words became clear that the meaning of the sentence, but did not venture too detailed so that the original author's style is not lost.

My German translator Andreas Brandhorst reported in an interview [Translated here for you by Google Translate.]
A good translation presents the novel as originally written in the target language. The style is important if the author really has its own individual language, and this is not often the case. But if you as a translator is an author who comes with its own language or used deliberately special stylistic devices, one is called twice and have to follow the language of the author. I had a few months ago such a case, as I have translated as "Prince of Thorns" by Mark Lawrence (German: "Prince of Darkness", in May 2011 Heyne), which surprised me with the sound of his voice and enthusiasm. In the translation of all challenging works is: you have to get into the skin of the author, as he write and think.

So in addition to the meaning it’s a challenge to preserve the voice of the author through the necessary changes. But wait, there’s more!

I’ve heard from my French translator Claire Kreutzberger on both books and discovered how far the translator’s work extends. Consider that each cultural allusion I make needs to be examined and a decision made as to whether it will work for the new audience. When Jorg quotes from the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, “All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men . . .” what would a French reader make of the literal translation? Instead Claire called upon her own experience and used a French nursery rhyme,  "Pirouette cacahu├Ęte" - the story of a little man who falls down the stairs and breaks his nose, and then someone repairs it with some golden yarn. Something suitably comic and yet tragic that would capture the same sentiment.

I also quote from Andrew Marvell, from the Iliad, Shakespeare, and other sources all of which require not a literal translation of my quote but the exact words used in the official translations such that they can resonate with the reader more effectively.

I’m also pleased to report that even read with minute care and translated line by line the story still has an effect and the translators are able to appreciate / enjoy / be moved / be bored / be appalled by it, each depending on their tastes. In several cases translators have reported laughing at the funny parts, shedding a tear in the sad or poignant places.  Which is all good.

So as Prince of Thorns and the rest of the trilogy roll out into more and more languages I’d just like to tip my metaphorical hat to the translators wrestling with my prose all across the world. It’s a far harder job than I ever imagined. And being terrible at languages myself I had always imagined it to be a pretty difficult job in the first place!

Sunday 21 October 2012

What's my line?

I've got one more set of these to give away. Free. Gratis and without charge. Internationally. I'll even sign them on sticky labels inside.

To enter just put you favourite line (up to 3 consecutive sentences let's say) in the comments and a winner will be chosen at random midnight (UK time) Halloween (31st October).

If you're lazy you can find quotes other folk like here and here!

Thursday 18 October 2012

Murder’s bad m’kay?

 For the record: I think that murder, torture, rape and stealing are bad things. They’re wrong. You shouldn’t do them.

Shortest. Blog-post. Ever!

Well no. There wouldn’t be a blog post at all if it wasn’t for the fact that some people although they know that murder is bad, aren’t sure that you do, and feel that the fact I don’t spell out in Prince of Thorns that these are things you shouldn’t indulge in means it’s a book that should be condemned.

This does seem to be an approach that takes a staggeringly low view of one’s fellow readers, but there you go.

One of the first things to note after a year of feedback is my discovery that people like to use any book that has a high profile in order to bang a gong about whatever issues are most prominent on their mental landscape. People like to bang that gong without interruption (who likes to have a rant interrupted?) - despite being totally available and doing dozens of interviews, nobody with any of these complaints has _ever_ asked me about them, even when side by side with me on a comment list etc. The fact is that unfailingly people with an issue they want to talk about and who pick at my work to reinforce it, just want to say their piece. It’s their own points they want to make. They don't want the inconvenience of my opinion!

There is a mentality that expects (nay demands) that each book is a tightly wrapped social commentary, a distorting mirror of our society crafted with the sole point of making socio-political points, usually to educate the unwashed masses through parable in the business of how society should be. Thus every fantasy story whether it be about bugs or robots or whatever is really an agenda either supporting or making war on the pundit’s world view.

I do not subscribe to this mentality. I don’t play those games. Any deeper themes I have are about what happens within the confines of one person’s skull – existential stuff – the enduring stuff of classic literary fiction – not the transitory business of social structure which holds far less interest for me. The game of deconstructing every single story for its social message is one that bores me. We might hope that literature as a whole gives good messages about equality and diversity. It’s not the task of _every_ _single_ book to make that its raison d’etre within the slim confines of its covers.

Let’s put that aside and return to murder (it’s bad, m’kay).

The argument goes that I have written a book in which bad things happen but I have not told you that those things are bad. Worse still, cry the people who have read the book and hate Jorg, I’ve tried my level best to make you like Jorg. The fact that they hate him . . . well I guess they’re just immune to my evil plan – it’s the rest of you who don’t know that murder is bad who will be helplessly seduced by Jorg and go out murdering common folk the moment you close the back cover.

“are we supposed to like Jorg?” – a question I often see posed by people who then go on to make it very clear that my intention was for them to like him (it can’t be a fantasy book without a hero!) but they manfully (or womanfully) resisted.

Well here’s the thing. I was interested in whether the combination of first person and charisma, of youth and some measure of doubt would draw readers to the character. I never decided that the reader should like Jorg. I was interested in challenging the reader with a complex character. To have him do terrible thing but to muddy the waters a little, to consider how long a shadow the crimes of youth cast down our years - to consider to what degree if any youth and background extenuate - to see what elements of the character resonate with readers - to examine our own reaction when the evil-doer is charming and witty, and how that contrasts with our feelings when a coarse and ugly villain does those same deeds.

I do all that and people often appear to insist that whilst they end up hating/disliking/condemning Jorg ... _I_ am desperately trying to make them love him? Surely that would mean I've done a piss-poor job of it? If I wanted to make everyone love him wouldn't I just make him a nice person who does nice things?

The fact I get a wide variety of reactions to Jorg is (to me) welcome confirmation that I pitched the question just right and that readers (a diverse bunch) fall on every side of the fence (a clever multi-dimensional fence).

Prince of Thorns isn’t a book that sets out to make you cheer bad deeds or a bad person  – it’s a book that sets out to challenge the reader with a character – to make you think about a real (albeit unusual) person and about the issues of what makes us bad, what is and isn’t forgiveable, what role nurture plays over nature, how we react when the badness is done by someone clever, intelligent, charming. And it doesn’t answer those questions. The trilogy as a whole stumbles toward an answer, but it won’t ever get there. It’s what we scientists call ‘an unsolved problem’.

Above all it’s not a guide for life, not an instruction manual, not a political statement or social commentary. It’s a book that treats you as an adult, accepts that you’re not an idiot and already know murder is a bad thing, and presents you with a puzzle. Jorg.

Saturday 13 October 2012

The Cutting Room Floor

These are the only passages cut from King of Thorns. They originally sat here and there before "Wedding Day" chapters with the intention of showing glimpses of the battle from different perspectives - from the bottom rather than the top, to put a more human face on the casualty figures.

Editorial thinking was that they would add confusion and dilute the storyline. That's probably true.

I've posted most of the these before, but here they are in one place.


i) Sorren Hammerson, seventeen, arrow shot. Tellan slopes, below the Haunt.

Son of William and Sereh, raised in Northdean, Renar.

The arrow pinned him to the moment, and Sorren fell, knowing that for all his life he and the arrow had been racing toward each other.

He fell. His head bounced once and his helm clattered away. A last breath left in a crimson spray of surprise. Sound faded, bowstrings thrummed into silence, the sky bright and wide, filled everything. He had wanted to be a farmer. He had wanted Milly Turner. The sky narrowed to the gleam of her hair. Narrowed again. Gone.


ii) Martel Harris, twenty-three, sword blow. Blue Moon Valley, west of the Haunt.

Son of Martel and Hela, born above the Falling Angel’s barroom, Crath City, Ancrath.

Find something worth following and stick to it, son. Martel took his father’s advice along with his name, and both served him well. He followed into the Forest Watch, followed the Forest Watch into the Renar Highlands. He followed the son as he had the father.

Just don’t put a foot wrong. Another gem of Harris the Elder’s wisdom. Martel put a foot wrong in Blue Moon Valley. You can’t follow on a turned ankle. He drew his sword and chose his spot amidst the broken rock. Kenna and Justin tried to stay with him. The first time anyone ever tried to follow Martel Harris. He saw them off with curses and threats.

A tear ran hot on his cheek in the coldness of the wind. He watched the men of Arrow over the bright line of his blade.

“I may have followed, but I wasn’t led.”


iii) Nial Ravener, thirty-four, spear wound. Blue Moon Pass.

Son of Graem and Nalla, raised in the Haunt. Husband to Erin. Father to Kai, Kelin, and Keris.

The spear hurt less than the climbing. Nial pitched into the deep snow, almost grateful for the excuse to stop. He lay cradled in softness.

Time was I could run all day. From valley to peak. Then time caught me up.

A blessing to die in the snow. Clean, serene, where all sins are covered, in the purity of high places.

No pain but the ache in his lungs and the memory of agony in his thighs. It felt good to be still, in a cool embrace, cold kisses on his forehead. Even the hot wet wound in his back seemed like release.

Images of Erin at the cottage door. The children in the hay. Bright days of summer. Too bright. Nial turned to older days, dim yesterdays lit now by the last beats of his heart. He remembered his mother, framed in golden curls. How fiercely he had loved her.


iv) Chaliced Rome, fourteen, arrow shot, Haunt, east wall.

Son of Molly Freerange, father unknown, raised in the Haunt’s shadow.

So many arrows had missed him that Chaliced started to think they all would. He started to think Kelly’s warm kiss, the one she gave behind the stables, really would keep him safe. Even when the arrow came he thought it some kind of mistake. It didn’t look like an arrow, just black flights and an inch of wood standing from his chest. It hadn’t felt sharp, more like a punch. He reached to tug at it but his fingers were too cold to grip. Chaliced turned to ask Old Jorna and something hit him in the neck.

To fall forty feet from wall-walk to courtyard flagstones takes almost no time, but starting to fall, those moments of imbalance, of flailing arms, of a foot finding nothing but air beneath it, they can take forever.

Even falling Chaliced didn’t think he would die, or that he could die. Fourteen is too young for it. He wanted . . . too many things. One more kiss would do.


v) Alan Herder, forty-six, lost, east sally tunnel.

Son of Fredrick and Kath, born and raised in Gutting.

Forty-six is too old for running up a mountain and down again. Alan set his back to the rock and slid to a sitting position. The dark wrapped him tighter than blindness – this night had never been broken, by sunlight or by flame.

Exhaustion had taken his legs from him, and what put one foot before the next came from somewhere deeper than his will. In the face of all the blood and death, avalanche and rockslide, Alan Herder had made his way where so many fell and failed. Tired to the point of delirium he followed Captain Keppen into the sally tunnel, shuffling along the ancient path through the caves.

Even now he couldn’t remember how he lost them, all his fellows in the Watch, how he stumbled sleep-drunk from the path, unseen, and took the wrong turn. Too tired to notice the darkness it had taken a collision with a cave wall to bring him to his senses.

Alan had hollered, yes, and run, hurt his leg, crawled, then limped, and finally sat in the ancient night and let sleep claim him.

Forty-six is too old for running up mountains, but any age is too young to die alone buried in the dark.


vi) Connie Hux, sixteen, arrow shot, Haunt, east wall.

Daughter of Samath and Greta. Born Hodd Town, Renar.

The speed of the shafts zipping over the walls didn’t scare Connie. It isn’t until you haul the bowstring back for your first shot, until you feel it bite at your fingers through the leather of the guard flap, and your bicep aches with the tension, that you remember just what rides behind the sharp iron of those arrowheads. The arrows didn’t scare her - she scared herself.

Connie loosed six shots into the men streaming to reinforce the enemy’s ram. She knew each one hit, though she didn’t stop to watch. Commonsense dropped her between shots and she’d no desire to see men die. If it were her say the gates would open and the Prince of Arrow could have her oath. But Camson was on the walls, up in arms to defend the Highlands and King Jorg. And it only stands to reason – the more who held the walls alongside him, the less likely Camson would be to get hit.

As Connie stood for her seventh shot, Camson glanced her way, a wild grin on him. Even the winter sun struck gold from his hair.

The day turned darker.

“God no . . .” A voice that creaked with age.

Old Jorna’s fingers hurt her shoulders as he helped her down. The light came flat as before a storm.

“I’m not hit.” She tried to say it.

Across the wall Camson loosed another arrow out toward the ridge, not seeing her, not looking.

“I’m not hit.” The words wouldn’t come.

“Ah hell . . .” Something more than age cracked Jorna’s voice.

And darkness took her.

Tuesday 9 October 2012


So, one of the most common questions asked in blog-terviews is do I listen to music whilst writing? And the answer is 'Generally, no.' I find it distracting, or I blank it out completely, so what's the point.

I do however get lots of ideas when listening to music, which I then file away for later. Mostly they're ideas about feelings, vibes that I want to capture. That feeling I just got listening to this track, those chills right there - I want to put them on the page somehow.

The odd thing is that whilst I have all the musicality of the average house brick and am really tone deaf, not just the self-depreciating kind, I love music and can be deeply and easily moved by it. I guess that's like a reader who can't write so well but sees/feels/gets all the subtlety and sophistication and passion of a well written book.

Anyhow. I've slapped up the covers of nine albums that made a big impression on me. Like most people my earliest music encounters hit the hardest and have proved the most enduring, just as we are with books . . . and most other things. What hits the wet clay of youth, sticks. And of course that's largely a random process. I didn't listen to every song on offer and make an informed decision. Half these albums were in the record collection of my parents or their friends. The other half were amongst those foisted on me by my friends as we grew. They're just the score that happened to accompany me on my way to being 21. And because I'm older than most of my readers they'll probably leave you going, who?

1./ Carl Orff, Carmina Burana, Philharmonia Orchestra (1979 recording)
2./ Roxy Music, Country Life, 1974
3./ David Bowie, Scary Monsters, 1980
4./ King Crimson, In the court of the Crimson King, 1969
5./ New Order, Movement, 1981
6./ The Sisters of Mercy, First and last and always, 1985
7./ Guns and Roses, Appetite for destruction, 1987
8./ Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, 1977
9./ Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells, 1973 

Sunday 7 October 2012

5 tips

I was asked for 5 tips for the aspiring novelist, to which I replied thusly:

5 tips for the aspiring novelist, eh? I don't think I've ever been an aspiring novelist so it's hard to say. How about 5 things I did writing-wise that may or may not be of interest.

i)-- don't write because of something you want to be or some place you want to get. Write because right now, this moment, you need to. ...For the minutes or hours you're writing, the thing in front of you should be the most important piece of fiction you've ever written.

ii)- be honest, call upon yourself, write as if you're the only one who will ever read this - risk ridicule and misunderstanding.

iii) join a critique group and develop skin thick enough to take the sting from contrary opinions whilst being sufficiently thin to admit any persistent lesson.

iv)- consider your work on both the grand and small scale. Story is important, plot and character are important, but so is each line. There's a power in the language that can be exploited in almost every sentence to propel a reader on.

v)-- if your writing doesn't move you, it won't move anyone. It's incredibly difficult to push strong emotion through into another human's head simply by the ordered depression of plastic letter keys. If, added to this difficulty, what you're writing isn't even important to you ... well, let's just say it won't end well!

Friday 5 October 2012

There is no NOW in storyland

So there’s a comment by a reader of King of Thorns on Goodreads that says:

*flips through pages* is this whole effing book a flashback? Seriously?

And it appears that he then stopped reading and gave up on the book.

That’s a pretty extreme reaction but there’s an element of this response in a number of the reviews – typically saying that they don’t normally like flashbacks but this particular book won them over, often grudgingly. The proof of that winning over being evident here:

What interests me are the thought processes behind the response.

Question: Do we entertain any serious doubt that the sole first person narrator of a trilogy of books is going to die in book 2? It’s rare to kill a point-of-view character in any book, let alone a first person point-of-view character, let alone the only point-of-view character. Sure George Martin with his many point-of-view character epics does occasionally, to great shock and awe, off one of his herd. But no. Jorg was always going to survive into book 3. C’mon.

The tension in such books is never ‘will the character survive’ but ‘will they succeed’.

So with that out of the way, we can focus on what this special magic about ‘now’ is that somehow reduces any part of the story that is not happening NOW to unimportant interruptions.

Sure people talk about wanting to get back to what’s happening now. But how is that any different to wanting to get back to the Tyrion thread in a GRRM book when you’re reading a Sansa thread (or vice versa, depending on your tastes)? The ‘interruptions’, the ‘wanting to get back’, those are all part and parcel of having multiple threads. As soon as you have more than one thread in a book people will have favourites and in the extreme they’ll view one or more of those threads as obstructions to their main interest. Multiple threads do however offer many advantages that generally outweigh these possible drawbacks.

So I return to this oft-professed disdain for ‘backstory’, for anything that’s not happening NOW. There is no ‘now’ in storyland. Generally all the threads whether it be multi-characters or different time threads, will be written in the past tense. The book will wait for you, is waiting for you, has waited for you, was written. There’s no now, no immediacy other than that created by the author. So how does titling one thread ‘four years earlier’ rob it of importance?

Yes you can have flashbacks where the character is riding along or whatever and reminisces on some past exploit – but what I do in King of Thorns isn’t that (although there are examples of flashback as well). I have distinct clearly labelled threads. One ‘now’ one ‘four years earlier'. If Jorg has a struggle in the ‘four years earlier’ thread it isn’t somehow less important than the one in the ‘now’ thread is it? Unless you actually thought he might die in the ‘now’ thread?

Flashback and backstory are emotive words from a writing standpoint. Flashback has overtones of interrupting some ongoing action. Backstory has overtones of exposition, of lecturing you on boring history. But if the earlier period is a separate thread constituting half or more of the book ... that’s an entirely different matter.

I really liked the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. My favourite part of the whole thing was in book 4 of 7 when the hero, Roland, sits down and tells a story from his youth, decades before. For a couple of hundred pages we spend our time with the teenage Roland. There’s zero chance that he dies. But the story is engrossing, exciting, full of tension, and brilliant. It’s not backstory. It’s not flashback. It’s STORY and it’s not ‘now’ but neither is the next bit when Roland stops telling the story, gets up and walks on.

So to conclude – it's a phenomenon I'm interested in, both from the point of view of what causes it and in order to figure out how to avoid the upset without losing access to a powerful technique,


I have short stories in four anthologies - three out already and one upcoming:


Now look at the author list on this one. That's right ... best ever! Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, Jacqueline Carey, Tad Williams, Geno & R.A. Salvatore, Naomi Novik, Peter V. Brett, Daniel Abraham, Lev Grossman, David Anthony Durham, Peter Orullian, Blake Charlton, Eldon Thompson, Michael J. Sullivan, Robert V.S. Redick, Carrie Vaughn, Mark Lawrence, Kevin Hearne, Jennifer Bosworth, Todd Lockwood, and Shawn Speakman.

It's for a great cause (paying off the cancer bills for fellow author Shawn Speakman) and I wrote a Jorg story for it. Buy it here!

Triumph over Tragedy

A great line-up of authors donating their stories to help out the victims of Hurricane Sandy. My story 'Quick' is one of my favorite bits of work.

Fantasy Faction

This anthology is to support the Fantasy Faction fantasy book site/community to save them having to depend upon a donate button. There are articles and short stories from a number of published authors including some big names and six stories from users of the website - these coming from more than 1000 submissions!

Confirmed short stories from me, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jon Sprunk, Myke Cole, Michael J. Sullivan & Richard Ford. More coming, plus some articles from some very big names.

Pre-order it here!

Fading Light

And finally the only non-charity anthology of the bunch. Fading Light can be purchased in the US or UK and isn't in support of anything except the authors whose work it contains. I probably earn about a cent per copy sold, but that's not the reason I put a story into it. I wrote my contribution years ago and put a fair amount of effort into the process. My story 'Dark Tide' suited the anthology theme very well indeed, and when Tim Marquitz asked if I wanted to take part my first thought was that it would be great to have a few more people read the piece rather than have it gather e-dust in my e-drawer. Some great stories in this one, ably reviewed here. Buy it here.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Emperor of Thorns gets a cover!

Birth of a cover (iv) - The Delivery!


My baby! I mean, my cover! But wait, couldn't that cloak be a bit more vivid?

Sweet! But doesn't Jorg have darker, longer, hair?

My cover! Three cheers for Jason Chan

Monday 1 October 2012

Doing it on your own - self publish?

So in this post I interview two self-published authors with a view to gaining some insights into the whole self-publishing ... thing. I plan to do a couple more such interviews with some small-press authors and some who straddle self-pub/small press/large press. (Interviewees already selected).

I noticed both these guys along the way as I've been delving into goodreads, twitter, facebook and the like over the past two years or so. With Ben Galley it was his book cover that first caught my eye - a really eye-catching piece of art that any big publisher would be happy to put on one of their works I should think. Ben seems to be doing well for himself and when Peter Brett, Myke Cole and I were hunting our own books in one of London's flagship Waterstones recently it was a copy of Ben's first book that I spotted on the shelf first before I found mine! With Terry Simpson I can't quite pin down how I became aware of his existence, somehow he permeated into my awareness and I've kept an eye on him since ... hopefully that doesn't sound as creepy as it looks.

Anyhow - the 'how I know of them' precis above is fairly crucial to the whole blog post since when you're self-published you live and die by 'how people know of you'. This is also true of authors with big international publishers, but the crucial difference is that with the self-published author it's _all_ down to them. Somehow they have to get noticed, get their books out there, get their name out there, and all without coming off as obnoxiously self-promoting. It's a fine balance to strike and for me Ben and Terry seem to have hit it just right. It's also a hell of a lot of work!

I should point out here that I've not read Ben or Terry's books. They could be great. They could be awful. That's not the point here. I'm really just trying to shine a light across the whole business of self-publishing and to get a feel for what takes people there.

In addition, I just felt like giving the guys a chance to dance on the very small stage that is my blog. They're both nice fellows who work hard and if I get them an additional reader each ... great! I've watched them battle through a whole bunch of crap I don't have to deal with and this is my round of applause.

I've given them both the same interview and it's interesting to see the similarities and the differences between their answers.

Ben Galley
Ben's a British author, 25 years old, most recently described as a 'bar lackey' but now writing for food (see sign!) Check him out at

Terry Simpson
Hey, Mark. Thanks for having me. I’m 40. Why does that sound so old when I read it? I’m originally from the beautiful island of Barbados in the Caribbean, and currently live in New York. When it comes to a job, writing is all I do. I retired from my old job as a telephone technician a few years ago to chase this dream. You can find pretty much everything about me and my books as well as my other ramblings over at

1. Score out of ten the following reason you write (10 = nail on head, 1 = no part of me has ever even thought this). You may qualify your numerical response with a tweet length text addition if you so desire.

-I hope to become rich

[BEN] (5) - Not the reason I write, but I suppose a great way to quantify a certain level of success.

[TERRY] (3) - Hoping to become rich off my writing is like wishing I could win the lotto. Possible but not likely.

-I would not be happy knowing only a couple of people ever read my stories

[BEN] (10) -

[TERRY] (10) – I want the world to read my stories. I want everyone to experience this dream, this madness that resides in my head.

-To stay sane

[BEN] (8) - My ideas hold me hostage. I can’t concentrate if I don’t get them out of my head and onto a keyboard. The doctors tell me it’s not a real condition…

[TERRY] (10) – I have nightmares about most of the stuff I write. I talk to myself. I act out my characters. If you see me running down the street with a sword, don’t be scared, I’m imagining what it’s like to be some great warrior. If the sword is red? Be afraid, very afraid.

-To have people tell me how well I do it and how wonderful I am

 [BEN] (2) -

 [TERRY] (1) - Do reviews matter? Yes. They make me feel good, but they don’t drive what I do.


[BEN] (5) - Not the primary reason, but a good one nonetheless. After all, I write fantasy. Fantasy means conventions. Conventions mean cosplay. I rest my case.

[TERRY] (1) - Lol. Riches and hot girls too. Every man’s dream. And then I woke up.

-To prove wrong somebody/bodies who said I wouldn't succeed

[BEN] (8) - I’ve been raised to think writing is a “nice hobby” and nothing more. There’s nothing like a bit of rebellion to spur you on. This also relates to the first point; hobbies apparently don’t pay the bills…

[TERRY] (1) - I’ve long outgrown the need to prove myself.

2. You've opted to self-publish. Did you ever try to have a publisher do it for you? Are you still trying? How much success are you finding?

[BEN] I considered following the traditional path very briefly when starting my debut The Written, but the more I researched the self-publishing path, and compared the pros and cons of both, the more I realised it suited me and my goals. It still does. I like the agility, control, and freedom it gave me, as well as the long-tail format. I’m not one of these authors that call for the downfall of the publishing house; I respect and admire what they do, and would always explore any offer that they made to me, I’m just not actively searching for one. Nor do I see myself in the near future.

[TERRY] No, I never tried. I considered it at first but being a geek, I followed the potential of the digital age. After reading Konrath and hanging around on Andrew Burt’s, I decided remaining independent was the way to go. Will I one day try a traditional publisher? I won’t rule it out, but somewhere in that deal would have to include my ability to publish independently as well. I like freedom. As for success, it’s been a tough road. In this business, you must persevere and if you come into it expecting to be a bestseller, then expect to be disappointed.

3. How much hard work is self publishing? What fraction or multiple of the time you spend writing do you spend on the business of self publishing and self promotion (beyond what a traditionally published author might)?

[BEN] Much indeed. At the moment, I split my time about 60% writing to 40% of marketing, business, and what I lovingly refer to as “admin.” Surprisingly, the 40% isn’t a pain, or a distraction, as it’s taught me a lot and can at times be equally rewarding.

[TERRY] Anything you do is hard work. You get out as much effort as you put in. I spend several hours a day (anywhere from 6 to 8 or more) on writing. I spend two to three hours on business and self promotion. I teach myself much of what I need, from formatting to publishing to print etc. I would say in the last few years, I have learned quite a bit. Website building, cartography, creating ebooks using html, Indesign, Photoshop, and a host of other things. I hire a freelance editor and cover artists for my books to make sure I put out a quality product. That to me is of the utmost importance.

4. It seems signal-to-noise is the big hurdle for self-published authors. There's an incredible amount of stuff out there and readers have few signposts to the best of it. Potential readers and book bloggers who may never have read a self-published book will read this - you can write two short paragraphs to convince them your book's the self-published work they should experiment with _or_ you can have three paragraphs from your book here to do the talking for you. Which do you choose? Please supply the material.

[BEN] I choose the latter :)

“Had Krauslung been a colour, it would have been red. A deep, blood-crimson, thick with rusty iron and steel and cobblestone. Red, though not by choice. The city seethed with it, dripped with it, swirled and mixed it with the briny bilge sloshing around the inside of the ship that squatted low in the harbour.

For now, the city was silent. Night had fallen. Everybody waited. The bells had been silenced with cloth. Rats gnawed at the corpses that had been cast aside or left behind. Only the seagulls dared make a noise. They gathered on the rooftops, cackling like the witches of a fairytale.

Beneath the streets, in the cellars and sewers, fists clenched and hot tears met cold cobble. Everybody waited, and the city teetered and hovered on a knife’s edge. It would be a day Emaneska would never forget.”

From Pale Kings - Book 2 of the Emaneska Series.

[TERRY]  From Book 2 of Aegis of The Gods series, entitled Ashes and Blood.

Cloak hanging limp from his shoulders, Ancel Dorn stopped where crimson tinged the white fluff near the trap. A drop here, a drop there, before they increased in regularity. The spots became spatters and then lines of red meandering to the distant tree line where snow dressed the forest in white as if preparing it for the long slumber. A satisfied smile twitched at the corner of his mouth.

For him, the hunt always brought a certain sensation, a soothing calm to go along with the steady rhythm of his heartbeat. The promise of a kill, however, now that offered a different story and sang the opposite song; a song that sent a tingle through his body.

After another bout with nightmares that seemed all too real, dawn found him here in the Greenleaf Woods where winter’s chill strengthened its grip. Although no gusts yet howled through the trees whose skeletal limbs reached to the curdled sky, the temperature made him glad he’d chosen to don furs over his leather armor. He listened, hoping for the tell tale crunch of feet through snow, but he heard nothing, not even the twittering of birds. The air was expectant, an indrawn breath waiting for release or for the last gasp of a dying man.

5. The first great book, poem, and album that pop into your head?
[BEN] American Gods (Neil Gaiman). Paradise Lost (John Milton). Every Kingdom (Ben Howard)

[TERRY] Lord of the Rings. Camps of Green by Walt Whitman. The Planets Op. 32 by Holst.

6. Any last thoughts?

[BEN] People self-publish a lot of rubbish, I completely agree. It’s given us a stigma, one that means low quality, one that means we’ve simply taken the last resort. For the hard-workers amongst our ranks, this opinion damages our efforts and our books. Now we’re working even harder to shrug said stigma off. We’re actively promoting quality and professionalism, and that’s why I started my advice website Shelf Help, that helps other authors avoid the common pitfalls. So, while we turn this stigma around, all we need is a little faith and a little experimentation to keep the hard-workers going. There are some amazing self-published books out there. All you have to do is find them. After all, just because a book hasn’t been through a publishing house doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve publishing. Now it has a chance to be, no matter what. That for me is the pure beauty of self-publishing.
[TERRY] I want to thank you for being so kind in hosting me on your blog. As an admirer, no, as an avid fan of your work, this made my day.

For any aspiring authors out there, perseverance is your best friend. Find something that keeps you disciplined and apply it to your writing. For me, that was my workout regimen. Treat writing as a job that you need to dedicate gobs of time to. Any other way and you will fail before you start.

For any readers, I hope you enjoyed this interview and hopefully decide to pick up one of my books and give it a read.

With that, I bid you all adieu as the chair calls me to plant my butt down and write another story.