This is a question I was asked today on the Goodreads "ask the author" feature:
Shaun asked Mark Lawrence:
The way you write about maountains and climbing ring very true to me. As an alpinist and rock climber, I think it had to come from real experience. I have used several quotes from your books on the subject. I would just like to know if it is something you have personal experience with, because you cover the essence of it very well. Does it come from first hand experience?
Mark Lawrence This is a question I've been asked quite a few times. Today I got a message from someone who said I had captured the essence of being given a cancer diagnosis as a teen - something that had happened to them. There are other examples I could give.
And in this case as with the others it's just imagination at work. I find that if I use my imagination to connect emotionally with a character in a particular circumstance, then the rest largely takes care of itself (barring some serious technical error). The art of writing is to strike chords in the reader - to wake up what is already there and let them do the heavy lifting. The page isn't big enough for anything else. I can't describe everything in minute detail, I just have to remind the reader that they know these things already. Thus the images that form in the mind of the reader are largely their own. If they have strong personal experience of the situation, be it chemotherapy or hanging above a long fall (both of which are actually quite similar if you pare them down to the bone) then those images will be filled with all sorts of detail and authenticity that actually comes from reader.
The books in question are King of Thorns (for the climbing) & One Word Kill (for the cancer … no wait! It's a FUN book. Read it!).