A J Dalton is a fellow Gollancz author whose Gollancz debut, Empire of the Saviours, was published back in May last year but who has previously also gone the self-publishing route. In an effort to find yet another excuse to procrastinate and put off doing any actual real work, we decided to interview each other (well that was my reason, anyway).
Here’s the ‘official’ biopic, most of which Adam claims is nearly true, from Empire of the Saviours:
“A J Dalton (the ‘A’ is for Adam) has been an English language teacher as far afield as Egypt, the Czech Republic, Thailand, Slovakia, Poland and Manchester University. He has lived in Manchester since 2003, but has a conspicuous Cockney accent, as he was born in Croydon on a dark night, when strange stars were seen in the sky.
He published his first fantasy trilogy, consisting of Necromancer’s Gambit (2008), Necromancer’s Betrayal (2009) and Necromancer’s Fall (2010), to great acclaim. He is currently published by Gollancz, with whom he has put out the best-selling titles Empire of the Saviours (2012) and Gateway of the Saviours (2013). He maintains the Metaphysical Fantasy website (www.ajdalton.eu), where there is plenty to interest fantasy fans and there is advice for aspiring authors.”
If you want to know more, you can visit Adam’s website at www.ajdalton.eu or follow him on Twitter as @AJDalton1
Steve: So, first of all, what the hell is metaphysical fantasy (I want to spell it phantasy) as opposed to any other kind of fantasy. What are you trying to do that other fantasy authors are missing out on?
Adam: Hmm. Well, you can’t get a job as a philosopher these days, so people have to write fantasy and scifi instead. The term metaphysical references metaphysical poets like John Donne and Andrew Marvel . They describe close human scenes but give them large scale significance. It’s like writing through a microscope, if that makes sense. There are other authors like that – Philip Pullman, for example. It all sounds a bit poncy, but you’ve basically gotta have a good human drama that has epic significance… which lends itself to all sorts of pratt-falls, obviously. That’s jokes to you and me. The use of the term ‘metaphysical’ isn’t really a point about ‘other fantasy authors’ – it’s more of a point made to those who seem to think literary fiction is somehow worthier or more high-brow than fantasy.
Steve: If I’ve got it right, you self-published your first trilogy (the Necromancer’s Gambit). Now that you’re a Gollancz author, how has that changed your perspectives (if at all) on conventional traditional publishing and the do-it-yourself way. What do you see as the main differences and advantages to each?
Adam: Bizarrely, there’s preciously little difference between the two. I’m still left to sort out my own signings, etc. I still very much feel like I’m ‘on my own’. Except, of course, I make more money on the self-published books.
Steve: Why oh why oh why do we always write trilogies? Is it a good thing that we do? What could be done to make it stop (er, assuming we wanted to…)
Adam: Quite right! Why stop at trilogies? We should go for five-book series, or seven or ten! Chronicles of a Cosmic Warlord (Empire of the Saviours, Gateway or the Saviours and Tithe of the Saviours) was originally pitched as a five-booker. Gollancz, however, made me reduce it to three books – and I can see why they wouldn’t want to commit to a ‘first-timer’ over five books. But I guess your question is why fantasy comes in series like this. Well, one of the great pleasures of fantasy is full immersion in a different world. We don’t want to leave that world. We like our books to be a thousand pages long, and to carry on and on forever.
Steve: What’s your favourite book (apart from your own) and why?
Adam: Actually, I have a favourite play first – and that’s Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, followed by Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Favourite book is probably Machiavelli’s The Prince.
Steve: We’ve both travelled a fair bit, though I think you win that one: are there any places that you’d particularly encourage people to go and see for themselves?
Adam: Oh, I love the Czech Republic. It’s the true home of our (European) sense of the gothic. Prague is knock out. And the country has the best beer in the world. And produces more supermodels per square mile than any other country – and they’re all great chess-players. Geez. Art, beer, brains and good times!
Steve: And on the same subject, are there any places or aspects of culture from far away that you’ve knowingly slipping into one of your settings?
Adam: Yes, I plunder the whole Czech vibe for my gothic elements. Anything else? Hmm. Well, I did two years in Egypt and that would be rich material – but Saladin Ahmed (Throne of the Crescent Kingdom) has already beaten me to the punch on that stuff. Damn.
Steve: You asked me what was the best, so what’s the *worst* thing about being an author?
Adam: Definitely, the lack of money. Obviously, I’ll be worth a mint when I’m dead, but that’s no use to me. Publishers are fortunate that writers don’t tend to do it for the bucks. We do it because we have to. It’s that old fashioned idea of a job being a ‘calling’ or ‘vocation’. One other problem is simply never having enough time. I don’t enjoy the writing under pressure or to deadlines, but deadlines are necessary evils, I suppose.
Steve: Damn, you asked me that too. Well then, go on, what’s the best?
Adam: Therefore, 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.
Steve: How much (if any at all) have games, either video games, or roleplaying games, influenced you as a story-teller?
Adam: Oo. Interesting. I’m quite a big gamer. I still play Warcraft 2 on the PS2 a lot (old school). And I read a fair bit of Warhammer stuff. The interactivity and immersion of gaming is great for the imagination. Has it directly influenced me as a story-teller. Hmm. Maybe on the big set-piece battles. And, when younger, I used to run around Chistlehurst Caves doing real-life D&D. I think the emotions you experience doing that are useful for any writer. [I used to run around Chislehurst Caves too. Mostly the emotions I experienced were of rage and pain as I smashed my head into a rock in the dark for the umpteenth time. If that taught me one thing, it's that all professional dungeoneers would always wear helmets, even the bloody wizards and sod the chance of spell failure - Ed].
Steve: And what was the question I really should have asked but didn’t, and what’s the answer?
Adam: Now that’s the 64 million dollar question. Maybe: what’s your secret? Answer: 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 reaons – 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. And the other question you should have asked is: where can legions of fans find you online? Answer: www.ajdalton.eu and on Twitter as @AJDalton1. Hurrah!