Adam Dalton Interview (16/12/13)

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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 (, 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 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: and on Twitter as @AJDalton1. Hurrah!

Back to Work (19/10/2010)

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Sadly there’s not so much fun to be had with this week’s collection of reviews, but one of them comes from a site called Ranting Dragon, so they’re immediately in my good books:

“Though you will immediately notice the depth of this world, it has not been given the attentions it deserves yet. However, that is what gives The Adamantine Palace its tempo, and I’m unsure if that’s such a bad thing.” Ranting Dragon. Interesting comment. Haven’t seen anyone say anything quite like that before, but that’s definitely the choise I was making when I wrote it.

Also, what amounts to a ’suitability for its target audience’ review for Thief-Taker from Readplus in Australia: The novel does contain positive messages and meaningful themes for teenagers about growing-up too fast and wanting to live in an adult world before they are fully prepared to deal with the full consequences.

There’s an interview up at Literary Musings, in which you can find out one or two little snippets about where the dragon books are going, although I should point out that nothing is certain until it’s published. In a possibly more interesting interview (in that it involves monsters and eating people), Sarah Pinborough interviews Alex Milway on her blog today. In theory.

Have finally started writing again after what’s been month off altogether now. The Black Mausoleum rumbles onwards once more. And yes, I’ll put up an page for it in the bibliography at some point. Maybe when it’s done.

Chainsaw Gang: Interviews and Giveaways (11/10/2010)

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chainsaw gang masthead

Over the course of the next two weeks, members of the gang are going to be interviewing each other on their blogs:

Later TODAY: Sarwat Chadda interviews Sarah Pinborough

Tuesday 12th Alexander Gordon Smith interviews David Gatward

Wednesday 13th Sam Enthoven interviews the inimitable Alex Bell

Monday 18th: Sarwat Chadda will be interviewed HERE, and I shall be reviewing Devil’s Kiss (which I have been reading this week and look, there’s two things it doesn’t take much of a brain to realise don’t mix – teenagers and Secrets With Which Man Was Not Meant To Meddle).

Tuesday 19th Sarah Pinborough interviews Alex Milway

Wednesday 20th I explain to Alex Milway exactly which of member of the gang I would most like to eat.

Thursday 21st Alex Bell interviews Sam Enthoven

Friday 22nd David Gatward interviews Steve Feasey

Monday 25th Steve Feasey interviews Alexander Gordon Smith

William Hussey and Jon Mayhew are too busy doing things like actually writing their books to be engaging with such tomfoolery, but who knows? They might still get eaten.

To make this a bit more interesting, there are various opportunities to win prizes (largely that’s going to mean free books). I’ll be giving away something from my bag-o-prizes to anyone who sufficiently amuses me. BUT, probably much MORE exciting and a lot less fickle, there will also be the opportunity to win the entire Chainsaw Library (or at least, the latest book from each of us).

Apparently.To win the Chainsaw Library you need to score a token. Each token goes into a vast hat at the end of the competition and one name will come out. The lucky victim will receive signed copies off each member of the Chainsaw Gang. You can earn yourself multiple tokens, so make sure you visit each and every blog. It’ll be entertaining AND educational.

+1 token if you link the blog/website to yours (per blog)

+2 tokens if you stick our Chainsaw banner up somewhere

+1 token if you comment on the blog (per blog, but only for the first comment on each blog)

+1 token if you tell me who your favouriate SF/F/Horror villain is and why

+1 token if you tweet a link to this post (but I won’t know you’ve done that unless you include @stephendeas in your tweet, so make sure you do that!)

Note that each of the blogs is awarding tokens for much the same things, but not necessarily exactly the SAME things.

The closing date of the competition is Friday 5th November. The Chainsaw Library competition is open to UK residents only (really sorry about that!); any extra prizes I might whimsically award will be up to my discretion.

Anyway, Sarwat’s interview with Sarah is ripe and ready, so get commenting!

Your Author Needs YOU (27/7/2010)

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A stern man with a handle-bar moustache and a swanky hat is pointing at you. Yes, YOU.

No, nor her. Or him. YOU!

It has come to my attention, over the year-and-a-bit since it first came out, that The Adamantine Palace is IMPERFECT. Not in imperfect in the sort of way that reviewers object to (the snail-like pace, the soulless carboard cut-out characters, the bizarrely camp yet lifeless dragons, the risotto-like dialogue, blah blah blah). Those are merely differences of opinion in which we can all serenely smile at each other in the quiet certainty that we know EXACTLY who’s right and who’s a dickhead wrong.

Imperfect in the sort of categorically wrong sort of way. Such as refering to someone as a ‘her’ when they are categorically a ‘him’. That sort of thing. Using the wrong word, basically. Categorically, indisputably wrong. Failures of the proof-readers, one of which was me.

Well we’re not having that. So, in preparation for a future career, I’m here to tell you that these are NOT typos, not a bit of it. They are… OPPORTUNITIES, that’s right. Deliberately and painstakingly woven into the fabric of the manuscript to provide you, the reader, with a chance to win prizes…


OK, look, just help me look less stupid. There are probably some, er, “opportunities” in King of the Crags too and I’d like to get rid of them. So the deal is, if you find one and you’re the first person to tell me, you get to choose a prize from my box of prizes, filled with books, Xbox games, the odd DVD and other stuff I’m throwing out cool stuff. To enter, simply post the typo you think you’ve found as a comment to King of the Crags and we’ll take it from there.

Please be sensible and constructive. And sorry, but (when this eventually becomes relevant), the offer of prizes applies to the UK only. Postage, man.

Alternatively, if you want to laugh at me without going to the trouble of reading an entire book and trying to find the one or two mistakes it may contain, go read tomorrow’s SFX. There might be an interview. Frankly, I have almost no memory of what I said. However, since it was in a pub and I distinctly remember not being able to shut up for at least an hour, I’m sure there must a few things worth a cringe.


Prince Jehal Interviews the Dragon Silence (4/5/2010)

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The regular author of this site continues to be otherwise engaged. This week, I, Prince Jehal, in the last of my interviews with characters from The Adamantine Palace, bring you Silence. I had wanted to talk to the dragon Snow, but needs must as the devil drives, and frankly it’s a lot easier to manage a day-old hatchling than it is a nearly full-grown adult. Oh, and be ready for Silence to talk directly into you head, since if there’s anyone out there who didn’t already know, dragons are telepathic.

Silence: Indeed.

Jehal: Now, as I’m beginning to understand, dragons are more complicated than I thought. There’s a lot of things that most people don’t know. For example, what I just told everyone, that you’re telepathic. Most of us don’t know that. The alchemists are rather too fond of keeping their secrets to themselves.

Silence: Alchemists. Yes. They will all burn.

Jehal: Er… right. Anyway, before we burn anyone, perhaps you could… Hang on, you’re dead. Your burning days are over, surely.

Silence: Dead? I am here before you, little one.

Jehal: Yes… but… Isn’t this a big meta-thing. I mean, I could talk to anyone who died in the first book like they were the actor acting out the part of their character. I think. We’re not actually going to carry any of this back into the story. Are we?

Silence: I do not wish to eat you. Your future of suffering is far too delicious to me.

Jehal: Er…

Silence: In the flesh, the lifespan of a dragon is short. Our spirits, however, are immortal. We die and are reborn again. We are eternal, little one, while you are ephemeral.

Jehal: Care to share why that is?

Silence: Those who created us were in part of this nature. They perfected their own regeneration and this immortality in us. We are, in many ways, reflections of the Silver Kings.

Jehal: Ah. Wasn’t he the one that tamed you and made you all into our slaves.

Silence: One of their kind, yes. We do not remember him fondly.

Jehal: After all the years of being drugged to your eyeballs, I’m surprised you remember him at all.

Silence: We remember all our past lives, little one. It takes a time for you potions to wear away, but as the layers of fog are stripped from our memories and our thoughts, every moment will sooner or later return. I remember his face. I remember the taste of his thoughts. I remember his name. If he returns, I will hunt him and send him to his Final Death, and I will not be alone.

Jehal: Oh, he died hundred of years ago. I think we killed him, actually. Us little ones.

Silence: You may keep your stories, but I was there and my memories are as fresh as the day they were made. Your kind, little one? Your kind have done nothing but pick scraps from both our tables. You are nothing. Irrelevant. You were once naught but food. Enjoy your fleeting years of grandeur, little one, for food is all you shall be again.

Jehal: O-kaaay. Well now I’d better go get on with that fleeting years of fun thing. And you know how we’ll start? You. The Night Watchman. Cage match in Forbidden Planet, London, May 13th. 6-7pm. Bring a friend. 

Prince Jehal Interviews the Night Watchman (27/4/2010)

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The regular author of this site is still railing and ranting about geology so I, Prince Jehal, continue my questioning of characters from The Adamantine Palace and King of the Crags. After the unexpectedly prickly Queen Zafir last week, I have with me today the doubtless equally prickly commander of the Adamantine Men, Night Watchman of the realms, Vale Tassan.

Jehal: Um, you don’t really appear in The Adamantine Palace at all, so our readers aren’t going to have a clue who you are. Could you begin by explaining who you are and the purpose of the Adamantine Men?

Vale: The first Adamantine Men followed Narammed the Magnificent during his travels across the realms. They were holy soldiers ready to fight and die in the name of the Order of the Dragon at a moment’s notice. When Narammed became the first Speaker of the Realms, he took these men to become the nucleus of his holy guard – the Adamantine Men – who would serve and guard the office of speaker. Over the years that followed, the legions of the Adamantine Men have grown. We began as the hundred and one. There are twenty legions of us now. Over time, our purpose has changed. We are no longer the Speaker’s bodyguard, but the defenders of the realms against any danger.

Jehal (raising an eyebrow): Including dragons?

Vale: Yes.

Jehal: Is that how you get your other name, the Scorpion King?

Vale (with slightly wistful air): We have over a thousand scorpions with which to defend the City of Dragons. Almost half of them can be placed on the walls of the Adamantine Palace itself. It is said in Prince Lai’s Principles that the legions of the Adamantine Guard could face more than two hundred dragons. Given the way things are going, perhaps we shall find out. Although doubtless we will have another book of your tedious posturing to endure before we finally reach the real meat of the matter, in which man faces dragon and the snakes shall be sorted from the lions.

Jehal: I beg your pardon!

Vale: My pardon is not yours to beg. I am a servant, Prince Jehal. I will serve the Speaker of the Realms, whatever she commands and her alone.

Jehal: No, no, I just meant there were far too many animals in that last metaphor for me to follow. Are we starting another menagerie? We had one of those once, up at the banqueting house and then in the city. Didn’t Speaker Ayzalmir feed all the Taiytakei he rounded up to the snappers and the desert cats?

Vale: I am called what I am called for a reason, Prince. When night comes it falls to the Adamantine Men to keep watch over the nine realms. Those were Narammed’s words and I trust you will not deny that the times are dangerously dark.

Jehal: Dark? My fine fellow, they are positively luminous. We have a new speaker, one with strength and vigour and powerful allies, while all those who opposed her have been scattered. Dark? What’s dark about that? Or have you been reading ahead? “…the tension that made The Adamantine Palace so addictive runs throughout this sequel…” does make it sound exciting; but secretly, Alice and I both know it was me that made TAP so addictive. So tell me, Vale, what exactly do you bring to this little tale of ours?

Vale: I watch as you strut and smile and slowly poison us all. Do not think you fool me, Jehal. I have faced dragons. To me, you are nothing, any of you. You will not beguile me and I doubt I am alone. There will be a war and I will have my time. You must see this too. Ancestors!

Jehal: Hmm. “The dragon war that rages through out the final stages of the book is simply superb.” Should have seen that one coming really. Hmmm. Epic fantasy with dragons in – chances that they won’t be allowed to show their teeth before the end?

Vale: (sotto voce) Also, it is thus far sorely missing a significant character with any manner of moral backbone. It is a void I will eagerly fill.

Jehal: Oh but that must make you so immensely dull. Ah well. Speaking of voids eagerly filled, I had an interesting conversation with Queen Zafir about the role of women in epic fantasy last week. Any views you’d care to share, as Night Watchman of the Adamantine Men.

Vale: The Adamantine Men are swords who sate themselves in flesh. That is our purpose. There is no place for the softness of women within our ranks. Otherwise I have no opinion to offer. A speaker may be a king or a queen, but to me, they are simply the Speaker.

Jehal: Well thanks, Vale. Do you think you could be even more terse about covers?

Vale: Covers?

Jehal: Book covers. You know, awesome-looking dragons flapping about the place. Hooded men. Wizards clutching balls of glowing light and looking like they’re have a really bad attack of constipation. Backlit women with swords that they probably couldn’t actually lift and certainly couldn’t pull out of a scabbard without a lot of huffing and jiggling. You know, the picture that goes on the front.

Vale: Ah. You mean like the façade you wear to cover your frail and shallow cowardice?

Jehal (through gritted teeth): If you must put it that way.

Vale: They are as nothing to me. A pretty picture is a pretty picture. I will admire it for a time and then it is forgotten. The deeds of men are what matter. The deeds of men and dragons.

Jehal (checking his hourglass and miming being sick when Vale isn’t looking). Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for Vale you-are-all-as-nothing-to-me Tassan, Night Watchman.

Prince Jehal Interviews Queen Zafir (20/4/2010)

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STOP (word)PRESS: Gollancz Signing Event: Forbidden Planet London, May 13th. John Meaney, Sarah Pinsborough, MD Lachlan, Stephen Deas, possibly others.

Despite the volcanic ash-cloud, the regular author of this site, in a transparent sulk / attempt to avoid any bad reviews has gone off for a few weeks, apparently to write some inconsequential story that has nothing to do with me at all. During this time, therefore, I, Prince Jehal, having found a taste for interviews, will be questioning a few of the other regular characters from The Adamantine Palace and King of the Crags. This week I thought I’d start with someone easy in more ways than one: My dear friend Queen Zafir. But before we start, a word to our dear friends in Sci Fi Now. Now my absent author is perfectly happy with your Must Read Now four star review, but let me offer you a deal of my own. You get the title of the book right and I’ll share my deepest darkest secrets. Deal? Good. Now, on. Zafir.

Jehal: So, lover, what’s it like sleeping your way to the top?

Zafir (languidly): You’re the last person who should need that explained.

Jehal: Well I do try my best, but I suspect, if push came to thrust and grunt came to groan, I might find myself conceding that, in this one thing, I am in the presence of a greater master. Or mistress.

Zafir (with a shrug): We all have our advantages, do we not? I’m no expert with poisons, for example, so I make do with what I have.

Jehal: Anyway. I was going to talk about cover art, but since neither of us got to be on the cover to The Adamantine Palace for any edition (Hey! Poles! Hello! Does it have to be a dragon all the time? How about the people who ride them for a change?), I thought we’d talk about something else. Since you’re here, let’s talk about women in fantasy. Some people seem to view you as a thoroughly two-dimensional cardboard cut-out. My shag-puppet, basically. Discuss.

Zafir: You mean because you get more page-time than me, I have to be your shag-puppet rather than you being mine? Typical. Yes, let’s all just jump to that conclusion. You do remember how The Adamantine Palace ends right? (shaking her head). What do you think?

Jehal: Well…

Zafir: Consider your answer carefully, my sweet. We have two more books to go yet. I would hate for us to have a falling out.

Jehal: Of course. A partnership of equals. Do women have to work harder than men, do you think, to get anywhere in our world? It seems you have many natural disadvantages.

Zafir: Pardon?

Jehal: Well no offence, but on the whole we’re stronger and faster. And then there’s the whole matter of babies. It’s pretty inconvenient, don’t you think, to be basically laid out for nine months unable to do anything, and then after that there’s the whole looking after the brats after they’ve been born. I mean come on, that alone pretty much rules women out of doing anything all that significant doesn’t it?

Zafir (icily): If we lived in some barbarous world where strength of arm was all that mattered then perhaps. But we do not. I am a dragon-queen, Jehal. I will carry a sword and use it if I have to, but let me ask, how exactly have you charted your rise to power? Do we see a trail of your enemies slaughtered in single combat? No, we don’t. I dare say that neither you nor I would care to take on the Night Watchmen in single combat, and yet here we are, a prince and a queen, chasing our ambitions with words and strategies. I see no reason why I should consider myself at any disadvantage in such matters at all. Indeed, I consider that I have one considerable advantage, as men, even you my sweet, are so easily manipulated. In war we ride on the backs of dragons, and where will a strong arm help you there? An old man too weak to walk or Vishmir himself, it makes no difference who you are on the back of one of our monsters. I’ve heard it said that women bond better with the beasts, and I will say that that, too, is false. Dragons simply do not care. So where, Jehal, is your advantage? The only distinction between us is that men are somewhat more prone to forget to think with their heads and use an entirely different organ, and even in that they are not unique. Jehal, let me put a question to you instead: do you consider yourself somehow superior for being a man?

Jehal: Well I ah… I suppose I could have a thousand sons if I wanted. I don’t know how many children you think you could bear, but not quite so many, I suspect.

Zafir (archly): At least I would be sure they were mine. But of course, that’s why you try to have us locked away where no one else can get to us. While you’re all out sowing your seed on a whim, eh? The more this conversation goes on, the more I understand why that niggling thorn Jaslyn is the way she is. Perhaps I should make her my friend, if it’s not too late for that.

Jehal: Er… have I touched a nerve?

Zafir: You put us into gilded cages wherever you can. Your own queen, Jehal, we both know exactly what you wanted from her before you ever even met her. To sit in some pretty little tower making heirs. Perhaps you chose well and she’ll oblige you. Try that with me and I’ll cut your throat while you sleep. Or take you to war so you can see just why our differences come to nothing on the back of a dragon. Yes, perhaps there is no place for women in the Adamantine Guard. Yes, perhaps that is a place for men. After all, the guard serve. (With a smile) why, I might even think you’re afraid of us. Is that why you can’t keep your clothes on? Does it threaten you when someone says no?

Jehal (waggling his tongue): It makes me think I’m losing my touch.

Zafir (dismissive): A talented tongue is a very pleasant thing to have around, but it doesn’t make you god, Jehal. You’ll have to do better than that. Of course, if you were a woman, and I were a man, then that tongue of yours would more than likely be enough…

Jehal: Fascinating, fascinating theory you have there and you know, however bizarre, I’d love to discuss it more…

Zafir: You can be a right dick sometimes.

Jehal (rising): You destroy me, my love, you truly do…

Zafir (under her breath): Yes, well I’ve read book two and you haven’t…

Jehal: …but I do believe I sense a plot thickening somewhere nearby and if I don’t stir it swiftly, I fear it may go all lumpy. Care to join me?

Zafir (also rising): Don’t think this is over, my sweet.

A Brief Interview with Prince Jehal (13/4/2010)

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With the King of the Crags about to hit the shops (first reviews accumulating here) and the last significant rewrite of the final installment finished, today we interview the man who thinks he is the star of The Adamantine Palace, Prince Jehal.

So, Jehal, let’s start with something simple. You’re the crown-prince of Furymouth, one of the richest cities in the dragon-realms. Tell us a little about your home.

Jehal: Ah, Furymouth. The finest, riches city in all the nine realms. It’s hard to know where to start, but we have the possibly the finest palace in the realms, we have…

Finer than The Adamantine Palace?

Jehal: Well that’s a point we could debate if you like. The Adamantine Palace is, perhaps, better known and I suppose it’s bigger and has it’s Dragon Gate and yes, the Tower of Air is taller than any of the towers of the Veid Palace, but let’s not forget, my home is Vishmir’s home, the greatest dragon-king and speaker the world has ever known and the Veid palace was built by him. The Adamantine Palace has, what, half a dozen great towers? Eight maybe? Our towers may be smaller, but we have hundreds…

I’m not sure that size and number of towers is particularly a measure of anything…

Jehal: It’s a measure of wealth! I think you can assume that, for all the gaudy immensity of The Adamantine Palace, the Veid palace is far more refined and cultured. The art, the sculptures, the hangings, everything about my home is exquisite. You should come and visit; and if you did, let’s not forget the Field of Gorgutinnin outside, the chariot races, the most famous in all the realms. And the great Bronze Dragon of Furymouth, Vishmir’s Column…

Fine, fine. So where does all this wealth come from?

Jehal: From the fine stewardship of our realm by my fore-fathers, of course. From Vishmir onwards, we have been at he helm of the nine realms, even if we were never Speaker…

And the Taiytakei?

Jehal (smirking): It does help that we are the only sea-port in the realms and thus the only point of access for the Taiytakei traders, yes.

Some would argue that The Pinnacles were the heart of the realms, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Tell me about…

Jehal: Some would argue, but only because of history. The Pinnacles, home to my dear friend Queen Zafir, were perhaps the heart of the realms a hundred years ago, but times change. The War of Thorns brought their dominance to an end. By all rights, Furymouth should be the capital of the nine realms now. The Veid Palace should be the new Speaker’s Palace.

Something you seem to be working quite hard to achieve. Why exactly is that?

Jehal: Well as I’ve said, Furymouth is the richest and most significant city in the realms in these times, and yet since Vishmir, there hasn’t been a single Speaker from my family. Vishmir conquered the world, let’s not forget. No, the other realms are jealous of our wealth, that’s what it is. We may not have the raw dragon power of, say, the Queen of Sand or the King of the Crags, but we are the ones driving the realms forwards. Every innovation starts in our city. The realms would be better off guided by our enlightened progressive thinking, and the only thing that stands in the way is this cartel of the northern lords who think they can juggle the throne of the Speaker from one to another to the exclusion of those of us in south. Why? Because we are rich, that’s why! Because the only means they have to wealth is to suck the riches of the City of Dragons away into their deserts. Because they envy and fear us, that’s why! My father should have been speaker, and his father before them. I see no reason why I should meekly tolerate their conspiracies without hatching a few of my own. (With a wink): It seems only fair.

Conspiracies that involve murdering your fellow kings and queens?

Jehal: Oh please, does it always come back to that? I only ever murdered the one, after all. It’s not like I burned down town after town of little people, which is what routinely happens when dragon-lords fight. Isn’t it fairer that we keep our disputes amongst ourselves? Why force everyone to suffer just so that we can claim to have fought with ‘honour’? Is it ‘honourable’ to burn thousands of hard-working men, women and children just so that we can say we never slew another lord outside of some farcical idea of ‘noble combat?’ I may be alone, but I think not.

You, uh, claim to care a jot about the ‘little people’ as you call them?

Whatever I think of them has little bearing on whether they deserve to have some dragon burn their lives to nothing in a blink, or do you disagree?

But still. You start your quest for power by seducing a dragon-queen and then throwing her off her own dragon. Was that necessary? Wasn’t there some other way?

Jehal: No, to be blunt. The northern kings and queens act together. We in the south must do the same. Zafir and I see things in the same way. Her mother, I’m afraid, did not. Regrettable, but necessary. And as you will see, I have no objection to sharing power. I’m not in it for myself. I’m after a fair representation, that’s all.

As well as murdering Queen Aliphera, what about your own father…?

Jehal (angry): Oh I see. You think I’m poisoning him. Everyone else assumes that I must be. Does it not occur to you that sometimes people simply fall ill?

Convenient, though, for you.

Jehal: Because it makes me crown prince of the most powerful of the nine realms? Yes, I suppose it must seem that way. Given the choice, though, you know, I think I’d rather have back my father and my brother and my sister and my mother. Given the choice. Can you do that for me? No, I rather thought not.

Well, right or wrong, you seem to be well on your way towards getting what you want. What do you put that down to?

Jehal: Being smarter than the rest of them. Planning. A bit of luck. The usual things that make a man great. Look at Vishmir, look at Narramed, look at Prince Lai. And then look where they all came from.

Narramed came from The Pinnacles, and you could look at the first Valmeyan while you’re at it. But I take your point. What do you say to your critics?

Jehal: I have critics? Should I murder them? Apparently that’s what I do, after all.

People have looked at your rise and called you many things. Shallow. “Personality-free,” in particular sticks in my mind.

Jehal (with a shrug): And yet cunning, addictive (I imagine that one came from one of my legion of lady admirers). Nicely fleshed out (he leers). Everyone has their detractors. I put it down to envy.

And more commonly: villainous, vicious, nasty, ruthless, greedy, treacherous. Your nemesis, Hyram, calls you The Viper, and the name seems to stick. These are hardly the words used to describe the great leader you seem to aspire to be.

Jehal: (after a pause). I am a prince of dragons. My father is sick, my brother murdered my sister and my mother and was tortured to death for his crimes. Do I seem so different to them? Look at the kings and queens of the other realms. The noble Shezira who sells her daughters so she can claw her own way towards power – no one seems to mind that. The mighty Hyram. Take a good look at him and his pot-boys. Am I so different to them? Look around you at the lords who fly upon our mighty beasts and show me one who is clean. Show me one, just one, and I will throw away my palace and my finery and become a monk. Show me just one. But you can’t. Do you know why? It’s because of what we are. Because of the life we lead. Because we are born with dragons around us, because we live our lives among monsters who routinely smash men to a pulp through a careless flick of the tail. Who hurl their handlers through the air with an idle flap of their wings. Who crush men to death simply because they didn’t look where they were going. Who kill not with malice, but with indifference, and those, I remind you, are the tame ones. That is the life that surrounds a dragon-prince. Death comes and calls at random. Picks you up and plucks you out of your life. No, only two kinds of men live among dragons and survive. The brash and the bold and the cautious nervous ones who call them alchemists. If we dragon-lords are ruthless, it is because we have no space for second thoughts. If we are greedy, it is because we know every moment could be our last. If we are vicious, it is because we have learned that indecision is death. If we are villainous, it is because we know our own kind too well, and I am not an alchemist but a dragon-prince.

Interviews (2/3/2010)

Posted in News

This week, as work on their final rewrite approaches completion, we interview Syannis and Berren, leading characters in the forth-coming Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. So, guys, tell us a little about yourselves…

Berren: Ok, so I’m learning to be this really cool dude who springs about the place, whacking down bad guys and I’m totally the star of the story and everything…

Syannis: What my idiot apprentice means to say is that he’s learning the trade of thief-taking. What he has still failed to grasp is that this largely consists of talking to people. As you’ll see from his story, he used to cut purses and, literally, shovel shit for a living. I’ve taken pity on him and…

Berren: You mean you were too embarrassed that I stole your purse!

Syannis: …and taken him to teach him the ways of taking thieves. Which mostly consists of trying to batter a few manners into his head and teaching him to read and write.

Berren: And swords! You’re going to teach me swords, right. One day.

Syannis <rolls eyes>: If you ever learn your letters, yes.

Berren: That’s why I want to be a thief-taker. The first time I saw Master Sy, he killed three men who tried to jump him. It was awesome. I want to be like that.

Syannis: It was an unusual day.

(To Syannis) Are the rumours true that you only took Berren on because he’s the spitting image of someone you used to know?

Syannis: I don’t know where you heard that. I fancied an apprentice, that’s all.

Berren: No, he was just mad because I took his purse.

So, Berren, you used to be a thief and now you’re a thief-taker? How did that come about? What’s wrong with a bit of honest work in the first place?

Berren: Look, after the war and the siege and everything, there were a lot of boys and girls born without any fathers. Khrozus’ boys they call us. What happens if there’s no one to look after you in a place like Deephaven, is that you get put into a city orphanage until you’re old enough so they can sell you to someone who wants a young pair of hands. I was lucky to not  wind up on a Taiytakei slave ship. So I got sold to Master Hatchet, who sends his boys out to clean the dung up off the streets and he expects us to pay for our food while we’re at it. How? It’s not as though anyone else is giving us any money. Cleaning up the streets pays off our debt, he says. So we have to start picking pockets and cutting purses to eat. And then he has us running all sorts of other errands. Not like we had much of a choice.

Syannis: This city breeds thieves. That’s what happens when money falls out of the sky.

What about you, Syannis, what’s your story. How did you end up a thief-taker?

Syannis: I came to Deephaven about eight years ago. It seemed to suit my skills. I hate thieves.

Is there a particular reason for that?

Syannis: Yes.

Care to share?

Syannis: Not really, no. It has nothing to do with what I do now.

Berren: That’s not quite… <bites lip>

Well what did you do before?

Syannis: Nothing of any consequence.

Berren: Well where did you learn to fight like that, eh? And what about Kasmin – he called you…

Syannis: He calls me all sorts of things. I had another life before I came to Deephaven. That life is finished. There’s nothing more to say.

Berren: He called you a…

Syannis: Nothing. To. Say.

So this story, why don’t you tell us about what happens?

Berren: Like I said, we’re these really cool dudes who spring about the place, whacking down bad guys and there’s this gang of pirates we’re after and then there are the snuffers and there’s this girl, Lilissa, who’s really sweet and she gets into trouble and then there’s Jerrin who used to be one of Master Hatchet’s boys who’s got it in for me for some reason and he’s doing all this stuff and…

Syannis: Mostly it’s about how hard it is to teach Berren anything that he actually ought to learn. Like how to read and write.

Berren: And I stow away on this boat and there’s this big fight and…

Syannis: And how to keep out of fights.

Berren: Oh, and then there’s this time when I caught out in The Maze and I have to hide…

Syannis: And how to stay out of trouble.

Berren: And then there’s this time when Master Sy fights four men at once! (Looking at Syannis) and the time when I saved your life and you cut that bloke’s hand off. And then there’s that weird scary warlock down at the House of Cats and Gulls that Master Sy knows, and there’s this knife…

Syannis: (pointedly) And how to keep his mouth shut.

Berren: And then there’s this really big fire…

Syannis: And that thief-taking is mostly about talking to the right people and a little bit of detective work and that once you finally know who it is you’re after, you send in a big posse of militiamen while you wait at the back… Fire? What fire? I don’t remember a fire.

One final question. You’ve seen the cover art for your story now. What do you think.

Berren: I think we look cool.

Syannis: Wait, that’s supposed to be us?

Berren: Can I have a big black cloak like that? With a hood? That looks so sweet. I bet it billows out behind you like a great black cloud when you run, too.

Syannis: I bet you’d trip over it.

Berren: Have you actually got a cloak like that? Does that mean I’m going to get one too? And a sword! I have a sword! When do I get my sword?

Syannis: When you learn your letters.

Berren: Yeah, I think the picture’s really great. That’s exactly how I want to be in a couple of years. It’s really us. We’re going to be the most feared thief-taking team in the whole of Deephaven.

Syannis: With a hood? So that all that being feared is completely wasted when no one can recognise you?

Berren: Yeah. All dark and mysterious. Girls go weak for a tall dark mysterious stranger.

Syannis: Firstly you’re a short-arse, and secondly, no generally they don’t.

Berren: Especially with a really cool sword. I think it’s great. As soon as I can, that’s the way I want to look. I’m going to get some clothes like that right now.

Syannis: I think it makes us look like a pair of virgin wannabe snuffers.

Berren: Well you look like an old shopkeeper in your stupid old coat. Those new cloaks are great! When do we get them?

Syannis: And clumsy old cavalry swords left over from the war? I don’t think so. Try using one of those in a narrow alley. You probably couldn’t even hold it properly…

The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is published in August 2010

Interview (1/9/08)

Posted in News

I am absurdly over-excited. I’ve had my first request for an interview!*

*By a non-family member, that is…