Joseph D’Lacey is the author of 5 novels and numerous short stories, and his newest book, Black Feathers, is out today from Angry Robot Books. He was nice enough to let me
interrogate interview him, so please welcome him to the blog!
Thanks so much for joining us! Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Lovely to be invited, Kristin!
I’ve always been a writer – at heart, if not in the commercial sense. I remember writing poetry in a little notebook as young as eight or nine. I used to write diaries, too, but never stuck with it. In my teens I wrote poetry filled with dismay – I was a miserable adolescent; my poor parents! – and throughout my teens and twenties, I often wrote to ‘empty my head’ when things got me down.
I tried to write with more focus in my twenties but didn’t have the maturity or stickability to do it properly. It wasn’t until I turned thirty that the writerly spirit inside me finally woke up and I started to take what I wrote a little more seriously. By that I mean I began to ‘risk’ submitting work to publishers.
The roots of the tale come from all over the place in my life; from a childhood art project, from my love of crows, from the mentors I’ve had and, most especially, from my own direct experiences of ‘communication’ with the land.
The idea that our environment is a living, breathing thing – In fact, that we are actually a small part of a vast organism with its own intelligence – is one that has taken a shamefully long time for me to grasp. And yet, I realise now that this is our reality. When you place that idea next to the effect our behaviour has on this ‘system’ it’s more than a little shocking.
Black Feathers is my attempt to explore these themes through the adventures of two young protagonists, discovering such truths for themselves. Although it might seem like a manifesto, it’s really more of a wake-up call to me.
What kind of research did you do for Black Feathers?
I didn’t do any formal research.
The book grew directly from my personal interactions with the landscape, during time spent in purposeful reflection. These ‘vision quests’ involve a four-day fast outdoors with minimal shelter. During such an experience, the landscape becomes a kind of mirror in which you can see yourself more clearly than in day-to-day life. As well as being an incredibly positive influence on your state of mind, this kind of interaction can only deepen a person’s relationship to the land itself. I’d recommend it to anyone, particularly writers. The level of inspiration and the cascade of ideas it causes is immense.
What, or who, are some of the biggest influences on your writing?
I’m not really sure!
It seems to be more a question of which ideas or themes I’m fascinated enough by to explore in writing. Recently, the main theme has been our broken relationship with the natural world. But in the past I’ve been curious about the nature of perception and reality, transformation, oppressive dystopias, the revelations of apocalypse and the discovery of light in darkness. But, quite honestly, I’m just as likely to write about depravity and brutality or something utterly light and whimsical if the mood takes me.
In horror, I’ve certainly loved books by King, Barker, Herbert & Masterton – but that was a while a go now. I’ve always loved SF – books and movies – and I love humour too. One of my favourite writers of all time was the legendary Douglas Adams, whose books I read in rotation for many years. Everything I’ve watched and read must have had some effect on me – even if only to show me what it was I most wanted to write about. It’s hard to discern who or what has had the most lasting legacy.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
That’s a great question.
I think, perhaps, The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker. That book, more than any other, took the possibilities of fantasy to a new level for me. As I begin to write more fantasy myself, I hope to be able to match the blending of separate realities that Barker achieved.
I’d reread it as a lesson, therefore, but also for the sheer pleasure it first gave me.
What book(s) are you reading now?
Matt Leyshon’s The Function Room – a short story collection published by Morpheus Tales.
What would you like to see readers take away from Black Feathers?
I’d like them to be entertained and transported enough that I can really blow their minds in Volume II!
If that sounds mercenary, I ought to explain: the duology was originally one very long book. Angry Robot suggested we split it and I readily agreed. The result is a much more tense and absorbing read but I do run the risk of losing people at the midpoint, simply because there will be a year to wait before the second part is available. Gordon’s and Megan’s adventures only makes complete sense at the end of The Book of The Crowman.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I love to cook so, even though it isn’t strictly time off, I do enjoy those parts of the day when I’m preparing food. I try to make time for a little yoga and meditation each day, too, but the real treat, something I don’t get a lot of time for, is being able to get outside for a walk. I don’t do it near as often as I ought to. I think my ideal holiday would involve camping, reading and walking – it’s a holiday I’ve yet to have!
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m finishing up a chapbook for the This Is Horror series – it’s called Roadkill and will be published in the next two or three months. The very instant I finish the first draft of that story, though, I’ll be ploughing into the rewrite of The Book of The Crowman; a hefty job. I’ve got some more full-length fantasy in mind, as well as more horror. In between all this, I’ll be working on a fun story for my daughter.
Keep up with Joseph: Website | Twitter