Please welcome Miles Cameron to the blog! He stopped by to answer a few questions about his new book, THE FELL SWORD (out March 11!).
Congrats on the new book, THE FELL SWORD! You have a degree in Medieval History, but have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little more about yourself and your background?
I haven’t always wanted to be a writer—I came to it late in life. That is, I wrote my first novel at age 13 and another at 17, but no one’s ever seen them but me. My father’s is a full-time writer, though, so I knew that the career was ‘out there.’ What I wanted to be was an officer in the U.S. Navy, which I was for almost fifteen years. I enjoyed it thoroughly. In fact, I had every intention of making it my career, and then I met this girl…
THE FELL SWORD is the 2nd book in the Traitor Son Cycle. What can readers expect from this installment?
Battles, romance, daring do, church controversy, adultery, hermetical magic, power mad villains and heroes and a sea battle with monsters. Oh, and a heck of a lot of plot development. The meta-story is fairly large, and I HOPE that readers will just start to see behind all the curtains by the end of this book…
What inspired you to begin writing the series? Did you already know how many books you’d like to write, or did you just decide to see where the narrative took you?
I’ve wanted to write this novel since I was thirteen. That is, this is the same broad story set in the same world as I envisioned thirty-six years ago. I think I’ve grown up a little and so has the world I created with the help of a dozen or so friends. I like to think there will be five books. There are two plots that can’t be landed in less than five. It was meant to be a really big story, with a nested set of smaller stories inside it. So—for example—The Red Knight is really a very small story indeed. It’s a frontier fight, if you like—a skirmish on the edge of two power blocks that turns out to have long term consequences. I have a compete outline to the end of book five, by-the-way.
What kind of research have you done for the series?
Well, it’s no longer a secret that I’m an historical fiction writer. So I’ve done a heck of a lot of research—read the clothes, cooked the food, worn the armour, ridden the horses. Camped in the Wild. But at the same time, I’ve read hundreds if not thousands of books, some of which were ‘research’. It may sound odd, researching fantasy—but where does one draw inspiration? So I’m quite content to admit that my magic system owes a great deal to the medieval and early renaissance practice of hermetical magic, which some people still practice today. And memory palaces—and medieval horse management, and books on medieval economic systems and on and on. But that said—it is a fantasy novel. I made a lot up, and I’m sometimes bemused by the attempts of fans or reviewers to ‘place’ things in history. Sometimes—I just make things up!
What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I think I’m a plotter AND a pantser. I usually write a large chunk and then go back and plot. Once I get into plotting, I can get quite meticulous, but I believe in the Aristotelian approach—character begets motivation, and motivation begets plot. I like characters who are organic. So I hope that I write them. So—I ‘pants’ for a while, and then I plot. But then… about two thirds of the way through Fell Sword, I realized I couldn’t go the way I’d planned because one character was—so much fun. I won’t say which one, but she was doomed to die and I couldn’t do it. Once I’d made that call, an amazing new plotline came into existence and I felt as if I’d had this intention all along. It changed the whole endgame.
What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, fantasy?
I’m not sure I can answer that in one go. When I was growing up—the 1960’s—fantasy was the only ‘heroic’ fiction out there. I love the challenge of fantasy; I love the sense of the alien, the sense of the familiar, and the clash between the two (J.R.R. Tolkien leaps to mind.) When I read fantasy, I’m both a harsh critic and a very easy one.
I can be jarred out of a book by a continuity error or a plot dropped, but mostly, I just trust that the author will get me there. I enjoy the process. I thought of an example before I sat down to write this, but it’s quite old—Michael Scott Rohan’s Anvil of Ice series from the late 1980s. Nothing about that was easy reading, and nothing ever happened the way I wanted it to. Yet I loved it, and I often think of it.
What are a few authors that have inspired you?
Well—I never tire of Tolkien. I think I’ve read every word he wrote on virtually every subject. I loved his recent (Yes, I know he’s dead) Fall of Arthur poem, which I found inspirational for the Red Knight. I also love Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen; I love Glen Cook all the time; C.S. Friedman (also a personal friend), Ian Banks, Lois McMaster Bujold and C.J. Cherryh and Terry Pratchett and Jim Butcher. I think my fantasy tastes are catholic. But I want to nod at some older books that were pivotal to my appreciation of fantasy—E.R. Eddison, whose fantasy renaissance (A Fish Dinner in Memison et al) was my favorite series as a young adult. I would never have read ancient Greek but for Eddison; I would never have dared many things…
What are you currently reading?
I Libri della Famiglia by Leon Battista Alberti. The Medieval Kitchen by Redon, Sabban and Serventi. Hugh Bicheno’s Vendetta about Malatesta and Montefalco in fifteenth century Italy. And I have Steven Brust’s The Incrementalists on deck, with C.S. Friedman’s Dreamwalker next in line after that. Research comes first…
I love the picture of you in armor on your site, and you mention that you love to do reenactments. Will you tell us more about that?
Sure. I am a passionate reenactor of the past. Sometimes recreating the past teaches you more about the past—and it always teaches you more about the present. I’m a ‘method’ writer, so I like to try everything out, and reenacting is where I can do that with thousands of friends. But—and this is not quite separate—I am also an enthusiastic WMA practitioner. I love to fight in and out of armour; unarmed, and armed with various historical weapons from a stick to a pole axe. Fighting in armour is—amazing. I’d say it was hard to describe, but I spend a lot of ink (or electrons) trying in The Fell Sword.
How else do you like to spend your free time when you’re not writing?
Well… In no particular order… I’m learning Italian; I’m making a new arming coat for my 14th c. Italian kit, which requires a lot of sewing (the last one had 1700 grommet holes—pictures on request). I practice my swordsmanship every day; I do a little yoga, I read, yesterday a friend and I walked six miles in the snow in late 14th century pilgrim kit in the wilderness sixty miles north of Toronto… I have a daughter, aged ten, who’s as passionate about ballet as I am about swordsmanship and there are her exercises and driving to her practices; I have a spouse and we have to talk sometimes, as well as pouring over architecture and plotting trips to Europe that may or may not take place. It’s not dull…
What’s next for you?
In writing, I’ll start Tournament of Fools (Traitor Son Book 3) in a week or so. We’;re planning a family trip to Italy, where I will fight in a tournament (Torneo del Cigno Bianco in Verona) [http://www.doppiosoldo.it/torneo.php]. We’ll wander the Veneto and then, I hope, go visit friends in Greece. Then home to write more books.
About THE FELL SWORD:
Loyalty costs money.
Betrayal, on the other hand, is free.
When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand — and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But the Red Knight has a plan.
The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time — especially when he intends to be victorious on them all?