I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for Angry Robot to return this year, better than ever, with some great new authors and tons of great new books, and with that in mind, a few of us have been catching up with AR’s current authors, because there’s a whole lotta awesome already out there, and of course, much more to come!
So, please welcome Mike Shevdon back to the blog! I adore his Courts of the Feyre series, and if you haven’t discovered it, there’s no time like the present (also, psssst, you can get most of the series for under $5 on Kindle right now…just sayin)!
For those that haven’t read your wonderful Courts of the Feyre series, will you tell us a little about it?
Hi Kristin, and it’s lovely to be back on My Bookish Ways. The Courts of the Feyre is an Urban Fantasy series set in England which melds history with fantasy to create a world where the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred, and the reader is invited to believe that ancient rituals have hidden purpose, that certain authorities know more about what’s been going on than they are prepared to admit, and that living alongside humanity are a race of creatures we once knew as the fair folk, or the others. It follows the story of Niall, an ordinary commuter on his way into work, and Blackbird, a woman who is far older than she appears. Through the series, the worldview expands until we finally see the consequences of events set in motion a thousand years ago emerge into the present in ways that could affect the future of humanity.
What do you enjoy most about writing it? What have been some of the challenges?
I write in my head. I know that’s what everyone does to some extent, but I write whole plots, whole stories in my head and then try and write them down. What I enjoy most is when the thing in my head, which isn’t always made of words while it’s there, transforms into words that re-create what was in my head on a page – not just the spatial sense, or the dialogue, but the emotional charge that comes from well-chosen words that translate into a sensory experience for the reader. I want the reader to feel like they are there, part of the story, and that somehow if they weren’t there then the story wouldn’t happen.
The problem with that approach is that you end up with a lot in your head. Particularly in the later books I would try and get the all the plot from all four books into my head at once and then turn it to look at it from different angles. Does that makes any sense at all? The temptation is to pull back and lose the detail, but if you lose granularity then you can end up tripping yourself up by doing something inconsistent that throws the reader out of the story.
What is your writing process like?
I’m a keen outliner. Once I have the framework in my head I will outline the storylines and seed it with the little details that are anchors for the elements I want to include, especially strong images or plot twists. Then when I have it mapped out, I can concentrate on the words to bring the mental image in my head to life. For me, writing is an immersive process, and I shut the world out completely and dwell in the world with my characters. That can be awkward while commuting, as I’ve overshot my station more than once. I’ve learned to set an alarm when I’m writing on trains now, though I don’t commute nearly so much as I used to. I can’t write in the car.
Have you read any good books lately? Is there anything you’re looking forward to?
Last year I read Graham Joyce’s, Some Kind of Fairy Tale, and I wish I’d read it earlier. Sadly Graham passed away last year just as I’d discovered his work and I’d really like to have got to know him, just from reading his work. His family and friends must miss him greatly, and he has huge respect among the fantasy community but I’d always felt his subject matter was too close to my own. I now realize that was nonsense and, given the opportunity, I would happily have travelled just to hear him speak. It was a sad loss. So I’m going to try and read as much of Graham’s work as I can. And maybe learn something in the process.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you first got published, and what piece of advice would you give to an aspiring author?
There are many things I know now that I wish I’d known then, and yet there is so much left to learn. Every time I write a book I learn a little more and understand how much more there is to know. That’s one of the beautiful things about writing. One thing I wish I’d known, though, is how much of your self goes into a book. It’s a horribly revealing process, and it’s very unforgiving. Many people start writing a book and never finish it. One of the reasons is perhaps they come to realize how much the book will demand from them, and they falter when the demands get too great.
The advice I would pass on, is that stories are not like life. There are things that happen in life that, if you wrote them is a story, no-one would believe. Things happen in life that you can’t put in a book. Take a simple example. I know Jake and Jake. I know Alex and Alex, and I have a character called Alex. I know Alan, Alan, Alan, and Alan. You can’t have all the characters in a book called Alan. It’ll be chaos. Equally, you can write things in a book that would never happen, but which the narrative demands, and the reader will go with it because it’s right for the story. Stories aren’t life, and life is not a story, but they do chime with each other.
It’s been a while since we’ve caught up! What have you been working on?
Well, I can’t say too much about this because of things going on behind the scenes, but there has been a lot of demand for a fifth book in the series. I thought we’d reached the end of that story arc, but it’s been brought to my attention that certain issues are unresolved. I think it’s fair to say that I needed a break after The Eighth Court, but now I’m back writing again and I’m really pleased with where it’s going. Any more than that gives too much away, but I will be sending out a bulletin when I have more news.
Is there any other news you’d like to share with us?
Well, it’s a new year and there is change in the air. Towards the end of last year my publisher went into administration, and some of the business was sold to a new owner, and we’ve been working though the contractual implications of that. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t been able to devote as much time to writing as I’d like. Thankfully we’re all sorted now and they are going to continue to sell my books for a period, and then it’s time to move on. Where we go from there is an open question at the moment. Much depends on what’s on offer and who is interested in talking to me, but we’ll have to wait and see, so no news yet, but wait and see and I’ll let you know what happens in due course.
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about my work and a belated happy and peaceful 2015 to you and all your readers.