What is your book about?
I think a lot of authors find this a hard question to answer. Authors like to talk about the writing. Talking about the story is more difficult because it’s asking for tens of thousands of words to be shoe-horned into tens of words.
Prince of Thorns is about a charming, dangerous, and amoral boy growing into a charming, dangerous, and amoral young man. On the journey he cuts down pretty much everything and everyone who gets in his way, and he’s rather creative when it comes to the business of killing.
Where Prince of Thorns differs from a lot of fantasy books is that the story is the main character, Jorg. It’s as much about who he is and why he is as it is about what he does. There’s no evil overlord threating the goodly lands of Generica. There are no dragons, no fireworky mages spewing out magic like they just ate a bad spell. Our hero is as nasty as many a villain and he makes no apologies for it. However, if you read between the lines he delivers, you discover a new perspective on him that whilst it doesn’t excuse his crimes, does go some way to explaining them.
So, turning tens of words into ten, it’s a violent enthusiastic fantasy with a deeper sub-text.
They know about the ancient Greeks – why can’t they wire a plug?
The vast majority of information today is stored electronically. Most of the remainder is to be found on bookshelves. In a nuclear war these are not safe havens. Such information tends to burn/melt/become inaccessible. In the aftermath of a collosal nuclear war any surviving paper books are likely to decay or be used to wipe backsides.
When, generations later lands are repopulated by migration or reproduction and life becomes sufficiently organised for people to care about something past not dying, the books that are likely to have survived are the vauable ones. Not ones that are valuable because of the useful information they contain, but valuable because of their commercial worth. It is the ancient works, the old scrolls, early bibles, etc that in being worth millions find themselves held in secure vaults below ground. It is these works that would survive a holocaust and become the foundation for the knowledge of a new civilisation. The books describing the contact process for manufacturing sulphuric acid … not so much.
How much of you is in this book?
It’s certainly not autobiographical! My mother is still very much alive, I’ve never had a brother, my father is a nice man, and I’m not given to acts of violence. You do of course call upon your emotions when you write. When I first started writing stories, I wasn’t very good at it. The most important skill I’ve gained, through lots of practice, is that when I really feel what I’m writing, a good number of my readers will feel the same thing. That never used to happen. So, in as much as a lot of the emotion in the book comes from me, there’s a lot of me in it.
What authors have inspired you in writing ‘Prince of Thorns’?
I started the book as a fantasy homage to Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’, the two works share almost nothing except a violent, clever, and charming young protagonist, but Burgess’ tale was certainly an inspiration. At the time I was reading very little fantasy, having read huge amounts in the 80’s and early 90’s. During the years when I wrote about Jorg (in frequent small bursts) I picked ‘A Game of Thrones’ off a shelf at random. And single-handedly G.R.R. Martin got me back into reading fantasy. More recently I’ve read most of what Robin Hobb has produced and have got into Peter Brett’s ‘Painted Man’ series.
What do you hope readers will take from your work?
First and foremost it’s entertainment. I’m certainly not pushing a philosophy or a world view. I hope in the excitement there’s the odd glimpse of corners of truth about the human condition. But truly, if anyone has cared for even a moment about the people in the book, then job done. I’m a happy man.