More reviews coming up for this series, with The Storm Within on my list for this month, but today I have something a little different, as Richard Parry pops by to give us his thoughts on life, the universe and every– no, sorry, his thoughts on books, reading, writing, and his Splintered Land trilogy.
On with the questions…!
As a writer:
Do you have any writing quirks / odd writing habits?
Huh. I’ll avoid mentioning quirks that’ll get me arrested.
Okay, there are probably two interesting ones for your readers.
MUSIC. Everyone listens to music when they work, amirite? When I’m writing I mint a new playlist for each book, and sometimes a playlist specifically for action or dialogue. This triggers my Pavlovian response to write the right feeling in the scenes. It’s super hard to write a kickass swordfight to a lullaby. This trick comes into its own when writing left of centre for a genre … e.g., when I cranked out cyberpunk, I wanted it to really be a rock and roll love story, so the soundtracks were more rock than synth.
I write random scenes for characters that never appear in the book. This is to test whether I’ve got the character right. For example, I minted a scene with my werewolf in a beauty salon. We know a werewolf is going to get in fights, no problem, but can he handle pampering like a champ? The problem with this approach is the characters start talking to themselves (and me) in my head, which is something that’ll need medicating later in life.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I kid! My wife and I spend a lot of time together. It’s like my favourite thing, ever, and never seems to get old.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I always read reviews! Someone took the time to write it so I’m going to honour that by reading it.
It’s easy to get excited by good reviews or have your brain chemistry ruined by a bad one. I try avoiding those traps – hubris or despair – and look for patterns. If lots of people say, “Richard does great characters! I love them!” then that’s something I should do more of because, well, people love it.
If chunks of people say, “This book dragged in the middle,” then it probably needs some work.
Writing is tricky, right? Like, it can take weeks, months, or even years between when you start a novel to when it hits a reader. This means feedback on your work is … infrequent. So, I try using massed feedback to guide what’s working and what needs work.
Sometimes this is a trap. For example, readers who love fast-paced sci-fi might not reward a move to slower-paced fantasy. You have to make sure you don’t fix something that’s not broken – because a bunch of fantasy readers might like this new minty flavour you’ve given them.
As a reader:
What is your favourite book (other than your own!)?
Easy question. The Cloth Merchant’s Apprentice by Nigel Suckling. Warning: this is a hard book to find! It is rare, but worth it. It’s one of the best fantasy-meets-love-story you’ll ever read.
Totally not my usual fare (I generally fly down the lane of books with a high body count and poor life choices, not necessarily in that order). It is worth your time.
Which author do you feel deserves more love than they get?
Most of ‘em to be honest. There’s a real challenge with the way digital bookstores work, which is that success is recommended, driving more success at the expense of genuine discovery. Most retailer recommendations are fuelled by Skynet’s algorithms.
This means factors like luck (e.g. how many people read a book in a short period of time) feature higher than quality, because machines suck at measuring things like that (to be fair, so do humans). It tends to mean your recommendations might feel like, “You like oxygen, and so do these other readers, so we’ve recommended books for you also enjoyed by people who like oxygen.” Not always relevant, and you can be left scratching your head as to why.
It’s one of the reasons I love (love!) book bloggers. There’s a human element. You have passion for books, and their readers, and this provides fertile ground for my TBR pile. I also like Libby, because it feels like the library’s recommendations have humans attached to them. I’ve discovered more new authors through Libby than any shovelware from Amazon.
What was your favourite book as a child?
The Monstrous Glisson Glop. I still have this, BTW. I rescued it from my sister who claimed it was hers.
As the eldest, I’m like, “Uh, I’m the prototype, I came first, so gimme,” and dived out the window with it tucked under my arm. She now lives on a different continent, which tells you the Great Rift™ this put in our relationship.
TMG has some good life lessons, mostly about not being a huge dick to people, especially those who are just trying to get by. Also, don’t eat your friends.
What book is top of your TBR pile right now?
Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn. I’m a big Mass Effect fan, and when my brother directed my attention to this I couldn’t resist.
I don’t know what to expect. I’m pretty sure there won’t be any mass effect fields or energy weapons. But it’ll be Drew, writing great heroes doing cool shit, so I’m in.
With regards to THIS book:
A large portion of your writing is set in the realm of sci-fi with space rogues, laser battles and nano-tech. What made you turn towards dark fantasy / swords-and-sorcery for your latest series?
He gave me hope that you can write something different to the more recent fantasy books that turned me off, and that people will read them. This lead me down a well where I found Jay Kristoff at the bottom. It’s a good well! You should visit.
The more serious reason is because I think there’s something wrong with the world right now, mostly driven by big tech social media and big media. This broad collection of clickbait, anxiety-and-rage-for-the-engagement systems are driving us at each other’s throats.
I wondered: what’s the end state of this? Probably the end of all things. So, that’s the story I wanted to tell. What happens when we hate each other all the time and stop listening? What does it look like when we have weapons that can destroy a world? And then, what happens when a brave woman is born 800 years later and has to fix all that?
Yeah. So that’s what made me turn towards dark fantasy. We need a better answer than arguing with our racist uncle on Facebook.
The trilogy (Blade of Glass, The Storm Within, Requiem’s Justice) completed this month. Do you think you might be tempted back to this world and characters again to expand into further trilogies or a longer series? Or is this story told and are you moving on to pastures new (in which case, any hints…?!)
Oh my, yes.
I’m writing the next trilogy in this world right now. It’ll take some time! These are big books. But without wanting to give spoilers, the end of Requiem’s Justice sees everything squared away, but also leaves a sense of loss.
I want to write about that, about the survivors of it and what’s happened to them. I also want to write a story about another problem we’ve got in the world, which is that we suck at dealing with difference.
So, The Copper Bard starts a tale of another young woman, Evanne. I can’t tell you much more about her without people who haven’t read Requiem literally wanting to murder me through the Internet. Let’s just say that Evanne is a tremendous liar and a thief, but her difference might just save the world.
Also, I’ve had a lot (a lot! I hear you all!) of requests for a prequel to Blade of Glass. People want to know more of the Feybrind especially. I have a story I could tell here – probably a standalone one – that takes place at the great war where the world broke.
I dunno, though. We know how it ends, I guess. I’m not sure I’ve got the m4d skillZ it would take to write a Rogue One (which I still think is the best Star Wars movie ever made, and that’s the hill I’m going to die on).
Delilah, Grace Gushiken and now, Knight Adept Geneve – you definitely write some kickass, powerful women. Do you have any specific – real or fictional – inspirations behind any of the characters you have created?
Ah, you know them all 😊
I guess this started off by being raised by a solo mother. If you want to know about heroism, you just need to experience that kind of upbringing.
My childhood felt so at odds with how media (books, TV, movies…) portrayed women at the time. I still don’t think it’s great! There’s a lot of room for improvement in how we tell stories about women.
I want to help with that as much as I can. If I can share a little of what I’ve seen and experienced, it might shift people’s thinking, and then the world gets better.
Before you call Child Services, my mother never cut someone in half with a sword (…that I know of). Let’s just make sure that’s noted here.
Is there anything else you would like new readers to know before they dive on into your book?
There’s an essay I wrote for the end of Book 3 – you can find it at the back, but I also put it in one of my newsletters (linkage here, scroll down to “This is a Story About You”). I’d love it if people joined me on my epic quest.
We’re going to fix this planet we share. We can do it. We just have to start.
Thank you, Steph, for the wonderful interview (and wonderful review). You made my year 😊
Thank you, Richard! I was particularly glad to see there will be more from the Splintered Land, and I’ll have to check out your recommendations – always a special treat to come across some books I haven’t heard of!
I can’t wait to bring you all my review of The Storm Within later on this month and find out what happens to Geneve next!
The Splintered Land trilogy is available on Amazon right now, and you can check out my reviews of other stories by the author here, here and here. Or pop here to find Richard’s thoughts on writing continuity.