Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Interview with Anthony Ryan, author of Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) - July 2, 2013

Please welcome Anthony Ryan to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.  Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) is published today in the US by Ace.  Happy Publication Day to Anthony!

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Anthony:  Thank you, happy to be here.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Anthony:  I can't really remember a time when I wasn't writing something. Writing assignments were always the one thing I scored well in at school and as I got older and I read more, writing for a living became something of an ambition. I didn't really start writing in earnest until my twenties though, whereupon I embarked upon the time honoured pursuit of collecting rejection slips.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Anthony:  Probably my tendency to get totally immersed when writing. It doesn't happen all the time, but there are days when I'll sit down to start writing in the morning and won't surface until late evening having no sensation of time having passed in the interval. It's why, unlike a lot of writers, I don't listen to music when writing because I just don't hear it.

Also, before starting a new book, I go to the crossroads on the moors at midnight and sacrifice a cat to the dark gods... Just kidding. It's two cats. The dark gods wouldn't be satisfied with just one.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Anthony:  I started out as a pantser but have gradually developed into a plotter. Blood Song was the first book I wrote where I sat down and laid out a plot summary. It was only one page long and I didn't look at it again for the duration of writing the book, but I wanted the security of having an ending before I started. For the second book, Tower Lord, I wrote a much more extensive chapter by chapter outline which was certainly a great help in finishing the book in less than a year. The plan for the third book, currently titled Queen of Fire, is even more extensive. That being said, I will often deviate wildly from the plan when writing the first draft as better ideas inevitably occur to me. For shorter works, like my Slab City Blues novellas, the outline usually consists of a couple of paragraphs and I'm even more likely to deviate from it during writing.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Anthony:  Probably the trepidation before starting the next book. Once I start I'm fine but the run-up period can be somewhat nerve-inducing. Like a runner before the starting gun I guess, although it's been a while since I ran anywhere.

TQ:  Describe Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) in 140 characters or less.

Anthony:  It’s a little over the tweet limit but I can't do better than the following lines of dialogue from Master Sollis, which sums up the book without revealing any spoilers:

“We have fought battles that left more than a hundred corpses on the ground and not a word of it has ever been set down. The Order fights, but often it fights in shadow, without glory or reward. We have no banners.”

TQ:  What inspired you to write Blood Song?

Anthony:  It's always difficult to pin down the exact genesis of an idea, especially one I started writing over nine years ago now. I do recall having a yen to write a fantasy novel and conceived a character who was part of a secretive warrior brotherhood of some kind. It didn't really start to gel until I introduced the concept of it being a militant religious order. Themes of religious conflict and political intrigue were also at the forefront of my mind, like many of us in the post-9/11 era.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Blood Song?

Anthony:  I've always been a history buff and was actually studying part-time for a history degree when writing Blood Song, which definitely helped when it came to formulating a believable world complete with its own power structure and system of government. Specific research involved reading books on medieval warfare, mainly to add some credibility to the military aspects of the book: archery is a very difficult skill to master; horses need to be fed; large armies are unlikely to cover more than twenty miles a day on the march - that kind of thing.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Anthony:  Vaelin is the main character and the only point-of-view for the majority of the book, so I supposed I'd have to say he was the easiest because I got to know him the best. However, I probably had the most fun writing King Janus, the dreadful old schemer.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Blood Song?

Anthony:  I think Vaelin's interactions with King Janus and Princess Lyrna work really well. I also enjoyed the camaraderie between Vaelin and his brothers in the Order; their trials and tribulations during the first third of the book give it a narrative drive which, hopefully, carries through to the end.

TQ:  What's next?

AnthonyTower Lord has been delivered and is now with my editor. In answer to the daily question received via my blog, I don't know when it'll come out but summer 2014 is probably the best bet. I'm currently writing Book 3 after which I'll need to think about something else to write about for the next ten years, although I'm certainly not short of ideas. There'll probably be a final installment in the Slab City Blues series in due course, I'm currently thinking in terms of a full-length novel but it'll be dependent on other commitments.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Anthony:  It was my pleasure.

About Blood Song

Blood Song
Series:  Raven's Shadow 1
Publisher:   Ace, July 2, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages
Price:  $27.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780425267691 (print)
(US Debut)

From “a new master storyteller” comes the beginning of an epic fantasy saga of blood, honor, and destiny…

“The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm.”

Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the unified realm. Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright and dropped at the doorstep of the Sixth Order like a foundling knows no bounds. He cherishes the memory of his mother, and what he will come to learn of her at the Order will confound him. His father, too, has motives that Vaelin will come to understand. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the realm, but the world.

About Anthony

Anthony Ryan was born in Scotland in 1970 but spent much of his adult life living and working in London. After a long career in the British Civil Service he took up writing full time after the success of his first novel Blood Song, Book One of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. He has a degree in history, and his interests include art, science and the unending quest for the perfect pint of real ale.

Website  ~  Twitter @writer_anthony


  1. Hi Anthony,

    The Queen OF Fire is a tantalizing title and gives a clue in regards to the Darkblade prophecy.


  2. Yep, going to add this one to the want list. Thank you!