Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Interview with Marc Turner, author of When the Heavens Fall - May 19, 2015

Please welcome Marc Turner to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.  When the Heavens Fall is published on May 19th by Tor Books.  Please join The Qwillery in wishing Marc a Happy US Publication Day!

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Marc:  Thanks for inviting me.

I can’t honestly recall the moment I started writing. I’ve been doing it on and off for as long as I can remember, though I began taking it more seriously about six years ago. I sent the first two chapters of When the Heavens Fall to a “book-doctoring” organization. They employ published authors to read and comment on your work, and the feedback I got was very positive.

As for the why of writing, I’ve learned from bitter experience that I cannot not write. Plus it’s the only work I know where daydreaming isn't frowned upon.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Marc:  Very much a plotter. If I started writing without doing any planning, I’d quickly write myself off the edge of a cliff. I write big, multi-threaded novels, and I write the story of each viewpoint character separately because it helps me maintain a consistent character voice. So I’ll write the whole of the first character’s story, then the whole of the second character’s story, and so on. It’s only when all of the threads have been written that I start weaving them together. And it’s a difficult enough task without trying to do it on the fly. Maybe with a single viewpoint character . . . no, what am I saying, it would still be a disaster.

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

Marc:  The hardest thing about writing a book for me is the first section. It’s not just the fact that you’re faced with a blank page. It’s also the number of things you’re trying to do in that first section. You’ve got to dive straight into the story, obviously, and hook your reader with a plot point that makes them want to read on. But you’ve also got to get them interested in a character, and tell them what that character is doing, and why it’s important. And all without info dumps, or stopping the flow of the story. I’d say writing and editing a first section takes me five times longer than any other section in the book.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Marc:  They are one and the same. I’d say Steven Erikson is the author whose work has most influenced me. Gardens of the Moon really opened my eyes. It’s a book that divides opinion, but I loved the characters, the world building, the sheer scale of the story. I also loved the way he brought so many story-threads together at the end for an epic confrontation. That’s something I’ve tried to capture in When the Heavens Fall.

Among my other favourite authors I’d include Joe Abercrombie, Guy Gavriel Kay, Mark Lawrence and David Gemmell. The extent to which any or all of those have influenced my writing, I’ll leave for others to judge.

TQ:  Describe When the Heavens Fall in 140 characters or less.

Marc:  Lord of the Rings meets World War Z.

TQ:  Tell us something about When the Heavens Fall that is not in the book description.

Marc:  It’s part of a series of books, but it’s also a self-contained story. I’m not a big fan of first books that stop (seemingly in mid-sentence) without even a hint of a resolution in sight – particularly since you might have to wait another year or longer (or much longer!) to find out what happens next. When the Heavens Fall will leave you guessing as to where the story goes next, but most of its threads are tied up by the end.

TQ:  What inspired you to write When the Heavens Fall? What appealed to you about writing Sword & Sorcery Epic Fantasy?

Marc:  “Sword & sorcery epic fantasy.” I think we’ve just created a new sub-genre! I think When the Heavens Fall has elements of both “swords and sorcery” and “epic” fantasy. So it has the grand scale and sweeping battles of epic fantasy, but it also has the high action and morally ambiguous characters I normally associate with swords and sorcery. As for the main appeal of writing it, I wrote the type of book I like to read (mostly).

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for When the Heavens Fall?

Marc:  None that I remember. That’s one of the great things about writing fantasy: you can pretty much make everything up.

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

Marc:  The easiest was probably the high priestess, Romany. Romany is a mix of ruthlessness and entitled haughtiness, so I suppose I should be alarmed at how readily her voice came to me …

The hardest? Probably Luker, because his character changed the most during editing. A while after the book was “finished”, I wrote a short story in which Luker features. In the story, I wrote Luker the way I’d remembered him from When the Heavens Fall. But when I went back to look at the book afterwards, I found he was different in a number of respects. So I had to do another edit of the manuscript to make him how I wanted him to be.

Incidentally, if anyone would like to read that short story, it has been published at Tor.com here. Or, if you prefer, you can listen to a free audio version narrated by Emma Newman of Tea and Jeopardy fame here.

TQ:  Which question about When the Heavens Fall do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Marc:  Will you accept this staggeringly large amount of money for the rights to adapt the book and its sequels into a multi-part TV dramatization along the lines of Game of Thrones?

And my answer would have to be yes.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from When the Heavens Fall.

Marc:  Non-spoilery? Here’s a snippet of conversation featuring one of the four viewpoint characters, Parolla, and a friendly spirit she encounters called Tumbal.
     “Tell me of yourself,” [Parolla said]. “You are a warrior?”
     “No, my Lady. I am a scholar—an engineer by trade.”
     “What did you build?”
     “Cities. Well, dwellings, if truth be told. And only for a time, at that.” Tumbal looked at his feet. “Few of my constructions stood the test of time. When demand for my services diminished, I decided to become an inventor.”
     “And what did you discover, sirrah?”
     “Only that I was less than accomplished in that calling also.”

TQ:  What's next?

MarcWhen the Heavens Fall is the first in a series of six books, and I’m writing book four next. Before someone helpfully points out that book four doesn’t come after book one, I should note that books two and three are already written. Book two, Dragon Hunters, is scheduled to come out in February 2016, and book three, Red Tide, in October 2016. That’s right, three books in seventeen months. I’m spoiling you, I know.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Marc:  The pleasure was mine.

When the Heavens Fall
The Chronicles of the Exile 1
Tor Books, May 19, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 544 pages

If you pick a fight with Shroud, Lord of the Dead, you had better ensure your victory, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering.

A book giving its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost.

However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed. Among them is a reluctant Guardian who is commissioned by the Emperor to find the stolen Book, a troubled prince who battles enemies both personal and political, and a young girl of great power, whose past uniquely prepares her for an encounter with Shroud. The greatest threat to each of their quests lies not in the horror of an undead army but in the risk of betrayal from those closest to them. Each of their decisions comes at a personal cost and will not only affect them, but also determine the fate of their entire empire.

The first of an epic swords & sorcery fantasy series, Marc Turner's When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods.

About Marc

Marc Turner was born in Toronto, Canada, but grew up in England. He graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University, in 1996 with a BA (Hons) in law, and subsequently joined a top ten law firm in the City of London. After realising that working there did not mix well with simple pleasures such as having a life, he fled north first to Leeds and then to Durham in search of a better work-life balance. Unfortunately it proved elusive, and so in 2007, rather than take the next step and move to Scotland, he began working part time so he could devote more time to his writing. Following the sale of his debut epic fantasy novel, When the Heavens Fall, he started writing full time. He lives in Durham, England, with his wife and son.


Twitter @MarcJTurner


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