Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Interview with Adrian Selby, author of Snakewood

Please welcome Adrian Selby to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Snakewood is published 3/15 by Orbit. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Adrian a Happy Publication Day!

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Adrian:  I was eight. I wanted to write the longest story my English teacher had ever seen, and it was FIVE PAGES LONG! It was, shall we say, mildly influenced by Star Wars. I drew many spaceships firing many laser weapons, along with many, many explosions. But I knew then I wanted to be a writer.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Adrian:  Hybrid, I’m probably 80/20 Plotter/Pantser. Serious plotter to start out, lots of prep, bios, background, chapter summaries etc. that give me a good structure. Then as I go, I occasionally see better decisions can be made so I steer course accordingly.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Adrian:  Carving out the time to do it and then needing to ‘switch it on and nail it’ in those hours. Three children and a full-time job make many fascinating demands on me. Opening up the laptop on the 7am commute and trying to write great prose in that bit of ‘me’ time is always a challenge, as is writing at my desk on the weekend while cartoons are blaring… ☺

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Adrian:  Great books and my research mainly. Great books educate me on how to tell stories and challenge me to improve my prose. My research obviously informs the stories I tell. Besides that it can be almost anything. Yesterday I watched an episode of the Danish drama ‘1864’ and they introduced a character played by the marvelous actor Søren Malling, and a reference to his backstory gave me an idea for one of my characters. It could equally be a conversation with a mate in a pub that makes me think of a moment I could write between two characters.

TQYou are a producer for videogames. How has that influenced (or not) your own writing?

Adrian:  It's influenced me in two ways. Working on a games team mean I’ve seen great games arise from creative collaboration. The lead designer might have responsibility for the game, and may have defined the concept, but its execution is a game of co-operation and invention. This helped a lot when getting feedback from my editors on Snakewood. I’m very comfortable taking critical feedback. The second way it’s influenced my writing has been just the challenge of managing people. This game of invention involves getting the best out of a team, helping them to feel trusted and respected, and hopefully then they feel some passion for the project at hand. It’s all human behavior; co-operation and conflict in challenging settings. Some of it has inevitably helped illuminate what might make some characters good leaders, for example. I’ve seen good and bad leadership in my career…

TQDescribe Snakewood in 140 characters or less.

Adrian:  Aged mercenaries of a long disbanded legendary crew race to find the survivors, and the identity of an assassin killing them off one by one.

TQTell us something about Snakewood that is not found in the book description.

Adrian:  Snakewood is told in a ‘found footage’ style, a collection of reports, interviews and journals with multiple narrators, including the assassin’s.

TQWhat inspired you to write Snakewood? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Adrian:  I’ve loved epic fantasy since I read The Hobbit at the age of ten. Then I started RPGs with some likeminded mates and it blossomed from there. I always wanted to create my own fantasy world, but the world of Snakewood evolved from my desire to have magic based around a world’s plant life, where imbibing concoctions of plant could make you almost superhuman. But, like any hard drugs, a price is paid for this power, which interested me a lot, so I was drawn to tell a story about old soldiers, damaged by these brews, having to face a threat greater than any in their prime.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Snakewood?

Adrian:  I remember one particular Sunday afternoon, when working out the bio for a young abandoned princess, I researched defensive knife fighting techniques and the properties of a good dairy cow. Thank you, Youtube ☺ More generally I researched many aspects of medieval military logistics and tactics, poisons and remedies, the history of trade, sailing, making moonshine, taxation and economics, alchemy, the list goes on and on, a thousand snippets of information about the things I specifically wanted characters to do or know.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Adrian:  They were all fairly hard because I’m an inexperienced writer! I found the character Kailen a challenge because he is meant to be a genius, a step ahead of everyone, so it was how to put across that surety and intelligence without him coming across as a bore. The plot thus precludes his actions having the foregone conclusions he expects, so that hopefully keeps him interesting. Gant was also very hard to write, mainly because I wanted to tell his story in a vernacular, as though he wrote it, complete with grammatical inconsistencies and errors. Keeping these ‘mannerisms’ consistent, but not perfectly consistent, especially while ensuring they didn’t bleed into the other narrators’ modes of expression, was a constant challenge.

TQWhich question about Snakewood do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Adrian:  “Hi, I’m from HBO, will you let us make an eight episode series of Snakewood?” “Speak to my agent. Quickly!”

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Snakewood.


“Then a kiss. The lips are the raw end of your terror and love. No steel can toughen lips, they betray more than the eyes when you’re looking for intent and the kiss is for telling them there’s always some way to die.”

“As the hours went by a howling grew in my head, perhaps some infection in my ears. The water chattered as though through a chamber, the damp trees and bushes seemed to be waiting, full of a presence, an intelligence. I could not stop or control this wailing of the things that lived about me, singing their instincts, a discordant orchestration of hunger.”

TQWhat's next?

Adrian:  I’m working out what’s next as we speak. Watch this space I guess. ☺

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Orbit, March 15, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages


Mercenaries who gave no quarter, they shook the pillars of the world through cunning, chemical brews, and cold steel.

Whoever met their price won.

Now, their glory days are behind them. Scattered to the wind and their genius leader in hiding, they are being hunted down and eliminated.

One by one.

A groundbreaking debut fantasy of betrayal, mystery, and bloody revenge. 

About Adrian

Adrian studied creative writing at university before embarking on a career in video game production. He worked for several big-name studios as a producer, before settling down to more conventional work in IT project management. He is a Tolkien fanatic, and online gaming addict, and lives with his wife and family on the south coast of England.

Website  ~ Twitter @adrianlselby


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