Please welcome Ian Stuart Sharpe to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The All Father Paradox was published on October 9, 2018 by Outland Entertainment.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
Ian: I don’t remember so much the piece as the word. I scribbled down something in a creative writing class including the description of a politician as “tergiversatory”. I remember my English teacher calling me over to ask what on earth it meant (it means evasive, or prone to switch sides).
I was clearly a pretentious twelve-year-old.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Ian: Undoubtedly a hybrid. The essence of the All Father Paradox are these set pieces, moments in an alternate timeline. Each of those is like a segment jigsaw, they have to fit the big picture. But within each of those stories, I found that the characters took on a life of their own – their Viking voyage, so to speak, was full of wanderlust and abandon. Moreover, because the book hinges of these little bits of history repeating, these echoes of previous chapters, you’d find that what you planned was constantly pummelled with waves of implications. Adaption was the only way the DNA blueprint could survive.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Ian: The on ramp. The starting point for the story. New writers, top tip: I wouldn’t advise eliminating spoken dialogue from your arsenal.
In the All Father Paradox, we quickly meet some Benedictine monks who have taken a vow of silence. To be authentic to the characters and the period, they couldn’t talk. That means the entire scene has to be carried by internal monologue and exterior description. And because this is an unfamiliar scene – how may readers know intimate details of Charlemagne’s Saxon Wars 1250 years ago? – I had a fair amount of world building to do.
The monks had to go first in sequence, for reasons that will be obvious to someone who picks up the book, but boy howdy, sign language is a pain in the neck to write.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Ian: When I am writing, the temptation to through in a flippant, tangential, irrelevant or downright obscure reference can only come from Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. They are like two Good Omens demons, wittering on my shoulders. But also, George MacDonald Fraser, who wrote Harry Flashman into just about every conflict the British Empire had across the Victorian era. Reading him humbug the potentates of Europe and beyond was a riot.
TQ: Describe The All Father Paradox using only 5 words.
Ian: What if the Vikings won?
TQ: Tell us something about The All Father Paradox that is not found in the book description.
Ian: We talk about the storied heroes of mankind, emerging from the sagas in new and brutal form, but we don’t say how, or why.
One of the long marches of our civilisation has been from mysticism through humanism to empiricism and rationalism. Simply put, our thinking about our place in the universe has evolved. I think one of the most interesting things I had to do was develop Norse thinking, from its Iron Age roots, into the Modern era. I’d removed Christianity from the equation early on, so what would the new formula look like? What does a world that places a great tree, Yggdrasil, as its central pillar look like?
TQ: What inspired you to write The All Father Paradox? Why Vikings?
Ian: The book is partly about demons and being demonised. Stories are simplifications, designed to resonate across the ages, to stick in the mind. One of the best ways to do this is to paint someone in the blackest light.
Take the arch-fiend Lucifer, for instance. If you explore the meaning behind the word, you find some academics making the case for the name meaning “morning star” and referring to a failed coup by the son of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Looking down the long lens of history, it is breath-taking how perspectives change. One minute he is a prince, the next he is The Prince of Darkness.
A similar thing happened to the Vikings. Do you really think they were smell, horned-helmeted barbarians? Or does the record need setting straight? That was my impetus.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The All Father Paradox?
Ian: It really ran the gamut between Old Norse sagas and poring through NASA data about exoplanets. That’s the challenge with writing about a civilisation, I wasn’t so much world-building as universe creating.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for The All Father Paradox.
Ian: The cover is an illustration penned with great care and attention by Jeremy Mohler at Outland, the publisher. It is a faithful representation of a real place – St. Mary’s Church, and the 1,000-year-old Viking Cross that can still be found in the churchyard there. The cross, the convergence of religions it represents, and the battle that revolves around it are captured perfectly in Jeremy’s scene.
TQ: In The All Father Paradox who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Ian: Churchwarden Michaels was the easiest to write, because he represents the England I grew up in, and is therefore an amalgam of people I knew and know. As a contemporary voice in the novel, and the frame of reference for the reader, he is designed to be a sympathetic, if flawed, character.
Conversely, at the other end of the time spectrum, the monk Folkward was hard to write – not just because of the vow of silence but because of the sheer bloody mindedness and unflinching devotion it took to be a Dark Age monk. I simply don’t have that “worshipfulness” in me.
TQ: Does The All Father Paradox touch on any social issues?
Ian: The All Father Paradox touches on religion, the role of women, the collapse of civilization, military coups, the perils of migration, and ultimately ecology too. I wanted to write a novel that started in the Dark Ages, that held a cracked mirror to the age we are in. There are candles, flickering in the darkness, throughout. I hope they are illuminating in some small way.
TQ: Which question about The All Father Paradox do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Ian: In the novel, I explore the notion that “like ripples emanating from a single, solitary drop, the waves [of change] will roll though history”. I’d like someone to sit down and plot them, join the dots, find the parallels. And then ask – as per Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, scene 2): "What's in a name?”
And I’d answer, “everything, names have power and meaning, start looking for your clue there”
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The All Father Paradox.
Ian: Here is a quote that references Churchwarden Michaels and the cross on the cover, and the sheer Englishness of it all.
“Tea, he reflected, would be especially welcome on a day like today. Michaels had always thought it a shame to leave the cross standing out in the British weather. One thousand years of this, it was a miracle that it had survived at all, but there it was: a wealth of detail carved into fifteen feet of red sandstone, round at the base, rising to a square top with a cross head, each of the four sides carrying images of a horseman, dragons, serpents, and all kinds of gorgeous, interlaced patterns.”
And then this is a rejoinder to him, drawn from later in the novel, that speaks to what is unfurled:
“So, my little sparrow. You are back in my hall. Back in my Midgard. Your Christianity is being ripped from the past like so much rot. You have seen the dark winter outside, the worlds of the Álfar and the Jötnar. The realms of the dead, all joined by the great World Tree. Are you so certain of what went before and what is to follow?”
TQ: What's next?
Ian: There is a sequel, already underway. You might think it difficult to pen a follow up to Ragnarok, but the old Icelandic skalds managed it and I am following gin their footsteps. There is also a plan to “fill in the gaps” – the novel was always designed as a springboard, a way to create the Vikingverse. Now it exists, we have a myriad of stories to tell, some standalone, some crucial to the overarching plot. We’ll do that not just with novels, but with comics, games and who know what else!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
The All Father Paradox
Outland Entertainment, October 9, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 414 pages
What if an ancient god escaped his fate…and history was thrown to the wolves?
Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard, hellbent on studying the thousand-year-old Viking memorial there. But when things start changing and outright disappearing, Michaels realizes there is more to this old man than meets the eye. Now, Michaels finds himself swept up in an ancient god’s quest to escape his destiny by reworking reality, putting history—and to Michaels’s dismay, Christianity itself—to the Viking sword. In this new Vikingverse, storied heroes of mankind emerge in new and brutal guises drawn from the sagas:
A young Norse prince plots to shatter empires and claim the heavens…
A scholar exiled to the frontier braves the dangers of the New World, only to find those “new worlds” are greater than he imagined…
A captured Jötunn plants the dreams of freedom during a worlds-spanning war…
A bold empress discovers there is a price for immortality, one her ancestors have come to collect…
With the timelines stretched to breaking point, it’s up to Churchwarden Michaels to save reality as we know it…
Ian Sharpe was born in London, UK, and now lives in British Columbia, Canada. Having worked for the BBC, IMG, Atari and Electronic Arts, he is now CEO of a tech start up. As a child he discovered his love of books, sci-fi and sagas: devouring the works of Douglas Adams, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and George MacDonald Fraser alongside Snorri Sturluson and Sigvat the Skald. He once won a prize at school for Outstanding Progress and chose a dictionary as his reward, secretly wishing it had been an Old Norse phrasebook. The All Father Paradox is his first novel.