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Interview with Tom Lloyd

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TomLloydPicThis week I’m asking five different questions to five different authors. Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ilana C. Meyer, Peter Newman and Michael Fletcher have all taken their turn. Last, but by no means least, to blink into the glare of the spotlight is Tom Lloyd, author of The Twilight Reign series, the Empire of a Hundred Houses series, and the forthcoming The God Fragments series.

Hi Tom, and thanks for stopping by.

1. As with the other authors, I’ll start with an easy question. What advance were you paid for The God Fragments, and why was that far too little?

Aha ... Broadly speaking, twice as much as my best-selling book and half as much as my worst-selling book. Or to put it in a slightly geekier way – half as well as I should like and less than half as I should like to deserve.

As for why that’s far too little, easy: I’ve sold a decent number of books over the years, nothing to boast about but more than I ever expected when I started out, and this is I think my best and most commercial so I fully expect a bitter and savagely conducted auction for the US rights to start any time now ... Ahem, also it’s my shortest novel (100k shorter than my longest), it’s my simplest (bearing in mind I’ve lost the odd readers due to complexity), it’s my funniest (not that it’s a pun-fest, but there’s a light-hearted tone compared to the brutal epic series or the sober fantasy techno-thriller), and the ideas I’ve given for cover art could be summed up by the phrase “You shall not pass!”

I’m impressed you actually answered that question! I was expecting a nimble side-step.

2. I’ve seen Moon’s Artifice described as a book that blends epic fantasy and mystery. Was that a conscious decision on your part? If you ever stray outside the fantasy genre in your reading (shame on you), is it to pick up a whodunit book?

Honestly, I can’t say if it was or not. I know that sounds stupid, but half of the problem is that I don’t remember what gave me the idea more than a decade ago. I did consciously try to do something different to The Twilight Reign though – have a more normal protagonist with a job in a fantasy world, rather than the deliberate hero caricature that was Isak.

Paul Weimer described it as the fantasy equivalent of a technothriller which I think works quite well too – it sits on the line between fantasy and a certain type of SF, fine to read with either in mind depending on your preference; with mystery being a third point of reference there. Mostly I didn’t want a world-spanning epic series, I wanted a stand-alone set in one place (ignoring the fact there could be follow-ups). Once you throw in the amnesiac assassin trope you’re naturally edging towards a mystery plot, but I never said “right, I’m going to push this as a cross-genre story”. I wrote the story that was in my head rather than the story my agenda required – if I had done the latter, I think both Moon’s Artifice and Old Man’s Ghosts would have been more spy thriller in style. I toyed with the idea, but didn’t want to let one idea dictate everything else.

3. Congratulations on the deal for your third series,The God Fragments. Did you ever consider setting the books in the same world as The Twilight Reign  or the Empire of a Hundred Houses series? Are you sad to leave old characters behind, or excited to start out with new (or both)?

Thank you! As for the characters: Both – I’m always sad to leave characters behind, for different reasons in this case. Isak was with me the whole time I learned to write, sitting in my head for almost fifteen years. There was certainly a period of mourning after that, but I’ve always said I wanted The Twilight Reign to be a complete(d) series for people to read whole if they want. A finished product in a world where long series often drift away and leave frustrated readers in their wake. 

For Empire, it was a bit different because the vague ideas I had for future stories were set to one side even before Old Man’s Ghosts was finished. I knew sales wouldn’t justify writing any more so I didn’t let myself daydream on those, just made sure the final chapter served as a goodbye to my characters from me.

But of course, if you’re not excited about the new characters you should never start the new book. It’s great to note that even when I’m feeling fatigued and uninspired, just setting the new set of characters to talking can drive me on. I like them and I enjoy writing the scenes even if nothing is happening plot-wise – they’ll take me back to that soon enough and in the process they get the juices flowing.

As for setting the books in one of those worlds – nope, never an option. The ideas stand alone, the power structures, gods and magic in all the worlds are too set to allow the other stories to fit in there without being changed beyond recognition.

TomLloydBook4. On your blog, you said you were having fun writing about a collection of “foul-mouthed, childish and trigger-happy mercenaries” in Stranger of Tempest. What makes this type of character so enjoyable, and who among your nearest and dearest did you draw inspiration from?

Well I’m a guy who’s played sport (at not a very high level of quality) all his life and doesn’t enjoy overly serious or intense friends. I’m at my happiest surrounded by food, booze and friends talking bullshit – they know who they are! Lynx, the main character in Stranger, is a loner and naturally suspicious of mercenaries. There’s a lot of me in him unsurprisingly, so if he’s going to plausibly stick with their group there has to be a reason for him to do so, a place to fit there. If drunkenness and childish idiocy comes naturally to me on the page, so be it.

You say that as if drunkenness and childish idiocy were bad things.

5. You’ve published a collection of short stories entitled The God Tattoo. Do you prefer using shorter fiction to fill in some ‘gaps’ from your novels, or to explore something completely new?

Mostly the gaps, although not always in the way you’d expect. The focus and direction of Ragged Man in particular was dictated by a novella I’d written years before, so it’s not always the novels solely providing the structure. The more you immerse yourself in a fantasy world the more there are stories and lives to look at beyond the tight-focus of your central plot. The more freedom you have to explore those the better, but that’s not always easy in a time-pressure world and I’m not particularly inclined to the shorter forms. 

To step away from the current world and write something else isn’t that natural for me. Often when I do so it’s to shake things up and set myself a challenge, but the plan for the new series was always novel, novella, novel, novella. The novellas will be e-only so I can’t put much series-plot-dependent stuff in them, but the first has proved an entertaining aside that I think readers of Stranger of Tempest will really enjoy.

Thanks again for the interview!


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