As part of the featured author Q&A sessions, I am very pleased to announce that the featured author for the current session is Tom Lloyd.
Hi Tom, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? Hello! Thanks for having me on the blog! As for who I am, I’m a fantasy writer from Oxford who covers many of the bills by spending part of the week contracts manager at an independent publisher. I’ve worked in publishing since I left university with utterly no clue what I wanted to do beyond write, working in various departments before finding what is probably my niche in the one that few sane people want to do! There aren’t many departments of a company that suit the part-time crazed shut-ins among us…
What are your ambitions for your writing career? Fame, glory, wealth… well, those were certainly on the agenda when I started to write, but I know a lot more about publishing these days! Honestly, if I get to have a long career that pays the bills I’ll be over the moon – I’m a father to two little terrors and they’re what’s important. So my ambitions are simply to keep having a writing career really – I can only justify it if it’s bringing in money and the day it isn’t…. well I’ll still write, but I’m a slow writer so I wouldn’t be able to keep on writing long fantasy novels that’s for sure!
So, what have you written? I’m on my third series, (in order The Twilight Reign, The Empire of a Hundred Houses, the God Fragments) 2017 will see publication of my tenth book – the most successful of all of them being my first, The Stormcaller, which has just had a special tenth anniversary edition to my immense delight. I’ve also had two novellas out recently, one a stand-alone dark, dreamlike fantasy called Fear The Reaper, and the other a follow-on to the latest novel, called Honour Under Moonlight.
What is your most recent novel? That’s Stranger of Tempest, a fantasy adventure story of desperate battles, drunken banter and explosive magic. In a nutshell, a man reluctantly joins a mercenary crew for a rescue mission and they all get more than they bargained for.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Lynx is a man who’s seen some of the worst the world has to offer and was pretty much broken by it. To find the strength to go on he’s embraced a loose ideology that he keeps to as best he can – simply that he should help others whatever the personal cost. He’s not fearless, not by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s determined not to let fear rule him ever, even if that means he dies in the process. He’s somewhat surprised that hasn’t happened yet, to be honest. Fantasy has a lot of very dark and violent anti-heroes but I’ve always preferred heroes who’re fundamentally decent. Who at least want to do the right thing and Lynx sums that up – he’s made it part of his very being, using that to patch over the holes in his frayed soul.
What genre are your books? Fantasy of various sorts, from epic to heroic if we’re getting into sub-genres.
What draws you to this genre? A childhood love of magic and monsters first of all, but once I started writing I began to appreciate the huge canvas you get to paint your pictures on and the freedom to explore anything you like within it.
When did you decide to become a writer? I first got the idea when a friend of mine threw away a David Eddings, declaring that he could write a better book than that. Being childishly competitive I thought that if he could, I could too. When I had a long summer with nothing to do before I went to university, I gave it a try and was hooked. Needless to say my friend Andy hasn’t started a novel yet and is still angling for a royalty!
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? It’s now structured around the kids since I do the nursery drop-offs, but I have always been very structured because without that I’ll just play Xbox all day. These days I write three days a week, mostly in the afternoons, and so long as I hit my word count, I don’t even consider eating into family time. It might make me slower in the short-term but divorced and clinically depressed Tom wouldn’t write anything worth a damn.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? I’ll have to see if I can manage it with the new, slightly reduced, schedule, but my goal for years has been 5000 words a week. If I can maintain that, I’m delivering at a decent pace and aren’t burning myself up in the process – it’s all about balance with me.
Where do your ideas come from? All over the place! Books, movies, conversations, random thoughts popping into my head while I’m walking the dog even. For Stranger I found myself not writing an idea I’d had for many years, so I sat down and wrote a list of the things I wanted in a book these days. I tied those to a few short story ideas I’d never got onto paper and then let everything mingle. From that primordial soup, sometimes something wonderful evolves – admittedly also sometimes something awful that needs to be burned with fire, but that’s the job.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Normally an outline but sometimes just a plot, often as little as a beginning and an end plus a vague sense of what I want in the middle. But I always have a lot slopping around in my brain that I know will fit in somewhere and as I’m writing all the pieces start to fit together. Recently I’ve been trying to plan far less and push myself to be more spontaneous – that’s why I wrote Fear the Reaper, as an exercise in that with absolutely no idea what was going to come of it. Stranger was written with a good balance on that front, a decent amount of planning but also spontaneity to keep it fun for me.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? Depends how long the book is – my longest is 100k longer than my shortest. But I’m aiming for 12 months these days, from start to delivery of a 3rd draft reading for editing.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? Always a tricky question! Certainly in recent years I’ve been more focused on the personal, the lives and motivations of more average figures rather than the huge scale of my first series. I’m trying to be more economical with words, for stylistic reasons as much as page count, and let characters play off one another more.
Do you read much and if so which writers inspire you? Of course, you’d be a monster not to! Time is always a factor so I just don’t read as much as I’d like to, but I try to read every day to keep myself sane. For my collection of short stories there’s a clear inspiration from the styles of M R James and Lovecraft, but as much as anything I’m inspired just by other authors being so good. Adrian Tchaikovsky for his variety and the humanity of his characters, KV Johansen for her elegant prose and evocation of a world, Steven Erikson for the staggering scale blended with the small moments of humanity and wit, Ben Aaronovich for books that are effortless to read and hilarious without resorting to cheap jokes, Kate Griffon for the images she paints in your head, Robert Macfarlane for his jaw-dropping descriptions… the list goes on!
What is your favourite book and why? One?! Oh gods, even when I’m asked for top five or ten you better bring a chair and a book for the debate it causes. Honestly I don’t think I could pick one so to simply mention one of those I love… erm, let’s go with Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson – a book of vast scale, dense prose that makes the real world fade away, heroism, gut-wrenching tragedy and so much more besides.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? Having written an epic fantasy series of over a million words and almost five hundred named characters, I think I’ve got a fair appreciation of how tough that is. But the Lord of the Rings is more than just one book divided into three parts, it’s the summation of a vast body of knowledge about a world that few of us even manage. To be so connected to your world that you can write poetry in its native languages… that’s breath-taking.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Don’t start your career with a million-word epic, learn to write with a throw-away idea and get a skillset first. There’s no one way to become a writer other than the requirement to actually sit down and write, but finish what you start and have a clear idea of what you want to do. That involves life outside of writing too, it’s a vocation that’ll swallow you up if you let it.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included? Oh I think I’ve already talked far too much and I’ve got edits to work on!
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Lloyd/e/B001JP4VN2/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1