Duncan Lay is an Australian fantasy author and bestseller whose Dragon Sword Histories first hooked me a few years back, but which I still think about now. Like a lot of readers, I think it’s hard to forget Martil and Karia! Check out the first book The Wounded Guardian here and see what Duncan is up to on twitter or visit his new site where he has a great competition running for fans - you can get yourself named after a character.
Duncan was kind enough to answer a few questions for the City of Masks blog, so, without further rambling from me:
Ashley Capes: I remember being drawn in to The Wounded Guardian right away and the longer I read, the more compelling Martil and Karia’s relationship became – I’d love to know, did you always set out to write about those two? How did the story begin?
Duncan Lay: They were the beginning of the story and it grew from them. I wanted to write a story about a man in a dark place, coming back from that through the love of a small child. That was always going to be the heart of the story. Then I read about the battle of Pilleth, where the Welsh defeated the English and nearly changed the course of British history. It’s fascinating because the English had forced Welsh archers to fight for them but, just when it appeared the English would win, these Welsh changed sides and altered the battle. History has never been able to explain why they changed sides then, when they had the most to lose an, seemingly, little to gain. That intrigued me and much of the storyline of Dragon Sword Histories flowed from there.
AC: That sense of mystery and of what was unexplained was one of the things I really enjoyed about the series too, the way you paced the delivery of Martil’s history, keeping the mystery intact. Are there any plans for delving further into Martil’s back-story one day?
DL: I do have thoughts of another trilogy, following on from Dragon Sword Histories, called Dragon Sword Legacy, set 10 years after the events of Radiant Child. Within that there would be, of course, a deeper exploration of Martil's back story, including a return to Rallora. I'll just have to wait and see which characters' voices in my head grow loudest in demanding to be written first!
AC: Followers of your blog will be aware that you’re a very hard working and hands-on author, your 50 bookstores in 50 days tour is a great example of this. How important do you think face to face interaction is with the audience?
DL: Meeting people is hugely important. While online promotion is extremely useful, making that personal connection is enormous. I have lost count of the number of people I have spoken to in my travels around Australia who have become huge supporters and even friends because of it. It’s a special moment for both reader and author!
AC: In your experience, how strong do you find (general) industry expectation on authors to maintain online an presence at the expense of some of that face to face interaction? Or is there a possible resurgence of face to face coming to you think? I believe you mentioned that HC was supportive of your tours for instance.
DL: Online presence is a huge thing, naturally. Face-to-face can be a very challenging thing for many authors, who feel more comfortable about interacting with readers via online means. Just because it worked for me does not mean it works for everyone! Publishers want to see authors who are prepared to work hard to promote their own books, however that is done. These days, writing a book is only half the job. You have to use any and every tool available to promote it.
AC: I’m curious about what sort of challenges you faced when following up The Dragon Sword Histories with the Empire of Bones series, with both being set in the same world, but three hundred years apart.
DL: Setting a series in the same world is, in some ways, easier as you have already established many of the ground rules.
The challenge I faced was a personal struggle because I did not want the main character to be a carbon copy of Martil. He struck such a note with readers that the last thing I wanted was to have a “Martil Lite” running around the second series. But, in doing that, I initially created a version of Sendatsu who was unlikeable. He was too young and arrogant and by the time he had matured, my beta readers were warning me that people might not care about him. So I actually changed his character dramatically, made him older and gave him children. I had this idea about a man being forced into doing things he never thought possible because he wanted to protect and get back to his children but I didn’t have a story for him. So I took this character who was merely wandering around the back of my head and put him into the Empire of Bones story. This meant I had to rewrite the first book and part of the second book utterly. But I’m very happy that I did and the reaction to the series indicates it worked!
AC: I was actually lucky enough to win the whole series just last month and I’m keen to get into them, Sendatsu sounds great! Did anyone else end up sneaking into the series – or do you plan roles and characters in detail before writing?
DL: I do plan in detail - but I also let my characters take control of their own destinies in many ways. There are characters in both series who were only supposed to be in one scene but they demanded a bigger role. Equally there are ones who were supposed to go through who reached the end of their lives earlier. I like to plan but I need to be flexible as well, as the story changes as it is created and characters twist it to suit their needs. To me, that's what makes writing so much fun!
AC: I'd love to hear about a character who demanded a bigger role, does someone come straight to mind in that respect? Was there an urge to 'control' them or was it more exciting?
DL: One of the best examples of the character who demanded a bigger role was Kettering from the Dragon Sword Histories. he was only supposed to be a figure of fun in one scene in Wounded Guardian but there was something about him and he went on and on, growing more integral to the story as he went.
Conal was another classic example. Again, only supposed to be in one scene but he just grew and grew.
You don't control characters like that. They just take control of their own destiny. Having them around makes the writing far more fun!
Thanks again to Duncan for agreeing to the interview, hope you enjoyed it!
After some delay I'm thrilled to announce that The Fairy Wren is available for purchase!
Here's the blurb:
Paul Fischer is an emotionally distant bookseller who finds himself beaten down by his failing business, which transforms life in the Australian coastal town of Stony Bay into a daily struggle.
When he receives a strange phone call asking for help, from a woman who may or may not be his estranged wife Rachel, he is drawn into a mysterious search that threatens not only his livelihood, but long-buried dreams too.
Print only for now - but the ebook ought to be soon (just following up with distributor) and in the mean time you can check out part of chapter one over here and if you're keen you can order a copy from the following places:
Angus & Robertson (AU)
Or you can order a signed copy from me for $23 (inc postage) - just leave a comment if you want me to contact you, or shoot me an e-mail!
I'll be announcing the winner of the newsletter sign up tomorrow too!
Any writer and probably every reader has seen this ‘debate’ and it’s been raging for a good long while. Every time I see it start up in the online world, and in person, I kind of want to vomit.
Because who cares? I mean, I obviously care enough to write this post, but only to express frustration. Surely only a bunch of muppets would worry about this empty dichotomy? What is gained – or more pertinent perhaps, what is lost when we waste time and energy quibbling?
The arguments are always tedious rehashes of the same accusations too: pretentious/shallow/predictable/aimless blah blah blah, and they all reek of the insecurity and posturing that reminds me of ‘Question’ Time in Australian Parliament. Which is about as schoolyard as it gets, folks.
Having said all that, I sometimes wonder whether writers are among the most precious about this obsessive categorisation? Categorisation is a useful tool for marketing and choosing but does it matter when writing? Hell no.
Although, I do have two types of stories I split work into – stuff I like and stuff I don’t.
A quick update about where I am with a few projects:
The Lost Mask
Have handed in the next round of revisions to the publisher and now we hope to go into copy editing very soon, and remain on track for the December release. So if you enjoyed City of Masks, you don't have to wait too long before the follow-up is out!
The Fairy Wren
Sadly I've faced a few delays and should now release The Fairy Wren in the middle of November instead of the end of Oct - in the meantime there's a Goodreads Giveaway on at the moment, so If you're curious check it out :)
Sea of Trees
Revisions for The Lost Mask bumped this one back a little - I hope to finish the third draft in December while TLM is in production. Then the novella should be ready in the new year. I've got a bit more foreshadowing to do on the story and it will be much, much better for it.
Here's a rough, general blurb:
When ESL teacher Riko finds an old journal buried in the forests beneath Mt Fuji, her chances of staying in her adopted home are threatened, as dark forces begin to twist everything around her; work, friends and even the very fabric of reality.
Worse, no-one takes her fears seriously and the more she studies the journal for answers, the more questions she uncovers.
Planning for Book 3 of The Bone Mask Trilogy is all done and I've got a rough chapter one down - only fifty or so to go!
If you're on Goodreads the Giveaway for The Fairy Wren has just gone live!
I've got two copies to send off when it closes in mid November, which is probably closer to the revised release date. I'll also be choosing a winner from the Newsletter entrants then, so stay tuned!
Free ebook with every newsletter sign up in 2016
Ashley Capes is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry and very occasional non-fiction.
Imperial Towers (Never Book 5) - draft 1
Moss Dragon - draft 1
Reed Lavender (working title) - draft 1
Unnamed Spec Fic - draft 1
Whisper of Leaves (sequel) - Outline